Saturday Night Again

It’s Saturday again.  Saturday nights are the worst for me.  Although Kramer died on a Sunday, memories always come to me on Saturday.  He’d want it to be remembered as the Sunday.  He fought hard to live until Sunday.

That last week Kramer was with us was a bit of a whirlwind.  The Sunday before on the May 26th he started talking about how he wanted to go to the Memorial Day observance here in town.  He had never gone as he was always farming.  This is the year he was going to go.  He could so he was going to….so Kelli and I started scrambling.  We knew he needed a wheelchair.  She could borrow one.  We knew he needed oxygen, we could get a bag to hook on the wheelchair.  We did what we could to try to make it work.

Memorial Day came.  We started getting things in place.  He was dressed and then “had a spell” only to realize he wasn’t well enough to go.  He was so bummed.

Tuesday came.  Kayla was suppose to drive him to Lacrosse but I could see that Kramer wasn’t well enough for anyone but me to take him. That was the day of the PET scan and when we found out he only had a few weeks to live.  Here’s the post on that if you missed it.  I didn’t tell all of you until Friday.  I had blog posts already scheduled and I needed a bit of time.

On Tuesday the scrambling started.  We had these things on our list:
-Schedule baptism for Georgia and Gannon.  We had scheduled it before but we had cancelled due to Kramer being sick.  Get it done ASAP.
-Get a cemetery plot
-Call the minister
-Plan funeral
-Talk to Kramer’s boss
-Get Karl home (he got home Thursday)
-Get family pictures
-get our will revised

So we started that night with the cemetary plot.  That was a few phone calls and a trip to the cemetery.  At first it was only Kalissa and I going.  In the end Kramer decided he wanted to go too.

He picked a spot and then asked me it that was okay.  I told him, I didn’t care.  I’ve never really cared where he went.  I only knew that wherever he did go, I wanted to go with him…so if that’s where he picked and that’s where I’ll be going with him when the time comes.  I’m so glad he came with.  It was another touching time between us that I’ll always remember.

Wednesday Kramer, the kids and I started making funeral plans.  The girls scrambled and figured out how to get off work.  In the evening he met with his boss.  It was so good from Kramer.  It was good closure that he needed.  His boss was great to him.

Thursday came around.  Karl made it home.  It was lawyer day.  We knew immediately that morning that Kramer would not be able to go to the lawyer.  He had gone down hill considerably.  He was fine to be home but traveling – not even the 15 miles- was something he could do.  It was then that I contacted his family and said if you want to see him, you need to come soon.

The hospice nurse also came on Thursday.  That took a bit.  We were so happy that we got a nurse we knew.  She was kind and super considerate.  She laid things out for us with meds and supplies.

Kramer’s family came.  They had a wonderful visit.  At the time others were in and out and I never got to visit with them much.  All I know is Kramer was so glad they came.

That evening Kalissa scheduled someone to come and take pictures.

I’ll admit.  We all were a little frustrated with Kalissa.  This was super important to her but not so much to the rest of us.  The spouses had to get off work early and everyone scrambled to make it happen.  We had the best photographer.  I promise to show the pictures off sometime.  They are still a little hard to look through.  The one above is one she took.  She’s considered a lifestyle photographer and I finally actually liked the pictures.

That night we burned the couch.  I got my turn to say what I need to say to him.  He got his chance to say what he need to me.  (Read about that here if you missed that)  In retrospect, I’ll always be glad that stupid couch broke and we burned it.

Friday the minister came.  We made the funeral plans with him official.  Kramer had a good talk with him.  We had communion as a family here at our house.

Buck and Karl drove to Cedar Rapids and quickly mowed all of the lawns he has in his lawn care business.  The plan was for them to come home Saturday after they were all done.

The firemen and first responders came that evening. (Read about that here if you missed it.)  I will always remember this very fondly.

Saturday came….Kramer was again worse.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  Would he lapse into unconsciousness?  How would IT happen?  I started to not feel really good about things so I called Buck and Karl to tell them that I wasn’t sure but that Kramer had gotten worse.  The boys finished up the lawns and drove home as quickly as they could.

Kramer slept most of Saturday.  We had visitors come.  Kramer asked not to see them.  He said he didn’t want them to remember him like this.  He wanted them to remember him picking rock with the tractor like the visitors often did.  Then in the afternoon when the boys got here he woke up and acted totally like his normal self.  He got up and was at the computer desk.  He talked and visited with us all.  One odd thing he said was that when he looked outside, it all looked white.  Then at supper time, he was back to mostly sleeping.

That night when I went to bed I held his hand and talked to him.  I told him if he needed me to have Kalissa wake me up.  I made him promise if he needed me, he’d have Kalissa come and get me.  He did.  Kalissa and Kelli had been taking turns sleeping on the couch and keeping an eye on him overnight.  It’s great to have nurses in the family.  I remember it being shortly after 10 when I went to bed.

I woke up at about 11:30pm and laid there not sleeping and contemplating my current life.  I had a house full of people.  My husband was downstairs in the process of dying.  It was icky and good all at the same time.  I had people who mattered with me.  My husband was leaving the world on good terms.  I imagined a long and slow death….sitting at a bed…watching him gasp.  I feared that Carver would be here and witness it.

Then I heard feet on the stairs.  I looked at the clock.  11:58pm.  Kelli was sleeping in my bed with Carver too.  I quickly got up so Carver wouldn’t wake up.  Kalissa said, “Mom, Dad wants you.”

We grabbed my robe and went downstairs.  I sat by him.  He had his eyes closed.  I asked him if he needed anything.  He said, “No.”  Kalissa was giving him morphine as directed by the hospice nurse.  I asked her if he had been like this long. She said only a bit.  She had debated on whether she should come get me but then Kramer asked for me so she had gotten me.  I noticed his breathing was a little uncomfortable so Kalissa went and got more morphine.  Then Kramer asked me, “what time is it?”  I thought that was a weird question but it seemed important to him.  I told him it was shortly after midnight. 

When Kalissa got back I told her that Kramer wanted to know what time it was.  She looked at her watch and then told her it was 12:14am.  A minute or so after his breathing was worse.  Kalissa called the hospice nurse and got permission to increase the dose.

About then any doubt in Kalissa’s or my mind was gone.  He was dying right in front of our eyes.

My mind was screaming – this is so hard.  I don’t know how long I can watch this….the rest of me was trying so hard to make my body and motions be at ease so Kramer felt comfortable to go and so I’d be a support to Kalissa.

About then we noticed that Kramer was slouched a little and looked uncomfortable.  We talked between the two of us that we needed to lift him into a better spot.  Kramer said, “I can do that”, and he pushed up with his arms and scooted himself back.

I grabbed his hand and told him it was okay.  He could go.  I promised to take care of the kids.  I promised to take care of everything.  Kalissa grabbed his other hand.  She promised him that she’d take care of me.

Kramer said, “I’m going now.”

The three of us grabbed hands.  Kalissa and I said the Lord’s Prayer.  Kramer took a couple big breaths and passed away.

Kalissa checked Kramer with his stethoscope and said he was dead.  I’m pretty sure it was at about 12:20pm.  The official death certificate says 12:53am but that was pronounced by the hospice nurse once she got to our house.

Of all the imagining I did, I never imagined this.  This was a good passing if there is such a thing.  To this day I can’t believe he said, “I’m going now.”  I can’t believe he knew.  This has brought me such comfort.  Even though the cancer was getting him….he chose to go.  Cancer didn’t steal Kramer away from me.  Kramer chose.

I am so thankful I was there to the very end.  I’m so glad Kalissa was there with me.  The two of us will always be bonded over Kramer’s passing.  If there ever was a doubt in my mind that she was still just a kid, how good, strong, supportive and kind she was, blew any notion of her not being an adult away.

Kalissa turned off his oxygen and I asked her, “Why do you think it was a big deal for him to know what time it was?”  Kalissa said, “He wanted to make it to Sunday for the baptism.  It was the last thing on that list we made of things we were trying to put together before he passed away.”

So after I told the other kids Kramer had passed, we got together.  Kalissa and I told the story of his passing.  Someone asked if we were going to cancel baptism which was scheduled for that afternoon.  We all decided no.  Kramer fought hard to make to Sunday.  He wanted the babies baptised.  They were going to be baptised.

Today marks four weeks since I told him to have Kalissa come get me if he needed me.  Every Saturday night as I climb the stairs to go to bed, this all replays in my mind.  For me…I often think that he passed away on Saturday…but then I am quickly reminded that he asked the time.  It was 12:14am when he did.  My Kramer chose to go and he chose Sunday not Saturday.

60 thoughts on “Saturday Night Again”

  1. Wow I feel honored that you choose to share such a tender moment with us.

    May God hold you in his hands during this time.

    Love, hugs and prayers.

  2. You are so blessed to have been able to share this time together and have this time together for closure, not all people have this opportunity. Dying is a part of life and you had the best experience possible. Thanks for sharing. I pray that you will find comfort in knowing you have helped lots of others in finding acceptance. It was great that you were able to go back and talk with the doctors and be an advocate for screening for smokers in the future.

  3. Oh Jo, the tears won’t stop. I can hardly see to type this response. Such a wonderful story of being with Kramer to the end, so touching. You are a strong person and with the help of your super loving family behind you, you will find even more strength to continue. Those grand babies will help ease the pain but your wonderful memories will also help.

    Thank you for the lovely thank you card that you sent to me. I am still taking one day at a time after my loss but each day does get a little better in the main. Just certain times, I turn to Hodges chair to tell him about something then realise that he’s not there.

    Love to you all.

  4. Thank you for being so forthright in telling this story. It hurts to tell it but is also beautiful at the same time since there is so much love in your family.

  5. A very loving tribute. Thank you for sharing those details with us. I really like the idea of the photographer. We have a few photos of my mother-in-law with the family gathered around her hospice bed that a friend took. So precious now. Praying for you and your family as you adjust to the changes in your life this coming year and beyond. Hugs.

    Another thought about what you shared. I’m 5 plus years out from where you are and the details begin to fade as time goes by. You’ll always have this blog post to look back on.

  6. Jo may God continue to keep you with blessings flow. Thank you for being so brave and sharing your journey with us. I was able to be with my Mom on the 18th of November when she went to heaven.

  7. Jo may God continue to keep you with blessings flow. Thank you for being so brave and sharing your journey with us. I was able to be with my Mom on the 18th of November when she went to heaven.

  8. More tears here as well. It is a blessing to be with the one you love when they leave this world. My cousins and I were with my grandma when she passed at age 104. Like Kramer she was aware of what was going on around her. When she took her last breath, my husband saw the look on her face and said it was like she was seeing the family that had gone before her – husband and 3 grown children.
    Hold these memories and share them with the grands when they are old enough. Don’t let anyone tell you that your grieving time is done. Take as long as you need and don’t stop if that is what you need.
    Hugs to the Kramer family.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’ll admit, there were tears while I read it, but it was so powerful. I will always be grateful that you’ve shared these experiences with us.

  10. Beautiful and poignant Jo. My sister and I were with Dad and then Mom 13y later when they each died. You and Kalissa will always have this special bond together, others can’t truly understand. I’ve never been able to describe it but you helped me relive it all over again with the tears streaming even after 25 years. Such precious moments and memories in this trip called life. God Bless you all.

  11. I will be saying a special prayer for you on Saturdays. It is such an honor that you shared this with us. May you continue to feel God’s blessings.

  12. Donna Pheneger

    Jo, you have blessed us more than you could possibly know by sharing your thoughts with us. Thank you so very much.
    Love and prayers

  13. Thank you for much for sharing your very personal story with us. Your vulnerability is a lesson to us all. Thank you. You are so blessed with such an amazing family and support system. Thank you for including your blog readers.

  14. What a community God has created around you, Jo. You are such a blessing to all of us as I hope we are a blessing to you. My prayers for you all continue.

  15. Thank you Jo, for sharing this beautiful post with us. I’m sure it was painful yet at the same time good to write. There were tears in my as I read it and write this. I admire your strength .

  16. Carol Lorraine Stearns

    Thank you for sharing Jo. It brought tears to my eyes. In a way, it was very peaceful. He knew where he was going and he was ready. I think there is a book in your future. What a great story it would make and a comfort for others experiencing similar circumstances. Hugs to you and your family!

  17. Cheryl in St. Paul

    I’m crying in my morning coffee. We have never met, but still I feel as if you are family. That Sunday was really life day for your family, new life in Christ for the babies and eternal life for the grandfather, who to the very end fulfilled his vocation as a Christian husband, father and grandfather. May God bless you all today and always.

  18. It is honestly shocking how fast someone can get sick and leave us. I’m so happy that there was nothing left unsaid between you and Kramer. It would be awful to have regrets! I’m glad that his passing was easy-wonderful that you had those last special moments! Prayers.

  19. Micki Clemens

    Thank you for sharing. I have been so touched by your stories since Kramer got sick. You are so strong and brave. Thank God your kids were there for you. I understand how difficult this period ‘after’ is for you. You have my prayers. As they say “hang in there”.

  20. You’re right Jo, it’s an honor to be with someone when they pass. I witnessed my husband’s passing even though it makes me sad, at least he was comfortable and had family with him, though we were not at home. What a whirlwind for you, it will take time to process, but through your sharing, I think it will help. May Gods love help.

  21. Beautiful….crying here too. I think when most people think of themselves dying they hope for being at home with family and not have a long long process in the dying. And if you’re really lucky you get to say goodbye to your family and not have things left unsaid. That’s what Kramer had. He didn’t have the luxury of a long life but he did have love and he knew that.

  22. What a tough story to tell, and you told it so beautifully. I’m not big on having my picture taken, but I imagine those pictures Kalissa arranged for will come to be very meaningful to all of you. The ones in this post are lovely, like people captured in the act of living life instead of stiffly posed. I know you’ve consistently said your blog is a record for you more than anything, but I think your family will be grateful to be able to relive some of these times. You honor us with your stories.

    (In case you decide you’re interested at some point, another blogger I read has her blog posts each year made up into a book to she can look back at her family’s growth. This might be a time you want to capture on paper down the road.)

  23. Jo you are a very strong woman, you are “Jo Strong”, I’m proud and a bit wet eyed this morning at the telling of this story. I wish I could crawl across my internet connection and hold you. I’m honored that you are allowing us to be your therapists.

  24. Wow! I am struggling at what to say. Reading your story brought back the memories of my husband passing 5 1/2 years ago from cancer. When I first read about Kramer being diagnosed I started to pray for all of you, I will keep praying for us all.

  25. Thank you for sharing those tender moments of Kramers passing, may you find some comfort in the new normal that lies ahead for you and your family. Hospice is a wonderful organization and having a nurse or two in the family can be so helpful, ask me how I know.
    Blessings to you all, Kramer Strong

  26. Jo, I too have never met you but you are in my thoughts and prayers – you were there holding his hand and that was what we all need the most when we pass into that wonderful place – May the Lord hold you close

  27. Maureen Potter

    Extraordinary–Kramer’s life and death, your family, you. Thank you for letting us in. Kramer Strong: an understatement.

  28. gayle r tucker

    He is there with you in the gentle breeze that touches your face, in the smell of a freshly mown field. He is there Saturday night seeing you through the early morning hours of Sunday. He will not leave you until you are ready to join him much later. Then you will both breezes touching the faces of those you love.
    He has always been you anchor and continues his job as protector, friend and bonfire companion.
    Thank you for sharing your love of this very special man and his life.

  29. Thank you for sharing this amazing memory. Sweet and poignant, profound, powerful. I hope that when I go, it will be quickly, after being blessed with the time and clarity to say goodbye to those I love.

    Find strength in each other. Let grief happen on your own timetable. I hope that somehow you are able to feel all the love being sent to your family.

  30. Dear Jo, my heart aches for you and your family. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us. I have always loved your writing, but even more because you write so real and true. My love and prayers for you all

  31. What a beautiful, heartfelt post, Jo. I feel so honored that you would share these thoughts. Keeping you in prayer.

  32. Gloria Gleason

    Dearest Jo, it’s touched so many, many people reading your postings so full of love, blessings, and strengthening examples of life. The family communion, the scheduling, the visitors and all the days, nights, travel times culminating in Kramer saying he was ready when “I’m going now.” was said. Beautiful comfort and peace by him. Like Jesus saying, “It is finished.” I, too, have a bond with you, your kids, “my blog friends” that we could sit down together and pick up where we left off! Thank you for all the blessings and love. Your friend, Gloria

  33. What a beautiful story! As sad as losing our loved ones is, there is often a beautiful memorable side to it as well. This brings back memories of some losses in our family. I think of my mother and her final illness; on her last day a cousin and I sat with her and sang hymns in the hospital room. It was not long after we sang “It is well with my soul” that she passed. That remains a beautiful memory. I also think of my father-in-law who told my husband “It’s time” shortly before losing consciousness. Continued prayers for your family.

  34. Jo, I am so honored that you shared this with us. It made me cry but also made me so proud of how very strong you are. Hugs.

  35. Think of you daily. Thank you for sharing this heartfelt story of love and losing a love one. You are a very strong person to share such a personal thing with us all. I will think of you on Saturday and say a prayer for you and your family. May you all feel God’s love and peace continually.

  36. Kramer was truly an amazing man! Very few people get to go out on their own terms, lucid until the very end. What a wonderful story of hope and courage for all of us. I can understand how difficult Saturdays must be for you. As an Elton John fan, maybe blasting “Saturday Night’s Alright” before you climb those stairs would put a smile on your face. (Please don’t take this as a flip or callous comment, I find music very healing, especially upbeat rock music.)

  37. Thank you for sharing Jo. I was grateful to be with my husband when he passed last October. I was very grateful that his Hospice nurse, sister and my mother were also there for his sake and mine. I replay his passing over and over in my head. What could I have done differently? What did I miss? In the end a blood clot took him, not the lung cancer. I am also grateful that the Good Lord took him quickly and did not prolong his pain. Please know that it’s good to share your journey and will help your healing process.

    hugs, Kathy Wilson

  38. hi dear – and hugs, of course. You are navigating this whole thing with honor and strength.

    You know, you ARE the only family I ever heard of that burned a couch as part of this type of journey – and I know you will smile about that always…..

    So – if Saturdays are hard, and they come so often……. then just have Saturday once a month. The others, call them a different name. something new, and different. just not “Saturday”. Thrifting Day, grandkids day, yard day..Jo’s choice Day…. and then, once each month, enjoy Saturday, and cherish the memories it brings, sweet and sour. You are strong , and brave, and I love the number of times in this post that you said “I’m so glad…… or “It was good that…..”. I’m so pleased that you feel comfortable with the steps and decisions you and the family made – including torching the couch !!!!

  39. Thank you Jo for sharing your very difficult and personal story. I’ve wondered how he went so fast. I’m so glad he was able to choose to go. My heart breaks for you Jo, but I know you are powering through. I think at just 4 weeks out it’s sounds like you’re doing ok. I can’t imagine how I would feel. But I am still praying for you all.

  40. Susan the Farm Quilter

    A peaceful passing from this world to the next, with loved ones by out side, holding our hands and praying…what more could any of us ask for? Gently he slipped the coils of this mortal world…his choice! I’m glad for you that he was at home with you and at peace. Praying for you especially on Saturday nights!!

  41. Judith Fairchild

    I’m so glad you shared Kramer’s passing. Yes he waited and chose when to go. He did very well and very unselfishly. You’ll always remember how he chose to go. The hurt fades with time. You will get back to “normal” Saturdays eventually. Thank you for sharing. It answered any questions. My heart hurts and sings with you.

  42. Thank you for sharing that with us. Such a mixture of sweetness, love, loss, and sorrow all at the same time. So many things to be thankful for, if it had to be. Kramer was in control, just as he’d like, and that’s priceless. My heart breaks that you had to go through it.

    Love and hugs,

  43. Dear Jo, thank you for sharing this. It has been seven and a half years since I went through something similar, a few days before Christmas. It’s something that stays with you always. Like you, I have a large family that was a big support. You and your family are very strong and loving and will be there for each other. My thoughts are with you all.

  44. A sad but loving post. My sisters and I had our pictures professional taken when our mom got sick. They were in a studio and not relaxed pictures like yours. Your pictures are so much better. We told everyone we knew to do this but I don’t think anyone did. We are so glad we have those photos now! We were also with mom when she passed. It is something you never forget but so glad we were all there. Bless you Jo.

  45. Tonya Reichard

    I sit here reading this with tears in my eyes and my heart swelling for you all. For the love of faith and family and the wonderful memories that you have. God Bless you all and know that we are here for you!

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