life

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Cornealius and Luther SpencerAfter my 2nd great grandfather, Allen Spencer passed away suddenly at the young age of just 56 years, my 2nd great grandmother, Lydia Spencer found herself in one of the hardest positions anyone ever has to face. In those days, few of the women worked outside the home, and with her husband and the bread winner of her family gone, she had some hard choices to make. She still had several children at home, including three sons and one daughter. Her daughter, Teresa would marry later that year, and eventually move to North Dakota. Her son Allen would follow his sister to North Dakota, and eventually move to Washington, where he would marry and live out his life. That left Lydia in Iowa, with her two remaining sons, Cornelius and Luther…at least for a time. That had to have been the hardest part of the time too, considering the grief she must have been feeing.

Luther married Ellen Dykes in 1885, and Cornealius married Leona Stinson on February 1, 1888. By 1900, the two brothers along with their families and their mother had moved to the Deer Creek, Oklahoma area. I know that in the years following their fathers death, these two men took on the role of caregiver of sorts for their mother. It wasn’t necessarily that she needed a caregiver, at only 53 years of age, but rather that these two brothers took on the role of picking up the pieces of her shattered life and helping her through the rough transition years, during which she went from being a wife to a widow. It isn’t that she was incapable, but it would be really hard to find yourself widowed at such a young age. You had thought you and your souse would grow old together, and now you have been left to try to figure out how to move on alone.

Little has been said about the role the two brothers played in her life, and I suppose that is because it was just expected of them and so everyone assumed they just did their job. I suppose that is true to a large degree, but there were other children in the family, and yet they chose to take on this role, and she chose to go to Oklahoma with these two sons, rather than move to North Dakota, Wisconsin, or Washington with her other children. She loved the others very much, and the pictures tell me that she saw them whenever she could, but she moved to Oklahoma with Cornealius and Luther, and lived in Luther’s home until her passing in 1906, at the age of 75.

Lydia Quackenbush Potts SpencerIt takes a very special person to move their elderly parent into their home, and I don’t just mean that parent’s child, but the spouse of that child too. You can’t take in your parent without the ok of your spouse, because this is going to affect the whole family. In this case, it is likely that the time Lydia lived with her son Luther and his family in Oklahoma, was about ten years, but in reality, that is a long time. The last days could have been very stressful and trying, given the way, aging parents get weak and tired as they get closer to death. Yes, I think that Luther and his wife, Ellen had to be very special people to make sure that Lydia was taken care of, and not lonely. I’m sure that went a long way toward picking up the pieces of her life, after the loss of her husband, Allen. That leaves me with a lot of respect for these sons and their families.

Steve, Jenny, and Princess LailaLosing a loved one is never an easy thing, but rather seems to be an inevitable part of life. There is never a good time for it, and in fact, when it involves a baby or a child, it is always too soon. They haven’t had the chance to have a life really, not like their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even their parents. Nevertheless, losing a loved one…no matter their age, is a heart wrenching thing. Those who remain feel hollowed out inside, because there is simply an emptiness that always remains in the place that had been inhabited by the loved one who has passed. For a Christian, it isn’t about thinking they will never see that person again, because we believe that those who live in the Lord, never see each other for the last time. It’s more about not really being prepared to wait for that day to come, when they will finally get a glimpse into Heaven, and know the absolute joy their loved one has been experiencing since they went home.

None of us gets to go through life without ever losing someone…at least not if we have spent much time here on Earth. Still, the loss of a child seems to be an especially cruel type of loss. It is one I have never personally experienced. Other members of my family have, but I can’t really know the pain they feel. The loss of an infant, whether through miscarriage or after they were born, must be excruciating. The parents can’t imagine letting their baby go on ahead of them to Heaven, because they are simply too little to go somewhere alone. Nevertheless, we can’t go, because they live in Heaven now, and we do not. We are still waiting for our turn to go, so that we can finally have that first glimpse.

We have to trust in the Lord to be there with our loved one to show them the way…or maybe it is really us who need the help. We are really the ones who don’t know the way. And it’s not the way to Heaven that is lost to us, but rather the way to go on…here, that eludes us. Our hearts just feel like they are too tired to take another beat, and yet they must. There are others who depend on us too. We have to carry on. It will most likely be the hardest thing anyone ever has to do.

On this day, four years ago, my niece, Jenny and her husband, Steve Spethman received a beautiful little Princess Lailadaughter named Laila Elizabeth. She was the gift they had waited for, the daughter after three sons. Her time here would be very short…just eighteen days, but her memory will last forever, as will her life in Heaven. Losing Laila made it very hard to move forward, but Jenny and Steve took that step in faith again and receive a little sister for Laila, named Aleesia Juliette. She would bring much joy to their still broken and fragile hearts, but Laila will never be far from their thoughts…or the thoughts of her three older brothers, Xander, Zackery, and Isaac. They will all continue to look forward to that first glimpse of Heaven, and the time when they will be united with Laila forever. Happy birthday in Heaven Princess Laila. I know it will be a wonderful day. We love you baby girl, and we can’t wait to get to know you in Heaven.

Hope ChestDiplomasSafely tucked away, in a closet in the basement of my home, sits a red box. It is a homemade hope chest, built by my dad, when I was a little girl. Dad built two of them, one for my sister, Cheryl and one for me. This was long before hope chests became popular again, or maybe they always were, and I just didn’t know it then. I loved that little hope chest. I suppose some people would have thought it plain, but it held a very special meaning to me. My daddy had made it for me, and told me that it was to keep my treasures in. The original paddle lock was lost long ago, and replaced with a new one. I have lost the key to that one, so now a bobby pin has to suffice. It really wouldn’t matter if it was unlocked, I suppose, because to most people it’s contents have no real value. It holds no gold, silver, or diamonds…just the treasures from my past.

When I opened it last night…the first time in a long time, I saw my girlhood treasures, like souvenirs from trips taken as a child, my first wrist watch, and cameo soaps I got from…who knows where. I saw my high school diploma, and my husband Bob’s, both in pristine condition. There were treasures from my children’s lives, like perfect attendance awards from church and preschool, pictures of our family at that time, cards sent to me on special occasions, and baby cigars from a number of different births…I don’t suppose anyone would want to smoke those now. There was a baby blanket I had been given, and high school pictures of my sisters and sisters-in-law. There are three model cars…remnants of Bob’s past, and a multitude of key chains from his years of collecting them. If you looked at these items, I suppose most people would think many of them to be worthless, but to me, they are treasures…they are my past.

I realize that I am a sentimental person, and that I save things with sentimental value. I have accepted this about myself. I know that many people don’t like to save things. They don’t like the clutter, and I do admit that it can create clutter. But, I don’t really want my world to be so free of my past, that it seems sterile. This isn’t an operating room, after all, it’s my life, and my memories. I like most of my past, not to mention, my family’s past, and I want to be able to see and remember it. That is simply who I am. I can think of so many fun times in my past…camping trips with my parents and sisters, hiking with Bob, vacations with our kids, just to mention a few. In my opinion, I have lead a very nice life, and I want to always remember that. As I looked through the contents of my hope chest, my mind drifted back to a time when my family was young. The years have gone by so fast. It made me feel a little bit sad.

The contents of my hope chest have changed over the years, as my hopes and dreams have changed. As a little girl, I had the trinkets of a little girl in there, and as I grew, the things in my hope chest grew to take in BlanketPerfect Attendancemy new self. Once I was married, the hope chest became a memory chest, instead of a hope chest. which was designed to collect the things a girl would need for her wedding and marriage. I think I like the latest job my hope chest has, because memories come from a life filled with good things. And maybe that is a fitting end for a hope chest, because it does start out as the hopes and dreams of a girl, and ends up with the memories of a life well lived.

Corrie with ChristopherKevin, & ChristopherThings have a way of coming full circle in life. I remember, so well, the point when my daughter, Corrie and her then new husband, Kevin Petersen left their wedding reception. All of the planning, the ceremony, and now the beautiful reception were over, and the kids were on their way to their honeymoon, and then their own lives. I had held up so well, and yet, after I kissed them goodbye, and they left, I turned and said to my sister, “Well, they’re gone.” Suddenly, and without any notice, the tears welled up in my eyes. My baby was leaving home. My world was mixed up, and…well, wrong, but they were so happy. This was so right for them.

A few very short years later, my daughter, Corrie was dropping their oldest son, Christopher at my house for me to take to her sister, Amy Royce who was going to babysit him, along with her daughter, Shai. Christopher was just six weeks old, and Corrie’s maternity leave was over. As Corrie came in my door, she was already crying, and I knew just how she felt. Everything felt so mixed up, and wrong for her too. Christopher had not been away from her since his conception, and now he would be on the other side of town with her sister. While she knew he was not so far away, and she would see him at lunch, so she could nurse him and spend that precious time with him, he was, nevertheless, not with her. We normally think of this separation as only happening to the mother of the baby, but that isn’t really so. I think it’s just as hard to leave your baby, when you are the dad too.

Every milestone along the way has been rather bittersweet for Corrie, and for Kevin too. Kevin always tried to hold it together for Corrie, but this change is different, and it has hit both of them and both of their sons Chris and Josh very hard. On the 29th of this month, Corrie and Kevin took their boys on a camping trip that will always be different than any other camping trip. They went to move Chris to his college dorm in Sheridan, Wyoming. Both Corrie and Kevin are struggling with this drastic change in their lives, and Chris PetersenBrothers Foreverit would not surprise me to hear that there were tears all around. I know it would that way for me.

It is so hard to take your baby to a different town to live…even if that baby is now eighteen years old. Everything about that feels so mixed up, and seriously wrong. It’s not that it is so very far away, but rather that Chris won’t be living with them anymore…at least not for a while…like three years…other that holidays and summers. After that, it’s hard to say. Lots of kids never move back home after college, even if they move back to the same city. Things may never really be the same for them again, and that is what makes it all so terribly hard. That is what makes this so mixed up…and wrong, and yet, so right for Chris, and so necessary.

Dad and meAs my father-in-law’s life was winding down, we spent a lot of time together. It wasn’t always the perfect moments of his life that we shared, because he was in the hospital off and on during that time. He hated going into the hospital…hated the equipment he had to be hooked up to, food they wanted him to eat, and the constant waiting to get up, because he had to have help, but he liked the nurses and aides, and that made it tolerable, I guess. Nevertheless, he hated to be there, because life just seemed to pass him by when he was in the hospital. Still, since I needed to be there to talk to the doctors, and since I worked nearby, I went up several times a day. I know it meant a lot to him.

When we would first go to the hospital emergency room, my father-in-law would always ask me to take care of his watch and pocket knife. They were so important to him. That almost Dad's Knifeseems strange, because he normally didn’t have to be anywhere at any certain time, and he very seldom ever used the pocket knife. Nevertheless, they were very important to him, and I was always entrusted with their care, and because it was so important to him, it became important to me. When he passed away, the watch and pocket knife were not claimed by any of his children, so once again, I have been entrusted with their care. They are a treasure to me, and each time I look at them, I can see his sweet face, a little worried about what this hospital visit was going to bring, and yet still so protective of those two prized possessions.

I don’t know if they were given to him, or if they were just something he liked and bought for himself, but in his last days, and probably even longer than that, I know that they meant a lot to him. The knife is an Old Timer Knife. Old Timer Knives were manufactured by the Imperial Schrade Corporation, who closed their doors July 30, 2004, after 100 years of business. They were something he looked on as being of great value. It Dad's Watchmight have been just a guy thing to have a pocket knife or something, because it does seem that a lot of guys have and keep good track of their pocket knives. I don’t know the story on his watch either, except to say that the only time he was without it was when he was in the hospital, in bed, or the shower. That says that it was something he treasured too. Neither of these were very expensive items. The watch may have come from Walmart, for all I know. It’s monetary value isn’t important to me. It’s real value is in what it meant to my father-in-law. Today would have been my father-in-law’s 85th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Dad. We love and miss you very much.

Amy at Gma'sMy husband, Bob doesn’t often give the past a lot of thought. He is one of those here and now types of people. It isn’t that he doesn’t remember the past, or even that he doesn’t think about it once in a while, but if he does, he doesn’t mention too many things that he is thinking about. Nevertheless, he made an exception while we were on our cruise.

As is the case with most cruises, you see a variety of people…many of them children. And, you get a variety of behaviors from these children. Obviously, you will see the well behaved children, and the misbehaving children…and everything in between. But, it was neither of these types of children that caught Bob’s eye, but rather a little blonde girl skipping along with her family on their way to breakfast.

After they passed us, Bob turned to me and said, “Did you see that little girl?” When I said Daddy's Little Helperthat I didn’t, he told me that she reminded him of our Amy when she was little. Amy never walked anywhere. She either skipped, ran, or at home, it was far more often somersaulting down the hallway. I mean, why walk when you can somersault…right? Amy just couldn’t stand to waste a perfectly good hallway, or any other carpeted area, on simple walking. Carpets were much like a tumbling map, and that was all it took to get Amy tumbling merrily on her way from room to room. We always laughed about that, because it was so cute to see her rolling down the hallway and then getting up to go into her room and play.

As we thought about the little girl he had just seen, it was easy to imagine that she was a girl who was excited about life, and just couldn’t stand to simply walk. That was exactly what Amy was like as a little girl. If she wasn’t swinging on the table like only a tiny girl could, then she was somersaulting down the hall, or swinging from the bars on the swing set. She could easily have been Tarzan’s baby…swinging from the trees. Or you Swingingmight just as likely find her up on the bumper of Bob’s truck, helping her daddy. Amy was always excited about the next thing coming her way.

Amy and her family recently took a cruise too, and she was so excited about going. I know she is a grown woman now, but I have a feeling that it was all she could do not to go skipping along on the deck of the ship heading to breakfast with her family, or anywhere else that she went for that matter. Those old habits die hard, and when you are a skipper, you find that it’s really hard to contain all that excitement…just like that little girl Bob had seen.

Shirley GraduationSeveral years ago, our family reconnected with my cousin, Shirley Wolfe Cameron. Since Shirley and her family moved away from Casper many years ago, we had lost touch with her, and so I didn’t really know much about her except for during her teen years and once after she was married. The teenage years are not much to go on when it comes to what kind of a person someone is, because as most adults will admit, the teenage years find many of us mad at the world, and often most of the people in it. Oh, we all have our good days and bad days, but as teenagers, often the bad days far outweigh the good days. Since Shirley was a few years see than I was, I’m also quite sure that I was a huge annoyance. When it comes to teenagers and adolescents, I’m not sure who is more obnoxious…but I know that I had a well tuned ability to be irritating.

Now that we are both adults, our relationship is so different. Looking through adult eyes, I can see what a wonderful person Shirley is. She has a heart of gold and she is such a generous person. I find myself feeling so very blessed to have her back in my life, because she is such a sweetheart. It’s funny that people can grow up so far away from each other, and yet have so many views and ideas that are exactly the same. I don’t know how that happens, but for us it did. I am so often amazed at how many things Shirley Shirley Cameronand I agree on…good upbringing, I guess. Shirley’s mom and my dad were sister and brother, and I’m sure that would account for the many similarities there are.

Shirley and I have such a good relationship now, and one that warms my heart every time I think about her, or see her Facebook posts…and that would make it every day. She always puts a smile on my face, and since we agree on everything political, we can get each other pretty hyped up when it comes to things that are just wrong. Today is Shirley’s birthday. I love having you back in my life, Shirley, and I know that the whole family feels the exact same way. Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!

Delores Fern Byer JohnsonMy Aunt Deloris…Aunt Dee to all of her nieces and nephews, was such a happy person. It never seemed to matter what might be going on in her life. She didn’t allow her happiness to depend on whether or not everything was perfect in her day. In fact, I truly don’t remember a time when I saw my Aunt Dee, that she was not smiling. That is a very special thing to say about a person, because not all of us can be known for our smile or our happy personality. I never knew my aunt as a young girl, because she was already a grown woman with children of her own by the time I came on the scene. Nevertheless, I have been looking at pictures of her in her younger days, and I think she was always that way. She loved people, especially her family, and just being alive.

I have to think, however, Virginia, Harriet, George, Evelyn,Delores, Collene, Larry, and Wayne editedthat Aunt Dee might have been a little bit shy when she was a girl. At lease that is how she looked to me. As I look at the family pictures she is in, I noticed that her demeanor seems to be happy, but just a little bit timid. Maybe it was just her being humble minded, which is never a bad thing, and really, an endearing trait to have.  I don’t think Aunt Dee ever thought of herself as anyone special, but I did. I loved having her come over to our house, because she was always like a ray of sunshine. She never had an attitude of greatness, which in my opinion just goes to show how great she really was…she just didn’t seem to know that. How could that be? I mean, we could all see it, but she could not. It was just her way. Hers was a behind the scenes greatness.

Nevertheless, if you asked all the people who knew her, I’ll bet that every one of them could Deloris Fern Byer (2)tell you about some of the many special things she did for people…like the piano she bought for the family, and teaching her siblings to dance, or my mom to fly…at least as much as you could using the wind and your coat as wings. She was a friend you wanted to call yours. She was such a kindhearted woman, and yet she took no credit for what she did for people. She was more the Wind Beneath Your Wings kind of gal. I will always remember her sweet smiling face. Aunt Dee left us on October 6, 1996, when Brain Cancer stole her sweet smile from us. Today would have been Aunt Dee’s 82nd birthday!! Happy birthday in Heaven Aunt Dee!! We love and miss you always.

Bertha & Elsa School DaysDuring the twenty six long years when my great grandmother, Henriette Albertine Hensel Schumacher was confined to a wheelchair with debilitating arthritis, her husband, my great grandfather took care of her with the help of his children…especially my great aunts, Bertha and Elsa who gave up the hope of marriage and a family in their young years, for the love of their parents and with and understanding of their need. Because my great grandmother was only fifty years old when she was struck with this disease, her youngest daughters, Bertha and Elsa were only 11 and 8 years old. Those girls would barely remember a time when they were not caregivers for their mother, and later for their father too. The time went by so quickly, and suddenly they looked back and the time for having a family was long past for them.

I don’t think that most people, or at least most of those who have never been a caregiver, have any idea what a monumental job it is to care for someone. It takes a willingness to give up your own desires, hobbies, activities…basically your life, to help someone else who is not in a position to help themselves. And, it isn’t always the person who needs the care that is the most helped, but rather their spouse, who has been trying to handle it themselves, and trying to figure out what has happened to their strength, their ability to handle everything in their Spencer Schumacher Family cover photo2life, and how they could have come to a place where their only hope lies in the strength of their children, who still have the advantage of youth’s strength and energy. This was the place my great grandfather, Carl Schumacher found himself in, as the years passed and he came to the understanding that he would have to lean heavily on his two youngest daughters to keep things going.

I have to wonder if great grandpa felt a lot of guilt over what his daughters gave up in life to help him. He was such a loving, caring person, who had always been able to take care of all the needs of his family, and he just could not do this alone. He simply had no choice but to rely on them for help. He was getting older, and he was getting tired. I’m sure Bertha and Elsa would have had it no other way. These were their parents, and they loved them. Still, they never forgot the day that their dad said, “What would I do without you girls?” I know from my own experiences as a caregiver, that while you don’t need to have the patient constantly saying “thank you”, there is something to be said for hearing that your hard work has positively effected their lives. They were both rewarded in later years with wonderful husbands, and even thought it was for a Bertha & Arthur Hallgren and Elsa & Frank Lawrenceshort time they were blessed in that way too in the end.

In my years as a caregiver, I have had the opportunity a number of times to hear or be told that without my help, they couldn’t have stayed in their homes this long, and it does make you feel good about your work. Nevertheless, like my great aunts, I know I would do the work whether the praise came or not, because it truly is about making their lives better, and not about the praise I received. It’s all about the love I have for those I care for. I’m very proud of my great aunts, that they did what they needed to do to help their parents, and someday, I’ll have the chance to tell them that myself.

Little JennyAs our children grow into adulthood, it can be difficult to look at them in this new light. Sometimes, it takes much longer to realize that they are grown adults than perhaps it should take. It isn’t that they are immature, its just that we can’t get past the picture of that child that has lived in our minds all these years. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be your own children either. Nieces and nephews can seem like they just shouldn’t be grown adults…and yet they are. That’s the way I feel about my niece, Jenny. As a girl, Jenny was a teeny little princess type with a cute little smile. She rarely took anything seriously, but rather just liked to have fun. I know, pretty typical of a little girl. Yes, she was typical of little girls, but Jenny was going to become something  different…a faith filled woman.

Now, Jenny is grown and has a family of her own. Somehow, it has finally hit me I think, what a very special woman she is. She has been through so many things in her lifetime, and yet the woman I see before me is strong and charming at the same time. She doesn’t let the sadness or problems she facesLove that baby, define who she is, but rather turns to God to lead her everywhere she goes. As a teenager, like most teenagers, she just didn’t seem like she would have become this strong faith-filled woman, but now, here she is. It is an amazing transformation.

I think that you can tell what a person is really made of as you watch them walk through the trials in this life. Some people are broken by the trials, and some stand firm in their beliefs, and strong in their faith. Nevertheless, you wish there was a way to keep them from going through any trials at all, because you love them.  You can’t protect them from everything they will face in this world, but you can equip them with the necessary tools to see them through the trials of life…namely God. Now, as I see Jenny posting on Facebook about how happy she is to be going to church to worship the Lord, it makes me feel very proud of how much she has grown in the Lord.

The person Jenny is today is a direct result of the prayers of her mother. My sister, Cheryl, like God Answers Prayersthe rest of my sisters, my parents, and I, have prayed over our children. I can’t imagine trying to walk through this world without prayers being said over the journey, nor can anyone in the rest of my family. Jenny too, has learned that life must be handled with prayer, and that while sorrows may come, God still has a plan for you, and that miracles still happen today.  Those prayers brought Steve into her life, so they could walk the road of faith hand in hand. Jenny knows that God really does still answer prayer today, and when He heals your broken heart, it is in the most wonderful way. And she knows that while sorrows come, God will restore what is missing in their lives, back to them again. Today is Jenny’s birthday. While life has not always been easy for her…Jenny has come through it all, her faith intact and her joy complete, because she has her miracle. I’m very proud of her. Happy birthday Jenny!! Have a blessed day!! We love you!!

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