75366

This picture was taken a few weeks after I met Rebecca in Memphis in 1969.  She was just 22, about one month prior.

She worked at Union Planters Bank on Bellevue Blvd. and I worked at Stax Records on McLemore Ave., just around the corner.

the real grieving begins later - when everyone has gone back to their own lives and you're all alone

everybody loves a winner, but when you lose, you lose alone

thank you for showing respect by reading Rebecca's pages

"To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die." .... Harold Robbins

 

Many people heard about Rebecca's cancer, and sent beautiful emails to us.  We both thank you from our hearts. 

We had been together 33 years, 10 months, and 16 days.  October 5th, 1969 was our "together" day, and March 18th, 1972, our wedding day.  We considered ourselves married from the very beginning. 

We were devastated after her surgery on July 22nd, 2003.  Rebecca was given four to eight months left to live, but that was only a doctor's pipe dream.  Rebecca was released from the hospital on July 31st, and died in my arms on August 21st, at 2:45 pm in the emergency triage room at University Community Hospital, in Tampa. 

This is the hardest page I've ever written.  My ability to clearly express myself disappeared.  Nothing is coming out with the strength I intend.  Nothing I could write is adequate, anyway.

Rebecca and I did everything together.  When I played sessions, she'd sit next to the Hammond organ, curl up on the sofa in the control room, or sit on the piano bench with me.  We fished, built custom fishing rods, worked on and rigged our bass boats, built recording studios, collected guns, went shooting, reloaded incalculable rounds of ammo.  We rebuilt and refinished Hammond organs and Leslie speakers.  We recorded songs, built computers, spent years building Canine Training, our training room, office, and deck, built the kennels, played pool, worked on our cue sticks on the lathe.  We talked things over and made decisions.  We built the ProKeys website together.  We invented things, designed things, fabricated things, we always had projects going.

Our life together was "we" - it lasted 33 years, 10 months, and 16 days.  We did things together - the list is endless.  There's no way to put 34 years onto a webpage.  We didn't go out very often, we had a minimal social life, and very few friends.  We were quiet homebodies, we read a lot, we weren't "party people".  Our life was simple, we had each other.


These pictures are from March, 1972.  We didn't want a big, family-type wedding.  Rebecca and I decided to be quietly married by a justice of the peace.  I could only find a few old Polaroids of our wedding.  You can click on these pictures.


In 1974, we owned a house on a lake in Mississippi.  Late one night, we tried night fishing for the first time, in our little aluminum boat.  It was moonless, pitch black dark.  On her first cast, Rebecca caught a 3.5 pound bass.  It hit hard, fought like an alligator, and it sounded like the lake exploded.  That scared her so badly, all she could say was, "Get me home!  Get me home now!".  She recovered quickly, and we went right back out, where she caught a 9 pound 4 ounce bass, which we had mounted on the wall.


Bec and I were gun collectors.  Among other weapons, we collected 1921 Thompson submachineguns.  We didn't buy this old 1932 Ford, although we certainly tried to.


In 1976, when we lived in California, Rebecca and our friend Lisa - fueled with a bottle of Amaretto - came up with an interesting idea.  Pour a whole bottle of spearmint flavored bubble bath into our hot tub while the jets and air were turned on full blast.  Within minutes, the bubbles were overflowing all over the deck and all over the yard.  It looked like a snowstorm.  We certainly had our crazy side, too.


In my mind, in my eyes, and in my heart, Rebecca was absolutely gorgeous.  This picture is from 1976, Rebecca was about 30 years old, and looked like a 20 year old.


I try to write what's in my heart, how I feel, but the trauma changes it by the second.

Most people never knew that Rebecca always had a very active part in all the work that's ever been done at our ProKeys shop.  What she knew about Hammonds and Leslies, and her capability to work on them, would astound you.  She soldered just as well as she cooked, and her mind was able to diagnose Hammond issues with complete logic.  I showed Rebecca plenty of details, Rebecca taught me even more.  Many of you may think that I rebuilt and recapped your scanners and generators.  It's really time to thank Rebecca.

Shortly before Rebecca was first diagnosed, on June 28th, 2002, I became sick when I knew I would have to close our dog business after almost 21 years.  Canine Training closed permanently on August 6th, 2002, but had been slowly falling apart since our "main" dog, Corey, died on August 6th, 1997.  I tried, but I failed. 

I was unable to regularly bring money into our household any longer.  I'm not a diagnostician, but it has to do with failure, humiliation, irresponsibility, and depression. 

The whole world fell down when Bec told me it was certain - she had lung cancer.  It was small cell cancer, meaning surgical operation, such as removal of her lung, was totally out of the question.  Small cell cannot be operated on, it spreads like wildfire.

Rebecca got sick.  Along with being sick, she became weak, and could no longer function as she did when she was 25, 35, or 45. 

Radiation and chemotherapy tore her to pieces, and the side effects terrified both of us.  We knew her hair would fall out, so we were prepared, but that was just the first step.  We were able to cope, and even find humor in it.  Bec actually asked me to airbrush some colorful designs on her head.  To me, this shows how hard she tried to make the best of the situation.  There were plenty of other side effects - Rebecca fought through them all, and then some.  It's too much stress for me to describe them.  I could only watch as Rebecca tried to maintain a positive attitude while the chemicals slowly destroyed her.

Our collective sickness was evidenced by the amount of time we slept and rested.  It seems incredible that just six or eight months prior, we would stay up half the night, rebuilding a Hammond B3 or a Leslie amp, and doing four other projects - all at once - jumping from one project to the other like hyperactive children.  Suddenly, we were going to sleep at 7 pm and waking up every couple of hours.  Sometimes we stayed awake all night, talking, crying, holding each other.  We were helpless, powerless to change anything. 

When the sledge hammers fell, all we wanted to do was rest.  All interest seemed to evaporate in a matter of weeks, and neither of us felt strong enough to take apart a scanner, never mind work on it like we normally would. 

Since approximately June, 2002, life seemed hopeless.  Cancer had completely taken over both of our lives:  Rebecca, in a physical and mental sense, myself, in a mental depression sense.  I wanted to do more for Rebecca, but I failed there, too.  Every week was centered around chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  Doctors.  Hospitals.  Counseling.  PET scans.  CAT scans.  Doctors.  Blood diagnostics.  Therapists.  Pharmacies.  Psychiatrists.  Insurance forms.  More doctors.  More hospitals.

Rebecca was the strong one, she always was.  She continued to work and do everything she could until the day she was hospitalized.  I was the weak one, I always was.  No goals, nothing to do, nothing to look forward to, except more fear for Rebecca's life, more helplessness, and more depression.  Sickness takes strength away fast.  I found myself crying uncontrollably for hours, every day, counseling and medication changed nothing.  Reality and fear are far stronger than any prescription.

Rebecca was magical.  She was my strength, my backbone, my lifeline.  She was my wife, my lover, my best friend, and my partner for thirty four years.  Rebecca was safety, a safe place in this world which seems to get more dangerous and confusing every day.  Rebecca was truth and honesty in a world full of deception.  Now she's gone, I'm alone and lost.

How she could put up with my behavior for 34 years completely escapes my mind.  I have a billion wonderful memories of her, and I also remember the cruel words I spoke, how selfish, unfair, and inconsiderate I was on so many occasions.  She deserved so much better, and I failed to be what I should have been, far, far too many times.  I never deserved a wife as loyal, loving, and wonderful as Rebecca. 

Several counselors have told me to stop beating myself up over past mistakes, but they left out the critical part.  How can a person forget?  Or stop thoughts from coming into their mind?  It takes too much strength to push the thoughts out, then they just come back anyway.

Rebecca was an angel .... she was with me at every show she could possibly attend.  Setup and takedown was a science we developed together, and you never saw a Hammond organ and 3 or 4 Leslies get up and running on stage with the precision of "our team".  It was art and cooperation.  Words were mostly unnecessary - we could look at each other and sense things.  She had a way of knowing what I was thinking more often than my words could describe.

She supported us without complaint when times were hard, while dog training work slowly fell down to nothing, after the dog business failed, when I couldn't find enough recording sessions or playing jobs.  When times were better, I was able to buy most of the "extras" - the toys that made our lives a little happier. 

It's too soon to get my feelings under control.  I haven't found a doctor to prescribe anything that will work for me.  I've concluded that depression isn't caused by a chemical imbalance, it's caused by stark reality. 

I try to accept that Rebecca's really gone, but every few days I lose it, and can't believe she's not coming home, or calling to check up on me.  Sometimes I sit by the phone, waiting for her to call, then I realize the facts and come apart again.  Every day brings mountains of new problems that she would have handled in a second, while I don't have any idea what or how to do it.

What is frightening, is how my memory and mind sometimes get hazy.  Some details about Rebecca seem to fade sometimes, and she seems to be more distant from me each day.  This really causes depression, because I don't want details of her to drift any further away.  I need her, even if it's only inside of my mind.

I think, due to our ages, we came from a generation where the lady of the house pretty much ran everything - banking, cooking, shopping, cleaning, laundry, and usually held a full time job, too.  That left the man with "man's work", and these habits grew and grew over time.  I'm at a point where cooking a TV dinner is hard to do, and making an actual meal is utterly impossible.  I never was a large man, but I don't remember ever weighing 94 pounds before.  Food just doesn't want to go down, it's nauseating.  I'm fortunate there's Boost and vitamins.

The facets involved in death are totally alien to me.  I never knew or understood things like death certificates, laws, beneficiaries, banking, policies, Social Security, or any of that stuff.  I always did the limited things I knew: played or rebuilt Hammonds, and trained dogs.  When I ran up bills, Bec would tell me what I owed, and I'd hand it to her.  She knew exactly what to do from there.  I never told her often enough, but Bec knew everything.  EVERYTHING.  She had a grip on daily life that is more confusing to me than rocket ships.  Rebecca guided our family - for 34 years, she kept us on course.

I'm probably crazy to even write this page publicly.  Rebecca was my world, the literal center of my life.  I don't know if anybody could ever understand - until they've lived 34 years with the one and only person they ever loved - how this can affect every breath you take.  Every minute, every hour of the days.  And you can't get it out of your mind - it stays right there, while you just cry some more.        

Rebecca's last days of life were as pleasant as we could make them, under the circumstances.  I am so thankful for that, and especially that we were holding and kissing each other, telling each other how much we loved each other - we were together at the very last second, at the very end.  Rebecca passed away instantly.  Her head just relaxed back, and her heart stopped.  I'm certain she felt no pain or suffering.

I want to add something.  Right now, not later, not tomorrow, go put your arms around your wife and tell her how very much you appreciate her - how important she really is to you.  Don't wait to do this, tomorrow isn't guaranteed, we don't know what's around the corner.  You can never tell your love often enough that they're the most important person in the world, and you're so happy that you're spending your life with them.  Take my word, for I'm serious.   I'd give anything to hold and kiss Rebecca and say these words again.  I never told her often enough.  I assumed she just knew, or I let other things take precedence.  But now I realize - she deserved to hear that I adored her, every day of her life.  I failed to be a better husband.  The words either didn't come out, or I just took her for granted, week after month after year.  My opportunities are gone.  I can never tell her how much she really meant to me, ever again.  Please - read this twice, and don't let this happen to you. 

 

This picture was taken at Rebecca's work, a few weeks before her lung collapsed and she went into the hospital.

Rebecca was 55.  She had been on chemotherapy for over a year at this time. 

Life will never be the same.

 

After thirty four years, I now wear Rebecca's wedding band.

I can't sleep without it, and if I take it off for any reason, I get frantic, until it's back on my finger.

Return To Rebecca Memorial