The year 2020 has been challenging. (Can I get an amen?) I have had a couple of experiences, though, that I want to record because I want to always remember that even in the midst of so much that is wrong, there is beauty. I’ll write about the first of them today.
The first was my friend Dollye. Where do I start about Dollye? Dollye is a precious precious woman who I know because we are both in the travel industry in Dallas. She was the most loyal friend. A dear person who would lay across train tracks for you. Dollye loved her friends and her dogs.
One of my favorite Dollye memories was from when we used to always watch Independence Day fireworks in the parking lot of her travel agency. Her office was right next to where the fireworks were launched, so it was an amazing view. We would always set out traffic cones to block off the parking lot so kids could play without having to worry about cars going by. One of my favorite Dollye memories was every inch of her five feet walking straight toward a pick up truck that was driving straight at her, staring down the driver and insisting he turn around and not drive through the blocked off area. (The pickup turned around.) Dollye was always brave and bold. A proud native Texan.
Dollye was an only child whose parents had long passed, and a widow. She had no close family. She lived alone with her three Great Danes. But, she had wonderful friends. I don’t think she was ever alone on a holiday (unless she wanted to be). She would zip around town in her little silver Mercedes convertable. She was busy remodeling her home exactly to her tastes. She was showing her dogs. She was still working in the travel industry.
Then, last summer she went to the doctor to try to figure out a pain in her belly. Tragically, it turned out to be Pancreatic Cancer.
She had her first surgery right away to help her liver drain. Then they sent her home to recover until she was strong enough to have a whipple where they would remove the primary tumor. She had the second surgery on August 9, 2019. After that she was supposed to have chemotherapy to reduce or eliminate any cancer cells that may have traveled elsewhere in her body. As it turned out, she didn’t tolerate chemo at all. It took her a long time to recover from the one chemo round she had. She ended up septic in the hospital at one point because her white blood cells were down to zero. It was a rough road. She and her oncologist agreed that the chemo was not an option for her.
In January, she started hurting again. Of course, the tumor was back. We went back to oncologist. Another CT scan. The news wasn’t good. The doctor referred her to hospice.
Dollye was with us six more weeks after that doctor visit. During those six weeks, Dollye’s friends from all parts of her life came together and functioned as a team to provide whatever she needed. We had get togethers. We had work days. We met with the hospice people. We discussed with Dollye what she wanted as things progressed. We helped her redo her will. We made sure the dogs were taken care of.
The day came when she called me at the office and said “I don’t think I can be alone any more.” (Up until that point we were there often, but not overnight. Dollye liked her independence and was able to be alone still.) I got up from my desk, drove to her house and she was never alone again. Not one moment.
We had people with her 24 hours a day, every single day until she passed two weeks later. People slept over every night with one ear open for anything she needed. Her personal needs were attended to with love and care. Originallly she had said that she would want to move to inpatient hospice when the time came that she couldn’t be at her house any more. But, that time never came. She got to live out her life in the home that she loved, surrounded by her beloved dogs.
When I think of it now, I’m still overwhelmed with gratitude for each of these (mostly) women. There were a couple of gentlemen..but it was mostly women. People set aside their lives and comfort for our friend. If you’ve never cared for someone during their final days, you might not realize the personal nature of some of the things that need to be done. Everyone just did what needed doing. It was beautiful to be a part of. I will forever be grateful for Dollye’s life, her friendship, and the incredible privilege to be a part of her final days.