Category Archives: Hospice

Revising my father’s eulogy

I began the eulogy by saying the Webster Marlowe his friends in Palatka knew was not the same man I knew as my father.  I think I truly believed that until last Sunday, before I received a call from Patty.

Sunday started out like any other.  We woke up, showered, and went to choir rehearsal at Christ Church.  It should have felt good but it didn’t.  I didn’t feel right.  I wasn’t happy to be there.  It wasn’t anything particular; I knew the music and I love our choirmaster, but I just felt off.  I got the car keys from my husband and told him I would see him after church.  He was concerned, but I told him I was okay.  I just needed some time.   I needed to be.

I went out to the car and as soon as I opened the door my cell phone rang.  It was a number from Jacksonville, Florida, so I assumed it was Mayo Clinic or something.  Normally I would decline the call, but I hit the button and said hello.  The caller said she found my name when she was searching online for my father, Webster Marlowe.  Patty had been on a trip to Haiti with him and she found my blog post.  She said her plan was to build a hospital in Haiti with Daddy’s name on it.  She said she was honored to have helped him.   She talked of his hard work and his compassion.  The more she talked the harder I cried.  Then she gave me the phone number of another of Daddy’s friends, Donnie.

Donnie opened my eyes.  I knew my dad as an entrepreneur, a business owner, and as a person who was highly creative, but I never connected this with the man who seemed to be obsessed with Haiti. When I heard the story, though, I knew. It clicked.  Daddy was never one to turn down someone in need.  If a problem needed solving, Daddy would figure out how.  My mother reminded me how he once fixed an oil leak on our Cadillac by running a hose from the leak back into the engine.  My dad could fix anything.

On his first trip to Haiti, his job was to do handyman type work for the Baptist church.  He was to fix broken hinges and rehang doors; he was to do anything that required a hammer and a saw.  As he was working, a man approached with a wooden leg and carrying a piece of wood.  “Can you help me with a new leg?“ the man asked.  Daddy told him he didn’t know anything about that, but the man insisted that with his hammer and saw, Daddy had all the tools he needed.  The next morning Daddy was met by a larger group of amputees, each carrying wood and asking for help.  Webster Marlowe did not know how to say no to anyone who needed help. I’ve known this my entire life.

 

Donnie taught my dad how to use composites to make the legs and introduced him to a prosthetist in Gainesville who could help train him.  Someone else donated titanium.  Titanium! I introduced him to a prosthetist in Georgia, though I was never crazy about Daddy going to Haiti.  The demand grew and over the next 20 years, Daddy fixed and replaced all kinds of legs. He would get emotional as he talked about people who had worn out their legs, children coming back when they had outgrown their legs, and especially when he talked about how the demand outweighed his ability to supply.

While the Webster Marlowe of Palatka didn’t wear suits to work and didn’t drive the latest cars, he really was the same compassionate and caring man whom I called Daddy.  I’m closer to understanding why he was so drawn to Haiti, but I’m not quite there. What I do know is that my dad was a remarkable individual throughout his life, and maybe that is enough.

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, http://www.bethlehemministry.org, 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.”

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.