Marlene moved into a new villa at Browning Masonic Community last fall. Her husband, Jim, was unable to move with her because of severe health issues. Marlene decided a villa was the right thing for her as her husband’s health continued to stabilize under the care of the capable hands at a nearby skilled nursing facility. This arrangement allowed Marlene the ability to be with Jim on a daily basis and establish a routine, bringing him fresh laundry, enjoying a bite to eat, and watching a show or two together before “tucking him in” for the night and returning to Browning.
Then in early April, Jim was diagnosed with COVID-19. Marlene and Jim’s routine had been grossly altered.
As Jim’s condition worsened, he began to show signs of kidney failure, the coughing was taking a toll on his ability to function, and he was too weak to get out of bed. With no option available for dialysis, no hospice to assist in making sure he wasn’t alone, Marlene felt helpless. She was already distressed by the fact that she hadn’t been able to see the love of her life in nearly a month and now she feared he would die alone, with no family or friends to have the opportunity to say goodbye.
During this time, Molly Good from Browning and Mark Harris from the OMH Foundation had been in touch with Marlene on a daily basis. They understood the seriousness of the situation and realized what needed to be done. The Ohio Masonic Home had that week provided hundreds of tablets to its three campuses so community members could keep in personal contact with their loved ones during the quarantine.
Working together, Browning employees, Gary Lay, Dave Subleski and Molly prepared and delivered a new tablet out of the box, charged, labeled, and ready to go with Skype capability to Marlene’s husband Jim at the skilled nursing facility. The nurse who met Molly teared up when she heard what OMH wanted to do for Jim and Marlene—offering them the chance to be together again as a family in the only way that COVID-19 would allow.
That evening, Jim had his first FaceTime call with his wife on a screen large enough for him to see. With kidneys still functioning and a slight perk in his attitude hearing his sweet Marlene, a new, non-verbal Jim would shake his hand and pull down his O2 cannula to smile at his bride.
The next day, every family member was able to see and talk to Jim for over an hour--Marlene, all four children (all living in different states), and Jim’s sister. With declining health evident, Jim slipped out of consciousness as the soothing sound of his family conversing through the tablet filled his heart with joy. His eyes closed, resting, when the lifelong musician heard his signature song being played by one of his sons, Jim’s finger began tapping with the music. Marlene said it was like they were all there together, surrounding Jim.
“I told him, ‘we all love you and miss you terribly,’” said Marlene, “but if you’re tired and want to go home, we’ll still love you just as much when you’re home in Heaven.”
And with that, Jim was gone. They were there with him virtually when he took his last breath. Marlene shared that these are the last memories that she and her children will have with their father. No last hugs or kisses, certainly not the way they would have envisioned, but still together given the circumstances. The care and compassion that The Ohio Masonic Home represents, and made possible by all of you who support The Ohio Masonic Home Foundation.
The day after Jim’s passing, when asked how she was doing, Marlene replied, “I’m more than fine, I’m at Browning.”