Category Archives: grief

My final goodbye, with so much love

img_5317My father, Webster Marlowe, 84, of Palatka, Florida, died peacefully in his home on Monday morning, October 10, 2016. He is survived by his wife, Marie Benedict Marlowe, my brother and me, his sister, Katherine Long, of Liberty, SC, four grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by 10 brothers and sisters and two great-grandchildren.

Daddy was born December 1, 1931, in Jacksonville, FL, to Thomas Lee Marlowe and Ola Alberta Cantee. I could never remember whether it was December 1st or 2nd, and if I called him on the 1st, he tell me to call him again on the 2nd. Many times, I forgot. He grew up on Park Street and graduated from Lee High School. His family was active at Trinity United Methodist Church, and my dad represented the Jacksonville sub-district at the Southeastern Jurisdiction Young People’s Leadership Conference. This is where he met my mother, the former Sarah Athelene Payne. She was 16 and he was 18, and he would eat her breakfast since she did not eat. Daddy joined the Army and would hitchhike to Thomasville to see my mom.

After serving in the US Army during the Korean War, my parents were married and Daddy enrolled at High Point College. I was born in 1954, and to quote my mom, I was “the apple of his eye from birth.” My brother came along two years later. There was never any doubt that my dad loved me. His long-time secretary always said that the only difference between the two of us was the plumbing. img_5186

Long before Mr. McGuire would give Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) his one-word advice in “The Graduate”, Daddy was approached by someone to start a plastics company in 1955. Daddy said that his first question was, “What is plastics?” He co-founded Flex-O-Pak in 1955 before leaving for Rex Plastics in 1959. In 1965, he struck out on his own and founded Southern Film Extruders in High Point, NC. Daddy worked day and night to make the company a success, once even triggering my mom to bring his pillow and suitcase to the plant. He was a member and national councilman of the Society of Plastic Engineers, and we often traveled with him in the summers.

During one trip to New York City, my mom took us to see a game show called “Say When.” Before the day was out, my mother became a contestant on the show. Our short trip was img_5314extended, as she continued to win. Among her winnings were a car, a fur coat, a pair of beautiful Rembrandt table lamps, and a trip to the Virgin Islands. My dad made sure my brother and I got to go along on the trip, where we were entertained by a member of the Duke Ellington orchestra. Perhaps this is where my brother and I both developed our love of jazz.

In the mid-1960’s, Daddy decided he wanted to learn to fly. Cecil Lawing was his instructor, and Cecil had a Cessna 175. Daddy loved flying, but my mom said it would be life or death before she got in the plane with him. Death it would be, as my mother’s cousin was dying of kidney failure and family members were being tested for the possibility of transplant. Daddy loved flying and soon would purchase a 1956 Cessna 172, N7214A, which would become my plane as soon as I got my license.  We spent most Saturdays out flying.  One of Daddy’s favorite stories was taxiing in at the airport in Myrtle Beach and being asked, “What are you doing flying Suzanne’s airplane?” I was in trouble for that, because he knew then I was flying to the beach when I was supposed to be in school.

Southern Film Extruders continued to expand and Daddy eventually took the company public.  He had locations in Florida and in New Orleans, so he was gone even more than ever. My parents divorced and my relationship with my dad changed. Divorce is not easy on adult children, either, and I was often put in the middle by both of my parents. Daddy and I would be estranged for months at a time but if I needed him, he was there. I never doubted his love.

Daddy moved to Palatka in the 1980s and eventually became an active member of the Carraway Seventh Day Baptist Church. He and his late wife, Beverly Marlowe, began the “Joy In the Morning” ministry for unwed mothers, which provided assistance for more than 100 single mothers. On a trip to Haiti, he found his passion and learned to build artificial legs in order to serve Haitiian amputees. Over his 20 years of travel, he even had “repeat customers” whose original legs had worn out or been outgrown.  He began his travels to Haiti when “Baby Doc”B96D2A1E-F9D8-4984-9ACD-FC01B69EB444.JPG Duvalier was in power, and was in Haiti when Aristide was overthrown by military coup. None of this dampened his passion for Haiti, nor did the violence he witnessed frighten him.  His faith and his passion were stronger than the fear. Daddy would more than 50 mission trips to Haiti and three to the Dominican Republic, bringing artificial limbs to needy recipients. My dad loved Haiti and the Haitian people.

Since mid-July, I’ve watched my dad wither away. I’ve sat at his bedside and helped him fulfill his final wishes, except for training his replacement in Haiti.  That I could not do, but I tried.  He was just too frail and I couldn’t get the young man here fast enough.  By mid-September, Daddy was barely eating and walking was a struggle. The phone call on October 10 was no surprise, but I know now he is at peace.  Even my mother made the statement that no one had greater faith than Webster Marlowe.

We’ve planned a memorial service for Saturday, October 29, 2016, at the American Legion Post 45, in Palatka, FL, at 3:00 p.m. ET, and we’ve asked people to consider contributing to Haitian ministries through Bethlehem Ministry,, PO Box 48387, Athens, GA 30604.


Last Wish

My dad is in his final days. He wants to see his grandchildren, great grandchildren, and his sister and we’re going to make it happen. It won’t be easy; Daddy and his wife are frail and Aunt Kitty. His wife is visually impaired and Daddy has dementia on top of everything, so the bulk of the load falls on my niece, Brandi, who is his 24 hour caregiver. My brother and I are supplying love and financial support.

The logistics of traveling with a hospice patient requires contracts and coordination. Besides the rental car, there are the obvious medical needs. Daddy is planning seven nights on the road, four at our home and three in a hotel in South Carolina. He sleeps about two hours at a time. Dementia is challenging; sometimes he’s with us and sometimes he’s not.

Brandi asked me whether I was sure I didn’t want them to stay at a hotel. No, he’s my dad. Her response was, “But he’s a handful!” Yes, I know. His medications have been adjusted and titrated, and sometimes he’s okay but sometimes he’s not.

Food restrictions? “No shrimp, catfish, pork, or anything like that,” she said. “And no spaghetti. He doesn’t like pasta, spaghetti sauce, and nothing with any red dye. He’s very worried about red dye right now.” Hmmmm…red dye? He might have dementia but he has very specific opinions.

My daughter is working on sleeping arrangements but we’re not sure what we’ll need beyond that. We’re playing this by ear.

His brother waited until he saw my dad, and was gone before Daddy got out of the driveway. Last wishes can be tricky, especially with someone so frail.

This will be interesting. I want to make this next week memorable for everyone. He’ll see his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I had not heard the lyrics to Carly Simon’s “Like a River” in a very long time, but she talks about how she is no longer waiting for her mother, as a daughter, as the part of their lives together is over. I have wanted my dad to come and visit ever since we moved here, but I never really pushed it because of his health. He’s coming this time on his terms, and I will cherish whatever days I have with him. It is his last wish.

I have certain movies that I watch for different reasons. I can watch Brian’s Song and cry without anyone questioning whether I’m okay. Airplane makes me laugh myself silly and the quotes sometimes come out at the most inappropriate times. And right now, the thought that comes to mind is, “I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.” I have to find humor wherever and whenever I can.

But to quote Gone with the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”

September 11.

September 11. Home.   Not happy. I should be flying. Nothing to do but maybe I could go play golf. 8:45 a.m. I hate morning television shows but I go into the living room and turn on the TV to CBS. Before I’ve brewed my tea, the nightmare begins. My cousin calls first. Ken wants to know I was safe.  Phone calls continue throughout the day and night. No one can believe it.

Days earlier, I had been in Columbus, Ohio. “Please, Chris. Please! Let me go out early!” I begged and pleaded but the answer stayed the same. Chris said I needed to stay home. What did he know. I just wanted to fly. I was already going out on September 13, and I was wrapping up an extended tour. It was a game to work your schedule so you could fly on your off days and stay home on your work days. This meant $$$.

The airspace was reopened on September 13 but our passenger didn’t want to go. My copilot was a skinny guy from Alabama. The silence over the airways was deafening. I thought of “The Stand” by Stephen King, where everyone disappeared. Periodically we’d key the mic and ask ATC if they were still there. Yes, but quiet.

As we crossed over Richmond going into Baltimore, we were told to look out for close traffic on our wings. I never dreamed of a military escort, not in my wildest imagination. When we arrived at Baltimore, our identification was checked before we got off the plane. It was a somber day as we awaited our passenger, a senator from Wisconsin who was attending the memorial service. We could still see the smoke when we approached White Plains, a few days later.

Flying changed. My attitude towards flying changed. I had imagined being hijacked but I never imagined an aircraft being used as a weapon. Each time I went to Hartsfield to meet my aircraft, my luggage was searched. My underwear would be strewn out over the table, my uniforms pulled out and wadded up, and my battery operated toothbrush turned on. Nothing was ever put back correctly so I now had to allow extra time for repacking. That was minor, though, compared to the realization that we were no longer safe.

There are four days in my life that I will never forget. The day President Kennedy was shot, the day Martin Luther King was assassinated, the day Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, and September 11, 2001. Of course I will always remember our wedding day and the birth of my children, and there are probably others, if I think about it. Each of these events changed the way I saw the world.

We can’t forget.

Lost – A Very Short Hospice Story

I had no idea where I was going so I called Trevor. It was a bad neighborhood and besides being our chaplain, he was an ex-cop. There were good people on the street, but trouble lived nearby. At least Trevor knew where we were going. Or so I thought. Hospice patients only die at night, at least that’s how it seemed. It was my turn to go out and pronounce and no way was I going alone. Not to this neighborhood and not to a strange home. Trevor and I agreed to meet at a nearby intersection.

I followed closely behind his car. My first clue that Trevor didn’t know where we were going was how he kept slowing down. It was – literally – a dark and stormy night, and visibility was limited. Numbers were missing from most of the mailboxes so we couldn’t confirm the address and the houses were obscured by the trees and the darkness. We’d have to rely on Trevor’s memory.

We knew something was wrong as we approached the house. Where was everyone? You would like to think there would be some cars there, since a beloved father, grandfather, brother, and friend was dying. What was going on? Where was everyone? Apprehensively, Trevor rang the doorbell. We waited. I rang it again. Finally, we heard movement when the door flew open. “I WON! I WON!” she screamed. We looked at each other, totally confused, and the lady abruptly stopped. “You’re not the Prize Patrol.”

Sometimes you just have to find the sense of humor.

Seeking Zen with a Foster Dog

FredFred was one day away from execution. A friend of mine, Josephine Bennett, is a huge animal lover and through her I became aware of the plight of so many dogs. My dog history is not really exactly what you’d call stellar. Our Boston Terrier ran away and went to live with my grandfather, who would hold him in his lap and feed him from the table. We adopted a Golden Retriever that was in the midst of a custody battle, and the ongoing drama between his previous owners was too much for my children and then it became frightening. I gave up on dogs, but I had great memories of dogs from my childhood.

This has been a tough year for our family and there have been times I have alternated between wanting to run away, or just sleep. I have friends with wonderful dogs, and I even once went to the shelter to look at dogs. They just seemed to require so much more work than our two cats. Then along came Fred. It all happened so fast.

Fred became our foster dog on Thursday, December 10. I really did not understand what all we were getting into with Fred. I told Josephine that I needed Dog 101. He is not neutered, yet, so he had to be crated when inside. He is heartworm positive, so he has to have medication every 12 hours. I didn’t realize just how big his crate would be, nor did I anticipate the cats’ reactions. We’re working it all out.

I’ve obsessed over some of Fred’s behaviors, but mainly I think he’s behaving normally in a new situation. I’ve worried that he hasn’t barked, but if he did bark, I’m sure I’d worry about that. Last night, on our usual walking route, he stopped suddenly and growled at something. We walk by this house several times a day and this is the first time he’s had a reaction. I couldn’t see anything and it was a bit creepy. As strange as it sounds, I was happy to hear him make some noise.

We’re now on Day 5. What I really love is the walking. When Fred and I go out for a walk, I don’t text and I don’t talk on the phone. I focus on walking. I watch Fred and how he interacts with the environment. I listen to see if I can hear whatever it is that makes his ears perk up, and makes him stop and look around. Mostly, we just walk. I know when he comes over and leans on my leg he wants me to pet him. Fred is getting a lot of petting. In these 5 days, he’s gotten so much better walking on the leash. When he’s ready to come back inside, he guides me to the door and then walks directly to the crate.

I don’t know how Fred came to the shelter, much less how he came to be on Doggy Death Row, but he’s a smart dog. This is what I know. Fred likes me. I still seeking Zen and trying to find some sense in the tragedies of 2015, but Fred is helping. At least when we are on our walks, I’m just a human being, walking a dog.


Trying to be Normal in a Completely Abnormal Situation

It has been almost seven months since three of our grandchildren came to live with us.  It has been one adjustment after another.  Bob and I are older and really enjoy our time together.  We love traveling and spontaneous dinners with our friends.  We love sitting outside and watching the sunset over the lake.  We enjoy sleeping in.

All of that changed with the death of our precious granddaughter, Carly.  If you have corded blinds in your home and you have children or pets, please do yourself a favor and replace them.  Between law enforcement investigations and the utter stupidity of the Department of Family and Children Services, our lives have been nothing short of difficult.  Seven months.  I appreciate the need to investigate but this has gone on long enough.

Throughout this period, my husband and I have tried to keep things as normal as possible for the children.  But nothing about this is normal.  Tonight, though, I finally realized that we just have to find the humor when we can.  Here’s my list of things where we found humor today.  They all may sound trivial, but they are keeping us sane.

  1. Sarah Katherine, who prefers the nickname “Snowy”, decided to help Bebob (what the grand babies call my husband) tape off the molding so he could paint the stairway going from my office to the main floor of our home.  If you aren’t a painting perfectionist and haven’t ever tried to tape the molding going up the stairs, you’ve missed a treat.  You have to laugh.
  2. Tonight was a series of invisible “boo-boos” on four of SK’s fingers.  Only one bandaid would do, and she moved it from finger to finger.  When the one bandaid finally gave up the ghost, the insult of a second bandaid was just too much to bear.  Not even a Disney bandaid was an acceptable replacement for the plain bandaid that had gone from finger to finger.
  3. A bed would not do for SK tonight, as with most nights.  She likes to sleep “on the ground.”  This translates to the floor in our bedroom, which eliminates any CSI watching or any other TV program that is not suitable for a two year old.  She has a perfectly fine bed, but in our room she has a spot where she wants to sleep and it covers about an area large enough for another queen size bed.  The assortment of animals and babies that are lined up across the floor further add to the obstacle course of our bedroom.
  4. Watching SpaceJam with the boys was also an adventure.  What?  You don’t know who Michael Jordan is?  Seriously?  Charles Barkley?  Larry Bird?  Our “good ol’ days” included Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Joe Namath, Mean Joe Green.  We had Neil Armstrong and John Glenn.  We had Apollo 13.  We had the Beatles making their debut in NYC.  We saw the first lunar landing.  These poor babies!  What are they missing?

While they are missing their parents and they are missing their home, we make sure they get lots of love and the constant reassurance that there is an end out there, somewhere.  Their parents are here every day, and my 82 year old mother makes the trip down as often as she can so that Bob and I can have some time away.  My sister has also offered to come down.  Many of our friends have helped, my boys call regularly and Jackie calls periodically, and you can’t imagine how much that means to us.  You cannot imagine how much we appreciate those who have made efforts to help!

No, our life is not normal, but we’re hanging in there doing the best we can.  We laugh daily, as much and as often as possible.  We are thankful for our friends and for the family members who have been supportive.   We are thankful for everyone who is helping.

The lessons learned from this are to hang in there.  Appreciate what you have.  Appreciate your family.  Whatever their flaws, they’re the best you’ve got. Make the best of whatever your situation.   Use humor when you can.  As Scarlett O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Grief, Again

We were on our way home from the airport.  I’ve been in Washington, D.C., working on a pretty incredible project that will decrease the digital divide in Nepal, increase literacy, and improve education.  It has been a very exciting trip and I was fired up.  If I had to rate this entire week, I would give it a 10+.  My flight arrived on time and I was excited to see my husband and three of my grandchildren.  We would drive home with Sirius 78 on the radio, Kids Place Live.  There was a lot of laughing and a lot of fun, until a surprising trigger came on the radio.

About a month before Carly died, we took her to Disney World.  I ran a 5K on Friday, a 10K on Saturday, and a 1/2 marathon on Sunday.  It was Disney’s Glass Slipper Challenge.  The icing on the cake was being able to take Carly with us.  We rode lots of rides and she was captivated by “It’s a Small World.”  That particular ride is one of my favorites, as I rode it when it was premiered at the New York World’s Fair.  I think that was 1964, and I had never seen anything like it.  I have always loved that particular ride.  On February 21, the line for “It’s a Small World” was short and Carly was as excited as I was.  She was captivated by the animation and the voices and the many wonderful characters.  As the dolls sang and moved up and down, Carly was transfixed.  The photo was taken on the ride.  Such precious and wonderful memories!

I’ve done well, I think, with the pain of losing our precious granddaughter.  But today, when “It’s a Small World” came on the radio, I lost it.  Carly’s brothers and sister were in the car but the tears came, anyway.  I couldn’t stop.  The memories of the fun blended with the extreme sadness and the result was an extreme pain.

When I got myself together, I apologized to our grandsons.  I’m not sure they’ve seen me cry since the funeral.  James, who is 10, very wisely said, “It’s okay.  I understand.”  The sad thing is that yes, he does understand.

You never know when the pain of a loss is going to hit you, and you never know when it will grab you so hard it will take your breath away.  Today was my day.  Sometimes you just have to ride it out.