Loss

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My uncle, Bill Spencer went home to be with the Lord on Christmas Day 2020. It isn’t the perfect day to lose a loved one, but I think it would be the perfect day to go home to Heaven. Instead of spending Christmas in a nursing home, alone because of Covid restrictions and sick with Covid, often not remembering most people, except maybe his kids, Uncle Bill got to spend Christmas with his parents, Anna and Allen Spencer, as well as his siblings, Laura Fredrick, Allen Spencer, and Ruth Wolfe…and most importantly, he got to spend Christmas with Jesus. How awesome is that!!

Uncle Bill and his little brother, my dad, Allen Spencer were very close growing up and into their later years too. Whenever they were together, you can bet the stories flew around the room. Their antics were crazy. When those two boys got together, all bets were off. They were farm kids, so they knew how to use dynamite to blow a tree stump out of a field…or to shorten a gate post by 3 or 4 inches or wake up the neighborhood at daybreak on July 4th.

They were intensely patriotic, and both were part of the war effort during World War II…Uncle Bill as a riveter on ships and planes, and my dad as an airplane assembler and later, flight engineer and top turret gunner on a B-17. Not being able to serve was a great disappointment to Uncle Bill, who really wanted to go along with his little brother to fight the war. Thankfully, both were alive at its end, and because they were, my cousins Pam Wendling, Bill Spencer, and Jim Spencer got to have a dad, and my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock and I got to exist.

Uncle Bill was the family historian. He loved looking into his ancestry, and because he did, we all got to know so much, or about our family that we ever would have otherwise. He was sometimes helped with his nephews, Gene and Dennis Fredrick, and grandnephews Tim and Shawn Fredrick. Uncle Bill was meticulous with the family history, striving relentlessly to get everything down on paper (no computer for Uncle Bill) and to get it correct. He was a champion of family truth, and we are the beneficiaries…as are many cousins around the country.

They have been back together for over a year in Heaven now, and I know that they and their sisters and parents are having the time of their lives. Nevertheless, we all miss them very much here on Earth, and look forward to seeing all of them again in Heaven. Today would have been Uncle Bill’s 100th birthday. It was a life well lived, and we were blessed to have him. He almost made it, going home just a month short of his 99th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Bill. We love and miss you very much.

A year seems like a long time, but in reality, it goes by so fast. One year ago today, my sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg left us to go to Heaven. She had a stroke, and recovery was not to be. Rachel left behind a husband, Ron Schulenberg; daughter, Cassie Franklin; sons, Riley Birky and Tucker Schulenberg; her dad, Cliff Franklin; and brother, BJ Franklin, grandchildren, Lucas and Zoey; as well as lots of family and friends. Life wasn’t always easy for Rachel, but she was in a great place. She and my brother-in-law were so in love, and they had been happily married almost 11 years. Ron had adopted her son Tucker, and we are all thankful for that, because no one knew the future, but Tucker needed to be with Ron.

Now, a year after Rachel left us, a number of things have changed. Her daughter, Cassie was in a bad situation, and Rachel was worried about it. Cassie was able to walk away from that situation, and I know that Rachel would be so glad. Rachel’s son Riley struggled through the years, but Rachel always stuck by him. Today he is engaged to a great girl, Sierah Martin, and together they are raising her little boy, and expecting a new baby in August 2022. Rachel would have been glad. Tucker is getting ready to go to high school next year. High school…how could that be!! Tucker should still be that 2-year-old boy who firat came into our lives when Rachel and Ron got married. Ron and Tucker are doing ok. They are working hard to take care of each other, and about that, Rachel would be glad. Tucker went to a grief camp that included horses last summer, and not only did he find a love of horses, but he found out that a school friend also lost his mother about two years ago.

Ron probably hides his feelings more than most and tries to use physical labor to help him through it, but we are having monthly family dinners, and trying to pull him into socializing more. It’s hard, and we don’t pressure him, but rather we let him, as well as the kids, know that we are there for them in whatever way they need…and I think Rachel would be glad. Rachel was a loving caring person, and that is impossible to replace. The hole left in our hearts when she left is impossible to fill, at least without God. Rachel knew Jesus as her personal Savior, and so we know that she is living a wonderful life in Heaven. While that doesn’t make us miss her any less, it does remind us that she is happy, and she is looking forward to the day we all join her there. Happy first year in Heaven, Rachel. We love and miss you very much.

A number of presidents and their families have suffered the unthinkable during their time in the White House…the loss of a child. The Adams, Lincoln, Coolidge, and Kennedy families all suffered the loss of a child while in office; the Pierce family lost their last surviving child while en route to Washington to attend Franklin Pierce’s inauguration. John Adams’ grown son Charles died of alcoholism in 1800, shortly after the president lost his reelection bid. Thomas Jefferson’s grown daughter Mary died in 1804, three months after giving birth to her third child. Franklin Pierce lost all three of his sons at an early age. Eleven-year-old Benny, his only surviving child, was killed in a train accident in January 1853, two months before Pierce’s inauguration. Abraham Lincoln lost his son William “Willie” in 1862 in the middle of the Civil War. John F Kennedy lost his son, Patrick two days after he was born on August 7, 1963.

While it is always horrible when a child dies, whether the parents are famous or not, I find the death of Calvin Coolidge’s son to be among the saddest. While the deaths of these other presidents’ children are sad, little could have been done to change those losses. Calvin Coolidge had two sons, John (the oldest) and Calvin Jr. The boys spent the school year at boarding school, but they spent breaks from boarding school at the White House after he became president in 1923. The oldest son, John was born on September 7, 1906, and Calvin Jr was born on April 13, 1908.

On June 30, 1924, John and Calvin Jr were playing tennis on the courts at the White House. It was a hot summer day…the 91° heat was sweltering. The boys felt that it was too hot for socks, and during the game, Calvin Jr got a blood blister on one of his toes. Within a few days, Calvin Jr was not feeling well. He was diagnosed with blood poisoning…specifically a staphylococcus infection that, at the time, was usually treated with mercury. I’m no doctor, and many advances in the prevention and treatment of infections have been made over the years. One of the best ways to prevent a staphylococcus infection is proper hygiene…proper, frequent handwashing, and hygiene…or in this case, washing the toe several times a day. The feet are often a breeding ground for bacteria, because they are constantly in a hot, sweaty shoe.

By July 2, Calvin Jr was limping, running a fever, and had swollen glands in his groin. The blister on his third toe darkened, swelled to the size of a thumbnail, and red lines streaked his legs. This was in the days before antibiotics, and Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin was still four years off. In the words of the attending presidential physician, Calvin Jr was “in trouble.” As Calvin Jr battled sepsis for a week, his father battled despair and really pure panic. It was the kind of agony that only a parent who has lost a child can really understand. Calvin Sr tried to trust that his son was getting “all that medical science” could offer and tried to keep up hope that “he may be better in a few days,” but Calvin Jr passed away at Walter Reed Army General Hospital on July 7, 1924.

President Coolidge and his wife, Grace, were at Calvin Jr’s bedside when he passed, and according to observers, the president’s face resembled “the bleak desolation of cold November rain beating on gray Vermont granite.” Their hearts were broken, and the President often wept, looking out his window where Calvin Jr once played tennis. It was his thought that if he hadn’t been president, his son would have been with them still. He said, “We do not know what would have happened to him under other circumstances, but if I had not been President, he would not have raised a blister on his toe, which resulted in blood poisoning, playing lawn tennis on the South Grounds.”

Starting to live life again after such a horrific loss is never easy, and many people really never make that return to life. Trying to grieve the loss of a child in such a public setting would be excruciating, and I can’t imagine being forced to live that way. Nevertheless, while much of the wind went out of their sails, the Coolidge family did go forward, as their son would have wanted them to. It’s what a family does. John married and had two daughters…Cynthia and Lydia. The daughters gave President two grandsons and a granddaughter. I think Calvin Jr would be pleased to know that they went forward to live a good life.

My uncle, Bill Beadle was a unique kind of man. He loved all things cowboy, western, and especially the Old West. I suppose it’s possible that he was rather living in the wrong era. It’s not that God made a mistake and put him in the wrong time, but sometimes our own preferences make us feel like we might have been better suited to a different era. I’m quite sure that his family would have argued that point with him anyway, if he were to suggest that he should have lived in the Old West. Really though, for Uncle Bill, it wasn’t about living in the Old West, it was about loving Wyoming…and he really did.

He loved all the outdoor activities that were favorites of his. He loved to hunt and fish. He loved spending time with his family in the great outdoors. His sons were his favorite companions…other than my Aunt Virginia, of course. He was born in Worland, Wyoming, and he always loved Wyoming. This would be the place he wanted most to be.

Uncle Bill was always funny and humorous, and I liked visiting with him. When his memory started to go, Uncle Bill could no longer come to the family parties, and so, many of us lost track of him. He struggled to communicate with family, and it simply became easier to just stay home and not try to carry on those conversations. I really miss those times with Uncle Bill. Today would have been Uncle Bill’s 93rd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Bill. We love and miss you very much.

My grandniece, Siara Olsen, has been through a year of changes, but now she is one year out, from some of the hardest things that have ever happened her…or to anyone, and her incredible strength is very much evident in who she has become. After losing her son, Alec on January 25, 2020, when he was just 3 months. Her marriage fell apart soon after, and life looked very bleak, but Siara is such an amazingly strong woman, and she wouldn’t give up. She knew that her son and all of her family, who love her very much would want her to keep going, so keep going she did.

The year that followed was a year of firsts. She met her boyfriend, Chris Kirk just over a year ago, and he has a birthday bond with her sweet Alec. About a year ago Siara got her own apartment, and she has been making it her own and is loving every minute of it. Siara has been at Platte Valley Bank for a while now, but she was given her own office about a year ago, and she really likes her new job and office. While the year began harsh for her, it ended with healing. Siara is a strong, independent, and faith-filled woman, and she makes her mom and the rest of the family very proud!! No matter what Siara is hit with, she picks herself up and moves forward every time. Her mom, Chantel Balcerzak says, “Well, I can’t even describe how proud that makes me!”

Siara is a strong woman of faith, and right after high school, she got a tattoo of her favorite scripture, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:13. That scripture have seen her through any and all bad times she has seen, because she not only believes this…she moves in it! She is truly inspirational!!

Siara and Chantel have been working out together at lunch to get in shape. Siara’s niece, Chantel’s granddaughter, Izabella Siara Harmon (named after her aunt) often joins them, and she loves the girl-time comradery…and the exercise doesn’t hurt anything either. The three of them are growing stronger every day and feeling great. It has been a hard year, but Siara is a strong woman, and I know that she will have victory in the coming year. Today is Siara’s birthday. Happy birthday Siara!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

It’s hard to believe that my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg has been in Heaven for four years now. Her passing took time. Alzheimer’s Disease is a slow killer, in comparison to other diseases. That doesn’t make Alzheimer’s Disease any less devastating, and in fact, it just might be more devastating, because before the end comes, the patient has already lost their memory. Still, if you look for the good in the situation, you might just find that while they may not remember many new things, including who you are, now that you are grown up, they have many old memories that can really enrich your life…if you are willing to listen to their stories.

My mother-in-law often wasn’t sure of our names when we came to visit her, but by the look on her face and the alertness of her posture, you knew that she knew that you belonged to her. Many people place a lot of emphasis on the patient knowing their family’s names, but that is just setting yourself up for sadness. And you miss the recognition that comes without the name. My mother-in-law did so much for so many people…from knitting, to crocheting, to sewing, to cooking, my mother-in-law did a lot for the people around her. She lived a good long life, much of it raising the vegetables and meat for the family. She saw eras of time that people today can’t understand. With depression and recession, boom and bust, mining and agriculture, she had a diverse viewpoint, and that made her, unlike the rest of the people around her knowledgeable in different ways of life.

As her disease progressed, my mother-in-law, lost her recent memories, but she retained the old memories, and she passed them along to her family…often in the funniest ways. One minute you might find yourself telling her what time to get on the school bus, the next you think you have her all figured out when she tells you that they are having dinner at your house…like you aren’t you. When you try to play along, and ask her what the “imaginary you” will be cooking, suddenly she was back and making you feel ridiculous, by saying, “I don’t know, what are you cooking?” I know people consider Alzheimer’s Disease to be a tragic, devastating disease, and I suppose it is, but when people think about how devastating Alzheimer’s is, they are thinking of themselves…what they are missing out on, not thinking about the patient…who won’t remember grief or loss, who gets to become younger in their mind, and who ends up without a care in the world. Attitude is a big part of dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease, and I don’t mean the attitude of the patient, I mean the attitude of the family. It makes all the difference in the world. Four years ago, my mother-in-law left us for Heaven, where her mind is clear again. I am truly happy for her, even though we miss her very much.

On this, my mother, Collene Spencer’s birthday in Heaven, I am reminded of really, how wise she was, even though my sisters and I did not really realize just how wise she was. They say, “Laughter is the best medicine,” and indeed, the Bible says, “Laughter doeth good like a medicine.” My mother really tried to live that out. She would always remind us to “Keep of the Sunny side of life,” meaning to laugh at hardship and adversity, because you can get through almost anything if you can laugh at adversity. Sometimes, my sisters and I felt like laughter was far too simplistic for what we needed at any given time, but Mom was always full of laughter and song, and her life was really far smoother than ours ever were. For her life was simple. Follow God’s leading, and you will be just fine…and she always was.

Mom was first and foremost, a woman of God. If you were in her vicinity, you were going to hear about her Savior at some point in the conversation. Sometimes, when she would begin to talk, we…or at least I would begin to cringe, because I thought people would think she was crazy. I was always of the opinion that if God wanted a person saved, He would make it happen somehow, and it was not my job to help. Oh…how wrong that opinion is. The Bible talks about sending the “laborers” out to save the sinners, and I don’t know who I thought that was, but somehow, I didn’t think it was me…or my mom. Still, if not us, then who. A laborer had to be a human, of course, but did it have to be my mom…at a time in my life (the teenaged years), when her speaking out was going to embarrass me. Well, it did, and I had to deal with it, because she had a calling, and she loved her Lord so much that she was going to do what He asked. She saw it as her duty…and of course, it was.

Now, I am very proud of my mom’s accomplishments, in her Labors for the Lord, because when she went home to Heaven on February 22, 2015, I saw, at her funeral, a large crowd of people who knew and loved her, and many who felt like they owed their salvation to her work for the Lord. How could that be? She wasn’t a preacher, evangelist, missionary, or teacher. She was a laborer…just a laborer!! And yet, I know that when it came time to give her the crowns for leading others to the Lord…they were many. She would talk to anyone, anywhere, because she was a laborer for the Lord. Looking back, I am quite proud of my mom, her legacy, and her “almost embarrassing way” of laboring for the Lord, because now I can see that she was far wiser than I ever was. Today would have been my mom’s 86th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Mom. Have a wonderful celebration. We love and miss you and Dad very much.

As we come to a close in the year 2021, I think most of us would agree that this was one tough year, but then again, not as bad as 2020. So many things are in total disarray, and most people are unhappy with the direction our country is headed. Nevertheless, as Americans, we are ever hopeful for the future. It’s just in our nature. We are looking to the future of elections, times after Covid, and times when thing can get back to normal.

While this has been a tough year, it has also been a year of fire. I suppose that could sound odd, but everyone has had to make their own decisions about things like school, health, jobs, and church. Some of these decisions were very difficult, and it felt like being thrown into the fire. Many have found themselves in trouble with everyone from family to Facebook. Posts have been deleted and friends have chosen to unfriend us…and yet, we stand. We must stand…or we will never be able to stand again. If we fail to use te freedoms and rights that belong to us, they might just be taken away from us. There just comes a time when you must choose to fight for what you believe in. And then there were the forest fires, the December tornadoes, the earthquakes in odd places, and the volcanoes…including a brand new one in Iceland. Things are getting pretty wild around here.

This has been a hard year. We have lost loved ones and friends, and yet we have learned to stand strong. We have comforted those who have lost loved ones. Helped those in quarantine. We have delivered groceries, meds, and meals. In essence, we have become good neighbors in the face of all the riots and hate. We have proven that we, as Americans will continue to be America-Strong. Yes, I think we are all ready to say goodbye to 2021, and very ready to bring in 2022. I suppose that is because no matter how bad this year has been, we know that much has changed in a good way. Many things have been exposed and will continue to be exposed. What has been hidden is coming to light and will continue to do so. I really expect the year 2022 to be an amazing year, full of promise, and I am looking forward to what is to come. Tonight, I encourage you to stay hopeful and prepare for great days ahead.

Today would have been my grandniece, Hallie Joy Moore’s first earthly birthday, had she not moved to Heaven shortly after her birth last year. I have been thinking about how different her life, and that of her family, has been because she is not here with us. For Hallie, I’m sure that her life now is more exciting than we could have ever imagined. We can only imagine what it would be like to live with Jesus in Heaven, but she is living that wonderful life right now. While she would just be learning to walk here, she would have mastered that skill immediately following her move to Heaven last year. There is no sadness there, so she has been very happy, and looking forward to having her family join her there one day, so she can show that all of the amazing things there are to do there. Her excitement about their future move to Heaven must be off the charts, because that’s just how kids are…always excited…about everything.

Hallie was a beautiful little girl. I think she looked a lot like her mommy, Lindsay Moore, with some of her daddy, Shannon Moore sprinkled in, and maybe some of her big sister, Mackenzie Moore in there too. It was a beautiful combination, for sure. She was born about two months before she was supposed to arrive, and I suppose that was just too early. While it made us all very sad to have her leave us, we also know exactly where she went, and that part makes us very happy…for her anyway. Hallie’s name was chosen for her with much love and happiness in mind. Her name Hallie means “Praise the Lord” and Joy, of course, means “happiness.” Both were perfectly chosen for her by her loving parents, and I think they are beautiful names. I can’t wait to meet little Hallie when I go home to Heaven. Today would have been Hallie’s 1st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Hallie. We love and miss you very much.

December 12, 2007…a day that rocked my world. It was a day I never expected to see…the day my dad, Allen Spencer went home to be with the Lord. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that someday my parents would be in Heaven, but it didn’t. Nevertheless, these days, all we have are the memories, as we wait for the day when we will all be together again in Heaven.

My dad was a great guy. He was a girl dad, and he wore it well. I don’t know how he managed to survive having five daughters and a wife, all vying for one bathroom, but he did. Ours was probably what the song writer meant, when he wrote “Love Grows Best In Little Houses.” It never felt crowded. It always felt just right. I wonder if my parents knew, when I was just 3 years old that the house they bought then, would be their forever home. At that time my older sister, Cheryl Masterson and I believe my younger sister, Caryl Reed were there, as well as I was. Two more daughters would join the family in that little house, now forever home. There were a few changes, like converting the garage to a bedroom and a utility room, that gave a little more space. Then, in my parents’ later years, an enclosed porch was added. The house just always felt like home…to all of us. Of course, it was our parents that really made the house a home. Their love filled the house, and we were always blessed by them and their love. Any house can hold a family, but love is what makes a house a home.

The first time the house ever felt empty, and maybe a little wrong, was after my dad went home to Heaven. Mom’s lifelong companion was gone now, as was our dad, who had always made us feel like princesses. We could see him in every room, but these were just memory visions. His love still lingered in each and every room. We knew that he still loves us, of course, but everything suddenly felt wrong…like the world kept going, but he had stopped. That is what happened, of course, but it felt to us like life had stepped out or its proper order. We would notice the same thing a few years later, when our mom, Collene Spencer went home to join Dad in Heaven. The house was still filled with the memory visions of them and their love, but it was kind of empty and lonely somehow.

Each year as we remember their homegoings, we are reminded of just how precious they were to us, and how we want to make them proud of how we have lived our lives. They raised us well, and taught us to love God and country, and to always try to do the right things. Now, we look forward to the day we will join them in Heaven, because that is where they are waiting in our future in Heaven, and what a joyous day it will be when we join them there. We love and miss you both on this, the 14th anniversary of your homegoing, Dad, and we can’t wait to see you again.

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