Velna and four children among the marigolds at Penn State. Sorry Kim isn't in the picture.
Today is the first anniversary of the October day in 2015 when we gathered at Velna's bedside as she breathed her last mortal breath. Before she left, she asked, "Why is everyone paying so much attention to me?", and "Dwight, you must pay the tithing," and "Dwight you must send out the birthday cards." And then she was gone from her earthly struggles and constant excruciating pain from so many ailments. For her last several years, day by day Velna was thankful to see each new day despite the chronic and debilitating pain that wracked every part of her body. She still did not want to leave. I never could reconcile how such a beautiful and totally innocent person could be called upon to suffer as she did. Day by day I did my best to take care of her needs, to cheer her up, to prepare her meals, to arrange her bed at bedtime, to get her pills when she needed them, to spend days and hours recounting our family history, our prized jewels of memory of our life together and the lives of our children. When I told her that I wish that I could walk better after losing my balance several years ago, she said with tears in her eyes, "Dwight, I can't walk at all."
Velna was first and foremost a wife and mother. Her children were her greatest challenge and her greatest blessing. She never lost sight of the end goal, of the blessings and permanence of the family unit, of the love that bound us all together. She welcomed each grandchild, each great grandchild, each wedding, each graduation, each event in each family member's life. She never failed to send birthday cards with dollar bills to each of her posterity. When she could hardly walk even with a walker, she said, "Dwight, I've got to go to the store and get some more cards." She faithfully read each post on this blog, looked carefully with appreciation at each photo I showed her, admonished me for being too wordy, and studied carefully each foot long grocery store and Costco receipt to see where we may have paid too much or not gotten what we thought we had. She clipped the coupons in each Sunday paper, did two daily crossword puzzles, and then, no matter how much pain she was in, showered and fixed her hair and applied her makeup. She would come out afterward into the living room to her chair in so much pain from lifting her arms to curl her hair and apply her makeup and it took her more than an hour to recover. But she never wavered. As she lay dying, she worried about her hair, and our wonderful daughter in law Susan found a brush and comb and straightened out her tangles until she once again looked beautiful. She did not want to leave us looking anything less than perfect.
In all of our 63 years together, I rarely heard her criticize anyone. When I would make a critical remark she would say, "Oh he (or she) isn't so bad, look at it this way." She was a peacemaker. Despite differences, she always forgave everyone and never held grudges. She never made an unkind remark or looked down on anyone. She was always calm, always had a loving disposition. I went through our life together not always appreciating just what a remarkable woman I had been fortunate enough to spend my life with. Velna blessed the lives of everyone who came in to her life. She taught by quiet example, not with cross words. She had a board to spank the kids with that got hidden away in the freezer for years and which she never used. I feel her influence each moment of each day in my life, and know that Velna would or would not approve if I did this or that and for all I know she is still watching me and I may have to account for my actions again some day.
I will write more about the progress I have made during this last lonely year and about the events that have happened since you left. But I wanted to take this special opportunity to, once again, pay tribute to Velna's wonderful life, to our years of beautiful life together, and for the good that she did in all her days. I am so grateful, Velna, that you have the terrible pain released from your body even though I miss you every moment of every day. But we know the outcome of our lives, don't we? God bless you, dear girl, and thank you with all my heart for sharing your life with me, the greatest blessing of my life.