Deann died yesterday shortly before 4:00 a.m. It was clear the night before, when Alice and I moved her to the bed in our room, that the end was near. The light that usually shone in her beautiful brown eyes was not there. All that remained was for her heart to stop beating.
When I went to bed, I put on some of her favorite hymns so she could hear them one more time. Alan Jackson has a beautiful album full of them, called Precious Memories. Deann loved singing hymns around the house, and to herself while she gardened. She found great comfort in the words, and I like to think she could hear them as I laid there with her. I kissed her goodnight and told her thanks for spending another day with us, which had become my habit in the last couple of months. Eventually, I fell asleep.
I awoke around 3:00, and her breathing had not changed from when we put Deann in bed. It was labored, but regular. I just laid there with her, holding her hands and stroking her hair. She called out near the end a couple of times, and I let her know I was there, and I told her I loved her.
True to her quiet nature, Deann's last breath came with no fanfare. In fact, it caught me by surprise. She simply drew her last breath, and then stopped. I put my ear to her chest and could hear nothing and I knew she was gone.
Her last few months were not easy. The brain tumor the doctors had been able to beat back returned in July of this year, claiming her ability to walk. She was able to manage a little bit with a walker, but it was always a struggle, and it frustrated her to no end. She was happy to put it aside finally, in favor of a wheelchair. She was able to still climb stairs, so after a month in a hospital bed following her return from the hospital, she was able to climb the stairs to our bedroom. Eventually, at the end of October, even that became too much, so I bought a bed and booted Alice from the bedroom on the first floor that had become her home office. It was in that bed that she would die.
Every day, Alice and I would move her from the bedroom to the living room, or the sun porch if it was warm enough. She slept a lot, but would always want to be awake for Jeopardy at 3:30. Fridays after dinner we'd watch the new episode of The Great British Bake Off. It's a gentle show which matched her gentle nature. She was a huge fan. What brought her her greatest pleasure, though, I think, was being read to. Alice or I would read from a book to her, and she never objected. It's something we did when we first got married, and I was happy to revive the practice in her final days.
Her last good day came a couple of weeks ago on a Saturday. Her family gathered on our deck to celebrate her sister's birthday. It was a nice warm day, and Deann was able to be out with all of us, and stayed awake all through the party, which was a nice treat. By then, she'd mostly given up talking but was able to sing Happy Birthday. To our daughter's consternation, she spoke to her for what would turn out to be the last time. Alice asked her what was up, and Deann replied with that old childhood retort, "chicken butt". Always a wit, that lady!
Luckily for me, her last words to me were "I love you, too", which she was able to get out one day soon after that when I told her I loved her, which I did every day of our marriage, no matter how much we fought that day. It was true every time I said it.
The last 2 weeks of her life were pretty sleepy. Eventually, she gave up eating, and, finally, drinking. She, miraculously, was never in any pain. She got a little bit of hospice care, but most of the taking care of her at the end was done by our daughter and I. It was a labor of love, and I'll remember these last days of her life for as long as I live.
Deann was first diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 36, and with glioblastoma when she was 52. She lived to be 54 and she never let the disease define her. It was just a part of her life that she learned to live with. Aside from the months of treatment, her life was pretty good. She raised 2 great children, grew a beautiful garden, struggled mightily to keep a clean house despite her husband's and kids best efforts, kept us fed, and was a well respected professional at work. She got to travel with her family and friends, but always was happiest at home. She let us know she wanted to die in it, and it was a wish I'm happy I was able to grant.
It's been great hearing from everyone who knew her, and learning just how many lives she touched. She was a quiet woman, but strong, and she made me a better person. I'm a lucky man to have been married to her for 29 years.
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- Travis McBrideSuch a wonderful and moving tribute, Bill. Deepest condolences from the McBride family.11/20/20
- Katie DeLunaBill, What a lovely journal entry. Thank you for sharing your memories and last moments with Deann. I did not know Deann very well, but what I did know is that she was kind, strong, creative, and could put up with one hell of a smart ass (you!). She raised a wonderful family and I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to know her. My deepest love and condolences go out to you, Dennis and Alice. I know she is resting at peace with God.11/20/20
- Rich and Grace WielockWith heavy hearts we mourn the passing of such a beautiful soul but are truly touched by your loving testimony of your life partner. Deann inspired all who knew her and you, also, were an inspiration with your strength through her illness. Our love and prayers go out to you and Alice and Dennis and the extended family who loved her so much. God bless. May He give you the comfort that you all need now.11/20/20
- Karen LurieDear Bill, Alice and Dennis, It is with a heavy heart that we send all of you our deepest condolences for Deann. She was one of the first people to welcome us at IPLC and the first to send her well wishes when our lives led us to Switzerland. She was indeed a very special lady, friend and steward of the church. May you all find peace and comfort in the days that follow and know that you are all in our thoughts and prayers. God bless you all. Karen, Michael, Franklin et Margot11/20/20
- Liz MillsDeann carried such an unfair burden with grace and dignity. I greatly admired her strength and determination. My thoughts are with you, Alice and Dennis as you learn to live without your beloved. God bless you.11/20/20
- Lee SteinGosh Bill, this is such a warm and loving tribute to Deann. I'm crying as I read this. She had a wonderful life, and I feel blessed having known her.11/20/20
- Michelle GiuffreWe are so sorry to hear about the passing of a kind and lovely lady. She was very special. Love and peace to the family.11/20/20
- Christopher RichardThank you Bill for sharing such a beautiful story. Sending love and comfort.11/20/20
- Erin BoumanThank you Bill. My heart is full reading this and knowing Deann and you and your children.11/20/20
- Nancy HallThank you for sharing this, Bill. Such love in your family. ❤️❤️11/20/20
- Larry KimpelThis is so beautiful Bill. Dwan and I are so thankful to have been able to know Deann and of course, you too! She was a quiet and wonderful soul that was always cheerful and smiling. That's what I'll remember about her. God Bless you my Friend. Let us know if we can ever be of service to you and the Family? May Our Lord cover you all with His comfort and everlasting love! - Larry11/20/20