Last year, my husband and I made new friends. At our age, this is kind of a big deal; these days we hardly go anywhere new, much less talk to people who we don’t already know. Becca and Todd managed the Homestead at River Valley Ranch, and we instantly liked both of them. Todd because he made martinis just like us, with only two ingredients: cold vodka and good olives. Becca because it was impossible to not feel joy whenever she was around. She had a smile that covered her whole face, and she was ever present, always engaged in the topic at hand and excited to talk about it.

Two weeks ago, Becca died. The world is worse without her because she lived a great story full of joy and love.

These are Todd’s words of goodbye:

Heart broken… never in a million years did I plan for you not to be here. Your physical and emotional journey was so extremely difficult, and I believed everything was going to be ok. You were going to get that liver, recover, get rid of the cancer, and we were going to spend all our days rejoicing in your miracle health recovery. 

You were the once-in-a-lifetime person who would get a liver transplant despite having cancer. You were approved to be the exception! Instead, this advanced liver disease caused detours of pneumonia, candidiasis, kidney failure and brain-swelling. When the doctors told me you would probably never wake up, I thought to myself, she has to. We have too many wonderful adventures ahead! 

As I got into a sober mind of your condition, I realized that you wouldn’t want to wake back up to this nightmare. When I asked the doctors, ‘In the absolute best-case scenario, will she be able to get a liver transplant?’ their sobering response was, ‘No. Her condition continues to worsen. Her kidneys are now failing, and she would be on dialysis the rest of her life. Her brain is swelling, causing a coma. We have been able to manipulate some of the blood levels with meds, but they continue to worsen every day.’ 

When I asked, ‘What quality of life can she look forward to?’ The answer was self-evident. ‘She can be kept alive in a vegetative state, but eventually her liver disease will continue to cause her other organs to fail. The medicines are maxed out and she’s not getting better. The next steps are dialysis to help get rid of the toxins in her body. She’s way too sick to survive a minor surgery, liver transplant is not even an option. If it were even possible to wake her up from the coma, her reality would be so cruel, physically and emotionally.’

I know now you had made your choice to go before your intubation. I sent you pictures of all our adventures to calm you down last Tuesday night while you were so scared with the breathing mask on. I did it to calm you down and for you to know I was with you. Little did I know those pics would be the last things you saw. Our God is so thoughtful, caring, and merciful. 

Your heart stopped at 4:37 p.m. this afternoon. Your pain ended. Your body gave up the fight. Your spirit lives on. You are GOLD!! Everyone that met you knew it. What does she have that I want? How can a person who has been through such struggles in life do it with such grace and dignity? How are you not jaded? 

You defied medical reason for many years and continued to through the end. Your story inspired some of the best doctors in this state to make exceptions to all the rules! We all were hoping to bring you home, healthy and thriving, to continue to inspire us to live our best lives. Your body didn’t make it. 

You made me a better person. You made everyone you met a better person. Not because of what you did, but because of who you are, and will continue to be. I love you, Stew. I miss you, but I know you will never be far away.

Rebecca Nickoley

July 8, 1987 – Feb. 18, 2022