Wednesday, June 6, 2012

After a loss, now serving lemonade...

Together then : Larry and Becky Burckmyer

Last week,  I heard one of the most extraordinary stories of transition. It starts out grim, but you’ll be cheered by where it ends up.
Alone now:  Becky gave Marblehead home new purpose
“Unfortunately, I had my process thrust upon me,” explained Becky McCandlish Burckmyer as she addressed her fellow Wellesley classmates as part of a panel on life after career.  “In 2000, my husband Larry was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s -- or possibly Pick’s disease, which is like Alzheimer’s only worse because you don’t talk,” she said.
“In 2001 in March, my brother died. In August, my mother died. And in October, Larry tried to cross [Boston’s] Storrow Drive and was hit by a car.”
After nine weeks in rehab, “he came back in body anyway.” After that, Becky’s career as a business writing  author and consultant pretty much ended, as she cared for her husband and, swept up by his situation, became a hospice volunteer and studied chaplaincy.
That is not the end of her story.
 “On this day, two years ago (June 2), he died,” Becky continued, her voice quavering.
“After the tumult and the shouting died, I realized that I was sitting in this very big ark of a house in Marblehead [Mass.] and I wasn’t sure what to do next. I thought maybe it would be appropriate to downsize and let somebody else raise their kids by the water, as we had raised ours. A couple of people suggested an alternative scenario. They said, ‘Becky, your house is a teardown.  Somebody’s going to rip it down and put in new wiring, new plumbing, and new lighting and they’re going to live in it about two weeks a year.’
And I said, ‘That’s great, I’m not moving.’”
Weighing how to handle her sprawling seaside house and its hefty utility bills --- and how to share it now that her kids were grown -- an idea hit her while sitting at a traffic light.
 “I will open a bed and breakfast in my house and anyone who wants to can come.”
 A life coach (gift from her daughter) said “your Myers-Briggs shows you’re an extrovert and it might work.” Her son, with a new business degree, did spreadsheets on income and profit. Other women who run B&Bs in the community “told me what to charge for rooms and how to fix breakfast.” And a handyman plunged in to “put this house together again.”
Astoundingly, within four months of Larry's death, she had opened Marblehead on Harbor. “I look back and I think, ‘Good Lord, you’re supposed to sit tight, aren’t you?”
Even as the women who knew her as an 18-year-old so many years ago applauded her spunk and her success –adding to the support she has received from so many --  Becky was torn. Privately, she regretted that she was not back at her B&B that weekend greeting her newest guests. But, she’d found someone to step into her role for the weekend.
 It was okay.
And, oh, I forgot to add:  a few months ago, in another surprise, Becky discovered  an old friend on He didn’t know she was widowed; she didn’t know he was widowed and neither realized they lived within driving distance. Theirs will be another story to write about some day.


Anonymous said...

Love this, Dotty. What a moving story.


Leesa Campbell said...

What a gift you are giving us with these special stories of special friends! So appreciate reading Becky's stories, seeing the Larry video (so moving and awesome...), reading about the new B&B. Now we will want to go there. Thank you. Love, Leesa

Anne said...

Great story, Dotty!!

Amanda Bennett said...

Hurrah for Becky!
hurrah for Dotty
Hurrah for living!

Nan Langen Steketee said...

I, too, am inspired to plan a trip to Marblehead after reading your story about Becky, Dotty. What a beautiful story and home.

Wendy Lee said...

This is a poignant and tender telling of a wonderful story. Thanks for including this on your blog.

Sigi said...

Your presentation of Becky's very moving story is wonderful, as is the slide show. Thank you.

Now we are all going to want to put up our friends at Marblehead's finest B&B.