All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for May 2004

Renewal of vows is last act of love for wife,1651,TCP_1114_2868728,00.html

May 9, 2004
Jennifer Brannock
The Jupiter Courier

After one last look at her husband, Jupiter resident Elizabeth Cope lost her battle with Multiple Sclerosis early Thursday morning.

Elizabeth, 52, died at 1:05 a.m. at Hospice of Palm Beach County, just over one week after renewing her wedding vows with her husband of eight years, Michael Cope, 55. Elizabeth, knowing she was in the final stages of her life, sat upright in a wheelchair and pledged her love to Michael before family and friends at Jupiter Care Center on April 28 for her anniversary gift to him.

"I truly believe that she hung on to give me that gift," Michael said. "She's cried so many times, on birthdays and anniversaries, because she couldn't go out and get me a card."

"It was the most special thing ever."

Elizabeth was diagnosed with MS 23 years ago. She and Michael met 12 years ago in Pennsylvania, where they both lived. Despite her attempts to thwart his admiration, Michael followed Elizabeth to Florida when doctors advised that she needed the warmer climate to stay strong, and married her a short time later.

"She tried to keep me at arms length, because she didn't want me to deal with her having MS," Michael said. "But there was just something about her that drew me to her. She was just beautiful."

Instead of having a typical memorial service, Elizabeth's friends and family will travel from across the country to take part in a life celebration service on Sunday, May 16 at the south campus of Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens at 2 p.m.

"There's such a negative connotation with the term 'memorial service,'" said a longtime friend of the Copes, Ken Mack. "This life celebration will be so important to anyone who knows (Mike) and knew (Elizabeth), because unless you really experience these kind of people, you don't believe they exist."

Many of Elizabeth's friends and family members shared Mack's assessment of the Copes during their renewal of vows ceremony.

"Theirs is truly a love story," said Stephanie Cope, Michael's sister-in-law. "The love they have for each other and everyone else is amazing."

Elizabeth dedicated her life to serving people, both in prayer and in her actions, Michael said. Before becoming too weak to work, Elizabeth cared for others as a nurse in Pennsylvania and at The Waterford, an assisted living facility in Juno Beach.

Later on, while she was confined to a hospital bed, Elizabeth became a "prayer warrior," talking friends, family and even strangers, Mack said.

"If you're going to do something for somebody else, it takes being willing to be hurt to make any kind of effect," Mack said. "She would enter into other peoples' sorrow in spite of her own pain."

If she wasn't reading the Bible, Michael said, there was a good chance Elizabeth was engrossed in some professional sporting event. Sports and religion were two of her biggest passions, he said.

"One Super Bowl Sunday, I was working, and Elizabeth fell out of the bed and needed to call 911," Michael recalled. "Those guys knew her and what a sports nut she was, and they fought over who got to go over and help her so they could watch the game with her."

Last Sunday, Michael knew his wife had taken a turn for the worse. He took days off of work at Jupiter's Home Depot to stay by her side. Despite her weakness, Elizabeth remained cheerful when greeted with visitors.

"If someone came in to talk to her, she gave everything she had to talk with them," Michael said. "You could tell she wasn't herself, but she still laughed and asked about how they were doing, in spite of her own pain."

Wednesday night, Elizabeth's breathing became labored, and Michael knew his time with his wife was coming to an end. He held her very gently in his arms.

"I love you bunches. You're my buddy," he told her.

"I love you too, buddy," she whispered as her eyes closed for the last time.

Copyright © 2004, The Jupiter Courier