Losing his wife of 54 years: Ray’s Story in His Own Words

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a photo of ray and nancy

Nancy was my wife of 54 years. We met on a blind date during the Christmas holidays in 1963. We were married in November 1965. Nancy was a creative wonder and there was no craft she could not master. She was generous with her time and volunteered weekly at the local assisted living facility.

Most important to her was her role as mom. She was largely responsible for the raising of our son and daughter as I pursued an Air Force career with all the family separations and time demands.

All of this came to an end when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I watched the disease slowly take her away from me. After a series of infections, hospitalizations and pneumonia, I was referred to hospice. I signed the DNR, one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. We went home with Hospice Care and Nancy passed away quietly at home.

During the first two weeks following Nancy’s passing, there were meetings and things to arrange. There was a reception at our home. Then everyone went back to their normal lives, except me. I know longer knew what “normal” meant.

A few weeks later, a hospice Horizons Bereavement Center team member phoned and asked if I needed anything. Being a man, I said I was fine. As soon as I hung up the phone, I knew that wasn’t true and I called her back and accepted counseling. The understanding, encouragement and reinforcement from hospice bereavement were very important throughout that first year. I also kept a journal, and I was given a wonderful book about healing after loss.

I came to realize that the loss I had experienced was more than just the loss of Nancy. I also lost the part of me that I had given to her those 54 years. There was a bigger hole in my life than I realized, and recovery was going to take longer than I thought.

I would like to share a few suggestions that helped me on my journey. First, ask for help, especially professional help such as the Horizons Bereavement Center. Don’t try to be Superman and do it all. Second, tell your story. I was asked to tell my story and each time it got a little easier. Third, there is a brotherhood of loss. I was able to connect with several family members and close friends who also suffered the loss of a loved one. We are always there for each other. Finally, I strongly suggest keeping a journal.

At first, I couldn’t write Nancy’s name without a flood of emotions and tears. Now, I’m sharing my story with you. Here’s a quote about grief from the book “Healing After Loss” by Frank O’Connor “The more loss we feel the more grateful we should be for whatever it was we had to lose. It means we had something worth grieving for.”

Your kind support of the Hospice Care Horizons Bereavement Center Call407-379-0490) ensures we can continue to be a lifeline to men and women just like Ray. Thank you.

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