Early in 1980, Bessie was invited to join the Philadelphia Scottish Choir, and they had rehearsals on Monday evenings at Hunting Park. She went to the first rehearsal on the first Monday in February 1980. They had a nice repertoire of Scottish songs and a fair number of engagements lined up, and it seemed like a nice prospect to give Bessie an outlet for her love of singing. I can't remember anything special about the first two weeks of that February, but on Sunday the 17th, we went to church as usual and Bessie sang with the choir. We stayed in that afternoon till about 5 p.m., when we set out for Margaret and Eddie's house in Napfle Street, where we had been invited to celebrate Joel's birthday with his other grandparents, Harry and Gladys. On the way down, we drew alongside George and Kay Needs' car at a traffic light and they waved to us before we turned off Rhawn Street. When we arrived at Napfle Street, Margaret was in the kitchen, Eddie started to make drinks, and Bessie went into the kitchen to sip a glass of sherry. Before I even got a drink, we heard Bessie suddenly call out in pain and she kind of staggered towards the sofa, holding the back of her head in pain. Margaret bade Eddie call the paramedics, and in a very short time, they arrived and rushed Bessie to Nazareth Hospital. I went in a police car and saw her going into the emergency room. I could hear her moaning behind the curtain and occasionally responding to some questions.
After a while, it became quiet behind the curtain and I was told then she was being taken to the I.C.U. While we'd been waiting, Joe called Elizabeth in the U.K. and told her about Bessie, and I suppose he recognized what I did not want to recognize -- that her condition was very serious. We were all then taken to a conference room where a doctor spelled it out for us. Bessie had had a massive cerebral hemorrhage and no heroic measures could be helpful to save or prolong her life. We were then allowed to see her in the I.C.U., and she was on life support with tubes and electrodes all over. She was in a deep coma, and we all knew then that she was gone forever. But I suppose each of us in our own way said our last good-bye then. Next morning, I had a call at 7 a.m. to come to Nazareth Hospital. When we arrived, we were met with the news she had passed away in the night. We were allowed to go into the room where she lay propped up as if in a good sleep. She looked so pretty, it was all I could do to grasp the fact that she was indeed gone forever. Death is so final that it takes some kind of super-sense to grasp the awful truth of it. I can't for the life of me remember who was with me that morning -- Joe, Eddie, Helen, Wilma, Margaret, or all of them. Looking back, it is all a blur. Elizabeth came from the U.K., and Bob Sinclair and William Greer came from Canada. At her funeral service in Redemption Church, the entire choir took part and the Reverend Bob Nelson assisted Pastor Tobaben with the service. The church was full that day, giving us all an indication of Bessie's impact on everyone who crossed her path.
My Bonnie lass has closed her eyes,
And her sweet voice is still
No more I'll feel her loving arms
Nor hear her singing trill.
Her laughing eyes, her happy face,
which mirrored her sweet soul
Her care for all who needed it,
Made her beloved by all.
Now, alas, she's gone to rest
For us life's dark and drear
A light has gone, my world grows dim
Now she's in God's care
She was my love at seventeen
She was my love for all her life
One day, I hope again she'll be
My love, my life, my own dear wife.
William Cathro July 1980
I don't know how I got through that day. Without any doubt, it was the extreme low point of my entire life. Trying to get back on track was made easier knowing I had the support of at least some of my daughters. I don't want to dwell on this theme, but those who still support me know who they are. This has caused me a great sadness over the past few years, but in spite of many overtures on my part, the position is unchanged.