A few of you readers have emailed to ask why it has been three months since I last posted on ElvisBlog. I used to be so regular – posting something every week, but two life issues have changed that. My wife of 49 years, Beverly, died on April 16.
Even before then, there just wasn’t enough time (or the spirit) to work on ElvisBlog while caring for my wife in her final months. She had a long slow decline over several years and she lingered in a nearly comatose state at the end. It was a merciful death
I had a Celebration of Life for Beverly here at our home. I told everybody a lot of Beverly Stories. The text for my talk is the only thing I had written in months. I’m going to post it here, and hopefully you will get a sense of how much I loved Beverly. Or you could scroll past it and find out what is going on with me and my health Issues
Beverly R Arnold June 28, 1943 — April 16, 2022
For her Celebration of Life
In Beverly’s obituary, I talked about her favorites and passions. But I saved a big special one to talk about today — a lot. We loved our little deck off the bedroom where we sat together almost every afternoon, weather permitting. Sitting on our deck glider chairs, we looked out at an incredibly beautiful panorama. We’ve had our bedroom deck for twenty years, and every year, I planted more bushes and flowers in every open space we could see, to make it even prettier for Bev. And she loved the results.
Bev and I considered the bedroom deck as our special place. A quiet, peaceful, beautiful spot. The solitude and comradery was perfect for both of us to let the problems of the day just ooze away and recharge our batteries. We always talked while we sat there, but sometimes we drifted off into silence. It didn’t matter to either of us, because we were still there together, still connected.
Now, I sit out on our special place alone, and that’s not as bad as it sounds. Every afternoon since her death, I have talked out loud to Beverly. And it’s not because I’m sure she can hear me in Heaven. Even if she can’t, these conversations have been very comforting and are helping my healing process. Part of the time when I talk with Bev I do it looking up at the blue sky and fluffy white clouds. I feel very close to her when I do that. I also have talked to my mom a couple times while looking up toward heaven.
Mom died in 2006, and her service was held at Devenger Road Presbyterian Church. My brother and I were scheduled to speak, and I went first. I had written out my speech, and practiced it, and even made 3×5 cards with reminder notes. Well, somehow I skipped one of the cards, or maybe I just had a nervous brain fart. Whatever, I made the mistake of not thanking Bev for taking care of my mother for seven years. When my brother thanked Beverly later, I knew I was in a whole lot of trouble.
As soon as the service was over, I apologized profusely to Bev, and she was really hurt. I apologized so many times over the next few days. Years later, it would come up again once in a while, but Bev handed it by just giving me a zinger about being a total dumbshit.
Several months ago, my dear friend, Marci Migacz, asked if there were any unresolved issues between Bev and me. She said if there were, we should address them and get them settled right away. So, I explained that thought to Bev and asked about the time at Mom’s funeral. Was she still feeling the hurt? Had she truly forgiven me? I was so relieved when she told me everything was okay. She said it had happened so long ago, and I didn’t need to worry about it anymore.
So now, here at Beverly’s celebration, I want to speak to both of these wonderful ladies while I look up toward Heaven. Mom, thanks for being such a great mom. Thanks for being Bev’s buddie and teaching her all those crafts. You two spent a lot of happy times together.
And Bev, thank you for taking care of Mom for seven years. I can’t say enough how much I appreciate you being there for my mother. You did a superb job. Thanks for bringing her into your heart. And thanks for forgiving me.
Since last June, Bev had a wonderful hospice nurse looking out for her named Cyndi Galloway. Cyndi has been the best. She really cared for Bev, and they were like girlfriends. Cindy taught me to do many things correctly, and answered dozens of questions. Thank you, Cyndi.
In March, when Beverly could no longer walk to the bathroom, Cyndi brought us a wheelchair, and it helped so much. But it had a special value. Bev asked for a wheelchair ride three times in her final weeks. I was so proud of her to still want to have some fun, even as bad off as she was. Of course I became her travel guide. We stopped right here in the atrium facing the plants. I knew stuff about most of them, so I gave her a running commentary. Then I took her down this hall to the first window, and she could see her favorite J&P rose, a pink one named Beverly. That cheered her up. Next time, I took her down the other hall to the end of the house, and we parked at the long window facing down to what we call the park. There’s a super view from there, and lots to talk about. The last trip had the most views – front door, the sun room, and the kitchen door. Bev was so close to the end, but she still had that spunk I’ve loved so much. Pretty amazing.
Bev not only had a wonderful Hospice nurse, she also had a wonderful caregiver from Comfort Keepers. You couldn’t ask for anyone better than Lisa Worley. She brightened so many days for Bev, and she handled the tough stuff like a champ. When she and “Miss Bev” told each other, “I love you,” they really meant it. On top of everything else, Lisa sang to Bev, and she’s a good singer. We were so fortunate to have Lisa. Thank you, thank you, Lisa.
Beverly and I got married in September 1972, so we didn’t quite make it to the 50th wedding anniversary. That’s okay. We had 50 years counting dating time. Most of you have some knowledge of Bev’s more recent health issues, but here’s an interesting fact from our early days. About a year into our marriage, Beverly had a run of four visits to the hospital within 12 months: carpal tunnel, perianal warts, appendectomy, and hysterectomy. But we were young and Bev was tough, and we got through it together. And it’s been like that ever since.
In 2008, Bev needed to have an operation to replace her ascending aorta (the one coming right out of the heart) with a man-made device. The operation was successful, but Bev had a lengthy recovery. At that point, I took over the cooking duties, never thinking that it would be a lifelong thing. When she got healthy, I asked her when she would get back to cooking. I was sternly told, “Hey, I cooked for you for 35 years. Now, it’s your turn.” But I still had hope.
Then a year later, Bev had her second open heart surgery to replace her aortic arch. That one goes to the brain, eyes, ears, mouth, etc. The surgery was so tricky that no doctor in Greenville would touch it. But we got hooked up with Dr. Hasim Saffi in Houston. He was world-renowned. Important people from lots of countries flew in to get his services, but we got on the list surprisingly quick. The replacement surgery went fine, but Bev developed respiratory problems and had to go to rehab. We were in Houston for a month. When we got home, I knew I would be doing all the cooking forever. That realization was etched in stone a year later when Bev had her descending aorta replaced.
There were no new surgeries for several years, and I kept on cooking. And I got pretty good. However, I had to learn all new cooking when Bev found out she was gluten intolerant. That was challenging, for sure, but we worked it out and found meals we could both like okay.
Then that ended five years later when Beverly’ esophagus started to decline, dropping to 15% efficiency. It wasn’t taking food down to her stomach. The only way she could live was by tube feeding. So, I learned a new way to provide her meals.
So many people have told me I did a great job caring for Beverly, but I always thought it was what any loving husband would do. Beverly and I have always been a team, and we always took care of each other. I gave her my love and caring willingly. It probably helped prolong her life. I wish I could have done more.
Bev was 4’9” tall, and I often called her my Little Sweetie. I miss her so much. I miss my Little Sweetie.
Bye, Bev. I love you.
And here’s the story on me:
You have probable read that caregiving can cause a lot of stress for the caregiver. This was certainly the case for me. Even though we had two visits a week from the hospice nurse and sixteen hours a week from the Comfort Keepers caregiver, that left many hours when I was doing everything myself. I basically moved my life into the bedroom and the little attached office. The only time I could leave the house was when the caregiver was there.
I ate my meals in the bedroom. There were a lot of microwave dinners, because they were quick and easy. But my appetite started to wane, and I lost some weight. This was my first clue that I was feeling stress. Beverly’s decline during her last three months piled on more stress, and her last three weeks caused even heavier stress. I started having abdominal pain.
After her death, I took care of her obituary. I made the cremation arrangements and secured her ashes. I made up the invitation list for her Celebration of Life, and sent out the invitations. Getting the house and grounds ready for the celebration was time consuming, and all of this just continued the stress.
Two days after the celebration, I had such abdominal pain that I called the doctor. She got me in next day and immediately set up a CT Scan for the following day.
So here’s my list of problems. I lost 25 pounds, I have diverticulosis and diverticulitis. And the doctor has prescribed medicine for my stomach and my depression. However, she maintained all along that it was stress causing the abdominal pain.
Time has proven her right. over the past 6 weeks the pain has subsided from 7 on the pain scale to about 1. So, I feel like I can get back to ElvisBlog again. There are still many old posts that are worth another look. Maybe I’ll get motivated to write a new one. I have dozens of Elvis CDs I’d like to find a new home for.
Let me remind you that you can send comments and I can read them, but I can’t post them or reply. Still, I would like to hear from you.
Thanks for reading this long post.