The Message Left at Shore
by Lisa Pellegrene- as published on Vocal Media
(Photo: I took at Pacific Beach in 2016)
Missy Bartholomew was a woman of love and purpose, who retained her joyful wonder, well into her nineties. Each day, prior to her passing, for nearly 50 years, she would walk the shores of Pacific Beach in Southern California, most often with her husband Dan. She and Dan fell in love with the quaint beach town and decided to always reside there, as it was one of their favorite places in the world. Dan and Missy finally reunited after many years apart, when she was in her early 50's and they simply never left, except for the times that they did some world traveling together. Her husband Dan still lives close to the home that they once shared, but he is now in a care home in La Jolla, California. He has been missing his wife who passed away a year ago. La Jolla has given him a new sense of adventure, far enough away to have a new environment for his residence, so that he doesn't feel immense pain that he had been feeling from missing his wife each day, yet close enough that he can return "home" anytime that he chooses.
The residents, as well as his caregivers at his care home in La Jolla truly appreciate hearing about all of his adventures that he had shared with his wife. Dan loves to recall their many memories together, as he is a natural storyteller. It heals his heart to recall such beautiful memories. When he shares his stories of the happy times which he shared with his wife, his eyes sparkle with delight. You can see it clearly, just how much he loved her. Since his wife Missy passed, at the age of 98, Dan would spend many days walking with his caregivers and friends from the care home as he watched the sea lions at La Jolla Cove with the wonderment of a child, yet his very presence demonstrated the wisdom and confidence of a life well lived, as he appreciated the beauty of each new day. Everyone loved walking with him, as he had a new story each day. One day he told Sarah, one of his caregivers who looked up to him as she would a grandfather or a favorite great uncle, about how his wife believed in "paying it forward," as she just loved to do kind things for people and create an element of surprise.
He told Sarah and the staff, and his many friends who lived at his home about "Missy's Christmas Story." The staff told him that their dedicated time after dinner at the care home for "story time" had never been so popular until Dan showed up. "Missy's Christmas Story" consisted of how she loved to shop and find great quality things at a bargain, and how she loved to do kind things for others. He said one Christmas Eve, he had noticed that she was buying some extra gifts." Dan said, "I asked her, well that's a pretty necklace honey, are you getting this for yourself?" Her response, Dan said, laughing as he recalled it, "Missy said, Dan you have bought me more necklaces than I know what to do with, in fact I could open a boutique if I chose to do so. This is a gift." Dan recalled asking who would receive the gift, and her response, "I'm not sure yet, just wait and you shall see." Dan recalled her stating this with a smile on her face. Dan said, he knew, "with a heart like hers, she was up to something, and it was going to be something extremely kind." He knew his wife. Next thing I knew said Dan, "She started giving gifts to strangers" and simply said, "Merry Christmas" and that she just thought "we should be a little more kind, all of the time," and that this is just something she "wanted to do for them."
Dan remembered how happy Missy was as she was giving out gifts. Dan said, "Each Christmas from that day on, Missy made that a tradition, every year I had a lot of fun going shopping with her during the holidays and boy, did she make people happy, and simultaneously astonished with her gesture of abundant kindness." He recalled how much Missy enjoyed surprising people with what she called "unexpected kindness."
As Dan was telling his story that night, the phone rang at the care home and a woman asked to speak with Dan Bartholomew. It just so happened to be the date of Dan's anniversary with his wife representing what would have been he and Missy's 50th wedding anniversary. It was Betty, a young woman working her way through college to become a veterinarian, specializing in integrative medicine for animals. Dan knew Betty, as he and Missy would often go to a coffee shop overlooking the ocean in Pacific Beach, where Betty worked the early evening shift, until the coffee shop closed at 9 p.m.
Betty said, "Dan I can't believe what I just opened. It was left at the coffee shop over a year ago, before Missy passed. It's from your wife Missy - for you. Betty explained, "Missy gave it to Tom, the manager of the store for safekeeping and it wasn't to be opened until today. It says on the large envelope in Missy's handwriting, "Please give to Betty. Ask Betty to open this on what will be my 50th anniversary with my husband Dan." The next line said, "Betty, please take this envelope to Dan today. He is at the care home in La Jolla on Prospect, if he is sadly no longer there and you cannot find him, there is something for you in his card, which you may open."
Betty told Dan when she reached him, "The manager told me that there was something for me, that I shouldn't open until the end of my shift. Now I see why, she exclaimed. I would have wanted to leave early to give this to you! Do you think the staff at your care home would allow me to stop by now to give this to you?"
Of course the staff said yes. Dan told them a woman named Betty had to stop by because his wife, Missy left an envelope for Dan for their 50th wedding anniversary. Nearly everyone teared up, of course including Dan. Betty arrived with tears in her eyes, tears of gratitude and at the same time, astonishment. She ran to Dan and gave him a hug as she handed him a large envelope.
Dan opened the card within the envelope, in a bit of disbelief, yet with so much gratitude, the card said "Honey, Happy Anniversary, I hope that you are telling everyone about our happy memories, I think for certain that you are! I did something that has to do with "paying it forward" - you know how much I have always loved to do that." She continued in a letter, "Dan, I want you to know, throughout our lives shared together I always appreciated you so very much. Sometimes we had "words" but we worked out any angst quickly didn't we?! I'm so glad that we focused on the good. Love is what matters, it must always prevail as it always has and always will with us. That's what love does, appreciate the good, all the days of our lives and forever. I want you to KNOW that I appreciate how kind you were to me. My wanting to "pay it forward" so many times with "unexpected kindness", this was a reflection of the kindness I felt from YOU. You inspired that in me. This is why I wanted to be "so giving" to so many all of the time, to help others feel even a bit of the joy that I felt each day spending my life with you. So Dan, you may find this to be a bit incredulous, yet this is what I did for nearly fifty years, and you know me, so actually, I do not think you will be surprised in the very least. Every day, perhaps unbeknownst to you, I would often tear up with gratitude for how blessed of a life we were having together. So each day, I would put some money back to one day help others to be able to have a better life and more joy. This is also to remind you of the joy that I know we both felt in our life together, and the fun we had too, when I started my "unexpected kindness ways," you know I loved that so much. The world needs more kindness. I think, no I know, that we have been exceptionally blessed to find one another, and the love that we share is extremely special. Would you please carry on my tradition of "paying it forward?" There's a couple of checks in the envelope from my "pay it forward" savings account. A larger one for you to carry on how I loved to "pay it forward," I know you will continue to enjoy doing that.
The second cashier's check, honey, it's made out to Betty, you know how much Betty has struggled, please hand her the cashier's check in the envelope marked for her. It is for $20,000 which I think is enough for her to complete school in my estimation, or at least to help lessen her burden of the cost to do work that she loves to do. Remember how kind she was giving us advice when Chloe was sick? She always called Chloe our precious furry kid. Giving this to Betty, I think will mean she won't have to struggle so much with three jobs to pay for schooling, and maybe now she can avoid taking the bus late at night. She is so kind with animals and she will be a great integrative veterinarian. You know how it always concerned me when she had to take the bus late at night.
The rest is for you to do with what you choose, to pay it forward too, perhaps buy special dinners for all of you at the care home, and maybe you want to carry on my "Christmas tradition" of surprising people with gifts! Please Dan pay it forward as you like to those who need the joy and to others who need the help, I thought this would also make you miss me less until we meet again, and to bring you joy too."
Dan had tears streaming, as he was beaming with gratitude and love for his wife. She wanted him to feel her presence even though she wasn't physically there to share their 50th wedding anniversary with him. She had now given him another way to keep her memory alive, as she was always with him and near. This is an important reminder that love is infinite; once a bond is created out of love it is "henceforth and forever more." Missy and Dan's love and all like it which starts with each of us is an important reminder of that.
Also, Missy concluded in the 50th Anniversary card to Dan, "Next open my little black book," it is yours to keep as a reminder of our love. Dan quickly opened it, and inside it had ONE name, Dan Bartholomew, followed by these words, "The man who always had my heart and always will, the only name I ever wanted or needed in my "little black book." "Please enjoy making new memories by "paying it forward" until we meet again. I am always with you. I Love You, Missy.