Loss

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My husband’s uncle, Bobby Cole was a man who liked things to run on a slow, easy pace. That might be why he and his family moved the the dinky town of Kennebec, South Dakota. Bobby’s family was from that area, so it was an area he was comfortable with, and his family all agreed that it felt like home. Growing up in central South Dakota, Bobby liked the country lifestyle, and never really wanted to be anywhere else, even though they moved to Winnemucca, Nevada after a lightning fire destroyed their hotel, taking with it their income. That was a tough time for them. They had a life in Kennebec. They square danced, and socialized with friends. Nevertheless, they made the move to Winnemucca and settled into the area.

Both Bobby and Linda got jobs at the local casinos, and found that they enjoyed their lives there. Winnemucca was a very different place than Kennebec, but they liked the new social side of it. There was always new people to see and meet, and the gambling was fun for them. Like most people, they probably gambled more at first, but after a while, it becomes a normal part of life, and you end up doing it less. For most people, gambling…giving your money away to the casinos gets old, and you do it much less. Whenever we visited, they might play Keno a couple of times, but they would rather be at their house outside of town, visiting with us than hanging out in the casinos.

Bobby and Linda were always fun people to be around, and we enjoyed the visits we made to their home both in Kennebec and Winnemucca. I’m so glad that we took the time to really get to know Bobby, Linda, and their kids, Sheila and Pat. We always felt like we had been a blessing to them, as they were to us. All too soon, Bobby left us, following a courageous battle with cancer on May 30, 2014, while seeking treatment in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Today would have been Bobby’s 78th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Bobby. We love and miss you very much.

My dear uncle, Bill Spencer, who left us on Christmas day, 2020, was such a favorite of mine. We were a lot alike, and we had many of the same interests. It was Uncle Bill who taught me to play cribbage, but was never one to let me win. I learned to play well, and when I won…I knew I had really won. Back when you could get away with letting your kid drive on your lap, or even themselves with you in the car, well before they were of an age to get a permit, he let me drive to their cabin when we visited. Even my dad was ok with it, so I drove the three of us for quite a while. As a mom, when my kids needed family history information, I knew that my Uncle Bill was the guy to go to. He was the family historian from the time he was eight years old, and I quickly became as obsessed as he was. Uncle Bill did his research the old fashioned was, by making trips to different places to look in cemeteries, county and state records offices, and libraries. It was much harder work back then, and those of us who have been the beneficiaries of Uncle Bill’s hard work, can say that he has done a great work.

Uncle Bill is my dad, Allen Spencer’s older brother. Uncle Bill was ten years younger than his sister, Laura Fredrick, and three years older than his younger sister, Ruth Wolfe. The two boys were in the middle. The family lived many years in Holyoke, Minnesota, and ran a farm there. Uncle Bill, being the oldest son, played a big part in the farming. He, along with mostly my dad and Aunt Ruth helped with haying, and growing the the gardens. Their dad worked for the railroad, and so the farm was largely left to my grandmother, Anna Spencer, and the kids. My Aunt Laura was married during a good part of the younger children’s growing up years. Nevertheless, Uncle Bill and Aunt Laura were very close during his childhood years when their mother was working and Aunt Laura took care of him. They grew to have a close friendship, as well as being siblings.

As they grew older, Uncle Bill and my dad were the definitely the boys of the family. They loved getting into all kinds of trouble. The jumped on the moving trains, even though they had a pass to ride. They played with dynamite, even sinking the gatepost couple of inches. They also loved to go fishing, and often brought home a good catch, which all the family got to enjoy. Even though they were typical boys, I guess they weren’t all bad. I’m sure that when Uncle Bill got to Heaven a little less than a month ago, there was a wonderful reunion between the brothers, as they rest of their family too. It makes me sad to know that all of the siblings are gone to Heaven now, but only for myself and those of us left here. For the siblings it a big celebration. They are all together again. Today would have been Uncle Bill’s 99th birthday…and his first birthday in Heaven. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Bill. We love and miss you very much.

The loss of a loved one, at any age is terribly hard, but when the loved one is only 45 years old, it is even harder. My sister-in-law, Rachel (Franklin) Schulenberg was a sweet, kind, and compassionate woman, who was loved by all who knew her. She married my brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg on June 12, 2010. Rachel was the love of Ron’s life, and she brought with her the family he didn’t have. Rachel’s daughter, Cassie Iverson had married the week before Rachel and Ron, and she and her husband, Chris would remain in Powell to raise their family, as the children Lucas and Zoey came along. Rachel and her sons, Riley and Tucker, moved to Casper where Ron lived. Rachel and Ron met through her best friend, and his niece, Machelle Moore. It was a match made in Heaven and their wedding was the greatest moment of their lives. Another of the greatest moments of their lives, was when Ron adopted her youngest son, Tucker. The other two children were grown, and Tucker’s dad was unable to be a dad to him, and gave up his rights. Tucker became Tucker Schulenberg, and it was a day of celebration for the whole family.

Rachel was a great mom. She wanted nothing more than to see her kids live out their dreams. She was their biggest cheerleader, and also their greatest comfort. She was there for them, no matter how good things were, or how bad things were. Rachel knew that life happens and everyone makes mistakes, but that never changed the way she felt about the people she loved. She was the kind of person who was there to help them pick up the pieces and make the future better. She was also there to rejoice with them when things were great. Rachel was became a grandmother in 2011 and again in 2015, and those were two of the greatest moments of her life. Her grandchildren, Lucas and Zoey made her life complete. Of course, she always wished they lived a little closer, because she didn’t get to see them as much as she would like, but she saw them as much as she could.

Rachel worked at Walmart for the past year and a half, and she was such a blessing there for coworkers and customers alike. My grandson, Chris Petersen and his fiancée, Karen had the great blessing of seeing her there whenever they shopped for groceries. Rachel was quick to help them with anything they needed, and just to visit with them for a few minutes. She would even step away from her breaks, giving up her breaktime to spend a few minutes with them. It was something that very much endeared Rachel to both of them and to their children. She was their aunt, but she was also their friend. I know many other friends, family members, and customers have the same stories of Rachel’s kindness, helpfulness, and her great smile of greeting.

Rachel was Ron’s other half. She completed him, and gave him the happiest ten years of his entire life. Their marriage on June 12, 2010 filled all of us with gladness, because Ron had found his soulmate…and so had Rachel. They were perfect for each other. Their lives had purpose and most of all love. All too soon, their plans to grow old together were taken from them when Rachel was suddenly taken home to Heaven on January 19, 2021. It was far too soon, as passings are. We will all miss her terribly, and we look forward to seeing her in Heaven when we are reunited there. Rest in peace dear sister. We love and miss you very much.

As years go, 2020 was one of the worst. We had to face so much loss, some was from Covid and some was not from Covid. I don’t think I have ever attended so many funerals as I did in 2020. The funerals were all beautiful, but it’s the pictures of sadness the never fade from my mind. And it’s not just the funerals from 2020 that were filled with sad faces, but every funeral I’ve ever been to.

I suppose it is because of the compassion I feel for the family of the one who has left us. Their family is feeling such pain, that their faces have completely changed. Grief does that to a person. It’s like death takes away a layer of innocence…the unfounded belief that our loved one will always be here with us. Those broken hearted faces that cannot hold back the tears. The look of disbelief that tells me that they still can’t wrap their mind around the fact that their loved one is gone. And these are not people without the hope of Heaven, but their loved one is no longer here with them, and that is so hard to bear. We don’t grieve for the one who has gone to Heaven, the grieving is for us…the ones left behind to pick up the pieces of our lives.

My mind’s memory files retain pictures of events, and that can be good or it can be bad. I remember the faces of people who were very happy, and those pictures bring me much joy, but the sad faces, are so hard to get off my mind. Maybe it’s because I have such a hard time wrapping my own mind around the fact that the person is no longer here. When a loved one or friend leaves us for Heaven, we are always unprepared. There is no way to prepare for death, even when the doctors have said it is coming. We always hope against hope that the doctors are wrong, and sometimes they are, but when they are right, we are faced with the finality of it. While the picture of someone’s extreme sadness never fades from my memory files, there is another picture that stays with me. It is the look behind the sad face. The look of a parent who knows that they have other children who need them, so with determination, their face shows that they will continue to make a life for their family. It is look of an adult child who is determined to live the kind of life that will make their departed parent proud. It is the look of a spouse who is determined to carry on as the now widowed parent to the family. Their hearts are broken right now, but with prayer, the love of family, and determination, they will carry on, because they are all overcomers. I can’t say that every grieving face has that same determination, but the ones I know do. Maybe it comes from knowing their loved one is in Heaven…it probably does. It is the hope of the future for them and their families.

Some birthdays are harder than others. Some people don’t want to turn 30, 40, or 50 and beyond, but if they think about it, those years are a blessing. The really hard birthdays…are the ones after a loss. Many of us have been there, but my grand niece, Siara Olsen has been through more in one year than anyone should have to endure in ten years. Of 2020, Siara says, “In 2020 I lost: My beautiful baby boy Alec Todd Olsen, my amazing and loving best kitty in the whole world Forrest, my husband and the beautiful family he brought with him, an energetic and loving puppy, and my home. This year could’ve broke me, and crushed my spirit but it didn’t. It caused me to gain so much faith in God, faith in myself, strength in all my other relationships and pride in myself for learning patience, trust, and most of all resilience. This year broke me down to nothing, but I have all the faith in the world this new year will grow me into the woman God created me to be. Cheers to 2021.” I can’t imagine all she went through. This was a year that could have broken Siara. She may be short in stature, but she is a strong in faith. I’m not saying that Siara didn’t feel the pain of loss, but she knew that she had to pick herself up, and go forward. Her son would expect no less of his precious mom. The year has been a long hard journey, and some days are much harder than others. Still, I am amazed at how this little girl can be such a strong woman.

Siara is a beautiful woman with a heart of gold. She puts a smile on the faces of all who know her. I suppose that is a big part of what makes it so hard to watch her go through this. Nevertheless, through it all, Siara proved that she is truly is an overcomer, and expects this coming year to be a very good one! After Siara’s divorce, she was able to move in with her parents, Chantel and Dave Balcerzak, where she received the loving care she really needed, but as I said Siara is an overcomer. Recently, she moved into her own home, and is starting over with a good attitude. She misses Alec very much, but she knows she has to go on. Her life didn’t go the way she expected, but Siara will always make the best of what she has. That is part of her strength!! That is the amazing part of her strength!! She is enjoying decorating her new home, and her new little kitten which she got from her aunt, Jenny Spethman. Siara doesn’t give up or get into a pity party, even though she has reasons to be sad. Siara overcomes and that’s is what makes her a strong woman. Siara is a person who always tries to keep herself on the sunny side…her grandparents, Allen and Collene Spencer would be so proud of her!! We all are!! I know it’s going to be a great year for her!! Today is Siara’s birthday. Happy birthday Siara!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My little great grand niece, Hallie Joy Moore came into this world on December 19, 2020 at 5:00am, in Laramie, Wyoming. Her family had excitedly anticipated her arrival, and she was already so loved, but she arrived two months early, and her time on Earth was not to be long. Hallie, who’s name means “Praise the Lord,” tried very hard to stay, but then she went home to be with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The doctors and nurses who tried so hard to help Hallie stay, will never forget this sweet little girl who stole their hearts immediately. In the end, she was just too early. Hallie went home at 5:37am, just 37 minutes after her birth.

Hallie Joy wasn’t here very long, but for those who knew her, in the womb during the months before her birth, in the moments after her arrival and passing, and in the hopes and dreams for her planned future, her impact was everlasting. This sweet little girl captured the hearts of all who had the honor of being there with her, in life and even after. Her spirit and strength will live on in all of her family members. We all feel like we knew her even though we didn’t get to “meet” her in person, because her spirit lives on in our hearts…and we will get to meet her when we go to Heaven.

Hallie is the second daughter of her parents, Lindsay and Shannon Moore. She has a sister named Mackenzie, with whom Hallie bears a strong resemblance. That in itself will be a blessing to her parents, because as Mackenzie grows, they will be able to see the shadow of her little sister Hallie Joy. Every time they say her name, Hallie, they will be saying, “Praise the Lord,” and they will also know that their little girl was a joy to all who knew her, and to all who know of her. She will always be a Joy to her parents hearts whenever they think of her. A child has a deeper impact than just the ones who got to meet them. Her extended family, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so many more loved this little girl before we ever knew that she was a little girl. We knew Lindsay and Shannon were having a second baby and we were all excited about it. We couldn’t wait to meet this baby, and that has not changed. We are all looking forward to meeting Hallie, who is with the Lord, and yes, still praising Him right now. That is the beauty of Hallie’s current life. She has had the opportunity to meet her grandparents, cousin, and many others who have gone home before her. She has been held in the arms of our Lord Jesus, and she has seen the face of God. Her life is not sad. It is glorious, happy, and beautiful. She is perfect, not weak or sick, just perfect. That is the greatest physical part of Heaven. Of course, the truly greatest part is knowing God…knowing Jesus…knowing Holy Spirit, and being always happy. One day she will know her big sister, when the Moore girls are together in Heaven. They will have so much fun, laughing and playing. There are no tears in Heaven…just eternal joy!!

The new year is always a little bittersweet for my family…at least since my mother, Collene Spencer passed away on February 22, 2015. Mom’s birthday was the party event of the year, because her birthday was on January 1st. That’s the party event of the year for most people, but even more so for us. We celebrated the end of the old year, Mom’s birthday always made our New Year’s Eve party the best of all of them. You couldn’t have paid us to go to some other party. Even the ball dropping at Times Square, couldn’t compare for us. We were already at the best party event. I miss those parties. Oh, we still celebrate, but one guest is missing…Mom. The parties just aren’t the same without the part about welcoming the new year and then telling Mom happy birthday. Now, we can only give her our birthday wishes from Earth to Heaven.

Mom was a special kind of person. She was a child of God, who wanted everyone to know her Savior, Jesus Christ. She told people about the Lord, even when my sisters and I thought she should give up on the person. Mom couldn’t stand the idea of anyone going to Hell. She had such a pure heart that way. When I think about all the people she talked to over the years, and the fact that if even half of them got saved…well, Mom helped bring a whole lot of people to the Lord. Looking back on all the times I was embarrassed by her “mission” work, it makes me feel ashamed. She was doing what she knew to be right, and I was a kid who knew nothing. She took the high road in it. I wish I had.

Mom was a character to say the least. She would do the funniest things and make the funniest faces, just to make us laugh. Especially if we, her five daughters, Cheryl Masterson, me (Caryn Schulenberg), Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock, were fighting. Of course, we didn’t all fight at the same time, but rather two or three at a time. Just imagine having five daughters who were either fighting or playing loudly. We must have driven Mom crazy at times. Still, she loved being a Mom, and had visions of the perfect children, like all moms do…until they have kids anyway. Then the reality hits. Kids are kids, and they make noise and they fight. Mom loved to creatively stop the noise…even if that meant making funny faces. She also loved to sing us a song. Her favorite, “You Are My Sunshine” was a staple in our house. She was the sunshine in our house, and we always knew that we were her sunshine. Today would have been my mom’s 85th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Mom. We love and miss you very much.

As the final day of 2020 arrives, I find myself…relieved. This has been a hard year in so many ways…so many losses. Setting aside the loss of friends and loved ones, because that is almost too much to go into, I will turn my attention instead to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the source of much of the loss we all felt this year. Countless numbers of people lost their jobs this year, or at least temporarily lost their source of income. We became isolated, even if we weren’t sick, we were told to wear masks, and even when things opened up partially, the churches were told to stay closed, while the abortion clinics were considered essential businesses. We were told to shelter in place, making us feel isolated and alone. We couldn’t visit loved ones in nursing homes or hospitals, making them feel alone and forgotten. We were told to skip the holidays and stay at home, further isolating all of us. Urgently needed surgeries and cancer treatments were postponed, because of the virus, but people could still kill the unborn babies. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the seriousness of the virus, I lost loved ones and friends too, but the way things were handled, especially in Democratically run cities and states, did nothing to protect the people of this country. We tried to listen to the scientists, but they kept contradicting themselves and each other. One minute masks saved lives, the next they didn’t. I hate to be a person who only rants, but like most of us, I’m over it…and I’m over 2020.

With all that has gone on in 2020, I am still able to say that I have high hopes for 2021. The craziness and sadness of 2020 will not last forever, because people have a strong tendency to have hope for the future. Pandemics have come and gone, and this one will too. As a nation, we will fight for our freedoms. We have done it before, and we are not scared to do it again. I believe we have God on our side, and in Him, we have the victory in every battle…especially this one. Whether people want the vaccine or not, it gives many people hope that there is an end to this Pandemic. I think that is the main thing that people are looking for these days…hope!!

As we close out 2020, we can consider it hindsight as we look forward to 202Won!! I really like that, because this nation, as well as many others, need a win right now, and I’m all for putting 2020 in the rearview mirror, and turning the mirror toward the ceiling so we don’t have to look at it ever again. We will persevere, and we will come back stronger, if we don’t lose hope and our strong faith in God!! I am a positive person, but I think 2020 was enough to try anyone’s patience and even faith, but we must never lose faith. Never doubt in the dark, what God told you in the light. And don’t ley what you see make you doubt what God has spoken. So, here’s to the end of 2020. Bring on 202Won!!! Happy New Year everyone.

Yesterday, we received the news that our sweet Uncle Bill Spencer had passed away from Covid at the Middle River Health and Rehabilitation Center in South Range, Wisconsin. He was a little under one month from his 99th birthday. Uncle Bill had lived at the Middle River Center for about ten years now, and we have had the opportunity to visit him there twice. I wish it had been more, but we live a long way away from them, so it wasn’t to be. The center was a nice place, and the people there loved Uncle Bill. We could see that the people there had a heart for their residents, and that gave us peace of mind. Uncle Bill tested positive for Covid on December 14th, and was doing ok until the morning of December 25th. By that afternoon, he had gone home to Heaven.

Uncle Bill was the last of my dad’s generation in their parents’ line, and lived the longest of them all. He was the second child of my grandparents, Allen and Anna (Schumacher) Spencer, born in Tomahawk, Wisconsin on January 21, 1922, when his older sister, Laura (Spencer) Fredrick was 10 years old, born August 3, 1912. We don’t know why there was such a distance between the two older children, because the younger three were pretty close together. My dad, Allen Spencer followed on April 27, 1924, and Aunt Ruth (Spencer) Wolfe on November 9, 1925. As they grew, the brothers, William and Allen were good friends as well as siblings. The fact that both were boys gave them many interests in common.

I recall some of their stories told when Uncle Bill came out for a visit in 2006. One of my favorites was about Independence Day celebrations. Growing up on a farm in the Holyoke area of Minnesota, they boys worked to plow, and remove rocks and tree stumps from the fields. This made them experts with dynamite, a fact that we hadn’t heard before. That in itself is very interesting, but they were also kids, and…well mischievous to say the least. Their July 4th tradition was to set off a dynamite blast…at daybreak. When I asked if people got mad at them, they said that they were out in the country, so who cared. Indeed!! One time though, they decided to try something new. Their mom had gone into town, leaving the boys at home. Their curious minds kicked in. They decided to find out what would happen if they set off a stick of dynamite on the top of the gate post. Yikes!! Well, they found out what would happen. When the dynamite exploded, the gate post sunk several inches into the dirt. The gate would no longer close, of course, and he boys immediately set about fixing it before their mom came back from town. They had no desire to find out what she thought of their prank.

While it makes me so sad that my uncle is gone now, I can feel his excitement as he entered Heaven to find his parents and siblings waiting for him. And what a wonderful thought…he was home for Christmas this year. I would imagine the celebration was wonderful. The boys were back together after so many years. I can picture them…just like kids again, filled with excitement, but I can also imagine one other thing. I can hear God saying, “The boys are back together…hide the dynamite!!” God knows his children well, and it simply wouldn’t do for those mischievous Spencer brothers to set off a stick of dynamite, right there on the gate post of the Pearly Gates, and sink one side several inches into the ground!! Nevertheless, I can see their minds clicking, sharp as ever now, thinking…”Hey, lets give that a try!!” Dynamite or not, there is a party going on in Heaven today. Grandma and Grandpa Spencer, and their kids are all together in Heaven again, and that’s worth celebrating. Uncle Bill we all love you very much and we will miss you always. You are in our future now, and we can’t wait to see you again.

Most of the time, Christmas is a time filled with tradition. Many families celebrate it in exactly the same way every year. Of course, the most important thing about Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. When I think of where this world would be if Jesus had never come down from Heaven to save us from our own sins, I feel such thankfulness. We needed Him, and He came. No one really knows what day Jesus was born, but in reality, that part doesn’t really matter, but rather the fact that he was born.

This Christmas, for many people has been different than any other Christmas we have had before. Most us us weren’t alive in 1918 when the Spanish Flu Pandemic brought quarantine to many places in the world. I don’t know if things were as locked down as they are this year, but those who were ill, could not be with other people, and so their families were separated, as many are now. It makes for a Christmas that doesn’t feel like Christmas. Still, we have to remember the reason for the season, and not the things we have lost. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Without Jesus, we were doomed. With Him we have victory and everlasting life. What a wonderful reason to celebrate His birthday. He is the Savior of the World, and His way is so easy for us to follow.

Like it or not, this Christmas brings us to the beginning of the last week of a horrible year, and one the likes of which many of us hope never to go through again. January of 2020 found us facing the beginning of the pandemic, and by March we were in quarantine, and the economy was shut down. The year got steadily worse until many of us found ourselves weary, and ready to start a new year. For my family, that has not changed. We are really ready for 2021. Even today was a sad day, but I will tell of that story tomorrow. I believe the new year will be much better, and as bad as 2020 has been, I am very optimistic for the new year, not for any political or human reason, but because I believe that God is good to us and because he sent His son to die for us, He will not leave us without hope. Therefore I will have hope for 2021. Merry Christmas to all!!

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