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Friday, September 30, 2005


Diana’s death resounded around the world that day and nations hung their heads in grief for a princess they didn’t even know. She touched hearts with her sad eyes and her yearning for someone to love her the way she could love back. She was mostly betrayed by every man she gave her heart so willingly to……..and died with a man who seemingly had motives other than love.

Humankind sympathized, understanding her tragic life. We have all faced loss on many levels and some of us to her depths. For most of us our stories have a happy ending because we finally find that elusive piece of puzzle that makes our lives complete. Diana never found the last piece.

We were bombarded with TV coverage, theories, intrigue, suspicion, investigations, blame…….she was the object of every chivalrous male who wanted to somehow find justice for her. I think we all wanted justice but it never came. To this day it is one of the most tragic examples of privilege gone wrong.

She had been fascinated with Mother Teresa and found purpose in helping those whose lives didn’t know privilege. She had her star to follow…..and on the day Diana was buried with pomp and circumstance, Mother Teresa died in a shabby Calcutta room. I think Diana’s grief was so great in leaving her two sons…..the two people in her life who adored her as much as she did them….that God brought Mother Teresa to heaven to comfort her. Of course that is a poetic comment, not to be taken as gospel. September went on….the world went on…..even with the most solemn events it seems life goes on like a river that cannot keep from rushing to the sea.

My own life went on and I kept busy with the daily things that require doing. Today is September 30th 2005, and I did the same thing on September 30th 1997 that I am doing today……fixing dinner for a friend of mine who was widowed several months before me. Her health is frail and she enjoys getting out for lunch and the afternoon with me…..then I take her home until the next week. We have been friends for many years and we are as comfortable together as a pair of old shoes. My life seems to be pretty much the same as I note repeating the same events on the same day but different years. I am one who enjoys an orderly life.

I turn to writing for my personal comfort. I go through periods where inspiration overflows and it is important to me to write what I think. I want to remember how I feel about milestones that I pass by and I have always loved the written word. Some speak through music or art but my satisfaction comes through reading or writing. It has the power to lift to heights no other can…….and touches the deepest part of who I am.

Until Monday,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, September 29, 2005


July slipped by the wayside without much fanfare. The weather was hot and dry so I did a few things I knew needed doing….weatherproofing the deck for one thing. It wasn’t too hard to keep up with the yard work…it was just too hot for growth. John, Barb and L.J. came in on the first Saturday of August…..they were on vacation and planned going to K.C. for a few days. They stopped in here around suppertime on Saturday…….the next morning I loaded the van and we drove on to George’s, as planned. Becky had to work so wasn’t able to go.

We made it to George’s by 3:30 and after unloading and getting settled we drove over to our favorite pizza shop to indulge once more. No matter we had pizza the night before…….we have to have pizza the first night we get to George’s. It’s just one of those traditions. The next day we drove over to Lawrence, Kansas to the KU campus to check out where the famed coach had been making basketball history for years. It was Mecca for John and L.J. When we got into the gym we saw a lot of young boys on the court who were there for Basketball Camp. Right then and there John and L.J. planned on going the next year. L.J. was tall for his age and had been raised with a basketball in his hand. It was a dream to be realized the next year.

This vacation was planned around interests of L.J.‘s who would soon be starting school again. Of course, I think John enjoys World’s of Fun as much as any kid. He makes sure they ride everything of interest and the whole day is spent at the park. I hadn’t been to an amusement park for years but it’s like riding a bicycle. Some things never change….just the paint and a few new rides. If it seemed mundane to me, L.J. had a ball. He wanted to go in six different directions at once. I’d forgotten how much walking you do in a place like that and I faded pretty quick in the heat, the crowd and the waiting to get on rides.

We discovered the water rides was a good way to cool off. A few of them had such radical drops it felt like a free-fall to the water below while your stomach was still at the launching pad. I’ve decided amusement parks are for kids and the young. My fascination with them was dead and buried after my own kids were raised but I didn’t want to spoil the obvious fun L.J. was having. I doubt he even noticed anyone else’s reaction to the rides…….he was soaked and having the time of his life. Just the way it should be. That evening I was more than happy to sit on the deck and watch George grill hamburgers to go with some baked beans I brought from home.

All good things must come to an end so the next day we packed and left early. John wanted to stop in Springfield to go through the Bass Pro Shop. Did I use the word, Mecca, once? This is Mecca number two for John and L.J. It is quite impressive and more a men’s shopping experience than for Barb and I who trailed along behind thinking how much we’d rather be at the mall. The large museum and stuffed animals, the beautiful surroundings for each display of wildlife is truly done with great taste. It’s the owner’s way of thanking the public for his large success in the sport accommodations. For most of us females, once around is enough…..but the guys hang on even looking back while they check out to see if they’ve missed anything.

After running 20-minutes the next morning, John loaded the car and they left for home. They planned to stop in Vicksburg to see Barb’s dad and then on home the next day. It would be back to the working world the next week for John and Barb.

On the 29th of August, Pete, my supervisor retired. I went to his Retirement Coffee and visited with some of the folks who came that I didn’t see too often. I jokingly told Pete he retired because he had to work after I retired…..he’d had it easy when I did it all. We had a good laugh over it….we were all good at cutting each other down. He was the second to break up the old gang of Examiner’s and the ones left had a hard time adjusting to the changing times.

Times were changing for more than the Driver’s Examiners. On the late news the 30th they said Princess Di had been seriously injured in a car wreck in France. Details were sketchy at the time. I went to bed thinking she would recover……after all, she was bigger than life….surely the car wreck couldn’t be fatal. The early news the next morning reported that she died in a Paris hospital. The whole world mourned a fallen princess……a princess of the people……..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


I woke up the next morning feeling free. I had the rest of my life to do something with. My mother did beautiful embroidery and I have a pillow I made from one of her pieces…….it says, “This is the first day of the rest of your life.” It’s nothing new but that morning as I looked at it, it spoke volumes. The first thing I was going to do was enjoy the rest of my visit with Gene and Rosalie. They would be with me another two days before going on to other friends in Springfield. George was going to leave later in the morning so I wanted to spend as much time with him as I could. Becky had to go on to work.

We spent the first day driving around to points of interest and doing some shopping at some of the antique places. We came home in time to fix supper and visit with Becky until bedtime. George called to say he arrived home safely. The next day I had to pick up some medications from Fort Leonard Wood so we made the rounds up there. They got to see the hospital Bear was in so many times and we had a nice lunch in the Food Court before coming home. The Fowlers had to leave by 8:00 p.m. to meet their friends so we hugged goodbye. Once in a while we connect when I am in town to visit George…..their daughter and her family live fairly close so at times we are in the area at the same time. It makes it possible to visit and catch up on family news.

The next morning was the first time for me to wake up in an empty house after retiring. I had so many things in mind I wanted to do it was hard to settle on anything. All of the goals I’d stored up for years came to the forefront and I wanted to do them all at once. It was a beautiful day so I washed bedding and hung it on the lines which I love to do when the weather is nice. I aired the house out good and just enjoyed the freedom of doing things without a time frame attached to it. It was a great feeling to think I could do things at my own speed now and not have a timeline to every task. I knew I was going to love being on a fresh page without restrictions.

July 4th seemed more appropriate this year because I was also celebrating my retirement along with the freedom of our country. Becky and I worked in my flower-beds most of the afternoon and watched the Boston Pops Symphony that night. It was a tradition and one I looked forward to. The next day was to be a luncheon of my high school class in Cabool and Becky said she’d go with me. We had a nice time…..mostly local classmates came. It wasn’t the large gathering we normally had but I’m always happy to attend. For a class of 72 we have very few who are deceased even though we are all up into our 70’s now.

The next day was Sunday and Becky and I were impressed with a full-scale Fourth of July program that was brisk and patriotic in our church. That evening , Don Rockenbach called from Grannie’s café out on the highway to ask if we would like to meet him for coffee. He was on his way to a delivery point with a load on his truck and wanted to check in to see who came to the luncheon yesterday. Becky and I went down and picked him up to have coffee here at the house. He had talked to some of our classmates over the past weeks so we shared news back and forth. He stayed a short time and we took him back to his truck where he pulled out and headed east, down the highway. He owned his own truck and loved the open road. He’d been doing it over 50 years…………

The next day was Monday. A full week of retirement already. I was finding out that time really does fly when you’re having fun. I had a friend in for lunch and then wrote letters the rest of the day to those who had called, mailed or visited in honor of my retirement. Becky came at the end of the day and we had supper together. A sweet benediction to end the first week. Life was good. Very good.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


My retirement day. I would never have believed as a young woman that I would retire from the Missouri Highway Patrol, a Driver Examiner. When I think back on it….it still seems like a dream. I had a lot of jobs in my life and most of them came looking for me…..now it was time for me to pass the baton.

The magical day when you are queen. I was happy to welcome two dear friends from the old neighborhood in Shawnee where the kids grew up…..Gene and Rose Fowler. They came all the way from Emporia, Kansas to be part of the day. George Jr. came and of course, Becky was working so was there as a co-worker and a guest. She has always been able to handle two jobs at once…..not a problem for her.

She had asked the Supervisors if she could “work” with me that last day. She had always been on the other crew except in times when we had to switch for some reason. Ron came early to pick us up and had my prize duck with him. Years ago he promised me he would carve a duck for me and he worked on it off and on, always putting it aside for long periods. The years went by and I forgot about it. On this last day, he brought it with a big grin on his face. It was truly a beautiful duck and although he was quite modest about it I could tell he was pleased with it. He told me he would never make another one so this would be a “lone duck” so to speak. I loved it.

We loaded up and drove to Cabool to pick Joe up and went on to work at Hartville until 11:00 a.m. when we would drive back for lunch and the retirement party. I wasn’t allowed to do much and the time went quickly. Becky took pictures of Ron, Joe and me at the door as we were leaving our last time together. When she snapped the first picture, they told her to take another…..they spontaneously grabbed me from each side and planted a big kiss on each cheek. I wouldn’t take a lot for that picture. I was really going to miss those guys………..

Back at Headquarters things were buzzing. There was quite a crowd as other retirees came that I had worked with, all the brass from Jefferson City and friends. I received a lot of plaques and awards and each came with a glowing description of my association with the Patrol from the Colonel on down to our immediate Sergeant. Then they asked if any one else had anything to say on my behalf so both Supervisors each spoke and Becky came last. I was so blown up with bouquets and compliments I hardly knew myself by the time they were finished. Although all were noteworthy and appreciated…..I was struck by the things that Becky said more than any.

She spoke of my 6 ½ years as a clerk for the crews and my eventual hire as an Examiner. I was the first female Examiner in Troop G and always tried to conduct myself in a way befitting the job and the men I worked with. We had a total of 17 ½ years together and knew each other like a book. They hired Becky next from the clerks position and later two other women. Becky closed by saying I set a high standard for them to follow. Now I ask you….who wouldn’t feel pretty good about themselves, upon hearing those words from your own daughter? In case you don’t have a daughter…..they can be your worst critic. I was feeling pretty good that Becky thought I left a good example.

Next was time for me to say something. I looked around the room at the men from Jefferson City who led all divisions of the Highway Patrol, the many friends and co-workers…..the people I had been close to on all those working days. For the ones not familiar with how we fit in to the program, I explained briefly just what an Examiner does on a daily basis. I then personally thanked the men I had worked with and that I wished I was just starting instead of saying goodbye. They were gentlemen of the highest level and I would truly miss each one. I blew a kiss in their direction and sat down.

People lingered a long time and a lot of pictures were taken of our group, then Ron and Fred took Becky and me home. George and the Fowlers were already here and we came in and had a coke with them…..the guys stayed longer than I expected, they didn’t seem anxious to go at all. Finally, they got up and with farewell hugs all around, they pulled out of the driveway in our crew car, #1575. It was sad to see it leave our drive for the last time.

I came in the house, got out of my uniform into something comfortable and started fixing supper for our guests. It meant a lot to me that Gene, Rosalie, George and Becky were here. John and Barb would have been but with both working and the distance to come, it just wasn’t possible. No matter. There would be celebrating the next time we could all get together. After supper we visited long into the night talking over old times as friends do and enjoying the blessings of the day.

It had been a very special day I would often think of and never forget………..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, September 26, 2005

MAY TO JUNE 30TH....1997 

May went by with a trip to Shawnee over Mother’s Day weekend and celebrating my birthday towards the end of the month. Becky and I bought a lot of flowers to plant and we extended my flower garden quite a bit. B.J. and his wife, Becky, came with his tiller and made short work of our new expansion. I fixed a couple of pizzas and we ate out on the deck. The fresh spring air was pleasant and we enjoyed the visit.

We were still planting and improvising in June. My time with the Patrol was getting short and I found myself planning ahead to my retirement date. However, one little occasion came up that I wasn’t planning on at all. Becky is very deceiving and had some big yarn that we were to go to B.J. and Becky’s for a cook out. I didn’t really want to go as I had been working all day and was tired but she insisted so I made the effort to get ready. It was a Friday evening and I actually began looking forward to it. Then she called and said…… “Well, we don’t have enough chairs because their married kids came in for the weekend so we are to stop by Pete’s to pick up a few chairs.” This sounded goofy to me and I was feeling like we would be imposing on their family. I put up a few arguments which got shot down so I finally agreed to go.

When we arrived at Pete’s house, there were several cars parked in a group near the house and I said, “Oh, I don’t want to ask for chairs……..they have company.” Becky wasn’t hearing it. She said, “Oh, Sharon is having a Library Meeting at her house…..Pete told me he would have the chairs set out for us.” I told her to go get them and I’d stay in the car………..she disappeared in the house and Pete came out to the car…..he said, “Come on it, there’s something I want to show you. I got some new Fenton pieces”………again, I tried to beg off. I was dressed casually and was afraid Pete would drag me in the middle of Sharon’s meeting and introduce me or something.

He opened the car door and took my arm……. “Come on, Esther, I want to show you my Fenton…….it will only take a minute.” He practically dragged me from the car. Once inside he took me to the kitchen area where a door led to a patio. I could hear voices and said, “I don’t want to go out where Sharon is having her meeting,” but he took my hand and led me towards the door… “there‘s someone I want you to meet out here“……..there sat the Driver Examiner’s and our Sergeant and his wife, all around the edges of the patio. They all hollered, “Surprise”!!! and I cast an evil eye at Becky who was laughing at the way she fooled me. I felt like a total idiot for a few minutes but then I joined in and had a good time along with everyone else.

Pete and Sharon had gone to a lot of trouble. Pete had hot dogs and hamburgers on the grille and they had a large decorated cake made that was a work of art. Any other food item needed to go with the above was on the table. I was the center of attention by all of my co-workers for a whole evening and it was truly a nice occasion. I told them if I’d known they were that happy to see me retire and be rid of me I would have retired a long time ago. We shared a lot of Esther stories and I gave them quite a few over the years. Obviously it was pretty easy to fool me.

At the end of the evening they presented me with a nice rocking chair for my deck and gave me the cake and bouquet to bring home. It is among my favorite memories of working with all of those fine folks. The next Tuesday was my last day to work at Mountain View and again I was surprised by the lady who ran the License Office. I came in from a road test and she had a beautiful cake, plates, napkins and flowers….all matched. The people came in from the License Bureau and City Hall which were in the same building we worked out of. They all wished a happy retirement for me.

I was not prepared for the well wishes from people I had worked with over the years. On my last full working day the ladies at the Eminence Court House surprised me with a lasagna dinner, lovely card and large ornamental basket for my flower garden. I was overwhelmed at their thoughtfulness and tears at my leaving. I came to their office one day a week to give driving tests and never imagined how deep their friendship was. It was my honor to be their guest for over 17 years.

Everything was in place for my retirement the following Monday morning….June 30th. Friends and family were coming for the occasion and I was preparing for my last big day with the Patrol. As I’ve said before, it was great and it wasn’t so great. I would miss everyone….but it was time to move on……..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Friday, September 23, 2005


April was April. It’s the time to begin cleaning the yard for Spring plantings and scratching the lawn up good for fertilizer. I knew the outdoor jobs would be hardest for me because Bear always kept the lawn trimmed and looking good. However, now it was my challenge. I made up my mind I would work at it until I had the basics down and could get it under control. Raking in spring is important here because some of the oaks don’t lose all their leaves until the buds push them off. We have about a half acre in grass, shrubbery and flowering bushes. A couple of flower beds finish up the landscaping. The back half is all timber.

We had a riding mower that was specially changed to Bear’s need for right foot clutch etc; He loved that thing and could do anything with it. He had a little wagon for the back and it served well when it came to carting his tools for lawn grooming. I was hesitant to learn how to use it. He spent one day before he could no longer go outside showing me how to run the thing. I was totally unable to connect to his instructions. I kept thinking, “The guys dying and he’s trying to show me how to run this stupid mower to keep the lawn up that he enjoyed doing so much………” He was so patient and I was totally out of it. I had such a mental block it was a waste of time. I was defeated and never planned to use it.

So this first spring that he was gone I raked by hand. I raked and raked and raked. I never got one section of the yard finished until I had to do it all over again. It was exhausting to come home from work and go out to rake. Of course, Becky helped but even with that we couldn’t catch up. Becky got the mower out and ran the thing around like a race car. It was very evident this was the wave of the future. I knew I would attempt to run the thing when leaves fell in the fall.

Things kind of went down hill after Bear died. I discovered the carpeting was wet under the water tank to the stool. With a little investigation I could see it had been going on a long time because the floor was weak around the stool. It never entered my mind before with everything else going on. I called a plumber…..an old gentleman that did odd jobs around town and was cheaper than the two younger businesses that were run by local men. He investigated long enough to tell me the tank was cracked and the water had trailed down the small pipe to the floor. It had been working its evil plan for some time….the floor around the stool was shot.

My inexpensive plumber was going on vacation to visit his family in Colorado and I would have to wait till he came back to finish the job. When two weeks went by I was impatient and called a young neighbor who all of his own worked building his house and he told me he would fix it for me. In no time he had a new floor in and everything was ready for a new stool. After a third week went by I called my first plumber and he came with the replacement stool. I was being introduced to the exclusive club of repairmen. They normally don’t come back to jobs they don’t want to do until you call, and call and call. They are as unreliable as a TV weatherman.

About this time, the Army decided that Fort Leonard Wood would no longer make medical appointments available to retirees. Being a dependent of a retiree meant I was way down the food chain. The Fort was expanding to accept busted up Military Bases other places and the influx of troops and their dependents would take first priority. Bear would have turned over in his grave to know that. Now all of the old WW11 vets all the way up to Nam were steadily loosing their privileges promised for their military careers. They would still fill prescriptions but that was it.

I was slowly being weaned away from the Fort and all the military accommodations I had enjoyed being married to Bear. Still, I couldn’t feel indignant. The Service had served Bear well through his several crises during his retirement time and that was the important thing. Without their open door we would have been bankrupt. I was fortunate to have good health, myself, so I didn’t figure I would ever need more than my Highway Patrol insurance could provide. At 73, I have all my body parts in tact, had three normal pregnancies and one broken toe. I know how fortunate I am. This was just one more change in a long series of things to get used to now.

I asked Larry (the good neighbor) if he would consider putting a new roof on the garage and he took on the job. He was young and strong as an ox……he had the roof on and reinforced the beams in the garage in no time. Later I hired him again to put some lattice work around the deck.

The end of April was the last time for me to wear long sleeves and tie. It was time for the summer uniform and only two months away from my retirement date. I was eager and yet hesitant. I love the beginning of things, I have never liked endings. Even an unpleasant attachment is hard for me to leave and certainly more so when I have loved the thing I was leaving. Still, I knew it was the thing to do and as each day was the “end” of something…..I knew it was just the beginning of another chapter for me…….

Until Monday,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, September 22, 2005


March came in quietly and I called John on the 2nd for his birthday. He was the big 4-0 this year. Jonathan’s birthday followed on the 11th so I fixed his favorite Green Enchilada Casserole and a cake. He ate until he was stuffed. The month went on and as I made my first rounds back to the different offices, I had nice surprises here and there. One time a red rose was delivered to me from a lady who was a ‘regular’ and another time I was given an angel ornament that I was to keep until I found the right person to pass it on to. Little insignificant but thoughtful offerings were made for some time. The goodness and kindness of people everywhere is never fully understood until it happens to you.

I fixed an early breakfast for Becky before she went to work on the 27th. I took the day off to drive to Fort Leonard Wood to have my I.D. changed. Opal, a friend, went with me just for the drive and for company. We had a nice lunch and came home afterwards. I fixed a supper for Becky and Jonathan (and his Becky) came to help us celebrate. Becky’s favorite food is either Mexican or Pizza so I made accordingly for her. We had a nice evening and gift opening.

The last day of March I switched crews because Pete was without help. I went with him to Alton and we had a nice day. He gave me a Fenton piece for early retirement….he knew I collected it and wanted me to have it…….I didn’t plan to retire until my 65th birthday in May so it was premature but appreciated. Pete was a guy who did things on the spur of the moment and he had a big heart. We had worked together a lot of years and I knew he was dreading my retirement. There were six of us that had been together for my seventeen years with the Patrol. No one wanted to see the old gang broken up. Still, with Bear gone, I had to take care of everything that we had both managed before.

They always say you never know how much a person does until they are gone. Well, that is so true. When I began doing it all it was very apparent it would take all of my time just to keep the basic’s going. Retirement had been a big decision for me. I liked my job very much and I liked everyone I worked with on the crews as well as many friends I made over the years in the out-of-town offices. But it was time to go. My retired friends always told me you would know when the time came. One day I did just that…….decided it was time. Now I was working my last months with the Patrol and would retire June 30th. It was a spot on the calendar that kept getting closer and closer.

Losing Bear and retiring just four months later would be a huge adjustment but I’ve always been one to look to the future without fear. Life only seemed to get better and better as the years went by….I never had any reason to be afraid of things that “might” happen. If they did…….no problem. There would always be a way around. I knew that somehow, something would come along to make it exciting and worthwhile…….and meanwhile I would enjoy the moment of working with some very good people. I don’t mean to imply that I am fool-hearty. I never leap without looking….I always put a foot in the water first…but once my mind is settled on something I am at peace. Life is just the dress rehearsal for something better so if mistakes are made, get over it.

John preached a sermon once that was basically this theme….. “If you fall down, get up, dust yourself off and start all over again.” I have mentioned before how my mother used a proverb for everything. She did it because it made sense out of something unpleasant. Mom would have said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” My mother was a quiet woman who has continued to tutor me even though she has been gone since 1991. Sometimes it’s the still, small voice that is the loudest. When I need direction I listen to things she has said…..she was always proved right…..and she still is.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


The rest of the month was spent getting our affairs in order. There is always so much paperwork connected with a death in the family. I had been through it before with mom and dad…..now to finish Bear’s. He had lined me up with an officer at Fort Leonard Wood who took care of legal affairs for active or retired personnel. He had phone numbers and a list of what I needed to do. Bear was an excellent records keeper and as I looked at the list, I thought, “I don’t need an Army lawyer to do this…..I’ll do it myself.”

I decided I was not going to depend on anyone to do what I could take care of. I slept in our house after everyone left and although Becky offered to stay with me at night, I opted to go it alone. I had my mother’s good example to follow after she was widowed. She wasn’t afraid of storms or being alone at night. She was content in the home she and dad had shared for many years. I felt the same comfort in our little home.

And so, the many phone calls, mail outs and trips to different agencies were made and completed by the 24th of February and I called my Supervisor to pick me up for work. I was ready to go back and begin where I left off. It was comforting to be welcomed back by everyone and catch up with what was going on in their lives. At times I would hit a snag and have a tough moment but I had expected that and allowed it to happen…..then got over it.

My big comfort was knowing that Bear was so much better off and as for myself I knew that time would heal the heartache. I was very happy that I had been able to attend to his needs and care for him in our own home…..that was my gift to him and to myself also. I needed to take care of him to be able to handle it all. I didn’t want anyone taking that privilege away from either of us. I was so fortunate to work for the State and be able to take sick-leave time to do that. I still had time left when I went back to work because I never needed it for myself.

And so….the month ended. Everything was in order and my life was ready to go on from here. I had a loving family and lots of friends….the way was open for me to explore new beginnings. I was determined not to live in the past…..and so I decided to find out who Esther was “now,” and make every minute count. Life is a gift for a short time and I didn’t want to waste time on things that didn’t matter………

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


The next day was spent making arrangements. Bear and I had planned his funeral together and had talked with our pastor about it so that part was done. The rest needed some immediate decisions. Becky and Linda made the rounds with me and we were home in the afternoon when John, Barbara and L.J. arrived from Covington. We had a lot of drop-in company. People brought food until I had to pile it everywhere…..their generosity and kindness was overwhelming and humbling. They were doing the same things I had done so many times before but I always forget how much help it is not to have to cook or think about food at a time like that.

Whoever was around at mealtime was invited to eat with us…..no thought that the food would run out. It was a warm and heartfelt evening as we remembered things about Bear that made us laugh. He certainly was a reactive kind of guy and we had a lot of “Bear stories”……….

The next day we had to go to the funeral home to view the body to let the undertaker know all was agreeable for the next day. We went early to avoid others coming in as we wanted a little quiet time. When I walked up to the casket, I took a sudden big breath……Sherman (the undertaker) had put a faint smile on Bear’s face that looked like he was ready to break into a big grin. I shot a look at Sherman who was watching my reaction…..he was smiling and said, “I had to do it. I never saw that guy that he wasn’t smiling and pulling something on me. He was always bugging me about something.” It was obvious Sherman was pleased with his work. I just walked up to him and gave him a big hug….. “Thanks for the gift, Sherman. That is really special.”

Along with many visitors, Becky’s best friend came from Kansas City with her husband and their daughter and George arrived with Jennifer and Jamie. He had picked them up at the airport and brought them with him. That evening was special with all the family and many friends who couldn’t seem to stay away. I was thankful for the fact that Bear had touched so many lives. He was a guy that would walk across the street to say hello to someone………he always brightened up their day.

The next day was the 10th of February and the day of the funeral. The family and I arrived at the church early to be served dinner and then taken into the sanctuary for the service. The Missouri Highway Patrol was well represented. When I saw my peers, the Driver’s Examiner’s and the Captain and Lt. Emerson along with others, it was hard to keep sobs from coming up my throat. All were in uniform and they walked in together. Bear had said over and over that he didn’t want me crying at his funeral. He wanted me to have a big smile on my face and wear something “pretty…no black.” After all, he had said, “I’m going to be in heaven so there is no need to cry…..don’t be sad.”

A former pastor of ours that had been very close to Bear and to me did part of the service and the pastor of our church did the rest. Bear loved the song, Daystar, and the service began with that. His other favorite songs were interspersed in the service. I caught a glimpse of our dentist from Springfield who drove down for Bear’s funeral….a testimony of how Bear influenced people. Dr. Beasley brought his assistant who had worked on Bear many times over the years……….they had over 100 miles to drive back after it was over. Dr. Beasley is a very special man. He kept Bear’s picture on his X-ray light for years. Bear had impacted his life.

Driving to the cemetery was something Bear would have loved. He said he wanted Sherman to drive fast, passing cars and honking…..it was something they both laughed about. Sure enough, Sherman drove fast and almost lost the rest of us. When we reached the city limits of Willow Springs, the Police Chief was waiting for us with his lights flashing to lead us to the cemetery……(our church is 20 miles away)….some high school boys were running in preparation for a track meet along the highway and when they saw the funeral procession they pulled off their stocking caps and put their hands over their hearts as they ran by. It certainly made an impression with me.

By the time we drove through town and arrived at the cemetery, the Police Chief stopped and got out of the car at the entrance and saluted when we passed by. We could see the canopy over the open grave and the American Legion Honor Guard standing at parade rest with their rifles. Flags were flying and it was something Bear would have been so proud of. His flag draped casket was carefully taken from the hearse to the grave and both pastors had a few words. A 21-gun salute was fired and the men took the flag from the casket and folded it carefully, then bringing it to me. The sad look on the man’s face brought sudden tears to my eyes……he was one old veteran presiding over another old veteran from wars dating back to WW11. It was one of those cameo moments that will stay with me forever……..then the mournful “taps” sounded across the grass and headstones….the birds hushed and all was quiet for a moment……then the echo of taps…..

Having the family and our friends, the men I worked with and all the others who came was so very special. Sherman walked over to me when I was standing alone in thought for a moment and said he wanted to show me something. He took me by the arm and led me to the vault. He pointed to the word, BEAR, and looked to see my reaction. I just shook my head and smiled…… “ He would have loved that, Sherman. Your thoughtfulness shows the love you had for the guy”……….

That night was the last we were all together. The next day would take us all miles apart in every direction……Bear was safely home and for the rest of us we would pick up and go on, even though it would never be the same………….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, September 19, 2005

FEBRUARY 7, 1997 IS OVER.... 

The dreaded day arrived. Bear was gone. His journey over. I stood motionless trying to gather myself to go wake Linda and tell her uncle Woom Woom was gone. His nieces had called him that since they were little things. Linda went through so much to be with him before he died and just made it by a few hours. I’m sure she was very happy she did, still not the amount of time she hoped for. I walked to the bedroom and called her……..she came quickly and we stood by the bed crying.

My senses came back in a few minutes. I called Becky and the Hospice nurse. She told me she would call the coroner and come right in to town. She lived in the country. Once she pronounced him dead she would call the coroner and get him ready for removal to the town funeral home. I sat numbly while we waited for the care of the dead to be completed. In a small town everyone knows when something unusual is going on. Our neighbors saw the vehicles and knew instinctively that Bear was gone. They came to offer any help we might need…….they called others to let them know.

By normal breakfast time Bear was taken away. The nurse called the Hospice office to come remove Bear’s bed, wheelchair and all of the equipment we had been loaned. They came sooner than I expected. By noontime you would have hardly known there had been a sick person in the house. Almost any evidence of Bear was already gone…….except for his bedding which I put in the washer.

My thoughts were racing back to the day this all started. His first seizure was on June 7th, we were told he had the brain tumor on November 7th, and he died on February 7th. It seemed odd that it was three sevens, God’s perfect number. I felt a warm comfort in that….almost as if it were a little message to me. This wasn’t some fluke that took Bear, this was all in the Master’s hand.

I’ll never forget the sweet peaceful look on his face. He never made a sound, just slipped through that last door we all must take and died with a slight smile on his face. It was his defining moment and for me it was the day I had been dreading. I took comfort in the knowledge that he was beyond any pain and suffering as all do who lose a loved one to a terminal illness. It was the only thing I had to hang on to during the next trying weeks.

Of course we had many visitors and good, loving folks from all over town came to offer their condolences. I love the way a small town takes care of it’s own. It is rejoicing in your successes and sorrowing over your losses. It is the best of human response when there is trouble……

Becky and Linda pampered me all day, not letting me do anything, to allow me to visit with our callers. The girls each called family members for me and took care of the daily tasks. They were certainly a blessing at that time. In the afternoon, soft snowflakes began falling lazily down. Something mom used to say a lot was, “Blessed are the dead the rain falls on, but doomed is the bride.” Mom lived her life by all of the quotes handed down from her grandmother to mother to her. She said them so often that I picked them up as did Becky. I suppose they will go on until we are gone. I thought, “Well, it was too cold to rain so Bear had the blessing of snow on the day he died.”

We had so many guests that day it wasn’t possible for me to give in to my grief and start on the healing process. I was operating on remote and knew there would be plenty of time to deal with grief later. I would write about it, that I knew. It has always been important to me to write down what I think about events in my life. It is possible to write things you would never think to say to your children……and it leaves them with a look “inside” if you will, to the part of a mother they never knew as children growing up. Parents are also people. People they often get acquainted with after marriage and children of their own. There is an identification factor then that was missing before.

My grandson, Jonathan, was very close to Bear. They had become good buddies and Jonathan came that afternoon as soon as he could. Our pastor was here and the two of them noticed some deer feeding across the road. With the snow falling and the deer eating it seemed the world would go on in spite of our loss.

And so, after twenty six years, seven months, two weeks and four days, my life with Bear was over. I didn’t know what path my life would take now but I knew that I wanted to make it count. First of all, I had to find out just who Esther was. Esther by herself. That would take a long time and a longer time to find the answers…….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Friday, September 16, 2005


The first day of February came in on a Saturday. Becky came down for breakfast and we gave Bear his meds. He slept on and off and even when his eyes were open I wasn’t sure if he was registering anything. Still I knew patients had the ability to hear and think even in the worst of strokes or comas and so I spent a lot of time by his bedside talking with him or reading to him. I kept my hand on his to let him know he wasn’t alone. Who knows what goes through a persons mind when death is near and they have no way to communicate? At least I could send all the signals I could think of.

On Sunday Becky came early and I gave Bear a bath, shave, trimmed his hair and cut his nails. We put the bed back down to let him rest. He seemed restless and moaned several times during the afternoon. I increased his morphine to every 6 hours because it was wearing off before time to give it again. He rested much better after that. I appreciated Becky coming because she could answer the phone and visit with ones who came…..it freed me up to spend my time with Bear.

I got up several times in the night to check on him and finally gave him morphine at 4:30 a.m. He rested peacefully after that. Now that Bear didn’t eat or drink there was little I could do except keep him clean and change his bed. I sat with him a lot just wondering what I could do and answering the phone. I was pretty much alone with him his last week because friends knew his time was short and that he was mostly sleeping. The vital, inspirational man we all knew was slowly leaving us and my intent was to let it be peaceful.

The weather turned dark and dreary with rain and fog but on Wednesday the sun broke through and we had a nice bright day. Bear came through the night and I spent most of the morning bathing and changing his bed…..and I turned him every hour so he wouldn’t have bed sores. Without being able to feed him or have him respond to me the days were quiet. I went to bed each night looking out at the stars and thinking, “My husband is dying and everything else seems to go on without him. The central part of my life is leaving me and I can’t stop it.”

I finally broke down and cried my eyes out…….I had put up a big front for so long but now I could see how thin Bear had become and when he was no longer able to look at me and send messages with his eyes I was feeling very much alone. The worst part for a loved one standing in the gap is when life is slipping away and you just have to watch it happen. Knowing I couldn’t do anything to alter that was the hardest for me.

That evening I bathed Bear again and Becky helped me change the bedding. We had Bear all fresh and resting when his niece from Seattle arrived at 8:00 p.m. She was so hoping she could get here before he passed away. She had flown to St. Louis and then rented a car and made the dark trip alone. She did remarkably well for someone who didn’t know the area. She sat by him and poured her heart out to him but he was beyond responding……his eyes were not closed nor open and had a different look to them. Linda and I decided to go to bed around 12:30 a.m. but before we did we each stood by his bed and prayed. I remember in mine, I asked God to “please take care of my husband this night, be it here or in heaven.” We reluctantly left and went to bed.

I woke with a start before 4:00 a.m. I had a funny feeling I should go check on Bear but I lay there dreading to for fear he would be gone. As I lay in the quiet, I heard Tuffy our cat, jump up on Bear’s bed. In just a moment he jumped down. I knew then Bear was gone. Tuffy always went up to Bear’s face and then sniffed his nose….as if to see if he was still breathing. The minute he jumped off the bed so fast, I knew why.

I didn’t hesitate. I jumped up and went to him as fast as I could………I peered at him in the soft light and he wasn’t breathing. I touched his face, neck and hands….he was warm in the fleshy places but his fingers and nose were cool. My Bear was gone. He looked so peaceful and he had a slight smile on his face. I’m sure his angels came to take him at last…….and why did I wake so suddenly? It was a goodbye kiss before he left………Bear’s journey was over.

Until Monday,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Becky took a vacation-day from work so I could drive down to West Plains for groceries. It was the first time I had been off the place since mid-December. I wouldn’t leave Bear with just anyone and Becky knew our schedule so I was comfortable in leaving for a few hours. Ironically, when I returned, our Hospice homecare lady was here and had an accident in her car due to icy conditions and her step-daughter had tried to commit suicide the night before. She left us early to go to the hospital and for once, our situation seemed better than hers. Trouble has a way of finding everybody, no matter what.

I woke the next morning to find Bear in a terrible mess. Somehow he had removed his catheter during the night and was in a wet bed. That was the good part, in respect of him I won’t go into the rest of it. I managed to get him cleaned up and called Becky to help get him off the wet mattress. We had rubber sheets to take care of that and then pads under him. Once he was fixed and comfortable I called Vickilyn, his nurse, to replace the catheter. By the time that was all taken care of it was lunch time so I made the three of us a good hot meal and Bear was able to enjoy it.

Later that day I could tell he was having pain. It seemed to be the old phantoms in his stump. Hospice had given me pain pills to use as he needed them but we hadn’t used any of them. I was wakened at 2:15 a.m. hearing abnormal breathing….and by the time I was able to get to him he was having a mild seizure. I called Becky and Hospice both and Becky came immediately, Vickilyn, his nurse called and told me to give him some of the pain medication. By 3:00 a.m. he was in a deep sleep so I sent Becky home and went back to bed.

When I woke at 6:00 a.m. he was still sleeping soundly so as I had been instructed, gave his meds rectally. Later in the day Hospice delivered a new mattress which made Bear much more comfortable. As the days progressed in January Bear’s ability to speak slowly deteriorated but his body language was such that I could always get hold of what he needed or wanted to tell me. Since I was with him every moment I never really saw the subtle changes that others saw when they came. I had lulled myself into believing how I wanted it to be rather than the way it was. I would have gone on for months like we were just to keep him.

About the last week of January he would open his eyes when I came to his bedside but I don’t think he really saw anything. I was able to give his meds with a little water and liquid jello. He was dozing more all through the day and moving very little. I had been shown how to move him from side to side so he wouldn’t have fluid settle in his lungs……..I continued to bathe and shave him every day and made sure his bedding was fresh. At times he would be more alert and I would be so happy but then the next day it would all go backwards. My emotions were beginning to jump up and down along with however he was doing.

He had another session of removing the catheter and Vickilyn came to put it back. We gave him two morphine suppositories for the pain and he slept the rest of the day. He didn’t eat because he was sleeping but he woke about 4:00 a.m. the next morning and I helped him change position and cough after sleeping so long. I gave his meds at 6:00 a.m. and fed him. He ate fairly well and was awake quite a bit of the morning as we went through the routine of bathing, shaving and changing the bedding. After lunch he slept most of the afternoon.

The Hospice nurse took me to task on one of her visits. She wanted me to quit trying to feed or give Bear liquids. She warned that by continuing to do so he might choke and suck some into his lungs. She said, “Believe me, you don’t want that to happen. It’s far better to let his system shut down naturally.” She told me his body was preparing for death and I needed to allow that to happen. I tried to keep my feelings out of her information but how could I not try to give him nourishment? Our kitchen table was in line with his bed in the living room so that when I ate, I could see him. It was the hardest thing I’d been called upon to do for my husband.

He was sleeping more and more so when visitors came he no longer knew it. People continued to come, regardless, and I was told over and over how much he had influenced their lives. I played a lot of gospel music during the day as Bear loved it so and I hoped it settled into his consciousness.

One evening when Becky was with us before Bear got beyond communicating……he kept moving his head on the pillow so he could see a certain corner of the room. He kept pointing and making sounds so I asked if he wanted the thermostat changed…..along with every other thing I could think of. He was so excited I couldn’t imagine what he had reference to. Seeing our inability to figure out what he meant, Becky said, “Bear, do you see something in the corner?” and he managed to say, “yes!” He pointed again and looked at us, like “don’t you see over there?”……Becky said, “Bear, do you see angels?” and he said “yes!”…his face lit up and he kept pointing. There was no doubt in my mind that angels were attending………and ready to take Bear home when the time was right. It was one of those moments that kept me sane long after he passed away. Tomorrow, Bear’s long journey ends…………….

Until then,

Essentially Esther

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Bear slept all night with peaceful breathing and never moved. I slept on the couch again in case he needed me and got up at 6:00 a.m. to check on him…..still sleeping. I was afraid it was an unnatural sleep and called the alternate nurse. (It was Sunday.) She gave me some pointers but didn’t feel she needed to come again that day. I let him sleep a little longer and he was still in the same position he was the night before. He was so motionless I was afraid and gently spoke to him….he opened his eyes to my relief. I knew he should have water so I got a cup and teaspoon and tried to get him to drink it. Teaspoon by teaspoon he took a little but not much. I didn’t want him to choke so I didn’t press him.

Becky was with us all day which was a help. Bear wouldn’t take food but did take a little broth and soft jello. I bathed him and we changed the bedding……..we both told him we just about lost him the day before and he looked accusingly at both of us and held up his hand with the pointer finger towards us and shook his head ‘no’……Becky asked if it happened again did he want us to let him go and he emphatically said, “yes.” We had company all afternoon and evening but he was mostly quiet and resting. I kept everyone informed of his condition because they were all anxious and continuing to pray for us. They were always so encouraged when he was better and concerned when the news wasn’t good.

The next day was crisp and cold. I heard him stirring so I got up from the couch and went over to him……..he was alert and responsive. He looked much better and of course that was always encouraging to me. He took his meds and drank from a glass. Later in the morning his regular Hospice nurse came by and felt everything was under control. She was sorry we had such a bad weekend. I had already shaved and bathed Bear so she helped me change the bedding while she was here. She was very good to ferret out supplies for me and I appreciated her attention to our needs. Becky brought groceries at noon for me and Bear drank a half cup of broth and ate two crackers. He seemed to enjoy it and went right to sleep.

I took advantage of his better condition and did some cleaning and got things organized. He later ate some broth and a piece of toast. Our nurse stopped in the next morning to see if everything was still running normally and it was. By the 8th of January his consciousness was much better and he was awake more. He wasn’t eating a lot but did take solid food and seemed to enjoy it. It began snowing that afternoon and we watched the big flakes float past the window where his bed was. It was calming and I sat in his wheelchair next to him for a long time.

The next day Becky took the day off and scooped our walks and a place for the birds to have feed. Others stopped in to see if they could run errands or help in any way while another couple came and scooped the snow away from our driveway where the grader had piled it up as it bladed past. There is no way of measuring the gratitude I felt for so many folks who wanted to put feet to their prayers and help us out any way they could. These were some of the people who held an 11-day and night prayer vigil when Bear almost died over 17- years ago when he lost his leg. They just didn’t want to give this man up. At the same time I was strengthened daily by their prayers as well.

All this time, John and Barb, George and our extended family kept calling almost daily from all over the country to check on Bear. In turn, they were having prayer vigils and contacting everyone they knew who would pray for us. Anyone who has gone through a long and extended illness knows how powerful those prayers are when it comes to sustaining you through the ordeal. We were humbled and grateful.

With snow on the ground I happened to notice 13-bluebirds at our bird bath. We had a heater in the water to keep it thawed during severe weather and they were taking advantage of it. It was a beautiful and reassuring sight. The next day we had 14 and it was such a treat to watch them enjoy the water. On the 15th we had freezing rain and drizzle on top of our snow so I went out early to feed and water all the birds. It was a classic winter day and we both took a nap in the afternoon with our kitties. They took turns jumping up on Bear’s bed to snuggle up in the quilts and snooze. It was a quiet day and we had less company so we got a lot of rest and went to bed early that night………..

As I drifted off to sleep I was thinking how normal everything seemed to be. It was hard to think that one of these days Bear wouldn’t be with me anymore. The mind just keeps hiding what it doesn’t want to face, I think. I wasn’t in denial because I knew “it” was going to happen…….the big question was how much time did we have left? I’ve always heard we should take one day at a time and we had been living that one day for weeks. I didn’t want it to end but I knew on a given time, it would………..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


George arrived on the 23rd of December and we celebrated his birthday. The next day we made preparations for our Christmas gift opening. We had visitors all day long who took time out of their busy schedules to come by and wish us well. That night we heard on the weather report that we had a “blue moon” as it was the second full moon in the month. It was also at the highest point it would be until 2102. It was extremely bright and the night was crisp and cold……it made a beautiful picture.

On Christmas Day it was cold and we had a good hot breakfast. George and Becky ate with us and we had family on the phone most of the day. It was a quiet day with people dropping in and out. The next day Bear didn’t feel very peppy and was only up for breakfast. I bathed him but didn’t shave him as he wasn’t up to it. He asked for lunch and supper in bed and was quiet all day.

George left for home on the 27th and arrived safely. We were alone again so I did laundry and some cleaning after I bathed and shaved Bear. The last days of the month I could tell Bear was beginning to change. He didn’t have the strength that he used to have and it was getting harder for me to manage getting him in the wheelchair as well as repositioning him in bed. He was becoming more and more comfortable when in bed and didn’t care to be in his wheelchair as much. I stayed by his bedside a lot during every day. I wanted to spend as much time as I could with him and oftentimes he would go to sleep while holding my hand. I would sit there watching him breath while memories flooded my mind. It was hard to believe this was real……….

Something was happening to his ability to speak. He would become confused and frustrated and not able to say what he wanted. Bear could speak and understand several languages and was a very intelligent man. He had excellent use of the English language but now he was having difficulty talking. He would motion with his hands and look at me to prompt him since I usually knew what he wanted to say. Because I knew him so well I became his voice…….when he couldn’t talk I would ask him if he wanted to say “so and so” and he would nod his head yes and motion for me to tell the guests what he wanted to say. We became very good at being able to express what he wanted. More and more he would shake his head “no” as far as getting in the wheelchair.

On the second of January we had a record breaking high of 71*……..I opened the house up and aired it real good. I knew we could not expect that kind of weather for very long. On the fourth of January he woke me at 4:00 am calling “Bear, Bear”……he had been switching things for quite a while. “No” meant yes and yes meant “No.” I had to learn this when I would react to his requests and he would shake his head. I soon found that it was the opposite thing he wanted. I was always his “Bunny” and he was the Bear. Now when he called me I had to answer to Bear…….somehow I always managed to know what was going on in his mind.

He had a very bad spell on that day. We almost lost him. He became very sick to his stomach due to some of his medication and vomited with such force it hit the living room window and ran down the wall. It was terrible in every way. I had a call in for the alternate nurse on duty for us…….she lived about 55 miles away and it took her quite a while to come. She needed to get some medication for him and our good druggist opened the store so Becky could go get it after hours. I shall never forget the many kindnesses of him and all the other people who continually went the second mile for us. The peace of mind it gave us was worth everything. Around 9:00 pm that evening he fell into a peaceful sleep and the erratic blood pressure highs and lows had returned to normal.

As soon as his vital signs were normal I made a bed on the couch so I could be near by in case he woke before morning again. The ticking of the coo-coo clocks put me to sleep quickly and we both slept soundly until morning. Bear had not moved since I checked him the night before…….another day was beginning. January 5th………..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, September 12, 2005


Between Katrina, unexpected company, wallpaper turning into a nightmare and a detour to the Flea Market…..I am back. Yes, I know…..I’m late. However, after being gone most of the weekend I looked at our bushes, trees and flowers that were gasping for moisture and went out to water……and water….and water. We are promised rain tomorrow evening but hey!! That’s the weatherman talking…..I need to hear that from a higher source or I’m not believing it. Weathermen lie!! Now I have some paint projects on the docket, men are coming to put a laminated wood floor in the kitchen sometime this week and when the wallpaper comes I shall begin an anxious wait for the girls to come put the paper up. They do such beautiful work they are in big demand and you have to wait your turn. It’s worth it…..albeit I’m not one blessed with lots of patience.

With that out of the way……I’m clearing the deck to go on with Essentially Esther and the terrible journey Bear and I were embarking on…………..


After having company for so long it seemed strange to be left alone. Thanksgiving and Bear’s birthday had passed in November and now it was just the two of us. We neither knew what was to come…….. and this was unlike any journey we had ever been on before. The destination was known but the time and the long road ahead looked pretty vague. We decided to live day by day and not look too far ahead so in a few days we had our little routine down pretty well. The Hospice nurse came two days a week and another lady came once or twice a week to help with whatever our needs were. We also had a Hospice Chaplain who came and we looked forward to all of them. They were caring and personable.

I checked Bear’s glucose before every meal and at bedtime. I had been shown how to give the insulin shots and was told when and how I should increase or decrease the dose. It was routine after a few tries and we had no problems. Bear was an excellent patient. He could lay hours without being restless or bored. I’m sure I would have been all over the bed and needing something to occupy my mind. He was content. Our trial runs at getting from the bed to the wheelchair were laborious at first but became easier with practice. With Bear’s left leg gone and the left arm useless after the stroke it was difficult but doable. Every morning after eating I bathed him and changed the bedding. Becky started out helping me in the evenings but we had so many visitors during those hours we had to switch to mornings.

As time went on and people kept hearing about Warren’s situation we had more and more visitors. We came to Willow Springs in August 1971 and lived just one lot away from my mother and dad. My folks were well known and liked so it was easy for us to become acquainted in our new town at the time. People who came to see Bear went away blessed because, of course, he told them his story about going to heaven and the message he was to tell everyone about being ready. Each day we had more and more visitors from mid-morning on. I was on hand to welcome them and care for Bear while folks came and went. Our home had become very public but we were blessed to have people come and they were blessed by coming. Normally it is difficult to visit someone who is terminal but Bear’s good humor never stopped and he was honored to have so many callers. I watched people from our town in every walk of life stand by his bed and tell him what he had meant to them…….Bear was more surprised than anybody to think he could be such a good influence to so many. He was humbled and continued to praise the Lord for anything they may have gained from knowing him.

As the days passed I somehow managed to get a little done for Christmas. I didn’t do much because of the shortage of space but I brought in a ceramic tree with lights that George made us the first year we were married. It was cheery and pretty for Bear to see from his bed. I also brought in a little stuffed Christmas Angel I had made my mother some years before. As simple as they were they made the room seem very warm and cozy. We realized we had much to be grateful for.

Many people don’t have the opportunity of knowing when their time is short. They die suddenly and never have the chance to say that last goodbye………or to tell each other things they would like to say before death. We realized we were blessed to be loved and cared for by so many people and their prayers were what kept us both going. At times like that you can literally feel the strength coming to you from beyond. You don’t know who might be praying at what hour……….but you do feel the prayers.

One night as I kissed Bear goodnight and we had our prayer time together, I said, “You know, Bear……..when it’s all said and done, that little prayer we learned as children pretty well says it all”……….and he agreed. So with that thought, I leaned over and whispered in his ear….. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, but if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” I turned the light off and kissed Bear goodnight……………..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Friday, September 09, 2005


I had today’s blog ready to post when an error occurred and wiped the whole thing out. Since I am getting unexpected company for lunch there will not be time to re-write so I will have to call it a day as far as the blog is concerned.

No need to mention that my blood pressure went up……….

I hope wherever you are you aren’t left with a black box to look at. Hey!! It’s Friday……lighten up. Let’s make it a day to celebrate what we DO have. It’s vastly more than those poor folks down South have……..remember them and help where you can. If we all do our part it will speed up their recovery……..

Have a great weekend everyone. Hope to see you on Monday.

Essentially Esther

Thursday, September 08, 2005


We had a few quality days with Don and Sally and then it was time for them to go home to Walla Walla. You can imagine how hard it was for Don to tell Bear “goodbye”……he was the baby and when Bear left us he would be the last of their family. I know how he felt, I think. I lost dad, then my brother Louis and finally mom. I wasn’t prepared for the feelings of loss………and feeling so alone. Don was born when Bear was 10 years old. Their father died in a farm accident and so Don only had Bear as a male influence.

From the stories they revisited during the times they were together, I often heard how Bear took advantage of his little brother at every opportunity. He was a typical “big brother” in every way but still……an important part of Don’s young life. Don told how terribly lonesome he was after Bear joined the Navy. It came as a surprise to Bear who never realized it had affected Don at all. Don was only 7 when Bear left……and from then on they had very little “home time” together. In many ways they didn’t really know the deeper side of each other at all.

The few days they had before that last goodbye filled a large void for both of them. They discussed things never understood when growing up….why certain decisions were made in the family and all. Don knew very little about the Kings and the Rosenbaums but with Bear’s wonderful memory and chronological thinking, he could fill in a lot of empty spaces. Even on a more personal note…….why they each grew into the people they had become. Bear was a hawk. Born to be in the Military….Don grew up a dove. He was very much into the church family and his life centered around that and his mother after their sister, Delores, married. There is a great need for hawks and for doves…….and both men had filled their callings.

After their car drove out of sight we were alone for the first time since coming home from the hospital. It was time to draw a big breath and work into a schedule. From that moment on my focus was on Bear. He would have my every concern and the best care I could give him. I was so thankful for the time we would have before he had to go. So many don’t have those precious days and I was grateful to be the one to see Bear safely ‘home.’

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


When Bear came out of surgery, I asked Dr. Ferguson what Bear’s chances were. He said although the best thing happened when the clot extracted by itself, Bear’s left side was paralyzed. If he had to probe for it, Bear would have been a vegetable until the cancer took him. I asked how long Bear would have and he said he thought he could get him through Christmas….but he didn’t think he could promise beyond that.

Lt. Emerson expressed his regrets to Becky and me and left to go back to Willow Springs. The hour was late and he would have to work the next day. He told Becky to stay with me and he’d clear it through the office. When Bear was settled and sleeping I realized how tired I was. I had sat in a knot all day and my mind raced from one set of questions to another until I was worn out. The road ahead was scary and un-traveled for both of us.

Becky was concerned for me once Bear was taken care of. We couldn’t get food other than from a canteen but that took care of the immediate need. We were more tired than hungry. We were able to get a room on an upper floor where the hospitality rooms were. We were unprepared for staying away from home but we made due the best we could. Exhaustion finally rendered sleep.

We were awake early and ate in the cafeteria for breakfast. Once we had eaten we went immediately to see about Bear….by now it was 8:30am. Bear was alert and the nurses said he had a “good night” and were encouraged by his recovery. We spent the day in his room or in the ICU waiting room with other families. Becky called our good friend and dentist, Mike Beasley to let him know about Bear and he closed his office down and brought all of the girls over to see him. He has been our family dentist for years but we never expected him to do such a thing. How many dentists do you know that would close an office to see one of his patients? It gave Bear a lift to see Mike and the girls……..it gave them a real blessing to see how well he was accepting his situation.

We stayed until Bear had supper and Dr. Ferguson made “rounds”….then we headed home to get things taken care of so we could come back. We drove home in cold, blustery, foggy drizzle and were so thankful to make it home safe. The long drive and the lost sleep were beginning to tell on both of us. Our pets were glad to see us when we got home…….after I fed them and got a hot shower I went right to bed. The next day was the return trip. When we came into his room, one of the girls from the dentist’s office was visiting with him. He was alert and laughing.

Becky stayed with me that day and night and the next day we came home after his evening meal. Again the weather was so blustery it was hard to keep our van on the road….every thing from thunder, lightening and torrents of rain pelted us all the way. Becky wasn’t able to go back after that…..she needed to get back to work and Bear was over the crisis. He had a lot of company and the medical staff loved having him around…….he was a real inspiration to all of them. He told everyone his “dream” and it had an amazing effect on anyone who listened.

I stayed at the hospital for several more days. Bear had a lot of company and phone calls….and the medical people were beginning to train me to care for him when we came home. The diabetic nurse taught me to give insulin shots as he would need them now. She and the internist decided he could eat anything he wanted as the shot would keep him balanced and the internist said, “I know if I only had a few months to live I would want to eat what I wanted….go ahead and eat all the chocolate cake, pie, candy, whatever……..you deserve it.” He got a big grin and affirmative from Bear.

I was taught how to get him in and out of bed from the wheel-chair……how to do everything that he would need once getting home. They arranged for Hospice to bring in a bed and tray, potty chair, wheel-chair, walker and anything else they could think of in our home. Becky had the key to let them in. We were finally released on November 22nd amid a flurry of last minute meds they sent with me, instructions of all kinds and all of the folks who had cared for us kept coming by to hug and wish us well. Bear was whisked away by the ambulance attendants and I got to the van in the parking area with the stuff we had accumulated and headed home.

The drive back was surreal. The past ten days must have been a dream. This couldn’t be true….that Bear was going to die….my mind kept probing for a way out…a way to make it disappear. Surely I had imagined the whole absurd thing. The drive home was automatic and I barely realized the effort. Jonathan, our grandson, and a friend had built a wheel-chair ramp for us and everything was in place when we arrived. Becky had the bed made up and had some of the furniture taken to the garage to accommodate the hospital bed and wheel-chair. However different, we were at last home. By the time we were settled, had eaten and gone through the routine of meds it was midnight when I dropped onto the couch to sleep. I stayed in the room with Bear in case he woke during the night………

Once we were home, the town of Willow Springs poured out to welcome Bear home and to wish us well. From morning until night we had a flow of visitors and phone calls. The Hospice nurse and the Home Care ladies came twice a week, each, and also a Hospice Chaplain. Each person who came had to hear about Bear’s dream. He insisted on it and each person who heard were moved to tears. Bear was a mighty witness to all who came…….

On the 27th, John, Barbara, L.J. and George arrived for Thanksgiving. Bear’s brother, Don and his wife Sally, arrived the next day after flying in from Walla Walla, Washington. John’s family had to leave the next day and it was sad. John walked up to Bear at the table and stuck out his hand…..Bear shook it and John said, “It’s been a great ride, hasn’t it Bear?”and he looked up to say that it had. They had had a lot of good times together when John was living here and going to college in Bolivar, working in the Bus Ministry in our church and all the rest. Barbara and L.J. hugged him amid their own tears. It was hard for all of us to see their last goodbye.

The day was beautiful and sunny….. Jonathan was out trimming trees and doing chores around for Becky and for us. We got Bear in the wheel-chair and took him out for fresh air and the activity going on. Jonathan, ever the clown, tied a rope to the back of his pick-up and acted like he was going to tie it to the wheel-chair to pull “grampa”…..the guys enjoyed clowning around together. It was their way of getting beyond the inevitable. Don was with Bear every minute spending as much time with him as he could…..being helpful with the wheelchair and any other thing he could think of. At the end of the day, George had his last goodbye with Bear which was equally sad. Bear had given each of the boys a piece of his jewelry. John was given a gold bracelet and George was given a diamond ring. Bear wanted each of them to have something special to remember him by.

The house was at last quiet. All were gone now except for Don and Sally. It was time for the brothers to enjoy their last time together…………..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


As I usually do when something dreadful happens, instead of sitting down and wringing my hands…….I get busy. When all of this hit and I couldn’t get any word to or from John I picked up a can of paint I bought last Spring….and a paint brush…. and started painting the kitchen. It took two days to wash and paint and add some new touches. Having something to do like a decorating project always makes me happy…..and when I’m waiting for an outcome of the thing I’m worried about, its therapy. I am so thankful our little family of three in Covington was spared loss of life or property. I feel very sad for all the folks who didn’t come out as well….but I know the spirit of the South. They will rise again…..

I dropped my new Kodak EasyShare digital camera right in the middle of our family reunion last month……..of course the lens was out to zoom in the desired shot. It wouldn’t retract….wouldn’t do anything. I was just sick. It was the camera we bought to take pictures at the Boston Marathon when we went east to watch John come over the finish line. I had several other happy recordings from it, the renovation of our front lawn and addition of shutters on the house etc; fortunately they were saved into the computer. I decided this was the time to begin the long journey of repair/new camera so I called…..and called…..and called. Finally was directed to a repair place in Illinois that would be able to fix it. I sent it in and then a few days later got the bad news that it was actually going to cost more to fix it than it would be to buy a new one.

Now I’m a pretty loyal person and I didn’t like the idea of leaving my pet camera in a strange repair shop….but money speaks louder than words as they say….so I called Kodak to voice my concern. I was told I could “trade in” my broken camera on a newer, better model with a better zoom lens. Now I’m back to the starting gate where I was before I ever bought the first one. After the little man sitting somewhere in India explained the benefits as I tried to decipher what he was saying like a broken record……..I opted to buy another one cheaper than fixing the first one. They would send my memory card back and the new camera……..I would only be charged for the great savings on the better camera, shipping and tax. Since I’m from Missouri….the “show me” State…….I’ll hold comment until I take my first bunch of pictures. It is rare when I break or lose something but when I do….it’s usually one big fat mess until I see the end of the struggle.

I would like to express my thanks to all who wrote, called, emailed and offered help in so many ways to John, Barb and LJ. Barb is home once again, LJ is back in class, John is back to work. This gives Barbara the opportunity to check into several new job opportunities she had been mulling over before Katrina hit. John thinks there may be a chance of her getting on at Greenbrier where he works. That would work out nice on the daily drive to the office. Sometimes we have a life changing experience when something like Katrina bears down on us and we find that a lot of good things came out of what looked to be the worst disaster of our lives. I realize my family was spared the flooding that New Orleans had to deal with and my heart and prayers go out to those who are displaced. Help is only getting started…….we Americans are the best when it comes to rallying after a disaster. Neighbor will help neighbor, friend will help friend and the draw from all around the country will help those in dire need.

Tomorrow I shall return to the Esther story where we pick up with the rest of November 1996.……I will be writing about one of the most life-changing events in my personal life. May the sun be shining where you are, wherever you are, in whatever circumstances you are…………

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Friday, September 02, 2005


I spent a lot of time on the phone yesterday talking with family back and forth. For some reason they can’t connect with each other but can with me so I moderate back and forth with messages. Somehow we are managing to assure each other that every thing is OK and the basic needs are being met………John is in process of getting a generator connected so that the refrigerator, TV and computer are operable…..also a window air conditioner to cool one room.

John tells me the hospital will be opening next week so he will have employment…..I would imagine Barbara will be called back soon to route Medic-aide transportation for those in need. If John can post again today we will have a fresh look at how things are coming along in Covington, LA.

New Orleans is developing into a terrifying situation without the ability so far to curb cruelty and havoc on the helpless. I pray for the elderly, sick and the young. The picture of the person who died in their wheel chair on the sidewalk is forever glued to my mind…….I cannot imagine people taking advantage of the chance to steal and rampage when so many are suffering. May God have mercy on those in need.

Perhaps we can all find a way to help…..whatever that may be. Wherever you are, do what you can do and continue to pray for those in desperate need. I am thankful that my family is safe but at the same time my heart goes out for the ones who have suffered so much.

Until next time,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, September 01, 2005

UPDATE FROM JOHN........... 

John was able to call from the hospital a little bit ago……..at least the hospital has power again. He will be posting his situation on the blog soon if he can get it on his site. He has not been able to get word to Barbara up to now……even after going to Baton Rouge and finding the apartment empty. Their dog, Bear, was there so she and LJ are OK……probably out trying to find a way to call John.

We had a marathon day ourselves with five medical stops for Rocky and Becky….a little lunch and stopping for groceries. We were glad to get home after the 80-mile up and back drive. With gas prices escalating we try and make each trip count. I’m sure anyone who reads this is doing the same.

Hopefully we will all be reading or hearing from John today as soon as he can get it out. Wherever you are, have a wonderful day and keep your prayers going South…..they need all we can give them……….