The yard work was therapy. The immaculately kept flowers outside the home of Carol and Lance Blalock was a way for Lance to keep his dexterity up, diminished over the years from Parkinson’s disease.
“For Parkinson’s patients, you need to keep moving. Once you stop that, it’s over,” Carol said.
So Lance would kneel in the yard, hands gripped around the dandelions, his muscles remembering a sense of purpose.
This, according to Carol, was when he was truly at peace.
And then, on March 9, he passed away.
Carol was devastated; they had been together for 37 years and it was too painful for her to do much of anything.
The yard fell into disrepair.
Plus, as she admitted, she’s terrible at gardening.
“I just can’t tell what a weed is,” she admitted. “If it has a flower on it, I’m calling it a flower.”
On June 7, Sunni Days Yard Care put out a call to help a deserving veteran in the community. Owned by military spouse Sunni Perkins, the yard care service wanted to give back by donating free yard beautification to a local veteran.
Perkins found the perfect candidate in Carol, saying, “It’s only fitting that we help a fellow military spouse in need.”
And Carol was in need.
“The yard, because of all the rain this year, was just a jungle,” she said.
So Sunni Days came to the rescue, perfectly manicuring the hydrangea outside and trimming the yard with impeccable detail.
Carol smiled as she looked over the work they had done.
“It’s really amazing, what they did,” she said.
The flowers were never Lance and Carol’s idea. When they moved to Florence a few years back, they purchased the home from local florist Bobbi Brubaker, who owned Flowers by Bobbi.
Flowers were understandably rather prevalent in the yard, but the Blalocks had no idea what to do with them.
They were proud nomads before then, traversing the country in their RV as long as they had known each other.
When they first met, Carol only had one question for Lance: Do you like to camp?
“When I think back on it, we were on the road most of our lives. We were very fortunate, and that’s all thanks to him,” she said.
One of Carol’s favorite stories is when they had taken a small boat out to an island. As they got on shore, the boat drifted. Lance, who had been an accomplished athlete when he was younger, jumped into the ocean and swam to bring it back.
“He was my hero,” Carol remembered. “An athlete, a scholar and a gentleman. What else could you ask for?
“His biggest attribute was that he had a great sense of humor.”
When they were first dating, Carol and Lance went to go see the Steve Martin film “The Jerk” 32 times together.
As Martin did in the movie, Lance got himself a pair of aviation goggles and a scarf, putting them on to make his wife laugh.
And he was always able to.
But then in 2007 the Parkinson’s diagnosis came.
The disease took small tolls at first; a tremor in a hand, stiff muscles. But as the years passed the symptoms became more pronounced. He would lose balance and bouts of confusion would set in.
Traveling wasn’t as easy anymore, so they moved to Florence. And that’s when they were faced with the flowers.
Lance saw it as a challenge. Carol took up acting classes, and Lance got to work on the yard.
When he wasn’t watching the Denver Broncos or laughing at “The Big Bang Theory,” his favorite show, he was pulling weeds.
“He loved this house and being able to contribute to something,” Carol said.
The Parkinson’s snuck up on them. Its devastating effects had, over the years, become routine.
“He was falling quite a bit,” she said. “I didn’t notice because you’re with this for 24/7 and it just becomes normal. I caught him every time he would fall, and he would bounce back.”
“He was declining, and he knew it,” Carol remembered. “So the gardening gave him a sense of purpose.”
Carol is just now being able to talk about these things, the pain of the loss fading as the joyful memories remain.
Of the work that Sunni Days did for Carol she said, “I know that he took pride in the yard and the house. I just think it’s a blessing that they’ve decided to do this for a veteran, that they selected me. Lance would have been so honored.”
Carol is a woman of faith.
After Lance passed away, she was looking for signs that he was still around.
Everyone stays around a little while, she believed.
And she sees him everywhere. She sees his smile in the thousands of pictures that he left behind. She hears his voice in the birds outside on a cool summer morning.
And she sees his love in the yard he left behind.