Beverlee Everett, shortly after being diagnosed with a brain tumor in May 2019: “Well, the Christmas letter’s gonna be weird this year.”
********* UPDATED CONTACT INFO as of 12/31/2019:Mark Everett, 1959 Crest Drive, Coatesville PA 19320 - email - firstname.lastname@example.org - birthday 9/23 ********* Matthew Everett, 1802 10th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404 - email - email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org - birthday 8/26 *********
When a friend from the old neighborhood died in the fall of 2018, but Beverlee only learned about it months later when her holiday letter was returned marked “Deceased,” she was more than a little upset with her late friend’s adult son. Beverlee felt the son should have reached out and let all her friends know. At the time, Beverlee admonished Matthew, “When I die, you make damn sure everybody knows about it.” Other than this unwelcome news by returned mail, Beverlee started the year 2019 simply enough. She had her 81st birthday in early February. She had some cataract surgery on her eyes, one eye in late February, the other eye in March. Suddenly she didn’t need glasses to see across the room or to watch the TV anymore. Instead, she needed reading glasses for things up close. She was still getting used to what she looked like without glasses most hours of the day.
Then in April, around Easter, she started having intense headaches, which she just chalked up to worse than normal sinus headaches due to changes in the weather or allergies. But she also started missing appointments, including church ceremonies around Easter, which wasn’t like her. Then things escalated. She lost motor function, couldn’t get around without Mark’s help, and was kind of out of it. Mark took her to the doctor, and then at the urging of neighborhood friends, off to the hospital.
She had a high-grade glioblastoma (fancy name for a cancerous brain tumor). It was so large, it was inoperable. If they tried to take it out, it would have removed so much of the rest of the brain that Beverlee wouldn’t be herself anymore. Without treatment, the prognosis was less than three months. With treatment, probably only six to twelve months. Beverlee decided to she wanted to fight for more time, so treatments began – an oral chemotherapy drug, plus daily radiation treatments.
Matthew flew in from Minneapolis to assist Mark with the finances and paperwork. They visited Beverlee, first in the hospital, then the rehabilitation center, every day, most days twice.
Beverlee’s friends and family heeded the call and closed ranks around her during her fight. She had multiple phone calls every day, also visitors in addition to Matthew and Mark, and countless cards and letters in the mail. There were days she barely had time for a nap. All the love and support and prayers really lifted her spirits and kept her from feeling too alone. And, of course, she charmed everyone she came into contact with, medical staff and fellow patients alike.
Only halfway through her radiation treatments, Beverlee developed a blood clot in her leg and one morning that clot traveled up to her lungs, and took her from us. She didn’t want to be hooked up to any machines or have heroic measures taken. She died on July 1, 2019.
Matthew and Mark try to focus on the positives in this situation. They miss their mother terribly, but she was spared a great deal of pain, suffering and indignity that was sure to come at the end if the brain tumor ran its full course. She was about to move to a shared room in long term care, after her initial stay in a room of her own on the rehab wing, and she wasn’t looking forward to that. As much as she wanted to fight to stay with all of us, there were also numerous people who had gone on before her into the next life that she was looking forward to seeing and reuniting with again – her parents, so many other friends and family members. She was a woman of faith. She wasn’t scared.
She asked to be cremated, and to have her ashes buried between her parents, Dorothy and Ralph Armstrong, in the Baumer family plot in the old cemetery in Milton, Pennsylvania. Her memorial service on July 9th in Downingtown, PA, (and burial July 10th) were a fitting celebration of her life and chances for many of her surviving family and friends to gather and say goodbye.
One of the things that disappointed Beverlee most was that the radiation treatments precluded her from making her annual theater pilgrimage to Minneapolis to visit Matthew and attend the Minnesota Fringe Festival. The Fringe community was also devastated by Beverlee’s death. She was a fixture at the festival, attending it faithfully every August for the last 16 years of her life, seeing hundreds of shows and making many good friends. The Fringe staff created an award in her honor, called The Beverlee, to be given each year at the closing night party to an outstanding audience member who supported adventurous art, just as she always did.
Beverlee’s ex-husband Harvey was having some health issues in the fall of 2018, prompting emergency visits by Beverlee, Mark and Matthew. Harvey bounced back a bit, and was around for almost an entire extra year than anyone was expecting. From the nursing home, by phone, he was able to comfort his sons when their mother died, and on their first birthdays without her. But his own health took another downward turn that autumn, and he died, peacefully, on October 14th, at the age of 91.
Mark and his friends Jay and Anthony cleaned out Beverlee’s house, and in mid-November it went on the market, and quickly found a buyer. If all continues to go well, the sale will close on January 7, 2020. Debts will be settled and the estate will have all its loose ends tied off in the coming months.
While she was still in the hospital, Beverlee went through her phone with Matthew and identified all her contacts – friends from all the eras of her life, extended family far and near. Between phone calls and the internet, we think we got in touch with most people during her struggle. But, of course, there were bound to be some people that she more regularly contacted with good old-fashioned mail through the post office – postcards on her many travels, and the annual Christmas letter.
So we dug into her computer, found her Christmas and postcard mailing labels, and now this letter comes to you.
Christmas was Beverlee’s very favorite time of year. If there is a way to miss her more than we already do, the Christmas season would certainly fit the bill.
We hope this letter finds you and yours well and happy, and that we all have a much more kind and merciful 2020 ahead of us.
If you wouldn’t mind, and if you can recall a memory or story about Beverlee (or Harvey) that you particularly like, and wouldn’t mind sharing, we’d love to hear it.
Mark Everett's new address is 1959 Crest Drive, Coatesville, PA 19320 (Hillside Apartments); cell phone is 484-364-9299, his email is email@example.com (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org)
Matthew Everett can be reached at 1802 10th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404-2001, cell phone: 612-345-1673, email: email@example.com (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org).
We’re sure there are stories of her that we don’t know, her network of people was so vast, and covered so many years. We would love the chance to learn more about the Beverlee you knew, when she wasn’t busy being our Mom.
On the errand runs around town this evening, I had to cross back and forth over the 35W North bridge. This was the bridge over the Mississippi that collapsed back on August 1, 2007.
12-1/2 years ago. Good lord, it's been that long.
That was a Wednesday, the day before the Fringe Festival started that year.
Mom and I had just driven over it earlier in the afternoon. It collapsed a little after 6pm, so we were already prepping ourselves for the evening previews of the out of town visiting Fringe artists that night when the news started to break. It made for a most unusual festival that year.
The bridge wasn't fully rebuilt until after the Fringe the following year, but Mom still had 10 years driving with me over the new bridge.
As with so many things, driving over it tonight made me think of her. Especially since I was going to the Home Depot that was hidden just off to the side of the road that we jokingly referred to as Brigadoon - since I drove right by it for years not knowing it was there and then suddenly it appeared to me.
Not sad so much as wistful, I guess.
And I was going to get some new bulbs for the interior light in the ceramic Christmas tree that Mom brought me on one of her last drives out for the Fringe (before Mark insisted she fly instead of drive cross country by herself), courtesy of Great Aunt Jeanne's ceramic phase. The bulb inside the base of the tree lights the colored lights built into the branches and the star on top from the inside. No, I didn't put it away yet. I'm finding the glow of the colored light in the dark of these winter nights very comforting as I lie down to sleep, so I'm gonna go with it until it no longer casts its spell, or the snow melts, whichever comes first. The bulb didn't go on when I plugged it in last night, and honestly, that bulb is OLD. I've probably given it more of a workout in the past two months than it's seen the decades previous, so it was time. I went in search for new bulbs at Brigadoon. There were a couple of options that were similar so I got one of each, so I'll have a spare. Thankfully the new bulb lit right up, so it wasn't the socket that was the problem. Easy solution. And it looks great. For now I'll take my comfort where I can get it.