Lee Beach’s wife, Betty Jane, loved ice cream, specifically classic vanilla topped with pieces of a Snickers candy bar. She radiated positive energy and found joy in life’s littlest pleasures. As a registered nurse for more than 40 years, she also had a kind and nurturing heart. This is why Lee, upon first sight of Betty Jane, knew he’d found the one he’d spend the next 65 years chasing after.
“I was in the Air Force at the time, and Betty Jane’s nursing school invited us to a dance,” Lee recalls. “When I saw her from across the room, I knew she was the girl I was going to marry.”
One dance and six months later, they were married. Together, the Beachs had four daughters.
“She was such a special person,” Lee said. “She had so many talents. She was intelligent, hard-working and a beautiful mother – she even hand-made our girls’ clothing. I couldn’t have asked for a better woman.”
What made their relationship so strong and unique was the triumphs and tribulations Lee and Betty Jane faced together. They had lost one of their daughters when she was just 5 years old.
“It was just devastating,” Lee said, “but together, Betty Jane and I made it through. We used our faith. There will always be sadness, but we were able to come out of the grief together.”
Betty Jane healed by continuing to be a strong mother and example for her daughters. She began teaching Sunday school and continued her nursing career, eventually taking a management position at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown’s Masonic Health Care Center, where she worked for 16 years.
“Betty Jane just loved everyone,” Lee recalls, “and she wasn’t afraid to step in and give help where it was needed. She had the ability to know when someone needed help or when something was wrong.”
In 2008, 14 years after Betty Jane’s retirement, Lee discovered the true breadth of her talent. She was facing some unusual symptoms and knew something wasn’t quite right. Soon after, her doctor confirmed what Betty Jane had suspected. She was facing Parkinson’s disease, of which there was no cure.
Betty Jane lived with the symptoms for more than 10 years before her everyday life began to drastically change.
“I just kept on praying for her and taking care of her as best I could,” Lee recalls. “What else could I do?”
When the weight of becoming a full-time caregiver became too much for Lee, he knew hospice was the best option.
“I loved to be with her all the time,” Lee said. “Hospice allowed me to do that. The staff were always interested in how we felt. They were a great help, even just talking with them.”
Since Betty Jane passed away in June 2018, Lee has found that hospice’s bereavement support group has given him guidance and hope. He even met a former co-worker of Betty Jane’s in the group, whom he has been able to reminisce with.
“It’s easy to get really upset in not having her, but with hospice helping me and with trusting the Lord and letting Him direct my life, I know I will be okay,” Lee said.
He has also benefited from the individual grief support sessions provided by hospice. “It’s been great,” he said. “They have even taken me out to breakfast and lunch, which is nice because I don’t have to cook.”
Lee’s grief also seems to lessen when he is surrounded by his daughters. “I still have Betty Jane because each one of our daughters has a part of her in them,” he said. “Can you imagine three daughters loving and helping each other? It’s because of the love of Betty Jane.”
Each morning since June 2018, Lee sends a text to his daughters, who are located in different states, through a group message. While the messages may vary, he makes sure to send a scripture and tell his girls to have a great day and that he loves them. While Betty Jane is no longer a physical part of their lives, her memory is continuing to keep the family close.
One of the most difficult challenges for Lee has been living alone in the home he once shared with Betty Jane.
“Everything reminds me of her,” he said. Lee believes even the simplest of things can remind you of the one you love.
At Betty Jane’s celebration of life, her family paid tribute to her love for the little things. After outlining the service, the program read: “Join the family in the cafeteria for her favorite food – ice cream.”
“I still talk to her a lot,” Lee says. “I just know I’m going to spend eternity with her.”