It’s always strange to look back and realize that a loved one has been in Heaven for a year. The subsequent years aren’t as shocking, at least until your reach the milestones like 5, 10, or more. That strange realization is where I find myself today, the one year anniversary on my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg’s passing.
Over the years, much changed with my mother-in-law. She was, from the time I first met her, a stubborn woman, and I suppose that many people might take that to mean annoying, but she wasn’t. People might disagree with me, but in my opinion, the type of stubbornness that she had is a good form, because it is more of an “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” type of stubbornness. In fact, she and I are probably very much alike in our stubbornness, and quite possibly, that is part of the reason we always got along so well. She was a wonderful mother-in-law. My mother-in-law taught herself to master many types of crafts, including quilting, crocheting, knitting, sewing, and canning. These things served her family well over the years. Her crafts proving them with things they needed, and she made money on them too.
As Alzheimer’s began to rob her of much of her recent memory, she became more confused, but I believe that she and we handled it well. She became quite funny. Never one to joke much, she suddenly had a kind of dry humor that I can really relate to. She would surprise me with her quick comebacks, at a time that I thought she didn’t know what was going on, or who I was. Fooled me every time!! Whether she knew she had fooled me, somehow did it on purpose, or simply stated a fact as she saw it at that moment, it was always funny.
In all of the 11 years that I took care of her, my mother-in-law was really a joy to be around, even when she fought with me periodically. The time I spent taking care of her was as rewarding as the time I spent taking care of the rest of the parents. End of life care is really what you make of it. The person is always so grateful to you for your help, and there is a bond with them that will forever change them both. You can’t spent that many hours with your mother-in-law, and not feel a closeness to her. She told me about things in the past, and really enriched my understanding of my husband’s genealogy. She may not have even realized the impact that our conversations had on me, but they were like pure gold. Priceless, and a gift that I will cherish forever. Joann Knox Schulenberg lived a very interesting life, and one that was very different from my own. She was the mother of my husband, Bob, and the way she raised her children, enriched my life too. She taught them to be loyal, hard working people, who had self esteem and were respectful to others. She taught them to be kind and helpful to those in need. She raised her family to be close friends, and to share their talents for the good of all. They have always worked together on things. What more could a daughter-in-law ask of her mother-in-law? Mom, most of all, you were a true friend to me, and I miss you very much. I can’t believe that it has already been a year since you left us.
Two days ago, I wrote a story in celebration of my Uncle George Wave Hushman’s 92nd birthday. Little did I now that it would also be the day of his home-going, but it was. It is a rather rare thing, except in infant deaths, for someone to be born and die on the same day, but that is what my Uncle George did. He was born on December 20, 1926 in Rock River, Wyoming, and went home to Heaven on December 20, 2018 in Mills, Wyoming…exactly 92 years later.
Uncle George led an unusual life, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that his home-going would be just as unusual. He lost his mother when he was just eleven years old. I’m not sure how long after her passing, before he was sent to the Wyoming State Children’s Home in Casper, Wyoming, but during those years, his guardian was listed as Ethel S. Kittle. Uncle George didn’t know much about his family for most of his life, but his dad, also named George Wave Hushman was in the Navy, stationed in the Philippines when he was killed in action on November 21, 1943…Uncle George was just 17 years old. To his knowledge, that left him very much alone in this world, except for his friend James Wesley Saint John ‘Wes” and Wes’ family, who had unofficially adopted him as a part of their family. Wes, who was three years older than Uncle George was lost at sea on September 9, 1943. While Uncle George didn’t know his father well, he did know his friend, and I find it unusual that he enlisted in the Navy too, but he did. His Draft Card listed his next of kin as WE Saint John. He mustered out on May 31, 1944, and was later listed among the wounded. I am grateful that he was one of those who made it home from the war. Uncle George, was first assigned to LCI(L) 23…Landing Craft Infantry (L)23. He later mustered out on USS Gurke (DD-783), a Gearing-class destroyer.
By 1946, Uncle George was released from the Navy, and was living in Mills, Wyoming, and falling in love with my aunt, Evelyn Byer, whom he married on September 1, 1947. He had found the love of his life, and he only wanted to be with her for the rest of his life…missing her terribly after she passed away on May 4, 2015. Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George would be blessed with five children, George Hushman, Susie Young, Shelly Campbell, Shannon Limmer, and Greg Hushman. They were also blessed with many grandchildren, great grand children, and great great grandchildren. Uncle George was also blessed to be able to reunite with his half siblings over the years, although their passings brought him a feeling of losing them twice. Now that they are together again in Heaven, Uncle George will never have to be away from his beloved Evelyn, or the other loved ones who had gone before him. Rest in peace Uncle George. We love and miss you very much.
This is a day that I have been particularly dreading since my dad, Allen Spencer passed away on December 12, 2007. The ten year anniversary of his graduation to Heaven. For him, of course, it was a day of great celebration, but for my mom, Collene Spencer…now in Heaven herself, my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and me the day was anything but a celebration. And, their were so many others who felt his passing deeply too…grandchildren, great grandchildren, siblings, siblings-in-law, and friends. It was a day that we somehow thought would never come, and when it did, we were really not at all ready for it, but then are you ever ready for a loved one’s passing? Of course not…we can’t possibly prepare.
With each year thereafter, the sting of his passing remained, although we got used to feeling it, but the ten year mark has been one that seemed so incredibly impossible, that I continued to push it to the back of my mind. It ranked right up there with the thought of living even one day on this earth without my parents. It lived in the realm of the impossible, and now it is simply reality. We go through our days in a state of acceptance, because there is nothing else we can do…we have no other choice.
Our dad was a wonderful, sweet, kind, and loving man, who treated our mom like a queen and his daughters like princesses. We never doubted his love for any of us. We may not have had riches or a castle, but there are better ways to be treated like royalty. We just always knew that we were loved. We didn’t need riches or castles, because we had quality time with our parents. We got to travel the United States, and took trips every summer. We learned to read maps, build campfires, see so many wonderful places, and enjoy each others company. It made us a very close family, and that closeness continues to this day. My family was so blessed to have such a man as our dad, and so when he left us…the void was huge!! And now to think that he has been in Heaven for ten long years…well, it makes me feel very sad and lonely. My only consolation is that I know that now my dad…and my mom too…is in my future, not in my past. For me, it just feels like the future is so very far away. I would love to have a hug from my dad right now, not years down the road, and I would love to hear his voice again, and not only in my memory. I just can’t believe that he could have been gone that long. I love and miss you Dad…so very much.
It’s hard to believe that four years have passed since my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg passed away. Of course, if you asked my mother-in-law, his wife, Joann, he is still here. Alzheimer’s Disease has taken away the memory of his loss, for her anyway. Sometime I think her loss of that memory clouds my own feelings about to too. She often calls my husband, Bob…her son, Walt, and of course, he pretends that he is. Or she asks about him, and we tell her that he went to Walmart. In many ways, her loss of the memory of his passing has kept him closer to all of us. Pretending that he is still here makes is seem real somehow, because the mind makes it seem so.
Dad was the glue in the family. Mom might have been too, had Alzheimer’s Disease not taken that spot from her. Dad’s passing brought a different family unit with it. We don’t get together quite as often now. It makes me sad, because I know how much he loved his family, and how important it was to him that we stay close. We have stayed close, just not in quite the same way as it was when he was still with us. Family was everything to him, but of course, he understood how busy people can get. The main thing he would have wanted us to do, is to be there for the love of his life, and in that respect, I know that he knew before he ever left, that we would take good care of her, and so we have.
My father-in-law, was a sweet loving man who loved to joke with the family. He loved it when everyone was together and having a great laugh. It made him feel good to know that no matter what, our day had been like, we could come together and enjoy each other’s company. He was a great dad, grandfather, and great grandfather. He loved those babies. I suppose that is why they had six kids of their own. Dad loved to see the kids playing at his house, and he was never too busy to get in there and play too. The years since his passing have flown by, and that makes me especially sad, because I miss him very much. I wish we could go back in time and have our loved ones back, but that just can’t be. I know you are happy in Heaven Dad, and that we will see you again, but I sure miss you in the here and now.
The first time I met my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s great Uncle Frank Knox and his sweet wife, Helen, was in the summer of 1976, when they and their son, Richard so graciously brought Frank’s parents, Edgar and Nellie Knox to Casper to visit their son Robert’s family, of which I was now a member. It was such a kind act for them to bring Edgar and Nellie, and it showed the kind spirits that they were. Edgar and Nellie were getting on in years, as was their son Robert, who was their eldest son. Edgar was 93 years old at the time, and little did any of us know, that his life was nearer its end than anyone could have expected. The visit took place the end of July of 1976, and Edgar would pass away on August 28, 1976, just about a month later. Nellie would live another 8 years and was blessed in that Frank and Helen would again bring her out to Casper for a visit, about four years later. Again, I was moved by the acts of kindness they showed to Frank’s parents. Nellie passed away on February 10, 1984, at 97 years old, having lived a good long life.
I am reminded of the fourth Commandment of God, which says, “Honor thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” I know that for their kind and loving acts, over the years, Frank and Helen have been very blessed. Frank and Helen married on June 13, 1946. Their marriage was blessed with five sons, Robert, David, Gregory, Wesley, and Richard. They were good people, and raised good children, and the rest of the family feels very blessed to have known them. Over the years, they made several trips to Casper, and it was always fun to see them. Frank and Helen have long since retired, and their memories have faded, which I find very sad, because they both had amazing minds. They knew so much and they were willing to share their knowledge with anyone who was interested in listening. The last time I spoke to Frank was when my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg passed away. I could tell that his memory was diminished, but it was a good visit, and he did remember some things He told me that Helen’s memory wasn’t as good as his was, and that made me sad too. I haven’t spoken to her in a number of years.
Last might, we got the word, that Helen had passed away on January 11, 2017. While I was very sad that she is gone, I know that she was very blessed. You see, Helen was 99 years old. How many people get to live to be 99 years old. Helen’s kindness over the years to everyone she knew, but especially to her parents and to Frank’s parents have given her the benefit of God’s promise of a long life, and since Frank is still living, at 96 years old, it is very obvious that he will also reap the benefit of that same promise. They are both wonderful people. Rest now in peace, Helen Knox. You will be greatly missed, but I know that you are happy in Heaven, and your memory has been restored to you again. We love you, and miss you already.
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.
For my husband, Bob’s Aunt Margee Knox Kountz, there would never be a time in her young memory when she didn’t have a brother-in-law. Her older sister, Joann Knox Schulenberg got married when Margee was just 4½ months old. Of course, this is not a normal occurrence in families with only three children, but my mother-in-law, Joann was almost 16 years old when the first of her younger sisters, Linda Knox Cole was born, and almost 18 years old when the second of her two younger sisters, Margee was born. Due to the number of years between the births of the girls, almost like having two families, my mother-in-law was preparing to get married when her mother was pregnant with the her youngest child. So in all reality, Margee was barely born before becoming a sister-in-law. My father-in-law thought Margee was so cute. He told my mother-in-law, in some letters written while he was working in another town, that he wanted them to have a little girl just like Margee. She was very special to him, and of course to her sister, my mother-in-law, Joann too. I know Margee was not the only person to ever become a sister-in-law, as such a young age, and of course, there are some who are born into that position, but usually they come from bigger families. I just think it would be a little strange to grow up a sister-in-law from such a young age.
Over the years, much has been required of Margee. She was a single mom for as long as I have known her, raising her two children Dan and Sandi and eventually helping out with her grandchildren, while parents worked, or as in the case of her son, Dan’s children, stepping in to help raise them after his beloved wife, Darlene passed away in 1998, when her children were Zech and Staci were about 4 and 2 years old. That was a terrible time for those children and their dad, and Margee, along with Darlene’s parents, stepped up to help them get through it, because as we all know, you don’t get over it, you just get on with it. No, life has not been easy for any of them, but with Margee’s help, these kids have done ok.
Margee stepped up when she was needed most, but then, that is what she does. Whenever a situation arises that leaves someone she loves in need of help, Margee is willing to help in whatever way she can. Whether it is with the little ones, or when her sister needed someone to be with her, because she could not stay alone anymore because of Alzheimer’s disease, or after the passing of a loved one, Margee always steps up. Margee is always someone you can count on. She always comes through for you in a pinch. That is the mark of a wonderful person. Today is Margee’s birthday. Happy birthday Margee!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Over the years, the New Years Eve party that we always hold at my parents, Al and Collene Spencer’s house, has changed in many ways. New family members join our clan, and others depart, whether by their passing or moving away. Still, the party goes on. It is tradition, because, you see, my mom was born on New Years Day. That has always made New Years Eve and the party we hold be something that is anticipated with excitement…or at least it always was.
This year will be very different, and all future New Years Eve parties will also be very different, because our guest of honor…our mom will no longer be there. It’s hard to believe that it has been over ten months since her passing, but it has. Still, just knowing that our parents loved the New Years Eve party so much, and having all their children and grandchildren around them at this special time, was their way of celebrating it, makes it special. They never wanted to go out to a bar, because they wanted their kids to be able to be involved, so in their early years, the annual New Years Eve party at the Spencer home was born.
As teenagers, they knew we would be safe, because we didn’t have to drive anywhere. The party was at our house. And we never wanted to go anywhere else anyway. Our assorted boyfriends were allowed to come to the party over the years, and later husbands and kids, but the party location never changed. It hasn’t changed now either, but our guest of honor will be celebrating her birthday and the party that goes with it, in Heaven this year, because that is where she lives now.
I think we are all a little apprehensive this year, because we really don’t knew how we feel about this particular party. I know that the echoes of our parents and indeed their very essence will linger over the party, because they will be in our thoughts throughout the night. It is just very strange to think about having this party without them. over the years, it was always them that planned and executed the whole evening. It didn’t matter how cold it was outside, because it was always warm and cheery in their house. I’m sure there will be a tear or two that will escape from our eyes, but for the most part, we will try to keep things light. This is a party and not a punishment, after all…and Mom wouldn’t want us to be moping around. So here’s to our parents. Mom and Dad, we love you always and forever, and we miss you very much. As you would have wanted it to be…the party will go on without you…but it will not be nearly as much fun as when you were here.
As our parents get older, and less able to do the same things they used to when they were younger, and we come to expect less and less of them, and sadly sometimes we include them less in things. It’s not because they don’t want to be included, because they do, but because we don’t think they can do things anymore. As the new year approached, many people were at parties, and many of their parents were at home. Of those that included their parents, and were at a place where they could dance, I have to wonder how many made sure that their parents got to dance. Sometimes, it is harder to pull that off, and all too often the kids just don’t think about it. Still, when that forgotten dancer gets the chance to dance again, it lifts their spirit so much. I got to see that exact thing happen last year at my mom’s New Years Eve party, when her new grandson, by marriage, Jason Sawdon took Mom out on the dance floor and they danced.
Since my Dad’s passing, we had not thought about getting Mom out on the dance floor. Since her knee injury, she has used a walker, and it would have been very difficult for her to dance. Nevertheless, Jason would have none of that. He got Mom, his new grandmother, out on the dance floor and filled in for our dad for that special New Years dance that Mom and Dad always shared. It was such a precious moment, and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place. It occurred to me that we had inadvertently left Mom out of part of the festivities, leaving her…a forgotten dancer. It wasn’t that we intended to do that, but more that we didn’t think about it. Dad had always had their special dance with her, and he had gone home.
I think that it’s easy to look at that situation and accept that a part of someone’s life might be over, when you are very close to that situation. We girls, being daughters and therefore not thinking like a man might think that was the case, and even the sons-in-law and grandsons who were there at the time of my Dad’s passing, could not see what Mom might need. We had watched with tears in our eyes, as they danced what turned out to be their last dance, because we were so grateful that they had the opportunity again. When Dad was gone on the next New Year’s Day, we thought her dance days were over. What Jason saw was a different need, and maybe Jessi gave him the idea…I don’t know, and I have not asked, because our forgotten dancer got to dance again, and that was all that mattered.
My Uncle Larry went home to be with the Lord yesterday. His passing was quick and unexpected and we are very saddened by it. We will all miss him greatly. Uncle Larry was my mom’s older brother and someone she looked up to as a child. They, along with mom’s younger brother, my Uncle Wayne, were…shall we say, partners in crime…or at least the mischief that the three of them could manage to get into together. Mom tells me of the time that Uncle Larry was in big trouble with my grandma, and she was giving him a good spanking for his wrong doing. My mom decided to step up and defend the brother she thought could do no wrong. So she began chewing her mom out for the horrible injustice that Grandma was inflicting on her brother, Larry. It was a decision that would get my mom a spanking too, and one she would not repeat. I’m quite certain that Grandma and Uncle Larry are laughing about that in Heaven, right now.
Uncle Larry loved a good joke and told a great many. He also liked to tease people and make them laugh. His had an infectious laugh, and he used it to bring joy and laughter to many people. But he also had a soft side to him. Once when my Aunt Delores said that she liked a set of dishes, he made a promise to her that when he could get the money together, he was going to buy her those dishes. I don’t know if he ever bought her those dishes, but he sure wanted to. It was just the way he was. Loving and giving.
Another time, Uncle Larry, Uncle Wayne and my mom were at the store, when my mom saw a set of salt and pepper shakers she liked. She has always liked salt and pepper shakers, and in fact, has a collection of them. At that time, she was a young girl, and she didn’t have the money for the salt and pepper shakers, so when she wasn’t looking, her brothers put their money together and bought that set for my mom. It was such a sweet thing for them to have done, and it touched my mom deeply.
Uncle Larry always tried to help people, but even he had to draw the line somewhere. When my mom was learning to drive, she had gone through several people as teachers. No one wanted to teach her after a time, because she just couldn’t seem to wrap her mind around how the gears worked…something many people have trouble with. So her brother Larry decided to give it a shot. They ended up in the middle of the street with the car jerking along, and the cars around them honking their horns and trying to get around them. I’m sure it was a comical site to those around it, but it made Uncle Larry very nervous. He kept trying to get her to do the proper procedure. Finally in desperation, he couldn’t take any more. He told my mom to switch places with him…he would drive. I don’t think he ever gave her another lesson.
Uncle Larry was a son, brother, husband, father, uncle, grandfather, and great grandfather. He meant so much to so many people, and I can’t help but feel that a good many people are going to miss him very much. We will see you again someday. We love you very much. You were a blessing to all who knew you. We love you Uncle Larry.