Louis & Clifford- Home Together
What is it about young love’s imprint on the brain and the need to reconnect with a lost love? Just ask Louise and Clifford whose decades-long dedication to reigniting their timeless connection serves as a testament to the enduring nature of true love. They met for the first time in the late 70’s but ended up going their separate ways. Regretfully, they lost touch. If you ask Louise, she relates their ongoing story with her own term of endearment – “We always had a connection. Over the years, I just remembered him and missed the connection having lost it". In the meantime, Clifford, an Army Airborne Vietnam Veteran, moved through a full life. However, in 2018, he was plagued by progressive weakness and shortness of breath. He spent months seeing various doctors trying to find out why his mysterious symptoms were worsening. With the prompting and support of several Veteran friends, he finally sought care within the Portland VA System where he was admitted and a diagnosis of ALS was confirmed.
Unbeknownst to Clifford, Louise had started to search for him in earnest nearly four years ago, only to meet a dead end. However, with Louise's persistence, their paths finally converged shortly after his diagnosis. Together once again, they joyfully reflect that “time and distance didn’t stop our connection - we are finally home together!" Today they are determined to face Clifford's diagnosis united and strong even if it means that their sense of ‘home together’ is a bit unconventional.
Frequent hospitalizations for Clifford meant regular and prolonged stays at Fisher House for Louise. The families and staff at the Fisher House have come to know her as an advocate, friend, and a wonderful person who often helped others find their way. “I commuted 260 miles from southern Oregon to be here for long weekends. I took a leave of absence at times, and worked virtually when possible. Fisher House on the Vancouver campus was there to make my visits at Fisher House safe, secure and productive while allowing me to be close to Clifford” now in the VA Community Living Center (CLC) on the same grounds. “The fellowship of people is so amazing” she says. Her background as an EMT Administrator and in Fire and Rescue certainly gives her the confidence to tackle the challenges ahead and advocate for Clifford with the medical community.
Clifford for his part is also adjusting to the joys of rekindled love and challenges of his diagnosis. “Clifford is funny, supportive, and so wonderful to be with - He communicates with electronic eye gaze technology to activate a keyboard to Chat, Facebook and use the internet so we stay in constant touch”. With the breathing support via a tracheotomy and a permanent feeding tube, he does not let his multiple challenges faze him Louise says fondly. She relates a short story of a fleeting thought she had during one of her road trips to see Clifford. “It crossed my mind that I should go back to school to become a Respiratory Therapist. When I arrived at Clifford’s side that trip, he offered the same suggestion without any prompting on my behalf. I think it was more than a coincidence” she reflects.
We are convinced maybe it is just two soul mates in synchrony.
Clifford and Louise happily (and finally) tied the knot in a hospital bedside ceremony on July 20. With witnesses and a judge, they describe the ceremony as perfect. The Fisher House team welcomed them ‘Home Together’ in celebration and of course with cake. They say that the couples that are meant to be are the ones who go through everything that’s designed to tear them apart and come out even stronger. If you ask, Louise and Clifford, they have no regrets about lost time and what could have been. “We are just here today – home together. We have this time and we are making the most of it.”
We honor Clifford for his service to our country and his enduring strength and courage. Fisher House is honored to be part of creating their home together!