A Loving Tribute to Paul V. Bamford
Having battled pancreatic cancer for three years, my beloved husband of 49 years, Paul V. Bamford, was discharged from UNC REX Hospital on Aug. 20, 2020 to our home and the very compassionate and professional care of Transitions LifeCare. He was so happy to be able to come home. I will never forget the sweet smile on his face as he was brought through our front door. Transitions made all of this possible.
The hospice care team arrived almost immediately after Paul got home, and thus began his final journey – an experience in which our adult daughter Michelle and I were blessed to participate.
Since no one truly knows the time in which we will be called “home,” our priest from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church came that evening to administer last rites. Michelle and I sat in the dining room as Father Fowlkes visited with Paul privately. We could hear laughter and conversation coming from the room.
Eventually Father Fowlkes came out to talk to us and to say that Paul had indicated he was not ready for last rites. And indeed, he wasn’t ready, as he lived more than two weeks longer—another miracle and true blessing. Those weeks were incredibly special and filled with profound moments, one of which was that Michelle’s workplace insisted that she stay with me and her dad the entire time. She never left our side and worked tirelessly with his care team from Transitions to assure his comfort and well-being.
While it may seem strange to say that those two and a half weeks were precious to all of us, they really were. We were able to devote our entire attention to Paul and continuously love on him. Knowing that the care team from Transitions was always just a call away (regardless of the hour) gave us great relief. Their multiple visits brought laughter, gentle care, and love to us all. They were compassionate, ready to assist in any way, and responded to all our questions and concerns.
Mercifully, Paul remained basically pain-free and lucid until the very end. He also decided for himself the date he wanted last rites administered. In our peaceful and candlelit bedroom, our priest performed last rites for Paul with Michelle and me participating at Paul’s side the entire time. Paul remained alert and aware of the beauty of this ancient ritual.
Despite COVID, family and close friends were able to communicate their love and deep gratitude to Paul as the weeks went by through phone calls and written notes. Paul was an amazing man who changed the lives of so many with his good work. It was yet another blessing that we all had the time to express these feelings to Paul.
Even in those final hours, Paul and we were blessed. Paul loved to sing and had a beautiful voice. On the day he died, the music director from our church contacted me and asked if she could play and record some of Paul’s favorite hymns on the piano. I was overwhelmed by this kindness and gladly accepted. The recording arrived two hours before Paul died. As he was taking his final breaths, we were holding his hands on both sides of the bed and playing these beautiful hymns and reading the 23rd Psalm (another of Paul’s favorites). His passing was so peaceful, and Transitions lovingly provided final care for him. They also helped us to understand and accept without fear the changes as they occurred.
The loss of Paul for me and Michelle has been almost unbearable. We miss him so much. However, our pain has been eased by the caring and support we have received from Transitions. They were in touch with us immediately and let us know what resources were available to us as we began the painful work of grieving.
Michelle and I both have taken advantage of the free individual and group counseling. We have implemented many of their suggestions for marking occasions, including special writings and new traditions we can put in place. Transitions truly understands the pain of losing someone so dearly loved and is prepared to support you in a variety of ways.
For me, the five-member Transitions GriefCare support group has brought me immeasurable comfort. The women in my group all lost their husbands in the past year to cancer; we are all approximately the same age and most of us have been married close to 50 years. While we never got to meet in person due to COVID, we did get to “meet” over Zoom and immediately formed a strong bond. Today, we stay in touch and have lunch about once a month. When people say that it is hard for others to understand, these women DO understand and have become invaluable friends.
Paul’s journey ended one year ago on September 8, 2020. He is buried at Calvary Episcopal Church in Fletcher, NC (right outside of Asheville). Calvary is the church in which Paul and I were married in 1971 and where Michelle and I were baptized. He is now resting in their historic cemetery where I will someday be laid by his side.
Death comes to us all; however, we are so fortunate to have an organization like Transitions LifeCare to provide invaluable support to those who are experiencing their final moments and to those who are accompanying them on their journey. I am eternally grateful to this remarkable and irreplaceable group of amazing individuals. They are absolutely our angels on earth!
Written by Paul’s wife, Linda Bamford.