Heaven

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As another of my parents, Al and Collene Spencer’s anniversaries comes around again, I find myself wondering how it could be that they have been in Heaven for so long now. Dad left us in 2007 and Mom left in 2015. They were so in love, for so many years, and now they are back together again, and I know they are so happy. Mom and Dad got married when she was just 17, and they were parents just 10 months later. That was common in that era. Most couple got married, and the babies started coming in rapid succession. For Mom and Dad, that meant a new daughter every two years, with the exception of my sister, Caryl Reed, who followed my breech birth at three years later. I suppose Mom should have had a C-section with me, but it seems the doctors thought it wouldn’t be a problem, if they just dislocated my hips for the birth. A strange thought these days, but I did survive, so I won’t complain.

Mom and Dad, were not to have a son, and I think that as the years went by, they considered their daughters to be a blessing…or at least we hope they did. When it came time to take care of them in their later years, they were very glad they had daughters, because we became caregivers without even questioning the idea. We all agreed that our parents were worth every sacrifice that might need to be made. They were such good parents to us, and we all feel honored to have be given such wonderful, loving parents to raise us and show us the right way to go in life. We never had to try to find God in our life, because we were raised in church, by our responsible parents, and I think each of us can honestly say that there is no time in our life when we didn’t know God. We didn’t have a day when we found Jesus. He lived in our house from the day they married, and we always knew him.

Mom and Dad had a wonderful, loving relationship, and they were demonstrative about their love. They kissed in front of us…daily. Dad gave Mom a love pat on the derrière when he got home from work, and we all knew it was in love. Dad always called her “Doll” and for years, I thought that was her name. He always sent flowers on their anniversary and her birthday, and chocolates on Christmas, and of course, with her January 1st birthday, there was always a big party for New Years Eve. Mom always treated Christmas and his birthday with the same special kinds of things, although, not the same ones as he gave her…of course. They loved spending time together, and eventually worked together. They relished their time together in retirement too…wanting nothing more than time together. Sometimes people fight when they are together too much, but not my parents. They just enjoyed their life together.

They loved going camping and made sure that my sisters and I always got a summer vacation trip. Dad loved to travel all his life, and so teaching his girls (Mom too) a love of travel was a big thing for Dad. He may have been outnumbered by girls, but I think Dad considered it a blessing, except when he needed in the bathroom, and it was occupied. How he survived that little house with just one bathroom and 6 women trying to get ready, I’ll never know. Nevertheless, with the many trials of having girls, Mom and Dad wouldn’t have changed a thing. It was a wonderful life. Happy 68th Wedding Anniversary in Heaven, Mom and Dad. We love and miss you both very much.

My sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg lives only in our memories since her passing at the young age of 39, on August 13, 1989. Those were sad days leading up to and following her passing. The cancer stole so much from her. She was skin and bone by the time she died. Marlyce was developmentally disabled, and in most was she was an adult-kid. She loved candy. It was a vice she really had to have, and if that was the worst bad habit she had…well, that’s not bad. In the end, I suppose it was the extra weight she carried from the candy, that kept her alive as long as she hung on. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a  horrible disease. In Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, white blood cells called lymphocytes grow abnormally and can form growths (tumors) throughout the body.in Marlyce, they tumor was in her esophagus, and she couldn’t swallow much. She ate baby food in the end.

It was so sad, but I want to concentrate on the good memories. Marlyce worked at Wood’s School, which was for the handicapped at that time. They ran a laundry service there, and she worked in that laundry. She was so proud of her job. Marlyce was very dedicated to her job, and would go on sick, if need be. She was very proud of making money.

Marlyce was also a great baker of Chocolate Chip Cookies, and I loved them. They were the best I ever had…now or then. When we went out to the house to visit, I always hoped Marlyce had been baking. She made other kinds of cookies too, but when I came in the door, I was always happiest when she said, “Caryn. I made Chocolate Chip Cookies!!”

Marlyce also made knitted stocking caps. She sold them at craft fairs, and they sold very well. These were talents that not every developmentally disabled person could do, but Marlyce excelled in those areas. I love the sweet memories of my sweet, gone-too-soon sister-in-law. Today would have been Marlyce’s 71st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Marlyce. We love and miss you very much.

My husband, Bob Schulenberg’s grandmother, Nettie Knox was not born during the pioneer era, but she did live a life that mirrored that era to a degree. While she was born in the West, in Clydes Park, Montana, she was nevertheless, a kind of pioneer woman. Grandma was born on June 30, 1909 to Orin and Eva (Landis) Noyes, and married Robert Knox on June 14, 1928. She was not born before cars were invented, but sometimes she lived like she was in the Old West. Grandpa was worked on a sheep ranch, and for a time when my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg was a little girl of about 3 years, they lived in a sheep wagon. The shepherd needed to be near the sheep, and Grandma was a homemaker, so she went with him. Plus, the sheep wagon was provided to them free of charge, and you don’t turn down a rent free place to live. Of course, that wasn’t where they lived for very long, because even with just the three of them for the first 15 years of her life, living in a sheep wagon would not really be roomy enough.

Grandma loved tradition, Christmas, birthdays, and celebrations in general, but when my daughter, Corrie Petersen was born on her birthday, and she was her first great grandchild, Grandma was ecstatic!! She considered that to be the greatest git ever, and they always had a strong bond. They always celebrated that birthday together, and new pictures were taken every year to see how much they had both changed. Of course, to me it seemed that it was Corrie did the changing. She was the one that was growing up, and Grandma seemed to have a timelessness about her. In fact, it seemed like she had an innocence about her. Maybe it was her love of tradition and celebration, or maybe she was just blessed with good genes. Whatever it was, Grandma just never seemed to get old…to me at least. Maybe that was why Grandma and Corrie could have such a great relationship too. They could both get excited about the same kinds of things.

When I think of what Corrie is working on becoming, and has already become, I know that Grandma Knox would have been so proud of her. Grandma suffered with arthritis and always whiced that the medical community could find a cure for it. While there is no cure yet, maybe there will be someday. Nevertheless, Corrie tries to comfort people, no matter what the disease is that they have. Her job is is give comfort to her patients, and I know that Grandma would have seen that as a great contribution to the world. Today is the 113 anniversary of Grandma’s birth. Happy birthday in Heaven, Grandma. We love and miss you very much.

Since both my dad, Al Spencer and my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg are in Heaven now (since 2007 and 2013), I often feel rather lonely on Father’s Day. Of course, I have my husband, Bob Schulenberg, who is the father of my children, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce, and he is a great blessing to me. I also have my sons-in-law, Kevin Petersen and Travis Royce, who are the fathers of my grandchildren, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen. And now my grandson, Chris also has two sweet children, Cambree and Caysen. I have been so greatly blessed in my lifetime with all of these wonderful people as well as the girlfriends of my grandsons, Karen, Chloe Foster, and Athena Ramirez. My family is growing and I couldn’t be happier.

I have several fathers in my life. Not all of them are dads to my children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren. I have wonderful brothers-in-law, LJ Cook, Mike Reed, Mike Stevens, Chris Hadlock, Brian Cratty, and Ron Schulenberg, all of whom are very dear to me. I have nephews, who are also wonderful dads and also very dear to me…Dave Balcerzak, Dave Chase, Rob Masterson, Steve Spethman, Steve Moore, Josh Griffith, Sean Mortensen, Garrett Stevens, Jason Sawdon, Ryan Hadlock, Shannon Moore, Tim Thompson (who is a dad, and a boyfriend of my niece, Kellie Hadlock), Chris Killinger (who is a dad, and boyfriend of my niece, Lacey Stevens), Eric Parmely, Chris Iverson, Jake Harman, Kiefer Balcerzak, Dylan Herr. I am so proud of each and every one of these men. They are raising wonderful children, and that is a big deal. I am also proud of all of my uncles and cousins who are wonderful dads too.

Father’s Day is a day to honor our own dads and the many other dads in our circle of influence who are doing a wonderful job of training up their children in the way they should go. I am so proud of the way all of these men are raising their kids. All of them are sweet and wonderful kids, and of course, their mothers have played a huge part in that, but today is the day to honor the dads in our lives. I wish I could name and show them all, but there simply isn’t enough room. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads in my life and circle of influence.

My aunt, Virginia Beadle spent time out in nature with her family as a child when her dad, my grandpa, George Byer took the family out rock hunting, so she knew about snakes. In the years before her passing on November 29, 2019, at 89 years of age, Aunt Virginia lived with her son Steve Beadle and his wife, Wanda, and later with her son Bill Beadle and his wife, Janie. While she was living with Wanda and Steve, Aunt Virginia stepped out the front door of the house, and immediately back in. She told the boys that there was a rattle snake by the front door, and she said it was huge!! The boys thought she was a typical girl, afraid of any old snake. They said it was probably a garter snake. Well, it wasn’t a garter snake, and Aunt Virginia wasn’t a typical girl who was afraid of a snake. After Steve had killed the rattle snake and cut off his head and rattle, he measured the snake. Steve is 5’8″, and just holding the snake up, it hit the ground when Steve held it just under his chin. That is a big snake. I’m sure the boys believed that she knew a rattle snake when she saw one after that.

Steve was reminded of a story his mom (my Aunt Virginia) told him. She was about 4 or 5 years old, and the family was living in a sod house. Aunt Virginia was outside playing and she saw a string of beads on the ground. She picked them up and went inside to has her dad, my grandpa, George Byer, if she could keep the beads. Her dad was shaving, and when asked, he told her yes, then thought maybe he should see what she was wanting to keep. When he looked down, he saw that she was holding a blue racer snake by the tail…and it was trying to bite her. He quickly grabbed it and stomped on its head. Aunt Virginia is pretty sure that is where her fear of snakes came from. Steve also said, “If Mom says it’s a big dang snake, it’s a BIG dang snake!!”

A few years ago, Wanda and Steve decided to lift Aunt Virginia’s spirits following her husband, my Uncle Bill’s passing. Aunt Virginia had told Wanda, during one of their many conversations, that she had always dreamed of a bedroom that was red and gray. She had wanted that bedroom all of her adult life. Without telling Aunt Virginia what they were doing, Wanda and Steve gave Aunt Virginia that bedroom that she had always dreamed of. She told them it was “too beautiful to sleep in” when she saw it. She never thought her dream would come true, but that day, with tears of joy streaming down her cheeks, Aunt Virginia saw the beautiful bedroom her kids had given her. That bedroom was their gift to her, but it was more than that…it was their love for her, and she knew that. She knew they loved her before that, of course, but to take a lifelong dream and make it a reality…well, she felt like a princess. And then there were the PJs. Aunt Virginia and Wanda loved their PJs, and I think that’s very cool.

Aunt Virginia had three little fur babies that she loved very much. Her idea of a wonderful way to spend time was to sit out on the deck, that had been beautifully furnished with new deck chairs with lots of padding and ottomans, as a gift for her birthday one year. Aunt Virginia loved sitting on the deck with the puppies, Molly, Whiskey, and Rosie…babies that she claimed for her very own. She sat on “her” deck with “her” puppies every chance she got. She would also sit under the covered pergola and do her puzzles. Wanda swore me to secrecy here, so don’t tell, but she did more sleeping than puzzling. Aunt Virginia went to heaven on November 29, 2019, and this past April, her little puppy, Rosie went to join her there. Rosie was the puppy that always greeted Aunt Virginia in the hallway, every morning when she got up, and now Aunt Virginia got to greet Rosie when she went home too. Rosie was the one that greeted her in the hallway every single day when she got up. Rosie adored Aunt Virginia, and now they are together forever, and since Rosie’s birthday was yesterday and Aunt Virginia’s 91st birthday is today, they can celebrate together in beautiful Heaven style. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Virginia. 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.

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!!

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.

My sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg was a sweet, thoughtful girl who loved everyone she met. When Rachel left us to go to heaven on January 19th, 2021, we knew that nothing was ever going to be the same again. Rachel left a huge hole in our lives. Rachel wasn’t perfect…none of us are, but she never quit trying to make the lives of those around her happy. As I thought about her birthday this year, I decided to talk to her classmate, Jennifer Durante, who agreed to tell me about the Rachel she knew in school.

Jennifer first met Rachel in gym class, and they became good friends from that time forward. She was impressed the fact that Rachel was always “put together” at school. While most teenagers are lucky to get out of bed and get to school in sweatpants and a t-shirt, Rachel made sure that her hair and makeup were always perfect. She always dressed in skirts and heels, and always looked like a model. She was a classy lady, and anyone who knew her would agree to that statement. Rachel took pride in who she was, and that always showed. One day in gym class, a classmate made a rude remark about Rachel having stretchmarks on her legs, and Rachel, who didn’t like or allow bullying, immediately put that girl in her place. She told her that her stretchmarks came from her pregnancy, and that she was proud to be a mom. I can hear the silence now. That snotty little girl who thought she knew something, and knew nothing was immediately shot down. Rachel stood up or the little guy, and she was not about to be made a victim herself. That rude classmate knew nothing about Rachel’s life, and she had no right to bully her.

Rachel worked hard and got good grades in school. She was also very proud of being a mom, who wouldn’t let the circumstances of life hold her back from being the best she could be. She was determined to make a good life for her and her daughter, Cassie. In her Junior and Senior years of high school, she went to school during the day and worked at Wendy’s in the evenings and weekends to support herself and Cassie. Like most teenagers, Rachel didn’t always see eye to eye with her father, Cliff Franklin and her step-mom, Jan, but she never doubted their love for her, and she was always thankful for their support of her in being both a teenager and a mom.

Like most teenagers, Rachel liked to live life fast and play her music loud!! She loved to dance and because of her bubbly personality, she brought a ray of sunshine everywhere she went. Rachel was a great comedian and knew how to make people laugh, or even how defuse a bad situation. Those are such great qualities to have. Rachel was a mom first, and she didn’t really get to go out much, but on the rare occasion, when she was able to go out and be a wild teenager, Jennifer tells me that she was the life of any party. It was as if she walked into a room, threw her arms up in the air and proclaimed “I have arrived, let’s get this party started!!” Rachel lives in Heaven now, but I can just hear her as she walked into Heaven saying that very thing. Today would have been Rachel’s 46th birthday. Happy first birthday in Heaven Rachel, we sure love and miss you here.

With each passing year, I find myself more and more amazed that my mom, Collene Spencer could be in Heaven for six years now. For those of us who miss her very much, that thought feels sad, but for my mom, who loved the Lord so much and was excited to see Heaven, these have been wonderful years, that seemed like seconds, I’m sure. Each day for her is now spent in rejoicing, because that was always what my mom wanted. She never desired anything more than to worship God and bask in His presence. Like one of the songs we used at her funeral, and those of many others now, tells us, “We can only imagine what it will be like!!”

Mom enjoyed many things in her lifetime. She liked to travel, go camping, celebrate the holidays, and spend time with family, but more than anything, my mom loved to spend time in the Word. We bought he a Kindle when they first came out, and loaded it with Christian books and the Bible. It made it so much easier for her to read, because it was so light and easy to hold. She had dozens of books at her disposal, and she loved that. She spent her days reading and communing with God while her family was all at work. Anyone who knew her will tell you that my mom was “All about bringing others to the Lord.” She loved people, and didn’t want anyone to be lost, but she really wanted people to know how much God loves them. She never stopped telling others about God’s love for them, and that is to her credit. I can’t begin to count the number of people she led to the Lord in her lifetime.

Of the things on this Earth, the most important to mom was her family. She treasured each and every new baby that was added to her lineage, and I know she can’t wait to meet the ones who have arrived after her homegoing. She also treasured the new spouses and partners. There was a special place in her heart for each of these new additions. When someone loves one of her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and beyond, that makes them awesome in Mom’s eyes…and that makes them as much hers as if she had given birth to them. There was always room in Mom’s heart for more loved ones. She loved watching her family grow with each new addition. She considered each one perfect. It s such a wonderful way to look at people, and one we should all incorporate into our own lives. When I think of the life lessons my mom gave us, these things are among the greatest. As I look forward to my own homegoing someday, I can only imagine just how wonderful it will be, and as I continue my life on Earth, it is my desire to live my life in such a way as to make my mom and my dad proud of the child they raised, and the woman I have become. I miss my mom very much, and I am forever grateful for the life she and my dad gave me. Happy 6th anniversary of your homegoing, Mom. We love and miss you very much and can’t wait to see you again.

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