Health & Fitness

A little white lie to a beloved neighbor

My last words to you, June, were a lie.

June Freeman was our friend of 25 years. We had known her from the time our older son, Robert, was 6 months old. She was a widowed neighbor, a young 70 then. June and my wife, Diane, soon became fast friends.

June would ride bikes with Diane, with Robert riding on the back. She would plead with us to go out to dinner so that she could watch Robert. Three years later, our next son, Justin, arrived, and she was ecstatic. Another child to coo over.

June taught my wife to sew and make pumpkin pie from scratch. She gave us her recipe for cranberry mousse that we have used every holiday for 25 years. I too became close to June. I helped her with car issues and money questions — we watched over her for the next 25 years. June went to our sons' graduations and birthday parties, and every holiday as far back as we can remember, June was at our table sharing stories of Chester, her only love, who had died just before we met her.

June was always there, but she was getting older and more frail. She was going to need assistance. I sat with her dozens of times, talking to her about hiring someone to help her, to watch her. She was defiant. June pleaded with me to never, ever take her out of her home, a cozy place that had not changed in 40-plus years.

June and I had an agreement that I would never, ever lie to her. That seemed small enough, but it would come back to haunt me later.

Last year, June fell in her home, hit her head and needed treatment. I dialed 911. June held my hand as the paramedics arrived and told me that she would go to the hospital, but she wanted to come home. I told her she would.

June would not be coming home. I already sensed it.

June went into a rehab center. Every time I visited, she asked about going home. I always told her, "Soon, June, soon."

The last time I saw her, she told me she was being treated well but that she wanted her own bed. Her mind was sharp, but her body was too weak. I told her, "Eat the food they give you so you can go home soon." She asked me, when? And I told her, any day now.

June died on Jan. 25 at the age of 94.

Please forgive me, June. I didn't know what else to say.

Odell and his wife, Diane, work in the restaurant business. They live in Garden Grove. Their sons Robert and Justin are now in college.

My Turn is a forum for readers to recount an experience related to health or fitness. Submissions should be no more than 500 words. They are subject to editing and condensation and become the property of The Times. Please e-mail health@latimes.com. We read every essay but can't respond to every writer.

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