Today was a hard day.
My friend Bev Guidt passed away, in Richmond, Virginia.
It was a total shock.
I am still sitting here shaking my head wondering,”What in the world?!”
Bev recently went into the hospital for surgery on her spine. Then she was released to a rehab center for recovery before she was supposed to go home.
All day yesterday I had a strong urge to call her and did so all throughout the day. She never answered her phone. I thought maybe she didn’t have it charged, or it had fallen down off the bed or something. Finally last night I called the nurse’s station at the rehab center and told the nurse who answered that my friend was not answering her phone and I was concerned. She said, “I just went in and gave her medication and she’s fine.” I said, “Okay, well can you go back in and tell her Deanna Shrodes called and is thinking of her, loves her and is praying for her — and let her know I’m trying to get through on her cell phone?” She said she would.
This morning, soon after I woke up, I called. Bev didn’t answer again so I called the nurse’s station. The nurse who answered got snappy with me and said since I wasn’t on Bev’s list of people they could give any information to, she could not do so. I said, “I’m not asking you to tell me anything. I’m just asking if you can go in and tell her Deanna Shrodes called and is praying for her and trying to reach her on her cell.” She said she would.
Then in a bizarre twist, the same nurse called back a few hours later and asked if I had Bev’s son’s phone number. (I believe she was going to ask me to call him myself, to get information directly from him.) I said I did not have his number. She seemed stressed and uneasy and said, “Okay, well… he’s on his way over here…I’ll ask him to call you… if he’s up to it.” The way she said that last sentence was cryptic like something horrible had just happened. I instantly had the thought that my friend was either dead or in a coma. I quickly got onto the chat online with my “boots on the ground besties” as I call them, and told them my suspicions. I felt terrible even verbalizing this fear that truly sounded a bit outlandish…I mean, she was just in this rehab for recovery from a spinal surgery, but it felt so accurate in my spirit that something was dreadfully wrong. I asked them to pray.
The “boots on the ground besties” are my friends in Richmond, Virginia who either helped me find my birth father, Gus, or were friends of his who befriended me and have helped me with everything from checking in on him when he was still in the nursing home, to giving so much support of all kinds. And, we have all become close friends.
Within seconds time, our mutual friend, Flo Bernstein, got on the phone with me when I shared my suspicions on the chat. We were talking when I saw a text flash on my phone that confirmed my fears…it was from Bev’s daughter Tara, and it just said, “She is no longer with us.” I felt like someone punched me in the face. I said, “Oh my God, Flo…Bev is gone…”
Flo said, “Well, it looks like I called at the perfect time.” Yes, she did. (Speaking of another person I don’t ever want to have to live without…)
Bev was special to me beyond measure. A resident of Richmond, Virginia, she heard about my search for Gus through my posts on RVA community Facebook pages. I would tell my story and ask if anyone could help me find my father. Her heart went out to me and she immediately said, “I want to join your search team!” Bev was very knowledgeable about genealogy. She quickly dove into understanding where we were at in the search for Gus, and helped with anything she possibly could. She was so supportive in practical ways, spiritual ways, (she was a strong believer) and once we found Gus, the support continued. All throughout the journey of searching for Gus, finding Gus, taking care of Gus, Gus’s death and now grieving Gus, Bev has been with me…a constant friend I could count on.
And now, she’s gone.
We have ‘closed down’ several restaurants in RVA by being the last diners in the room until they kicked us out. We’ve enjoyed everything from Nick’s Roman Terrace to Blue Habanero to standbys like Olive Garden and Red Lobster. We could talk until we were practically hoarse. We enjoyed one another’s company and never got tired of each other. We could laugh and cry in the same minute! Bev shared my love for animals and it amazed me how many dogs she rescued. You would be hard-pressed to find others with as big a heart as hers. The level at which she cared about people, and animals is rare. I would hear stories of how people would ask her to watch their dog for a few days, and they would never come back for it and she just couldn’t let them go. She always had room for “one more.”
I will never forget our last conversation when it was just the two of us. Just prior to our talk, she, Flo Bernstein, and I were at the Olive Garden, just the three of us. We stayed until we were the last ones in the place, as usual.
Today Flo sent our group of friends this message about that night:
“The last time Deanna, Beverly and I had dinner at the Olive Garden, Beverly said these words to me: “Flo, all of you girls have made such a wonderful difference in my life.” She said it from the heart. I had to fight to hold back the tears. I told her she could never know what her sweet presence in our lives meant to us. She was indeed a great lady.”
When our server gave us the news that they needed to close up the restaurant, Bev and I got in her car together because she had picked me up and was dropping me back off. (She was the first to volunteer that night when I let our group know I needed a ride.) On the ride back, it began to lightly rain. Even so, she took a different path to show me some more interesting things around town, and that gave us an opportunity to have an even longer conversation. We got lost at one point although it is the town she lives in, it was perfectly okay as we didn’t really want to end the night. Before I got out of the car she suddenly turned to me with an extremely serious look and said, “You’ve changed my life!” This was odd because before this we were just talking about practical everyday stuff, nothing deep. Her sudden remark was and the look on her face was so intense it got my attention. I immediately began sharing all the ways she had changed my life. She responded with how much she loved me, and I told her the same. Before I got out of the car we shared a hug that was a little tighter than usual. In a bizarre sense, looking back — it was almost like she ‘knew,’
I am fond of saying, “Love you more” when friends tell me they love me, and Bev shared my habit of that. Tonight I scrolled through her messages on my phone just to read all of our stuff once more. (Sigh.)
Bev’s son Troy called me just a few hours after she had passed. He didn’t know that I already knew. I felt bad that I began crying right away, at hearing the news “out loud” again. (Talking about a loss ‘out loud’ is hard, at least for me. When you hear it you realize, ‘this is real…this is final…) I know it was so difficult for him to even make the call to tell me the news. He shared that her passing made absolutely no sense, and that people everywhere talk about what a huge impact she made in their lives. They are going to be doing that for a long time as the word gets out of our loss and heaven’s gain. My heart aches for her kids and grandkids. Anyone she talked to for any length of time knew they were her world.
I am so grateful that amidst our typical girl talk that night about funny things, serious things, family stuff, and reminiscing about Gus, we both said how we really felt about each other, She was a friend that I never had to worry about being sick of “the story.” (Of Gus and I.) She never tired of hearing it because she was one of the ones who worked for it. She wanted it for me, so badly. And, all this time later she was still sharing our story, with anyone who would listen.
It’s often said that we never know when the last time we see someone or talk to them will be. That is so true, but today it’s a little more truer for me. I realize the need more than ever to say what I need to say before it’s too late. It’s not that I ever shy away from saying it, but the thing is…we think we have time. We always think we do. Today I sit here in shock that Bev and I will not be hitting up any more Richmond restaurants or messaging our thoughts on Facebook. I know she’s with Jesus, for sure. I know I’ll see her again. But I sure do miss her now.
One of my first thoughts today as I sat in the bathtub and cried was, “I hope at some point today after Bev got to heaven that she ran up to Gus to tell him how much I miss him.” In my heart, I feel like he already knows that, but just to be sure, I’m hoping that Bev looked for him amidst being busy greeting all her friends who have gone over the rainbow bridge.