The month of March 2020 has been etched in my frontal lobe forever. The following dates give the bare facts and little else. But I offer this narrative because it may be helpful to healthcare workers who are battling COVID–19 in a fight to the death. Literally.
Beecher and Nayda Wallace on their anniversary, March 29 (year unknown)
On March 3, my 91-year-old father, Vard Beecher Wallace, Jr. (“Beecher”), was in good health with a strong heart. He was still driving and lived alone. He was frail, but his doctor had recently told him that he had nothing that was life-threatening. (He’s had frequent accidents in the last few years, always by falling. He even broke his neck three years ago and had to wear a neck-brace at my mother’s funeral in 2017.) The next day, Dad was taken to Evergreen Medical Center in Kirkland, WA, for severe back pain. On March 9, he was moved to a nursing home for rehabilitation, until he could care for himself. The coronavirus was spreading rather quickly in Washington; family members were not even allowed to see him at the nursing home. On March 14, the home determined that two of its patients had caught the virus. This alarmed his family; the next day my sister Keri took Dad to his house and quarantined herself with him. He had to be brought out to her since she was not allowed in the nursing home. Three days later he developed a low-grade fever, but over the next 48 hours it didn’t get over 100 degrees, and it often returned to a normal 98.6. On March 18, he fell, hit his head, and his crown was bleeding. Keri called a local clinic, but they refused to see him because he had a low-grade fever. So, back to Evergreen. They stitched up the wound. Then, they tested him for the coronavirus. All of his children waited by their phones to hear the news, the minutes crawling by at a gruelingly slow pace.
Then the news arrived: Dad tested positive for the coronavirus. His condition continued to deteriorate over several days. He was dying by inches. I had the opportunity to talk with him a few times, but I could not visit (both because I was quarantined due to a recent flight to Greece and because the hospital was pretty much in lock-down).
Beecher was miserable, constantly taking off the oxygen mask, not eating, and in pain. He said the food tasted terrible. Dad had lost his sense of smell years ago, so although that is sometimes a symptom of the virus it was a precondition for him. He also had diabetes and had self-injected insulin daily for the last few years.
His breathing was becoming increasingly labored. He could only utter one word at a time and was very hard to understand. At one point his temperature spiked to 103, but for the most part it was normal or close to it. He was getting very confused, too. Beecher had been moved to three different rooms in Evergreen, but he thought it was three different hospitals. Then he asked if he was in California. He still recognized his children’s voices though. On the evening of March 27, the decision was made to let him decide whether to wear the mask; an IV of morphine was hooked up. He died at 5 o’clock the next morning, March 28. Beecher Wallace became a statistic, number 174 or 189 or somewhere in between, in the state of Washington.
But he is not a statistic to me. He passed into the presence of the Lord at 5 AM Saturday morning. He could see the love of his life again—Nayda Baird Wallace, my mother. Sunday, March 29, would have been their 73rd wedding anniversary. So, he made it just in time to celebrate with Mom! And he saw his Savior, face to face, for the first time. What a thrill that will be for all of us!
I was able to have two heart-to-heart conversations with Dad in the last few days of his life. Here’s the gist:
I asked him how his faith was.
Beecher: “Oh, it’s strong! If it weren’t, I’d have nothing to live for. Don’t you worry about me.”
Dan: “I wanted to tell you that hundreds of people are praying for you.” I wanted him to know that he’s not facing this alone. He was very appreciative. “Dad, you’ve been a wonderful father. You have taught me more about integrity, responsibility, and humility—all in the Lord—than anyone else ever has.” He appreciated that very much and talked about how incredible his kids are. (I have an older brother, Wally, and a younger sister, Keri.)
Beecher: “I just hope that I’m not around to see the sun come up tomorrow.”
Dan: “I know. Dad, I suspect I’ll never see you again in this life.” Then I lost control and started to cry.
He was stronger than me; he ministered to me on what we thought might be his last day in this life. He asked, “How’s Pati doing?” Then he told me how much he loved me and my family. And he added, “I’ll see you again in heaven.”
I’m so grateful to be Beecher Wallace’s son. And I look forward to seeing my earthly father once again.
Beecher is survived by two sons and their spouses (Vard Beecher Wallace III or “Wally” Wallace and his wife Carol, and Dan Wallace and his wife Pati), one daughter (Keri Marquand) and her ex-husband (Michael), eight grandchildren: Noah (and his wife Jean), Dustin (and his wife Erin), Benjamin, Jamie (and her husband David Condon), Michael Marquand Jr., Julia Marquand (and her husband Rolando Avila), Andrew (and his wife Danielle), and Zachary (and his wife Samantha); and seven great-grandchildren (Clariana, MacKenzie, Mara Jade, Sadie, Livya, Adlai, and Diego).
A virtual memorial service will be held on May 9. The video will be posted shortly thereafter.