Monday, September 1, 2014

Remembering Beverly Holbrook

My beautiful neighbor and sweet friend Beverly passed away from ALS on Wednesday, August 27. Several weeks ago, Beverly's daughter, Melanie Parker, asked friends of Beverly to write her Mother a letter sharing memories and/or expressing appreciation for their friendship. Melanie then combined these letter into a book for Beverly's upcoming 60th birthday. As Beverly's disease progressed, Melanie decided not to wait until her birthday and began reading her Mom the letters right away. Melanie was tearful as she expressed how tender and meaningful that experience was for them both.

Remembering the letter that I sent Melanie, I think it probably expresses best my love and admiration for Beverly. I'm going to share it in this post today. At the end of that letter will be my ALS ice bucket video and Eliza's! Here's a link to Beverly's obituary (click here).

To clarify: Melanie Parker is Beverly's daughter. The Parker family was living with Beverly and Richard when we moved here in the summer of 2011. Melanie and I soon became good friends. Our children played regularly as we all lived on the same street. Soon after Beverly's was diagnosed with ALS, Melanie's family moved to Pleasant View (not because of her diagnosis, it's just how it happened). Around that same time (fall of 2012), I was assigned to be Beverly's visiting teacher. And while I wasn't probably deserving of that assignment, it has been a great blessing to get to know Beverly and Richard. I love the entire family.

Dear Beverly,

My connection with your family began with your daughter Melanie. Not only is she beautiful on the outside, but as you know, her heart is made of gold.

Having moved to Ryan Circle in the summer of 2011, I was happy to meet her and her darling girls as I hoped they’d be future playmates of my children. Little did I know that it was actually my friendship with Melanie (and her Mother) that I’d come to cherish the very most.

Melanie went ahead and assigned herself to be my visiting teacher (as it was her Church calling at the time). I’m so glad she did! I was lucky to see her regularly. My admiration for her faith, strength and perseverance through life’s challenges was instant. I’d never met someone as positive and selfless as Melanie. As she shared with me the daily challenges and worry associated with caring for her precious Emylie, I tried to tell my chatty self to hush up, let her speak and listen. As I did this, I would quietly marvel at her grace and wisdom. Did Melanie just come like this? Did the Lord send her fully equipped to handle her trials in such a way? Was her goodness learned? I don’t know the full source, or extant, of Melanie’s awesomeness but I’ll tell you what... when I began to really know you, Bev, things began to add up!

I don’t remember the reason why I first came to your house. It may have been to pick up Eliza from a play date with Elizabeth. Or perhaps I was picking up Melanie so we could go on our evening walk. What I do remember is seeing Emylie’s crib, toys and medical equipment center stage in your family room. An emotional lump swelled in my throat as I took in the sight of all the hand santizer bottles and the written warnings to “Please Wash Your Hands” as it helped pull into perspective Melanie’s reality. She was much more of a caregiver than I’ve ever been. I also thought of you and Richard and of your deep generosity in opening up your home in such a way. A lot of children claim to have the “best Grandparents” but I’m pretty sure your Grandkids can rightfully make this claim.

In the fall of 2012, I watched a miracle unfold as Melanie shared with me the details of her sudden and upcoming move to Pleasant View! My heart broke and rejoiced at the same time as I realized that my favorite friend would be moving away. I tried to stay positive, citing her as an example, and upbeat. Even so, the Parker family would (and have) been missed! Before leaving, she assigned me to be your visiting teacher which I’m super grateful for.

One of those first visiting teaching visits involved me intruding upon the Holbrook family’s Sunday dinner. Your beautiful home is a “gathering place” for those who love you most. It’s been neat to observe the closeness your family shares. During our chat, I asked you and Richard how you met. The two of you delved into your story, finishing each other’s sentences and indulging all of my questions. I’m truly a nosey neighbor. You even showed me photos from your early days together. I loved it.

Another highlight of our visits has always been Richard. I’d pretend to care about sports so that he’d remember to give me a huge candy bar on Halloween night (it worked!). His humor and easy going nature makes him a great person to be around. I have also seen a more serious side of him as he’s expressed how he worries over you. It’s a tender and humbling sight. More than anything, it’s evident that he loves you very much!

I’ve always been so impressed by your beautiful garden, yard and flowers. I remember well when you and Melanie shared with me your potting secrets (crushed cans underneath the soil? Brilliant!). It was during these times when I’d watch you and Melanie together that I could clearly see why Melanie is the way she is. She may have been born innately good, but it’s because of her Mother’s generous and kind example that she learned how to exercise those qualities.

As your condition has progressed, I have strongly felt of that same light and positive spirit that Melanie carries. It goes without saying that you’ve had devastating moments and sorrow. I can’t imagine or comprehend what that is like or you. But, what I can attest too is that I’ve seen you smile through it. I’ve seen you remember and offer strength to others despite your own personal heartache.

This final story (yikes! I am so long winded! I apologize!) is one I want your children to know. In October of 2013, a young Mother in our ward lost her 13 month old son. He died in his sleep without a medical explanation. Krystle, the mother, was understandably devastated. Months passed before Krystle found the courage to return to Relief Society because the last time that she had sat in the Relief Society room, she had been with her son Corbyn. I remember that Sunday well because Corbyn peacefully curled up in her lap for a 40 minute nap. It astonished me that he’d so sweetly and calmly decide to nap in his Mother’s arm during Church! I’d never seen it done without an ounce of drama!

 The Sunday she returned, I stared at the chair that the two of them had previously occupied. My heart was breaking for her all over again. Each of us was keenly aware of her return. In a room full of women who didn’t know what to say or how to react, sat you.

You made your way to her as soon as the lesson was over. I watched as you took her in your arms and offered your condolences. Overcome with emotion, you decided to take out a pen and paper to more easily communicate your thoughts. You told her about your son, Michael. She cried as she understood the painful connection you two share. She asked how long it had been since he’d passed away and you responded with the exact year/month/week count. You cried and hugged and I just sat and observed like that annoying fly on the wall you just can’t get rid of!

Before you parted, your voice found strength as you clearly and humbly said to Krystle: “I pray for you every day.” I was blown away. You have every reason in the world to be concerned about the challenges on your plate. But your prayers are with her. Your thoughts are with her. Your heart aches for her. She represents how your brain operates. She represents each of your grandchildren, children, family and friends that you still pray for. Thank you for being at Church that Sunday to offer her comfort and teach me that the Lord doesn’t need fancy gift baskets or articulate, polished people to do his work. Don’t get me wrong, Bev, you are most definitely lovely and beautiful and polished... but you are also meek and humble. That day you were the best person to offer her solace. 

I’m sure your life is dotted with quiet moments of service. Your family and their goodness is evidence of the wonderful way in which they were raised. Your Grandchildren are in the best of hands because you prepared those hands. I love and admire you to pieces, Beverly. Happy Birthday!

Ali Flegal

Beverly's birthday is August 22nd. That night, around 8:00 pm, friends, co-workers of her husband, neighbors and her family gathered on her front lawn with our ice buckets. We were all so happy to see that Beverly was awake, alert and watching from her front room window. I'm horribly embarrassed by my eccentric, overly enthusiastic behavior but that's just the way I am. When I shout to Bev that I love her, I was really talking to her. I sign to her "I love you" because she had just signed that to us from the window. It made me so happy. Her birthday was on a Friday. The following Wednesday, August 27, Beverly passed away. I'm so thankful that she was here to see the sudden and vibrant ALS ice bucket social media campaign that's been all over the place, before she passed. I wish with my whole heart that a cure will be found right away. Like SMA and other muscular dystrophy type diseases, this is a cruel, horrible disease.

1 comment:

Karen said...

I'm so glad you got to write that letter and have the ice bucket moment with her before she passed away. That will stay with you for a long time, I'm sure. I hope the you, her family and all who ache for her will be able to find healing.