Loss

There is an old saying by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Into each life a little rain must fall” and when you read those words, you can almost feel the weight of that statement. Thoughts of lost loved ones, ended friendships, or loneliness come into view and almost make you want to look away. But, to look away from those sad moments could be something you do too soon. I don’t mean to make light of the sadness that comes into this life, but after the rain, comes the rainbow, and that is what we can miss out on. Losing a loved one is a sadness that will never go away. Most other sadness is temporary, but life is what we make of it. We have to choose how we are going to handle things.

Sometimes, it seems like we are victims of circumstance, but that is just not the case. Circumstances present themselves in this life, but we do not have to be victims. A victim ultimately is the person who lets the circumstance beat them. I’m not talking about murder victim here, but people who just feel like they can’t catch a break. Sometimes, the sweetest victory comes after the most awful defeat.

When I think of my two nieces and their husband’s who each lost a daughter, and my sister-in-law and her husband, who also lost a daughter. Each couple could have chosen not to try again, but if they had, they each would have missed out on the precious daughter who followed her big sister. It takes great courage to take that next step sometimes, but if you will be brave, and have faith, you will find that there can be a rainbow after the rain.

Sometimes, the circumstance can be the illness of a loved one. Long term caregiving can take a toll of the person or persons who most need to be healthy and strong. Sometimes, it can seem like this will go on forever, and it very well might go on for a long time, but if we don’t lose hope…if we can look beyond the exhaustion, worry, and sadness, we can find that the extra time spent with your cherished loved one, is one of the greatest blessings there is. Don’t give up, because if you continue to strive to do your best, you might find that blessing. If you quit, or never take on the task in the first place, you could miss out on all you could be, and all you could have, because into each life come the rainbows too.

Today, our Princess Laila Elizabeth Spethman would have been 2 years old. She was born on this day in 2010 in Denver, Colorado at Presbyterian St Luke’s Hospital to my niece and nephew, Jenny and Steve Spethman. Her big brothers Xander, Zack, and Isaac waited to welcome their little sister home. But that was not to be.

Laila went home to be with the Lord on November 22, 2010, where she rests in the arms of her Savior, Jesus. In addition to her parents and her brothers, she is survived by grandparents, Cheryl Masterson, Rob Masterson, Marie Spethman, and Steve and Lily Spethman. She is also survived by several great grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who love and miss her very much.

We know we will see you again Princess Laila, when we all join you in Heaven. We know that you are getting to know all those who also wait in Heaven for our coming to join you. We look forward to that wonderful day when we will all be together again for all of eternity. And you can meet your little sister, Aleesia then too. Until then, sweet baby, we wish you Happy Birthday in Heaven!! We all love you Princess Laila Elizabeth Spethman!!

Being widowed is quite likely the most devastating thing that can happen in a married person’s life. The immediate feeling is “how can I go on” or “I don’t want to go on” or something similar, and yet, life does go on, whether we like it or not. The spouse who has gone home wouldn’t want the surviving spouse to quit. They want them to continue to live a full life. They must go one living until their own time comes, but how full that life is…well, that is up to the surviving spouse. I have looked through pictures of my grandmother on trips taken after Grandpa passed away, and while I know that she missed Grandpa terribly, Grandma knew that he would want her to go on living life to the fullest.

In many ways, it reminds me of the latest version of “The Titanic” in which Rose, after losing Jack, went on to do all the things he had inspired her to go out and do. Looking at my grandmother walking along the Gulf of Mexico, or exploring the castles of Ireland, tells a tale of survival. She went on to do some of the things that Grandpa would have been so thrilled to see her do. I have to wonder what was on her mind as she took some of these trips. I suspect that it was somewhat bittersweet, because while it was exciting to see these places, it would have been sad to think that her beloved husband didn’t get to experience it with her. I’m sure she also felt like he was with her in spirit, but that really is not the same.

While the years following being widowed can seem long and lonely, they often aren’t many, and they fly by. My grandmother followed my grandfather to Heaven in 1988, just 8 years after Grandpa went home. I’m sure they are happily discussing her adventures during the time they were apart, and knowing my grandpa, I’m also sure his eyes sparkle when she tells him of that time, although, nothing could possibly compare to what they are experiencing now. In fact, come to think of it, they probably haven’t even given Grandma’s adventures a single thought since she arrived.

The last 2 years or so have been really hard on my niece, Jenny and her husband, Steve. When they found out that their daughter, Laila would be born with a heart defect that would eventually claim her life on November 22, 2010, they were so worried for their first little daughter, and eventually devastated by her loss. It was a really hard time in their lives. They had 3 sons, and their hearts desire was to also have a daughter. They were feeling so empty.  They had a daughter, but not in this world.

That long hard time is in the past now, and people have to move forward in this life. So, believing in God’s love for them, they took a leap of faith and got pregnant again. This pregnancy was to be different. The Ultrasounds they had done, showed a perfect heart in their perfect little girl. They began to plan again….to dream again, and this time, their dream was going to come true. And this little girl was to be due to be delivered by C-section on August 22nd, just a few days before Steve’s birthday. She would be an early birthday present for him.

Little Aleesia Juliette, however, had a different plan. Instead of arriving on the 22nd, she would choose to arrive on the 19th, which also happened to be Steve’s sister, Julie’s birthday. With Aleesia’s birth, healing could truly begin. What a wonderful birthday this one will be for Steve, and for Jenny and the boys, because that little girl they have longed for is finally home and in their arms.

Steve is so much a daddy, and because of that, I know that his heart is so full of joy that it is hard to hold it in. Each of his 5 children are a unique type of joy to him. His family is his life’s blood. They complete him and he completes them. It is so heartwarming to see Steve with his kids. Happy birthday Steve!! I’m so happy for you and Jenny. What a wonderful early birthday present the Lord has given you, and your family. And, the really good news is that you are all home for your birthday, so you can celebrate together. We love you!!

When the Texaco Refinery in Casper closed, my Uncle Larry decided to take the transfer to New Orleans rather than early retirement, which was just a little too far away at the time. I remember thinking that it was very strange to think that my aunt and uncle would be living so far away…because on my mom’s side, they all pretty much lived in Casper, or at least Wyoming. Nevertheless, they took the transfer, and off they went to New Orleans. It all seemed so exotic to me at the time. And I wasn’t sure I liked thinking of them living so far away either.

For Grandma, it did have its good side however. With her son and daughter-in-law living so far away, a trip to see them soon became part of the plan. Having since taken a trip to Louisiana, I can relate to the excitement Grandma must have felt to be taking a trip there. Yes, visiting her son and daughter-in-law was the main reason, but to get to see that area of the country…well, it was definitely a plus. Plans were made to show her the Gulf of Mexico, the Plantations, and, of course, Bourbon Street. Having been on Bourbon Street, I almost cringe at the sights my grandmother saw…I mean, I was shocked, so what did she think. The plantations were amazing, so I’m sure she loved them, and the Gulf…well, it is too amazing for words.

As I was looking at these pictures and remembering my own trip, it almost felt like walking in her shoes for a little while. I could picture what my grandmother was thinking and how she was feeling. It is such a different area of the country, and one that everyone should try to see if they can. It is like stepping back in time. It almost seems like many things don’t change there. I’m glad Grandma got the opportunity to goto the deep South, because sometimes trips like that can be a one of a kind event.

My Uncle Jack went home to be with the Lord yesterday evening. He was a quiet man, with a heart of gold, who made a big impact on those who knew him. There was always such a tenderness about him. He didn’t have it in him to be unkind.

Through the years, I think many of the kids in the family can attest to what a fun guy he was. He loved the kids, especially his grandchildren and his great grandchildren. It seemed like every year when the fair would roll around, we would run into them at the fair with their grandchildren. It was fun time they spent with their grandkids. The kids also spent much time at their grandparent’s house through the years. Even their friends spent time at their house. It was the place to be.

Uncle Jack like to putter around his shop and the land he and Aunt Bonnie owned East of Casper, often taking walks up and down the lane to stay fit, and to spend time in the fresh air, just enjoying the beauty of nature. Uncle Jack was never a man who felt very comfortable all dressed up. That just wasn’t his style, and that’s ok with me. He was perfect just the way he was. He didn’t have to dress up to be special, that came from the inside…from his heart.

Uncle Jack married Aunt Bonnie on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1959, and never a day went by that he didn’t consider himself the luckiest man in the world to have the love of his life by his side. They were forever happy. He supported her in whatever she chose to do. When Aunt Bonnie took up cake decorating, later making the cakes for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary, my 25th wedding anniversary, as well as both my girls’ wedding cakes, Uncle Jack became her main assistant. He was an expert at transporting and setting up those cakes, without one loss that I know of. He did it all in love. Love for the brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, grand nieces, and grand nephews, and countless other people, especially relatives who benefited from his labors.

I hate watching as the generation my Uncle Jack was a part of slipping away from us. With the passing of each one, we lose a little bit more. I makes me so sad. I love you Uncle Jack. I will miss you so much.

The summer of 2012 could very well be known as Wildfire Summer. June has brought record high temperatures and more wildfires than ever before. Colorado Springs lost at least 350 homes in one neighborhood. At least one fire fighting plane has crashed killing most of the people on board. Tens of thousands of acres have been burned. Whole forests and wilderness areas close to being wiped out. It is such an awful situation. Rain seems to only exist in the areas that need it the least…like Florida. Each day I pray for rain for the areas that need it so badly, and for comfort for those who have lost so much.

If the summer of 2012 is Wildfire Summer, then 2009 would have to be known as Pine Beetle Summer. So many trees were lost on mountains, forests, and wilderness areas. As a hiker, the loss felt devastating to me. The beauty of the Black Hills that I love looks so scarred, and it makes me feel so very sad. It is hard to look at the dead trees when we were on the trails, without feeling the loss very deeply. Our annual hike to Harney Peak, though we will not be able to take it this year due to a lack of time to prepare, takes us right through the Black Elk Wilderness Area. I’m told that virtually all the trees in there have been killed by the Pine Beetles, and that makes my stomach churn. It is such a beautiful place…or was. What will it look like the next time I see it.

Then today, when we were on our hike, I saw something that made me realize that all is not lost. There in front of a stand of large trees was a row of smaller trees…the next generation of trees. It occurred to me that every year the pine trees drop their seeds as the pine cones mature. Those seeds fall to the ground, and somehow manage to get started in the process of growing a new tree. As each tree drops hundreds of new seeds every year, and those seeds form hundreds of new trees, the next generation of trees is born.

Looking around, I began to notice several different years of new trees that were different heights now. There were 4 or 5 different years worth of new growth that were visible along the sides of the road and trails. The forests are the same, of course. All around the downed and brown trees there is new growth. Yes it will take years to regrow it all, but it will return. Of that I have no doubt, because I have seen the hope of the next generation.

Father’s Day is always bittersweet for me because my dad lives in Heaven now, but I still have my father-in-law. I miss my dad so much. The great times we had. Dad was such a wonderful dad. He had five daughters and no sons. He was so patient and he knew better than to expect to be on time for anything, because when five daughters were trying to get ready for anything, it would take hours.

My father-in-law is also no stranger to the time daughters can take. He has 4 daughters and 2 sons. I think fathers of daughters have to be a patient breed. Daughters are not only slow to get ready for the day but they are quite often drama queens as we all know. So these men are both very special men.

I can say without hesitation that I have been blessed with two of the most amazing dads that ever lived. And I can also say that I wish I could always have both of them here. That is not to be though because my dad is in Heaven and my father-in-law is getting older too. I know the day will come when they both live in Heaven, but I will try to hold that day off as long as I can.

A dad is someone we seem to take for granted when we are little and then when we are older, we wish we had those days back. Sometimes I wish I could be a kid again, so that I could have all the years back. As you get older and start losing parents, you realize how precious they are. I guess that if we knew how quickly that can happen, we would count each moment as precious.

As I have looked through some old pictures over the past few months, I came across a picture of my cousin Jimmy as a young boy, with his parents, my Aunt Doris and Uncle Bill. I have been thinking about Jimmy quite a bit lately. He was such a funny guy, making all of us laugh at his antics as a child. Sadly, Jimmy’s life was cut short by Mesothelioma on February 1, 2006.

Jimmy was a boy who was full of life, and his life brought laughter to those around him. When my sister’s and I were young, and visiting my Uncle Bills family in Superior, Wisconsin, Jimmy kept things lively with his jokes and his great smile. If there was going to be trouble…and I mean mischief…you can bet Jimmy and his big brother Billy were going to be at the heart of it, with Jimmy usually leading the way.

My Uncle’s family lived just down the street from the funeral home in Superior, and of course, that meant that the Ghost Stories were sure to be a part of our visits. The boys were always trying to scare us girls with their suggestions that the dead might still walk the street, and maybe we should go check it out…right, like I’m going to go down there and have a look at the dead people who might be walking around just looking for some dumb little girl to grab, who was just stupid enough to decide to go into the funeral home…I mean, isn’t that like saying “Hey, ghost…here I am!! Come and get me!!” Yep, that sounds like a great plan to me, right…NOT!!

I remember one other time when my Uncle Bill, Jimmy’s dad had taken us to get ice cream, and apparently there had been spill problems in the past, because Uncle Bill told us kids that if we spilled in his bus/camper, he was going to make us lick it up. It took all of about 2 seconds for Jimmy to manage to spill his ice cream on the floor. He looked up at his dad, very wide eyed, and I’m sure a little queasy in the stomach, probably hoping for mercy or that maybe…just maybe, his dad had bee kidding. Well, no such luck. His dad…towering over little Jimmy, said, “Ok, lick it up.” So, Jimmy got off of his chair and started to get down on his knees, gulping, I’m quite sure, and got ready to lick it up, when my Uncle Bill boomed out, “Don’t lick it up…I was just kidding!!” Well, I don’t have to tell you how relieved Jimmy was, and before you knew it, that winning little smile was back on his face.

While I had not seen Jimmy for a number of years, I will never forget his great smile and funny ways. He was a wonderful person, and I will always remember the great times we all had as kids. When I look back into my memory files, I can still see his face, just as he was the last time he was here, and That is the way I choose to remember my cousin. Love you Jimmy!!

Every year on February 9th, a small group of friends gather for breakfast at Johnny J’s Diner to talk about a little girl who touched all our hearts deeply, and left us far too soon.  Brooke would have been 15 years old on December 24, 2011, but she passed away on February 9, 2004 from an acute asthma attack. I often wonder who she would have been today at 15 years old. She had such a bubbly personality and a smile and laugh that made it hard to ever tell her no…even if you should have. Her siblings knew how to get something they wanted, or do something they wanted to do…they just got Brooke to ask for it. The funny thing was, however, that she never seemed spoiled to me, or to anyone else that I know of. She was just sweet.

Now, 8 years later, we still gather to talk about the little girl who meant so much to all of us…and to console her mother, who still struggles with that day, as well as the month of February and even from December 24th through February 14th, which was the day Brooke was laid to rest…a fitting day for a girl who was born on a holiday, and very much loved.

Of course, Brooke was never a mother, but in her short little life, she practiced for that role she dreamed of having by mothering every baby she ever came across. Her mom, Dani babysat my grandchildren, but it was Brooke who babysat my youngest grandchild…Josh. Dani could help…a teeny little bit, but not very much, because Josh was Brooke’s baby, and everyone might just as well get that fact through their thick head, because that was the way it was.

Brooke touched the lives of young and old alike. She had her very favorites though, like my husband, Bob for example. Whenever Bob walked into a room Brooke was in, she ran over to him and gave him a big hug. She was almost like a little girlfriend, and I might have been jealous, had it not been for the difference in their ages. She loved him so much, and it was very hard to be jealous of such a sweet little girl, so I had to be content to share him whenever Brooke was in the room.

Now, 8 long years after her passing, we can each remember how she touched our lives, and I’m sure the stories will all be shared as we gather to look back on the life of a child that has been gone longer than she lived, and yet seems to still be so very much with us. Her memory is everywhere…every time we hear a child laugh, every time a little girl takes a shine to Bob, every time we see Madyson, Brooke’s little sister, who looks incredibly like her older sister…so much so, that I often call her Brooke. And so we gather to console her mother, and remember the little girl who touched our hearts.

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