Uncle Tim… Heaven Draws Near (part 1)

uncle-tim

PERSPECTIVES:  We can learn so much from one another as we sojourn horizons that both beckon and daunt us.  While our general experiences may have general connections, the specificity of our experiences depends on our position, our perception, and how we filter it all.  What is this all About?

This grief journey led me back to our family.  How do you navigate such a loss?  When I nervously asked if they were willing, several vulnerably shared distinctly personal elements of grief, sadness, struggle through this heavy darkness.  Each generation recognizing the varying social stigmas of suicide as well as the responses of their closest friends.  I am supremely grateful for their honesty.  While we share common relationships, every memory is profoundly unique to those who cycle through them; yet, our family’s openness to sharing weaved threads of bravery within me.

“While they spoke, I penned their words…and processed my own.”

– Heidi L. Paulec

When invited to participate in this perspective endeavor reflecting on Jamie’s life and subsequent suicide, most family members offered openness to share their story.   However, most did not feel either capable or comfortable to write their own perspectives.  Therefore, I sent surveys and conducted subsequent oral interviews from their responses.  These were used to establish primary source material from which to write on their behalf in the first person.  In each perspective, you can expect “Reflections on the Interview” and “Brief History.”  Both sections are written in the third person.  Then, the voice will shift to first person for their Perspective.

We welcome you here.  This remains tender space for us.  So join us accordingly.  Know you’re also welcome.  We invite you  to subscribe to receive emails as we publish pieces here.

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Reflections of the Interview:

Interviewing both my parents were actually the toughest for me. (Heidi)  We spoke so many, many times about Jamie and his death…  that was actually comfortable.  But, the articulating of devastation and the growing difficulty with parenting me after … that was difficult.

Many conversations fuse to make up these reflections for which I am profoundly thankful.

My Dad’s determination to understand and honor Jamie… even in the ultimate sorrow really became a deeper quest that illuminates ideas like identity… with more clarity and compassion.  Who are we?  In particular, in the intersection of this finite earth and the eternal home, who are we?… Leads us to Whose we are & more profoundly Who He Is.

Also, my Dad’s eternal perspective grows and grows.  His saturation in the Word, his commitment to trust, his perseverance, his hope, and his contagious joy encourage those around him.  He asks questions.  As he seeks, he finds… and he returns praise and thanksgiving.

Thank you, Dad.

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Brief History:

My Dad’s name is Timothy Paul.  He shared that he feels a bit more like a Caleb (trusts God) or Barnabus (encourager).  His passions include education, agriculture, industry, and cross-cultural opportunities.

He was born  and spent elementary school years in small town Kansas.  Waving grain fields remain the “yellow brick road.”  His family moved to Wichita, Kansas when he was in junior high school.  Tim, popular among his peers and who excelled as a multi-sport athlete, broke and set records.  He has an older brother, Dave, and younger brother Carlton.  Carlton is  Jamie’s Dad.  These brothers also have two younger sisters, Lori and Gretchen.

Tim spent two summers in high school working on harvest crews that travelled from Texas to Wyoming to help farmers bring in the harvest in a helpful and timely manner.  Tim actually worked for Grandpa Ken.  It was on these summer adventures he met Aunt Karen.

After high school, Tim had two options.  One enroll in college, or two prepare to be drafted into the Vietnam War.  He chose college, so he could get the student deferment.  Despite his athletic gifting, he turned down Kansas State negotiations to run track.  He decided to follow Karen to her small liberal arts college of choice.  He earned a degree in Social Studies Education with minor in Phys. Ed.

Upon graduation, Tim secured a teaching job at Karen’s high school alma mater in Albin, Wyoming where he taught grades 3-12 for three years.  He taught social studies honing his favorite Socratic Method of teaching.  Additionally, he taught PE.  He served at assistant football coach in Burns as well as head wrestling coach in Albin.  Several qualified for state under his coaching.  During those years, he also managed irrigated farm operations for the family.

In the early 1980s, Tim ventured into business.  He served as President of a start-up oil and gas operation.  Eventually, after selling that business, Tim began brokering oil and gas properties which remains his primary industry to this day.

He’s one passionately versatile man.  Never fully shaking the teacher and coaches heart, he founded the Jenks America Track Club in the 1990s.  He ran for state senate.  He’s served as elder in his church.  He’s travelled around the world, including Africa and east Asia as an ambassador for missional business.  He loves the opportunity to share and encourage.  Organically sharing the gospel through cross-cultural business opportunities stirs wonder of what heaven will really be like.  Can you hear that choir?

Did I mention my Dad (Uncle Tim) sings, too?  Although he loves all kinds of musical genres & the history of the music, hymns remain among his most treasured.

My Dad was Uncle Tim to Jamie because Jamie’s Dad is his brother and Jamie’s Mom is his sister-in-law because she’s Karen’s sister.  However, I’m not sure the title without explanation is adequate to describe their relationship.  As mentioned in Karen’s five part perspective, Tim and Karen were not able to conceive more children beyond Heidi.  They both loved children.  In many ways, Carlton and Kathy’s children became like their own.

Uncle Tim loved Jamie like a son.  He corrected him, disciplined him and encouraged him very similar to the way he guarded and guided me (Heidi).  I think Jamie looked at Uncle Tim as a second-father figure.

written by Heidi L. Paulec

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Perspective:

Right around the time of Jamie’s death, Eric Clapton released a song he’d written after the loss of his own son.  The song?  “Tears in Heaven.”  My soul didn’t question God’s Sovereignty.  Yet, my emotions resonated with some of the questions he posed in that powerful song.

Do you know Horatio G. Spafford?  He was a businessman who faced devastating loss.  First, he lost a son.  Then, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 impaired his enterprise with great loss.  When his friend Dwight L. Moody planned an evangelistic campaign to Europe, Mr. Spafford decided he and his family would join him.  He sent his wife and four daughters ahead of him with plans to join them in a few days.

After their ship sank, he received this from his wife… “Saved alone.”  Immediately, he boarded the next available ship to join his wife.  While at sea, he penned the world-renown hymn “It is Well.”

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.
    • Refrain:
      It is well with my soul,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend

What powerful imagery!  This is not merely imagination.  He’s coming back.  Why?  To bring His own to the Heavenly Home.  Jamie’s life and untimely death rolled back some clouds for me.  Darkness… more real.

Inevitably, our beliefs are tested.  Shaken.  We may even wonder if we might sink under the losses.  When we sift through it all, where does my hope land?  Why is it a trustworthy foundation?  How do I live humbly… honorably… every day in the shadow of Heaven’s Hope?

continued Uncle Tim… Heaven Draws Near (part 2)

Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 5)

aunt-karen

Gathering as a family in Colorado felt like a much needed embrace… At the same time, all too much to take in all at once.  I really don’t remember a whole lot from that week.  I remember Tim and my brother going through Jamie’s room looking for answers.  I remember wondering if we shouldn’t have brought him to Tulsa for an extended stay… all really too late now.   I remember Heidi… alone.

When we went to the viewing, we visited with family and close friends.  When our allotted time had expired, I remember actually saying to Kathy … “We can’t let him stay here tonight – all by himself.”  Of course, I realized how ridiculous this was to say… and wished I hadn’t.

The day of the funeral… I mainly remember wanting to keep my eyes on Heidi.  A complicated day… the end of our twins.   And anticipating the impact of this loss on the kids, particularly Michael, Holly, and Heidi.

Upon returning home, I remember gathering resources to try to figure out how we’d navigate this grief with Heidi and Tim.  Prior to Jamie’s death, I considered myself fairly stoic… generally able to control my emotions.  However, tears surprised me, even at work sometimes.

I tried to imagine being in Kathy and Carlton’s position, and I just couldn’t/can’t imagine what they’re enduring.  We missed Jamie… everything about him.  But, his immediate family felt his physical absence.  They walked by his room every day… his empty chair at meal time… and his silence flooded their home.  Forever wounded their family.

Despite others distant discomfort, I was never ashamed  of him although some people responded like I should have been… or at least temper the talk about it.  (Again, I worked in human resources of a large public school district.  Their official policy at the time in reference to anything regarding a suicide was that it should only be spoken of in the presence of a qualified professional… school counselor.)

As Heidi’s Mom, my personal grief easily sidelined as she was our immediate concern.  I remember her silence… general heaviness… like our vibrant Heidi had faded into a haze.  I’d asked  the school psychologist about her and what we could/should do to help.  She indicated looking for normal habit patterns to return.  If she’s a list-maker, look for those lists.

In mid-February 1992, just a month after Jamie died, Heidi travelled without us to compete with her dance team at a national dance team competition in Orlando, Florida.  Certainly not easy to send her.  But, she’d served as an officer that year.  They’d been training since the previous June, and she loved that team.  When we returned from Colorado, there was no question.  She would throw herself into competition mode… this comes naturally to her.  This was a physically  and socially demanding commitment that she took very seriously.  And we’re so grateful for her coach, the team, and the parents that year who loved and looked after her.

That trip worked wonders for Heidi.  Not only did they rank fourth in the nation, they debriefed for a day at Disney World’s Epcot Center.  Evidentially, they had a grand time.  I remember when we met the team at the airport.  Heidi was laughing, and she even seemed to be the center of the fun.  The girls, giddy exhausted, celebrated together before heading home.

I felt such relief to see her happy again.  But, I certainly wasn’t prepared for how short-lived it would be.  As soon as we walked in the door of our home, the sadness returned.  Routine reminded her he was gone.

She could not think clearly.  Deep hurt weighed her down and fogged her mind for weeks.  Our chiseled-focused daughter drifted off into a heavy quiet place.  We worried about her.  We missed her.  We tried to reach in… not sure if she could even let us in.

We grieved, Tim & I.  We prayed.  I struggled with people who suggested suicide is the unpardonable sin.  And suggested this so freely to us in the midst of our fresh grief.

“God sent his son
They called him Jesus
He came to love
Heal and forgive
He lived and died
To buy my pardon
An empty grave
Is there to prove

(Chorus)
Because he lives
I can face tomorrow
Because he lives
All fear is gone
Because I know
He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because he lives
(Verse 2)
How sweet to hold
A newborn baby
And feel the pride
And joy he gives
But greater still
The calm assurance
This child can face
Uncertain days
Just Because he lives
(Chorus)

(Verse 3)
And then one day
I’ll cross the river
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain
And then as death
Gives way to victory
I’ll see the lights
Of glory and
I’ll know he lives”

Bill Gaither

We visited family as often as we could.  Gathering together seemed right because we could talk about Jamie and his death with ease.  Yet, gathering also reminded us he wasn’t there.  No quiet jokes under his breath.  No pleas for football passing in the yard.  And no twin.

We watched as our daughter… wrestled death.   Wondering if our feisty, funny girl would win… Mixing grief with worries… heavy, dark times… brim and boil in unexpected ways.    I just remember when the weight bore down… whispering…

“Jesus Jesus Jesus
There’s something about that name
Master savior

Jesus
It’s like the fragrance after rain

Jesus Jesus Jesus
Let Heaven and Earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
There is something about that name.

Gloria and Bill Gaither (1970)

I may never know all Heidi went through… or Carlton or Kathy or Michael or Holly or other family members… “Kings and kingdoms will all pass away.  There is something about that Name.” I found great comfort knowing He Who comforted me would also comfort & guard with peace our family … as we fractured a little … in grief.

Tim… so grateful for him.  He loved Jamie so much.  Despite our dreams, we were unable to have more children biologically.  I mourned this years ago, so did he.  But, we prioritized and opened our hearts to love nieces, nephews and foster children … more intentionally.

I don’t think we ever expected life to be the same.  But, I certainly didn’t know what the new normal would be.  I remember someone told me not to feel guilty about my tears.  “Those tears just show how much you cared for him and your aching family now.”  Crying really did help release the pressure within… like nothing I’d known before.  Grief takes time… and I do think we need others -maybe a very small circle- who will communicate on real levels.

I must also say one of the mysteriously beautiful things that has happened through this… the tight near sibling-hood Michael and Holly offered to Heidi.  Growing up, Jamie & Heidi were the “older ones,” who played together while Michael & Holly made it into their twin plans…sometimes.  Heidi, an incessant teaser, drove Holly to tears on too many occasions.  However, they lean on each other to this day.  This certainly didn’t have to turn out like this.  A generous gesture to bond those three.  Heidi knows she can’t replace Jamie.  Yet, I do think she’s grateful to be “big sis” to them.

Until the releasing of her writings over 20 years after Jamie’s death, Heidi really didn’t let us too close to her loss and subsequent mourning.  But I’ve seen her faith grow deep… swell & spill as she loves others.  I read her writing, and I know the Lord has done a mighty work.  As a Mom, I hear the things she can’t say.  We all miss him still.  This collective journey… something we’ve all endured… but Heidi uniquely.  We continue to pray that our sharing about Jamie- his life and his death- encourages others feeling the drenching ripples of grieving hard losses.  Most importantly… “Master, Savior… Jesus… after the rain.”

 

 

Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 4)

aunt-karen

On the evening of January 18, 1992, as Heidi was out on a date, Tim and I were home watching Top Gun (which was Jamie’s favorite movie) when the phone rang.  We paused the tape in the VCR, and I answered the kitchen phone.  It was Daddy (Grandpa Ken).  He immediately instructed me to get Tim on the phone.  I assumed something had happened to Grandpa Philip (Great-Grandparents).  Details of the initial news… escape me now.  Only, I remember hearing he’d hung himself, but I didn’t remember hearing he’d actually died.

I remember lying on the floor of the kitchen… crying… in complete disbelief. “It can’t be!  It just can’t be!?!”   I had to know for sure.  So, I called Carlton.  He was just about to leave his home to drive into the mountains to the camp where Jamie was retreating.  Carlton confirmed Jamie was gone.

The next thing I remember…FEAR.  What is this going to do to Heidi?  I had worked at a middle school at the time a well-loved eighth grade girl had taken her own life, so I knew the behind-the-scene precautions outlined by mental health professionals and implemented by school counselors… how do we tell her?  Her twin is gone.  How will she take it?  Copy -catting is an unwanted reality.  Heidi’s close relationship with Jamie would cast her into a shadowed statistic…to keep a closer eye.

I wanted to leave and go find Heidi.  I was afraid someone else would tell her before we could get to her… not logical, but among my early thought.  Tim reminded me that was nearly impossible and suggested we stay home.  He called over a couple friends.  One lived close by, and she arrived before Heidi did.

As we sat… and waited for Heidi to get home… and cried, my heart felt torn out of my chest.  Memories flashed in mind…shock sent in silences… thoughts rushed again.

“How sweet to hold
A newborn baby
And feel the pride
And joy he gives
But greater still
The calm assurance
This child can face
Uncertain days

Because He Lives…”

Gloria and William Gaither

Tim locked the front door, so we’d know when Heidi got home.  She was irritated when she first pulled her key from the door knob questioning why we’d locked her out.  I guess she  realized something was wrong as her eyes darted around the room to each of us.

Tim asked her to sit down several times, but she just kept demanding, “Just tell me!”  Eventually, he did.  Again, I don’t remember all the words… but, the pain… palpable… as her legs crumbled beneath her.  And her sobbing… exclaiming, “I knew it!  I knew it!  I knew it!”

That night… we knew we needed to get to Colorado as soon as possible.  However, we needed sleep.  I think I’d hoped we’d leave before sunrise.  I wanted to get to my family as soon as possible, but Heidi wanted to go to church first.  Tim decided we’d pack up for the 11 hour road trip, stop in at church, and head out of town directly from there.  Tim shared the news with our Sunday School class by saying “We lost our ‘son’ last night.”  This actually was confusing, so we had to explain he was our nephew, etc.

The Sunday School class responded… generously.  They actually collected an offering to help us with the trip.  The drive… long and quiet… outside of the reflective music filling the car.  A salve to our souls… reminding us life is bigger than what we see, dream, battle… we’re not alone.  When our souls sing, we remember.  Who He Is.

“God sent his son
They called him Jesus
He came to love
Heal and forgive
He lived and died
To buy my pardon
An empty grave
Is there to prove

My Savior lives…”

Gloria and William Gather

continued … Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 5)

Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 2)

aunt-karen

Those early years… we lived … farm and small town life… together.  Daddy farming.  Mother canning pickles, apple sauce, and strawberry jam.  While Carlton and Kathy’s lived on the homeplace, we spent quite a bit of time there as well.

During the school year, my Tim taught K-12 social studies, phys.ed., and coached wrestling.  So, as remains common in small towns, the school and the church were the hubs of activity outside the farming and ranching demands.

My Swedish ancestors planted the church we attended.  Mother sang solos, quartets, and in the choir.  She even taught children’s Sunday School to be with Heidi and Jamie.  Daddy served on the deacon board and often sang in quartets and the choir as well.  His soft-spoken mother had been the longest serving organist for the church for many years.

Huddling around a piano to sing hymns… one of my most cherished childhood memories.    Mother made sure our brothers, Kathy and I learned to play the piano. While I don’t ever remember not having a television, we lived in such a rural area we only had one channel out of Cheyenne for years.  We made time to watch the evening news, but we certainly  didn’t allow it to steal our time. (Once the technology was more widespread our rural community still only had three channels available until the early 80s.)

So, yes, working land and all the support tasks to keep a farm going forged a work ethic in me… that I didn’t realize was that uncommon until I was much older.  Work awakened us.  And we worked until the sun tucked itself away.  Yes, we worked.   But, we also praised and prayed.

Our morning routine included coffee, circling around a table, and reading the Bible and Our Daily Bread.  We prayed for the weather today and missionaries serving in foreign lands.  We lifted up others in the community facing hardship.  We weren’t vaguely talking to the air, but Jesus was (is) the Hearer of our prayers.

Jesus Jesus Jesus
There’s something about that name
Master savior Jesus
It’s like the fragrance after rain

Jesus Jesus Jesus
Let Heaven and Earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
There is something about that name

We Love the name
The holy name
Your precious name”

Gloria and Bill Gaither (1970)

On Wednesday evenings, we’d go into town for prayer meeting.  We usually went to town for every athletic home game.  And commonly we traveled to the away games, too.

We all spent time helping around the farm, though.  Whether the intensive hours of harvest or the day-to-day operations, the unspoken expectation… help out wherever and whenever you can.

Except on Sundays.  My Dad believed in honoring the Sabbath with worship and rest.  My Mom prepared a roast with potatoes and carrots, so we could feast together around the table after church.  We discussed the sermon.  So, for some, this conversation lingered while others of us cleared the table and washed dishes.

Once the dishes were dried and neatly put away, we’d grab a pillow & a spot to nap.  Sunday afternoons meant nap time for everyone.  Some seasons this might be to the quiet drone of a football game on the television.

Jamie loved football.  Even as a young boy, he’d sit through whole games.  He wanted to understand every play and penalty.  He’d play catch with anyone willing to play.

He also had the most contagious laugh.  I loved to hear him laugh.  But to see him laugh… full body joy.  We all loved watching he and Heidi run around the living room.  We’d shut off the television just to watch those two toddlers.

Coming from an Italian mother and Swedish dad, people often suggested my olive coloring came from the Italian side.  My demeanor, though… far more stoic.  Some of my siblings’ personalities… far more emotional, demonstrative than mine.

But Jamie’s joy made me smile, too.

Our concept of family was both broader and tighter than may be customary in the USA nowadays.  Although Tim and I didn’t live on the home-place, we spent a lot of time there.  Jamie and Heidi played outside a lot.  They had generous boundaries.  They knew not to wonder into the fields or bother Grandpa Ken or any other workers around the farm.  My grandparents (Great-Grandparents ) summered on the farm.  So, with them, Mother (Grandma Phyllis), Kathy, and me… those two had eyes on them, but a lot of exploring freedom as well.

“A family is a formation center for human relationships.”

– Edith Schaeffer What is a Family? pg.62

We’d often dress Heidi and Jamie in coordinating outfits. I remember their first snow suits.  We bundled them up- cozy tight.  And they loved playing in the drifts. They looked so much alike in the early years.  They played so well together.  Sure, they’d fight and argue similar to siblings; however, they’d figure out how to get along again.  They had their similarities, compatibilities throughout their childhood.

“A family is a  blending of people for whom a career of making a shelter in the time of storm is worth a lifetime…. a family is meant to care for each other, and to be a real shelter- from birth to old age.” 

Edith Schaeffer What is a Family?  pg. 102-103

They were like “our” twins, so Jamie really was more like a son than a nephew.  We loved them, disciplined them, and taught them collectively.  And they looked after each other, too.

Three years after Jamie and Heidi were born another nephew who-felt-more-like a son was born to Kathy and Carlton.  We only had Michael on the farm for a year before Carlton and Kathy moved to central Nebraska.  They moved just before Jamie and Heidi started kindergarten.

And everything changed… Although we all did our best to remain close, everything changes when our lives no longer mingle day to day.  Oh how a thunderstorm of tears poured from Heidi when they moved away… We thought that would be the toughest separation these two would learn to endure.

continued… Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 3)

 

Aunt Karen … after the rain (part 1)

Aunt Karen.JPG

PERSPECTIVES:  We can learn so much from one another as we sojourn horizons that both beckon and daunt us.  While our general experiences may have general connections, the specificity of our experiences depends on our position, our perception, and how we filter it all.  What is this all About?

This grief journey led me back to our family.  How do you navigate such a loss?  When I nervously asked if they were willing, several vulnerably shared distinctly personal elements of grief, sadness, struggle through this heavy darkness.  Each generation recognizing the varying social stigmas of suicide as well as the responses of their closest friends.  I am supremely grateful for their honesty.  While we share common relationships, every memory is profoundly unique to those who cycle through them; yet, our family’s openness to sharing weaved threads of bravery within me.

“While they spoke, I penned their words…and processed my own.”

– Heidi L. Paulec

When invited to participate in this perspective endeavor reflecting on Jamie’s life and subsequent suicide, most family members offered openness to share their story.   However, most did not feel either capable or comfortable to write their own perspectives.  Therefore, I sent surveys and conducted subsequent oral interviews from their responses.  These were used to establish primary source material from which to write on their behalf in the first person.  In each perspective, you can expect “Reflections on the Interview” and “Brief History.”  Both sections are written in the third person.  Then, the voice will shift to first person for their Perspective.

We welcome you here.  This remains tender space for us.  So join us accordingly.  Know you’re also welcome.  We invite you  to subscribe to receive emails as we publish pieces here.

__________________________________________________________________

Reflections of the Interview:

Interviewing both my parents were actually the toughest for me. (Heidi)  We spoke so many, many times about Jamie and his death…  that was actually comfortable.  But, the articulating of devastation and the growing difficulty with parenting me after … that was difficult.

Many conversations fuse to make up these reflections for which I am profoundly thankful.

My Mom’s desire to comfort … as her daughter numbed into a distance… she longed & tried every way she could think to reach in.

I’m so grateful she didn’t give up on me.  Her answers on the surveys were thorough and easy to discuss.  And her enduring commitment to help me realize… I still have a pulse; I’m still breathing… Thank you is inadequate, Mom… but, we’ll start there.

Brief History:

Aunt Karen is both sister to Jamie’s Mom, Kathy, as well as sister-in-law through her husband (Uncle Tim) to Jamie’s Dad, Carlton.  These two sisters married brothers in the early 1970’s.  And she is Heidi’s Mom.  During the first five years of Jamie and Heidi’s lives, they lived in the same rural community in southeast Wyoming.  Jamie’s parents lived on the same homestead as  Grandpa Ken & Grandma Phyllis (Karen & Kathy’s parents).

Aunt Karen highly values excellence, order, education, making memories and creating a welcoming home.  Friends of the family enjoy teasing her by finger-printing doors and windows… wondering how quickly she’ll notice.  Aunt Karen loved Edith Schaeffer’s What is a Family?  She’s a keeper of memories & a creator of traditions.  She fosters remembering past family legacies while envisioning a huge family reunion in heaven one day.   Along with her own family and childhood with the richness of grandparents, Aunt Karen prioritized a tidy home, making memories with extended family, and educational and social endeavors. 

She chose to stay home with Heidi until she was school age.  At which time, Aunt Karen began volunteering at the hospital in Cheyenne, Wyoming where Jamie & Heidi (and Karen & Kathy’s siblings were born there) as well as at the school Heidi attended.  She worked part time for husband Tim throughout the years.  When they moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, she again volunteering.  This time at Heidi’s middle school.  Eventually, she moved into human resources of a large public school system where she worked for several years.

She’s always been a celebrator of seasons.  She’s an intentional homemaker, reader of biographies, collector tea cups, and most detailed oriented Grammie around.

And honestly, Aunt Karen isn’t adequate to describe her relation to Jamie…   He was like a son to her, and she like a second-mom to him.

______________________________________________________________

Perspective:

“…How sweet to hold
A newborn baby
And feel the pride
And joy he gives
But greater still
The calm assurance
This child can face
Uncertain days
Just Because he lives.”

Because He Lives (verse 2)

Bill Gaither, Guy Penrod

Going back to 1973-74, I’m reminded with gratefulness of the Lord generosity to our family.  Tim and I were married in 1971.  Not long after, we were ready to start a family of our own.  However, this turned out to be much more difficult than either of us imagined.  Tim, second-born of five, and I (second-born of four) both envisioned having a large family one day.  I couldn’t wait to decorate for the seasons and find ways to celebrate God’s Goodness every day.  Tim, being the all-star athlete and studying to be a social studies teacher with phys.ed. emphasis as well, looked forward to an active family.

By late 1973, I wondered if something might be wrong… we longed for children.  We had hopes for children.  And Tim, well, children loved him.  But, not yet.

Our whole family was so excited to hear the news of Kathy’s pregnancy.  I was overjoyed for them.  And so grateful that not long after, we announced what-would-become my only pregnancy.  How generous is the Lord!  Kathy and I got to walk through these pregnancies together which included a hot summer.

The wonder of a late summer rain on the plains where I grew up… is the scent of rain.  The deep grey-blue taking over the vast sky with ever- approaching streaks… and that fresh fragrance…

God’s rich blessings rained down on our family during the autumn of 1974.  When Jamie was born… I’ll never forget holding him and loving him instantly like I’d never loved anyone before.  And seven weeks later when Heidi arrived,  I know Kathy felt the same about her.  They looked so much alike.  Jamie’s face a little rounder.  Heidi’s more oblong. Jamie’s hair grew in faster.  Both of them got the family curls.  These two kids had the same family history… same grandparents on both sides of the family.  The same aunts & uncles and cousins, too.  But their kinship…  so much more.

continued… Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 2)

 

 

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Grandpa Ken… He Reached Out to Me (part 1)

Grandpa Ken

Reconciling Memories of a Child Turned Young Man… Pride, Pain, Regret & Rest … Grandpa Ken

PERSPECTIVES:  We can learn so much from one another as we sojourn horizons that both beckon and daunt us.  While our general experiences may have general connections, the specificity of our experiences depends on our position, our perception, and how we filter it all.  What is this all About?

This grief journey led me back to our family.  How do you navigate such a loss?  When I nervously asked if they were willing, several vulnerably shared distinctly personal elements of grief, sadness, struggle through this heavy darkness.  Each generation recognizing the varying social stigmas of suicide as well as the responses of their closest friends.  I am supremely grateful for their honesty.  While we share common relationships, every memory is profoundly unique to those who cycle through them; yet, our family’s openness to sharing weaved threads of bravery within me.

“While they spoke, I penned their words…and processed my own.”

– Heidi L. Paulec

When invited to participate in this perspective endeavor reflecting on Jamie’s life and subsequent suicide, most family members offered openness to share their story.   However, most did not feel either capable or comfortable to write their own perspectives.  Therefore, I sent surveys and conducted subsequent oral interviews from their responses.  These were used to establish primary source material from which to write on their behalf in the first person.  In each perspective, you can expect “Reflections on the Interview” and “Brief History.”  Both sections are written in the third person.  Then, the voice will shift to first person for their Perspective.

We welcome you here.  This remains tender space for us.  So join us accordingly.  Know you’re also welcome.  We invite you  to subscribe to receive emails as we publish pieces here.

Reflections on the Interview:

This original interview was one of my early interviews  conducted on  July 4, 1997.  Grandpa Ken welcomed me (Heidi) , thoughtfully participated, answered my questions, and commended me for taking on this project to honor Jamie’s memory, help others facing similar loss, and ultimately share hope.  He sat quietly at times throughout the interview.  And while he had already come to grips with Jamie’s absence and reassured by enduring faith, Grandpa Ken acknowledged sadness remains.

Brief History:

Grandpa Ken grew up  farming on his family homestead on the plains of southeast Wyoming. This small community was settled by our ancestors who were Swedish immigrants.  Third born (second son) to Harry and Carrie Lundberg. Grandpa Ken, a content, hard-working, ever-studying man.

Farming the Great Plains …  hardy endeavor for any soul.  Short summers.  Long winters.  Rooting faith seemed the only required element for endurance.  As a young man, our Grandpa Ken learned how to work diligently, grow things, sing harmony, write poetry… and he loved basketball.

Somewhere in his junior high years, his Dad needed extra help and hands on the farm, so Grandpa Ken had to work instead of go to school for an entire school year.  When he went back to school, the public district acknowledged his maturity and capability, so he skipped the grade he missed and moved up with his original class.  (Side note from Heidi … His hand-writing, grammar, and logic… exceptional to read as I prepared for all this.)

As a member of The Greatest Generation, he served in the Army Air Corps- specifically he served primarily as a cargo pilot over “The Hump.”  For more details, please read Grandpa Ken’s World War II bio.  Upon his return from service, he met and married our Grandma Phyllis… patios & picnics (part 1).  They had four children.  First, a son.  Next, Karen (Heidi’s Mom).  Then, Kathy (Jamie, Michael, and Holly’s Mom).  Finally, another son.  Grandpa Ken and Grandma Phyllis raised their family on the farm where Ken grew up.  He took over the farming operation from his Dad.

Ken excelled in carpentry as well.  He constructed photo frames, quilt racks, tables, etc.  He tackled larger projects as well.  As the family grew with grandchildren, he added onto their farmhouse several times.  Large windows framed exquisite views summer sunrises and sunsets as well as whistling blizzard in the winter.

On an autumn day in 1982, their home of 40 years burnt to the ground.  A couple years of crops freezing in the ground along with this loss opened our grandparents to move east for a season.  They moved to Leavenworth, Kansas where Grandpa learned and worked in the oil business.  During their time there, Grandpa Ken especially delighted to serve military families in church  and in the community.

Eventually, Grandpa Ken and Grandma Phyllis moved back to the Wyoming homestead community and  lived out their final nine years on the family farm homesteaded by Grandpa Ken’s grandparents Peter and Sophie Lundberg.

written, researched & edited by Heidi L. Paulec

Perspective:

“Grandpa, can I talk with you and Grandma a bit in the basement?”

I remember Jamie asking of me and his Grandma Phyllis, my bride, on his last visit to our home.  It was Thanksgiving 1991.  He had traveled with Tim, Karen, and Heidi to our home- joining our youngest son and his family who arrived earlier.

During the days prior to his conversation request, we enjoyed the preparations, the celebration of Thanksgiving, and the hours of college football that followed.  The house brims and brews when the kids and grandkids gather.  The table expands, so we can all circle around it together for three square meals.  At breakfast – just after eating, while still sipping on coffee- we’d read the Bible, Our Daily Bread, and pray together.

Then, we’d all find something do.  A project here.  An errand there.  Working together where we can and around each other otherwise.

As much as the hem and hum of activity warms our home, a few extra quieter moments are always welcome to me.  But, this invitation from our eldest grandson serves as a special memory to me.  Teenagers don’t often seek out time with their ol’ grandpa.  But, Jamie did that day.  The night before he left our home for the last time.

continued… Grandpa Ken… He Reached Out to Me (part 2)

 

 

Grandma Wanda… Beyond Brilliance (part 1)

Grandma Plinsky.JPG

PERSPECTIVES:

When invited to participate in this perspective endeavor reflecting on Jamie’s life and subsequent suicide, most family members offered openness to share their story.   However, most did not feel either capable or comfortable to write their own perspectives.  Therefore, I sent surveys and conducted oral interviews from their responses.  These were used to establish primary source material from which to write on their behalf in the first person.  In each perspective, you can expect “Reflections on the Interview” and “Brief History.”  Both sections are written in the third person.  Then, the voice will shift to first person for their Perspective.

We welcome you here.  This remains tender space for us.  So join us accordingly.  Know you’re also welcome to subscribe to receive email links as we publish pieces here.

Heidi L.Paulec

____________________________________________________________________

Reflections on the Interview:

On January 13, 2007 I interviewed both Grandpa and Grandma individually in their home in Wichita, Kansas.  The home in which they raised their family.  Prior to the interview, Grandpa Darrell and Grandma Wanda Plinsky both wrote multiple pages in their own handwriting along with filling out the initial project survey I sent to them.  This made the interview much easier for me as I could just ask them to expound some or recount what they had already penned.

Brief History:

Born Wanda Mae McGeary, Grandma was born on a farm in rural Kansas just months after the stock market crash ushered in the Great Depression.  Her parents were James Eber McGeary and Olive Anne Turner McGeary.  She had two brothers and two sisters.

She started dating Grandpa Darrell when she was a junior in high school- the day he returned home from serving in the United States Navy during World War II.

In June of 1946, Grandma Wanda, nearly a senior in high school, paid a visit to local pastor’s wife.  During their time together, Grandma invited Christ into her life.  Although she wasn’t personally raised in church, she did attend with Darrell during their dating season and off and on through out her growing up years.

She graduated high school on May 20, 1947.  She married Grandpa Darrell on June 29, 1947.  She added Plinsky to her name.  Together they moved to Denver, Colorado where Grandpa had enrolled in Denver Bible College- renamed Rockmont by they time he graduated.

Their first son, David, was born May 21, 1948 in Denver.  Next son Timothy (Heidi’s Dad) was born June 18, 1951 in Salina, Kansas.  Third son  Carlton (Jamie, Michael, and Holly’s Dad) was born March 27, 1953 in Harper, Kansas.  Their first daughter, Lori, was born June 1, 1959 in Attica, Kansas.  Second daughter and baby of the family, Gretchen, was born October 16, 1966 in Wichita, Kansas.  As a young mother, Grandma Wanda was busy at home, and home changed often until they moved to Wichita.  Then in 1973 she began working at Christian Challenge School where she worked until 1990.  From 1991-2000, she continued to work doing food demonstrations until she fully retired.

Throughout her life, Grandma has been active in her church as well as hosting countless friends in her home.  From game nights to widows’ luncheons as well as celebrating her favorite time of year- Christmas, she’s gifted with flavorful food and welcoming hospitality.  Fried chicken- no one makes it like our Grandma. (And she always made it for Michael, Jamie’s brother.  She probably made it for Jamie, too.)   And her colorfully, tasty Jell-O salads, we call “Fluff,” thrill any room full of guests.  But as her grandchildren, I think we’re pretty convinced we liked them best.  My favorite… picture a ginormous glass bowl with layers of crushed graham crackers, sliced bananas, and freshly whipped cream…oh my… the best.

Grandma remains passionate about reading.  She claims she struggled with reading when she was a child, so she wanted her children to learn and love to read.  She indeed passed that on as many of us share her passion.  Some, like Michael, prefer the movie form…but we’ll save his story for another day.

And her sense of humor?  Outstanding.  She spills joy, and she wants to share it.  Speaking of Michael… the banter interplay between Grandma and grandson still makes me smile.  They just tease each other about all kinds of things.  She helped us keep our sense of humor from being sucked away by darker times.  Grateful for that, for sure.

Although their pace has slowed, Grandma Wanda and Grandpa Darrell still enjoy their friends, their family, their home.

And just to be honest~ they are a huge reason I am finally sharing this work.  I really wanted them to see the realization of this project where the Shadow of the Almighty clearly overwhelms the shadow of death.

Living Hope ~ Heidi L. Paulec

______________________________________________________________

Perspective:

The phone rang.  I answered.  My husband Darrell and I were sitting with our grandchildren as our daughter and son-in-law were out for the evening.  “Hello?  I’m sorry Steve and Lori are not home.”  The caller stopped me.  “Mom, this is Carlton.”  Our youngest son.

“Oh, I’m sorry.  I didn’t recognize your voice.” I replied a little confused.

“I’m not too surprised, Mom, because I have bad news.”  And then, he said the unthinkable.  “Jamie’s committed suicide.”

Immediately, I shrieked.  “Oh, NO!  Oh, NO!”  (I’ve felt bad about this as I imagine Carlton’s replayed that over and over in his mind too many times.)

Darrell hurried to take the phone until I composed myself.  Darrell continued to talk with Carlton.  I remember asking, “How did he do it?”  I remember Darrell talking a bit longer, then he prayed with him and hung up the phone.  I remember calling a dear friend to ask her to call another mutual friend as well as our pastor.  Our pastor called us as soon as he knew.

Our youngest daughter Gretchen and her husband Roy also lived in the same city as we do along with our older daughter and her family.  That evening, Roy and Gretchen were at his mother’s home for a birthday party.  I called and told Gretchen.  They left the party and came to Lori’s home.  Lori and Steve arrived home shortly after.  So many questions.  Yet, so much silence still.

Of course, we were all in shock.  I felt I must be strong for them.  As we left their home that night to go back to our home, I prepared myself to break the news to my sister and her husband.  They were staying with us as my sister just had a heart transplant.  I was caring for her until she was strong enough to return to her country home.

We called our eldest son Dave and his wife Marie.  Of course, we talked to Tim (Heidi’s Dad).  We also called Darrell’s brother Dean and his wife Doris.  We asked them to tell Grandma Neel.

I remember finally going to bed that night.  Exhausted.  Wanting to sleep.  Trying to sleep.  Tense and tired.  Where is the rest at a time like this?

“Jamie was a lively little boy.  As our first grandchild, he was both fun and extra special to us.  He was brilliant.  No, he really was.  He read all the time.  He thought things out real well, too.  I remember playing games with him.  He won easily without hardly trying.  This frustrated his younger brother so much.”

Grandma Wanda Plinsky

We did get some rest that night.  The next morning we faced many detailed arrangements, so we could be with the family.  Meals needed to be prepared for my sister as we did not know how long we’d be gone.  We called Carlton, who worked for a major airlines, and he made arrangements for us to fly to Denver.  Somehow it all came together.  Something to be thankful for.  And we headed to the airport.

When we boarded the plane, I burst into tears.  With my sister’s tender physical state, I had not yet found a place quiet and alone enough.  Whether I was ready or not, the tears spilled out right there.