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In September 1984, my husband, Hugh, was diagnosed with throat cancer. My father was there with him throughout the entire ordeal. Hugh had eight weeks of radiation treatments to shrink the tumor. It was a nightmare. He suffered horrific burns to his neck and jaw. We spent that Thanksgiving in Palm Springs with Dad and a lonely Christmas as a family; We were two scared parents trying to make it a happy time for our little ones. The surgery was scheduled for January 1985.

On the morning of the surgery, my father and Jilly were the first to arrive at the hospital. We were at Hughie’s side when he was taken into surgery around 7:30am. m. and Dad and Jilly stayed until the afternoon. It took the team of three surgeons a total of 18 hours to complete their task. My sister waited with me all night. Finally, the last doctor came out and declared the operation a success. I called my dad and told him the good news.

For the next few months, we didn’t see much of my parents, mainly because Hugh didn’t really want to see anyone. He couldn’t speak and could barely turn his head, but he handled the entire situation with absolute grace and tremendous courage.

When Hughie seemed to be getting better, I took the kids and my mom to Laguna Niguel to spend a few days at the beach. One afternoon I received a call from the doctor. He said Hughie had fainted and was in hospital. I called my sister, my father, and Hugh’s older children, Griff and Cody, but decided not to say anything to A.J. and Amanda. At ages 9 and 11, I thought it would be too much information for them to process. I left the girls and

Mom went to her house and went to the hospital.

My dad and Tina were already there. As the hours passed, Hughie left us. X-rays revealed a new tumor in his spinal cord at the base of his brain. Dad stayed until almost the end. It was too sad for him. Hughie had been a friend of Dad’s long before he became my husband. They had their own history and great affection for each other. Early on the morning of August 18, Hughie passed away. I stayed with him for a while and then drove home alone to our little canyon house and went to bed. I watched as daylight entered our bedroom. I did not sleep. I had to talk to our daughters.

Dad and Tina took care of all the arrangements, from choosing the cemetery to the burial clothes. I took Hughie’s wedding ring and put mine on his pinky finger, and said goodbye. Dad ordered a good old-fashioned wake for his friend Hugh Lambert. He said we should celebrate Hughie’s life and we did. The following June, on Father’s Day, he took us to the cemetery. It was the first time we had gone since the funeral and Dad knew the three of us couldn’t go alone. He held his granddaughters’ little hands and walked with them through the grounds of what he described to them as a park. He answered his questions as directly as he answered mine when his mother died. He always told the truth. He taught me that communicating with children is like communicating with adults. You should never speak ill of them. I honestly believe that Frank Sinatra is the “Great Communicator.”

Frank Sinatra. An American Legend”
Nancy Sinatra

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