Category: Stories from Lois

Transition to Cancer Survivor

This morning I read an excellent post on the transition from patient to survivor (http://quivervoice.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/picking-up-the-pieces). How do we go about our lives during/after a bout with cancer?

Nancy's post prompted me to review what I wrote in Fine Black Lines and I'd like to share that with you. Be sure to read Nancy first!

"Several years later, thinking that I had always handled my cancer well, I reread my diaries, absolutely shocked by how much my present perception of what I had experienced differed from what I had written at the time.

"And I realized how similar I was to the women who join our support group hoping to learn how to deal with their newly diagnosed cancer. How arrogant of me to think they should be where I am now. How essential it is that each woman ultimately find her own way. How important it is that I tell my story as it really happened, not as time has softened it in my memory.

"And yet, as some come with their terror, I see myself and others shrinking from recalling our early horror, trying to convince ourselves we were different from them.

"And when others come with a strong sense of denial and a most determined bravery, I feel great sadness–seeing the cloak of innocence they wrap so carefully around them, unaware how much it has already frayed."

(Excerpted from FIne Black Lines: Reflections on Facing Cancer, Fear and Loneliness, Copyright 2003, Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad. See http://ow.ly/gumLP)

 

 

 

Kiss and Run?

The first day of May. May Day. When I was a child (a day or two ago), I followed the Midwest first of May custom of fashioning small napkin baskets, then filling them with candy and a flower or two. Step Two: I would sneak up to a house, ring the doorbell, deposit a basket on the step, and dash away. The recipient's job was to catch me and kiss me. Such fun! Such warm excitement for a nine-year-old! Such fakey, slowed-down running….

Today I will make a basket for my love, ring our bell, grab him and kiss him. He can't run anymore and I certainly don't want to miss the kiss.

I'd like to reach out to you, dear reader, too. So in seven days you will get your special May Day/Mother's Day gift:

FREE on Kindle on May 7 and 8!!!  http://ow.ly/vfH8E Only on May 7 and 8.

THE LAST VIOLET: MOURNING MY MOTHER, MOVING BEYOND REGRET

By the way, this is my 100th post. Another celebration is in order, don't you think? Maybe not. I've been lax lately.

Do you have memories to share about May 1? Have you read The Last Violet? Have you lost your mother?

 

 

My Marriage Book – FREE Download Today

Today's the day! You can click on http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BT4P0SI and download a FREE copy of This Path We Share: Reflecting on 60 Years of Marriage for your KindleGary Hall formatted it beautifully for eBook. (Find Gary at http://www.greystrokecreative.com.) I am pleased that This Path has seventeen five-star reviews so far and has won three awards.

I worked for a long time on this book. Years longer than I worked on the other two. Perhaps I was afraid that if I finished the book, the story would end. Finally I realized that if I did not complete it before either Les or I took seriously ill or died, I never would. I finished the book. Unfortunately all stories do end. 

I worked especially hard on the last chapter. I wanted it to be just right. And I toiled intently on the last three words. For days, actually. (Of course I won't tell you what they are right now. Gentle smile).

And as it turns out, they were easier said than done.

I hope you find encouragement, entertainment, and, maybe, even a little inspiration.

And Happy Valentine's Day!

(If you don't have a Kindle, you can download one for your PC.)

Married 65 Years Today

Today it is 65 years since Les and I married. Our church magazine had asked me to write the story of our lives and I'm sharing that with you today. It's longer than I like my blogs to be, but, hey, it's our anniversary! And it is 65 years.  

It was one of those weird butterfly effects. What if Les’ grandparents had not migrated from Norway? What if his oldest brother, Magnar, had not left North Dakota, run out of money in Colorado, met and married a nice Mennonite girl? What if his next brother, Harold, had not visited Magnar, met yet another nice Mennonite girl and married her? And what if Les had not visited Harold and Doris??

Lester Sigvald Hjelmstad came into the world on a farm near Ryder, North Dakota, some ninety-one years ago, the seventh of eleven living children born to John and Mary. The Lutheran Church baptized him when he was six weeks old. He attended a country school across the road from the Hjelmstad homestead until he was fourteen. At Ryder High School he became BMOC (Big Man on Campus), lettered in four years of football, and captained the team. He also lettered in basketball three years and went out for track. He presided over his senior class. After high school, he worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps for eighteen months and then helped his father and neighbors with farm work until he went into the U.S. Navy whereupon—as he always told his children—he single-handedly won WWII.

Meanwhile, when Les was eight years old, Lois Luene Tschetter was born in Webster, South Dakota, the first child of Paul G. Tschetter and Bertha Nikkel Tschetter, both of Mennonite heritage.

Lois lived in Webster, attending the Methodist Church, until she was twelve when she moved with her family to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

In 1944 the family moved to Denver and joined First Mennonite Church in 1945. Lois attended South High School, where she was IGOCWOAT (Invisible-Girl-on-Campus, Wallflower of All Time). She graduated valedictorian of her class of 721, but no one noticed.

Les and Lois met at FMC in November 1946. Six months later Les took her home after a social gathering. And that was that.

They became engaged in four months and married eleven months afterward. Lois was still seventeen. Les joined FMC on February 1, 1948. 

At first Les and Lois lived and worked for $150 a month on a chicken ranch in Lakewood,Colorado. They were offered that ranch for $13,000, but there was no way to come up with the $1300 down payment. Now several businesses and a famous restaurant grace those thirteen acres. Oh, well…

After two years of watching the dang chickens smother themselves just as they were ready to market, Les went to work at Gates Rubber Company in Denver, first as a tire builder and then as a supervisor. He ended up working there for thirty-seven years, twenty-six of those on graveyard shift. Meanwhile, Lois worked at National Hartford Insurance Company for three years until Karen was born.

Bob, Keith, and Russ followed. When the kids were seven, five, three, and one, Les and Lois moved into their current home in Englewood, where they have lived more than fifty-four years. They are not ones to make quick changes.

Their lives have been centered in church, where Les was an elder and served on Council for fourteen years. One summer he took his only two-week vacation and taught Vacation Bible School. Lois taught VBS and was Sunday School superintendent. She also served as church organist for seventeen years. For at least thirty-nine years they attended every service, until they realized the walls wouldn’t crumble if they weren’t there.

Les and Lois credit their faith for cementing their shared values: intending to follow the teachings of Jesus in service and daily life, living simply in a harried world, supporting issues of peace and justice, and giving at least ten percent of their gross income to causes beyond themselves.

 In 1961 Lois began teaching piano to Bob because she and Karen were already taking lessons and the family couldn’t afford to pay for his. Soon neighborhood kids joined in. As her music studio built to sixty plus students a week, Lois participated in a number of college pedagogy courses. This accidental career hummed along, in one fashion or another, for forty years.

The real children grew up and established careers and families. The piano kids kept coming; Lois planned to teach until she was ninety-six. Les retired at sixty-five, returned to college, and studied his main interest – history, especially Civil War history. He earned a degree, shaved his mustache, and got a job. No, wait….

In 1990, a year after being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, Lois' breast cancer diagnosis jolted her into writing. She and Les formed an independent publishing company and Fine Black Lines: Reflections on Facing Cancer, Fear and Loneliness was first published in 1993.

A niece invited her to speak at Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix and that launched another accidental career. Lois has spoken more than 600 times in all fifty United States, England, and Canada. Les has driven 400,000 miles in the process. Lois still gives talks locally.

In 2002, Lois finished The Last Violet: Mourning My Mother, Moving Beyond Regret. A tenth anniversary edition of Fine Black Lines came out in 2003.

For their 50th wedding anniversary, Les gave Lois two diamond anniversary bands. She gave him thirty-six poems and promised to write a book for him. Fair exchange?! It took twelve years, but in 2010, This Path We Share: Reflections on 60 Years of Marriage was released. All three books will soon be eBooks.

Lots of serendipity, lots of butterfly effect, lots of luck.

On September 12, 2013, Les and Lois celebrated their 65th anniversary. And how does one remain married for sixty-five years? Simple: fall head over heels, live long, and stay crazy-in-love.

*****

We are exceedingly thankful for our longevity, these many years together, our beloved children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, extended families, friends, and church family. You have supported us during these years in one way or another and become a strand in the fabric of our lives. We have been undeservedly fortunate beyond our wildest hopes and we take this occasion to give thanks for our multitude of blessings—and for each of you.

 As for the future? We continue our walk toward the Light.  With love, Les and Lois

 

Mother’s Day Sadness

For the past eighteen years, I have felt especially sad on Mother's Day. 

Don't get me wrong – my husband and family were wonderful, provided beautiful flowers, poignant cards, a book of exquisite poems by Ted Kooser, a precious little stuffed animal, and took me out to dinner. I loved it.

All of the love and fun, however, did not assuage the sadness I felt on Sunday. My beloved mother died eighteen years ago today and in 1995, May 14 was Mother's Day. 

I am thinking of the day of her death and want to share an excerpt from The Last Violet: Mourning My Mother, Moving Beyond Regret:

 

May 14—I am grateful I have the presence of mind to get up early and pack everything I’ll need for the Big Spring Piano Recital and Graduation Recital this afternoon. I am thankful that I decide at the last minute to go help Jan [my sister]bathe Mother before Les and I go to the church.

 

We set everything up; the first program goes beautifully. During the reception between the two concerts, Renée [my sister-in-law]comes to tell us that Mother’s condition is deteriorating rapidly. Her respirations are only three per minute. Although I have to desert the five precious girls who are giving their last recital, my only thought is to get to Mom in time.

 

Joy [our hospice nurse] had told us Friday that we were to keep her comfortable, giving her morphine as often as we noticed retraction. It would, as promised, relieve her sensation of suffocation and the struggling respiration. It is very efficient to give it in tiny amounts at short intervals. Karen [my daughter] prepares the medication; Nick [my physician brother] watches for retraction; I administer the doses. The rest of the family keeps vigil.

 

It is hard to continue giving morphine, knowing that it might hasten her death, but we have pledged that she will not suffer. Sometimes her teeth are clenched shut and I agonize that I am forcing her.

 

From 4:00 in the afternoon until 11:58, my eyes never leave her face and I am taking her pulse as it gradually fades, then stops. Her eyes are open, but she isn’t looking at us— her gaze focuses beyond us, and it is clear that she sees that which we cannot.

 

And so, on this Mother’s Day, my beloved mother dies. I gently close her mouth and hold her chin in place until it stays. I tuck the covers around her. She looks more peaceful than she has for eleven weeks—maybe more peaceful than she ever has.

 

We wait in silent good-bye, hearts breaking, until 2:35 a.m. when two men from the crematory come to take her body. They wrap her in a white sheet, twist the ends shut, and carry her out.

 

Dear God, I have no mother.