What a blessing Clifford Duncan was to our family. He and my mom married in July 2003. Mom was beginning to lose her vision, but he gave her a new vision: Travel!
My mom and dad were married 54 years when he passed. Cliff and his first wife, Hazel, were married 49 years when she passed. So both knew the joys, tribulations and blessings a long marriage brings. Losing his wife was difficult. Talk about lonesome! He told me he prayed for a wife. And did I ever imagine my mom was praying for a husband? No, but in spite of living near family, she was lonely and with her loss of vision, her life was becoming more lonesome.
So that was the scenario when my middle sister and Cliff’s oldest daughter “fixed” them up after he had recently lost his wife to cancer. He and Hazel traveled extensively in an RV around the country, including to Alaska in a motor home! They started small and owned about every type they make. My parents owned a travel trailer, but they kept it in an RV resort. Mom always wanted to take it on the road, but my dad was a home body….so she finally got on the road with her new husband.
They dreamed of traveling cross-country together. While Cliff and Hazel traveled extensively, it was mom’s dream. Mom especially wanted to make it to California to see one grandson and his family. He and his wife had four children, but it had been years since she saw them. Did I mention their ages? Mom was a spring chicken at the age of 79 and Cliff was on the older end of 69! You really couldn’t tell they were 10 years apart in ages. Oh, if mom could see and read this, she’d be mad I’m telling her age (she’s now 92). So shhhhh…..
They began their journey, after selling his home, to be full-time travelers. And at the time, that was the last thing we ever dreamed of doing, ourselves (ha and look at us now). But we did admire them. My middle sister and her husband bought a Class A motor home and traveled with them for a while. And much of the time was spent in Florida so my husband and I would ride our motorcycle to visit them.
They weren’t on the road long when they began to think they needed “roots.” Cliff had heard about a place in Alabama, where you could own your land and have full hook ups for your motor home. I said, gently, at your ages, you may want to live near one of your six children! Mom had 3 and he had 3. Well, since we lived in Florida, I always say we won that lottery! They moved near us. And my middle sister bought a snow bird home there was well. And eventually, Cliff’s oldest daughter and her husband semi-retired and moved there as well. So we had lots of great family times and especially for the holidays.
We kids helped put on a beautiful and simple wedding. Then we entered the life of a blended family with six adult children.
I loved Cliff right away because one thing he told me early on was that he reads the Bible every morning and had since 1994. And then he began reading it to my mom every morning. He was a regular church attendee as well. Mom always wanted the continuity of church membership. Cliff became such a wonderful blessing to her, how could I not learn to love him like a dad? And at my age, that was not going to be easy, but we quickly bonded.
Cliff and mom became active in their new church. It had an outreach ministry to the community with a used clothing store. They worked in it faithfully until it closed. I can’t begin to say all they did, but they were very active until recently. They even began to bowl with a group of friends from Sunday school. Imagine my nearly blind mom bowling. Yep and she wasn’t too bad.
Their days of traveling in the motor home soon came to an end after mom suffered a serious fall in one of the parks. It was so sad to see them have to slow down, but at their age, it was worrisome to all of us kids to know they were on the road full-time. They really didn’t plan their trips, just started driving, and then used an RV membership to find a place to stay over.
Eventually, Bill became more vocal about wanting a motor home, so Cliff helped him want it even more. They could talk for hours about the dream. We fell into a rhythm, where we mainly were together for the holidays. They did take occasional trips and eventually, their favorite place was Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
We did little things for them around the house that were difficult for them. In particular, I helped maintain Cliff’s computer. He amazed me at how he liked to stay up with everyone via email. We even got him and mom on Facebook to better stay in touch with family. But mom really struggled with it due to her vision loss. Bill considered him a friend.
Cliff was a real patriot. I love seeing the American Flag hanging outside of homes. It seems the only people who fly the flag were in the military. And that was Cliff. He served a tour of duty in the Army.
What was there not to like? He and mom were very loyal to each other. But they never imagined Cliff would pass first. But he did have a number of health issues. He is survived by five siblings, with only two siblings older, and he was the first to pass. He was just so engaged in life, it was just hard to hear that he was terminally ill. He was diagnosed the end of March. He called each of us kids to let us know. We were in Talbot Island, Florida at the time, getting ready to head to Virginia, to be at our daughters April 1. What should we do? We didn’t think long about it. We turned our rig around and headed south and spent a week with them. It was tough. He was told he had two months to live, maybe six if he took treatments. He decided to fight it and survived over eight months.
We also managed to visit them over Mother’s Day, then spent a month with them in September. We all thought the end was near, but he seemed to improve and the hospice nurse finally said he could last six more months or even six years. So he had a second chance and he began to get out and walk as well as change his diet to help his body heal from the radiation and chemo. He began to gain weight and felt like eating out again.
Life was good…and then, a few weeks ago, he became miserable with pain. The hospice nurse came and had another nurse come to help him. They ended up sending him to the Emergency Room. He took a turn for the worse….and in about two weeks, he quietly passed from this world into the arms of Jesus. My oldest sister traveled there to help mom as my sister and I were unable to go help. But we were there in prayer. Mom stayed with him in the Good Shepard Hospice House for the 10 days he was there. My oldest sister traveled there to be with her as his local daughter had a prearranged travel obligation arranged with her sister. They were both with him over Thanksgiving. They thought they would see him when they returned. But no, he didn’t make it.
So now to reflect. Just like my dad when he was terminally ill, he never cursed God for the disease. And more important, like Job as told in the Bible. Both accepted their fate. And Cliff kept his faith to the end, saying he didn’t understand it, but he accepted it. He and mom tried their best to be prepared, but there is just no way to really prepare for the loss of a loved one.
We seek our solace in the Bible. We understand life is short. And our bodies are only temporarily here on this earth. We know we will be reunited for eternity.
LORD, make me to know my end And what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. Psalm 39:4
So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21