How Lucille Ball Told Desi Arnaz Goodbye Before He Died

Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill/Instagram

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were one of television’s most beloved couples. Despite divorcing after 20 years of marriage, the pair shared a deep love for each other until their death.

In a new interview with PEOPLE, Lucy and Desi’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz, shared details of the final conversation between her parents before her dad’s death of lung cancer on December 2, 1986, at the age of 69.

“I could hear her say, ‘I love you.’ She said it five times in a row. And he was nodding and saying, ‘I love you too, honey,'” recalled Lucie. “He died in my arms. None of us realized it at the time, but the day they last spoke was Nov. 30, their wedding anniversary.”

Both Lucy and Desi married other spouses after their divorce, but the couple maintained a friendship that only grew stronger in the final years of Desi’s life. It’s reported that after Arnaz was diagnosed with lung cancer, Lucy visited him and the two watched “I Love Lucy,” the show that made them both household names, together.

My mother and my father stayed good friends after the divorce,” Lucie recalled. “It took a few years to calm down, but they stayed friends ’till the bitter end. And that was good for the kids.”

Lucy’s good friend, Lillian Briggs Winograd, recalled Lucy breaking down after her final visit with Desi.

“Desi was the love of Lucy’s life. It was romantic, passionate, everything you could imagine in a love affair, and she was deeply hurt by what happened,” she told PEOPLE.

Three years after Desi Arnaz’s death, Lucille Ball passed away of cardiac arrest at the age of 77. Her husband, Gary Morton, reportedly acknowledged his wife’s love for Arnaz after her death, saying: “I guess he’s happy now; she’s with Desi.”

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