Category Archive: Family

Funerals, Families and Friends

We left San Jose early Wednesday morning. Following a layover in Phoenix, we were supposed to stop in Denver without a plane change and go on to Wichita. Plans changed, and both we and the flight crew changed planes in Denver. Don and I walked from Gate 63 to Gate 25 … a decent hike. But we beat the flight crew.

Arriving in Wichita, we picked up our rental car and drove to my brother Arnold’s home, where we had a bittersweet reunion – sweet because we were together; bitter because we were here for Arn’s wife, Carol’s, memorial service.

I wrote about Carol two weeks ago. When Arn asked what she wanted for her service, she said, “Treat me with respect.” And he did that in spades. The service Saturday was a meaningful celebration of her life. After Arn and Carol traveled to and became involved with friends in Guatemala and then Honduras, Carol traveled there on her own several times to learn the language. She wanted to be able to communicate with the people who had become precious to them, and she and Arnold helped in significant ways over the years, and especially after recent years’ devastating hurricanes. After Carol’s death, dear Honduran friends sent a recording of the family singing “The Lord is my Shepherd” in Spanish. That was one of several very beautiful and meaningful songs of faith and trust at my sister-in-law’s memorial.

Arn and Carol’s daughter, Nicholee, brought some fabric home from Honduras years ago, from which Carol sewed herself a dress. After her mother’s death, Nicholee found the dress in Carol’s closet. It didn’t fit her in either size or style, so Nicholee pulled the whole dress apart, remade it and wore it at the service in honor of her mother.

Jerram and Arn at family dinner following Carol’s service

Their son, Jerram, engaged the audience and spoke of Carol’s impact on his life and on many others. He spoke of her life of service, her pragmatism, and her curiosity and creativity. Both children articulated lessons their mother taught them through her life.

The pastor give a message of hope and resurrection.

We spent time together with family and new and old friends who have served them faithfully–their housecleaner/ friend, who prepared special vegan meals for Nicholee. Tammy, who cut Carol and Arnold’s hair in their home for the past few years. The retired attorney who, with his wife, met Arn and Carol at a concert in Wichita and built a solid friendship over the past twenty or so years. Jenny, Arnold’s former student who was hired into his position at Sterling College after Arnold’s retirement. Gordon and Diane, Judy and her daughter Heidi, and Lila, who have been close friends for many years. Their pastor, Melissa.

Arnold’s siblings Melvyn, Bob, Don and I were present, as were Carol’s sister Judy and her husband Jim, their son James and his Jenny. Arnold’s two children and a spouse; five grandchildren and two boyfriends.

Arnold is greatly loved by his grands

A sense of warmth and love cocooned us throughout the entire weekend as we shared memories, laughter, and loss.

I’m reminded once again of the importance of family, and of presence. We need each other – for prayer, for love, for support and encouragement. I hate to think of my brother being widowed, but he will survive with the love of God, family, and friends who can step in for those of us who live further away.

My hope is in Jesus Christ, who promised that, for those who trust Him, He is preparing a home beyond this life. A home of rest, peace, productivity, worship, joy unspeakable. No more pain. No sorrow. No grief.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:3-4, NIV

So we say goodbye to our dear Carol for now, and look forward to reunion later.

No More Tears

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:4, ESV

Once again the shroud of death cloaks our family, as my dear sister-in-law, Carol, wife to Arnold, left this world for heaven at 5 am Sunday.

There are so many things I remember about Carol.

Lobster fest on the East Coast after Carol’s stroke
  • Her beautiful smile when I first met Carol at Fresno Pacific College (now University).
  • Trips we took together, both before and after her stroke. The meaningful conversations over meals as we saw new parts of our country and world.
  • Her business sense as she owned and managed Decor Party Supplies in Hutchinson, Kansas for many years, until a life-changing stroke ten years ago led to the closure of the business.
  • Carol made beautiful cakes, and taught cake-making classes at Decor. She made several family celebratory cakes.
  • After my first husband, Jerry, passed away, Arn and Carol, Bob and Sheila came with me to a condo we owned in Mexico. We had fun trying Mexican cuisines from different areas. One night, at Adobe, I had my first chicken mole. Fabulous. Some mariachis came to sing a love song at our table and I began to weep, my head in my hands. Carol put her hand on my arm, expressing her understanding and love.

It took Arnold either three days or three dates to determine this was the woman with whom he wanted to spend his life. He’d dated quite a bit, so I had my questions about how serious this really was. And frankly, I was jealous. Arn and I were close, both at the same college at the same time. When I had a question or a knotty issue to untangle, I’d walk with my brother who gave a listening ear and wise counsel. Now he was enamored of this lovely woman and less available to me!

But Carol was a keeper. The first time Arn brought her to meet my parents, my father said something like, “Hold onto this one.”

There was a short time when both “Carol Froeses” (she and I) lived in San Jose and applied for work with a temp agency. Whenever the call came for Carol Froese, we’d ask “which one”? That’s kind of a tough question for an uncommon name.

She became mother to Nicholee and Jerram, and mother-in-law to Emily. Grandma to Coral, Calum, Diego, Izabella and Asa.

Carol had a heart for service, both to her community and to the world. For many years she coordinated the Sterling, Kansas Thanksgiving meal for the entire town. Carol was organized, efficient, a good leader.

She and Arn took several trips (taking students from his college classes) to Honduras, where they made deep and lasting friendships. They have continued to give support, especially in rebuilding after some of the past years’ devastating hurricanes. Their adopted family, Manuel and Flor, named their daughter Carol in honor of “Grandma Carol,” while Arnold tutors young Denzel in writing via email.

About ten years ago, Carol suffered a stroke. The doctor told Arn immediately that this was a life-altering stroke. Carol worked hard, with Arnold’s help, to regain as much mobility as possible and did very well with a walker for quite a few years before her health began to deteriorate.

Carol lost most function over the last year. Arnold was beside his wife of 55 years the whole way, feeding her, preparing her for bed, dressing her, managing her medications, and much much more.

Don and I visited Arn and Carol three and a half weeks ago, and were so grateful for our time together. Carol was quiet, head tilted to one side. A precious moment was when I gave her a long hand massage. Not much speech. Just love.

Carol is whole again. She was a loving and lovely gift to our family, and I will miss her. But I anticipate seeing her again when my call comes. There is an eternity awaiting us, and Jesus has offered us the gift of forgiveness and eternal life through his death and resurrection, paying the price for our walking away from God.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

John 14:1-3, NIV
With love, Carol

Celebration and Supplication

As we celebrate America’s freedom today, I pray we will put aside our differences and thank God for this country.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson

Yesterday we enjoyed a wonderful outdoor church service, with bunting strung along the tent and church. We thanked God for the freedoms we experience in this country. And we were reminded to look to Jesus, the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2, Berean Study Bible) for our confidence and hope.

Christina’s dance of praise

Christina shared her testimony of God’s faithfulness. Two years ago she was declared cancer free after having Stage 2 breast cancer. “I am so thankful. And that is why I dance.” We saw her gratitude in the beautiful routine she performed to the worship song, “From the rising sun to the setting same, I will praise your name. Great is your faithfulness to me.”

After church, we enjoyed hot dogs and tacos, snow cones, games for the children, a bounce house, and face painting. Most of us stayed for at least two hours before going home. Don and I enjoyed visiting with different friends and watching the fellowship around us. We were family, delighting in hanging out together. And yes, I got some face paint!

When I was in turmoil over the hostility present in our country, one of our pastors reminded me, “I have never relied on the government for my security. Governments change, leaders change. My faith is in Jesus Christ.”

So, as we celebrate the freedoms we enjoy as a nation, as we pray for change in the areas where it is badly needed, let us also remember that Jesus Christ, our hope, is over and above all.

man holding bible
Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Galatians 5:1, 13
post by carolnl | | Closed

Foibles and Grace

Headed for the exit in an unfamiliar city, I turned too soon. Instead of driving out of the rental car lot, I drove around in a circle, back to a different exit gate.

“Five minutes in Orlando and I’m already lost.” I smiled at the woman. “I just went out that gate over there and made a circle.” She laughed aloud and said “You’re fine ma’am. You can go.”

“I’m glad I gave you a chuckle,” I said as we exited the gate for the second time.

This time I took the correct ramp and Don and I got caught in a myriad of freeways–this way, that way…we chose the direction by our gut because there was nowhere to stop and turn on my Waze directional system (which didn’t work inside the cement car lot).

We drove several miles before we could get off the freeway and start Waze. Thankfully, we hadn’t gone very far afield and were headed in the correct direction.

Back at the airport, we’d ordered wheelchairs because I recently injured my hip and am using a cane periodically. And Don needed a wheelchair to keep up, because people who push those for a living are incredibly strong and FAST!

Michael was awesome. He managed both chairs, took us down to claim our luggage, across the street to car rental, got us right in front of the rental counter, loaded the car for us and sent us on our way (with a sizable tip to him!).

We stopped at the Welcome Center at the very large resort to check in.

“Oh, you’re supposed to see Hope in another welcome center. Here are the directions.”

We tried to follow the directions, got turned around at one gate, went through another and were to follow the yellow line (reminds me of Dorothy’s yellow brick road!). In the dark, we lost the yellow line. Regardless, we were too late to check in at that station, which closed at 8 pm.

We went back to the Welcome Center. “Oh, you’re back!”

“They’re closed. We’ve been here … and there … and there … and now we’re back here. And we’re tired. And we’ll try very hard not to be grouchy!” (And we weren’t). Having been awake since 3 am, we were pretty exhausted.

After checking in, we drove around to find our room, settled in and went to bed.

Twelve hours later, we wakened. Ah, what a sleep.

That afternoon we went to the resort’s market. Don’s phone fell off the car console and he thought it fell on my side. Now understand; I have a wounded hip and knee, but I wanted to help him find it. I got down on one knee in the back seat, my elbows on the floor looking under the driver’s seat to look for the phone. Not there. Then. I. Couldn’t. Move. My knee wouldn’t give, my elbows wouldn’t move. Can you imagine the view? (Don’t try.)

“I’m stuck.”

Don looked at me.

“Please help me. I’m stuck.” (Said in a very calm, quiet voice.)

“Oh, you’re serious.”

“Yes, I’m serious! Help me!” My tone was getting just a bit more strident.

He pulled me out of the back floor of the car (no, I should not have gotten down there in the first place)! He thought I was playing a joke on him! And the phone was on HIS side! Well, at that point we just started to laugh. I think sometimes laughter is 70% of forgiveness!

So we’ve laughed at our foibles and started to relax after a very busy schedule these past months.

Soon after entering Disney Springs we looked at a posted location finder. A husband and wife walked by and the man, seeing Don’s Veteran’s cap, thanked him for his service. That began a conversation where we learned he is a semi-retired pastor from Maine, about to take on a role as interim pastor for several months. It was a delightful God-moment to meet other believers, Susan and Ron.

Today, Sunday, we met our grand-niece Iona Jost for lunch. It was a delight to learn to know her better. I met her once before, and Don hasn’t seen her for several years either. We sat outside, at a table beside a cerulean lake, unmasked. And as I ate the yellowfish tuna that melted in my mouth, I was grateful for family, for this time away with Don, for life.

Somehow in the middle of all the tension in the world there is still room for laughter, for joy, for giving thanks.

In the Old Testament, Abraham’s wife Sarah, who was approaching 90 years of age and had not borne a child, was promised a son by God. And she laughed at herself, and at her joy.

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”

Genesis 21:6

As I’ve matured I’ve found it much easier to laugh at myself rather than simply being embarrassed. It’s freeing. So while we continue to pray about the crises in our world, our families, our lives, let’s laugh when we have the chance. It’s healthy!

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:22

Light in the Darkness

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.

Isaiah 9:2 NLT

This scripture was the theme of our West Coast Christian Writers’ conference last weekend. And I thought how meaningful this verse is at this time in our world. Some of you know my family, and Don’s, emigrated from Ukraine in 1929 (mine) and 1874 (Don’s) in order to pursue freedom of worship and from oppression.

With Mom at great-grandfather’s grave (Abram Frose, later changed to Froese) in Ukraine

I looked through a powerpoint presentation I made after my Mother and I visited Ukraine on a Mennonite Heritage Cruise in 2006, when we were both widowed. A wealth of memories and emotions flooded back, and I wanted to share some of these with you. Most of Ukraine’s people eagerly hold onto their independence (despite those Russia-backed separatist groups Putin is now recognizing). I hope these photos will help put a face to the people and land of Ukraine as we pray for them.

At right is a photo I took of my great-grandfather’s house, with his initials, “AF”, still present in wrought-iron at the peak of the house.

This is the entrance to a root cellar, which became the children’s hiding place when bandits attacked the Mennonite Villages.

Original home of Franz Isaac

At right, a group of six who traveled to my father’s village of Schoeneberg. Our tour leader, Olga Toews, is on the left. This was the home of the grandparents of the two gentlemen in the back, and the woman in babushka and apron was kind enough to invite us in, and to assure the brothers the floor was still solid. Most of these homes had been divided into two or three units by 2006.

Mom and I, along with cousins Irene and Peter Prieb (at right) met two of my father’s cousins for the first time, the women on Mom’s left and right in the photo above. The man behind me is the son of one of these 80-something physicians. Their father had married a Ukrainian woman and so, never left the country. He was later executed.

Amazing variety

Mom and I traveled by boat to a fishermen’s village, where our host and hostess had stayed up all night to prepare an amazing feast for us – traditional vereneki (cottage cheese dumplings), sausage, meatballs, parsley potatoes, cheese herb bread, and much more. Mom got sick on the fruit punch. Perhaps we should have tasted the vodka instead!

According to Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, “For churches and humanitarian aid workers, the echoes of 2014 and 2015 still haunt {the Ukrainians}. In the last outbreak of violence, ‘We saw more than a million people [displaced],’ Father Vitaliy Novak  remembered. Based on that, he worries, this conflict ‘will be, I think, much more, a bigger size.’ With the clock ticking, he and other organizations are desperately trying to get their hands on medical supplies, clothes, extra food. “We pray to God it [doesn’t] happen,” he said, because for now, “we don’t have any resource[s].”

The New York Times 2/21/22 stated, “While Mr. Putin’s ultimate plans remain a mystery, a full invasion would constitute the largest military action in Europe since World War II.”

Please join us in praying that light might be seen in this very dark situation; and that God’s people will have strength and God’s grace to endure through conflict.