Support, friendship turn to love after devastating loss

Marty Vogel and Lynn Rosene call the signs they see “God winks.” God winks give these two torn-apart people permission to find comfort and love in one another.

After cancer quickly claimed her husband Tom, Lynn Rosene became a pet therapist to ease her grief, to keep herself busy, to give back. Carle Therapy paired Lynn and her Cairn terrier, Cooper, with Marty and his wife, Linda Vogel. Marty had been her caretaker since doctors removed the brain tumor that started the feisty gardener’s 13-year fight to live.

Lynn and Cooper are one of eight nationally certified human-canine teams that offer support and snuggles to Carle Foundation Hospital’s Rehabilitation and Pediatrics patients. Lynn has certified more than 50 teams through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Through a variety of programs, pet therapy teams help in nursing homes, with hospice patients and more. Carle’s hospital program is expanding to help patients cope with strokes, heart disease, cancer and other life-changers.

Marty saw his wife of 41 years through 16 surgeries, changed countless bandages and stayed at her bedside 24-7.

Visits from Cooper and Lynn made the good days better.

“What did Cooper’s visits mean to Linda when she was sick? They meant the world,” Marty said. (See related video, please.)

Marty took his “in sickness and in health” vow seriously.

“My dad is a saint,” said Marty and Linda’s daughter, Christine. “When my mom got sick, it was hard because they both lost their independence.”

But Marty didn’t want freedom. He wanted a pain-free wife.

“After Mom died, it was really hard. I was so worried about him,” Christine said. “I had my routine of going to work. He lost his routine. My mom was his routine.”

Determined to help, Christine and a friend took Marty to Jamaica. The warm sun and ocean breezes did his heart good. Overnights, though, were hardly relaxing.

Marty points to Linda’s joking nature. And her spirit.

After the TV turned on by itself in the wee hours two nights in a row, Marty spent the entire next night waiting for the same. The remote was out of reach again, not a tidy explanation for what he was beginning to believe were signs from Linda.

“I know she was telling me it was OK to be in Jamaica, that I’d be OK without her. The next day, I was focused on taking my medicine, and she made that TV turn on to snow again,” he said, smiling through tears.

“I spit my pills and my water across the room, she shocked me so much.”

Along with those TV memories, Marty treasures one special photo from that trip. As he and Christine pose, Marty’s left hand—his wedding ring, really—emits an unexplained light.

“My mom was right there holding his hand,” Christine said.

Their daughter sees other signs—like a break in the rain during a tough Chicago commute, courtesy of her mom. Butterflies in Linda’s garden remind friends and family that she’s OK.

But Marty wasn’t OK. After the trip, Lynn and Cooper reconnected with Marty. He needed them. He went back to a dark place. He wasn’t sure he wanted to live without Linda.

So Marty talked. Lynn listened. And she cared. A lot. She knew what he had been through.

And in what Lynn calls a fairy tale, they realized they were in love. They’re getting married in August—in Jamaica. Their now-simpler routine involves watching TV, dinners out and golfing every chance they get.

Once Christine knew her dad was in good hands, something vital happened.

“I didn’t grieve the loss of my mom until months later because I was so worried about him,” she said. “I can’t say enough good things about Lynn. I think she’s amazing, and she’s amazing for my dad.”

Apparently, the bumble bee that hovered over Cooper and then Marty agreed.

“Look, it’s another God wink. It’s Linda,” Lynn said, describing how Linda suffered but never complained.

Those signs are more than winks to Marty.

“Lynn is part of God’s plan for me,” he said. “He sent her to me five years before I even knew how much I needed her.”

To learn more about the impact you could make being a pet therapist, please call Carle Volunteer Services at 217-383-3025 or visit carle.org/volunteering.