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Terminal cancer patient plans celebration of life

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Beverly McMillan eventually could handle the news of her terminal lung cancer a few months ago. Another matter actually troubled her more just recently.

“You know,” she told her daughter Lori Botzum, 48, of Indianapolis. “I won’t be at my funeral. But I’d really like one more chance to see everybody.”

“You can do that,” Botzum told her. “We ought to have a party.”

And so it will be at McMillan’s Celebration of Life from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Columbus’ First Christian Church, 531 Fifth St. It’s where McMillan has attended since 2011.

There, she has sung in the choir and participated in Monday Bible studies and other activities.

The 75-year-old Taylorsville resident, who doctors have said has four to 10 months to live since her August diagnosis, wants to leave this earth with hugs and smiles.

No anger. No depression. Not really much sadness.

“I guess a lot of it is because I truly believe heaven is a better place,” she said. “I just want to be with my family and friends and have a good time. You can’t do that at your funeral.”

She laughed loudly, almost like a cackle.

People know her for that trademark laugh. She figures she has had a great life, including elaborate travel all over the United States and Europe.

She’s grateful for her two grown children, including son Richard McMillan, 53, of Indianapolis. She dearly loves her four grandchildren.

So the woman who worked at Columbus’ Arvin Industries, the old local Cow Palace restaurant, Onkyo America Inc. and finally at Columbus Regional Hospital until about a year ago is ready to rest.

Well, except for the other morning, days after finishing a round of chemotherapy, when she was supposed to be relaxing. She shoveled her walk at Tannehill Park north of Columbus instead.

“If I had a chance to talk to people (in general), I’d probably tell them that God knows what’s best for us,” said McMillan, who moved here from Chicago with her family when she was 10 years old. “He has a plan.”

She won’t question that. And now that the medical prognosis has sunken in, neither will her daughter, who initially reacted in shock to the cancer news.

“I realize now that God has given me a gift,” Botzum said. “Now I clearly know to treasure every moment.”

So, too, does McMillan’s 12-year-old granddaughter, Sabrina Botzum. She already is changing her bedroom at her home in Indianapolis so McMillan can be moved there when the illness advances. She wants her grandma to be comfortable and happy.

Maybe the only worry that McMillan expressed during a recent conversation was finding someone to take her 16-year-old cat, Missy, when she needs to move. She gives no thought to how many people might show up at her gathering. When someone recently asked if the crowd could be perhaps 200 people, McMillan seemed stunned.

“If that happened,” she said, “I would be the happiest woman on earth.”

Others already see her that way.

First Christian Worship Minister Dan Wallace noticed McMillan’s impact with First Christian’s Worship Choir.

“Bev just lights up a room, and her laughter and happy demeanor is contagious,” Wallace said. “When Bev joined the Worship Choir, it took on a robust, happy feel, and she made it better through her voice, through her personality, and most importantly through her public confession and love for God.”

Longtime friend Karen Kresovsky of Columbus is amazed at McMillan’s joy amid her illness.

“I have to say that you’re having the most fun of anybody I’ve ever known who is dying,” Kresovsky said.

When a friend offered McMillan and her daughter Indianapolis Colts’ tickets to the recent playoff game with the Kansas City Chiefs, McMillan first balked. There was no way she could handle all the walking — until the Colts made special arrangements for at-the-gate parking, a wheelchair and other accommodations.

“Mom calls it her Make A Wish trip,” Botzum said.

McMillan and Botzum’s relationship is close and easy enough that they have calmly discussed everything from what McMillan will wear in her casket to where her ashes will be placed after she is cremated. McMillan decided on Lake Tahoe, at the California and Nevada state lines.

But when McMillan heard Botzum and her family discuss a possible trip out West that might include such stops as Yellowstone National Park, McMillan got an idea.

“You could just drop me a little at a time all along the way,” mom said, chuckling.

“I am not going to play Hansel and Gretel,” her daughter responded as they both laughed.

Actually, for Beverly McMillan, traveler extraordinaire, her next stop seems quite logical. As she sees it, she will journey to perhaps the most exotic location of all.


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