‘The only one for me’: SW La. seniors reflect on life’s greatest memories

Published 1:15 pm Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Christi Miller Reeves, hospice liaison for Amedisys Hospice, took time on Valentine’s Day to ensure that residents at Gardens Assisted Living had the opportunity to share their life and love story.

“For me, if you listen, you’re genuine and are authentically engaged in that conversation, you can learn so much,” she said.  “They (the elderly) want to be heard. They have a history, a successful career, a successful marriage. They were somebody important back in the day.”

This Valentine’s Day was the perfect opportunity to pause and give the residents a chance to reflect on their life’s greatest memories of love especially after having to endure the difficulties of COVID-19 and devastating hurricanes, she said.

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“People have been locked up with nobody to even hug, touch or engage them at all.”

“This is their opportunity to say, ‘Yes, I have a story. I want to be loved. I was loved.’ It’s a freedom now that we’ve overcome that (COVID-19 and hurricanes). They feel like they have a new lease on life.”

Mary Holland, an 88-year- old resident of The Gardens, spent 62 years in wedded bliss to the late Kenneth B. Holland after a chance encounter in 1952. Walking down the streets of Biloxi, Miss., she and a friend ran into who would eventually become her husband.

“My friend knew the other guy that was with him so we waved. We talked for a few minutes and my friend had to leave so my husband said, ‘Well, can I walk you to your room?’ ”

Kenneth walked Mary to her door where they continued their conversation at the doorstep. “Then, the next night, the same thing. The next night, the same thing,” she said.

Just two weeks later on Feb. 15, Kenneth proposed. “I said, ‘No, no, no.’ I had just gotten on my own. But he didn’t stop at that. He kept on, every time he’d see me, ask me to marry him.”

Despite her initial protests, Mary said, “I knew then, he was the only one for me.”

The next month after a two-or three-day flight for the Air Force — where Kenneth served for more 20 years — he returned and once again proposed marriage.

“He said, ‘Are you going to marry me this month?’ I said, ‘Let me think about it.’ We were married on the 31st of March.”

Kenneth and Mary had a “wonderful life,” she said. Every year he would commemorate their anniversary by presenting her with an orchid, the same flower he gave her on their wedding day.

“But later on, money got tighter, raising children and whatnot and we kind of got away from that,” she said.

About 10 years before Kenneth became ill, the two visited a gift shop in Gatlinburg, Tenn., where he found a gold orchid necklace that he purchased her as a tribute to their cherished tradition.

“My daughter has that orchid now,” she said.  “And my favorite song is ‘I Overlooked an Orchid.’ I played it all night last night,” she said smiling at the photo of Kenneth in his military uniform.

J.L. Langley, another resident of The Gardens, shared a different type of love story— that between a father and a daughter. While living in California in the 1960’s, Langley fathered a daughter, Wendy, who was given up for adoption.

Recalling the relationship between himself and Wendy’s mother, he said, “Her (Wendy’s mother) daddy had her put the baby up for adoption. She was underage. I was too, really. I had barely turned 18. There was no way I could stop it.”

When Langley returned to Louisiana he searched for Wendy for two years but was never able to locate her.

Two years ago, and over 50 years after his daughter’s birth, Langley received the phone call of a lifetime. “A lady was asking me if I was J.L Langley. I said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘I think I’m your daughter.’ And she was,” he said smiling.

The opportunity to finally meet over half a century later was a feeling that “really can’t be described,” he said.

“It was awesome. She spent four days here so we really got to know each other. I could back-fill her on information she would like to have and she did the same for me.”

Besides the chance to finally have a relationship with his daughter, learning that she grew up in a happy home was another dream come true, he said. “She ended up with a good family. ‘A wonderful childhood,’ she said. And to me that was the best. As long as she was happy, I was happy.”

J.L. and Wendy have since continued to grow their relationship with regular phone calls. “I just talked to her two nights ago,” he said.

“We will definitely stay in contact. No doubt about it.”