Loss

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While riding the 1880 Train on the last day of our annual trip to the Black Hills, Bob and I were sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the ride. It is a favorite part of our trip each year. One of the things that I like to do on these train rides, is to listen to what the people around us think of the journey. When you ride the train every year. You know the area, and while it is still very interesting to me, I do know the area. Others don’t, so it’s interesting to see what they think of this area I love so much. I almost feel like a local listening to the tourists who are viewing this place for the first time.

This trip’s most profound conversation was a little different, and it really made me think. The train has a recorded narrative, and a little boy, about 5 or 6 years old was listening to it. So often, children don’t really listen to such things, but this little boy was rather intently listening to the message. So as he listened, the narrator said that the train was in use during World War I and World War II, and the boy said, “What’s a war?” That really made me wonder…how nice it would be, not to know what war is. Yes, there have been wars in his lifetime, and indeed, we are in one even now, but this little boy is too young to really fathom the meaning of the word…war. He still possessed an innocence when it comes to war, killing, and death. That innocence is about to end, I suppose, because once his aunt or mother answered his question, he will forever know what a war is. He cannot go back to that innocence again. It is gone.

I came away from that experience a little sad. Children have such an innocent joy, and for this boy, that is changing. True…he won’t fully lose that innocence in one explanation, and it will depend on how much the adults with him can soften the truth for him, but no matter what we do or say, war and death go together, and death by war is not pretty. This boy has an imagination, and if he continues to question the adults in his life, he will begin to get a clear picture of war, and what it really is. Then, as he grows, that picture will become more and more vivid. He will know what death by war means. War is a part of life, and eventually we all know what war means, but for me, the question felt sad, because I was witnessing the beginning of the end of his innocence. It’s a moment I wont easily forget either.

My grandfather, George Byer was the only grandfather I ever knew. My dad’s dad had passed away before my parents were married, and all of my great grandfathers passed away long before I was born. It was not something I ever felt cheated about then, it was just the way it was. Of course, now I wish I had been able to know the other grandfathers, as well as some of the grandmothers. I did get to know my grandpa’s mother, but I don’t recall my grandma’s mother, because I was only three when she passed away. Grandpa was such a gentle man and I loved him very much. We all did.

I remember one afternoon when Grandpa stopped by our house. My mom was on the phone, so she told her dad to just come on in. She went on with her conversation, and Grandpa stood there. When she realized that he hadn’t come in, She again motioned him to come on in. Again she went back to her conversation, and again, Grandpa stood there. Finally my mom realized that something was wrong. It was then that she saw our German Shepherd dog, King was standing at the door. He wasn’t exactly growling or anything, but Grandpa knew that he had better not come inside, because King was guarding the door. Mom said, “King!! You let him in!!” King looked at Mom sheepishly, and literally smiled. Mom said it was the first time she had ever seen a dog smile. King turned and stepped away, allowing my Grandpa to come inside. I really miss that dog!! And I really miss my grandpa. I’m sure that Grandpa got a kick out of the whole thing…later, but at the time, he knew better than to test the dog. The funny thing is that King really wouldn’t have hurt him. King really did have a sense of humor. Some dogs do, you know.

If you ask me, I had the very best grandpa in the world. He was the best and sweetest grandpa ever. All of his grandchildren loved him, and his kids always felt like they were given the very best life ever. Grandpa may not have been rich, but he was rich in love for his family. He would have give everything he owned to make sure that they were ok. Together with our grandma, Hattie Byer they showed their generosity to anyone who needed it. No matter what Grandma was cooking, and how many extra people showed up, it seemed like there was always enough to feed everyone. They really were both amazing people. Today is the 128th anniversary of Grandpa’s birth. That was a wonderful day for our family, even if no one knew it then. Happy birthday in Heaven Grandpa Byer. We love and miss you very much.

We all have them. Days when we really miss a loved one who has passed away or even a love one who lives far away. These are days when thoughts of our mom, dad, spouse, sibling, child, grandparent, or even great grandparent, so fill our minds that it brings us to tears. We push through the sadness and try not to let the tears spill over, but it is so hard, because our heart has a mind of its own sometimes, and those tears just won’t listen to our pleas to stop. Reaching out to others does little to help us, and even posting on social media doesn’t help, because it is our own sadness, our own sorrow, and we have to live it alone. Truly, our only help comes from God, who sees our every tear, and has sent the Comforter to us for just such a time as this.

The thing is that we know where our love one is, and that they are happy, but that doesn’t make it easier for us to move out of our own sadness, because the true sadness of losing someone is not sadness for them, but rather for us. And for those who know someone who is going through this sadness, there is a feeling of helplessness. We love the grieving family member or friend, but we don’t have the words or the ability to make it better for them. All we can do is to pray over them and let them know we love them, and hope it is enough to ease their pain. Of course, for many of us, their pain is shared by us because we love both them and their loved one.

No matter how painful those “miss you” days are, we must understand that they are also important, because we would never want to forget our loved ones. Their memory, while painful considering the loss, is so important considering our love for them. Unfortunately, once a loved one is in Heaven you can’t have one kind on memory without the other kind.

Missing the loved on who lives far away is different, but when you suddenly realize that it has been a year since you saw that parent, grandparent, sibling, or child, your heart goes through that same pain and sadness. The heart somehow doesn’t fully understand the difference between a loved one being in Heaven and a loved on being across the country. Yes, the heart understands that the one who lives far away will be seen again on Earth, but it still feels that pain of missing that loved one terribly…especially when you had lived so close before, even in the same house. The heart just doesn’t totally understand the feeling, it just knows that it is painful, and it brings those dreaded tears. It’s all a part of “miss you” days.

So many military holidays are mixed up and celebrated in a wrong manner, or simply forgotten and celebrated as a fun holiday whereby we are off work. Memorial Day is celebrated as the beginning of summer, usually with picnics and other fun events, but the reality is that Memorial Day is the day we honor, or should honor, those soldiers who fought in a war, and did not return home. They gave their all…their lives. We can never repay such a debt to the brave men and women who fought and died so that we and other nations might live free.

I didn’t personally lose a loved one in any war, but I know a few people who did, and my heart goes out to them on this day. The families of these brave soldiers who gave their lives, sacrificed too, and their sacrifice is no small one. I know that in my family, there were men who lost their lives in war. I just didn’t know them personally. I doubt if any family can be totally free of that loss, given all the wars there have been throughout history.

Memorial Day is so important, because without the sacrifice these men and women made, our world would be a totally different place today. Many of us have cringed at the changes that the current administration is trying to bring on this nation. I feels like an insult to the brave mn and women who fought and died for our freedom. Today is not a day to barbeque and celebrate the long weekend. In reality, it is a day to reflect on those we have lost in the horrible wars we have had to fight to keep this nation and others free. As you go about your day, please try to remember that fact, and thank a lost soldier’s family is you know one. We owe them and their lost soldier a great debt of gratitude. To anyone who has lost a loved one in battle, I say, “thank you for your sacrifice and that of your loved one.” It will never be forgotten.

My niece Cassie Iverson is spending her first birthday without her mom. My sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg went to Heaven on January 19, 2021, after suffering a stroke. It’s been a hard year for Cassie so far, as anyone who has lost a parent can attest. Really that first whole year is the hardest. All the firsts without your parent. Cassie and her mom were just the two of them from the time her mom was 16 years old. They were so close. I could say that they were best friends, but they weren’t Rachel was the mom and Cassie was the daughter. They were closer than just friends could be. A person has enough friends, and can always make more, but a mother is a treasure, and you truly only get one.

Life changed, as life does. Rachel got married and had two sons, Cassie’s half-brothers, Riley and Tucker. Then they divorced and Rachel was a single mom again. Just her and her kids. Cassie was older then, and she and her mom grew closer. Rachel watched as her beautiful daughter grew and found new interests. Sure, there were difficult times…teenaged years, sibling fights, and such, but Rachel loved her kids and they all knew that they were going to be ok.

When Cassie got married and had babies of her own, Rachel was so proud. She loved her grandchildren beyond measure. Rachel was also very proud of her only daughter. Cassie is a very talented photographer, and Rachel would often tell me about her photography trips. She was just so proud of Cassie. She was also so proud of the mother Cassie was. She watched as Cassie raised Lucas, who was born with Down Syndrome. Cassie became the best advocate for her son. Cassie is a real fighter when it comes to her children, Lucas and his little sister, Zoey, and that made Rachel so proud. She knew that Cassie would give her children the best life she possible could. Cassie learned about being a mom from the best…her own mom, Rachel.

Life without her mom will never be the same for Cassie…she will always miss her mom. It is impossible not to, but I hope she also knows just how proud her mother was of her. Often when we spoke on the phone, Rachel would tell me, with pride in her voice, about the wonderful accomplishments of her daughter. Photography, kids, camping…another thing they both loved, and so much more. Cassie, your mom is in Heaven, but she is still watching over you, and she is still so proud of everything you have accomplished. I know this year is a tough one, but remember that she lives on in your heart. Today is Cassie’s birthday. Happy birthday Cassie!! Have a great day!! Your mom would want that for you. We love you!!

After his dad, Eddie Hein passed away from a heart attack, our cousin Larry Hein, did his best to run his business, while helping his mom where he could. His sister, Kim Arani helped too, but she lives in Texas and the rest of the family lives in Montana. Things seemed to be going ok, but then, just a little more than three months later, Larry also suffered a heart attack, and passed away at just 50 years of age. It was a devastating blow to the family, who now had to pick up the pieces yet again.

Larry was a good kid. I first got to know him when my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I took our girls for a visit to his grandparents, Walt and Vina Hein’s ranch outside of Forsyth, Montana. Larry was just a young boy then, but he was good to his grandparents and his parents too. He also spent time entertaining our daughters, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce, as will as his little sister, Kim. Grandma Hein loved having Larry come for visits. He used to help out aren’t the place, and anyone who has ever run a ranch can tell you that you can never have enough help around the ranch.

Larry’s expertise did not lie in ranching, however. Larry was a mechanic. and Larry also loved to tow vehicles to his shop for those repairs. A number of years back, Larry fulfilled his life-long dream of owning his own shop. It wasn’t far from his parents’ home in Forsyth, and he did a bang-up business. The lot was always full of vehicles waiting to be worked on. Being a mechanic’s wife myself, I can tell you that the mark of a great mechanic is the number of vehicles waiting in line. If the mechanic isn’t good they will go elsewhere. If he is good, they will wait in line rather that letting someone else touch their vehicle. Well, at Larry’s shop…there was always a line.

It’s hard to believe that Larry and his dad have been in Heaven for over a year now. It just doesn’t seem possible, but I’m sure that is what his mom and sister think too. Time just flies after a loved one has passed away. Before we know it ten years have gone by. The human mind struggles to take it in. Today would have been Larry’s 52th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Larry. I know you and your dad are having the time of your lives. We love and miss you very much.

My Uncle Larry Byer was talented in music. He played the guitar, the mandolin, and the piano. My grandfather, his dad, George Byer played the mandolin and the violin. My dad, Al Spencer and my Uncle George both played guitar. They had a regular band, and their jam sessions were like a big party at the Byer house. The kids all had friends who came over as much as they could to listen to the concerts. There were others that joined in sometimes playing the instruments they knew too. It made for a great Saturday night hot spot. Uncle Larry, Grandpa, my dad, and Uncle George are all in Heaven now, and I’ll bet they are all still having those jam sessions, and enjoying the fun times. A Heavenly Band is always in demand.

Uncle Larry was also a funny guy. He loved a good joke, as well as pulling a few pranks now and then. You never knew what he might do, and that was part of his charm. Together with my mom, Collene Spencer and my Uncle Wayne Byer, there was never a dull moment. What one didn’t think of another did. They were truly like the Three Musketeers!! My grandma, Hattie Byer was often forced to give them an “attitude adjustment” to straighten them out. All in all, they were good kids though…just mischievous.

When he grew up, Uncle Larry served in the United States Army, in the Korean War. While fighting a war would b the pits, my guess is that Uncle Larry took his famous humor with him, and was probably a great asset to the morale of the troops. In fighting a war, it helps to have a little humor. I helps the soldiers to let off steam. War is an ugly event, and sometimes a good laugh is very much needed. In those cases, Uncle Larry would have been the man for the job, in my opinion. Still, Uncle Larry could be serious when it was required of him, and he was a great soldier too. He served his country honorably, and when he was honorably discharged, he came home and rekindled a friendship with his future wife, Jeanette Morton, who had been a family friend for years. They married on February 11, 1956. Their son Larry Wayne Byer was born a year later on February 9, 1957, and daughter Tina followed on November 12, 1958. Their family was complete…until the grandchildren came along that is. Uncle Larry left us for his Heavenly home on December 22, 2011. Today he would have been 87 years old. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Larry. Strike up the band and have a great party. We love and miss you very much.

When my moms passed away, my mom, Collene Spencer in 2015 and my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg in 2018, Mother’s Day was forever changed for me. I no longer had a mom on this earth. It was a lonely feeling, because they were both so very special. I couldn’t have asked for better moms in my life. They were somewhat different from each other, but they both had very special qualities, and each had special gifts. Both of my moms were excellent cooks, but they made different specialties. My sister, Cheryl Masterson found some cute questionnaires of memories to put together with her grandchildren, and one of the questions concerned the favorite food their mother made. That got me thinking about my moms, and the foods they made. Probably my favorite of my mom’s meals, was Tuna Casserole. I know that may sound odd, but it was amazing, and for some odd reason, I can’t make it taste like hers did, recipe or not. I don’t know what she did, but my guess is that it was made with love. My mother-in-law made an unusual dish, that I would never have guessed that I would love, but when my husband begged me to eat it with an open mind (we were dating at the time), I thought my goose was cooked. Her dish was Squash and Pancakes. Now you can wrinkle your nose all you want, but it is amazing, and I love it. The memories you have are a sweet thing when your loved one is in Heaven and you can’t see them anymore.

My idea of Mother’s Day had to turn toward, of course, being mom to my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce, but also to them being mothers, Corrie to Chris (fiancée Karen) and Josh (girlfriend Athena), and Amy to Shai and Caalab (girlfriend Chloe), all of whom I consider my own. Mother’s Day also turned to Chris’ fiancée, Karen, who is mom to Cambree and Caysen, my precious great grandbabies. Half of my family lives in Washington, and half in Wyoming. That has made our holidays different too. Nevertheless, we love each and every one of them, and they love us. I am a very blessed mom. I also thought of the moms in my family, my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock; my sisters-in-law, Debbie Cook and Jennifer Parmely, as well as my late sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg. I thought of their daughters and granddaughters with children, and realized that while my moms are in Heaven now, the tradition continues. I cant name or picture them all, but they are all great moms. Moms will always be with us, either in life or in our hearts. Mother’s Days will change as time marches on, but we will always have those moms. Nothing can take that from us. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms. Have a blessed day!!

I can’t believe that it has been eight long years since my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg passed away. He was such a big part of my life, and the lives of his whole family. His sense of humor and wit brightened our days, and made us laugh. He loved hearing the laughter of his family. It just seems impossible that he has been gone for eight years already. I really miss him very much.

Dad was a very talented man. He really got into the craft things later in his life. He did some large craft things like remaking lawn chairs, and his whirlygigs, but he made some small things too, like a puzzle made out of nuts and bolts, that you had to untangle, or the little novelty items made out of beans and coal. I don’t recall what those were exactly, but they usually had some funny little saying on them and a joke about the items glued on the card it was all put together on. In reality, they were little nothings, but they were funny, and the people at the craft fairs bought that stuff. I never could figure out how that stuff sold, but I suppose that it wasn’t the item itself, but rather the comedian selling the stuff that made it sell.

Dad was creative in so many other ways though, that were not funny…they were beautiful. He made steps for friends in Arizona when they used to spend the Winter in Yuma. He couldn’t stand to just sit still. He had to stay busy, and that was a great thing for the people he made things for. He would also go out into the desert to find things he could use for his crafts. I was always a little nervous about him wandering around in the desert, but he knew his way around, and his adventures were always fruitful. He found great stuff, and his artistic side turned the stuff into something that some one would like.

The people who knew him lost a great man eight years ago, and that is something that has left a hole in our lives. I miss his smile, and his welcoming ways. I feel very fortunate to have been able to call him my father-in-law, and my second dad. I know that many people don’t like their in-laws, and I find that very sad, because most in-laws have so much to offer to the people their children have married. I suppose you have to be willing to look at the gift you have been given, and be thankful for it, and I am so thankful for the gift of my father-in-law (and my mother-in-law), because they were awesome. I wish they were still here with us, because I miss them both very much.

My dad, Allen Spencer, always had a moustache, but never really cared for a beard. I suppose that in his like of work, as a welder, he might have considered the beard a fire hazard. I know that he always had a few burn marks from the sparks that fly during welding. I know a lot of welders, including my nephew, Garrett Stevens, who have a beard and don’t seem to have any problems, so maybe that isn’t it. I suppose it was just personal preference. Dad did look nice in a beard the two times he had one. It was a contest of sorts, so many men grew out their beard. Dad’s beard looked very nice, and well trimmed…not straggly at all. I think that goes back to Dad’s nature. It is funny that during one of those times Dad had a beard, my Uncle Bill Spencer, Dad’s brother happened to have a booth at a gun show in Rapid City, SD. He decided to take the family to Rapid City to see if we could fool Uncle Bill, who was not expecting us to be there. Dad pulled it off. Uncle Bill was totally fooled, and it was a great joke. It was also a great trip.

My dad was a very disciplined person. He had a specific idea about proper behavior, and he lived up to that expectation. He always dressed up for church, even if he wasn’t wearing a suit and tie, he would wear a nice Western shirt with one of his bolo ties. He always felt like church was a place where respect should be shown to God, and I must agree, although I don’t dress up in the same way my dad did. Nevertheless, respect must be shown in church. I think that is a common belief in church. No matter how people dress, church is a special place, where we can draw closer to God, and honor Him. I will always feel that way about church.

Dad lived in a house full of girls, and because of that, or maybe because it was just his way, my dad was always a man of good manners. I always thought of my dad as a man who could easily have come from an different era…maybe the Victorian era, or other era where the men were very gentlemanly. I suppose that meant that my sisters and I were rather sheltered from the rougher side of society. There was no cussing in our home, no crass behavior…and yet, there was always love. Mom (Collene Spencer) and Dad kissed in front of us, and Dad might lovingly swat Mom on the backside in what was probably the most risqué thing we saw. These were things we never saw as dirty, but rather we saw love. We even joked about them kissing…singing, “Mommy and Daddy are kissing!!” It was our own made-up song, and we loved it. Dad was always the leader of our house. The spiritual head of the house that love built. He showed us the way, and we have all benefitted from the love of our parents. Today would have been my dad’s 97th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Dad. I know you and mom are celebrating with many other family members. We love and miss you very much.

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