Living Well with a Bad Diagnosis - Lung Disease

Monday, June 1, 2015


We moved into our house in 1982. William was a year old and we were in our late 20s. It was a nice house on a cul de sac near the ocean. We were the youngest people to ever buy into this up-scale neighborhood. The children of most of the original families who bought the houses when they were new were high school aged, so there were very few young children in the entire area. On our street, William was it.

While I was out trying to do yard work, the neighbor next to us was also doing her gardening. Nancy was a Master Gardener. She not only grew flowers but she also had huge vegetables gardens. We became friends. Her husband, Jay was the optometrist in the town north of us, her son was in college and her daughter was a junior in high school. He would drive home for lunch everyday. One afternoon after his lunch, she and I decided to remove an older, small tree in my front yard and take it to the dump. We worked hard. We did it and waited to see if either husband noticed it missing that evening. Nope.

Nancy was an excellent cook. No recipes needed. One day, she told me it was time to learn how to make a good pie. We spent the day making eight apple pies for our freezers and I really learned.

They owned a rental house in downtown Carmel, CA. It was in the days of Bing Crosby's Pebble Beach Classic. The Clambake. Very quietly, as this was never offered to any of their family members, they offered us the house for the weekend of the tournament while it was between renters. And, they babysat William all weekend.

William adored them both. Nancy had a separate vegetable garden in the back just for him. They planted and water and discussed how they looked everyday. No vegetables ever tasted better and he was so proud of his crops.

The bad new was around 1990, they retired and moved to be closer to Nancy's family. We still saw them a lot. We phoned. They visited. We would meet them in Carmel or Monterey. We were also invited to family events. We always went.

Now in their 80s, they have traveled to Hawaii several times a year, exercised everyday, still ate very simply and neither was on any medication. Did I mention that they have NEVER eaten fast food? Jay never could understand the concept.

When I got home from the hospital on Saturday, there was a Facebook message for their daughter's best friend. Jay had just died within the hour. Details were shared but I so just wanted to speak with Nancy. Finally today, their daughter let me know that Nancy wanted to speak with me.

She was still in shock. She also said that she had not shared many details with the relatives then told me everything. We talked about how it is sometimes easier to talk about it with someone one step removed. Nancy and her son had just arrived home from the Farmer's Market, he left, Jay was in his chair and didn't answer her question. She walked over to him. He was gone. Yes, the paramedics came and the wait for the coroner was horrible but she knew there was nothing they could do. We talked about how it was the perfect death for Jay. No long stays in a hospital. No stress of an illness on his family. We think it was an aneurysm. A quiet death.

There will be a gathering at their home soon, his ashes will be carried to Hawaii in July (they had already planned the trip) and will be scattered in the ocean. This was his request.

Jay was one of those people who you expected to live forever. We will deeply miss him.

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