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A Year in the Life of Mr. Loyd
By: Sarah Layton, MSW, LCSW
A lot can happen in a year. He wouldn’t have expected it but now, Bob Loyd can proudly say that he has been a high school graduate for 365 days. The road to graduation wasn’t an easy one. Bob was faced with the loss of his wife of 65 years. He faced intense grief. But he showed his strength by accepting support from hospice during difficult times.
A Year Gone By
As I’ve reflected on the past year, I am still amazed at what we accomplished that day back in March. So much preparation, so much build up and excitement. But you see, the story actually began in December 2012. Bob and his family elected hospice care for his wife, Dee. Bob had been through so much in a short amount of time. He and Dee moved from the assisted living environment that they loved and into more skilled care as Dee’s needs were changing. After 65 happy years of marriage and three children, the Loyd family said goodbye to Dee after just ten days in hospice care.
At our team meeting I was told that Dee’s husband, Bob, would remain in the nursing home and would be a good candidate for bereavement visits. Even though the family could not benefit from a longer stay on hospice, bereavement would take over and provide emotional support in the aftermath. Over the next months, Bob welcomed me into his world. At times I’d see a glimpse into his intense grief, but being the stoic and proud man he is, these moments were short lived. In my experience, many widows and widowers struggle with a sense of purpose after the loss of their spouse. Many feel that the best years are behind them. Bob knows the depth of his loss but he does his best to remain positive, creative, and relevant. This unique combination made him the perfect “partner in crime”. So after hearing his story, which included dropping out of high school at the age of 17 to join the Navy, a light bulb went off. Now Bob will be the first to tell you, he was far from the road to Valedictorian in high school. But I wondered if perhaps this missed milestone could have meaning to him many years later. I didn’t have to guess if Bob was up for the ride, he always is! Together we began planning and preparing a ceremony for Bob to receive his long overdue high school diploma.
Remembering the Ceremony
I remember that morning well, I had a few surprises in store for our graduate. But Bob, that Bob! He had little patience for any of that. He came downstairs hours early to “supervise”. He did humor me and allow me to drape him in a cap and gown. We all watched as his daughter pinned a boutonniere to his chest. As the ceremony began, Bob was temporarily speechless-a sight to see for those who know him. We all watched with pride as this man who had given so much, lost so much, stood up and received his high school diploma. When asked about his recollection of that day, he says it was a “fuzzy day” due to the whirlwind nature of the event.
But It didn’t end with that day. We received coverage from TV, radio, and print (thanks to News Channel 5, The Dave Glover Show, and The Webster-Kirkwood Times, as well as the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, especially John Hose). It became our little joke that I’d quit my job, rent a bus and we’d go on tour.
A Grateful Veteran
So that brings us to the present. In late summer, I made a decision to change hospice companies. I told Bob at our last visit and left with tears in my eyes. But this wasn’t the end. I sat down with him recently to reflect on his graduation day. Not surprisingly, he had a lot to say. He feels the experience has given his life new meaning. He feels more confident, more outgoing. He revealed that Dee was his comfort and crutch. He wasn’t sure what his life would look like without her. But out of his own mouth he said, “I’ve enjoyed my life so much more since this happened. It’s like there was a curtain over me after my wife died,”. He still misses her dearly, but can focus on what he still has to offer and get out of his time left on Earth. He uses his passion for all things Veteran to propel him forward.
Finally, I asked him what hospice means to him. He said “new life”. It wasn’t what I expected to hear. He elaborated, “it opened up a new life for me, hospice helped me learn to live again without my wife”. He continued by saying, “you did it”. I was quick to respond, “No, Bob. You did it. 70 years ago,”.
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