Loss

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In a time of global pandemic, many people are thinking about the Coronavirus, and the impact it is having on all our lives. Of course, there have been a number of pandemics in years past, such as the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, that killed 50,000,000 worldwide. The pandemic was active from January 1918 to December 1920. So little was known then about how to protect ourselves from these things, or even what a virus was. We learned from that pandemic and others as the years went on.

One such epidemic was the Polio Epidemic in the United States, the 1952 epidemic was the worst outbreak in the nation’s history. It is credited with heightening parents’ fears of the disease and focusing public awareness on the need for a vaccine. Of the 57,628 cases reported that year 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis. Finally, on March 26, 1953, American medical researcher Dr Jonas Salk announced on a national radio show that he has successfully tested a vaccine against poliomyelitis, which is the virus that causes the crippling disease of polio. Dr Salk was celebrated as the great doctor-benefactor of his time, for promising eventually to eradicate the disease, which is known as “infant paralysis” because it mainly affects children.

Polio attacks the nervous system and can cause varying degrees of paralysis. The disease affected humanity throughout recorded history, and since the virus is easily transmitted, epidemics were commonplace in the first decades of the 20th century. The summer of 1894 brought the United States first major polio epidemic, beginning in Vermont. By the 20th century thousands were affected every year. In the first decades of the 20th century, treatments were limited to quarantines and the infamous “iron lung,” a metal coffin-like contraption that aided respiration. Although children, and especially infants, were among the worst affected, adults were also commonly afflicted, including future president Franklin D Roosevelt, who in 1921 was stricken with polio at the age of 39 and was left partially paralyzed. Roosevelt later transformed his estate in Warm Springs, Georgia, into a recovery retreat for polio victims and was instrumental in raising funds for polio-related research and the treatment of polio patients.

Salk’s procedure, first attempted unsuccessfully by American Maurice Brodie in the 1930s, was to kill several strains of the virus and then inject the benign viruses into a healthy person’s bloodstream. The person’s immune system would then create antibodies designed to resist future exposure to poliomyelitis. Salk conducted the first human trials on former polio patients, on himself, and his family. By 1953, he was ready to announce his findings. The announcement was made on March 25th, on the CBS national radio network, and two days later in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr Salk became an immediate celebrity.

Clinical trials using the Salk vaccine and a placebo began in 1954 on nearly two million American schoolchildren. It was announced that the vaccine was effective and safe in April 1955, and a nationwide inoculation campaign began. Unfortunately a defective vaccine manufactured at Cutter Laboratories of Berkeley, California, had tragic results in the Western and mid-Western United States, when more than 200,000 people were injected with a defective vaccine, and thousands of polio cases were reported, 200 children were left paralyzed and 10 died.

The ensuing panic delayed production of the vaccine. Still, new polio cases dropped to under 6,000 in 1957, the first year after the vaccine was widely available. So, other than the defective vaccine, maybe it was working. Scientists continued to improve the product, and in 1962, an oral vaccine developed by Polish-American researcher Albert Sabin became available, greatly facilitating distribution of the polio vaccine. These days, polio has been all but wiped out, and there are just a handful of polio cases in the United States every year. Most of these are “imported” by Americans from developing nations where polio is still a problem. Jonas Salk was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, among other honors. He died in La Jolla, California, in 1995.

Today would have been my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg’s 89th birthday, but she went home to Heaven just over two years ago. She was born second of her parents’ 4 children. Her older brother Everett Knox passed away shortly after birth, due to a complicated birth, and the lack of medical assistance. The baby should have been taken by Caesarian section, but he was born at home and the doctor did not think the C-section was necessary…sadly. When grandma, Nettie Knox found out that she was pregnant again, she made up her mind not to take any chances with this Rainbow Baby. Grandma decided that she would go stay in the hospital for the last month of her pregnancy, until her baby arrived. She paid $5.00 a day for the privilege, and she would stay there for 40 days by the time her baby, my future mother-in-law was born.

I’m sure lots of people though her solution was extreme, but she did what she felt was prudent for the times. She never wanted to deliver another baby, so far from emergency medical services. As it turned out, her three daughters were born without incident. Nevertheless, her daughters were all born in a hospital. She wasn’t taking any chances.

My mother-in-law may not have had a rough beginning, but she would, nevertheless, remain an only child almost 15 years, before her sister, Linda joined the family. Margee would follow just over two years later. Many things have changed in the years since my mother-in-law was born. Home births have become less common, but they are making a comeback these days. Babies dying in childbirth are more rare now, but it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. I think that if all that happened to Grandma Knox today, she would still react to it in the same way as she did then. Today would have been my mother-in-law’s 89th birthday. I’m thankful that she lived all those years ago, because if she hadn’t, my life would have been much different. Happy birthday in Heaven, Mom. We love and miss you very much.

Five years is such a long time, and yet such a short time. I simply can’t believe that my mom has been in Heaven that long. The day she left us is still vivid in my memory files. It is a picture I will never get out of my head. There are a few scenes in my head that are that way. I try not to focus on them. They don’t need to be re-run to keep their memory alive. I try to focus on the happier past…the memories of the good times with my mom.

Collene Spencer was a bit of a shy girl, but she knew a good looking man when she saw one. For her, falling in love with my dad was like breathing…and she never looked back. Mom didn’t really like school, so that was not something that had any hold on her. She wanted to be married and have a family. I don’t really know if that had been her dream, before she met my dad, but it certainly was after that meeting. Their honeymoon was a move East to Superior, Wisconsin where Dad’s family was from and still lived. Mom’s family liked the idea too, because it gave them someplace to go visit. It was a beautiful place to visit too, so that was a plus. While mom eventually wanted to and did move back, her family wished she had stayed, so they could justify more visits.

After having their first two daughters, Cheryl Masterson, and me in Superior, Mom and Dad had the rest, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock here in Casper, Wyoming, where Mom’s family mostly lives. I have always thought we were very blessed to have so much family around us. That has never really been made so clear as when we became orphans. That’s when family really means a lot. My sisters, and our families first and foremost, of course, but aunts, uncles, and especially cousins have stepped in too…making us feel loved and comforted. I will always miss my parents…until the day I join them in Heaven. They taught us so many things, and it is because of their upbringing that we are the women we are today. The best we can do is make them proud of the people their children have become. I can’t believe that my mom has been in Heaven for five long years now. It seems an impossible number of years. While it seems just seconds ago to those who are there, mostly because that’s how eternity works, for the rest of us, the days feel much longer. We love and miss you Mom, and we can’t wait to see you again.

My Uncle Jack McDaniels was such a fun man. He was a jokester at heart, and he loved spending time with his family. On of the things he was very interested in was history. He loved to share that with his kids and even had a number of history books that reflected the stories he shared. I wish many of us had known about his knowledge of Casper history.

Uncle Jack and Aunt Bonnie had a beautiful place east of Casper, along the Platte River. There they raised their kids, Cindy and Michael. Uncle Jack loved tp teach Michael about cars and car racing. The two of them spent many hours tinkering on cars in the garage. It’s a great pastime for a father and son.

Uncle Jack loved the outdoors, and all outdoor sports. He loved to go hunting and fishing, as well as taking his family camping. That seemed to be a common thing among the men in our family. I’m sure that is why Uncle Jack fit in so well in our family. All of the aunts and uncles loved Uncle Jack. I can see why, because all of his nieces and nephews loved him too. He was sweet and funny, with a great sense of humor. My husband, Bob and I usually ran into Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Jack at the normal weekly hangout…Walmart. That seems to be the place we see most of our friends and family. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up and start adulting. A “date” is the weekly trip to the grocery store. I miss those times. I always looked forward to them. Today would have been my Uncle Jack’s 82nd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Jack. We love and miss you very much.

My grand-nephew, Jake Harman has always held a special place in my heart, probably because he was my first grand nephew…the first of this new generation. He has also, always made sure that I know that he loves me, his great aunt. Not every kid is the demonstrative type, but Jake always gives me a big hug, tells me he loves me, and even calls me beautiful. Now that’s a kid after my own heart…or maybe he is just a flatterer at heart. I like to think the former.

Jake is a grown man now, and has a family of his own. He has a bonus daughter named Alice, who loves him very much. He also has a daughter named Izabella, and a son named Jaxx. He and his wife, Melanie are very happy together, and life is good for them. Jake works hard to support his family, and they all love him very much. Of course, the fact that Jake is definitely a kid at heart, makes him the perfect guy to entertain the kids. From “attacking” Alice, with the help of Jaxx, to chasing the kids around the yard, Jake is up for it. He doesn’t mind getting goofy with them, and it shows in how the kids interact with their dad. The really cool thing is the memories the kids will have of their dad playing with them. So often, parents are too busy to play with the kids, and yet, it is so important. Jake grows more and more in love with his wife and kids everyday.

Jake spent a number of years working for FedEx, but now he is driving a bus for the school district. With Jake’s love of kids, and his easy way with them, he has the perfect personality for a bus driver. Jake is also the youth group leader at his church, and it is a calling that has been just wonderful for him. His walk with the Lord has grown by leaps and bounds. He also gets to go on outings with the youth, and they always have a wonderful time. Working in the church, and walking with the Lord has given Jake the ability to be an important support person for those who are hurting, most importantly right now, his sister, Siara and her husband Nick Olsen, who recently lost their son, Alec. Jake and Siara were always very close, and this loss has been heartbreaking. He is also trying to be a strong support for his mom, Chantel Balcerzak, and dad, Dave, who are hurting equally badly. It hasn’t been the happiest time leading up to his birthday, but I believe that God will strengthen and comfort them all. Today is Jake’s birthday. Happy birthday Jake!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Jenny Spethman has had a normal, average life by most standards. She has been a stay-at-home mom for much of her marriage, and has just recently started a part-time job at a law firm here in Casper, where she is a runner for the attorneys and legal staff there. This is an exciting time for Jenny. As any stay-at-home mom knows, being around kids for hours and hours every day, can bring a parent to the point of just wanting another adult to talk to. It wasn’t about the money really, although that comes in handy too. It was about doing something useful now that her children are in school…something new and interesting. I think that her new job is perfect for her, because there are so many new things to do, interesting people to be around, and legal procedures to learn.

Jenny’s exciting new job is something to celebrate, but there is so much more to Jenny. She is one of the strongest people I know. Jenny’s life hasn’t been perfect. She and her husband, Steve lost their daughter, Laila in 2010, and then gathered their strength and tried again, having their 5th child, Aleesia just 9 months later. After having three sons, they had wanted a daughter, and that made Laila’s passing more devastating. Nevertheless, they now have their rainbow baby in the form of daughter, Aleesia. Having another child after loss is a show of strength in itself, but that is not the only way that Jenny’s inner strength presents itself.

Jenny is a strong student of the Bible. She listens to God’s leading and receives revelations knowledge on so many matters of importance. Jenny is an early-riser, and loves to spend the early morning hours in Bible reading and Christian meditation on the Word. Her focus gives her strength on a daily basis. Jenny and Steve are united in their faith, and have learned to lean on God in all situations. Even with all they have gone through, it is often Jenny who is there to lift up others who are struggling, grieving, or just unsure what to do. We are all very proud of her strong, supportive ways, and we all count on her often. Today is Jenny’s birthday. Happy birthday Jenny!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

It is with great sadness that our family heard the news yesterday about our cousin, Larry Hein’s passing. Larry was the oldest child of my husband, Bob’s Uncle Eddie and Aunt Pearl Hein. Eddie passed away just three month and two weeks ago. Larry is dad to Dalton and Destiny, brother to Kim Arani, and brother-in-law to Mike Arani. It has been a rough few months for this family. My heart just aches for all of them.

Larry was born and raised in Forsyth, and never really thought about going anywhere else. I remember on the visits my husband, Bob and our family took to visit our Forsyth family, Larry loved spending time with his cousins. Grandma and Grandpa Hein has a ranch north of Forsyth, and the grandkids all loved to go out and play. There were three of the younger grandkids, Larry, Scott, and Kim Hein, and they spent as much time at their grandparents’ house as they could. It’s the normal way of kids, isn’t it. Whenever we went to visit, my kids couldn’t wait to play with their cousins. Even though Larry, Scott, and Kim were older than my girls, Corrie and Amy, they all played the kinds of games the younger kids wanted to play, and I always found that a sweet thing for those kids to do. I miss those days.

Larry was a mechanic in Forsyth, Montana, where he owned Hein Repair for a number of years now. He worked on just about anything that needed repair. He was a great dad, brother, and son. He was an asset to his community, and well liked by all who knew him. Yesterday, a heart attack took Larry from all those who loved him, and left an empty place in all our hearts. We are all now left to pick up the pieces of yet another heartbreaking loss in the family. My thoughts go out to this precious family. I am praying for comfort for all of them as they grieve this new loss and comfort each other on this sad time. Rest in peace Larry until we all meet again. We love and miss you very much.

Alec Todd Olsen came into our lives just under three months ago. Hardly enough time to really get to know him, but in the short little bit of time that he was with us, he snuggled his way deep into our hearts. His darling face, and his sweet smile captivated all of us. Alec was the first child of my grand-niece, Siara Olsen and her husband, Nick. He was long awaited and very loved. He was, as his mommy called him, a sweet little ray of sunshine, and everyone who met him would agree.

There was no doubt…Alec was a happy baby. He loved to smile at people, especially his parents, and to see people smile back at him. He was really starting to notice things going on around him, but his favorite thing to do was to snuggle with his parents…and usually fall fast asleep. Nevertheless, the ray of sunshine still radiated from little Alec.

Alec left us to go to Heaven on January 25th, when his little body could no longer fight RSV. It was a heartbreaking day for all of Alec’s family. When I visited his parents yesterday, was reminded of other parents who had lost children. The only way to put the look…is a parent’s heart and empty arms. It should never happen to any parent. Our kids are supposed to outlive us. There is no greater pain that anyone can go through, and my heart aches for these precious parents.

Of course, we know that Alec is in Heaven now, safe and healthy…and most of all happy. He would want his parents to know that they needn’t worry…if he could talk to them. And they know that too, but it is so hard to be the ones left behind to pick up the pieces. The pain will never leave. Anyone who has experienced loss knows that, and the reality is that you don’t get over this. Those of us, who love Siara and Nick, can only be there to support them, hold them while they cry, and just let them show us what they need, which they might not even know yet. You never get over this, you can only get on with it…life. Alec can’t come back, and we can’t go to him…yet, but he will be waiting when we can. Rest now sweet little Alec Todd Olsen, and know that we love and miss you very much, and we cant wait to see you again in Heaven. Siara and Nick, we will be here for you…whatever and whenever you need.

William Beadle became my uncle when he married my Aunt Virginia (Byer) Beadle 52 years ago. He always loved to tease the kids, a trait that endeared him to his family too. He was never happier than when he was teasing one of the little ones and making them smile and laugh. I think every one of his nieces and nephews remembers that the most about him. He had a sparkle in his eye, and you knew that the jokes and teasing would follow. At family functions, he could be found sitting at the edge of the crowd, with a grin on his face and twinkle in his eye. He loved it when the kids came to give him a hug and look for one of his many jokes to get them laughing. Family gatherings always seemed more for the adults. The kids needed something fun and funny to make the day fun for them too. Uncle Bill, along with the other uncles provided that funny part, because the aunts were busy getting the meal on the table.

Uncle Bill was born in Worland, Wyoming to William and Bertha Beadle, and he never really left the Wyoming area, except to travel maybe. Wyoming suited him. He loved to fish and hunt, and there are few places that are better for that than Wyoming. I think he was a true “Wyoming Westerner” from way back. He loved watching westerns, and I’m sure that he could envision himself right there in the thick of the story. He brought his kids up to love Wyoming too, and they still live here to this day. Uncle Bill and Aunt Virginia taught them how to see the best in their great state.

In the later years, we didn’t see Uncle Bill as much. His memory wasn’t good, and it was difficult for him with big family gatherings. I always missed seeing him there, and at first I wasn’t even sure why he wasn’t there. I didn’t know much about memory loss then. I know a lot more now. It is difficult for the person who can’t remember who these people are, where they are, or even why they are there. That thought makes me sad for Uncle Bill, who had always been the jokester at these gatherings. Today would have been Uncle Bill’s 91st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Bill. We love and miss you very much.

It seems impossible to me that my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg could be gone now for two years. She was such a fighter, when it came to her health. There were a number of times that we thought we had lost her, but she always bounced back…until she didn’t. The end of her days had come, and with it, there were no parents in our lives again. My parents, Al and Collene Spencer and my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg were gone, and now my mother-in-law had joined them in Heaven. It felt empty here on earth. The loss hit hard with each of my four parents, but with my mother-in-law, there was also the finality of it. We had no more parents. We, their children, are the matriarchs and patriarchs of our families now, but it feels like we are orphans. The knowledge that you have no parents, really brings that orphaned feeling home.

My mother-in-law, was a homemaker for most of her life, and very skilled in things like cooking, sewing, knitting, crocheting, and canning. These were things she passed down to her daughters, and to me. Of course, my own mother taught me part of these things too, but we didn’t can often, other than making jelly, and the things my mother-in-law cooked were different from my own mom, so that added variety to my abilities. My mother-in-law, was probably best known for her sewing, knitting, and crocheting. She sold many of her crafts at craft fairs over the years, adding to the family budget and to her craft budget as well. She also loved to bake, and her “Murder Cake” was a family favorite.

My in-laws lived in the country for most of the time I knew them, but they moved to town in the last years of their lives. While she preferred the quiet of the country, my mother-in-law did enjoy watching all the activity that took place near their home at the corner of two busy streets in In her later years, my mother-in-law developed Alzheimer’s Disease. Casper. After she had to be moved to Shepherd of the Valley nursing home, she enjoyed the activity there, especially at the nurses station, because she was a “people watcher” all her life. She liked to see what everyone around her was up to, and figure it all out, even wondering why they spoke to the people they did, or did the things they did. I was glad that her curiosity never left her. It made her time in the nursing home must more interesting. Finally, on January 4, 2018, she lost her health battle. Like most Alzheimer’s patients, it was not the disease that took her, but rather that her kidneys gave out. She passed peacefully that evening, after having her family around her earlier in the day. She simply went to sleep, and went home. While we were so sorry to see her go, we knew she was tired of fighting. We love and miss her very much.

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