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The Tragic Way Lucille Ball Said Goodbye to Desi Arnaz Before He Died

Madeline Hiltz
(Photo Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/ Stringer/ Getty Images)

Desi loved Lucy, and Lucy loved Desi. Despite the fact that the I Love Lucy costars divorced for real in 1960, they continued to share a deep bond with one another. Their final goodbye was as heartbreaking as it was heartwarming.

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz circa 1955

Lucille Ball with her husband Desi Arnaz, circa 1955. (Photo Credit: Archive Photos/ Getty Images)

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz first met in 1940 while working on the musical comedy Too Many Girls. Six months after they first met, the couple eloped. The pair starred together in I Love Lucy from 1951 to 1957. Eventually, Lucy and Desi divorced and went their separate ways in 1960. Although they both went on to remarry, Lucy and Desi remained friends for the rest of their lives, growing closer to one another in his final decade of life.

Desi Arnaz was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1986. The new Amazon Prime Video documentary, Lucy and Desi, directed by Amy Poehler, takes a deep dive into Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s relationship. The documentary uses archival footage and recordings from the stars to get the real story of their relationship.

Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz and their two children

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz arrive at London Airport with their children Lucie and Desi Jr., 10th June 1959. (Photo Credit: J. Wilds/ Stringer/ Getty Images)

Desi and Lucille’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz, talks about her parents’ relationship in the documentary. Specifically, she discusses Desi and Lucy’s final exchange over the phone.

“I could hear her say, ‘I love you.’ She said it five times in a row. And he was nodding saying, ‘I love you too, honey.'” Two days after this conversation, on December 2, 1986, Desi Arnaz passed away from lung cancer.

Lucille Ball plays cards with Desi Arnaz

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz play cards, circa 1955. (Photo Credit: Archive Photos/ Stringer/ Getty Images)

This was already a heart-wrenching enough goodbye. However, Lucie added that “none of us realized it at the time, but the day they last spoke was November 30, their wedding anniversary.”

When Lucie reflected on her parents’ marriage and its connection to I Love Lucy, she noted, “They did the show so they could be together because my dad was always on the road and they never saw each other. So my parents thought, ‘Well, this is going to save our marriage, and we can have a family.’ They gave the country this wonderful creation, but they never got what they wanted – to stay together… But they loved each other until the end.”

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz at the 1955 Emmys

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz attend the TV Emmy Award show in Los Angeles, California, March 7, 1955. (Photo Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/ Getty Images)

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Three years after Desi passed away, Lucille Ball died from a ruptured aorta after undergoing open-heart surgery.

Lucy and Desi will be available on Amazon Prime Video on March 4, 2022.