This Is A Love Story

velma-photosHer name was Velma. She never knew her birth name. His name is Franklin.

He doesn’t say much about the first time he saw her, but when you ask Franklin about it, his eyes light up and you can see a flicker of that first moment still burning brightly in his memory. He smiles, holding a picture of the two of them. “She still has a hold on me.”

Franklin doesn’t talk much, in part because he’s been deaf since he was nineteen. Velma’s hearing began to go as she got older. Her eyesight too. They accepted things. They accepted each other. She was epileptic. They got by.

Two weeks after Velma moved in with Franklin they were evicted. Velma had been living on the streets since leaving home at fourteen. For much of the next twenty-odd years Velma and Franklin spent together, they didn’t have a fixed address. Velma and Franklin moved from place to place.

They had each other. They fought and laughed and cried. They had two kids together.

They worked where they could find it. After Franklin’s heart surgery he could no longer hold down a steady job. Velma loved to work. When she wasn’t at work she volunteered for the City and County. She spent eight years as the caretaker of Blaisdell Park. Velma never smoked or drank or took any drugs.

Until the cancer. They found the tumor in her colon in 1991.

Hospice Hawaii admitted Velma in March of 2010 and began to visit her regularly. The only person that spent more with her was Franklin, who never left her side. Through Hospice Hawaii’s professional staff Velma received medical care. Volunteers helped her with the housework so Franklin could run errands and buy groceries. They helped with the paperwork necessary for Velma’s treatment. They made the telephone calls that Velma and Franklin couldn’t hear well enough to make themselves.

Over the next several months, the professional staff and volunteers of Hospice Hawaii became part of Velma and Franklin’s daily routine, and gradually, a part of their family. As her time grew short, Velma had one request. The woman who didn’t know her own birth name wanted to take Franklin Iokua’s. Velma wanted to get married.

Hospice Hawaii became the wedding party. They planned the wedding. Ironed clothes. Found the rings. Wrote the ceremony. They did the thousand and one things necessary to make the dream of a wedding come true, including bringing Velma and Franklin’s children together.

What the case workers did was never in any job description. What they did was inspired by the love Velma and Franklin had for each other. The professional staff and volunteers gave countless hours of their personal time, which is all too common. When they gave Velma away, she was the most beautiful bride Franklin had ever seen.

Velma died two weeks later.

The only thing she had left to give was her body, which she donated to science.