Bell Camp -2019


I am thankful that my two grandchildren were old enough to have spent time with my husband, Chuck. They have good memories of Grandpa, though not nearly as many as I wish they could have had. 


Back in the summer of 2019, we had a family reunion in Georgia. That day was the beginning of a week with our grandkids, what we called “Bell Camp”. We stayed in Athens, the town of my birth, for two days, just hanging out, visiting family cemeteries, eating at Mellow Mushroom. Then we went back to our home in Birmingham, where I’d planned a week of activities. It was a sweet time, especially for my husband who had not been able to spend as much time with the kids as I had because of his work schedule. 


At this time we were already working on finding a way for him to retire early. He was looking forward to moving ”home” to Jacksonville, Florida. To be closer to family.  


Just before his company sent everyone home to work from home, in March of 2020,  we already had our move in motion. We were prepping our home to go on the market, he was setting up retirement and social security and all those details. So, he came home to work a few weeks before our house went on the market. The schools shutdown and I was home with him, packing boxes, cleaning, joining him in the intermittent fasting he was doing per his doctor’s recommendation to “rest his pancreas”. At this point we had no clue what was going on. He lost 40 pounds, I lost about 18, before that morning that I realized he was jaundiced.  By this time our house was already under contract to be sold. I drove him to the nearby stand alone ER and had to leave him there. I went home to work on an electrical issue per our home inspection and waited for his call.  It was not the call I expected. “They did a scan and found a mass on my pancreas.”


From that point on it was a whirlwind. The doctors in Birmingham gave him 2-3 months.  We decided to go ahead and move and I made arrangements for an appointment with Mayo clinic in Jacksonville. I rented an apartment for six months and rented furniture, also.  The Mayo doctors gave the same prognosis, but scheduled chemo anyway. He only had one treatment. By the time he went for the second he was too sick to take it. He died a week later. At the graveside service, my grandson, then ten years old, read something he’d written. He spoke of playing chess with Grandpa. I am so very thankful they were able to play during those last weeks before Chuck was too tired and weak to do anything. 

My granddaughter, then seven, wrote a  lovely poem for her grandpa. You can read it HERE on one of my previous posts. 


I feel like I’ve told this story so many times, with many more details. I’ve learned that telling the story is part of the grief process.  Since Chuck’s death God has sent  numerous other widows into my life. I’ve been able to minister to them, and them to me. I’ve listened to their stories, knowing they need to tell them over and over. 


I am not angry at God, though I was angry with some of the doctors in the beginning. I was angry at the lack of care Chuck  received. I was angry at the lack of care from my pastors. But, I am at peace with all that now. I can’t harbor hard feelings. All that does is hurt  my present and future. But,  I don’t know if the sadness and loneliness will ever go away. 


Last summer, as I had the grandkids for “Grammy Camp” my grandson said, “I miss Bell Camp”. His way of saying, “I miss Grandpa”. We were walking down the road on a July evening and I just stopped and cried. Both grandkids put their arms around me and we just hugged, there in the middle of the street. That was a precious moment. I want more of those moments.


Angie Bell was born in Georgia but raised in Florida to where she recently returned after six years in Birmingham, Alabama. She is a former teacher who loves hiking, photography, and writing, often combining all three.

After planning for several years, working on a way to live on a shoestring budget, Angie’s husband of 41 years put in for early retirement so they could move back home. They put their house on the market and had a contract within four days. Less than two weeks later her husband was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. They decided to transfer his care and move back to Jacksonville, Florida, renting a furnished apartment and hoping for a miracle. One month later he was gone. After her third move in less than a year, Angie is now in Tampa where her grandchildren live, trying to find her way in her new life. God, in His mercy, has put numerous other widows in her life and a new empathy for this sisterhood she never would have chosen.