Posts Tagged ‘sorrow’

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


Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad
May 4, 2013




Why Am I Alive? Why Is She Dead? No. 3

(for Ann)

Everything seems
so distant

Is Life receding or
is Eternity

(Excerpted from Fine Black Lines, (c) 1993, 2003 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)


Why Am I Alive? Why Is She Dead? No. 2

This is August–the month in which I wrote several poems for my dear friend, trying to cope with her dying, trying not to be scared for myself, trying to find courage. (See No. 1)


how do you live
when your life has been
reduced to dying?

where do you find
some shreds of joy
amidst the crying?

when is it time
to cut the bonds and
give up trying?

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

More poems for Ann to come…


Father’s Day – Death

This week of Father's Day, I'd like to share several posts about fathers. I will start with this one about my dear father:

On Saturday morning—exactly one week after my ovarian surgery—I awoke at eight forty-five. It was late. Dad had not checked in at six forty-five as he had every morning in the three years since Mother died. I quickly dialed his number. He answered.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yep. I had a restless night, but I’m getting up to make breakfast.” I had trouble hearing him, enveloped in pillows and covers as I was.

“Fine. I’ll get up, too,” I said. “Call me when you finish eating your oatmeal.”

Forty-five minutes later I abruptly set down my cup of coffee. Dad had not called back.

“We have to go over to the house. Right now,” I said to Les as I threw on a top and some casual pants and ran a comb through my hair. “Hurry.”

The two miles seemed extraordinarily long. I couldn’t see or hear anyone stirring when I passed the big windows on the patio. No one answered my knock.

“Dad? Dad? Dad, I’m coming in,” I called as I turned my key in his lock.

Les followed me into the bedroom.

“He’s dead,” I said.

Dad lay there—covers neatly arranged, pajamas buttoned to the very top, arms and legs already cold.

I knelt down by his bed, trying to will him back to life. “I just want to talk to you,” I wailed. “I need to ask you what to do now. I want my daddy back.” I could not be consoled. Les patted my shoulder, waited patiently, and then took me home so we could call my brother, sister, and our children. It didn’t seem right to use Dad’s phone without asking.

When Les and I returned to the house, Dad was still lying there, still peaceful, even colder. The family and some neighbors came to say good-bye to Poppa. We sat in the hot, humid living room and talked while we waited for all of the local grandchildren to arrive. No one sat in Dad’s recliner. We crowded into his small bedroom and formed a scrunched circle to pray. I asked that the mortuary not take his body until everyone was there.

Sometime during the long hours, it occurred to me that the house was just a shell that now belonged to my brother, my sister, and me. Then I realized that I was the matriarch of my family of origin.

And at five thirty that evening—right after everyone went back to whatever they had been doing, right after the men in black carried Dad out of the house feet first—Les and I rushed off to attend the six o’ clock garden wedding of one of our granddaughters. We were still wearing the clothes we had thrown on that morning.

We were startled once again by how much of life consists of andness. It is pleasure and pain, health and illness, joy and sorrow, life and death. And sometimes it is all rolled into the same day.

(Excerpted from This Path We Share: Reflecting on 60 Years of Marriage ©2010 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)