When death silently steals the one you love…your best friend and the love of your life…it is the most life altering moment that anyone can ever experience. You had thought you would grow old together, and now you find that is not to be. Two days ago, the life of my dear cousin, Greg Hushman was altered by the loss of his precious wife, Dustine. Her passing was unexpected, and that made it that much more shocking to all of us…especially Greg. Dustine and Greg met in Casper, Wyoming after both of them had been divorced. It was a second chance for them, and it would become their happily ever after.
Their blended family would share many wonderful times. They would see the weddings of their children, and the birth of grandbabies. Their love grew with every passing day, week, and year. Their marriage was blessed in so many ways. At times, it seemed too good to be true. When I asked Greg’s daughter, Stephanie Willard for a little bit of information on Dustine, it was a bit hard for her. They live on different sides of the country, and so don’t get to see each other very often, except on Facebook. Nevertheless, Stephanie said something that has remained in my heart, although she probably doesn’t even know what she said. It was one of the nicest things a step-daughter could say, I think, and the most mature. She said, “Dustine made my dad happy, and that made me happy.” What a tribute!! In this life, filled with its ups and downs, happiness and sadness, love and loss, what better thing to be remembered for than the simple truth that you made your spouse and family happy. To some, that may seem like a less than stellar goal, but not to anyone who has truly found such happiness.
When my sister, Cheryl Masterson, my mom, Collene Spencer, and I went to Washington in 2013 to visit our cousins there, and attend the funeral of my Uncle Jim Wolfe, we had the opportunity to get together for dinner with Greg, and his brother, George. We had hoped their wives could have come, but it didn’t work out that way. It had been a very long time since we saw either of the girls, especially Dustine. As we talked, Greg told us that he had bought Dustine a new car, and you could just see how pleased he was with that. His eyes sparkled with delight, at being able to do this for her. You could see that he was reliving the moment over and over in his memory. Yes, I agree with Stephanie, Dustine made Greg happy, and Greg made Dustine happy too.
It makes me feel so sad to know that Dustine has left us now, but like Greg, I am glad that the constant pain she was in since an accident at UPS many years ago, is over now. She will always be in our hearts, as grief eventually gives way to memories of happier times. We love you Dustine. Rest in Jesus now, until we see you again in Heaven.
When I think about how long my son-in-law, Travis Royce has been married to my daughter, Amy…I have to say it is hard to believe. Not that they have stayed together, but rather that it has been that long already. It seems like just yesterday that we were planning their wedding, and now their kids are grown, or close, since Shai graduated this past year, and Caalab graduates this spring. Where have all the years gone? So many things have changed for Amy and Travis. Their children are almost grown, and they are probably looking at being empty nesters before long.
After all these years, I can honesty say that Travis has made Amy’s life interesting…and fun. He is so quick witted that you never know what he might say. That doesn’t seem to matter to Amy though. She takes all his jokes in stride, and laughs right along with him. To hear Travis talk, Amy is an ultra-abuser…of course, the truth is that Amy is a peacemaker, and wouldn’t hurt a fly. But then, what spouse hasn’t joked that his wife will beat him if he doesn’t get home on time. As long as it’s all in fun…no harm, no foul. As I said, you never know what jokes might come out of Travis’ mouth, but then Amy can go back and forth with the best of then too, so she just shoots it right back at him.
A house filled with laughter is a great place to be, and I have no doubt that the laughter is a large part of what keeps them together. Laughter can be like glue. Of course, you also need love, and love is alive and well in their house too. Amy and Travis complete each other. I can’t imagine one without the other anymore. After a while, some people just seem to have been made for each other, and of course, that is exactly what I believe to be the case. I believe that the Lord made them to be each other’s soul mate and other half. There is so much love between them, and it is so obvious that it is there. It shows up in the little things they do for each other, and just the quite touch in passing, but there is also the very demonstrative way that they have with each other. Travis might spontaneously kiss Amy on the cheek or just put his arm around her, simple because she is beside him, and Amy is the same way with him. It is a show of the never ending love they have for each other. Happy anniversary Amy and Travis!! Have a great day!! We love you both!!
During 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 life, 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 short 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.
When a couple has been married for many years, as my mom and dad were, before his passing, the years beyond their earthly time together reminds me of the recent version of the Titanic, where Rose had to go on after Jack’s death, to live the life he had encouraged her to live. The loss of a spouse can be such a devastating event, that sometimes people just close themselves off from life, and waste away. Of course, not every spouse who is left behind is physically able to go out and have the many adventures that Rose had, but many of those have children who step in and take them to places they could not go on their own.
Rose could have gone back to the man she was engaged to, who was abusive, and mean in every way, but she chose to take the opportunity that had presented itself, and make a new life for herself…a very brave thing to a single woman to do in that era, considering she also had to escape her mother’s selfish ways, by also not telling her that she had survived.
My mom’s mother, and my mom both lost their spouses after more than 50 years of marriage, and while neither of them would travel alone after that, both have taken many trips over the years since becoming widows. Before my grandmother passed away, 8 years after my grandfather, she took several trips, including one to Ireland with her sisters and brother, and one to Louisiana to visit her son. Looking at the pictures from those places reminded me of the adventures Rose had after Jack passed away. And I’m quite certain that my grandfather would have been most pleased with her travels, and excited that she got to make the journeys.
My mom has also had the opportunity to do some traveling since my dad’s passing. They always loved the Black Hills, and my sister, Cheryl takes her every year over the 4th of July week, when Bob and I, and several other family members go, and she gets to continue to enjoy the magesty of the Black Hills. This past week, Cheryl, Mom and I traveled through Montana, Idaho, and Eastern Washington to attend my uncle’s funeral, and Mom got to go from the lakes to the mountain tops. She didn’t hike, of course, and at times it was hard work to get her where we all wanted to go, but we persevered and it went very well.
It is so important that the surviving spouse takes that journey beyond loss, because their spouse would want them not only to survive, but flourish. They would want them to remember the past, but live in the here and now. In many ways, they are taking their spouse along with them…especially if the trip is to a place they both had wanted to go, but didn’t get to. Things change in this life, but life is for the living, and time marches on, so we must keep the love for those lost, in our hearts, and live the rest of our lives in the ways that bring us joy.
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.
Sometimes, in our everyday lives, we forget to notice just how much God has blessed us with our spouses. It isn’t necessarily the big things they do for us, but rather it’s the little things, that make us stop and think of how blessed we are. Sometimes in a marriage, we forget to do the little, helpful things for each other, so when your spouse does something that is such a simple act of kindness and love, it can leave you…almost in awe of this love of your life.
Many of you know that we have been caregivers for Bob’s parents over the last few years, and I would never leave them in a position of having no one to help them. Still, it is a big job, and sometimes, I find myself feeling exhausted. There is no real help for it, as there are only so many hours in the day, and a number of them are required to give them the care they need to continue to stay in their own home.
Bob is usually right there beside me, working to keep them healthy, and many evenings find us sitting in our easy chairs, after getting them to bed, watching television…well, actually, sleeping through the show we are supposed to be watching. Not your typical date night. We used to walk 2 hours a day, but there is little time for that now…and that’s ok. Our time will come around again. This is parent time, and not only is it necessary, it is a very special time in our lives. I suppose some people think of caregiving as a burden, but I think of it as an opportunity to make the quality of life better for my in-laws, and my mom, although she has not needed as much care these days. It is also a time of bonding….of building a relationship that is so mutually blessed, that I feel a bit sorry for those who never have that bonding opportunity with their own parents or in-laws.
Often, with his mother, there is little Bob can do to help, but he shows his appreciation in the little things he does for me. Whether it is cooking dinner, washing the dishes (or helping me wash the dishes), or the many other little things he does for me, just because he knows I am tired, Bob always shows me how much he appreciates me. That means more than any gift he could give, or even places he could take me. He simply understands if I’m too tired to do some things around the house, and he picks up the slack. Love doesn’t manifest itself in any more beautiful way than that…and I couldn’t feel more loved.