11/29/05 A Love Story--Part II
Pat continued her search for Bill with renewed passion, despite the obstacles laid in her path. She was in regular contact with us, and we were going to feature Bill on our Come Home program in June. (Come Home is one of programs which seeks the missing among the homeless.) Project Edan was going to work on an age progression of Bill to aid in the search.
Every Come Home campaign poster has a personal message written to the missing person from the family. Pat wrote this as the message to Bill for his poster:
I have always loved you and I so want to know if you are alright. I remember you singing "Personality" to me so many years ago. Please contact me or your friend, XXXXX. We want to see you again so badly. I'll always be yours.
Let's not waste the years we have left by being apart. I will help you any way I can. The numbers listed have my phone no. and they will call me immediately if you ask them to.
Love you and hoping to see you again,
Even though she had began to feel in her heart that Bill was dead, she had to find him: “I felt I still had to find out the when, where and how of where he spent his final days. I felt I was being propelled from beyond to find him. I was afraid he had been killed or died homeless as I felt he was still all alone. I would hear a song constantly that had meaning for us back in 1958, a song that I had not heard in over 40 years was suddenly being played on the radio. I dreamed about him where I went to a place where he was and I told him I was there to bring him home and he laid my head on his shoulder and said he couldn't come home with me. He looked so young in this dream, around 34 or so and I felt it was a visitation dream from him and that he actually came to me.”
She hoped beyond hope that she was wrong about Bill, and that he was still alive. She felt they were going to be reunited. One day in May brought the truth about Bill to Pat. She will never forget it.
“One day, I was sitting at my computer and felt I HAD to do something MORE and more drastic if I were to find him. A friend suggested I just go to the social security office and try again and plead my case. That was Wednesday, May 11, 2005. I was having dreams with Bill in them every night. So, I got in my car and drove to the Social Security office. It was the first time I had been in there that it was practically empty of people. There was one couple ahead of me. I waited just a few minutes.
I had a photo of Bill, his police record with his social security number on it, our marriage certificate and spread them out before the lady behind the counter and told her I had to find out if he was dead or alive. I knew in my heart of hearts that he was dead. At first she said she was not allowed to tell me anything. Then suddenly she just looked at me and said, "What is your social security number." I told her. She punched in my number and saw that I was married to him at one time. She told me I could write a letter and they would forward it to him if he was collecting benefits. I asked her to repeat how to go about doing this. Then she looked at his police record and asked if that was his number. I told her yes. She punched it into the computer.
We looked at each other and at the same time whispered: “He’s dead.”
I immediately burst into tears and asked when, where? Again, she was whispering that she wasn't supposed to tell me anything, but she wrote down, Feb. 28, 2000. I asked her where and she gave me a paper with addresses for the Tennessee Vital Records offices and told me to contact them. I knew then it was Tennessee where he spent his last days. I was reeling and feeling as if I had been punched in the stomach. I was crying so hard, the guard asked me if I would be alright and I told him yes and left. I called Bill's cousin, and his friend and mine, when I got to the car. They both broke down crying.
I came home and immediately got on the Internet and phone to the Vital Records in Tennessee. I told them I was his cousin and that he didn't have any relatives, because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get a copy of his death certificate. It was the next day before I was really able to get confirmation that they would send me a copy. I told them I would pay the extra for them to overnight it to me. This was Thursday, May 12. That evening, AM and I got copies of funeral homes in the Nashville area, because someone, I don't remember who, maybe the Vital records people, had told me he died in Nashville. We started calling the funeral homes, but it got late and we didn't get in touch with but about four and none of them had handled Bill.
The death certificate came the next morning, Friday, May 13, and I saw that Ellis Funeral Home in Nashville had handled his arrangements. I also saw that he was buried, not cremated, of which I was thankful. It told that he died in Baptist Hospital in Nashville and a social worker had filled out the death certificate. It also told he was buried in Bordeaux Cemetery which I found out was a pauper's cemetery. One of the investigative people wanted to call the funeral home for me, so I let them. She found out that after five years, the funeral home had kept the last items Bill had on him: a practically new Social Security card, a TB test card, a photo of himself made on steps of some building and another photo ID which part of it had been cut off, as well as $1.07 in money. It was all folded up in a small plastic pouch.
The funeral director e-mailed her a copy of the photo of Bill and she sent it on to me. I was shocked at how he looked, he looked very sick so I believe the photo was made shortly before he died. I at first said the photo was not Bill, but upon looking at it closer, I realized it was, as it showed his pinky finger on his left hand as missing and that was one of the identifying marks he had. Also, I could tell by his ears and eyes that it was him. I then called and talked to the funeral director and told him I wanted to come up there and talk to him and go to Bill's grave. He said he would give me the items of Bill's they had kept.
The next day, Saturday, May 14, my friend and I left early going to Nashville. We went right to the funeral home without any trouble and I don't know Nashville at all. It was as if Bill were directing me how to get there, I felt him with us. We spent a while at the funeral home and I told them that I wanted to bring Bill home. He said that would be fine that he would keep in touch with me regarding cost, how, when, etc. I took the items and felt of all of them, knowing that Bill's fingerprints were on them. We then went out to the cemetery (again, I found the cemetery easily and walked right up to his grave, as if he were showing me) where I placed roses, a teddy bear and a letter telling him how much I loved him, on his grave. Then we came back home.
I then started making arrangements to find a lot to bury him in. I was going to buy one close by where I will be buried. In the meantime, his sister-in-law contacted Bill's nephew and asked if I could bury Bill beside one of his sisters. Her family agreed, so that part fell into place. The funeral home in Nashville was handling the removal of Bill's body and the transporting him to Georgia. Finally on June 14, two of my friends and I went to Nashville and spent the night. Early on the morning of the 15th, we went out to Bordeaux Cemetery as Bills body was being removed from that grave. We were afraid the vault wouldn't hold up, so another vault was there on standby. When Bills body was brought up, it was a very emotional moment. The funeral director was there with me and had his arm around me. My two friends were up nearer the grave watching. The vault was in fine shape. So, he was loaded onto a truck and I told the driver I would meet him at the cemetery where he was to be buried again.
My friends and I arrived back about an hour before the truck, Bills' grave was already prepared, his cousin had gone down that morning and reported to me that it was being dug. When the truck arrived, I was sitting there watching for it. The men carefully took the vault off the truck and lowered it into the new grave while we watched. In just a few minutes they had the grave covered. I had a memorial service planned for the next week, as Bill's niece was out of town the week I brought him back.
During the time between having him moved to his memorial service, I head a knocking coming from my computer three different times. I firmly believe our loved ones who have gone on can communicate with us. He was telling me that he wanted to "come home," and that he wanted blue flowers. One of the gravesites I looked at for him had "blue flowers" on it. I also heard the song during this time that he used to sing to me over 40 years ago.”
A Love Story will conclude on Wednesday.