Today, May 10, 2021, would have been my husband’s 83rd birthday (He always called himself “a good pre-war model.”) He died on July 3, 2020, after suffering a decade of chronic health problems, and several years of mental degeneration due to dementia. His last months weren’t made any easier by COVID lockdowns and the near impossibility of taking him out of the house for even the simplest and shortest of trips due to closures, mask mandates and the other necessary hoops we had to jump through just to get him out the door and into the car. Frankly, I’m glad that for the last several months of his life he really wasn’t able to process most of that. Just as I’m glad that I put my foot down, refused to allow him to be admitted to the dementia ward of the local hospital, and made sure he died at home with me, and not alone via Skype or WhatsApp with a stranger holding up an iPad so I could see him breathe his last. I felt it when it happened, and I think that’s as it should be.
For the last few months of his life, as his world, and his mind, turned inwards and became more and more limited in scope, I thanked God that we moved out to the country thirty-six years ago, and that, no matter the state of our ramshackle, never-finished, house, he could look out the window and see the birds and the flowers, the fields and the sheep, and tell me what a wonderful farm he had built. (He’d largely forgotten that I’d had anything to do with it, and that’s OK.)
Here’s what we wrote about him for the newspaper, after he died:
Francis T. Zbozny: Taught his last class on Friday, July 3, 2020. A career English professor at Duquesne University, and avid climber, hiker, and backpacker, Zbozny approached everything in his life with intellect, rabid curiosity, and mad gusto. Zbozny was proud of his accomplishments as a teacher, writer, software developer, builder, architect, and U.S. Marine. His love of coffee was only surpassed by a few things – the successes of friends and students, the farm he shared with his wife, his wife herself, his three children and his best-beloved granddaughter. It’s no surprise he left us a lesson in his death. Having survived the tragic, untimely deaths of both sons (Sam, Michael), Zbozny passed away at 82 in his sleep as if to show us, “It can be done this way – peacefully, after a long, good life.” He was graced by good family and many dear friendships; some of which lasted nearly 70 years. In addition to them, those of us who especially look forward to seeing him on the other side someday include: his cherished wife (Louise Zbozny); his brother (James Zbozny); his daughter (Jenny Zbozny); and best friend, biggest fan, and beloved granddaughter (Eve). The family plans to have a small memorial at a future date to be determined.
Happy Birthday to my best buddy and husband of almost 40 years. I miss you, and your farm and your creatures miss you, every single day.