Essentially Esther Banner

Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Birthday week is lingering on. I’m still hearing from friends and relatives who were involved with the Memorial Day long weekend and then remembered it was my birthday. That’s fine with me. We spent most of the holiday time out in the yard so some of the well-wishers couldn’t get hold of me.

Becky did the yearly “surprise party” that I expect. I would REALLY be surprised if she didn’t do it some year. Hummmm…..wonder if she’s ever thought of that? George and Murphy, (his Westie), arrived before Becky had a stoke wondering why he was so late. I knew she was hyped about something…hey! I raised that girl. She can’t hide TOO much from me…..albeit, there have been a few misfires here and there. There was so much food we sat on the deck two afternoons trying to eat up the picnic fare. Refrigerators were heaped to the hilt and I guess it was a bit over the top, even for nine of us. We’re all getting smarter about eating and don’t stuff ourselves to the gills anymore. Well…….most of the time….little slip there.

Two things that REALLY did surprise me; John’s beautiful picture collage of me from little to old. Yikes, what “time” did to that little, shy girl. I used to hide behind mama’s legs when a stranger came along and peek around to get a look at whoever. Maybe that was a good idea, considering how small children are carted off these days playing in their own yards.

Second big surprise was a phone call from Ellen Crush. I was knocked out of my socks when Becky yelled at me to come answer the phone, “Ellen is calling.” I ran in the house to hear her voice for the first time. It matches her writing. There is a bell-tone to it, along with a hint of laughter that wants to bubble out….a joyous note, I can imagine she sings well…..and her usual humor. Friendship is a word that only fit’s a few people in your life. You know. The special friendships. She has become one of my own over the months and I found out she’s smarter than the average type Bear. She found my phone number on the internet. Modern times and ingenuity…..amazing.

Not to discredit all of the wonderful folks who took time to write, call, visit…..the gifts and the cards……..each and every one is special. Dale didn’t know it but he gave me a special gift also. When we visited at length on my birthday, I told him I (and lots of others) were missing his funny stories on the blog. He isn’t one to do something just to be one of the bunch……..when he gets the urge and idea at the same time…..we are blessed with his funny, funny stories. Well, this morning just for kicks, I checked his blogsite and B_I_N_G_O there we was. He is so “right on” about his mother. Aunt Beulah, if you remember, is my Auntie Mame…..no other words fit.

Yesterday, Rocky, Becky and I borrowed the neighbor’s trailer again and went back to the nursery in West Plains. While Rocky was getting the trailer filled, Becky and I browsed the lot and found some very different add-ons for our yard. I ended up with a van load and this evening after it cools down we will begin planting once more. We also have to get back to the gym so that will come before the planting. We can do our workouts in AC while the afternoon heat is cooling down and then it’s out in the yard.

Yesterday when we got back home with our stuff we laid lawn fabric around Becky’s planting…(I quit on that after we did the front) and then she scooped wheel barrows full of mulch and I placed it around the plants. It was a long, hot job but we stuck with it until we were finished. She will add the rest of the mulch tonight when she gets home so as to use it up. She will have a pretty yard once she gets her little patio made with paving stones…..

This morning I watered everything thoroughly and pulled some weeds……now when I finish this blog I will begin inside work until Rocky is home and ready to leave for the gym. I hope your big week-ends were as much fun as ours and that you have a good day today……..wherever that takes you. Tomorrow I plan to begin with the year….1992 as we walk along the journey together………

Until then,
Essentially Esther

Friday, May 27, 2005


Getting past mom’s funeral I went back to work and the month passed quietly. Mom, dad and Louis all died so close in calendar time to each other. Mom, the end of October and Louis and Dad the 10th and 15th of November. Jakie also. Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving and Bear’s birthday also fit into the month. Somehow we moved past all of that and put it behind us. The guys at work gave me a lot of space and office time. Somehow, losing mom raised a flag that time was flying by. I had a lot to think about with finishing up mom’s affairs and adjusting to the time I normally would have spent with her

Jennifer came home for Thanksgiving and Jonathan came for the day. We had a small group but the usual meal with everyone’s favorites. Bear was 67-this year. The weather had been unusually disagreeable with icy roads several times in the month and we were glad Jennifer was able to get home from school at all. She left to go back on the first of December…..we always missed her…she was gaining so much confidence by being away at school and taking charge of her life….. without the usual input from mom and grandparents.

This particular year was the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Bear taped all of the special programs and we relived the whole experience again when I came home from work. It is always an emotional day for me. I was 9-years old at the time and I can remember the day very well. My brother was wearing his Boy Scout shirt and the shock on mom and dad’s faces told me this was something that had never happened before. We listened to president Roosevelt on the radio and the day was spent with a lot of speculation and fear. Life would never be the same for any of us.

We decorated for Christmas a little late this year. Somehow the Christmas tree always gives me hope and peace. It’s little lights aglow in a darkened room still represent the same message of long ago when a star shone over a stable. Once the tree is up I begin the gift wrapping and mailing….after that, the baking and candy making. There are always Sunday School parties and church functions of the season that make December special. Is there anything cuter than the nursery children tugging at their Sunday clothes the whole time they are on stage singing “Silent Night?” Wide eyed with wonder, they are the future.

At work, things were humming right along with new CDL requirements to comply nationally so that all commercial licensing was uniform. We had 206-tests on one day in just one of our offices. We were over-whelmed with the numbers of applicants but worked fast and furious to take care of them. The date was arriving when no more “grand fathering” would be permitted and a physical driving test would be required. Naturally the commercial drivers were wanting to beat the cut-off date and as usual, everyone waited until the last opportunity.

Christmas eve was special because George arrived around suppertime, Hank and Jonathan came and Becky and Jennifer. We had a nice dinner together and then opened gifts. Santa was very good to all of us. On Christmas day I got up early to get the pies made and dinner started. Becky and I took turns working during the time George was here as we couldn’t both be off at the same time. We played a lot of monopoly which has a long history of George beating the sox off all of us but once in a while we sneak a win in. I amazed myself by beating him once myself. There is always spirited competition during the game…..none of us like to lose.

The year ended with a change of governing in the Soviet Union. At the stroke of midnight, the Soviet Union was changed to “Russia.” Fireworks went off all over Red Square and the world wondered if the long cold war was finally coming to an end. The Russian dominance over the satellite ‘states’ was certainly coming to an end. At the close of 1991 we stayed up to watch the New Year in for a change. It was a moment in history we waited many years to see…..and with a New Year waiting to be born, there was hope and thoughts of peace as the old, bent man of 1991 handed the keys over to the new baby……..1992.

Peace on Earth…….Good Will to Men.

Until the next time,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, May 26, 2005


We have just returned from a very enlightening and educational trip. For many years I have heard about and read about the Amana Colonies in Iowa. I always thought I would go there someday, but never dreamed it would be in the last few days of my 72nd year. Sunday, Rocky and I drove to his sister’s home in St. Louis, Missouri. Marie and her husband of over 50-years greeted us, along with Ginko, their Siamese cat.

Their home is on a quiet street with lots of trees and well kept yards…..after getting our luggage in for the night, we took a tour of their yard. They have a fish pond in back and nearby a wire basket with moss in it had been selected by a female dove to hatch her young. She sat over her two eggs the whole time we walked around without a hint of leaving. I marveled at her resolution to stay in spite of the four of us talking and gawking. Of course we were respectful and kept our distance. After a good dinner and more visiting, we went to bed for an early start the next morning.

We were up and on the road around 9:00am, traveling north, northwest to Iowa. Northern Missouri flattens out and is much more farmed than southern Missouri where the Ozark Hills and timber make it impossible. We are used to more timber related industry, tourism and raising animals of all kinds. Being born and raised in eastern Nebraska, when I am in farm country, I feel the old roots of mine smiling. I well remember roads traveled as a youngster and the scenery being mostly of corn fields, pig farms, alfalfa and the like. Corn cribs were filled in the fall to feed until spring, along with the hay. I can still smell the aroma of new hay when the loft was filled in grandma’s barn.

Once into Iowa the land became flatter with each mile we drove. The farms were neatly surrounded with patchwork fields of new green growth and plowed ground. I am always amazed how black the dirt is up north. Our dirt in south Missouri is red clay, pretty much, and it takes a lot of years to find the right formula to make the ground produce the desired results. Mulching, mulching, mulching and fertilizing….. also adding lime makes a big difference. If you want over night results, don’t move to south Missouri. It takes time to work it up and over the years you and the ground begin to understand each other. I always picture the process like a spirited horse that doesn’t want to be tamed. Patience, repetition and back-breaking work finally achieve the desired conclusion.

When we arrived at the motel, we were immediately met by Rocky’s brother and wife, Richard and Helen. They drove over from Plano, Il. and had been waiting for us to arrive. Once we carried luggage to our rooms we met in the lobby and then went for a drive to see where we wanted to start the next day. There were lots of options. There are seven Amana villages and each have enough individual charm that you must see them all. We did indeed do that the first afternoon and then decided to go to historic Kalona the next day where we would be able to tour the Amish community, up close and personal. The six of us were the only ones in the large van and our driver was a delightful man. He slowly drove us around to see the many points of interest, stopping at some of the places we could go in and see the craft being produced. Our first delightful stop was the Bakery. Without benefit of electricity, the ladies had a mouth watering array of sweets to choose from. Our driver, Cecil, treated us to a cup of coffee and Richard treated us to cinnamon rolls to go with it. Now I’m a pretty fair pastry baker myself but I have to tell you, those rolls and that cup of coffee were wun-der-ful. We eye-balled some pies and cookies and decided we would come back after the tour.

On to the Wood and Creative Gift building. We were introduced to a gift shop of wood products and then taken back to the shop where the husband and another man were at work. Their ability was amazing and the shop was dust free since the sawdust was sucked out of the building and loaded into an Amish wagon to be used in the barns. Nothing is wasted in Amish country. I wish we could learn from them to be less wasteful. We then went to the Twin County Dairy and saw curds being separated from the whey which would be shipped to make cheese at another location. On the road back to our starting point, we passed two beautiful horses which were grazing on the right-of-way. Cecil stopped to allow us to take pictures.

I bring home many scenes which will remain. The shy girl in the bakery who sold wind chimes to me……she was beautiful, inside and out. The farmers we saw plowing their fields with horses and simple equipment….the white laundry hanging on the lines, flapping in the wind with the dark outer clothes the Amish wear. The gardens at each home…….the many ways the Amish use rhubarb….it is one of their staples…..and a favorite of mine. I think I tried it every way possible. Cecil, the driver, was a jewel. He patiently answered the many questions we asked and filled in the details….a kind man who had worked hard and still found ways to make himself useful.

There was an overall pride felt in the area. The kind of pride felt between man and animal, working the fields together…..their strength mingling to produce food for both of them. The gardens were freshly hoed, the washing on the lines were clean. There was family unity and much innocence. It was quietly evident without having to be announced. My generation is not too far removed from that kind of life. We were raised in the great depression, our parents worked hard and taught us to do the same. We grew up tough and we don’t know a lot about computers or space science but we have worked the ground, worked in small businesses, earned meager amounts of money which came honestly and raised our families without carting them off to a care-taker of some kind.

It was the kind of pride I was born into. Minding your business, doing your own work, lending a hand and not being a quitter. I am not Amish or Mennonite but I felt an invisible connection with who they are. They are who we once were…….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Sunday, May 22, 2005


After three weeks of back-breaking work, Rocky, Becky and I have finished the front “make-over” of our little acre here in Missouri. No matter how fine, beauteous, fancy or expensive…….I wouldn’t trade this little acre for any other kingdom in the world. My dream yard came true, just as I had envisioned. With some good input from Rocky and Becky we used up every last bit of soil, manure, slag rocks, mulch and Rainbow River gravel. With the three of us, the neighbor’s trailer and Dave helping lift here and there, it is now complete. Thanks a million, guys, couldn’t have done it without you.

We celebrated Friday and Saturday evening with cook-outs on the deck and the company of our neighbors…..who are more like family. We fight, sweat and die for each other. Little Davy saves us all many steps…….he is an eager helper. Mom and dad are bringing him up to know what work is….and HOW to do things….and WHY. He’s a special kid who is lucky to have such good parents……and of course, “Aunt Beck”, Gramma and Rocky.

Today we leave for St. Louis to stay over night with Rocky’s sister and husband….then in the morning the four of us will travel to Amana, Iowa to tour the Amana Colonies. We will meet the third Rockenbach kid, Richard and his wife, Helen, upon arrival. Now don’t you know we are going to come home with some good food hanging on our bodies. Our blood lines run along that vein of German/Scandinavian/ Danish heritage. The Amish are master craftsmen and the women make quilts to die for as well as cloth dolls and stitching of all kinds. The food………well!! Wonderful would be a good lip smackin’ word for that.

We return on Wednesday of this coming week. The neighbor’s will take care of our new plantings and Becky will take care of our critters……..we’re leaving it all in good hands and I hope to be back blogging next Thursday. Of course…..to give a good idea of what we did and how it stacked up with expectations.

So God bless all until we meet again,
Essentially Esther

Friday, May 20, 2005


Most of the family left the night of the funeral. Big flakes of snow had been falling during the evening and as our family left for their motels we opened the door to a white world. It seemed Nature held off long enough for us to pay our last respects to mama and then it covered her with a blanket of white. It was silent….and still.

Mama always had a “sayin’ for everything. One of which came to mind as the snow fell that night….. “Blessed are the dead the rain falls on, but doomed is the bride,” was only one of the hundreds that she lived her life by….all of which she heard growing up from her mother and grandmother. Folks lived by sayin’s back in those olden times and they come to mind as I go about my days. It somehow makes any situation better as I take those words from my memory basket and speak them into existence. It makes me feel close to my elders when I do that……yes, the chain goes unbroken from one generation to the next. Mama would have liked the snow falling on her grave…….a sweet benediction.

George and John had stayed on with us after everyone else left. Becky had to leave the day before to be with Jennifer for Parent’s Weekend, at Canton. Today, the boys were packing to go back to Shawnee. John had flown to Kansas City where George picked him up and brought him here……..and would need to take him back to the airport. I took money from mom’s bank account to give each of the three children to help with their travel expenses…..I know she would have wanted that. I was very happy that all three of her grandchildren were able to come for her burial.

The boys left about noon. The house was quiet and the past few days seemed like a dream. Bear went outside to work off some of his emotions and I did the same, inside. I organized the foods that were left and cleaned the dishes to take back to church for people to pickup later. The bedding was washed and put back on the beds…….when there was nothing left to keep my hands busy, I gave in to my grief. The long ordeal was over……for mom and me, both. Seeing her die by inches for the past several years had been a struggle for both of us. She lived to make me happy and I couldn’t let her go………finally I knew it was inevitable and the long journey was near it’s end. I was given the privilege I had prayed for…that I would “be there” when mama died….but I was given a bonus….I literally saw her spirit leave her body….a last burst of freedom from the old shell that held her captive. Now she was forever free…..the gentle spirit was safely home.

My mother had a gift. People loved receiving her letters. After we moved to Missouri, in May 1945, she wrote to her mother, her sisters, and to dad’s side of the family. Her letters contained detailed descriptions of what she was seeing and feeling on this new adventure. The people, the culture, the pristine beauty of the surrounding area at that time were all topics that she sent back. Her writing was mostly on a Stuart’s Linen Tablet…….with her beautiful handwriting neatly cast on both sides. Her letters literally read as a novel and the family would write back wanting more……at times there would be so many pages she would have to press hard to get them in the envelopes.

She certainly had a bevy of subjects to write about. Going to auctions to buy a milk cow or two, a couple of pigs…….sending off an order for baby chicks which would be delivered by the mailman, buying an old Ford Tractor, a horse…….the list went on and on, each being described through the eyes of my mother. She had loved Missouri and through her writing, made everyone else love it too.

And so, the week was back to Sunday. John flew out of KC at 10:55am and was to arrive in New Orleans by 2:30pm. George went home alone after driving him to the airport. Becky was coming home from Canton where she had spent the weekend with Jennifer.

The notation I made in my diary that Sunday read like this: “I sure thought about mama today….especially at 12:40pm when she passed away just after church let out. My thoughts will never be far from her. The thing that makes it bearable is knowing she’s beyond pain and separation from her other loved ones….and I know I’ll see her again, one day.” I return to the cemetery and see the headstones for mom and dad and Louis…….impossible. There they are together and I feel so alone…..it is a feeling that never really leaves. They are “there” and I am “here”…for the first time in my life I am beginning to think of death as only a door which has been referred to many times by others…..but now I’m feeling there is only that door between us.

I devised a little game to survive my sorrow. It goes like this: I go to the door and open it and I see all three of them. They are young and vital….and happy. I stay as long as I can keep the door open. Reality usually shuts the door…..but for those few moments that I can fool myself, it is a wonderfully healing reunion. I come away happy and inspired, determined to make my life count for eternal things………

Until we meet again,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, May 19, 2005


The second hardest thing to do when you lose a loved one is to call the family. You have to live it over with each person you call and your emotions have to be put on a shelf as you try to answer their questions and offer them solace. In a small town news travels fast. Within an hour after we came home the phone began ringing and people came with food. I have done this many times for other families but when you are on the receiving end there are no words to express your gratitude. Mom and dad had lived in this little town since 1948 and they had many friends. Bear and I lived next door to them for 20-years and were also well known in the community. People came constantly, offering help in many ways. Generosity at a time like that is unparalleled.

Since I was the last of our family of four, it again fell to me to take care of all the arrangements. I had done so for dad and Louis to spare mom the agonizing decisions and again for Gail because she was bringing Louis back for burial here……..there was no way she could make the necessary arrangements. In a couple of days, family began arriving and the logistics were somehow taken care of. We found room for everyone and food was overflowing. We were well provided for.

The last entry in my diary the day mama died says it all…… “Somehow the day has passed. We struggle to act normal and function but the heart is slow to accept the fact that my mother is gone. God speed your sweet journey home, mama.”

The next day we had to move the things out of mom’s room at WC. We left her clothing for patients who may have need of them….some women didn’t have much in the way of personal things. Ladies who worked at WC came by to share things about mom they had enjoyed. It is sad to look at the last needs a patient has in a nursing home. Mom won a lot of Bingo games (all of the patients did) and she always chose a box of Kleenex. She had a drawer full of the boxes and napkins she had saved…..packets of salt, sugar etc; there were a few little figurines she had been given at Christmas gift exchanges……and her bulletin board. It was covered with family pictures, poems and little quotes she found to her liking. A large Elvis Presley poster was taped to the back of her door…..she loved Elvis.

The next day went quickly as we prepared for Family Night at the Funeral Home and other family arriving. Aunt Sally, mom’s younger sister, and two of her children, Joyce and Mark came from Nebraska…..Uncle Roger, (mom’s younger brother) and wife Phyllis, also came from Nebraska. George and John arrived late that evening, together. We visited until late.

The day of mama’s funeral turned cold with a gray flannel sky. The world seemed to bend low in respect and sympathy. The family gathered at the church and then to the cemetery. It was, in all aspects, proper and dignified. The flowers were pastel and beautiful…….mom would have loved them. As we left the cemetery I turned to look back where she lay…….and snow flakes began to fall. As we made the slow procession home we were each quiet with our own thoughts…..our hearts were as desolate as the October day.

Coping with loss is different in every individual. Some are stoic, others decide to throw a party for the departed, some cry and scream…..as for myself I walk down a long path with the person who has left me behind. I picture the pleasant times we have shared together and the wonderful part of them that will last until I am no longer here. The many lessons, learned, the things shared and the love they gave is always a comfort to me. To love and be loved is the greatest joy on earth. That line was taken from a framed sampler my mother embroidered. It hangs in my home and is a constant reminder why we are here at all. To love and be loved. If we miss that connection nothing else ever matters.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


I went to work the next day. Mom was about the same and Bear would be driving back with our new car. It was a quiet day at work and I arrived home around 4:30pm. I began fixing supper as I expected Bear any time after 5:00pm. He came a half hour later……..and I went out to see the car. We had selected a red one…..and it was the perfect color I had hoped for. Bear had a smile on his face as big as the Grand Canyon…..he loved the performance on the road back home. We took pictures to remember the occasion.

After supper we picked Becky up and went to see how mom was doing. She was about the same. We stayed until she drifted off and then came home. The next day was Saturday and I went out after dinner and stayed with her until bedtime. They had been giving her shots to help her rest and she seemed quite peaceful that visit. The next day, on Sunday, I had someone teach my Sunday School Class and I went out to be with mom. Her breathing became labored and irregular…..she had oxygen for about a week at that time. Bear came out part of the day and Becky stayed the whole time. We sat quietly and let mom rest as much as she could.

I worked the next day, but to give me peace of mind, Bear went out and sat with mom. He promised to call if there was any change. Once home, I picked Becky up and we went out to sit with her. She was more restless at this point and getting noticeably weaker….laboring to breathe. The days began running into each other, each with the same result. I would work, come home and go immediately to see mom. Bear was with her during the day…Becky and I were with her each evening until bedtime.

On Wednesday, the 23rd, Ron and I were leaving the parking lot at headquarters when the Captain’s secretary called on the car radio and asked Ron if I was with him. He answered that I was and she said I had a call at the office. We turned around and I went in to learn it was the nursing home calling that mom was having a bad spell. Ron arranged with me to be taken to the nursing home and he went on without me. The Sergeant went to tell Bear where I was and he came out as soon as he could get away.

When I arrived, mom’s oxygen in the blood was 19 and it should be in the 90’s. She was laboring to breathe and made a little sound every time she exhaled. Her pulse was racing. I sat by her bed and stared at her closed eyes. I knew we were close to losing her and I had been gearing myself up for the final time I would visit her in that place. I spent the time thinking over the high points of mom’s life and the hardships she had endured. Her journey was almost over and I couldn’t imagine my life without mom. By now, mom was 87-years and I was 59.…….mom had “been there” for every one of those years. With dad and Louis both gone I was beginning to feel a strange loneliness. I was the baby of the family….with them all gone I felt I was soon to be orphaned. It was a weird feeling because I had a loving husband, loving children and grandchildren. I had every logical reason to be grateful and happy but my heart wouldn’t listen to logic. My mind raced with every conceivable way to keep mom alive. Maybe if we did this…..or that….or something else. Did I make the right decisions, should I have done so and so….it went on hour after hour. My heart would not accept any comfort.

About 10:30 that morning, mom began breathing easier and I had Bear call Becky at work to let her know. Her vital signs became more normal and when Becky came I told Bear to go on home because he was trying to get our leaves raked up before the weather turned cold and rainy. Becky and I stayed until 8:00 that evening and called it a day. Our emotions were pulled to the breaking point. The nurse told us she would call during the night if mom had a turn for the worse. I was in bed sound asleep by 9:00pm.

I slept like a log until 2:15am when the phone woke us. Mom was failing fast and they didn’t expect her to last the night. We jumped up to dress and get to WC as fast as we could. Shortly after we arrived her vitals began returning to normal again and the crisis was once more over. No one could explain how she could be so close to death and then come out of it. Becky came after work and we stayed until 8:00 that evening…….we left mom resting. At 12:20am we were called out of bed again only to be called back before we could get there to tell us mom had returned to normal “vitals” and it wouldn’t be necessary to come. I slept until 7:30 the next morning and then went back to see how mom was doing.

By now she was in her own little world. Her demeanor was much like a child playing in a crib. The staff had the rails up on her bed so she couldn’t roll out and she was in a fetal position much of the time, singing to herself and making cooing sounds. Off and on her face would light up as if she saw someone and she would say, “mama”………”papa”………and look so happy…….then she would say, “bye bye” in a wistful voice, like they came near and then left. It was comforting to watch and I felt I was seeing something very special. In my mind I could see grandma and grandpa coming to assure her….to take her on her last journey.

On Sunday the 27th we were called at 4:20 in the morning to tell us mom was having a lot of fluid buildup and her feet were cold and purple. We got dressed quickly and drove to the nursing home. It was warm and foggy with a half-moon glowing through the fog. It cast an eerie light above us. When we arrived, mom was resting fairly well but through the morning her breathing became more labored. Her pulse was racing far too fast for the medication to slow it down or have an impact. Her eyes began looking a little cloudy and she was on maximum oxygen. I continued my habit of wiping her face with a damp cloth to give her comfort…..talked to her and held her hand. Mom was by now far away but I knew she could hear me and I wanted her to know how much we all loved her.

The nurse on duty had been so good to mom. Over the years we trusted and loved her kind ways with her patients. She had a larger oxygen mask brought in that covered mom’s nose and her mouth…….saying it would help her breath easier. All of a sudden her breathing changed and as we watched, her eyes opened and she looked upward with a peaceful recognition……then a little short sucking breath as if her spirit departed her body. Then she was gone.

She had witnessed my first breath at birth and I witnessed her last breath in death. The circle was complete. Here. On this earth. But one day I shall see my mother and father coming to comfort as I lay on my deathbed…..to take me on that last journey………home, at last.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


My son John is thinking about getting a dog…..Becky is thinking about killing a cat…I am trying to finish a big project in the front yard which is a complete make-over. Becky has helped with a lions share…..Rocky when he is home….and the neighbors pitched in as well, loaning us their trailer to haul dirt, mulch…..a big tree, etc; etc; etc; Eldest child, George, may be faced with retirement if the government closes down the complex in Kansas City where he has worked going on 31-years. He is financially ready…….but not ready to be out of work. Hummmm. After our output on the front yard I don’t see Rocky and I retiring our second time very soon, either.

Oh well……..

We have a beautiful yard now……..

No worry.

Until tomorrow when I hope to return to my blogsite,
Essentially Esther

Friday, May 13, 2005


Mom was spending more time in bed now when we went to see her. Sitting in the wheel-chair for long periods worsened the edema in her feet and lower legs….she was more comfortable in bed. They decided she didn’t have Shingles…I personally thought it was because they left her in wet diapers too long. I knew it would not benefit mom to voice an opinion because they would give me “lip service” and do as they pleased when I left. I had been around the nursing home for over five years now and I knew how they talked about families who wanted “special treatment” for their loved ones. There are wonderful, caring Aides who do a service to the residents and then there are those who are very negligent to say the least.

Sometimes mom would be in her wheel-chair eating an ice-cream cone or candy and cookies. She hadn’t lost her sweet tooth and still enjoyed the “goodie cart.” I had scheduled vacation to go to John and Barb’s for a visit. With mom’s health situation worsening I felt I’d better go so I would be back if things became serious. We just needed to get away for a few days for a change of scenery. It seemed work and the hospital/nursing home filled every day. I had a tough time leaving….knowing how mom loved going….but couldn’t.

The road to Louisiana was familiar now and a trip we enjoyed. Going to the new home of John and Barb’s was something we had looked forward to. They were blessed with a lot of space and a big yard. We were, of course, happy for them.
We spent a few days visiting and going to our favorite places. My brother’s wife, Gail flew in from Seattle to spend a couple of days with all of us. We filled up on seafood and did lots of shopping around the French Quarter.

Gail and I especially liked a restaurant in the Garden District of New Orleans where we were treated to Po Boy Salads. The food and service were excellent. Sorry to know the place is no longer there…..at least as it was then. Time changes things. Since this was our last day, John suggested dinner at a restaurant situated on one of the rivers. We enjoyed soft lights and the sound of water close by…….more delicious seafood. There was a homecoming party going on for a large group so we had to wait for a time but the ambiance and starlit evening provided a nice respite.

Gail came home with us to see mom and to put flowers on Louis’ grave. She needed to touch base and spend a few days with us. I had to work the next day but that evening we went out to see mom. She was excited to see me and seemed more like her old self. I think she knew Gail but I couldn’t be sure…..her attention was towards me. I have to confess…..it felt good. There had been so many times it was like visiting an elderly lady I didn’t even know. I felt orphaned long before I became physically orphaned. To see love coming from mom’s eyes was a very precious gift.

Gail stayed two days and had tickets to fly home to Seattle on the 16th of the month. I woke at 2:00am very restless and couldn’t get back to sleep. I got up at 4:00am to get Gail and Bear off to the airport for a 7:00am flight out. As I was getting ready for work, WC called and said mom’s blood pressure spiked real high, with low pulse. They had her on oxygen and needed my approval for them to give her a pain shot of Demerol and something else. I agreed. After Bear and Gail left, Becky took me out to WC to see about mom. I decided I needed to stay and Becky called to inform my supervisor.

Mom slept well for an hour and a half. I sat in the recliner in her room and I dozed off as well. When she woke up she was hungry and I was astonished at what she ate. They brought lunch to both of us and she drank her milk, my milk, a dairy shake, a bowl of ham and beans and bread and butter. She even took her pill….(had not eaten or taken medication since last night.) She slept on and off during the afternoon and I left around suppertime. Uncle Buster called to tell us the car was in and he had it ready for Bear to come get it. He would be on the road early again the next morning for Blair, Nebraska.

We were up at 5:00am the next day and Bear left by 6:00am. I called about mom and the nurse told me she made it through the night with normal vital signs so I decided to go on to work. That evening Becky and I went to see mom and she was restless when awake or else asleep. She went from one to the other. Her poor little body didn’t know whether to wake up or go to sleep. When she fell into a deep sleep we left……Bear called to tell me he arrived safe and would be coming home the next day.

The house was quiet. It was rare for me to ever be alone……..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, May 12, 2005


September came in quiet with the usual routine activities. George left for LAN training in Philadelphia on the 8th and Becky left for the Academy at Jefferson City for a week of training. Mom seemed distracted most of the time and tired. Her feet were purple and cold….edema. They were taking measures to correct it but it’s a slow process with lots of curves and guesswork.

Some neighbors of mine years ago, called the evening of the 12th….they were passing through our town and said they would like to come see us if we didn’t have plans. Bear went down town to lead them to our place. Small town directions are sometimes like trying to follow a “cow path” so it’s easier just to go find where ‘they’ are. We visited till quite late and they left for home in Shawnee. Dee was a nurse and I asked her advice about mom and the care she was getting etc: There is no magic formula when a person is 87-years old with the health problems mom had. Still it comforted me to be able to ask about things that were troubling me.

Bear called the next morning after I got to work and said WC had called and mom was having chest pains and difficulty breathing. The doctor sent her to the hospital by ambulance. They would be running tests so there was no need for me to come home….Bear went down to sign the admittance papers and make sure she was doing alright……then he came home. He told me not to go see her until the next day after a lot of the preliminary tests were run and they might know something.

Becky came home that evening and we all went to see mom the next day. She was resting and quiet so we stayed for some time and then left. We went back the next morning and she was fretful and hyper. She fought the oxygen, heart monitor and refused food or liquids. We stayed with her most of the day to try and keep her from ripping everything off of her. We left later in the afternoon. George called later that evening telling us all about the trip and classes he attended. He’d had a good week.

One of Bear’s cousins from Nebraska called to see if they could come visit and of course we said yes. They arrived on the following Friday night and were here when I came home from work. We had a good visit and they stayed over with us. The next morning I got up early and fixed biscuits and gravy and we visited until they left for Branson to spend a few days. We went to see mom and she was in bed and had been most of the previous day. She had a low grade fever and they thought she might have Shingles. She looked pitiful. Becky and I went to see her the next day and she looked a little better. She was sitting at the nurses station (back at Willow Care) and had her fair fixed and a bath. Although she looked better, she was very weak and listless. She ate a little caramel corn and became tired so we helped her to bed.

Morris, our cat who was a dead ringer for “Morris” on TV had been at the Vet’s for several days with an obstruction on some kind. They finally got the problem fixed. He had eaten a 10” decorative ribbon and it bound him up. They finally declared him well enough to come home. When Bear got the bill, he said, “Well, that little piece of ribbon he ate cost us $10 an inch. That’s pretty expensive ribbon.” Needless to say I didn’t put another ribbon back on the stuffed bunny where Morris liked to sleep …………..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


July came in with expected heat. Lee Remick died (on July 2nd) of lung and kidney cancer. She was only 55-years old but cancer has no favorites. We always enjoyed her movies. July is a hard month to work because the crew is always short….someone is usually on vacation which means whoever is left has to step up to the plate and work harder. The heat and working short-handed usually wrings you out pretty good by the time the day is over.

Mom was slowly growing worse. She was having mini-strokes which left her incapacitated most of the time and certainly not in a mood for conversation. She was getting thinner all the time because she didn’t eat, drink or take her medications. When I took my worries to the staff, they just said, “We can’t make her eat or take her meds. We are required to ask three times if they want either one and if they say ‘no’ we take it away.” Imagine my frustration with that logic. I had mom in the nursing home to be taken care of and now they tell me if she doesn’t want food or medication she doesn’t get it.

Mom was getting thinner and thinner as well as more with-drawn. Each time I went to see her there were a different set of problems…..and all things that I had no control over. The staff was beginning to think I was a family member who was making too many complaints….I could see it on their faces when I entered the building. If they could have read my inner thoughts they would have no doubt that I was unhappy with them. They were the “care givers”…..they were to take care of mom but instead when I came in I had to second guess everything that went on and try to find a positive solution. Apparently, I was the only one who cared if she lived or died.

I struggled on during the month, trying to get her to eat or drink and trying to be there for the evening meds to see that she took them. It was an endless frustration to say nothing of what mom was going through. By the time August rolled around I had her taking enough nourishment that she was able to be up in her wheel chair again but she lost 5-pounds during July and she was just a sack of bones. It was hard to go in with a big smile and attempt a normal visit.

On August 2nd, Bear, Becky and I drove to St. Louis to pick Jennifer up from the airport. She came home for her birthday the next day and to get ready to go back to Canton, to college. She was tan and looked like a young woman instead of the young girl we sent to Louisiana for the summer. She had a certain confidence about her that was notably different….Jennifer was growing up. We found her luggage and then a place to eat before driving back.

The next day we went back to see mom. One of the aides had closed the heavy medal door to the bathroom on her fingers and they were badly bruised and hurting. I was worried about one of her nails, thinking it would come off….it had been badly mashed. After a few days of pain killers and ointments they managed to save her nail and in time the bruising went away.

On August 19th America was shocked to learn Russia had a coup against Mikhail Gorbachev and in the following days we watched as the Soviet Union underwent a change of leaders. The riots had devastated many government buildings and the streets were full of pandemonium and killing. It was a very unsettled time for the whole world. By the 25th Gorbachev was freed from his house arrest and everyone was safe in his family. Russia declared freedom and democracy…..the satellites declared independence from Russia and the world stage marveled at the change of events in the past few days.

Uncle Buster and aunt Phyllis came for a short visit and we went to see mom. He was always very close to her and she knew him. It was a good visit for both of them. Uncle Buster talked to Bear about a new car and promised to go home and see what he could do on a trade-in etc; he was employed in a Chevy Car Dealership. He called a few days later to complete the sale of a Pontiac Bonneville. Bear made arrangements to pick it up when it came in and had undergone the detailing. It would be a few weeks.

We are always glad to see the end of August. It means the worst of the summer is over and we can look forward to rain again and some cooler temperatures. This fall would be different though and I think we knew………

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, May 09, 2005

MAY AND JUNE....1991 

After a few days off to catch up….I’m still not where I wanted to be….but further along than I was. If that sentence sounds political, it is. I hate not getting everything done I have flying around in my head but on the other hand I am able to get more done than just thinking about it….thinking about it….thinking about it. You know the drill. Some people think about it and others do it. I’m in the middle.

I totally enjoyed every minute working in the yard and with Rocky’s good help over the week-end we made a lot of improvements. If you’ve read me very long, you know my maternal grandmother and my mother loved flowers and caring for them. It came on down the pike and since I’m retired I have been enjoying being OUT-doors instead of inside an office LOOKING out. Big difference.

Anyway….we left off with February, March and April, 1991 so we continue on with “the rest of the story”……………


In our part of Missouri, we are constantly being warned of another possible big earthquake along the New Madrid fault. My dad was the first to tell me the stories of how the Mississippi River ran backwards for so many days and created a big lake in Tennessee. In the winter of 1811 the 400 residents were wakened with a huge blast and then quaking ground. Survivors told how the ground rippled like water and opened huge cracks. There wasn’t a home in New Madrid, Missouri that wasn’t affected by the huge quake.

The three 8-magnitude quakes that hit the area were felt in Charleston, S.C. and Washington D.C. and rang church bells in Boston, Mass. These three quakes are still the largest ever in the history of the U.S. There is a lot of interesting material about the quake on the internet. The Mississippi Valley quakes, because of the geological makeup, can travel much further and cause more damage than the California quakes because of this. They still predict a “big one” is due to hit again at any time.

On the third of May, around 8:30 in the evening, I was on the phone with Becky and Bear was watching TV. All of a sudden we felt a bump and shaking. As we tried to reason what just happened, a Special Report broke in on TV to inform of the quake and epicenter 10-miles south of New Madrid, MO. A pretty good jolt was felt in 6-states but there was minimal damage and no injuries. Still, it’s enough to make you appreciate good solid earth beneath your feet. The waiting period goes on….we continue to be informed of the reality of another quake….and soon. Missouri is full of caves and big steams of underground water and it’s a paradise for cave hounds and geologists. We boast the largest single spring in the world at Van Buren, Missouri where it bubbles up in a huge fountain from under a wall of rock. It is truly a beautiful area.

On the 8th of May, Becky drove to Canton to move Jennifer home from college. They arrived around 7:30 that evening, safe but tired. Jennifer intended looking for summer work. On the following Saturday I had the girls go after mom while I fixed breakfast for all of us and we had a nice morning together. Mom’s birthday came on Mother’s Day this year…..she was 87-years young.

Jennifer was invited to stay with John and Barbara this summer. John found work for her as a counselor to aid in her quest for a major in Psychology. It was very beneficial as all experience is. As I remember, she counseled troubled kids in a summer camp environment. George came to visit a few days and we enjoyed having him. We got a lot of visiting in.

I took vacation in mid-June and Becky, Bear and I drove over to Carthage, Missouri where the Precious Moments Chapel is. It’s a good 2 ½ hours over there but worth the trip. The chapel was beautiful with manicured grounds to compliment the layout. We went on a tour of the buildings and had a wonderful lunch in the dining room that overlooked a feeding area for squirrels and birds. A wonderful experience showcasing the beautiful artwork of Sam Butcher. Everything on the grounds had an inspirational meaning and is a testimony of his faith.

On the 19th of June, Bear and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary. It was a quiet day but Becky came with a cheesecake and strawberries which made the occasion special. I worked on a quilt top like one Becky made….it was pastel and soft. Bear got enthused and helped hold up the material as it grew larger and hard to manage. He was a big help. I still have the quilt and still love it.

The last part of June was not good for mom. She was confused and troubled. That always caused me a great deal of concern when she wasn’t really “mom.” I could see it but do nothing about it…..the worst kind of a bad situation. To me it was like watching two ships on a collision course and all of my screaming to warn them went unheard. I was constantly looking for improvement but braced for the inevitable. So June slid by and the heat of summer was upon us……..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, May 05, 2005


There will be an intermission here while I catch up on yard work, house work and cleaning the garage. You may never see me again…….it all looks pretty intimidating and I’m waaaaaaaaay behind. See you all later………..

Come to think of it, I think it all started piling up when I went to Boston….but I wouldn’t have missed that for the world.


Until I’m caught up or worn out, then…….
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


February was routine the first three weeks but four days after John and Barb’s 8th wedding anniversary her mother died of lung cancer. She had suffered greatly and although it was a sad loss for all of us……we were thankful she was beyond that now. Mary was one of the most unselfish persons I have ever known. Her smile radiated from inside and found a way to get out to her face. When others were critical and she was given the opportunity to say something you would never hear her say an unkind word about anyone. She was a true Southern lady. Gentile and pleasant, pretty and delicate…..an excellent hostess. No one left their home without a lot of love being poured all over them.

My mother was very sorry to hear of her passing. She loved Mary for she had been to their home once…..maybe twice. She had also visited with Mary when they came through here a few times. Mom loved the special attention and she loved Mary. One by one, the people who were very special to mom were being taken away. She still asked about aunt Beulah and I just couldn’t tell her she was gone. I sometimes regret that decision. Mom could at least have grieved for her….something I didn’t understand at the time. Now I know it would have been kinder to tell her. We do the best we can at given moments but there is no second chance to go back and make things right.

On the same day we learned about Mary’s passing, the ground war started in the Gulf. Men and equipment were massed together to rid Kuwait of the Iraqi soldiers who occupied it. Never before had such an event this large been shown in almost every American home through television. Living in the modern era has provided many incites to world happenings we could never have known before.

The March birthdays came up….John, Jonathan and Becky. We talked to John and the family on the phone…they were off for lunch and shopping at the Mall. It was very special for Jonathan this year. He was 16 so he and Becky drove over to Hartville where I was working for the day to apply for his Driver’s License. He made 100 on the written and 89 on the driving test….he was one happy boy. I gave him some cookies to celebrate and we had his birthday dinner the following Sunday.

We had several spring storms with hail and wind but didn’t do damage on our end of town. Mom had been running a fever and not feeling very well off and on. It seemed she couldn’t get over it. She had her heart set on coming out for pancakes on one Saturday so I fixed them for her and I know it was good to get out a while and have some home cooked food. Especially since it was her pancake recipe that I always used.

John called on the 17th of April to tell us they finalized papers on a home they bought in Covington, Louisiana. It was on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain just about 45-minutes out of New Orleans. They were so happy to be home-owners and we were happy for them. It’s a big step up from an apartment….. a couple of days later, L.J. had his 6th birthday. Soon he would have a yard to play in and maybe a dog of his own. Those were exciting times.

The last day of April I was working at Headquarters here in Willow Springs when we heard horns honking…..we knew the 1138th guys from the National Guard stationed at West Plains were on their way home from the Gulf. The buses full of guys waving flags out the windows with a Patrol escort and blaring sirens streaked by. People were lined up and down the highway to wave and welcome them home. I’ll have to say….it was a great feeling to be an American……….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, May 02, 2005


The first of the year came in on a Tuesday. We watched college football, went to see mom, had Becky and Jennifer for lunch and supper…….talked to several family members on the phone and had a nice unscheduled day. The weather was cold and the snow from Christmas still made the streets slick. Bear kept busy feeding the birds during the day and making sure he didn’t fall on the ice. We were iced in over the next weekend when another snow and ice storm hit out of Canada.

On Monday our crew attempted getting to our ‘station of the day’ but the roads were too dangerous to travel. I was dropped off at home before noon. Snow days are as much fun for DE’s as it is for the school kids….an unexpected free day. The next day we did work and I talked with Barbara to see how her mother was doing in Houston at the Cancer Hospital. She related that her cancer had spread all over and it was just a matter of time now. Of course Barbara was pretty broken up. Her mother was only 53 which is to be considered young in this day and age of miracle drugs, better food and health practices. We were affected because we loved Mary too.

Jennifer had to leave on the 13th to go back to college. I had the girls over for dinner and we went to see mom so Jennifer could tell her goodbye. She left early the next morning. On the 15th it was the last deadline for Iraq to get out of Kuwait. The world was waiting to see what was going to happen. John called to tell us Barbara’s parents were back home in Vicksburg and things were about the same with Mary.

The next day while we were eating supper a breaking news report announced allied planes were bombing Baghdad. Our American newsmen were telling the story from their hotel room while the planes made their passes and bombs were falling around them. They were, of course, met with two great desires. To be on top of the news just happening but to be safe. Their voices were highly excited and riveting. We sat in the living room and watched the beginning of a war before our very eyes. Modern technology is amazing. As a girl, the news from WWII was old by the time it hit the papers or the news clip between shows at the neighborhood movies. Many times my folks went to the show purposely to see the news spun from a camera reel.

We watched until sleep drove us to bed. I watched before work time and as soon as I got home. Some of our offices had a television so we were able to keep up with a lot of it while we were away from home. Bear informed me of the major events that I missed out on…..it was the number one topic everywhere. Most of the news was favorable but eventually the inevitable happened. They captured a couple of our pilots from a downed plane and had them on TV…..they looked like they’d been beaten. It was hard to take.

About the third week of the month, mom came down with some kind of a bug. She was feverish and weak….wasn’t eating and not drinking. We coaxed her as best we could and talked her into bed. She wanted to stay in her wheel chair but she finally let us put her to bed. I think she was afraid she’d go to sleep and we would slip out while she slept. I didn’t blame her for wanting us to come often and stay a long time. A nursing home at best is not “home” like we are all used to….and seeing the family on a ‘visit only’ basis is not good, either. I hated having her there as much as she hated being there. It is a situation that never has a happy ending.

Thankfully she began to turn the corner in a few days and enjoyed watching Becky and me as we cut quilt blocks. It was very calming for her as we worked and it gave us something to do the many hours we were away from home to visit her. I was feeling guilty because I went off every evening to visit mom and left Bear at home. We had very little time together even on weekends….there was just no way to make more time in a given day. I could not bear her disappointment if we didn’t come so on days when it wasn’t possible, Bear or Becky would fill in for me. Somehow we kept it all going…..those were very busy times, indeed…………

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Sunday, May 01, 2005


The first part of November was spent helping Becky with a Mission Seminar. She was teacher to a group of young girls in our church for Missions and the Women’s Mission Group was participating. This year it was on Arab countries and I was teacher of Yemen and Gaza. We were to wear costumes depicting the countries we represented as well as decorate our class rooms. It was always fun getting ready for these events because the kids were so enthusiastic and a strong impression was made for Missions. We were trying to acquaint them with the larger world and the needs that entailed.

Several men helped with the event, Bear was the time keeper and rang a bell at each room change. The kids then moved to the next room until they had been exposed to them all. With all of the costumes, decorated rooms and artifacts it was pretty impressive. At noon a meal was served, representative of the countries, to women and girls alike. The girls left after the meal and then in the afternoon we went through the whole thing for the women of our church. Needless to say….by the time it was all over, torn down, cleaned up and packed to take home……it had been a long day, but a good one.

I had CPR training at Troop G Headquarters the following Monday and that next week-end, Becky went to visit Jennifer for Parent’s Week-end. It was a beautiful Sunday so I went out to see mom and take her for a nice long drive. She became upset when I took her back. She was getting so she wanted me to be there more all the time. She continually told the “help” that her family didn’t come to see her very often. They told me this ‘on the side’ because they knew that either I or some of the family came every day. Mom was just losing her grasp on what was going on.

Jennifer came home the day before Thanksgiving. I had to work but was off for Thanksgiving and the day after….making a 4-day weekend. I was up early to prepare the turkey and all the trimmings. Becky and Jennifer went after mom… and Jonathan came for the meal and the afternoon. It was a nice day to enjoy the good food and the family. Mom rested a little after dinner but became uneasy about getting back to WC so Becky took her “home” and the kids went with her.

We had the other three days to get things done. Jennifer and Becky were in and out. They were busy making gifts for Jennifer’s sorority sisters and had a house full of nice things to take back. Jennifer drove back to school after church and dinner the following Sunday. The month ended with Bear’s 66th birthday. Becky came in the evening after I got home from work and we fixed pizzas for Bear’s party of three.

The weather was fairly nice the first Saturday in December so we got the tree and ornaments out of the garage to decorate. By the time we finished and moved furniture and so on, the day was spent. The tree was very pretty and that evening we relaxed and just enjoyed the finished product. I always reminisce about Christmas’s gone by when we get the tree out. Each little decoration has a special meaning and carries a lot of history with it. I have always loved the magic of the tree lights in a darkened room.

Mom fell at WC and broke her glasses and blacked her eye. She was suffering from dementia and her feet were swelling and discolored. They had already taken her to the doctor before we knew about it and had increased her Lasix for the edema and dementia. Fortunately she was not hurt bad from the fall nor broke any bones.

The traditional Christmas Choir Party, singing the Cantata, attending Sunday School Class parties, family coming in….. and getting the cards, gifts and house ready each claimed their time. We celebrated George’s birthday on the 22nd and this year was his big 40th. It just didn’t seem possible my George had hit the big 4 - 0. Jennifer and Becky were here and we had a festive time with the occasion. We received snow and ice so that church was called off the Sunday before Christmas. I got up early and began preparations for the meal….George, Jennifer and Becky went out after mom around 10:00am and she came in a wheel chair. They brought it along and it was a great help to her since it was getting harder for her to get around…..and the recent fall she had brought the decision about. It was fine with us because she seemed OK with it.

John called again the day after Christmas to tell us Barbara’s mother had been taken to the Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. After a long Fall of treatments and continued illness, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. We were hopeful the hospital in Texas would be able to help her. The year ended with snow and freezing rain…….we put the Christmas things away and hoped the new year would bring better health for mom and Barbara’s mother. We knew it was improbable but we couldn’t think of them not being with us.

So the old year rang in the new and 1990 slipped away while we slept……..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther