Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I think to myself, “What the fuck just happened?”
Sorry for the bad language, but I’m just being honest.
In 1945 my parents had a little baby boy and they named him Robert Allen Beckman. Robert was born a healthy baby but developed yellow jaundice and died three weeks after birth. My parents were so sad but didn’t have much time to grieve because they had baby Judy to care for. Judy turned one the day after Robert died and life for my parents kept getting busier with the addition of Jean, Jim, Joan, Mick, myself, Deb, Vikke and Mary during the coming years.
About thirteen years ago my parents thought it was important to purchase a gravestone for little Robert. After my parents lovingly placed the stone on Robert’s grave in Hart, Michigan, my dad tearfully told me about what they had done, but for some reason didn’t invite any of us kids to be present which is still a mystery to us all. My parents never really talked much about Robert because it was so emotional, even after sixty years.
Last week my friends Sheila Salisz and Colleen Vander Wier asked me to spend the day with them. They suggested either renting a bicycle for four or taking a trip to Mac Wood’s Dune Rides, both of which sounded fun. Two days before our girl’s day, I woke up at 3:00am thinking about Robert, so in the morning I asked the girls if they minded going on an adventure to find my brother’s grave. They loved the idea.
Just before we left for the cemetery, Mark looked on the Internet and found a picture of Robert’s gravestone, but couldn’t find a map of the Hart Cemetery, so when we arrived we looked up the Sexton right away. He was so nice and knew exactly where Robert was buried.
Sheila and Colleen are so fun and wanted to make this day extra special for me so they brought three lawn chairs, wine, beer, cheese and crackers. We set the chairs up around Robert’s grave and talked for two and half hours about life.
Finding my brother made for a great day, but spending time with great friends made it amazing.
My speech has started to decline more noticeably in recent weeks and although people are being so kind and patient with me when I speak with them, I had been feeling more and more self-conscious about it, and then yesterday I received this beautiful e-mail from a friend of mine.
The thought of your speech maybe being difficult one day is so hard, but I just want to say something. I know you on a very surface level, my loss :). Our paths seem to cross at the random graduation parties, Salisz Palooza, our amazing Mackinac trip, but you have always been so warm and so kind, like you have known me all your life! I know our voices are important, but with you , when I see you smile at me as I approach you, I feel like the beauty of your smile and the warmth of your eyes have already said, ” Hi, how are you? How are your kids? Isn’t this fun being here with everyone. It’s so nice to see you! ” And you haven’t even opened your mouth to say a single word! My point , you will speak volumes with your smile and the love in your eyes! Words are not always needed.
I don’t know why I worry so much about speaking. I think that even though I know I’ll be able to communicate okay even if I can’t say words, it’s just a huge adjustment for me. But this letter helps.
I truly appreciate your comforting words. Today I feel like I can do this.
When my older sister Jean was diagnosed with leukemia nine years ago, the doctors at the University of Michigan told her she needed a bone marrow transplant to survive. They suggested that all eight of Jean’s siblings get tested to see if one of us was a compatible donor. Although all eight of us were hopeful that we’d be Jean’s match, we were all a little nervous as well. Being a bone marrow donor is an honor, but also a huge commitment with often painful side effects.
With that in mind, all eight of us took the test and, after a few weeks of waiting, the results revealed that my younger sister Deb was a perfect match. Deb was the chosen one.
The first thing Deb had to do before gifting Jean with her magic bone marrow was submit to a physical to make sure she was healthy enough to donate. During Deb’s physical the doctors found that her blood pressure was alarmingly high. Because our family has a long history of heart disease and our brother Mick died of a heart attack at the age of 50, Deb’s physical came at a perfect time. After getting her blood pressure down to a healthy level, Deb traveled to Ann Arbor to undergo the procedure to extract the bone marrow from her body to give to Jean.
Deb and Jean went through with the miraculous bone marrow transfer and Jean’s body accepted Deb’s marrow perfectly, but only for a short time. The leukemia was too advanced going into the transfer and after a few months, our sister Jean passed away.
When I think about it, I believe that the magic of this story is that it seemed that Deb was chosen to save Jean’s life, but maybe it was really meant to be the other way around. Maybe it was Jean who was chosen to save Deb.
I have realized lately, moreso now than ever, just how powerful wedding vows are.
Recently my doctors suggested that I conserve energy for the things that matter most to me, so Mark has been doing everything around the house, including helping me get dressed and towel-drying my hair. When I get frustrated that I can’t do these things for myself anymore, he looks at me with those adoring brown eyes and says, “Rosemary, it’s my honor to help you.” And I know he truly feels honored and I feel thankful for him and I think about those words we said to each other almost 35 years ago—in sickness and in health.
Last week we were getting ready to attend my uncle’s funeral and I decided I wanted to wear a dress and high heels. The heels didn’t feel right without nylons so I asked Mark if he could help me put some on. We started slowly at my feet and made our way up to my knees and Mark said, “There is no way these could ever fit you.” and we laughed so hard and I almost gave up on the idea of wearing nylons at all, but we kept wiggling our way upward and eventually we did it and there were no snags or holes and luckily I didn’t have to use the bathroom during the funeral.
I don’t know if my future includes high heels or nylons anymore, but I could wear them that day with Mark’s help and that’s what matters.