Feb 9, 2016

Saying Goodbye With a Heavy Heart


My sister-in-law, Becky, passed away in her sleep last night. Becky had battled end stage kidney failure since 2010. She battled it long, and she battled it hard, and she survived each stage of illness, a massive blood loss, terrible infections, a broken hip, and being put into several medically induced comas over the past 6 years. And she fought the good fight with absolute resolute determination and never ending hope.

Becky was a survivor. She was a fighter and she stood up for what she believed in and what she wanted to happen. And she really, really, really wanted to live. She wanted to live and she wanted and desperately needed a kidney transplant. But she was to ill to even be able to get back on the transplant list after a horrific spinal infection that lasted well over a year. Bedridden for an entire year in a small clinic outside of Anchorage, she survived that and was flown south when a doctor was found at Oregon Health Science University that was willing to try to operate and clean that infection out. And that bought her time with those that loved her to be with her and surround her with that love.

Becky was a survivor. But Becky, first survived a Coast Guard helicopter medevaced from a cruise ship in the Caribbean to the Florida Keys in January of 2010.  Battling many different problems, she fell ill an lost more blood than a person can usually survive. The cruise ship passengers lined up to donate blood and it was then discovered that the ships liability insurance would not cover that, so the ship's staff lined up and donated with willing hearts, instead. The helicopter only had room for her stretcher, the doctor, and the pilot, so my brother could not even get on board with her for the 20 hour flight to land. And worse of all, he was told she most like would not survive the helicopter flight.

Becky was a survivor. She survived that trip and made it to a hospital in the Florida Keys, where she was placed in a medically coma and given blood transfusions that later would cause antibody rejection, more blood loss and the beginning of major kidney failure. I lit candles and kept them going in my parent's home in Alaska where I had flown up to care for them and broken my own wrist and had undergone surgery. It was one heck of a January 2010. I had almost no candles in my aging parents home but I kept the few I had going until she came out of that coma on the 13th day. It was the first of many miracles.


Becky was a survivor. She survived the odds when her husband, my brother, battled his own illnesses, being put into his own medically induced comas for 4 different times. Still very, very ill herself, Becky traveled from from Anchorage to Seattle to the hospital where Doug was medevaced by medical transport. She wanted to be by Doug's side. But she slipped and fell and broke her hip and ended up one floor above him. I traveled to Seattle and stayed with them, going between his floor trying to pull him from the long coma, and her's where she was heartbroken knowing it would be days before she could be transported by wheelchair to his bedside. Shortly after her first visit, she was overjoyed when he'd come out of a his medically induced coma when his doctor's had all but lost hope.  Becky wished she'd be there for that but I was talking about her to him when he first opened his eyes. And oh how they all laughed later when I told him that the only reason he came out of the coma was because he got so tired of listening to my chatter 12 hours a day!

                                        A Heart for Becky and Another One for Doug

Becky was a survivor. But now, we have to strive to remember that love lives on through loss. Love is the survivor of all things.

Love lives on. For love is hope, and faith, and charity and the greatest of all. My brother's loss of his beloved wife will be all the harder now for all that they shard in sickness and in health. Forty years or so of marriage and a lot of really, really wonderful times and raising their beautiful children to adulthood and marriages of their own.

Love lives on. My brother, three grown children and their partners, and 6 grandchildren are left behind to mourn her loss. Doug and Becky have been living in Portland, after Becky was medvaced to OSHU for specialized care and surgery.Two of their daughters and their families now live there as well. And best of all, a miracle really, their son and his family came for a visit just a few weeks ago. I am so deeply grateful for that, and that she was able to meet her newest grandaughter from Alaska. It meant the world to her.

Love lives on. I am so grateful for the time that Becky was in our lives, for the laughter we all shared over pet stories, and family stories, and the private time I shared with just her as I picked her up and drove her to see Doug when he was hospitalized in four hospitals and three states.

Love lives on. It has been a long and challenging journey for everyone, but I will never regret the time I spent with either of them, not the traveling, not the visiting, not the care giving, not the one to three times a week visits that are now treasures, as I drove Becky from her daughter's home in Beaverton to whatever hospital Doug was in at the time.

Love lives on, as do all of the memories and all of the stories. I have no sense of direction, and we got loss over and over and she stayed calm and reread the google map print off to me as we tried to figure out what to do next, once even calling her daughter at work when we couldn't figure out how to get her back home.Oh, how we laughed at me and I didn't mind one bit!


Love lives on, as do all of the memories and all of the stories.  Becky loved her family more than anyone or anything in the world. A close second was animals as she adored all of the many pets they brought into their home over 40 years of marriage. She loved to sew and made beautiful gowns for her daughters events and clothes for all of her children as they grew up. She loved needlepoint and gardening and oh, yes, boy oh boy, did she love shopping.

Love lives on, as do all of the memories and all of the stories. I think I can honestly say, it was the shopping that kept her able to drive herself to dialysis three times a week for all those stressful hours of sitting there at a time! And oh, how we used to shop! I suspended all judgment during those days. Just rendered my coupons and my left over cash from her supporting my Seattle stay as I watched her shop. My family likes to say that I have a shoppers walk and no one can keep up with me. Well, I could not keep up with Becky, trust me.

Love lives on, as do all of the memories and all of the stories.  My heart knew this was her time for her, as none of us knows how long we have. But we always knew that if she didn't get a kidney transplant she had far more limited time. She lived life the best she could for as long as she could and I can truly say she lived it her way, fully her way.


Love lives on, as do all of the memories and all of the stories. I am filled with memories today, but I am choosing to remember her filled with life, with such a great vibrancy and with so much love of all of the things she held dear to her own heart. This is a photo of her taken many years ago when she and Doug were raising their children, first in Anchorage, and then in Eagle River.

Love lives on, as do all of the memories and all of the stories.I miss you dear, dear Becky and I always will. But boy, now I can really share my stories. And yes, a lot of them will poke fun at me!!!!

 Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting... from my heart and with my hands.


Scrappy quilter said...

Dear Michele I am so sorry for your loss.

Michele Bilyeu said...

Bless you, Carol. I truly appreciate this. Thank you.

Celia said...

Sorry for you and your family's loss Michele.

Pat L said...

Michele....my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, as you try to deal with one more tragedy.

Anonymous said...

so sorry for our "family" loss. Thank you for letting us know. Lana

Michele Bilyeu said...

Thank you so very, very much Celia.

Michele Bilyeu said...

Thank you so much, Pat!

Michele Bilyeu said...

Thank you, Lana. It's so sad but I've found that my blog is the only way to communicate with friends and family of Doug and Becky in Alaska, especially Eagle River and Anchorage. I have one dear former patient of Dr. Doug's that comes here just to see how they are doing. For a long time, they wrote me over and over but as the years go by and our own lives get more complicated, I am grateful that those who knew and loved them and all of his patients saw him as family as well as those of us that were related, miss him and miss Becky's face at the reception desk. And just plain miss their favorite family doctor and his family and their role in their own lives.

paulette said...

Michele, your sister-in-law sounded like an amazing woman, wife, mother, grandmother and sister! I am so sorry for your loss!

Judy1522 said...

I am so sorry for your loss, hopefully all your wonderful memories of your sister in law Becky will continue to give you comfort.

Joyce Carter said...

I am so sorry for your loss, Michele. She sounds like she was a very amazing person. I know she will be greatly missed.

Michele Bilyeu said...

She was a character! Stubborn and determined as all get out! I will miss her and it will be dogs so hard on my brother, now. He has it in him to reach deep and I pray he will with all our support. Living alone will be hard for him as it would be for any of us.

Thank you Joyce. Your support means a lot to me.

Michele Bilyeu said...

She was quite the character and we all loved and will miss her. Thanks so much, Paulette.

Michele Bilyeu said...

Thank you so very, very much Judy!

Susan said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your sister-in-love. You and your family are in my prayers.

O'Quilts said...

The miracle is the love. xxoo

Michele Bilyeu said...

That's it exactly when all is said and done. It's just the pits getting through the first year but somehow I'll be there for my brother, especially, and help him get through this hardest part.

hugs to you dear lady!!

Michele Bilyeu said...

Thank you so very much, Susan!!!