Life, death and the struggles within
PLYMOUTH — The death of a loved one is never easy. The pieces left to pick up after losing someone you love only make you appreciate their life even more.
On Sept. 3, 2010, Billy Hite was a normal father and husband, working to provide for his family while his wife, Kristy, was a stay-at-home mother taking care of five children. The next day, the Hite family dynamics were shaken to the core. Kristy, a 32-year old mother of five, tragically passed away when her pancreas unexpectedly shut down. Kristy battled this illness for two years, trying many different medications, before finally succumbing to this illness.
Today, Billy has taken on the role of both parents, juggling the activities of his children while also providing for them.
Because of mounting medical bills, Billy lost his home and has moved in with his parents, who help out tremendously with the children, he said. Only three of his children currently live with Billy and their grandparents: Trent, 10, Ethan, 9, and Megan, 9, are still coping with the death of their mother but are all excelling in school this year. Their teachers, their father said, are proud of their improvements in the face of such adversity.
Billy credits Menominee Elem-entary School Principal Michael Dunn and the entire staff for the support they have provided him and his family over the last couple of months. He also credits the Plymouth community with helping him through this difficult time, saying, “The outpouring of support for our family makes me proud to be a resident of this city.”
Billy’s 16-year-old stepdaughter is living with her maternal grandparents, while his 12-year-old stepson is currently living with his biological father.
Kristy’s parents are hoping to get custody of the young boy, who Billy says desperately wants to be reunited with him, the man who raised him since the time he was 1.
Though the shock of losing his wife may never go away, Billy has had to quickly learn to handle the many tasks his wife was once in charge of.
“She handled everything, from dentist appointments to knowing ATM pin numbers. She did it all.”
While scrambling to learn this new information, Billy’s daughter, Megan, brought him a notebook that Kristy had kept detailing everything he would need to know, including those dentist appointments and ATM pin numbers, saying “Mom-my wrote this for you.”
Winfield Solutions, a division of Land O’ Lakes butter, where Billy is employed, “has helped tremendously,” he said.
Land O’ Lakes sent out an e-mail to all divisions asking employees to donate PTO (time off) to Billy so that he could take some time to figure everything out during this difficult transition. Billy has recently returned to work but said, “I still have months of PTO left because of the generosity of all the people I work with.”
After taking a month off, Billy said that he thought he was the one carrying the heavier load, but after seeing what his wife did on a day-to-day basis, he now realizes how much all the little things added up. “You don’t realize what you have until it’s gone,” he said.
The hardest part is not being able to say goodbye. On Sept. 3, Billy took Kristy to the hospital like he would do from time to time when her situation worsened, then returned home hoping to watch Trent and Ethan play well in their baseball tournament the next day. Unfortunately, the next morning, Billy got a phone call from the hospital telling him his wife was in cardiac arrest and by the time he got there, she was in a coma.
After returning home, Billy had the unenviable task of calling the children together to tell them that their mother would not be coming home.
Billy asked the two boys if they still wanted to play in their tournament the next day.
Trent unfortunately could not play because of a broken arm, but Ethan emphatically said that he still wanted to play in the games the next day. Ethan went on to play some of the best baseball of his life, leading his team to the championship and telling his Dad, “This one was for Mom.”