loss

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My sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg has spent time in several areas of Wyoming in her lifetime. Most of them, I didn’t really know about. One place in particular was a surprise…the small town of Wapiti, Wyoming, where Rachel lived during her elementary school years. Rachel seems to have really enjoyed those years, and talks about walking by the “Weird and Wacky Smith Mansion” every day. When I look at the pictures of the Smith Mansion, I can see how it would be very interesting…especially for a kid. The mansion looks “haunted” in many respects, but it also looks somewhat like a “three ring circus.” It seems to have unusual entrances, strange floors…some of which are like a terrace, and in general, a look that is very similar to an oil derrick. I don’t know if the kids ever got in there to play, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find out they tried.

Rachel went to a sweet little country school in Wapiti, and apparently, the country life suited her…to a degree anyway. These days, she is back living in the country, but the roads in Homa Hills really don’t make country living easy. I lived out there for a while myself, and the Gumbo Clay is sticky and sloppy. It’s nothing like the picture perfect country lanes we all read about. Still, for Rachel and my brother-in-law, Ron it’s home.

Rachel’s years in Wapiti were sweet, and also bitterly sad. It was here that her mother, Connie Rae Mooren Franklin passed away. Rachel was just past 10 years old at the time. It was a devastating part of Rachel’s past, because she will always miss her mom. The family moved away from Wapiti shortly thereafter. Rachel had some tough years after her mother passed away, but one wonderful person came from her grief to give her purpose in life. Her daughter Cassandra “Cassie” was born when Rachel was 16 years old. Cassie says they went through high school together, and I’m sure that’s true. Many schools had an on-site daycare for young mothers. She graduated high school with her baby girl, went on to college, and got her accounting degree shortly afterwards. While she was in college at Northwestern Community College, she and Cassie lived in Trapper Village West. After her marriage and divorce, from her first husband and with two sons, Riley Birky, and Tucker Schulenberg (who was legally adopted by my brother-in-law, Ron), Rachel worked in home health for quite a while. Cassie tells me what an inspirationally hard-working single mom. She made their lives as close to normal as could be. The family had two dogs when Cassie was a teenager…a Poodle and a Shih Tzu.

Before her marriage to my brother-in-law, Rachel worked for and the family attended Glad Tidings Church. She met my brother-in-law, through her nest friend, Machelle Moore, who was not only with her through the good, bad, and ugly things in life, but was also, Ron’s niece. It was a marriage made in Heaven for both of them…and it made Machelle her niece too. Things just kept getting better and better. Then when Ron adopted her younger son, Tucker, it was the topper on what was to be a beautiful cake of life. Add two precious little grandchildren, Lucas and Zoey, and life is perfect. Of course, loss can continue to come, and Rachel recently lost her second mom (technically step-mom) Jan, and her grandmother. Today is Rachel’s birthday. She is an inspiration to a lot of us. Life wasn’t easy, but you made it beautiful for you and your family. Happy birthday Rachel!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Five years is such a long time, and yet such a short time. I simply can’t believe that my mom has been in Heaven that long. The day she left us is still vivid in my memory files. It is a picture I will never get out of my head. There are a few scenes in my head that are that way. I try not to focus on them. They don’t need to be re-run to keep their memory alive. I try to focus on the happier past…the memories of the good times with my mom.

Collene Spencer was a bit of a shy girl, but she knew a good looking man when she saw one. For her, falling in love with my dad was like breathing…and she never looked back. Mom didn’t really like school, so that was not something that had any hold on her. She wanted to be married and have a family. I don’t really know if that had been her dream, before she met my dad, but it certainly was after that meeting. Their honeymoon was a move East to Superior, Wisconsin where Dad’s family was from and still lived. Mom’s family liked the idea too, because it gave them someplace to go visit. It was a beautiful place to visit too, so that was a plus. While mom eventually wanted to and did move back, her family wished she had stayed, so they could justify more visits.

After having their first two daughters, Cheryl Masterson, and me in Superior, Mom and Dad had the rest, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock here in Casper, Wyoming, where Mom’s family mostly lives. I have always thought we were very blessed to have so much family around us. That has never really been made so clear as when we became orphans. That’s when family really means a lot. My sisters, and our families first and foremost, of course, but aunts, uncles, and especially cousins have stepped in too…making us feel loved and comforted. I will always miss my parents…until the day I join them in Heaven. They taught us so many things, and it is because of their upbringing that we are the women we are today. The best we can do is make them proud of the people their children have become. I can’t believe that my mom has been in Heaven for five long years now. It seems an impossible number of years. While it seems just seconds ago to those who are there, mostly because that’s how eternity works, for the rest of us, the days feel much longer. We love and miss you Mom, and we can’t wait to see you again.

It is with great sadness that our family heard the news yesterday about our cousin, Larry Hein’s passing. Larry was the oldest child of my husband, Bob’s Uncle Eddie and Aunt Pearl Hein. Eddie passed away just three month and two weeks ago. Larry is dad to Dalton and Destiny, brother to Kim Arani, and brother-in-law to Mike Arani. It has been a rough few months for this family. My heart just aches for all of them.

Larry was born and raised in Forsyth, and never really thought about going anywhere else. I remember on the visits my husband, Bob and our family took to visit our Forsyth family, Larry loved spending time with his cousins. Grandma and Grandpa Hein has a ranch north of Forsyth, and the grandkids all loved to go out and play. There were three of the younger grandkids, Larry, Scott, and Kim Hein, and they spent as much time at their grandparents’ house as they could. It’s the normal way of kids, isn’t it. Whenever we went to visit, my kids couldn’t wait to play with their cousins. Even though Larry, Scott, and Kim were older than my girls, Corrie and Amy, they all played the kinds of games the younger kids wanted to play, and I always found that a sweet thing for those kids to do. I miss those days.

Larry was a mechanic in Forsyth, Montana, where he owned Hein Repair for a number of years now. He worked on just about anything that needed repair. He was a great dad, brother, and son. He was an asset to his community, and well liked by all who knew him. Yesterday, a heart attack took Larry from all those who loved him, and left an empty place in all our hearts. We are all now left to pick up the pieces of yet another heartbreaking loss in the family. My thoughts go out to this precious family. I am praying for comfort for all of them as they grieve this new loss and comfort each other on this sad time. Rest in peace Larry until we all meet again. We love and miss you very much.

Alec Todd Olsen came into our lives just under three months ago. Hardly enough time to really get to know him, but in the short little bit of time that he was with us, he snuggled his way deep into our hearts. His darling face, and his sweet smile captivated all of us. Alec was the first child of my grand-niece, Siara Olsen and her husband, Nick. He was long awaited and very loved. He was, as his mommy called him, a sweet little ray of sunshine, and everyone who met him would agree.

There was no doubt…Alec was a happy baby. He loved to smile at people, especially his parents, and to see people smile back at him. He was really starting to notice things going on around him, but his favorite thing to do was to snuggle with his parents…and usually fall fast asleep. Nevertheless, the ray of sunshine still radiated from little Alec.

Alec left us to go to Heaven on January 25th, when his little body could no longer fight RSV. It was a heartbreaking day for all of Alec’s family. When I visited his parents yesterday, was reminded of other parents who had lost children. The only way to put the look…is a parent’s heart and empty arms. It should never happen to any parent. Our kids are supposed to outlive us. There is no greater pain that anyone can go through, and my heart aches for these precious parents.

Of course, we know that Alec is in Heaven now, safe and healthy…and most of all happy. He would want his parents to know that they needn’t worry…if he could talk to them. And they know that too, but it is so hard to be the ones left behind to pick up the pieces. The pain will never leave. Anyone who has experienced loss knows that, and the reality is that you don’t get over this. Those of us, who love Siara and Nick, can only be there to support them, hold them while they cry, and just let them show us what they need, which they might not even know yet. You never get over this, you can only get on with it…life. Alec can’t come back, and we can’t go to him…yet, but he will be waiting when we can. Rest now sweet little Alec Todd Olsen, and know that we love and miss you very much, and we cant wait to see you again in Heaven. Siara and Nick, we will be here for you…whatever and whenever you need.

On December 21, 1988, at 7:00pm, Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York exploded in midair over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members aboard, as well as 11 Lockerbie residents on the ground. A bomb hidden inside an audio cassette player detonated in the cargo area when the plane was at an altitude of 31,000 feet. The disaster, which became the subject of Britain’s largest criminal investigation, was believed to be an attack against the United States, because although the passengers came from 21 countries, the majority, 189 of the 259 victims on the plane were American. Islamic terrorists were accused of planting the bomb on the plane while it was at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. The investigation lasted for years, 15,000 people were interviewed and 180,000 pieces of evidence were examined. Finally, in 2001, Mohmed al-Megrahi was convicted and sentenced to 20…and later 27 years in prison. Lamin Khalifa Fhimah was acquitted, and the Libyan government eventually agreed to pay damages to the families of the victims.

The lateness of the explosion made much of the recovery impossible until the stark light of day, when the horror really became clear to the world. The reasons for the attack, in the minds of Islamic terrorists were to destroy life as much as possible, and I’m sure they thought they had succeeded. Yes, the people who died and their family, will never get over their loss. It just doesn’t work that way. It never goes away, but out of that tragedy, came something amazing too…the Lockerbie Heroes.

Lockerbie is a small town in Scotland, and something like this attack is unheard of. Such things seemed so far away, but as we all know, such things can come to small towns, and it is then that these little hamlets take center stage…sometimes for a short time, sometimes for years, and sometimes its forever. This small town took it upon themselves, to make a difference. Most of us would run away from the horror, or hide so we didn’t have to face it, but not the citizens of Lockerbie. Every member of this town turned out, and with no specific plan in place, they simply started to help. On that December day in 1988, a Pan Am flight had blown up, and hundreds of pieces of metal, random, objects, and body parts come raining out of the sky.

Most of us assume that we would go into state of panic, but the people of Lockerbie didn’t have time to panic. They were too busy diving into the wreckage to collect any personal items they might find. No, not to keep them or sell them on eBay, it was the 80’s after all. They did it simply to comfort the victim’s families. In order to store the tens of thousands of debris pieces that had been scattered over 845 square miles, the first thing the townspeople did was build a warehouse. Any items that weren’t of forensic value were left for the townspeople to organize. These The compassionate people of Lockerbie knew that they couldn’t hand them to the bereaved families looking so ugly. The reality was that seeing these items in the condition they were now, would be pure torture. The townspeople decided to perform an act of love and compassion. Working as a gigantic assembly line of washers and dryers and ironers and folders, the townspeople restored the countless items of clothing scattered across the charred, muddy, usually quite apocalyptic landscape. They developed rolls and film and put diaries back together to identify the owners, while any stray rings, wallets, and other effects were carefully matched up to the corresponding suitcase. In one instance, the State Department informed one family that they couldn’t have their daughter’s stuff back because it was “too badly damaged.” The people of Lockerbie scoffed at that and un-damaged it. What a gift. You can’t help but cry and the enormity of their kindness.

Before long, the relatives flocked to Lockerbie in order to be near to the site of the crash. The town opened its doors and took them in, setting the foundation for friendships that still survive today. Christmas cards are exchanged, letters are written, and families still journey to the town. It takes a lot of awesome to turn a town from “giant crater where my loved one died” to “place of friendship and comfort.” As the years have passed, the people coming aren’t as many, but the town of Lockerbie and the world remember each and every victim.

My uncle, George Hushman entered life in a troubled situation, and in the end, it was destined to get worse. His mother passed away when he was very young, and his dad was not involved or interested in his children’s lives or welfare. Uncle George and his sister, Betty were placed in an orphanage. They would not be one of the few older children to get adopted, because as most of us know, adoptive parents prefer babies. That might seem like the end of a sad story, but it isn’t. While George was not adopted “officially,” he did have families who “adopted” him in many ways. Wallace and Hettie Saint John, who were my future son-in-law, Kevin Petersen’s great grandparents, were very good to Uncle George, who was friends with their sons. The treated him like one of the family.

Then, of course, there was the Byer family, into which Uncle George would marry, making him my Uncle George when he married my aunt, Evelyn Byer. This was the point when Uncle Georges life took its most amazing turn. Upon their meeting, my aunt and uncle only had eyes for each other. Their world was suddenly filled with all of God’s greatest blessings. Their marriage would produce five beautiful children, Sheila “Susie” Young, George Byer, Shelley Campbell, Shannon Limmer, and Greg Hushman. They also went on to have many grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren. Theirs was a match made in Heaven. They were happy, and they were together as much as it was possible. Their marriage would endure the hardships and sadness that every marriage does, and it thrived. Anyone who knew them could see their great happiness. At the time of Aunt Evelyn’s passing on May 4, 2015, they had been married for 68 years. That is almost unheard of!! When Uncle George joined her in Heaven, they had been married 71 years, and they were reunited on Uncle George’s 92nd birthday. What a wonderful birthday present. Their eyes got to see each other once more, their hearts were reunited. I’m sure Uncle George was ecstatic!!

Uncle George was a quiet sort of man, but always kind. I always loved going over to their home, because we were always treated kindly by them both. They had built their house in Mills, Wyoming, in 1948, with the help of family. They loved their home, and unlike most couples, they would live in that same home for the rest of their lives. Most couples look around some before settling on their forever home. Others moves several times before really finding one that suits them. Not Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George. The knew what they wanted, and they never waivered. Theirs was a sweet forever home, where the couple that lived there were forever in love. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle George. We love and miss you very much.

My great grand-niece, Laila Spethman was a sweet little girl, who was a light in her parents’ lives. She was loved by her whole family. Her time on Earth was short…very short…just 18 days, but her impact on all those who loved her will continue. We all look forward to the day when we will see her again, along with all our other loved ones who have gone before us. In many way, we can rejoice for Laila, because she has been someplace and seen things that we cannot, Heaven and most importantly, God. How amazing for Laila, to know the Father and the Saviour. It is a time in our lives that we all look forward to. The time when we are truly home.

Still, for Laila, we feel sadness too. Not for her really, but for us. I wonder who she would have been had she stayed here. Would she have been bubbly and ever-changing, like her little sister, Aleesia, who has progressed from being a girly girl, to sometimes wanting to be a bit of a tomboy. I’m sure that has come from having three older brothers, and like all younger children, wanting to be just like the older siblings. I’m sure that Laila would have felt the same way about her brothers, Xander, Zack, and Isaac. For little girls, especially, their older brothers are their role models. Girls often base many of their ideas on what men should be like on their dads and brothers, and Laila would have had some great role models to base her ideas on, because she was loved.

We were all hoping Laila would get to come home with her parents, but that was not to be. Nevertheless, her memory will always be with us. Her sweet little face, so dainty and beautiful. Her beautiful eyes, looking at her family with love. She was so cuddly and loved being held by her family. Of course, there were a number of us who didn’t get to see her in this life, but we will always know her when we meet her again in Heaven. And then, we will get to know who she was and is. This life is so short, and while it seems like a long time, it is only a drop in the bucket of time, and then we will get to know Miss Laila Elizabeth Spethman. Happy birthday in Heaven Laila. We already love you even though we don’t know you well…yet.

Time goes by so quickly, especially concerning the passing of a loved one. My mind just doesn’t want to wrap itself around the fact that it has been four years since my mom went to Heaven. I know that there are many people who have been without their parents much longer than I have, and they know exactly how I feel on this 4th anniversary of my mother’s graduation to Heaven.

As I write this, I can think of so many things I would have loved to tell my mom, who was one of my biggest fans when it came to my writing. She loved the history stories, especially when it pertained to the family history. This year has been such a wonderful year for new and interesting finds, and it seems like I want to call her almost every day to tell her something new. And there are so many days I want to ask her about something I’ve discovered. Sadly, when we are young, we don’t realize just how important those family stories will become when we are older.

Mom, was always the bringer of the sunshine to our house, singing to us when we woke up, when we were sad, or when we were happy. They were usually little one or two line songs, but they said it all. She told us little bits and pieces of life with her siblings, and all the singing they did, giving us a glimpse of all the laughter and fun that was our grandparents house when all the kids were there. Mom was the middle child in a family of nine children, and that probably gave her a unique view of things. She got to participate in the fun things the older siblings are doing, and she was still young enough to enjoy the things the younger siblings were doing. Being the middle child, born between the only two boys, put her in a unique position too. She got in on some of the antics the boys got into…much like the three musketeers. Mom always had a fun-loving attitude, and that made life with Mom lots of fun. Today marks my mom’s 4th anniversary in Heaven. While we know that she is having the time of her life, we miss her very much. We love you Mom.

Two days ago, I wrote a story in celebration of my Uncle George Wave Hushman’s 92nd birthday. Little did I now that it would also be the day of his home-going, but it was. It is a rather rare thing, except in infant deaths, for someone to be born and die on the same day, but that is what my Uncle George did. He was born on December 20, 1926 in Rock River, Wyoming, and went home to Heaven on December 20, 2018 in Mills, Wyoming…exactly 92 years later.

Uncle George led an unusual life, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that his home-going would be just as unusual. He lost his mother when he was just eleven years old. I’m not sure how long after her passing, before he was sent to the Wyoming State Children’s Home in Casper, Wyoming, but during those years, his guardian was listed as Ethel S. Kittle. Uncle George didn’t know much about his family for most of his life, but his dad, also named George Wave Hushman was in the Navy, stationed in the Philippines when he was killed in action on November 21, 1943…Uncle George was just 17 years old. To his knowledge, that left him very much alone in this world, except for his friend James Wesley Saint John ‘Wes” and Wes’ family, who had unofficially adopted him as a part of their family. Wes, who was three years older than Uncle George was lost at sea on September 9, 1943. While Uncle George didn’t know his father well, he did know his friend, and I find it unusual that he enlisted in the Navy too, but he did. His Draft Card listed his next of kin as WE Saint John. He mustered out on May 31, 1944, and was later listed among the wounded. I am grateful that he was one of those who made it home from the war. Uncle George, was first assigned to LCI(L) 23…Landing Craft Infantry (L)23. He later mustered out on USS Gurke (DD-783), a Gearing-class destroyer.

By 1946, Uncle George was released from the Navy, and was living in Mills, Wyoming, and falling in love with my aunt, Evelyn Byer, whom he married on September 1, 1947. He had found the love of his life, and he only wanted to be with her for the rest of his life…missing her terribly after she passed away on May 4, 2015. Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George would be blessed with five children, George Hushman, Susie Young, Shelly Campbell, Shannon Limmer, and Greg Hushman. They were also blessed with many grandchildren, great grand children, and great great grandchildren. Uncle George was also blessed to be able to reunite with his half siblings over the years, although their passings brought him a feeling of losing them twice. Now that they are together again in Heaven, Uncle George will never have to be away from his beloved Evelyn, or the other loved ones who had gone before him. Rest in peace Uncle George. We love and miss you very much.

Time waits for no man, and it doesn’t slow down or stop while we grieve a loss. As a child and on into adulthood, it never occurred to me that I would live one single day without my dad. I can’t say why I thought that, because in retrospect, it was not really a logical way to think, but then are matters of the heart ever logical. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about romantic love or the love you have for parents or siblings. They should just never leave you, whether that is logical or not.

Nevertheless, as illogical as it seemed to me, my dad, Al Spencer went home to be with the Lord eleven years ago today December 12, 2007 at precisely 12:00pm. The world seemed so empty when we left the hospital that day, and I found myself wondering how it could be that the world and time kept moving when everything for my dad stopped at that moment. Again these were not the thoughts of a person in a rational state of mind,but rather a person who had just lost a beloved parent. I knew that my dad was in Heaven,because he had always believed in Jesus as his Saviour, but he was no longer here with us…his wife, Collene Spencer; daughters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryn Schulenberg, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Ally Hadlock; and their families, and that was what made the whole world…just wrong.

As the years go by…faster than any of us ever dreamed they would, we cherish the memories of our dad more and more,because they are all we have…because our dad and our mom are in our future now. My thoughts go back to the many times my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce and I had lunch at their house. It’s odd, I suppose that those lunches are what comes to mind, but they have been coming to my mind a lot these past few days. I remember going over to their house at lunch. Mom would make her specialties, Stuffed Tomatoes or Chicken salad with Shoe String Potatoes. As we gathered at the table to eat, the conversation covered everything from our families to how our jobs were going. Mom and Dad didn’t care what we talked about, they just wanted to be a part of our lives. Mom and Dad were always all about family. They loved their kids, grandkids, great grandkids, and great great grandkids. They felt so blessed by the family they started beginning back in 1954. Family was all they ever wanted. Family was everything. I still can’t believe that my dad has been in Heaven for eleven years today. We love you Dad, and miss you very much. We will see you in Heaven one day.

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