Losing Dede

We lost our sister-in-law of fifty-two years standing this week. Deidre Busk suffered a heart attack at her home in Madison, Alabama, on Sunday, and passed away on Tuesday. Dede and my brother, Arlan, met on the first day of their social dancing class at the University of Arizona, and as Arlan says, it was all downhill for her from then on. It reminds me of that old song, Strangers in the Night. “Love was just a glance away, a warm embracing dance away..,” and they were a couple from then on. They even danced together in the University of Arizona’s production of The Merry Widow.

Arlan was career military, which means the Dede was a career military wife with all that entails, including the constant moves from one posting to another. They moved nineteen times in the course of a twenty-six year career, and she still managed to finish her college degree. Together they had two wonderful daughters, Dianna and Ingrid, and a whole flock of smart and accomplished grandkids.

As a couple, they loved to travel, including a Royal Caribbean round-the-world cruise in 2015. If Bill and I were somewhere near or east of the Mississippi for a book tour event, they were there. We met up with them in Memphis, Nashville, Montgomery, and New Orleans over the years and grabbed some family time together in the middle of book festival hullabaloo. We also got to travel with them on an Alaska cruise.

With Arlan and Dede living in Alabama and their kids in Florida and Virginia, a happy gathering spot for kids and grandkids was always Gatlinburg, TN. Dede finally gave up sending out Christmas cards in a timely fashion and started sending out a Groundhog Day newsletter instead. This year’s edition of that showed all three generations dressed up in 1880s costumes for family photo time in Gatlinburg.

Dede was loving and organized. She loved dogs, yes, but she also loved fish and had a gigantic aquarium as the centerpiece of her living room.

When Arlan and Dede married, she wore the wedding dress that I had bought for $127 in 1966. My mother was appalled that I had paid so much, but once the wedding dress had been worn twice, she felt a little better. After all, $63.50 per wedding isn’t bad. Arlan is well over six feet. I’m six-one. Dede was a little shorter than that, but not enough so as you’d notice. Consequently, the dress fit her just fine. Then a few years later, when our younger brother, Gary, married his Kathy, another six footer, the wedding dress appeared once more. With the original wedding dress clocking in at $42 per wedding my mother was downright ecstatic.

But now, it’s not just weddings because the number of total years involved is pretty remarkable. For Jerry Janc and me, the dress was only good for thirteen years, but for Arlan and Dede, it lasted for fifty-two. As for Gary and Kathy? They’re still going strong at 45, bringing the per-year cost of the dress down to a very reasonable $1.15. Evie would be proud.

But talk of the wedding dress aside, Yes, I’m saddened by Dede’s loss. She died a day after turning 73. But here’s what makes me grateful. Together, Arlan and Dede were an exemplary couple. When they said those wedding vows, they meant them. They took the good with the bad. And once Arlan retired so they could travel, they did. They didn’t delay doing what they wanted to do until it was too late.

Yes, when they took each other’s hands in that long ago dance class, it was indeed the start of something big—fifty-two years of seizing every special day and every precious moment.

When we first fall in love, very few people bother to read the fine print at the end of the contract that says that, by agreeing to love, we are automatically agreeing to lose—eventually; sooner or later.

Fifty-two years may seem like a long time later, but for Arlan, I’m sure it isn’t nearly long enough.

49 thoughts on “Losing Dede

  1. My sympathy and prayers for your family. What a beautiful love story. 56 years ago tomorrow I fell in love with my husband. I was in college and he was home on leave from the Air Force. I was home for the weekend helping dad harvest wheat and I spilled a load from the wagon. Ted came by and helped me the rest of the day. We were married a couple years later and celebrated 54 years in February. Losing a mate has to be horrid. Ted is fighting cancer now but we are carrying on bravely. In fact, we are getting ready to leave on vacation 3 weeks out west. I love your books and your posts.

  2. What a wonderful person and part of your family. Our condolences on your loss. Prayers. Hugs for your hearts. RIP Dede. God bless all.

  3. I am so sorry for your loss and send condolences to your brother and his family. This is a very sweet eulogy. But you are so right, the time together is never enough.

  4. So sorry for your loss. We’re here in Huntsville, visiting from Arizona, when I read this. Reading Missing and Endangered. Small world. Again, so sorry for your loss

  5. I’m so sorry for your loss, she sounds like a wonderful person. I’m glad you have so many wonderful memories with her.

  6. Thank you for your loving story
    I had no idea you and your family were so tall
    My mother’s sister was your size but she never admitted to the 6′
    she always said she was 5’12”
    My mother’s brothers were over 6′ so my mother was the runt of the family at 5’9 1/2″
    I am the runt in my family too.
    I wonder why
    It is so nice to hear about a loving marriage even if the ending is hard

  7. My deepest condolences to your family. Your description of Dede’s life with Arlan was eloquently done. In conclusion, they had a life blessed with enduring love for 52 years. By sharing about their world travels, family gatherings and the numerous wedding dress wearing, there was humor and understanding of a life well lived.

    May God provide comfort to all of you during this difficult time.

  8. What a lovely story and memories of your sis-in-law. First time comment here, but long time admirer and reader of your books (I’ve read everything you’ve written up to 2021) . I had no idea you and your family were so tall! My husband and I will celebrate 53 years next month, and we cherish every day and year… we never know how much time we have. May you be comforted by all the great memories you have of Dede.

  9. What a beautiful tribute to your sister-in-law! I could almost see her within the tribute, and it brought tears to my eyes, especially your closing comment about the fine print in the contract. Prayers for you and yours, and especially to Arlan. God bless.

  10. My sympathies to your family.
    There’s a classic, Irish headstone that states, “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, Love leaves a memory no one can steal.”
    With you on board, the memories will remain vivid, loving, and lasting.

  11. Judy, so many thoughts about this blog…a friend loaned me her wedding gown, which was handmade in France with all the beautiful lace and trimmings (her family was very wealthy). We were the same size, so the dress did not need any altering. When I returned it to her, she was pregnant with her first child and had this gorgeous gown made into an extraordinary bassinet with canopy. I hope her baby was as happy in that bassinet as Ted and I have been for almost 52 years now. I’m sure Evie would have approved the use of this dress!
    I was also saddened to read about Dede. My friend (not the wedding dress one) of over 45 years, died yesterday – one day after being moved to hospice here in Tucson. Was not able to see her before she died due to COVID visiting restrictions.
    True, not everyone reads the fine print of the wedding contract, even though we live it every day – sickness, health, rich or poor, better or worse – until death does part us. Dede and Arian were truly blessed, as are you and Bill and Ted and I.

  12. So sorry for your loss. Beautiful story of the wedding dress and that 52 year happy marriage.

  13. On Height:
    As my father said, “ If you plant peas you get peas. If you plant corn you get corn.”
    He and my mom planted peas.
    My great friend says she’s 5’13”.

  14. Your Dede was a woman of spine! Military wives need to be capable and have an ability to adjust to changing circumstances. Arlan and Dede both won the marriage lottery when they met, proven by all the years of whatever lifes throws at you. Gone but not forgotten, so many wonderful memories!

  15. So, so sorry for your loss. They certainly lived a full and happy life. The memories they made for themselves and left for others will live on and on. Full cycle…birth is miraculous, but death completes that cycle. I am sure she is looking down on her loved ones with a beaming smile and a life well lived.

  16. It’s wonderful to know of married couples like Dede and Arlan in this day and age of easy divorce. God bless them both. You are lucky to have had Dede in your life. My condolences to Arlan and you.

  17. What a wonderful tribute–I know your brother appreciates your words. Losing a spouse, no matter when, is very hard.

  18. My condolences to you and your family for your loss but it is wonderful that you had her for so long and that she filled your brother’s life while she lived fully.
    There is no point at which saying goodbye is easy but in time, may them wonderful memories ease the pain.

  19. I am sorry that you lost your sister-in-law, but she sounds like a wonderful person to remember. How lucky your brother and she didn’t put things off, but did them as they came along.

    I love the story about the wedding dress. You certainly got your money’s worth. Could it be worn another time or is it too fragile?

  20. SO sorry for your family’s loss! She sounds like a wonderful woman. I’m sure she will be greatly missed

  21. So sorry for your loss, and your descriptions of Dede (as well as the wedding dress) brought her to life. May these memories and more sustain you … thanks for sharing.

  22. Sorry you lost your sister-in-law to a heart attack. Thank God I am still here because I also suffered a heart attack last week,was rushed to the hospital had a stent put in and got out 3 days later. Kudos to the peoria az firefighters and banner staff that saved my life. My bday is next week and I will be 75.

  23. I am so very sorry for the loss for your family. It is especially difficult for your brother. I hope all will be as easy as possible for them.

  24. “Gone Too Soon”. a song by Michael Jackson says it best. My sincere sympathy to you and your family on you recent lost.

  25. I liked the part that said because Dede”shusband was “career military,” she was a “career military wife!” My wife Jan proudly complains about her having got me through the military and it’s probably more true than I’d care to admit! Thanks for a great write-up on a whole group of loving, lovely people!

  26. Judy, I am weeping as I read this sweet story of your family loving each other so much and sharing the wedding dress. I will tell you privately about my wedding dress at my first marriage. So sad Dede has passed so young and unexpectedly. My last husband was only 60 and suffered with cancer for quite a while. We just never know, even with the best of plans, what turn our life’s road will take and we are left to recover as best we can, and make a new plan. Prayers for the entire family as your hearts heal.

  27. I’ve known DeDe (although it feels weird to call her that even though I’m an adult now, lol) since I was a toddler. We were neighbors in El Paso. Ingrid and I became fast friends and have maintained that friendship over 45 years. I got to go with them to Bisbee and tour the copper mine while we still lived in Texas. I was heartbroken to hear of her passing, and will miss her dry wit and her Groundhog Day letters with the little guy searching for his shadow on them, lol. She’s been greeted by all of their numerous pets who crossed the rainbow bridge as well as her loved ones. My condolences to you all.

  28. I’m so very sorry for the loss of your dear sister in law and I apologize if I stray a bit I just had a TKR last week and I’m miserable and in pain. I couldn’t sleep around 2:00 AM this morning so I was reading your news letter.
    I just lost a sister in law this past February she lived just shy of a year from losing her husband which was my husband’s brother.
    My brother in law was injured in a freak fire in his shop at home and lived about 6 months in a burn center here in Ga and the whole time my s-i-l never left his side even tho she had been battling cancer.

    It was with sure will power and God mostly that she was there for him when he didn’t even know she was.
    They celebrated their 52nd anniversary the December of 2020.
    Again my thoughts and prayers are with your family.

    PS I know you have been through the knee replacement so please tell me it’s going to get better. I considered myself tough before this and have handled a lot but not this!

  29. What a wonderful, loving tribute! DeDe and Arlan sound like wonderful people. I think the world needs more DeDe and Arlan’s. RIP DeDe.

  30. I am sorry to hear about Arlan losing his wife. It sounds like they had a great marriage which doesn’t surprise me. Arlan has always been a quality guy. Tell him my family is praying for him and that he will be comforted by God.

  31. Sending my sympathy for Arlan and the kids and grandkids, but also for you and the rest of your family members who enjoyed reunions and celebrations with such a wonderful, committed couple.

  32. Sorry for the loss of your sister in law Dede. Sending thoughts & condolences to you, your brother & his children. That was a beautiful tribute & wonderful story of you wedding dress ??

  33. I am so sorry. Yes 52 years is a long time, but in this situation, there is never enough time. And as for the dress, even my penny pinching mother (a child of the depression) would have thought that was $127 well spent.

  34. So sorry to read about the loss of your sister-in-law. What a lovely tribute you
    wrote about her. It sounds like she and your brother had a special relationship through their 52 years. She died too young and I am sure your brother misses her terribly. I love the story of your wedding dress and the bargain it turned out to
    be!

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