Lessons from Memorial Day 2019

Last year’s Memorial Day will be the one I will remember more than any other Memorial Day.

PanguitchThere were no picnics…no fanfare…no parades…not a big party.  It was me, Kramer, Kelli and baby Georgia.

Kramer, my husband, was on the last leg of his illness with lung cancer.  He had broken his neck at this point as the cancer had spread to his c2 in his neck and ate away the bone.  He was in a neck brace and working hard to deal with the pain of it all.

It was Memorial Day morning and he was trying his best to lift his own spirits.  He had decided over the weekend that he wanted to attend the Memorial Day service here in town.  Kelli and I were trying our best to scramble and make sure it could happen.  We knew he’d need a wheelchair.  We knew we needed oxygen with.  We knew he needed a shower before he could go.  We knew it would be a big deal to get everything in place to be able to get him to go but we all had great attitudes and were so happy to see him trying to go out.

I was actually really surprised he wanted to go.  In our last almost 33 years together, he had never expressed an interested in going.  I asked him about it and he said–  “I always worked on Memorial Day.  Most of the years I was cutting hay and the few I didn’t it was raining and services were cancelled.  I’ve really always wanted to go.  I admire veterans and think it’s so good that we honor them.”  Kelli and I could tell he really wanted to go.

Then he started talking about a few of the local veterans he knew and how glad he was that they had served.  He said it was the least he could do to go.

Well Kelli and I took it more to heart than ever that we really needed to help him get to the Memorial Day service.  We were certain, with his health, he’d never have a chance to go again.

We started way before we thought we thought we needed to.  We got him downstairs to the shower and I helped him.  We got upstairs, found his dress uniform for the fire department and were getting him dressed.  In the middle of it he stopped and said– “This is too much.  I can’t do it”.

Initially I didn’t understand.  He had wanted to go.  Why couldn’t he?  Kramer had physical strength like few others.  If he decided he could lift or carry something, he did it.  There were times when we were carrying something that he would take one end and three of us would be on the other end.  He was so strong….but that strength was gone.  Cancer had taken hold of his body and wasn’t letting go.

He was so sad once he realized that we wouldn’t be able to get him there.  He really had wanted to go….but physically, he just couldn’t.  Little did we know the next day we’d have an appointment at the doctor’s in Lacrosse and that we’d have be told he had a couple weeks to live.  This was Monday.  In the wee hours the following Sunday he died.  Little did we know that he’d only 135 hours longer before he was gone from us forever.

Fast forward a year later….We’re in the midst of covid.  I’m trying to decide if I should quit childcare.  My doctor recommended it.  My health with my own thyroid cancer is not rosie..I don’t know if I can afford quitting work.  I don’t know what I should do.  That’s the point I was at three weeks ago.

I couldn’t help but circle back to Memorial Day of 2019.  I couldn’t help but remember that all Kramer had wanted to do was go uptown and attend the Memorial Day service….but physically he couldn’t.

I got thinking of myself.  What if I get to where Kramer is at?  What if I get to the point I physically can’t do things any more- even something simple we all take for granted like attending a Memorial Day service?  What am I going to wish I had done?  What am I going to miss?

The thing that popped in the forefront for me was my grandkids.  I’d really miss my grandkids.  I don’t see the ones that live further away the way I wish I would.  I wanted to stitch more…sew more…making a few legacy pieces.  I wanted to hike…do spur of the moment things.  I wanted to enjoy my house.

Kramer missed all the previous Memorial Day services because he was working.  Was I going to let all the things I wanted to do pass me by because of work too?


So I decided, I’m not going to die with the most money and I don’t even care if I have to budget my way through my days.  Most importantly, I’m not going to die wishing I had put aside work long enough to do some of the things I want to do.   The funny thing is, it’s not vacations I want to take.  It’s not places I want to go.  I just want to enjoy more of the simple things my life already brings…more grandkids, more quilting, more stitching….more Rosie time…more walks…a lot more taking it easy.

Seeing Kramer go through what he did really brought me to a place that makes it easier to prioritize what is really important.  Covid helped with that to.  So money and riches be damned.  I’m choosing a simple life and my hope is that when I’m 135 days from dying my wish isn’t something so simple as to wish I could attend my first Memorial Day service when I was 57.

I’m living my best life now. I don’t know how many weeks, days or even hours before it’s too late to enjoy the things I’d wished I’d have done.

I hope you live your best life, no matter what that is, and I hope if you’re not already doing that, that you start today.

28 thoughts on “Lessons from Memorial Day 2019”

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss, but what you’ve learned is going to give you your best life going forward. Give those grandbabies a hug (when we can travel, etc.)

    “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

  3. Lovely post today, Jo. Thank you for sharing it.
    It reminded me of the end of Mary Oliver’s (1935-2019) Summer Day
    “Tell me, what is it you plan to do
    with your one wild and precious life?”


  4. Ah Jo! you’ve done it again. Here I sit with tears in my eyes. Thank-you for your honesty, thoughtfulness, clarity. I’m glad you’re taking care of you. When you don’t love yourself how can you love others? And you do love others!

    It occurs to me that in making those memories with your children and grands you all are blessed, all of you become part of the memories.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  5. You’ve blessed us with another post. Thank you.
    Dh and I are doing just that. Making memories as much as we can – more so for those we will leave behind.
    Love and prayers

  6. Like the others I’m sitting here with tears welling up in my eyes. That’s much of how I live now. My husband doesn’t like to travel or see and visit places unless it’s family or friends. The last fifteen years I simply go by myself. I don’t want to get to the end of my days and say “Why didn’t you just go and enjoy things and not worry about him?” That’s how I live now. He’s happy and I’m happy. Hugs to you Jo.

  7. Your writing and sharing is profound Jo. To share the most intimate facts of your life with Kramer, the pain and the joy, to help others focus on what truly matters. You teach people every day how to be authentic. I applaud your decision to choose life today as opposed to more $ for tomorrow. I made that same decision last year-I loved my work and grew to hate my job as it consumed my days and I was saying NO to so many people and opportunities to participate. Now I can say yes. I can sew. I can garden before 8pm. No more canning until midnight.

    I received a book many years ago that is wonderful: Succulent Wild Woman by Sark. Here are a few quotes that reflect how you communicate to me as a reader:

    Being a Succulent Wild Woman: It means living fully, richly, rarely and reveling in ordinary and extraordinary moments.

    The tiniest story in your life can deeply touch another.

    You cannot know the effect your story might have. Please let your stories be heard.

    God Bless the families of those who gave their lives for our freedom. God Bless you and your family as you go through each day of this year of firsts without Kramer present. May your memories of him carry you through each day.

  8. Thanks Jo for your thoughtful, wise post this morning. You have made many stop and think and what is important in life.

  9. As all of others have said, Jo, you did it again. You shared something so thoughtful and powerful from your own life that resonates with me. I am older than you with two granddaughters two hours away, my husband has retired but has some health issues, our 46year old developmentally disabled son lives with us, I work part time and long arm quilt for others.
    Through this stay at home time I have really thought about more time to do what I want to do. Last year I said I would not take any new customers and I only do edge to edge quilting now beyond that is the part time work which seems minimal. I love the people , the discount and the paycheck but I could get by without it and have that free time. That’s what I’ve been thinking so your post is another weight on the scale to balance things out.
    You’re so thoughtful,Jo. May you be richly blessed.

  10. Family is most important and I’m glad you are saving time for yourself and them. I hope you have several thousand days ahead of you to enjoy.

  11. LaNan Eldridge

    Thank you Jo for your reflection and powerful message. May you be richly blessed in the days ahead! It’s obvious that your family is more precious than gold…a standard all of us should follow!

  12. Good for you! It is important to discover what is most important to you and to go for it!

    Also , please know that your posts haven’t shown up in my Facebook feed since you had problems in mid May.
    The posts you share from your daughters blog show but not yours and left a comment on one of those posts and several others said they were experiencing the same.

  13. Anne Deedrick

    Perfectly written blog post and it really sums up what is truly important in life. How we spend our days is more important than all the money in the world. Sending you a big hug!

  14. Stearns Carol

    Thank you for the service your husband provided through the Fire Department. Its just as meaningful! Hugs to you!

  15. Judith Fairchild

    Jo, speaking from experience the things that are so hard for us are helping us grow. As you have proven in today’s post thank you again. For your plain speaking on a very difficult subject. May the Lord Jesus bless you, Heal and keep you in His loving care. Enjoy your grand babies because to soon they’re all grown up.

  16. Another great blog filled with some profound thought. I hope your memorial day is filled with things that are important to you.

  17. Jo, you have been given such a gift in your writing. Today’s entry touched me deeply, and I thank you for the courage to share those words.

  18. Mary Ann Mettler

    Jo – so true – enjoy and love the simple things in life – enjoyed the post so much and the comments. You have many thoughtful readers. I think of you so often and enjoy your daily posts which I get on my email. Again thanks for your posts and thanks for all you do.

  19. Oh gosh, Jo, I am crying so hard I can barely see to type. Bless your heart. Covid19 has shown me I need to stop putting off until tomorrow, and quit wishing my life away on things that do not matter. I want simple things too, and I hope you get to life a rich life full of them. Blessings!

  20. I’m just now reading this and it just touches my heart in a deep way. Thank you so much for opening up to us.

  21. Felicia Hamlin

    In the gospels, Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the best life, that of listening to him and spending time working. I think you too are choosing what is best for you. A hard decision to make, I am sure, but something that will make you happier. Take care of yourself and your family.

  22. Profound, thought provoking, and healing – thank you, Jo, for sharing with us. Your wisdom is precious.

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