Loss

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My grandma, Hattie Byer was the only grandmother I had while growing up, because my dad’s parents passed before and shortly after I was born. Grandma was a multi-faceted person, probably by necessity. She and my grandpa, George Byer had nine children…seven girls and two boys. As a stay-at-home mom, grandma was the main disciplinarian in the family. Grandpa worked long hours, and while he could discipline the kids, he truly had a soft heart, and I think it pained him when he had to impose discipline on his kids. I think that happens a lot. In my family, I was the disciplinarian too. My mom, Collene Spencer has told me of some of the times she got on the wrong side of her mother, with negative consequences. Lets just say that when your brother is getting in trouble, you best stay out of it, because sassing your mom is never a good idea.

Grandma was also the family chef. She made the best of so many dishes. Her Potato Pancakes have never been beaten, and yes, I’m biased, but so is every other person who has ever had them. Her Potato Milk Soup was heavenly, and her Oyster Stew was loved by many. Of course, it was my grandmother’s good cooking that created all the good cooks in the family. She taught her girls, and her boys too, to cook and they were and are still very good cooks. They don’t make exotic dishes, they make good old fashioned “Comfort Food,” and nobody makes it better than they do. Grandma could make a great mean out of almost nothing, and during the Great Depression, that is just what she did, as many a hungry guest can attest. Grandma always had extras at the table in those years. People instinctively knew where they could go to be welcomed to dine at a moment’s notice. None were turned away, and all ate to their fill.

My grandmother was a woman of small stature, just 5′ in her tall days. I’m not sure where her height came from, because her sisters were certainly much taller than the was. Since I have no idea how tall her mother, or grandmothers were, I guess it might be quite normal for her to be short. Still I have often wondered how she
ended up so short. By the time I really gave much thought to her height, she had shrunk some, and probably stood 4’10” tall…or short, as it were. She didn’t need to be real tall to catch Grandpa’s eye, however. He was in love almost immediately. Grandpa stood over 6′ tall, so there was quite a contrast there, but they always made a sweet couple, and Grandpa was always proud of his beautiful wife. Grandma was a multi-faceted person, who could handle many things, and we have all always been very proud of her too. Today would have been Grandma Byer’s 112th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Grandma. I know you and Grandpa are having a wonderful celebration. We love and miss you very much.

Some birthdays are different beyond anything we could have ever imagined. That is the kind of birthday my brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg is having this year. Never in a million years did he expect to be a widower at the age of 53, but that is exactly where he finds himself, and his 13 year old son, Tucker, who also lost his mom. While Ron’s current situation is devastating, I am very proud of how he is handling it and the sadness that comes and go with both Ron and Tucker. While this year started it in the worst possible way, I pray that the rest of the year will get better. I know that his wife, Rachel would want Ron and Tucker, as well as her other children, Cassie and Riley, to be happy in life…as hard as that seems right now.

With Rachel’s passing came other changes for Ron. He had always worked nights, but with a 13 year old at home, he needed to change that to days, so that is what he did. It is a big change for him. He preferred the night shift, but it was important for Tucker, and that is all that matters now. Another change is that Ron is now the “Chief cook and bottle washer,” so to speak. He can cook, but Rachel was a phenomenal cook…a hard act to follow. I believe that Ron with find his own rhythm and cooking style. Tucker likes most of what he cooks now, and they will find things together that they like. Who knows, maybe Tucker will find some good recipes too.

We are all so thankful that Tucker has his dad, who adopted him on June 27, 2019. Tucker is not alone now. He has his dad to help him get through such a sad time in his life. And Tucker is helping his dad too. They depend on each other now, and work together to get through this. When I think of the terrible loneliness that happens after such a loss, it tears at my heart that these guys are going through it I know that in time, there will be less pain, but right now, it is so strong and we have no way to ease their pain. The future will be different than they every planned for it to be, but they will get through it and we as a family will help them to get through it. Today is the first birthday Ron has had without Rachel in ten years, and that will make it a hard day, but I pray that he knows how much Rachel loved him, and that she wants the best for him and her children. She is in Heaven now, but her memory will always live on in our spirits. I pray that Ron can find some measure of happiness today too. Today is Ron’s birthday. Happy birthday Ron!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

With each passing year, I find myself more and more amazed that my mom, Collene Spencer could be in Heaven for six years now. For those of us who miss her very much, that thought feels sad, but for my mom, who loved the Lord so much and was excited to see Heaven, these have been wonderful years, that seemed like seconds, I’m sure. Each day for her is now spent in rejoicing, because that was always what my mom wanted. She never desired anything more than to worship God and bask in His presence. Like one of the songs we used at her funeral, and those of many others now, tells us, “We can only imagine what it will be like!!”

Mom enjoyed many things in her lifetime. She liked to travel, go camping, celebrate the holidays, and spend time with family, but more than anything, my mom loved to spend time in the Word. We bought he a Kindle when they first came out, and loaded it with Christian books and the Bible. It made it so much easier for her to read, because it was so light and easy to hold. She had dozens of books at her disposal, and she loved that. She spent her days reading and communing with God while her family was all at work. Anyone who knew her will tell you that my mom was “All about bringing others to the Lord.” She loved people, and didn’t want anyone to be lost, but she really wanted people to know how much God loves them. She never stopped telling others about God’s love for them, and that is to her credit. I can’t begin to count the number of people she led to the Lord in her lifetime.

Of the things on this Earth, the most important to mom was her family. She treasured each and every new baby that was added to her lineage, and I know she can’t wait to meet the ones who have arrived after her homegoing. She also treasured the new spouses and partners. There was a special place in her heart for each of these new additions. When someone loves one of her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and beyond, that makes them awesome in Mom’s eyes…and that makes them as much hers as if she had given birth to them. There was always room in Mom’s heart for more loved ones. She loved watching her family grow with each new addition. She considered each one perfect. It s such a wonderful way to look at people, and one we should all incorporate into our own lives. When I think of the life lessons my mom gave us, these things are among the greatest. As I look forward to my own homegoing someday, I can only imagine just how wonderful it will be, and as I continue my life on Earth, it is my desire to live my life in such a way as to make my mom and my dad proud of the child they raised, and the woman I have become. I miss my mom very much, and I am forever grateful for the life she and my dad gave me. Happy 6th anniversary of your homegoing, Mom. We love and miss you very much and can’t wait to see you again.

Let’s face it. This past year has been…the worst. The closures, job losses, and personal losses; many of which are still going on a year later, have made us all edgy, irritable, and even depressed. Many people are still in a place where social distancing is the norm. For my family, Thanksgiving was cancelled, because my husband, Bob and I had Covid-19. Then Christmas was delayed 24 days, because my daughter, Corrie Petersen and her husband Kevin had Covid-19. Kevin got it the worst, as his system is compromised, but after a week in the hospital, he is home and doing very well. We lost out on so much in 2020, and now we are back to almost normal.

Valentine’s Day is a little bit different holiday, since it is mostly about couples, but since Bob and I prefer not to go to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day, because of the crowds, we are going to be staying home, but its not going to be just us. This year, our family is a little bit battered, because we have lost one of the members of the couples…my sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg. That leaves her husband, my brother-in-law, Ron and their son, Tucker in a very different place than they expected. We decided to ease them into the coming year, that will be inevitably hard, by having a small group Valentine’s Day gathering. There will be five of us, Bob, Ron, Tucker, my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg, and me. Unfortunately, it will be a sad time, because Rachel won’t be with us, but the reality is that it’s about love, and we love Ron and Tucker. We want to help them move forward, and I know that Rachel would be pleased that her guys aren’t alone on this difficult day. We aren’t the only family that is living with battle scars. There are so many families that have lost someone or have someone in the hospital. There are many people who cannot be with their loved ones today. Some have to work, and some live far away too. There are some in my family in that place, and while that feels sad for some of us, they are in the place they need to be.

Today is not supposed to be a sad day, but sometimes that is just the way it is. Nevertheless, we also have reasons to be happy. Family, friends, hope, and love, are all a part of our futures now too. Rachel is in Heaven, but she, along with all of our other loved ones are happy, and they are in our future now. This is a day to rejoice too. There are blessings that come with this day. Wedding anniversaries, like that of my niece Lindsay Moore and her husband Shannon, who’s daughter Hallie was born and went to Heaven on December 19, 2020 can be sad, but they are still celebrating, because they have been together for 7 years now and they will see Hallie Joy again soon. She lives in their future now, not their past. It’s about love, and Hallie would want them to go forward. For me, the main this is that we never forget those we love.

Of course, many of us celebrate this day because we love our own sweethearts. We are all blessed with loved ones, partners, spouses, or other family members. There is really no greater emotion than love. I don’t know how any of us would survive without it. This world can be cruel, and it is love that balances it out for us. So today, we celebrate, even if life has left us a little sad. Because, it is really all about love.

My husband’s grandmother, Vina Hein was an amazing woman. We always loved going up to visit her and Grandpa Hein. They lived on a ranch outside of Forsyth, Montana, and that place will forever live in my memory files. I can see every part of the house and the different things we did there. I remember all the nights of playing cards. We always played “Spades” and Grandma always had a funny saying when she looked at her hand and it wasn’t a good one. She would tell us that she had “a hand like a foot!!” We often looked through all the old photo albums too. Those pictures are great treasures, and I feel privileged to have been able to look through them. They were pure family history. Going to see Grandma and Grandpa Hein was such a blessing, and one I will always cherish.

Grandma Hein was born on Groundhog’s Day, a fact that she enjoyed very much. It seems that finding out if spring would come early each year was something special. Of course, the biggest problem with that is that all too often Punxsutawney Phil was, and still is, very wrong. I have given up on that silly ground hog!! Even with this morning’s prediction that we will have 6 more weeks of Winter, it would be just a coincidence if that is the way it went, because that silly ground hog gets it wrong 99% of the time. Still, for Grandma, it was cool to have that birthday. I guess that when you think about it, at least you were on the downhill side of the Winter, so spring was coming.

I think Grandma was like me, in that Winter was her least favorite season. Living in the country is more work anyway, and the Winter weather makes it worse. Montana winters are notoriously bitter, so I can see why she would rather have any other season. Grandma wasn’t one to have lots of flowers in the house, that I recall, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t grow a garden, because she certainly could. She canned vegetables and made jellies and apple butter. She also made wonderful strawberry-rhubarb pie. there was also always plant of fresh real cream on her table from the cows they milked. You haven’t tasted cream, until you have had it fresh, without all the processing. Oh my!! It is so good. I will never forget the trips we took to see Grandma and Grandpa Hein. I will always have those cherished memories. Today would have been Grandma Hein’s 112th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Grandma Hein. We love and miss you very much.

Anyone who knows anything about the space program, knows about the disasters that have come out of it…or at least some of them. One of those disasters, the breakup of Space Shuttle Columbia, happened 18 years ago today, February 1, 2003. The breakup upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere took the lives of all seven astronauts on board, in a way that we can only imagine as horrific. The best we can hope for following the tragedy is that the astronauts were killed instantly, so they did not suffer in what followed the breakup. It was a horrible day for the United States, and for NASA, but what followed that terrible disaster was a truly remarkable phenomena.

It is tragedies like the Space Shuttle Columba that bring out the true American spirit. Feelings are set aside, and you suddenly see people hugging each other to comfort them. Columbia broke up in the skies of East Texas on its way back home to Kennedy Space Center. Almost immediately after losing the craft, the NASA world and many others, converged on the small town of Hemphill, Texas. Everyone wanted to help, and many who were not called into service, volunteered. The Space Program had become so commonplace and so routine that such an event came as a horrible shock to this nation and to the world. Suddenly we were glued to our television sets or radios, waiting for news, hoping against hope that there might be survivors, but knowing that it was clearly not possible.

It wasn’t just the NASA teams who showed up for this tragic event. Restaurants gave free meals to the workers. People reported anything they found so it could be documented and processed. The townspeople were there to offer comfort to those in need, because lets face it, these astronauts were members of the NASA family, and NASA (as well as the rest of the nation) was in mourning. As time went on, more and more searchers converged on Hemphill and the surrounding area. The local heroes continued to step up, giving any kind of support needed. This might seem like a small feat to some people, but this search went on for three months. That is a long time to care for so many in such a small town, but it was desperately needed, and gratefully received. After a long, drawn-out search, the teams had found all the seemed to be going to find, and almost as quickly as they had arrived, the teams were gone, and the small town of Hemphill, Texas was quiet again, but it would never be the same again. Three months in 2003 had changed it forever. The people who lived there in that time will never forget what they did back then, and we will never forget what they did. It was an awesome feat of kindness and love for our fellow man.

My husband’s uncle, Bobby Cole was a man who liked things to run on a slow, easy pace. That might be why he and his family moved the the dinky town of Kennebec, South Dakota. Bobby’s family was from that area, so it was an area he was comfortable with, and his family all agreed that it felt like home. Growing up in central South Dakota, Bobby liked the country lifestyle, and never really wanted to be anywhere else, even though they moved to Winnemucca, Nevada after a lightning fire destroyed their hotel, taking with it their income. That was a tough time for them. They had a life in Kennebec. They square danced, and socialized with friends. Nevertheless, they made the move to Winnemucca and settled into the area.

Both Bobby and Linda got jobs at the local casinos, and found that they enjoyed their lives there. Winnemucca was a very different place than Kennebec, but they liked the new social side of it. There was always new people to see and meet, and the gambling was fun for them. Like most people, they probably gambled more at first, but after a while, it becomes a normal part of life, and you end up doing it less. For most people, gambling…giving your money away to the casinos gets old, and you do it much less. Whenever we visited, they might play Keno a couple of times, but they would rather be at their house outside of town, visiting with us than hanging out in the casinos.

Bobby and Linda were always fun people to be around, and we enjoyed the visits we made to their home both in Kennebec and Winnemucca. I’m so glad that we took the time to really get to know Bobby, Linda, and their kids, Sheila and Pat. We always felt like we had been a blessing to them, as they were to us. All too soon, Bobby left us, following a courageous battle with cancer on May 30, 2014, while seeking treatment in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Today would have been Bobby’s 78th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Bobby. We love and miss you very much.

My dear uncle, Bill Spencer, who left us on Christmas day, 2020, was such a favorite of mine. We were a lot alike, and we had many of the same interests. It was Uncle Bill who taught me to play cribbage, but was never one to let me win. I learned to play well, and when I won…I knew I had really won. Back when you could get away with letting your kid drive on your lap, or even themselves with you in the car, well before they were of an age to get a permit, he let me drive to their cabin when we visited. Even my dad was ok with it, so I drove the three of us for quite a while. As a mom, when my kids needed family history information, I knew that my Uncle Bill was the guy to go to. He was the family historian from the time he was eight years old, and I quickly became as obsessed as he was. Uncle Bill did his research the old fashioned was, by making trips to different places to look in cemeteries, county and state records offices, and libraries. It was much harder work back then, and those of us who have been the beneficiaries of Uncle Bill’s hard work, can say that he has done a great work.

Uncle Bill is my dad, Allen Spencer’s older brother. Uncle Bill was ten years younger than his sister, Laura Fredrick, and three years older than his younger sister, Ruth Wolfe. The two boys were in the middle. The family lived many years in Holyoke, Minnesota, and ran a farm there. Uncle Bill, being the oldest son, played a big part in the farming. He, along with mostly my dad and Aunt Ruth helped with haying, and growing the the gardens. Their dad worked for the railroad, and so the farm was largely left to my grandmother, Anna Spencer, and the kids. My Aunt Laura was married during a good part of the younger children’s growing up years. Nevertheless, Uncle Bill and Aunt Laura were very close during his childhood years when their mother was working and Aunt Laura took care of him. They grew to have a close friendship, as well as being siblings.

As they grew older, Uncle Bill and my dad were the definitely the boys of the family. They loved getting into all kinds of trouble. The jumped on the moving trains, even though they had a pass to ride. They played with dynamite, even sinking the gatepost couple of inches. They also loved to go fishing, and often brought home a good catch, which all the family got to enjoy. Even though they were typical boys, I guess they weren’t all bad. I’m sure that when Uncle Bill got to Heaven a little less than a month ago, there was a wonderful reunion between the brothers, as they rest of their family too. It makes me sad to know that all of the siblings are gone to Heaven now, but only for myself and those of us left here. For the siblings it a big celebration. They are all together again. Today would have been Uncle Bill’s 99th birthday…and his first birthday in Heaven. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Bill. We love and miss you very much.

The loss of a loved one, at any age is terribly hard, but when the loved one is only 45 years old, it is even harder. My sister-in-law, Rachel (Franklin) Schulenberg was a sweet, kind, and compassionate woman, who was loved by all who knew her. She married my brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg on June 12, 2010. Rachel was the love of Ron’s life, and she brought with her the family he didn’t have. Rachel’s daughter, Cassie Iverson had married the week before Rachel and Ron, and she and her husband, Chris would remain in Powell to raise their family, as the children Lucas and Zoey came along. Rachel and her sons, Riley and Tucker, moved to Casper where Ron lived. Rachel and Ron met through her best friend, and his niece, Machelle Moore. It was a match made in Heaven and their wedding was the greatest moment of their lives. Another of the greatest moments of their lives, was when Ron adopted her youngest son, Tucker. The other two children were grown, and Tucker’s dad was unable to be a dad to him, and gave up his rights. Tucker became Tucker Schulenberg, and it was a day of celebration for the whole family.

Rachel was a great mom. She wanted nothing more than to see her kids live out their dreams. She was their biggest cheerleader, and also their greatest comfort. She was there for them, no matter how good things were, or how bad things were. Rachel knew that life happens and everyone makes mistakes, but that never changed the way she felt about the people she loved. She was the kind of person who was there to help them pick up the pieces and make the future better. She was also there to rejoice with them when things were great. Rachel was became a grandmother in 2011 and again in 2015, and those were two of the greatest moments of her life. Her grandchildren, Lucas and Zoey made her life complete. Of course, she always wished they lived a little closer, because she didn’t get to see them as much as she would like, but she saw them as much as she could.

Rachel worked at Walmart for the past year and a half, and she was such a blessing there for coworkers and customers alike. My grandson, Chris Petersen and his fiancée, Karen had the great blessing of seeing her there whenever they shopped for groceries. Rachel was quick to help them with anything they needed, and just to visit with them for a few minutes. She would even step away from her breaks, giving up her breaktime to spend a few minutes with them. It was something that very much endeared Rachel to both of them and to their children. She was their aunt, but she was also their friend. I know many other friends, family members, and customers have the same stories of Rachel’s kindness, helpfulness, and her great smile of greeting.

Rachel was Ron’s other half. She completed him, and gave him the happiest ten years of his entire life. Their marriage on June 12, 2010 filled all of us with gladness, because Ron had found his soulmate…and so had Rachel. They were perfect for each other. Their lives had purpose and most of all love. All too soon, their plans to grow old together were taken from them when Rachel was suddenly taken home to Heaven on January 19, 2021. It was far too soon, as passings are. We will all miss her terribly, and we look forward to seeing her in Heaven when we are reunited there. Rest in peace dear sister. We love and miss you very much.

As years go, 2020 was one of the worst. We had to face so much loss, some was from Covid and some was not from Covid. I don’t think I have ever attended so many funerals as I did in 2020. The funerals were all beautiful, but it’s the pictures of sadness the never fade from my mind. And it’s not just the funerals from 2020 that were filled with sad faces, but every funeral I’ve ever been to.

I suppose it is because of the compassion I feel for the family of the one who has left us. Their family is feeling such pain, that their faces have completely changed. Grief does that to a person. It’s like death takes away a layer of innocence…the unfounded belief that our loved one will always be here with us. Those broken hearted faces that cannot hold back the tears. The look of disbelief that tells me that they still can’t wrap their mind around the fact that their loved one is gone. And these are not people without the hope of Heaven, but their loved one is no longer here with them, and that is so hard to bear. We don’t grieve for the one who has gone to Heaven, the grieving is for us…the ones left behind to pick up the pieces of our lives.

My mind’s memory files retain pictures of events, and that can be good or it can be bad. I remember the faces of people who were very happy, and those pictures bring me much joy, but the sad faces, are so hard to get off my mind. Maybe it’s because I have such a hard time wrapping my own mind around the fact that the person is no longer here. When a loved one or friend leaves us for Heaven, we are always unprepared. There is no way to prepare for death, even when the doctors have said it is coming. We always hope against hope that the doctors are wrong, and sometimes they are, but when they are right, we are faced with the finality of it. While the picture of someone’s extreme sadness never fades from my memory files, there is another picture that stays with me. It is the look behind the sad face. The look of a parent who knows that they have other children who need them, so with determination, their face shows that they will continue to make a life for their family. It is look of an adult child who is determined to live the kind of life that will make their departed parent proud. It is the look of a spouse who is determined to carry on as the now widowed parent to the family. Their hearts are broken right now, but with prayer, the love of family, and determination, they will carry on, because they are all overcomers. I can’t say that every grieving face has that same determination, but the ones I know do. Maybe it comes from knowing their loved one is in Heaven…it probably does. It is the hope of the future for them and their families.

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