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Meadowlark Hospice

Dawn's Notes

I Will Remember You - May 2015
by Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW

I will never forget June 23, 2000. My husband Ralph was in the hospital with abdominal pain which was thought to be caused by diverticulitis, but the C-T scan revealed something far more ominous. Our doctor came into the room and spoke frankly with me and my husband. He stated, "You have a little diverticulitis, but that is the least of your worries. I am 99% sure that you have a big cancer setting there."

If you have received such news, you can probably relate to the feelings my husband and I had at that moment. We felt like we had been kicked in the stomach—had the air knocked out of us. Then the doctor said to me, "Come on, Dawn." I followed him down the hall to the Radiology Department where he put on the C-T scan film, showing me an enormous mass in my husband's abdomen which turned out to be kidney cancer. I think he wanted me to know what we were facing; there was no chance for denial!

After going back to my husband's room, my husband and I talked. One of the things that I remember him saying is, "I am afraid the grandchildren will not remember me"—the fear of not being remembered.

In July he had the cancer surgically removed, but the cancer started growing back within a year. Even though there were no more medical options, we were blessed with the gift of more time. He lived to see two more grandchildren born and two of the grandchildren were old enough to remember him after he died.

In February, 2006, shortly before he died, he again verbalized to me his desire to be remembered. He said to me, "Dolly, remember me when you see the sun set.

" I replied, "How could I ever forget you? I will never forget you."

He also told me, "You've got to write the story." He was referring to the story of his life to be passed down to the grandchildren. Even if his time with the grandchildren was shortened, he wanted them to remember him through words on a page, and I promised him I would write his story.

Throughout the forty-four years we were married, both he and I made slides of the sunsets of Kansas, even putting the slides to music for a slide show. There was a common love of sunsets, a common emotional connection, between the two of us and the Kansas skies.

Yes, I still remember him when I see the sunset—it is inescapable. But there are so many more things that still remind me of my husband. I remember the first night we went out together and how he made me laugh. Coming from a strict pastor's home, laughter was important, and his sense of humor added spice and fun to our marriage.

I remember when we dated and galloped horses across cornfields in the dark; I remember swimming across the Lake of the Ozarks with him. I remember the lean years, the years we hardly had money enough to pay the bills. I remember the births of our children when he was there. I remember the holidays with family and cookouts in the pasture where he was the chef!

When the air is crisp in the fall, I remember how he longed for the first frost to rid the air of pollen. I remember him thrilling to the honk of geese flying south for the winter; it meant that cold weather which he loved was on its way! I remember his love of living in the country and love for the mountains of Colorado. When I hear John Denver's "Hey, it's good to be back home again," I remember him. He sang each grandchild to sleep with that song. I remember him—the pastor, the teacher, the loving husband, the parent, and doting grandfather.

In the years since his death, my life has changed drastically. I have remarried, sold our house in the country, and moved into town. I have been privileged to watch our grandchildren grow into wonderful kids that Ralph would be proud of. And I still tell the grandchildren stories about their Grandpa Ralph, about his favorite song “Shenandoah,” about who he was. He would want it that way.

I believe all of us want to be remembered, to leave our mark on earth. When I see the grandchildren and observe their wit and out-going personalities, I remember my husband. He has left a part of himself behind in them. And he left a part of himself behind in me. I am largely who I am because of the 44 years we spent together.

If you have lost a loved one through death, as you move toward a new future, do not be afraid to remember the one you loved—those memories are like precious gems. Your loved one will always be a part of you, no matter where your new path leads. Love does not end when someone dies.

When I see the golds, the pinks, and oranges of the sunsets splashed in splendor across the Kansas sky, I still remember my husband nine years later. He will never be forgotten. Yes, I will always remember him.

Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
Meadowlark Hospice 709 Liberty Clay Center, Kansas
(785) 632-2225
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator