For those who never met Betsy Karl, her personality shines through in the way her husband, David, speaks of her. Betsy, in so many words, was slow to anger and quick to forgive. She was caring and generously gave of herself to others. Her husband, David, lovingly refers to her as “my lady, my Betsy,” and the two were best friends who raised a beautiful daughter together.
“She was a great wife, great mother and great companion,” David said. “For me, this reflected in our home and our love. We were always so busy demonstrating our love every day, in every way, that our love took care of itself.”
Their love was put to the ultimate test in early 2016 when Betsy was rushed to the emergency room after returning home from a tennis tournament. After undergoing generalized testing, a scan revealed two cancerous lesions in her brain.
“Looking back, my daughter and I realize she had been masking her symptoms,” David recalls. “She was always full of energy and of life, and she energized others.”
Betsy’s fight began immediately as she was transported directly from the emergency room to a major hospital where a nurse, neurosurgeon and neurologist were waiting for her. She underwent an eight-hour surgery to remove the lesions. Doctors were able to remove 90 percent of the lesions, and 27 staples later, she was in recovery. Unfortunately, when Betsy was cleared to go home, a grim diagnosis went with her.
“The doctor gave her a year,” David recalls. “The question was, ‘What do we do next?’”
David and Betsy’s daughter, Kristen, was set to get married in September, so the next question was if they should go on with the wedding.
“Betsy didn’t second guess her decision,” David recalls. “She wanted to go on with it and worked through treatment and physical therapy so she’d make it to the wedding and so she could dance.”
Betsy’s selfless character drove her to keep fighting, for she would never dream of missing her daughter’s wedding. “All the while, no one at the wedding knew,” David recalls. “No one knew the strength and courage it took her to get to this point.”
After her daughter’s wedding, Betsy’s health rapidly declined. She was facing treatment and debilitating seizures that eventually caused her to lose the ability to care for herself. Both David and Betsy knew it was time for hospice. “I never cared about anyone else as much as I cared for her,” David said.
Masonic Village Hospice allowed Betsy to enjoy dignity and comfort. David was able to be a husband to his wife of 42 years without the worry of being her caretaker. “Betsy’s fight was over, and she was able to relax. Hospice allowed me to just be with her,” David said. “The hospice nurses were so special to us. They made sure she was taken care of and did everything they could to make her comfortable, and they would even sing to her.”
Since losing Betsy in October 2016, David has found comfort in Masonic Village Hospice’s bereavement program, which has been there for him through ongoing communication and support. He now receives individualized bereavement sessions.
“Hospice allows me to grieve with people who are supportive. When you lose a spouse, it is very difficult because you’re missing your other half,” David said. “Through the support programs, I’ve been able to reflect on the situation, process my emotions and learn how to care for myself.”
David has started doing things on his own and staying busy with friends and family. He knows his grief will never go away, but will diminish with time.
He often thinks of the many lives his beloved wife changed in her lifetime as an educator and the joy she brought to everyone she knew. He thinks of her playing her baby grand piano, traveling the world, practicing tennis, knitting items for charity and quietly reading while sitting by his side. These memories give him peace during the difficult times when his grief takes hold.
“My bucket list items don’t even appeal to me anymore. I realized that she and I had already done so many things in life that I wanted to do. I just want to celebrate Betsy, and hospice has helped me do that.”
Read more about the lives touched through Masonic Village Hospice in the latest Reflections newsletter.