loved one

Birthdays are supposed to be happy events, and most are, but the birthdays that come after someone has passed away can be some of the hardest days we will ever spend. Losing a loved one leaves the family with nothing but empty space and memories. The place our loved one once filled with their presence, is now filled only with memories of someone who was, and still is, so important to us. Each first, as it arrives makes the emptiness even more pronounced. The first holiday, birthday, family dinner, or even just the mundane tasks they always helped with, are among the worst days of our new reality, but I think it is the first of those events that will always be viewed as the worst.

On October 16, 2019, our uncle, Eddie Hein had a heart attack while working in his yard. Friends and neighbors, as will as his wife, Pearl and their grandson, Dalton, all tried to help, but it was too late. Eddie was gone, but his memory will be with his many friends and family members forever. Eddie was a sweet man with a heart of gold, who was always willing to help those in need. The people of Forsyth, Montana knew Eddie well. He was a friend to all. He would wave as he drove by, and help when it was needed. Eddie was known around town as someone who could always be counted on, no matter what the need. He was there to give a smile, a hug, a wave, or a hand. Someone said that Eddie was one of God’s great ones, and I agree.

Eddie loved vintage cars, and had his own 55 Chevy that he thoroughly enjoyed. It wasn’t just the cars either, because he loved old tractors too. Eddie loved living next to the Yellowstone River. It was almost like living in the country, and it gave them enough room to have their garden. Eddie could fix just about anything. He loved tinkering around in his shop. If you needed a part for something, there was a good chance that Eddie had it or could make it. He was a great carpenter, and could help build just about anything. Eddie was a bit of a Jock of all trades, and the people of Forsyth counted on him for many things. That is a big part of what makes his passing so sad for everyone, and the only consolation is that since Eddie was a Christian man, we know that we will see him again soon. Happy first Heavenly Birthday Eddie. We love and miss you very much.

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.

There is a strange phenomenon that occurs sometimes, after someone we love passes away. I’m not talking about seeing their ghost, because I don’t believe in ghosts. Besides, the people I have seen, since the passing of loved ones, are real. I have noticed this after the passing of several people, and in some ways it is odd, but in other ways it is comforting, because it shows me that the person I love is still living in my memory files. In reality, I suppose it’s just me, finding characteristics in people around me that remind me of a lost loved one.

After my great aunt, Gladys Pattan Byer Cooper was killed in a plane crash, I used to see an older woman at the mall, just about every weekend. She reminded me so much of Aunt Gladys that I could almost imagine it was really her. Of course, the woman didn’t look exactly like Aunt Gladys, but she looked enough like her to bring back memories of years gone by, and a little sadness at the way she had passed. It seemed so senseless, so unbelievable that it could have happened in such a manner. One minute Aunt Gladys was fine and taking a trip to a family reunion, and the next, her life was over.

I find it strange that this phenomenon doesn’t seem to happen all the time. It only seems to happen in deaths that don’t make sense to me. I’m not looking for people who remind me of the person who died unexpectedly, they just suddenly appear. As I said, they are real people, please understand that. They just have similar features to my loved one who is gone. It doesn’t scare me, but rather it is just a strange reminder that my loved one existed. That their life was important. That their memory is, and always will be with me.

Since my 2nd cousin once removed, Jackie Morton passed away on March 9, 2018, I have thought about her many times. She was such a sweet, loving girl, and her passing simply makes no sense to me. One day she was fine, and the next day she was gone. Then, a few days later, while walking at the mall, I saw someone who really reminded me of Jackie. Had I not known better, I could have really thought it was her…though I knew it was not, for it could not be her. She has gone to Heaven now. Nevertheless, Jackie’s memory, like the memory of her great grandmother, my Great Aunt Gladys will always be with me.

I thought I saw you at the mall today. Though I knew it could not be you at all, for you are gone. I miss you so, and I wish you could still be here on Earth with us. But sadly, that is not to be, and never could be. You will always be with us in our thoughts, and in our memories…and we will always miss you so.

Whether you consider Valentine’s Day to be a highly commercialized day, geared toward getting the consumer to spend a bunch of money on silliness, or you see it as a day set aside to celebrate love, everyone who has loved ones in their life, has to deal with it in some way. Perhaps deal with it is a poor choice of words, but there are those who feel like that is exactly what the day is all about…and they have loved ones too. Of course, those same people feel like Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and all the others are the same commercialized money trap. I don’t really get that. Why not have a day here and there to celebrate the people who have blessed your life? After all, where would your life be without those wonderful people in it. Sometimes, I think people take their family so much for granted, that they forget how blessed they truly are.

I get that we are all busy. In fact, that is one reason why we should embrace these days. They remind us to take a moment out of our busy, hectic lives and remember the people who are always there for us…through thick and thin, and I don’t mean just our spouse. Our parents have given up many things to make a better life for their kids; our siblings basically guarantee that we always have friends; our kids, in whose eyes, we can do no wrong…at least when they are little. We have all of these people, who show us so much love, and then we complain about having to buy them a little box of candy or flowers!! What does that say about us?

There are also marriages and families that are a little bit more unconventional, who do things like dinner, or handmade gifts, and in reality it is not the gift that counts, but the thought…the sentiment…the love. And most of all, it’s about showing how much they are loved, because after all, it’s the love that matters. And since it is the love that matters, why not show it.

Walt & Joann weddingFor my husband, Bob’s Aunt Margee Knox Kountz, there would never be a time in her young memory when she didn’t have a brother-in-law. Her older sister, Joann Knox Schulenberg got married when Margee was just 4½ months old. Of course, this is not a normal occurrence in families with only three children, but my mother-in-law, Joann was almost 16 years old when the first of her younger sisters, Linda Knox Cole was born, and almost 18 years old when the second of her two younger sisters, Margee was born. Due to the number of years between the births of the girls, almost like having two families, my mother-in-law was preparing to get married when her mother was pregnant with the her youngest child. So in all reality, Margee was barely born before becoming a sister-in-law. My father-in-law thought Margee was so cute. He told my mother-in-law, in some letters written while he was working in another town, that he wanted them to have a Margeelittle girl just like Margee. She was very special to him, and of course to her sister, my mother-in-law, Joann too. I know Margee was not the only person to ever become a sister-in-law, as such a young age, and of course, there are some who are born into that position, but usually they come from bigger families. I just think it would be a little strange to grow up a sister-in-law from such a young age.

Over the years, much has been required of Margee. She was a single mom for as long as I have known her, raising her two children Dan and Sandi and eventually helping out with her grandchildren, while parents worked, or as in the case of her son, Dan’s children, stepping in to help raise them after his beloved wife, Darlene passed away in 1998, when her children were Zech and Staci were about 4 and 2 years old. That was a terrible time for those children and their dad, and Margee, along with Darlene’s parents, stepped up to help them get through it, because as we all know, you don’t get over it, you just get on with it. No, life has not been Mom and Margeeeasy for any of them, but with Margee’s help, these kids have done ok.

Margee stepped up when she was needed most, but then, that is what she does. Whenever a situation arises that leaves someone she loves in need of help, Margee is willing to help in whatever way she can. Whether it is with the little ones, or when her sister needed someone to be with her, because she could not stay alone anymore because of Alzheimer’s disease, or after the passing of a loved one, Margee always steps up. Margee is always someone you can count on. She always comes through for you in a pinch. That is the mark of a wonderful person. Today is Margee’s birthday. Happy birthday Margee!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Corrie & KevinWhen a child goes away to college, there are so many emotions that both the parents and the child feel. The child goes through homesickness, and the parents are trying really hard to adjust to this new independence that their child suddenly has. Those things are really hard, but I think that the hardest thing to deal with is that empty room in the house, that empty place at the table, and that missing face and voice that they are so used to. The first month is probably the hardest, but don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that it gets easier, because it doesn’t, at least not for a long time. Eventually almost all kids grow up get married and move out, so it is something that you have to get used to, because anything else is not normal. But when they are fresh out of high school, and in their first year of college, all you can think about is the next time they will get to come home.

With the Christmas season upon us, having my grandson Chris home from college is very much on our minds. I am reminded of that old song, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” which is a kind of sad song, because the person in that song doesn’t really get to come home for Christmas…except in their dreams. I know that lots of families have loved ones who aren’t able to come home for the holidays, and I find that very sad. I know that life takes people in different directions, and sometimes that means holidays away from family, but I like spending the holidays with my family the best. Which brings me to the fact that as of today, Chris is home for Christmas!! We are all very excited to have him home, and very excited about the fact that he will be here for a little over a month. That is one nice thing about college…long Christmas breaks.

Oh, I know that all too soon, January 20th will arrive, and he will be heading back to Sheridan for his next semester. And we will be looking forward to every weekend he can come home, and most especially to summer Chris senior picturebreak. Having a kid away at college is hard, as is having any loved one who lives away from home. Nevertheless, it is a fact of life, and one we will live through. No one knows where the future will take each person, and the main thing is that they remember the way home, because there are those who miss them and love them very much.

For today, and this year at this time of year, I am thankful that Chris is home and we will all be together. I can’t think of anything that is more important to me than my family, and I love spending time with them, so the holidays are extra special. Family is such a blessing. I thank God for each and every one of them, and I am so glad that we have everyone, and especially this year, Chris, home for Christmas.

Steve, Jenny, and Princess LailaLosing a loved one is never an easy thing, but rather seems to be an inevitable part of life. There is never a good time for it, and in fact, when it involves a baby or a child, it is always too soon. They haven’t had the chance to have a life really, not like their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even their parents. Nevertheless, losing a loved one…no matter their age, is a heart wrenching thing. Those who remain feel hollowed out inside, because there is simply an emptiness that always remains in the place that had been inhabited by the loved one who has passed. For a Christian, it isn’t about thinking they will never see that person again, because we believe that those who live in the Lord, never see each other for the last time. It’s more about not really being prepared to wait for that day to come, when they will finally get a glimpse into Heaven, and know the absolute joy their loved one has been experiencing since they went home.

None of us gets to go through life without ever losing someone…at least not if we have spent much time here on Earth. Still, the loss of a child seems to be an especially cruel type of loss. It is one I have never personally experienced. Other members of my family have, but I can’t really know the pain they feel. The loss of an infant, whether through miscarriage or after they were born, must be excruciating. The parents can’t imagine letting their baby go on ahead of them to Heaven, because they are simply too little to go somewhere alone. Nevertheless, we can’t go, because they live in Heaven now, and we do not. We are still waiting for our turn to go, so that we can finally have that first glimpse.

We have to trust in the Lord to be there with our loved one to show them the way…or maybe it is really us who need the help. We are really the ones who don’t know the way. And it’s not the way to Heaven that is lost to us, but rather the way to go on…here, that eludes us. Our hearts just feel like they are too tired to take another beat, and yet they must. There are others who depend on us too. We have to carry on. It will most likely be the hardest thing anyone ever has to do.

On this day, four years ago, my niece, Jenny and her husband, Steve Spethman received a beautiful little Princess Lailadaughter named Laila Elizabeth. She was the gift they had waited for, the daughter after three sons. Her time here would be very short…just eighteen days, but her memory will last forever, as will her life in Heaven. Losing Laila made it very hard to move forward, but Jenny and Steve took that step in faith again and receive a little sister for Laila, named Aleesia Juliette. She would bring much joy to their still broken and fragile hearts, but Laila will never be far from their thoughts…or the thoughts of her three older brothers, Xander, Zackery, and Isaac. They will all continue to look forward to that first glimpse of Heaven, and the time when they will be united with Laila forever. Happy birthday in Heaven Princess Laila. I know it will be a wonderful day. We love you baby girl, and we can’t wait to get to know you in Heaven.

So often in today’s busy world, we find ourselves thinking, “I’m too busy to help others.” It’s true that we live in a fast paced world, and it would seem that since we are usually hurrying to get somewhere, we just couldn’t squeeze in even a moment to help someone else. That would put us even further behind schedule.

But, have you ever stopped long enough to look around at the “helpers” in your midst? I never really had, until I was a caregiver myself. There are many children out there taking care of aging parents.

I have taken my parents or my in-laws to the doctor, and there are lots other people, many about my age, in there with their parents. People who love their parents and want to give them the quality of life they are used to, but couldn’t have without help.

I ran into a friend at WalMart last weekend, and she has 3 children of her own, who keep her very busy, and yet, in the middle of all the running around she does for her kids, she finds time to go help her mother-in-law with housework and grooming, since she broke her arm in a car accident, and can’t do much by herself, and she does it with a smile and a wonderful, pleasant attitude.

My own son-in-law got a call from his brother, who had received a call from his aunt, who had been on the phone with my son-in-law’s mom, and she wasn’t making sense. My son-in-law, took time off from work to check on his mom. It turned out that his mom had experienced a stroke, and was in need of medical attention. He has since done whatever he can to assist her in her daily needs.

I often have clients who come into my office with their children or grandchildren bringing them, because they don’t drive anymore, and couldn’t make the trip without someone to help them. These are just good, kind children who show love for their parents or grandparents by helping them out with their errands.

These people didn’t plan to be caregivers at this point in their lives. We all think that when our kids are raised, those types of responsibilities will go away, and we will be free as birds, but often life throws you a curve ball, and then it is your turn to step up to the plate and show your helper’s heart.

If you find yourself in the position of caring for a loved one, think about this one thing…you still have them.

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