Category Archives: Death

Alphabet Soup Challenge:”J” is for Jerilyn

August 17th would have been my friend Jerilyn’s 60th birthday. She passed, suddenly and unexpectedly, in Wisconsin, shortly after Hubs and I moved to Colorado, 4 years ago.

She left behind her husband of 25+ years, 2 young adult sons.

Jerilyn ready to pitch in at a food bank during a mission trip, 2007 ish

I was reminded of her birthday when I checked Facebook that day. Some may feel it’s morbid to keep someone’s Facebook page alive after they have passed, but I don’t. It warmed my heart to see all the comments from the many folks who loved her.

I think we should all strive to touch people’s lives in a way that they can’t help but honor them in some way on the anniversary of their births after they are gone. Like I saw with the feed on Jerilyn’s Facebook page the other night.

Jerilyn was a creative, intelligent, witty, kind, spiritual, playful, ambitious, loving, charasmatic, and strong woman. She was a force of nature who lit up a room. I will never forget her. I was so appreciative of her supportive words when Hubs and I were struggling with the challenges our teenagers presented us with. She was a great sounding board for us, especially because she had taken the time to know us and to know and love our kids.

Jerilyn was one of those people with the rare ability to question one’s thinking in a loving and respectful manner. I think that was due to her great sense of curiosity.

She and her husband Brad were the most dynamic of duos. They were the people at the party who you sought out to converse with. The couple who knew how to laugh together, work together, and play together.

One of my fondest memories of the two of them was at an outdoor concert. That weekend we were celebrating our wedding anniversary and I seem to recall theirs was coming up soon as well. When the 80’s cover band played George Michael’s “Freedom” the four of us laughed and danced like we were the only ones at the party. I think if Heaven is real, she’d be dancing on the clouds with George Michael to this song. Along with David Bowie, of course.

The woman had fabulous taste in music. She loved many of the artists that I did (and still do), like Elle King, Alicia Keys, and the aforementioned British gents.

Jerilyn was the Director of Christian Education at our church during our kids middle school and high school years. She loved each of those kids and they loved her. She listened to them without judgement. She mentored them and guided them. She was a talented planner of things such as youth mission trips. She had terrific communication skills with both the adult chaperones and the kids, so everyone understood what was expected of them.

Jerilyn was a very talented artist, on top of her many gifts. As a person who essentially has two thumbs when it comes to creating tangible pieces of art, I admired/envied this about her. She did a lot of tapestry art. Beautiful works made with colorful pieces of different textured cloth and other materials that could be hung prominently on a wall.

I had this vision in my head that I would commission her to create a work of art using the well-worn but still beautiful hand-made quilt made by Hubs’ then-boss’ wife as a wedding gift. I know she would have done a spectacular job with it. I kick myself for not jumping on that idea while I had the chance.

I took this picture at a gift shop in Minnesota a couple of years ago because it reminded me of her. I thought it was amazing that there was another “Jerilyn” who created beautiful pieces of art using cloth. I think our Jerilyn would have gotten a kick out of this too.

There’s so much more I could say about this truly awesome human being. She was a treasure and my life is better because she was in it. For that I am so thankful.

Happy Anniversary to B&B

Last Friday was my parent’s 62nd wedding anniversary. Remembering this brought on a feeling of sadness that I haven’t felt since they passed on from this life.

My dad, Babe, passed almost two years ago now. My mom, Bonnie, followed suit one year, one week, and one day after that.

None of us can claim with any scientific certainty that heaven exists. But I believe there is another dimension where our souls land once our earthly bodies cease to be.

It gives me comfort to envision my parents together in this dimension.

I like to think that Mom is not in any pain whatsoever. That she can walk and move with ease. That Dad’s mind is all there. That he doesn’t feel angry or confused or frustrated with himself. That in this other dimension he exists as the person he was prior to the fall where he hit his head. The hard hit to his noggin that eventually led to a diagnosis of dementia.

He wouldn’t be holding Mom’s purse, because she doesn’t need one anymore.

That was one of the things about these two, Bonnie and Babe: he accepted her shopaholic tendencies while holding her purse from store to store.

Bonnie and Babe made an impression on people wherever they went. In many ways, they were opposites. In some ways, they were two of a kind.

They were social creatures. They loved to have other people around to “BS” with. To feed. To take care of. To travel with. To celebrate with. I’m grateful for that aspect of marriage they modeled for me and Hubs.

Bonnie and Babe; separate, yet together, circa 1970 or thereabouts

I didn’t know it till I was 14 that Mom and Dad met when my brother was just a toddler. I loved that my Dad had love in his heart for a boy who was not his own. He married Mom in 1958 and legally adopted Craig shortly thereafter. I suspect that he faced judgement about it from my Grandma Pearl, but ironically she grew to love and depend on my Mom more than probably anyone else in our family.

I love that Bonnie and Babe were hard workers. They always had so much energy and together they created so much for the enjoyment of so many.

I love that they were spontaneous. One day, out of the blue from my perspective, they decided to start a business. Despite working full time and then some, Dad agreed to Mom’s proposition that they buy out our small town’s women’s clothing store. It had been a bar years before. They decided to call it “Bonnie’s Clothes Bar”.

With Dad taking care of the books and Mom doing running the store for several years, I was able to attend college without any of us taking on any debt. That is something they were very proud of.

Bonnie and Babe were always very physically affectionate with each other. I remember cringing as a pre-teen while Dad would lovingly call Mom “Mama Buns” (she had an ample ass for much of her adult life). They held hands on the regular.

I remember a story they told about their first trip to Europe. It was an extremely hot and humid day in England (or France? I wasn’t present). They were waiting outside for a ride to take them to a museum or something. Dad spied an ice cream truck and made a bee-line for it. Came back to Mom and sat down on a bench next to her.

Dad was savoring the sweet cold deliciousness and Mom asked for a lick. He obliged. Within two seconds she was asking for another lick. He again obliged. A few more seconds pass and she’s asking again. He said something to the effect of “Why don’t you get your own” to which she responded with “Now Babe, I just wanted one more lick”, then proceeded to berate him for his complaint.

This pushed Dad over the edge. He took the remainder of that ice cream cone and smashed it on her chest, creating a cold, sticky mess all over her top. I wish I could have seen the look on her face. The face she made just before the two of them erupted into laughter.

My Mom and Dad’s song. They have gone down in history when we want to see how true love should be.

My first Dream house

Hubs and I just got back from spending the better part of a week in the house I grew up in.

Because my mom died.

The last good picture of me and Mom (July 2018)

I’m going to be processing this fact for a good long while.

But for now, let me tell you a little about this special house.

It’s a small house that was filled with a lot of love. It’s very old but well maintained, because of my dad’s abilities with carpentry, plumbing, and virtually everything else.

As the story goes, my grandfather (whom I never met), at the age of 58, had a massive heart attack and died while standing in the archway between the tiny kitchen and the dining area of this house.

Both of my parents had experiences with his presence in that house over the years. It never scared them at all. I think they found it comforting.

This is also the house my father grew up in. He bought it from my grandmother. Between about 1960 and 1985, he and mom raised me, and my older sister and brother in this house.

The kitchen is quite small. I’m always amazed that despite not having more than 5 feet of counter space to work with, my mom always churned out delicious, homemade meals for us each and every night. The woman had a knack for using small spaces as efficiently as possible. It’s too bad she never got an opportunity to visit Ikea, with their mock up small spaces that have cleverly placed nooks and crannies for housing all the necessities for day to day living.

This is the house in which my two teenaged siblings threw a wild party at, in about 1974, while our parents were on a Las Vegas vacation. The party where 7 year old me was slathered with attention and plied with sandwiches and other treats in an attempt to ensure my silence. I, of course, being the bratty little sister, immediately told on them once our parents got home.

This is the house where my dad, fully immersed in his Alzheimer’s fog 2 years ago, gestured towards the corner of the living room, and relived, for me and mom, the delight he experienced in that very space where 75 years prior, his father sat with him and read stories.

This is the house where, back in the 80’s, my best friend burned a hole with her cigarette on the handmade-by-mom quilt that covered my 4 poster bead while my parents were out of town for the weekend. I lived in fear from that day on that mom would notice that little burn hole. But, surprisingly, she never did. 

Yes, the quilt (as our bright 5 year old grandson said: that sounds like it starts with the letter “Q”!) came back home to Colorado with us.

This is the house where people gathered to celebrate. From mom’s bridge club nights to family/friends steak fries during the summer in the backyard to high school graduation parties to wedding present openings.

This is the house where my writing dreams began.

*This post was in response to a prompt from lovely Lorna from Gin & Lemonade: “Dream House”. And in response to the emotions involved in the passing of my one-of-a-kind mother. https://ginlemonade.com/2019/02/13/house-hunting-as-a-wheelchair-user-other-stories/

Hindsight: Memories from a Grateful Daughter

I’m struggling here. If you’ve been following my blog, you may have noticed that since the beginning of this year, the frequency of my posts has decreased. There’s valid reasons for that. Life. And death.

You see, my Dad passed away on 2/18/18. It actually happened. There’s no ‘how to’ book on how to prepare for this inevitability-that your parents will one day die. But there’s also no way around it. As “they” say, no one gets out of here alive.

My Dad was the best. I paid tribute to him on my my Father’s Day post last year, knowing that it very well may be his last Father’s Day here on this earth. Now that it’s been a few days since the funeral, and Hubs and I are safe and sound back home in Colorado, I see that there are things that went unsaid, on my part, during the chaos that was this past week and a couple of days. Chaos including traveling by car for several days in inclement winter weather to reach my hometown. Chaos including making travel arrangements for our youngest spawn to be there. Chaos including helping our oldest spawn keep her 4 year old entertained. Chaos including helping my sister with picking the “right” pictures to display on the boards she bought at the hardware store.

But we got through it. As my sister whispered in my Dad’s ear during his final hours and I tearfully conveyed to him on the phone the day before he passed, “We will all be okay. Mom will be okay too”. I hope that he took that in, internalized it. I hope it gave him the piece of mind he needed to allow himself to peacefully surrender to the next dimension.

The beautiful thing is that the memories of my Dad will remain. And there are so many precious ones. We will hang on to those memories for the rest of our lifetimes. These memories are blessings.

So while driving through boring old Nebraska, on our way home this weekend, I gave some thought to the things that, to me, made my Dad the special man and father he was. The things that went unsaid, by me, while among my family during this sad and chaotic time.

Let me share just a few….

Dad loved to “bullshit”. As in, telling jokes and stories in his booming voice to elicit wonder and laughter to those fortunate enough to be there. Anyone who ever knew him would certainly agree he was an excellent person to “shoot the shit” with.

Dad had a great talent for sleeping. I am grateful that I inherited this trait. He could literally fall asleep anywhere. No matter how much noise was going on around him. And he was such a deep sleeper that it would take at least 6 separate tries for me to wake him up in the afternoons to go to work (his second full time job).

Dad was a great American citizen. He served proudly in the Korean war. When I was a kid, my teacher gave us a lesson on nationalities. I went home and asked Dad what my nationality and and his reply was “You’re 100% American, Rhoda Joda”. Of course, Mom gave me the real answer, which was French/German. It was just that important to my Dad that I took pride in and appreciated being an American.

Dad had great affection for small creatures. He routinely referred to our Lhasa Apso, Max, as “your brother”. After Max become older and his health failed, Dad had him put down. It broke his heart in a million pieces. He kept a framed photo of Max on his bedside table from that point on.

Dad was the best dining partner. He appreciated his food. Except when he didn’t. Then he would remark that it was “horseshit”, and we would all snicker.  He wasn’t a man to mince words, that’s for sure. He certainly was not a cook; but sometimes in the evenings, I would find him in our little kitchen, mixing a package of dried onion soup mix in with a carton of sour cream, which we would dip our “Old Dutch” potato chips in while watching t.v. He would be the keeper of the chip dip, and sometimes when I’d reach over for more, he’d tease me by covering it over with his hands and giving me this look, conveying “It’s all mine!”

Dad had great posture. He wasn’t a big guy by any means; he was more in the category of “stout”. But he had broad, strong shoulders. And he always had a confident stride, with his shoulders up and back, looking straight ahead. He often reminded me to “stand up straight”.

At my elementary school, which was almost literally a hop, skip, and jump from our house, every spring, dandelions would dot the lawn outside. Most people consider these weeds (which I realize they technically are) and would mow them down. Dad would always comment how pretty they were, and how he didn’t understand why anyone would want to get rid of them (of course he mowed them down when they appeared in our yard as I recall, to appease my mother).

I am looking forward to visiting my family in Minnesota with Hubs this summer, when I can go through his belongings and reminisce. When we can gather with extended family and share our stories about my very special Dad and truly celebrate his great life and the positive impact he left on ours.