Gary and I always considered ourselves very lucky to be in such good health. At age 72 we were going strong ― no need for pills, no restrictions to our diet. We were healthy and happy.
So it was difficult to realize when that no longer was true for Gary. It all started with drooling. It didn’t make sense and the doctor did not see it as a symptom. Gary’s lack of facial expression in photos was not a sign either, I just teased him for not smiling ― we did not know about facial masking. But then the falls started, mostly when we were walking outside. We blamed them on bad sidewalks or not being aware.
Finally, we received the Parkinson’s diagnosis. The first doctor we saw said that Gary would have five good years. Naively we thought he would have a longer life, but with more physical problems after the five-year mark.
Normal life was fading away after Gary had a bowl obstruction that left him with an ostomy bag. He then began to rely on a walker in the house, which upset him as he tried to keep some small sense of independence. Amidst all of this he still was practicing law helping his clients who needed him most. As his voice grew weaker, he eventually had to give up law, which may have been even harder on him than giving up golf and playing the piano.
Our one last family event was Moving Day in 2017. It was our first year participating. It was a beautiful day. Gary’s three sons, daughter-in-law, five grandchildren, two sisters, niece, her husband and daughter were with us. Gary was so happy that day and enjoyed everything about the day. He didn’t even complain about being in a wheelchair. Everything was perfect.
After the walk our family came over to enjoy greens and beans, a favorite dish Gary would make. He even managed to eat some. Gary stayed in the kitchen talking with his family after dinner and it was the happiest I had seen him in a long time.
After everyone left, he enjoyed a small piece of cake and his favorite ice cream. I left him in his comfortable recliner where he had been sleeping now as he was no longer able to make it upstairs to our bed. I came down at 12:30 to put his feeding tube on for him and he seemed Okay. When I woke up at 6 a.m. I found him in severe pain ― he never complained about pain, or anything for that matter. I immediately called for an ambulance.
He was admitted with another bowl obstruction and we were told that there was a million to one chance that he would survive the surgery. He made it through surgery and the next 37 days in the hospital. He couldn’t talk because he was intubated and could only point to letters to spell out what he was trying to say. He complained of pain again and another bowl obstruction was discovered. This time there would be no surgery.
He was septic and moved to Hospice care. He didn’t think he was that sick but would say “It is the start of my next journey.” Then he’d spell out, “When is the next Ohio St. football game.” That brought a smile to our faces as we were avid Buckeye fans as all three sons graduated from Ohio State University. We had a full tailgate party in his hospice room. We all watched the game together, with Gary squeezing our hands. He was able to breathe off the machine and stayed with us for nine more days before starting his new journey.
Four years later, his suffering ended and Gary left us.
Moving Day was a gift to us and Gary. That day would not have happened if it wasn’t for that walk. It was our last day of joy and our last day to hear Gary’s voice. The walk will always be a bitter sweet memory for us of a man we loved deeply and who taught us so much about how to live.
Deanne Delehanty, wife of 47 years