Posts Tagged ‘funeral’

It Seems Like Forever

It seems like forever since my last post about winning a nice award for Abidance: A Memoir of Love and Inevitability. It was such an exciting time for Les and me.

And it has been eighteen months. It was August of 2019. We have all been through a lot since then. We can barely recognize our world. Oh, for the carefree days of Fall 2019, right?

As I have been  rereading my diary of those days, I keep thinking, “I am glad I did not know what lay ahead for all of us, and for me.”

Les fell and broke his hip on December 6, 2019. An ambulance took him to Porter Hospital to have it pinned. Since I always stayed with him, we were there until the day before Christmas. I missed the three Christmas trees we had at home, but we strung some lights in our hospital window. It was okay. And we loved getting home for Christmas Eve.

There was lots of physical therapy at home during January and February. Les was coming along well; we were encouraged. Then about the time that the COVID pandemic became obvious,  the middle of March, he began having pain and soon he couldn’t lift his leg to walk. I began transferring him to walker to wheelchair, to walker to commode, to walker to chair, etc., helping him lft and pivot each time. We went into hospice so I would have medications in the house to help him  in case his health went south during COVID, but we were afraid to allow any helpers into the house.

The pain increased; the morphine increased. Some confusion ensued. Toward the end of May,  we finally convinced hospice to send a mobile x-ray unit . Les’ hip was broken again. In fact, his femoral head had disintegrated entirely.

Now we were between a rock and a hard place. We could go on as we were, which was quickly becoming untenable. Although there were risks to surgery, there was also a finite chance to mitigate the pain and to walk again.

We chose surgery and spent sixteen days back in the hospital. (Fortunately, they had just lifted the COVID restrictions temporarily,  so I could stay with him.) We came home; the pain was gone; he could walk a little. But his 98-year-old body had gone as far as it could go. He became too weak to even stand. He just could not go any further.

Les died at 11:52 p.m. on June 25, 2020.

We had an online memorial service for him on July 25 . Our children from out of town could not come, of course. His ashes were interred at Ft. Logan National Cemetery three days later with only ten attendees, all masked and distanced.

Here are the links to his service and obituary:

Memorial service:       https://youtu.be/hAHluoUN7OU
Obituary: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vzVdx7bnf6fzCQGM4OVvvTelEXhfJxWN/view?usp=sharing

Bulletin: https://files.constantcontact.com/1fe2f3ef001/692c301f-f670-4455-a187-7922953638de.pdf

I am heartbroken.

Death of a Friend

Almost two weeks ago, I had a distinct nudging to visit a friend of ours. 

Les and I have belonged to a small support group through our church since 1969. Of the original nine couples and one single, seven of the men and three women had died. Floyd, the one remaining man beside Les, had been having a rough spring and we had wanted to visit him and his lovely Lynette in Loveland, Colorado.

Since Les' November brush with mortality, his subsequent pacemaker, and various ups and downs, our doctor had asked us to stay close to medical care in the Denver metropolitan area. Then in early April, with things somewhat stable, he gave us permission to drive to Loveland. We kept trying to make the trip. Denver had four snowstorms in April; Les had bad days. Things just weren’t working out.

Thursday, April 25, I woke with this strong urge. The weather was good; Les was okay. So we went. Floyd and Lynette seemed grateful that we had come. Floyd had entered hospice care the evening before, but he was up walking around, sitting in a chair, talkative, peaceful. The four of us and son Galen shared deeply. Les and I felt the visit was meant to be. Whether or not Floyd and Lynn needed us, we needed them.

On April 30 Floyd died. I want to share with you, my dear readers, the poem I read at his service:

 For Floyd

We can’t believe you’re gone –
hospice, yes, but only six days?
You were just here – alert, alive, aligned
ready to go, most surely, but still participating

You were such a good man –

Working hard and faithfully over the years   
an expert with your hands
building beautiful things
gracing this space with mailboxes,
coffee mug shelves, the reusable casket

Loyal to your church, your friends, your family
generous, giving, always game for another adventure
another trip, another house, another state

You were such a good man –

steadfast in faith
confident in convictions, vocal in opinions
You weren’t always right, but you were resolute

You battled through cancer and heart attacks
and surgeries with more grace and courage
than most of us could manage

You were such a good man –

We honor you in your unwavering love for Lynette –
with gratitude for how you cared for her, protected her,
and lent her your staunch warmth and unshakable strength

Happy trails, dear friend, our love and tears go with you –   
pile into the motor home of immortality
bluegrass blasting, the fishing streams of Paradise forever filled

May you discover heaven to be lovelier than the hills of Arkansas
and may you find the most amazing adventures ad infinitum

amen

Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad
May 4, 2013

 

 

 

Declutter – An Old Newspaper Clipping

As I continue to declutter and scan items from my mother's scrapbooks, I come across a fragile, yellowed newspaper clipping. Even though the accident had happened almost sixty-nine years ago, I remember as though it were yesterday. 

On May 6, 1944, thirteen years old and suffering from German measles, I lay in bed, feverish, headachy, and itchy, unable to sleep. Around 11:00 p.m., I heard the phone ring and my dad answer. He woke my mother; they whispered; she stifled a cry of anguish. More phone calls. After thirty minutes or so, they came to my room to tell me that my beloved Grandpa Nikkel was dead. The next day they traveled to Colorado to attend the funeral; I was left to care for my nine-year-old brother and five-year-old sister (with help from a neighbor). It was the first time that death had come close to me and I was exceedingly sad.

But I had never seen that clipping until today:   

Funeral services will be conducted tomorrow for Bernhard Nikkel who was killed Saturday evening by the compeller of an airplane soon after his son, William Nikkel, had landed the machine near the farm home.

The tragic accident occurred as preparations were being made to moor the plane near the Nikkel house for the night. A landing was made at the Nikkel farm and after an exchange of greetings it was decided to taxi the plane across a fence to place it near the house for the night. The elder Nikkel and the passenger of the plane were holding down the wires to allow the pilot to take the machine to the parking spot and some rocks interfered with the movement of the wheels.

Mr. Nikkel removed one rock and threw it aside and had picked up another. No one saw what happened, but it is presumed that as the man straightened up he probably lost his balance and pitched forward into the whirling propeller. He was struck on the head, the blow severing the top of the skull. A doctor was summoned as soon as someone could get to a telephone, however he had died instantly….

I had always known more or less how it had occurred, but, oh, my God…

My Uncle Bill never fully recovered from the event. Who could?

He tried to find peace. In my next post I will share the poem I found with the clipping. 

Why Am I Alive? Why Is She Dead? No.1

Pink Underbelly has an interesting post on her blog about a trip to her oncologist's office, ending with a paragraph on survivor's guilt.

I agree with her that it doesn't make sense to dwell on feeling guilty because we have been spared from dying of breast cancer. So far. Breast cancer is not a contest to see who has had the toughest time. It is a life-threatening disease that can recur at any time.

But twinges of survivor guilt do plague me from time to time.

And this is August, the month in 1991 that one of my best friends died. She refused nourishment from the beginning of the month, but didn't die until the end. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987. Did she beat breast cancer and then die of stomach cancer? Or did she die of metastasized breast cancer? I'm not sure I know. She died.

And this is August. The month that her husband asked me to plan her funeral, just six weeks after my second mastectomy. He said "What I need for this job is a good anal-retentive German!" That I am. It was hard for me, but it was the last gift I could give her.

And as I contemplate why she died in her mid 50s and I live at almost 82, do I feel guilty? Perhaps. But I neither caused her death nor prevented my own. I feel sadness for her and deep gratitude for myself. She would have loved her grandchildren as I love mine.  

I'd like to share a journal entry from August 2, 1991:

She called me today to come say goodbye. Remembering how much my teddy year had comforted me the night after my second mastectomy a couple of weeks ago, I took Courageous Lion to her. She immediately drew him close.

I assured her that I supported her decision to refuse the intravenous feedings, even though we both knew what that meant. I could see she felt peaceful and that has continued to sustain me.

(Excerpted from Fine Black Lines: Reflections on Facing Cancer, Fear and Loneliness, (C) 1993, 2003 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

 More to come…