It seems that 2015 is already speeding by. January was a busy month with lots of stress. My youngest daughter is a senior, so January and February mean scholarship application time. She applied for everything available, so she was writing essays, gathering letters, and making lists. I was reading essays, nagging her to get letters, and checking her lists. She has a few more applications to complete, and then we wait and hope for interviews.
January also brought sadness. As I wrote in my last post, my father-in-law had been quite ill. He was diagnosed with lymphoma on December 18, and lost his battle on January 28. As cliche as it might sound, his passing was very peaceful; my husband, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, mother-in-law, and I were by his side as he took his final breath. I have always tried to find the little joys in difficult times. If we look hard enough, we can always find something for which to be grateful.
The first joy we found was in the hospital itself. My father-in-law spent the last six weeks of his life at Baptist Health in Lexington. We – and I mean all of us – could not have been in a more caring hospital. I refer not just to the doctors and nurses, who were phenomenal, but to every staff member with whom we came in contact. Even the custodians would warmly greet us and ask us how we were doing. They saw to it that we were as comfortable as possible, even though there were five of us sleeping in a small hospital room and it was nearly impossible to be comfortable. The nutritionist sent someone to the store to purchase sugar-free jello for my diabetic mother-in-law, and a social worker brought my sister-in-law dark chocolate because they know those little things matter.
One of our most precious joys came when the therapy dogs visited. I didn’t know they even existed, but as a dog-loving family, we were all uplifted when they came in the room. My father-in-law perked up when he had the chance to pet the dogs. We saw Fletcher the most, as his owner would make a point to come to our room. She even brought Fletcher to the open house we had in place of a funeral. Not everyone agrees that these dogs can make a difference, but they most certainly do. Not only were the patients cheered up, but so were the families and the staff.
I can’t write this blog without telling you about the man my father-in-law was. He was really quite incredible. I think his grandson Bryce (my husband’s son) summed it up best:
My Grandpa Stath passed away this week. He followed many of his dreams and lived an incredibly
full life. He was an electrician, dairy farmer, Midwestern ski resort owner and operator, a husband,
a father, grandfather, scout leader, a pilot, accomplished woodworker, among other things.
Grandpa always inspired me in subtle ways, primarily through how he lived his own life.
He was always pursuing new interests which helped him keep his and Grandma’s lives exciting
and dynamic. He was never one to sit back and watch the world go by.
I can’t ever thank him enough for being the role model he was for me. I’ll miss him tremendously. – Bryce
I could not have said it better. This man was 85, yet more computer literate than I. Rather than purchase a new computer, he bought components and built his own. He was savvy with his smart phone, and an expert photographer. One of my favorite memories was when we were at Bryce’s wedding in Lake Tahoe. My father-in-law went out early in the week so he could explore and take photos. During the wedding, everywhere I looked, there he was taking pictures that I am certain were as good as the professional photographer’s. He was in his element.
Another joy during this time was getting to know my husband’s family better. One cannot go through hours in a hospital without bonding. We laughed, talked, ate, and cried. I cherish my sister-in-law and her husband, and am so blessed to have shared that time with them. I observed as my mother-in-law, herself with several health issues, watched her husband slip away. Her quiet strength was humbling. She shared 65 years of marriage with this man. I cannot imagine how hard it was for her to see him fight for his life. I believe she was so much stronger than even she knew. She is such a sweet lady, and doesn’t want to be a burden on anyone. She was so proud of her husband and his talents, yet downplays her own. She is also quite accomplished. She took up woodburning (that involves carving and painting, too), and her pieces are just gorgeous. I’ve also gotten to know Gary’s nephew, his future bride, and their daughter. They are such a neat family! The adults are both non-traditional college students who will graduate in May. Yulien (such a cool name) is an awesome teen who follows her own path and shows kindness to everyone.
We will miss my father-in-law, but we had the blessing of knowing him, learning from him, and loving him. He is no longer in pain, and I’m pretty sure he’s telling Jesus how to run things up there. He has left a great legacy for his grandchildren, who all carry on his tradition of searching for adventure, learning continuously, and not sitting back and watching life pass them by.
This one’s for you, Bill. Rest in Peace…