Tim and I had looked forward to July 2016 since last October when we visited Herkimer Diamond Mines in Herkimer, NY and were hired on as “workampers”. Workampers are people who provide services at National Parks and campgrounds in exchange for free camp sites and / or a salary. Many of our friends were aware that in the summer of 2017 Tim and I had planned to hit the road as workampers with our first five locations already selected. July 2016 was to be our “trial run” of our new chosen lifestyle.
The month started off so well. We arrived on the afternoon of June 30th after a relaxing and very scenic trip, and excitedly set up our camper home for 30 days. We purchased groceries, and a cord of wood for nightly campfires. We met our camp neighbors who would play a pivotal role in our lives. Tim was scheduled to work two nights a week as the security person, a cool job performed mostly in a golf cart. Tim trained with the full time security person, our next camper neighbor Bill, and loved it!
On July 1st, I familiarized myself with the campground and assembled the many packages of LEGO bricks still in their cute boxes. I started my forty hour a week job of teaching 5 different LEGO classes on July 2nd. It wasn’t just incredibly exciting, it was fun beyond my wildest dreams!! Kids came from everywhere, and we all built extraordinary things! I coached and assisted the kids, and then marveled at their creative productions. Tim dropped by the pavilion where the classes were held often and had a blast watching me and the kids play. On July 9th, I began preparing the LEGO bricks for a huge camp of 120 kids that would begin on Monday July 11th. I was excited about it, but nervous too.
I never had the opportunity to meet the camp kids, because on the afternoon of July 10th my life changed forever. At 4:15pm that day, Tim drove our SUV to the activity pavilion to help me load the tubs of LEGO bricks when my shift ended. As soon as I saw him walk toward me, I knew he was having a stroke. I yelled for my camp neighbors Bill and Debbie who assisted me in getting Tim in the vehicle and I sped off for the local hospital. I thought all would be well and we’d conquer this quickly just as we had conquered Tim’s heart attack in October 2015. The local hospital was amazing. They stabilized Tim quickly and praised me for getting Tim to them in record time. They loaded Tim into an ambulance and transferred him to Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, NY. We had visited Cooperstown just a few days before and loved the town. I immediately fell in love with the hospital and its incredible staff.
Tim excelled in his first full day at Bassett, chatting with everyone while walking up and down the hall unassisted while listening intently to the instructions for strengthening his left arm and hand. I met with the stroke coordinator assigned to me and she made us feel like royalty. We all had high hopes. Then on July 11th Tim had a second much more devastating stroke. It caused him to fall dramatically to the floor, a sight I still see every time I close my eyes. The world started to spin right about then – they said he needed a transfusion, was in heart failure, and had something was seriously wrong with his liver. There was one and only joy on the 13th when Tim was able to sit for about an hour in a chair. He and I cheered and high-fived!!
By the 14th, Tim had bleeding on the brain, blood clots, and they told us his strokes were likely caused by cancer. It was all so stunning. I had to take it all in, AND pass it all along to Kim who was already scheduled to arrive for vacation with us in NY on the 15th. It was on the 14th that I realized my life would never be the same. Even if Tim survived, the damage from the strokes would require months of intensive rehabilitation.
The 15th was the beginning of the end for Tim. He had another stroke could barely swallow or talk but still had his sense of humor. Thankfully Kim and Kendal arrived and were able to share tears and love with Tim before they performed a procedure in attempt to prevent the blood clots from getting to his heart and lungs. I thank God for the minutes they had together. That night he coded and I screamed and cried as I talked on the phone with Paul and Pontheolla, our friends who are family.
Some of Tim’s best friends made the seven hour trip to NY to visit and in essence say goodbye. That seven days of my living in that hospital with Tim was just a blur, but after all the doctors, nurses, stroke coordinators and dozens and dozens of tests to determine exatly what was wrong with Tim, the only words that now stick in my mind occurred at 12:31 pm on July 17th when the ICU doctor told us that Tim was “brain dead”. Our workamping dream had evaporated quickly. We sat with Tim and played his favorite Diana Ross songs as he died.
Kim and I stayed in Herkimer to wait for the autopsy results which revealed the stunning diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. We also kept our promise to Tim and drove to Niagara Falls, a trip we had planned and paid for in advance. For a day and a half we laughed, hugged and cried, as we enjoyed the falls, butterflies and rainbows. Tim would have been very proud of us. I began notifying Tim’s clients of his death. It was one of the worst tasks I had to do. Some of them burst into tears and had to call me back after getting themselves together. All of them were as shocked as Kim and I were by the turn of events. For a few I had to repeat the news several times to let it sink in.
Retired cop friends arrived on July 22nd and helped us by driving our Memory Maker home. During the seven hour ride home,. Kim and I worked on the obituary and funeral arrangements. Our neighbors welcomed us home with tears and open arms, and plenty of great food for our souls. The next day were the trips to the funeral home and the cemetery. That horrible process was made much better by the compassionate people who were assigned to work with us!
Kim and Kendal were with me almost constantly. Paul and Pontheolla arrived in shifts, with Pontheolla arriving on Sunday the 24th and Paul the following Tuesday. Our great friend Wendi and her daughter (our Goddaughter) Bryanna came frequently and did any and everything we needed. Our chosen grief therapy was to clean our house from top to bottom. We all bonded over stories of Tim, food and drinks, and a combination of tears and laughter.
Then came the funeral on July 29th. I didn’t sleep the night before because this was going to be my final goodbye to Tim which terrified me. I prayed the service would go well and would honor Tim in the way he deserved. My prayers were answered. It wasn’t just a great service, it was GLORIOUS!! The cemetery was tortuous in that the vault I selected required us watching Tim being lowered into the ground. But through hugs and love we all survived it. The next day Pontheolla and I attended another funeral at St. Mark’s of longtime member Crane Miller. His wife Jane had attended Tim’s service too. It was just too much!
The last two days of July went as fast as lightning. More cleaning, more food, more laughter, more tears. Paul left on Saturday to return to SC and Pontheolla was to leave this morning. I had prayed for the month to end. I wanted July of 2016, the month that changed my life to be over and done with and gone from my memory. But wait, should I really have wished for that?? It also is the month during which I last held my husband’s hand, kissed him, helped him to get dressed, heard him laugh, helped him to prepare dinner, watched a movie with and held him as he cried as his body gave out on him.
Thankfully I followed the advice of many others to stay home for a few days this week. Alone. To sit with my feelings. I didn’t sleep at all last night. I saw every hour on the clock. I couldn’t have worked today if my life depended on it. July is now part of my story. It’s how the love story of Tim and Loretta ended. I hate July of 2016 but I love it too. I remember smiling as the clock struck midnight because the long and horrific month was indeed over.
As Pontheolla prepared to leave this morning, I helped her load her car. I thanked her for all she had done for me since July 10th and we hugged. Usually as people drive away from my house I stand outside and wave as they drive away. But not today. As soon as Pontheolla was in the car, I ran back into the house and shut the door. The tears were already flowing down my face. I screamed and cried. I fell on the floor. I went into every room in the house to remember the last memory I have with Tim in each place. I must have cried for an hour.
Today is August 1st. The first real day of the rest of my life. No one else is here at the moment. I’m living alone for the first time in my life. I learned during the walk into each room that Tim will be with me every single day. We’ve lived in this house for 30 years so I know there’ll be plenty of memories. But I now have to come up with Plan B for the rest of my life. I’ll still travel this country to honor Tim and our plans, but I’ll buy a much smaller Memory Maker2 that I’ll be comfortable driving alone or with Kim and Kendal. There’s still so much to see and to do. I know everyday isn’t going to be great. I know there are still many more tears to come. But I also know how lucky I am to have experienced the love of the one and only Timothy MacBeth Veney. I’d be doing his personality and spirit an injustice if I lost myself in grief, because life is short. I know I’ll still need support, love and hugs for a long time to come… BUT look for me at church and on my bike and shopping for a new Memory Maker, I’ll be out there.Starting over. And I’ll be smiling because I’ve already experienced a love that some people never ever experience. So Thank You Tim for an amazing 36 years! I’ll love you forever!
What a wonderful love story, keeping your family in our prayers. Bruce and Deborah Harman
Thank you Bruce!! Appreciate you!! Thanks for the prayers! We definitely still need them!!
Beautifully written by a beautiful person. I’ve always felt extremely special to be apart of the Loretta and Tim family 😊 I miss Tim so much. Thank you Loretta for accepting me as a friend and as you start your new adventure I will be there for whatever you need love you so much
Thank you soooo much Wendi!! You’ve been through this entire process with us! Thanks for all of your help!! We’d never have gotten this far without you! Glad you got to have some bonding time with Paul and Pontheolla! Here’s to many more new adventures!! Love you always!
Loretta, your post was not long…not at all. I love and I grieved and I teared up at each and every word.
As are many, ALL of your posts, this was that perfect combination of poignancy and power. Also, per your norm, this post is replete with contrary thoughts and feelings, which, when you juxtapose them, stand together as sacred truth. July is the worst month, for Tim died, and the best, for it was the last time you two shared life in this world. Amazingly profound.
I wish Pontheolla and I were closer to be a frequent and proximate part of your entry into your new life. We are and will be as close as the phone or cyberspace.
We love you. We love Tim. Eternally.
Thank you Paul! No worries about the distance. As I learned from being 7 hours from home when Tim’s illness struck, people who want to engage and respond do so, no matter the distance. You, Pontheolla and a few other of Tim’s friends chose to drive to be with Tim or with me and Kim. Distance via cyberspace and phone means nothing. We can connect and show our love however we need to.
Sacred Truth…. that’s a fabulous way to describe this post and this month!! For me, it feels as profound as it reads…
Tim and I love you too!! Always and forever!
My condolences for your loss.I was devistated when Kim sent me the message while we were making arrangements for my husbands brother that passed on the early hours on the 17th. My heart was breaking but some how felt the need to try and comfort her. Kim and I have leaned on each other before for comfort. She is a dear friend and I love her like family. I have been living life in the fast lane and no spare time to do anything. Life changes in a blink of an eye, we know that all to well.Time for us all to slow down and enjoy our family also to enjoy the beauty around us.
I read your inspiration and what your giving from your heart. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us.Keeping you in my prayers for safe travels and God bless!
Thank you Fran! I’m sorry for your loss as well!! Thanks for being there for Kim as well!! She’s lost so much over the last 9 months!! I feel so bad for her. But she knows there are lots of people there for her and for me. That will definitely keep us going. For me, writing is healing in every way!
Lo, I can’t wait to see you. You have truly been to heaven, he’ll, and back. Call me when you are ready and we’ll tie one on. 😂
Thank you Vikki!!! The heaven part was certainly awesome!! The rest, not so much!!! YES can’t wait to see you. Knee deep in thank you notes and estate paperwork but will be down as soon as that’s done!
I am crying tears of sorrow,hurt and
Joy!! I feel you should write a book on those 36 years. It will be a good read this short story was better than a many book I’ve read my prayers go out to you and your family!!
Thank you for the prayers!!! They will continue to help us day by day!! I love to write because it’s so healing for me!!!
Loretta, I cried as I can understand a lot of what you say even though our experiences with our guys are a bit different during their final days. I also smiled as you referred as your new life as plan B which is the terminology I have been using as well. Perhaps your plan B will take you to south Florida one day where you will always have a friend who gets it.
I’m likely to head down that way!!!!! What a great idea!!
Beautifully said Loretta. My heart and prayers are with you as you embark on this new life. The Lord was many twists and turns for us in life, and although the answers to our questions aren’t always easy to see or accept, the answers always come in his time not ours. You are a terrific person and as strong a woman as I have had the honor to meet in my life. My help is always just a message away if you ever need help. Bless you and our family and remember Tim lives on through you and those who loved and knew him most.
Thanks so much Bill! Plan B has yet to be revealed to me, but I’m sure it will soon!! I’ll take it one day at a time until then!!
Thank you Tamika! I always try to write from my heart!
Absolutely beautiful, Loretta. So raw and straight from your heart – tears streamed down my cheeks as I read your words; I can’t begin to imagine what this journey has been like. You truly inspire me to be a better person. Your outlook is incredible. Grief is such a personal thing; take it one moment at a time and do what feels right for you. Be gentle with yourself and take your time. One thing is for sure, you are surrounded by wonderful friends who will be there for you 100% and then some. If you feel like getting away for a few days, my door is always open. Much love to you, my friend.
Road trip!!!!! Thanks soooo much Ann!!! I’m definitely going one hour at a time!!!! I allow myself to fall apart every now and then!
Loretta reading the details of your last days with Tim was heartrending. I know you need some alone time right now but when you are ready to begin to continue your journey, with Tim’s spirit always by your side, I am here to help in any way that I can.
I’m going to take you up on that Yvonne!!!! I know it’s going to be a long journey, but I’ll find so much comfort in doing all the things we had planned to do!!
Simply Amazing! Thinking of you Mrs V. Remembering how hospitable Tim was when I attended the cookout at your home some years ago. You two were so great together! I’ll be praying for you, Kim and those who loved him… Rest Peacefully Tim.
Thanks so much!! We were absolutely great together!!! I can’t even begin to comprehend yet how much I’ll miss him. I’ll continue to carry on with some of the plans we made together in honor of Tim.
Ret, This is a very poignant blog. I cried as I read it as I could feel the love, pain, fear and back to love again. Your choice to live for you and Tim gives me great hope that some day the pain will lessen. It will never go away completely, unfortunately, but it will lessen. As I’ve said before, you and Tim were the great love story, a story that has always given hope and promise to others. Tim will NEVER be forgotten, by so many people, he was that one of a kind person who made an impression on so many. I’ll never forget his great hugs, wonderful laugh and awesome personality. Know that when you need that strength, Tim will be there, encouraging you and always loving you, as you will always love him. If you need anything, you know where I am. I love you tons Ret!
Loretta, Loretta–I’ve read your August 1 entry three times this past week and again today. Kris couldn’t have said it better. I too could feel the love, pain, fear and back to love again. Thinking of Tim today, again, and his warm mischief, his ability to connect with everyone. Nobody hugs like Timothy.
Love you always
Loretta, I am just reading this, sadly, many days later. I am truly HEARTBROKEN. Your gift for writing is truly amazing. Knew that from ‘Being My Mom’s Mom’, however, this cemented that further. Another book ‘a love story’ would be just fantastic! Love You Always.
Thanks Winnie!!! I feel so much better when I write!! And YEP I’m guessing another book is coming!!! Love you too!!