The Ottumwa Courier

Columns

December 29, 2012

The loss of a loved one

Et Cetera

OTTUMWA — Just when I question my faith and my beliefs are put to the test, I am reminded again of the power of life.

I feel fortunate that my loved ones who have passed on have not had to suffer greatly at the end.

Losing my only sister recently re-established for me the grace that can come from above.

The nursing home here in Ottumwa was a haven for Colleen the last two months of her life. I knew, finally, that she was in a place where she was cared for, kept safe and warm. She had not had that for a long time. She knew me up until the end, and I knew she had accepted her fate. I think she was ready to go.

When she was just a little girl, Colleen contracted scarlet fever and came out of it with a hearing loss which affected her life. Back then, in the 1940s, you didn’t want to be the center of attention by having to sit in the front row so you could hear. She never told the teachers she couldn’t hear well, and it affected the education she received. Mama always said Colleen was smart as a whip before the fever came. I think her basic intelligence was better than most people thought, and in many ways, she was smarter than me. And yes, I told her that.

Growing up in a little town and attending a small school was good for her, I think. She could participate in everything. She loved playing basketball, and like me, nine years later, lost her first place on the floor to younger girls entering high school. Perhaps her one shining moment was starring in a hillbilly play – she was a natural comic actress, and, if only ...

She could have married a farmer right out of high school, but Colleen wanted more than that. She wanted to see what the world held for her and tried a few venues that didn’t work out. She would have loved to have attended nursing school in Burlington with her friends, but she couldn’t pass the exam. Years later, she did work in that hospital, in the office department. She loved living in Burlington and did have some good times there.

I questioned her move to Ottumwa but hoped for the best. She was able to participate in government programs that let her work at various places. She loved cleaning the museum and a dorm at the college. Her last endeavor was with the Foster Grandparent program, which she enjoyed, and the people were so nice to her.

Above all, she loved her animals, the dogs and cats where she lived. Like people with a disability often do, she transferred her love to the animals. When a favorite little dog didn’t return home, she lost her will to live, I think.

She was kind to many, especially people who she thought had harder lives than she did. She always wanted to keep working, to feel useful. She always offered me a helping hand. Although we were nine years apart, we were close in our own way. She knew I was always here for her. When her hearing worsened, we would write letters to each other. Many times she would tell me a story of a happy time in her life.

I did pray for her not to suffer when the end came, and I don’t think she did too much. I think she was ready. I am so grateful the end came as soon as it did, and now she can be happy forever.

My niece wrote asking me if she thought her grandma, my mother, was cooking in heaven. She was a great cook.

Oh, I do hope so. And I hope she is making wonderful food for her daughter who now can eat anything she wants and hear all there is to hear.

Judy Krieger is a retired Courier editor.

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