You hear it a lot, especially on television shows. Doctors, nurses, police, firefighters, and paramedics are all told not to get personally involved. Those who instruct them not to get personally involved with their ill patients are, of course, trying to protect them from the inevitable grief of losing a patient, but being on the other side of that equation, I must say that when they do get personally involved, it is better for all.
For one thing, I think that most of the time, it is impossible for one human being, taking care of another human being, not to become personally involved. Because of their training, these professionals try not to get too close, but I don’t think many succeed, even when they only have a patient for a few days or even minutes. Sometimes it’s not so much the patient that tugs at there hearts, but rather the worried family members who are in need of comfort. For most family members there is nothing more helpful than an encouraging word, and yes, even a hug, when things seem to be falling apart.
In the years that I have taken care of my parents, my in-laws, my sister-in-law, and my husband, I have had more than my share of dealings with ambulance and fire department EMTs, as well as doctors, nurses, and CNAs. The ones I remember the most, were the ones who got personally involved. They knew when my worried spirit needed a hug…just so I could stay on my feet. There is nothing more important, than the moments when the ambulance crew has loaded up your loved one, and you are left in the house with the fire department EMTs in your living room picking up their gear. You suddenly realize that your loved on is in the hands of someone else. You can’t do anything more to help. You find yourself just standing there feeling very much alone, and suddenly very small. I guess I must have looked very fragile at those moments, because invariably, one of those wonderful firemen put their arms around me, and told me that everything was going to be ok. It doesn’t matter how big or small the firefighter was, him standing there in those bunkers made him feel very substantial. Those strong arms around me, allowing me to cry, made all the difference. I don’t know how that hug affected the firefighter, but I know that after one of those big hugs from that angel of a firefighter, I was able to wipe away my tears, pull myself up by the bootstraps, and head to the hospital, where I was needed to answer questions about my loved one’s health…questions that would make it easier for the doctors and nurses to give my loved ones better care, so they can save their lives. Sometimes, the first responders make the most difference…and that can make all the difference.
I think most of us try to be nice people. We try to do nice things for our friends and loved ones, but what about random acts of kindness for people we don’t know. Most of us really put those things on the back burner, so to speak. It is probably a sad thing that there has to be a day set aside for random acts of kindness, but maybe we all need a reminder once in a while. There are always people who are less fortunate than we are…no matter how bad off we think we are. Most people think that random acts of kindness need to include money, but that isn’t so. The needs of those around us are not always monetary. Sometimes, people simply need a smile at the right moment, because they are feeling down. Other times, money is the need, of course. I think the key is to be aware, and to listen to your own spirit when it comes to hearing about the needs of those around you. If you feel led to do something for someone, act upon that leading, using the appropriate amount of caution of course, because not everyone is nice.
Sometimes random acts of kindness should be anonymous too. I think that applies to most of the time. There is no need for recognition with random acts of kindness. In fact, that is the point of a random act of kindness, to remain anonymous…and even if they see you, they don’t have to know your name. All they have to know is that someone cared enough to do something nice for them. The thing that I always find to be true is that invariably, the person you choose to do something nice for, really needed to know that someone cared right then. We always think that we could not possibly know who needed our help, but I think that there are always telltale signs…even if it is just a feeling we have inside.
I suppose that sometimes, a random act of kindness can bless someone who, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t need any such act of kindness. Maybe there is nothing lacking in their life. Still, can a kindness shown ever be wasted? I don’t think so, because who could need a random act of kindness more than someone who thinks that they only have themselves to count on. We all know people who “don’t need any help” from anyone. To me, that is the saddest of all, because, as the saying goes, “no man is an island.” So today, if you have the chance to, show someone a random act of kindness, and maybe it could become a habit for every day.
All of my life, Thanksgiving was a time to spend the day with family, overeat Thanksgiving dinner, and relish the fact that I had the perfect family life. In my young years, everyone in my family was alive and well. The family was growing in one way or another, but until my grandfather, George Byer passed away in 1980, when I was 24 years old, I had never faced death in any way…never lost a loved one. I think it was then that I realized that things were never going to be the same again. Life would go forward, but there was no guarantee that each new year would find us celebrating with the same loved ones every year. Changes are inevitable, and loved ones going to heaven…it’s all a part of what is known as the circle of life. Still, it leaves me feeling more than a little bit lonely as the holidays, and life in general embark upon irreversible changes time after time.
The first years without your parents are always among the hardest. I never considered the possibility that I could one day be an orphan, and yet, I am. An orphan is, after all, someone whose parents have passed away. We usually think of an orphan as a child, but in reality, most people will become orphaned at some point in their lifetime…unless their parents outlive them. Anyway, I found myself an orphan, and the holidays…every day, in fact…have never been the same. The holiday gatherings are much smaller affairs, as my sisters and I have redefined our holidays around our own families, as opposed to a large gathering of six families. While that is ok, and as it should be, there is still a small feeling of loneliness, because we don’t always see each other on the holidays now. Yes, we try to get together at least once before Christmas and a yearly picnic, just like my mom’s family has done, but the other holidays seem to have drifted into the category of small family gatherings, rather that large family gatherings. And, I have learned that in this life, you have no guarantee that your holidays will be the same from year to year, even if there is no loss in the family, because people also move away, and that changes the face of the holidays.
Still, Thanksgiving is a day to reflect on the things we have to be thankful for, and for me there are many. My daughters and their families are happy and well, and like my parents families did in the past, mine is growing, as my grandson, Chris Petersen and his fiancé, Karen Cruickshank are starting their own little family. We have wonderful friends, my daughter Corrie Petersen’s in-laws, Becky and Duane Skelton, who have graciously included Bob and me into their Thanksgiving holiday, and we can go to my daughter, Amy Royce’s house for gatherings too, or they can come here, so the core of my perfect family is still in there, it’s just different now. While the years have changed the face of our family gatherings, I still have a great family life, and while I can’t call it the perfect family life anymore, because my parents are in Heaven, I can still call it a very blessed family life, and for that I am very thankful.
When a person has Alzheimer’s Disease, everyone tends to feel sorry for them…or so they think. In reality, we don’t feel as sorry for the patient as we do for ourselves. The patient doesn’t seem to know that they are forgetting things, at least not after they are a little way into the progression of the disease. In fact, they truly live in an alternate reality, and sometimes it is a much nicer reality than we live in. If someone in their family has passed away, one of the others becomes that person on occasion. That’s how it is with my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg. Her husband, who is my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg passed away on May 5, 2013, and yet, she talked to him night before last. Of course, she was talking to her son, my husband, Bob Schulenberg, but he like the rest of her family has adapted to her altered reality, so that night Bob became Walt…if only for a minute, because that is how long it takes for that reality to pass and he becomes Bob again. I suppose people might think that strange, but it is actually kindness. She doesn’t have to grieve. Her deceased loved ones are never gone from her. They are there in the people around her, and she is happy.
My mother-in-law does not notice the passage of time, and if she does, it sometimes seems longer than it was. She might tell you that she hasn’t seen you in a year, when in reality it was the day before. Or she might say that you were just here, when you have been out of town for a week. Time is based on her own perception of it at the time, and that’s ok with me. As long as she’s happy, I’m happy.
As her birthday approached this year, I’ve been telling her that February is almost over. She doesn’t always think that is possible, and I can relate to that. Time really does fly by. So, on Saturday when I told her that her birthday was coming, she said it couldn’t be, because we hadn’t had Christmas yet. Now I would love to tell you that I had a quick come back for that one, but sometimes she catches me off guard. I told her Christmas had passed, and it was February. Thankfully she accepted that answer and the conversation moved forward. Yesterday, as we were waiting for the bus to take her back to the nursing home after he check up with the doctor, I asked her what today was going to be. She didn’t know, so I told her that it was February 28th. She perked up. I asked her what that day was, and she said that it was her birthday. I was pleased at that, so I thought I would take it one step further. I asked her how old she was going to be. She didn’t know, so I suggested that she take a guess. Well, I guess that the moment of clarity was over, because she said, “I’m 50 something.” She was only 36 years off, but it doesn’t really matter anyway, because you’re only as old as you feel…right? Happy birthday Mom!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
I think everyone deals with the realities of war differently. Many people barely think about it, mostly because they don’t know anyone involved, and do they can move it to the back of their minds, except for the news anyway. Others feel sadness for those lost and for their families, but that is as far as it goes. Those who have a loved one in the service, know the risks, of course, and their feelings about their loved one being in harm’s way are very evident. Some feel the need to talk about it, while others simply can’t talk about if at all. My cousin, Shirley Cameron deals with war is in a bit different way. She can’t sit idly by, and not do her part for the war effort. I guess that is a little bit of her mother in her.
Shirley has spent countless amounts of money to send care packages to the troops, does everything she can to make their time in the war zones, away from their families, be at least a little bit more pleasant. It is so hard to be far away from loved ones, overworked and underpaid, never knowing it you will survive the day…if you will ever see your family again. When that is the position in which a soldier finds himself, it is so nice to know that there are people out there who care about you…even if they don’t even know you. People who take time out of their day and money out of their pocket to make a difference. That’s where Shirley and others like her come in. Without her and people like her, our soldiers could easily think that no one really cares, but with her in their corner, they know that somebody cares, and that can make all the difference.
Shirley is a true patriot. She knows what it is like to have a loved one in the service, because her dad, brother, and son have all served. Thankfully, her loved ones came back from their wars, but Shirley cannot forget that so many soldiers did not. These days, she keeps a journal with the names of the fallen, the dates, branch of service, and any other pertinent information in it. She often posts about them on Facebook…their pictures and her own sweet words spoken over these men. Who does that? Not very many people, that’s for sure. Her patriotic actions have touched me deeply, and I’m sure I’m not the only one either. Today is Shirley’s birthday. Happy birthday Shirley!! You are a good woman and a great patriot, and we are proud of you. Have a great day!! We love you!!
Many people say that we shouldn’t dwell on the past, and to a degree, I can understand their opinion on that, but there is more than one way to dwell on the past. One way is harmful to us, and the other establishes our place in history. To dwell on past mistakes is harmful, of course, because we often sit and regret our past mistakes, but to look back on history or our family lineage, is a different thing altogether. There is a sad side to that too, because many of the people we think about are gone now, and we really wish they weren’t. Parents and grandparents, as well as siblings and cousins too, have passed away, and we are left with their memories, and the desire to see them again.
As I was looking through my Uncle Bill Spencer’s family history information, I came across some really cute pictures of my cousin Jim Spencer, Jimmy to my sisters and me, and Jimbo to his dad. Jimmy was such a character. You almost never saw him without a smile on his face. Jimmy was just that kind of kid. When he smiled, his whole face smiled, and since he found life to be the coolest thing, he smiled and laughed a lot. It was like he had the secret to fun inside himself, and all you had to do was hang out in the general vicinity to have fun too. Jimmy always tried hard to mind his parents, but sometimes I must say that he was cutting it close. It was then that he would use that great smile to his advantage. After all, who could resist that smile. His parents usually melted, and he got away with it.
Jimmy loved the ice. I think he probably waited all summer for winter to come so that he could be out on it. He didn’t even need skates either. Like the kids who didn’t have skates, he just took a run at the ice and slid across it. When four year old little Jimmy would come home from the vacant lot across the street from their house, where he had been “skating,” his dad would ask if he had been out skating, and he would say, “No, I was swiding on my boots!” I’m not sure if he was just clarifying, or if he was getting out of trouble with that one, but he got away with it either way. I really miss my cousin Jimmy, and I think about him often…especially when I see the picture of him peeking out of his parents bedroom at about two years old. Love you Jimmy.
For some reason, time seems to fly by much faster as we get older than it did when we were young. Maybe it is because as kids, we could only think of being grown up. In reality, it’s too bad that we didn’t know that with growing up would come many other things that are not so pleasant as simply getting to be an adult. Responsibility is probably the first thing you suddenly notice, but it will not be the worst thing you will ever face. No, the worst thing is definitely loss, and it seems like the older we get, the more people we know who have passed away. It’s not just family, of course, but friends, parents and siblings of friends, and the worst…children.
While the loss of our loved one is something that we deal with every day, there are days that are definitely worse. The anniversary of the day they passed, and in that first year, the day of the month that they passed. Today marks the 9 month anniversary of my mom’s passing, as well as the 5th anniversary of the passing of her little great granddaughter…Laila Spethman. While there is little comfort for those of us left behind, there is a degree of comfort in knowing that my parents are getting to know their two little granddaughters who left us too soon, Alyssa Harman and Laila Spethman. I know they are having such a great time, because for both Mom and Dad, there was nothing more important than family, and every little grandchild was very special. I know that the loss of two young great granddaughters was very hard on them, and I know that they are having a great time getting to know those girls.
The days that mark the loss of a loved one are always hard, and while we wish we didn’t have to face them, they are also days to remember. Our minds drift back to happy days, during their lives. We think about the sweet little memories, such as the one my sister Caryl Reed had yesterday. When she was giving a bed that her husband Mike had made for our mom to use when she visited, to their grandson, Topher Spicer. As they were moving the bed, one of Mom’s curlers and a bobby pin were under the bed. They had fallen out the one time she got to sleep there. Caryl said it was like a little hug from Mom. As this nine month anniversary of her passing arrives, it’s like Mom is sending her love and telling us that she is having a wonderful time in Heaven with Dad, Alyssa, Laila, and the rest of the family who were there to greet her. While this day brings a dual sadness to our hearts, because we miss Mom and Laila, it also reminds us how happy they are, celebrating in Heaven, because there is no sadness or tears there. We love and miss you Mom and Laila, as well as Dad, Alyssa and all our other loved ones in Heaven. Someday soon we will see you again.
When a loved one passes away, you don’t get to see them on this Earth any more, but they seem to take up a new kind of space all their own, because they are always on your mind. You may not even realize that you are thinking of them exactly, but they are there in the back of your mind, just beneath the surface, until something happens that brings their memory to the forefront again. It isn’t always a sad thing when it happens, but sometimes it is. I think that as time goes by, we are able to look more to happy memories than lonely tears. I don’t think it is a bad thing to have your loved ones living in your memory, occupying a special place in your heart, or even always being on your mind, it’s just that sometimes it is a little hard when you are hit with a ton of bricks moment…when their memory is thrown out there so unexpectedly that it does bring tears, and you are helpless to stop them. Really, it’s the only way, once a loved one has passed away.
In many ways, we like having them living there, in the back of our minds, because it give us a warm sense of Heaven…a closer connection to it, maybe. Someone very dear to us lives there now, and like my search for new connections in my family history, just knowing they are there, waiting in Heaven for us to join them someday, makes me feel like I am a part of Heaven already. I guess that is really because a part of my heart lives there now, and really always has. It encourages me to keep going forward because for me and my family, there is an expected end…a destination. While my journey must remain here for now, and God is taking the time to show me the beautiful things He has made here, I know that someday, my own journey will take me to a place I haven’t and couldn’t ever travel to before, where I will see my loved ones in person again, but for now I must wait for that glorious day to arrive.
Each item I see that belonged to those I love returns them to the forefront of my mind again. Our memory is often triggered by something we see, hear, or even smell, because in our memory files, our senses are tied to those we love. I’m thankful for those ties really, even though sometimes the memories hurt a little, because it is those memories that keep my loved ones alive, in the back of my mind, waiting for their moment to grace my thoughts once again. I love each and every one of those loved ones, although I cannot picture all of them here. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, a sister-in-law, and three nieces are waiting in Heaven. I love then, and they are always on my mind.
Funerals so often become a type of sad family reunion. Family and friends, who have drifted apart, now come together to say goodbye to a loved one or friend, and wish there had been a just a bit more time to reconnect, before the passing of their loved ones. Everyone lives a busy life, so time always seems to slip away, and before they know it, someone they cared about very much is gone. No one ever means to let the time between visits slip away, and yet I can name two grandfathers right now, who moved away from the state their parents lived in, and it ended up being the last time they saw their fathers alive. In those days, there were more situations in which the children moved away, never to see their family again. The distances were just too far to travel back and forth, like we do these days. Those parting goodbyes were much more sad, because they were real goodbyes.
When my great grandfather, William Malrose Spencer left Iowa with his family to move to Wisconsin, he had no idea that it would be the last time he saw his dad, Allen Spencer. Obviously, anytime we leave a person’s presence, it could be the last time we see them, but it is far less common when living in the same town than living several states away.
It looks to me like my great grandmother my great grandmother, Henriette Hensel, went back to Germany only once after she immigrated to America with her sister and her brother-in-law. Her husband, my great grandfather, Carl Schumacher went back to visit, but taking the entire family again would have been quite costly, so he went alone. I’m sure they were very happy to see him and hear about their life, but it was nevertheless, most likely the last time. I’m sure my great grandmother was sorry she couldn’t go, but by then she has Rheumatoid Arthritis, and travel was difficult.
Even in this day and age, of easy travel, a move far away could prove to be the last time a family gets to see the departing loved one, but thankfully with things like the telephone, Skype, FaceTime, email, and Facebook, staying connected isn’t as difficult as it used to be. It doesn’t replace the reunions, because one on one time spent with loved ones is so important, but it is better than the way things used to be. Somehow, a letter from home is not quite the same as being able to see them in person, or at least via Skype or FaceTime.
When a person knows that their life is coming to a close, they start to think about the things they will miss in this world. Often that includes their family members who don’t live close, or even their hometown. When my Grandpa Spencer found out that he was dying of Cancer in 1951, he started thinking of the loved ones he would be leaving behind. His son, my Uncle Bill was his caregiver, and he started thinking about the same thing. It was decided that they would make the trip to Eu Clair, Wisconsin, where my grandpa was born, and his sister, Bertha still lived. It was a trip that meant a lot to all concerned.
My Uncle Bill, who has always felt a great need to connect the different links of a family history, fully understood just how important this visit was for his dad and for his Aunt Bertha. It doesn’t matter if you are to be the one left behind, or the one going on ahead, that last visit…that final wish to connect with those you love, makes all the difference. There is simply no way to ever thank the person, who made that wish come true, enough. There are simply no words. Being able to go home again…to see your loved ones one more time…that is just beyond words of gratitude.
On the trip to Eu Clair, my grandpa got to see his sister, and also the old school house, where they got a drink of water…or planned to anyway. Grandpa got so concerned about making sure the picture turned out ok, that he completely forgot to operate the pump so his sister could get that drink of water. I’m sure they all got a good laugh out of that one when they realized why Grandpa was just standing there. I guess the water could wait…there were more important things going on. Grandpa was having his final wishes fulfilled.