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After our surprise 60th birthday party for Beth, we decided we should do some traveling. Beth was on her third combination of chemotherapy drugs and she was handling the treatments pretty well, so we figured let’s do some things that we have always wanted to do. The chemo had not stopped the growth of Beth’s tumors, but it was slowing it down.
In March of 2014 we flew to California to visit our very good friends Brian and Debbie. Brian and I worked together at a Christian television station in Chicago in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Brian and I were roommates at the time I met Beth. Beth and Brian became good friends during our early years of dating.
Brian and Debbie now live in a great neighborhood in San Gabriel, California which is right next door to Pasadena. The house that is featured in the movie, “Father of the Bride” is not far from where they live. Beth and I always loved that movie so Brian and Deb took us there to take pictures. Steve Martin’s character, George Banks, reminded Beth of me since I was a very protective father of our girls (especially when it came to dating.)
We had a vacation to remember. Brian loves to cook so the first night we cooked steaks on the grill with baked potatoes and a salad. We had dinner outside in the beautiful California weather and we stayed out there until late into the evening. After dinner we had a fire in their fire pit and laughed the night away. The next day we had a wonderful lunch at a cute restaurant in downtown Pasadena. After lunch we drove to the Rose Bowl. I had to have my picture taken there wearing all of my University of Michigan gear. As weird as it may seem Brian, my best friend, is an Ohio State fan. It’s hard to believe that two guys who cheer for opposite teams in such a fierce college rivalry can still be best friends. I always tell him that I pray that he will one day “see the light” and turn into a Michigan fan, but so far it hasn’t happened.
Beth did pretty well on this trip, but as many of you know, chemotherapy makes you very tired. Many days we would let her sleep in until 10am or 11am in the morning so that she would be rested up for the day’s adventures. One day Brian and Debbie took us to the Santa Anita Race Track where we watched our first ever horse race. This track is beautiful and there are many stories about all of the famous movie stars who attended races there over the years. We were told that Bing Crosby was a regular.
We really enjoyed looking at the horses as the jockeys paraded them around before each race. They are such beautiful animals and when they come storming down the straight–a-way it is an impressive sight.
The next night we went to a jazz restaurant where the musicians performed while we ate dinner. The featured artist that night was awesome. He reminded me of George Benson. It was so nice to see Beth laughing and enjoying every minute of our trip. When your spouse has stage IV cancer you learn to appreciate every moment you have together and as I’ve said before, you realize the little things really are the big things in life. Great friends, great food and great conversation. You can’t beat that combination.
Our last day in California, Brian and Debbie wanted to take us to a special restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean named Nelson’s at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. It sits atop the bluffs where they used to film many of the scenes for a television program called “Sea Hunt.” The main character’s name was Mike Nelson played by Lloyd Bridges. I loved that show when I was a kid so this was quite a treat. The weather was beautiful, the food was delicious and you couldn’t beat the setting.
After lunch I asked Brian and Debbie if we could walk through the main building of the resort on our way back to where our car was parked. As we passed a little bar/restaurant Beth said, “There’s your friend John Tesh!” and she pushed me through the door. She was right! John and his wife, Connie Sellecca, were sitting at a table playing Rummy Cube with Connie’s mom. John was very happy to see us and asked us to join them. We had a wonderful time catching up. I worked with John many times over the years on QVC and we have become pretty good friends.
After doing numerous shows together, QVC actually sent John and me to Gisborne, New Zealand in late December of 1999 where we did a show called the “Dawning of the New Millenium.” We welcomed the first sunrise on the planet from Gisborne which is known as the “City of First Light.” We were on the beach which overlooks the Indian Ocean. John played a grand piano on the beach with several musicians and we had a Maori Indian dance troupe perform. We did a full rehearsal the morning of December 31, 1999 and we experienced the most magnificent sunrise any of us had ever seen. On the morning of January 1, 2000 we woke up to a torrential downpour. John and I huddled in a tent and prayed the Lord would calm the storm so we could go on with the broadcast. A lot of money and time was invested in the show (we had a television production truck shipped over from Australia!)
By the time we went on the air the rain calmed to a slight drizzle. I had an umbrella for the open of the show but the rain soon stopped altogether and we enjoyed another beautiful sunrise. John and I stayed in hotel rooms located right next to each other so we would go for jogs on the beach in the mornings after our rehearsals. I think we spent 4-5 days together. At the end of our time there I asked John to sign my cd as a momento and he said, “yeah, but I have something else for you.” He went and got his practice keyboard that I had been playing around with and he handed it to me. I still have that keyboard and I hope that John’s amazing talent will somehow rub off on me as I play it.
The first time I worked with John at QVC was around 1993. After we met for our pre-show meeting, I asked him if he would mind saying hello to my wife, Beth, on the phone. Beth always enjoyed him when he hosted “Entertainment Tonight” and she loved his music. He said, “absolutely let’s give her a call!” After they talked for ten minutes I said, “John that’s long enough I know you are busy.” He said, “Go do what you need to do but I’m talking to my new friend, Beth!” He talked to her for over a half hour (as I said Beth was easy to talk to.) Every time I worked with him he always asked me how she was doing. On this day we must have spent forty-five minutes with them and we had some laughs along the way. We didn’t want to intrude on their family time so a few times I would suggest that we leave and leave them alone. John wanted us to stay so he would say, “Do we look busy? Hang out with us a while.” When we finally did leave Debbie said, “How can Connie look so good at our age? It’s just not fair.” I was so happy that Beth finally got a chance to meet John in person.
The night after Beth’s funeral I got a call from John. His voice cracked as he told me how sorry he was to hear about Beth’s passing. He told me she was one of the nicest people he had ever met and that he felt like he had known her all of his life. John is a man of great faith and he said that he knew Beth was in heaven. He also said he was so glad he got the chance to meet her in person.
Beth was equally comfortable talking to Oprah Winfrey, John Tesh, the cashier at the grocery store or an eighty-year-old man we met at a wedding. I’m so lucky that she talked to me on a train riding into Chicago back in September of 1978. She changed my life for the better and I would give anything to have another cup of coffee with her tomorrow morning. Once she met you she was your friend for life. I’m sure she has made many new friends in heaven and I’m certain the Lord is happy to have her home. We sure miss her in ours!
I’m so glad you are letting me share about Beth here. As I write these blogs I appreciate more and more the wonderful woman she was and all of the great years I was privileged to spend with her. I am so thankful Beth was seeing heaven in the final few days of her life. She knew where she was going to spend eternity. I’ll write more about that in the coming weeks. Next week, I will write about our trip to Nashville just two months later in May of 2014.
God bless and thanks for joining me here and on Facebook.
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