Every year as the month of November arrives, my niece Jenny Spethman and her husband, Steve meet it with a sense of dread, because it is the month when their daughter, Laila Elizabeth was born and eighteen days later passed away. The grieving process has been a long and empty armed one. It’s not that they don’t have other children, because they do, and in fact, they have another daughter as well, but each child is a unique gift from Heaven, and when one is not with you, whether they passed away or moved away, your arms are simply empty where that child is concerned. No new child can replace the child who is gone, and no one can say how long the grieving process will be, or even should be, for any one person, or their loss.
Still, I think that time changes, not the sadness of a loss, but rather how we are able to compartmentalize our feelings. This year as I listened to how Jenny handles this month, I found myself in awe of her…courage. She told us that one thing that helps her to prepare for the month of November, is to watch shows about near-death experiences. It helps her to be able to glimpse Heaven from the perspective of one who has had a glimpse of it themselves. To hear of the love and peace they felt while experiencing Heaven, and to hear of loved ones they saw there, gives Jenny a feeling of hope in the knowledge that their daughter is not in their past, but rather in their future. And that future is bright and beautiful, even if it seems very far away right now. Laila is in a beautiful place, and she is happily waiting for her family to join her.
After Jenny told us about the shows she watches, and how they had helped her so much, she was talking to her boys about how the month of November is a sad one for her, but today…November 4th, which is Laila Elizabeth’s 6th birthday, should not be a sad day, because it is the day that they received the gift from Heaven that is Laila Elizabeth. It is the day she was born, and that will always be a special day, because it is her day…her birthday. Any other day in the month can be a sad one, but this day, Laila’s birthday is a day that her family received a great blessing that will always belong to them. It is the day she was presented to them, and she was beautiful. Their love for their little girl…their first little girl, after three beautiful boys…knew no bounds. She couldn’t have been more perfectly beautiful. Now, six years after her passing, even though the rest of the month will lead to the sadness of the 22nd, they find themselves able to rejoice in the gift from Heaven that Laila was, and the gift in Heaven…waiting for their arrival, she will be in their future. Happy birthday in Heaven Laila Elizabeth. We love and miss you very much, and we will see you soon.
Losing weight is not easy, as anyone who has tried to do so can tell you, but this story isn’t just a weight loss story. It is a story of a journey to good health. On October 17, 2013, I got a call from my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg. She was having some health problems that would result in a hospital stay that began on October 18, 2013, and would last until November 11, 2013. She would go first to Wyoming Medical Center, and then over to Elkhorn Rehabilitation Hospital for physical therapy. Brenda practically had to learn to walk again. This journey was going to be a long struggle, but she stepped up to the plate, prepared to take back her life, and make it better. Brenda had known that something was wrong, and was concerned that she might have to take early retirement or go part time at work, because at that point just getting into the office was a major undertaking. Her journey started with the hope that she could go to Urgent Care and get a prescription to take care of the problem, but that was not to be. Brenda had Cellulitis, and so began her hospital stay. During that stay, she was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure and Sleep Apnea. At this point, so many people would have pretty much given up, taken early retirement, and moved into a wheelchair or Hoveround. That would have led to a slippery slope toward a future on oxygen, other health issues, and eventually total disability.
That is what many people in Brenda’s position would have done…but that was not the choice Brenda made, and that has made all the difference. Brenda decided that she was too young and too interested in living her life to give up and let her future be spent on the sidelines of life sitting in a wheelchair. During her time at Elkhorn, she worked very hard on her physical therapy, and on making changes in her eating habits. That was an amazing feat too, because every step she took required a seriously great amount of effort. The time spent in the hospital had so weakened her that she really had to learn to walk all over again. For many people, this too would have been the point where they gave up…but not Brenda. She joined Weight Watchers Online, and she has faithfully stuck to it, and she faithfully wears her CPAP machine, so that she is getting good oxygen for a better night’s sleep.
It has been a long road, and many people would never have expected Brenda to persevere, but that is because they only think they know Brenda. The real Brenda is very determined to take back her life and her health. She has seen many victories already. For almost all her walking, she does not use the walker now…only using it in bad weather and on her long walks at one of the local shopping centers, where she is now walking five times as long as she could when she first started. She is able to go out and buy her own groceries again, something she really couldn’t do for years. She makes frequent trips to visit friends, including one who was in the hospital…a place Brenda would only go to if she had help before, and she walks a lot at work too. It has been a very hard road, but the other day she told me that she knew that she did not feel good before, but she had no idea how really bad she felt, until she got to where she felt so much better. At her last appointment with her cardiologist, she was told that if she keeps going the way she is, she will actually be able to reverse the Congestive Heart Failure…such good news. To date, Brenda has lost 180 pounds, and she is still going. Brenda, we are sooooo proud of you!! Today is Brenda’s birthday, and the day that she had set as a goal of being free of the walker. Since she only uses it on snow and the long walk at Sunrise Shopping Center, I’d say she has met that goal. I know the future is going to be amazing for her. Happy birthday Brenda!! Have an awesome day!! We love you and we are so proud of you!!
In 1910 – 1911, my Grandpa Spencer and my grandma’s brother, my Uncle Albert Schumacher, spent the winter months trapping and working in the logging camps in northern Minnesota. This was before my grandparents were married. The men took several pictures before embarking on the journey from the Schumacher farm in Elliot, North Dakota in September 1910 for their “winter in the woods”. My grandpa took his 1895 Winchester 30-03, the gun that was his pride and joy, and Uncle Albert had a 1899 Savage and they headed off on their adventure. It would be a winter to remember. It was freezing cold, often getting down to 30° below zero.
They built what they called a flat boat to carry their supplies, two rifles, two handguns, plenty of ammunition, and plenty of dried and canned food. The boat could also be loaded onto a wagon when they needed to travel across country, although, I’m not sure where they got the wagon after traveling by water. Still since I have seen the picture with the boat on the wagon, I know that they got that part covered as well. In the end, the cold winter sort of won out. They trapped during October and November and then worked in the logging camps until spring.
While the cold winter, and the freezing conditions did change their plans for the winter, you could still say that they had a successful winter of trapping anyway. Now, I don’t know how I would feel about trapping skunk, because at some point you have to go and deal with that carcass, and to me that would be horrible. We have all driven by a spot where a skunk was killed, and…whew, what a smell!! Nevertheless, my grandpa and my uncle took that in stride and came away with a good amount of skunk and muskrat pelts for their efforts. My Uncle Bill, who I must credit for the information in this story, figured that in all, they probably made about $100.00 for that cold winter’s trapping venture, plus the money earned while working in the logging camps. It may not sound like much money for all that work and the freezing conditions, but in 1910 and 1911, it was a pretty decent wage.