Before I start, on behalf of Casey and I, I want to recognize and thank the staff at Life Care Center who surrounded us with love and support. They were unbelievable. They became a part of our family. The number of nurses, aides, housekeeping that would give mom hugs, kisses and tell her they love her…. Thank you.
As most of you know, my mom is a spit fire. I had a conversation with her before her birthday, as we saw her health really failing, about Jesus talking to her or coming for her. I asked her what she would say if He told her it was time to come home. She said, emphatically, ‘no!’ I said, ‘you are going to argue with Jesus?’ ‘Yes.’ Yep, that’s Rochelle. She doesn’t mince words. She means what she says.
My mom was a mom to many. Whether it be at the bowling alley or the ball field. The fairgrounds or the basketball court. You knew not to cross her the wrong way. If you misbehaved, you better expect to get disciplined. Didn’t matter whose kid you were. Heck, a few weeks ago Casey was asked why he didn’t make her wear her teeth when she ate. ‘We don’t make her do anything!’ At times we had people tell us we should make her go to the nursing home (in July things were getting ‘iffy’ to say the least.) We would always reply, ‘you make her!’ Even Casey’s steers were afraid of her. Years ago Casey had only two steers left out of his herd, and they go out with no one was around to corral them. Well, no on but Rochelle. Mom, in her wheelchair, had them cornered by the silo. She had a stick in her hand. That’s it. It was a sight to see – an old lady in a wheelchair with a big stick – those steers knew better than to try and get past her! Yes, Rochelle was a firecracker all right. I always told people mom will have to go to heaven to find out about all the stuff I did when I was growing up, (I didn’t want to face the consequences now, at age 47.) I guess she knows now!
Mom was a servant. When we were growing up, she was the mom that went on all the field trips and helped in the school. We were trying to remember all the teachers she worked with: Mr. Butcher, Mrs. Schlemmer, Mrs. Park… Mom volunteered in numerous capacities through out the community. Mom was in charge of the concession stand at Parkside, no pay of course. Mom was in the nursery every Sunday at church, no pay of course. Mom coached kids bowling, all volunteer. Mom was involved with the homemakers for a long time and was extremely involved with the Pythian Sisters of LaGrange. All in the name of servanthood. Even when I was a varsity basketball coach, she would needle point Christmas ornaments for each of my players.
Mom was determined. Four years ago Chad was getting married. Mom had a surgery scheduled for the Monday after the wedding. She was not feeling good going into the weekend. Her sugar was up and down and all over the place. She was going to that wedding! The Sunday morning following the wedding, her sugar was down to 57. Monday morning when we woke her up to take her to the hospital, it was down in the 30’s. By Wednesday, we knew we were looking at an amputation. I will never forget when we were in pre-op and she said, ‘I will be at Kody’s wedding.’ Guess what? She was. From surgery, long stay in hospital and then nursing home…’I am going home.’ What looked impossible to most of us, was not to mom. She lived on her own, taking care of herself for the last four years. This past Christmas…Casey and I both knew mom was not good. She refused to go to hospital until after the kids opened gifts on Christmas day. Chad walks in and can’t believe we hadn’t taken her to the hospital. We set a speed record for eating Christmas dinner and opening gifts and mom was in ER by 2pm. Congestive heart failure. Well, doesn’t look like she will make it. Whatever, onto nursing home. First week of January, mom gets pneumonia in the nursing home. Doctor talks to me at college and tells me, this is it. I talk to mom and ask her, ‘do you want me to come home?’ ‘No, you are right where you are supposed to be.’ Seriously? A week later, you would never know mom was supposed to die. She is home by February 2. Determined. Mom started planning her 80th birthday party back in July. She knew she wanted to transfer her church membership, have a potluck and a ‘blow out, big’ party. Yep, she made it. The week before her birthday, in her coherent moments, she would ask, ‘how many more days?’ Think about it. She had it right. She can’t talk to all of us here today, she wanted to see everyone while she was still living! Determined. (Although, Casey and I did get in trouble for not buying her any fancy presents, new blouses, TV or whatever.)
Mom loved people, especially kids. In particular, her grandkids and great grandkids. As you can see, that is the majority of pictures we have up. When I moved to New Mexico, she made sure to bring each grandson out to visit. Yep, she flew them out. She went to as many football games as she could for Chad and Kody. Even when Chad thought he would be funny with a fake snake…. Any of you that know mom know that didn’t end well. But, she still loved him. Or when Kody ran into her porch with her van….(this is an inside joke, we are pretty sure Kody didn’t do it, but he got blamed for most things), she still loved him. No matter what, she loved. In May, Cali was getting inducted into the National Junior Honor Society. Mom had been sick at home for a couple of days, I told her she should stay home. Mom didn’t listen, she was not going to miss this. She went, and then got home and promptly got sick. Even at Cali’s recital, she showed up with pain in her neck, shoulder, etc. Remember she has congestive heart failure? Shockingly, she refused to go to the hospital until after Cali was all done. (I have stories of Chad and Kody getting in trouble, notice there is none with Cali. She is an angel! And mom would tell you that!) Yep. With the news of marriages, the news of babies… mom was beyond thrilled. Mom loved her kids. She would talk for days and days when she got to spend time with her greats. Whether it be Samuel running all over, being his firecracker self or Easton being a big boy pointing out his nose, his mouth, his ears. Savannah and her smile and squeals. Casey and I would show her pictures and videos all the time that got posted on social media. She just loved it. Just last summer, she had Eli all to herself one day. We thought maybe it wasn’t a good idea – mom in a wheelchair alone with a 6 year old. Nope, they had a great time and they baked banana bread.
At the end of her life, her biggest concern was her family. She was worried about us. Would we be ok? I reassured her that we would be sad, we would miss her but we would be fine. I told her she did a great job raising us – Casey and I, her grandkids…I told her we weren’t sure about the great grandkids yet and she had a good chuckle. I said, ‘just think, you and dad can watch from heaven. You can see them do the same kind of things their dads did and just shake your head and laugh.’ I honestly think she wanted to live because of her grandkids and great grandkids. She so badly wanted to see Cali graduate high school. So bad.
As I look back, I know how blessed, literally, Casey and I have been that mom and dad picked us to be their kids. They raised us in church, taught us right from wrong, showed us what hard work was, and were examples of unconditional love. We certainly have been no angels; we have made our fair share of mistakes. Although I am sure we caused sleepless nights for mom and dad, and even disappointment at times, they never stopped loving us. They didn’t enable us or even offer to help financially if we got in a bind, but they forgave us and loved us through the difficult times. We certainly could not have asked for a better upbringing. It was never a question in our minds to not be with mom everyday this last month. One night last week, as Casey and I stood vigil, I told mom, ‘Mom, if you don’t want Casey and I here, its too bad. We know you would never leave us if it were us. Stop being stubborn. This is not the time to be stubborn.’ Mom didn’t listen. Imagine that. I could go on and on sharing stories, and in the last week we have been able to do a lot of reminiscing with mom. Her and dad gave us an incredible life. Thank you, Mom. Thank you for choosing us to be your kids. Thank you for allowing Casey and I to be there as you ran through the gates of heaven. Enjoy heaven. Don’t get in too much trouble. On behalf of all of your family: Casey, me, Chad, Kody, Cali…all of us, tell dad hi and we love and miss him. We will see you again. (And please don’t knock out electricity today.)