My First and Only Valentine

OCT. 11, 1927 – AUG. 9, 1979

Fern, where have you gone without me? My heart breaks, my eyes redden, and I cry. My face contorts, I sob. I need you and want to be with you, but you’ve gone away from me. You were the love of my life all these years. We had a childhood romance that never ended – a romance that started when we were 15, and died only when you did.

I can hardly move, or talk. I’m frozen. My voice disappears and I can barely squeak out sounds when I think of you and your death.

When you worsened two weeks ago, for four terrible days, I knew you were near the bottom, almost dead. But then, the next morning you came back. Chipper, smiling, alert … and I called you Warsaw, the most devastated city in Europe during World War II. And, then, we planned a rebuilding program of food and vitamins, psychic healing, coffee enemas, acupuncture, and the few things that orthodox medicine can offer to help you fight liver disease.

I told you that you would rise again. That you would be stronger and healthier, whole and hearty, participate in society, and stay with us. I never faltered in my belief, all these ten years of disease.

And you said we would die together in a crash, meaning that you wouldn’t die of the disease. We told each other of the touching scene in the play “Albert and I,” which we saw in London, when Albert died in Queen Victoria’s arms, and she said, “Albert, I wouldn’t do this to you.”

Fern, I wouldn’t do this to you – die without you – let you live without me. I know you fought. I gave you strength and courage. I massaged you and held you and put the strength of my hands and body on you to make you stronger. You were determined to live, you fought hard…

When you were incoherent, you responded to me when I told you that you have to become strong and healthy again to be with us, to let me be with you.

When you were in a coma during your last day and half, when the liver failed, I pleaded with you, and cried over your shriveling body, the tears running down my shirt and onto you, urging you to be strong and survive this.

And, you fought. You whispered “yes” through your parched mouth, barely able to understand what I was saying because the ammonia from your liver had crept into your brain.

You said “yes.” You nodded, breathing hard with great effort – each breath like a bellow’s breath, in a dying coma, telling me “yes.”

You had strength in your arms and in your legs during your last day and half, my wounded dove. Your head jerking, sometimes saying a word to the members of our family, sometimes recognizing us, wanting to be with us, but dying because your liver failed and the poisons went everywhere in you. You were losing weight every day, your skin turning darker, your head becoming bonier, my love. My heart broke when I saw what I saw, what was happening to you.

I rubbed the Vitamin E into your bruised and parched lips so they would heal, and wished that there was something I could rub on your skin that would heal your insides. I was helpless.

Ten years ago, you were told you had six months to live. You told me the doctor’s diagnosis when we sat together one Sunday morning at Fuch’s Park, enjoying the lake, the greenery and the ducks.

The doctors had, by their diagnosis, condemned you to die. You made a death trip across the nation to Capistrano, California, to talk with a retired 75-year old physician, who told you “you aren’t as sick as they say.” He told you to change your diet drastically.

You came back on a “new life” trip, ready to try something new to help you to live. And that was the first of many new ideas we investigated, many of which you tried.

Although you didn’t have strong beliefs in some, you did accept them because I urged you. The effect of these unorthodox procedures helped you to live ten years, even though orthodox medicine had virtually no means to help people with this rare disease.

You were rare. Your conservative education as a nurse and your respect to physicians, made it difficult for you. You were willing to try the unorthodox and you were determined to live … the final ingredient that kept you here for ten years.

You were a jewel. So many devoted friends found you the ideal companion. I respected you so much for that, and marveled at how people were drawn to you.

I am nothing without you. The best part of my life is gone. I was the lucky one. I found you early, and was able to be with you for many years. Without you, I cry. I cry because you are gone and can no longer enjoy the friends and relatives, the cities of the world, the peaceful beloved countryside of Marshall, North Carolina. You were a crystal that shone … reflected goodness, joy and happiness. I love you so – more every year.

When you were in your final days and nights, I wouldn’t let you die. I had to have you alive. I poured strength into you. I made you live. But, in the end, I failed. I’m so sad, so sad. You won’t be here. It is your presence I need. I shall miss you. I need you. Fern, where have you gone without me? The best of my life has gone.

This eulogy was delivered by Ron Miller at the First Unitarian Church of Miami on August 17, 1979.

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