Mom’s Eulogy

Mom’s Eulogy

My mom, Sandy Kay Schulz, was a beautiful person, inside and out. It is fitting that she passed away in the fall, a season that shows us so much beauty.

Mom spoke fondly of her childhood and loved her brothers Irv, Stan, and Randy so much. Her best childhood memories were from time spent with her mom and grandma. She loved girl time with them, and Mom lost both of them while she was in her early 20s. Mom mentioned HER Mom a lot during her final days with us. Our entire family rejoices that she has been reunited with her mom, dad, grandma, and sisters.

My mom has always been super strong.

After going through some tough times early in her adult life, my mom only became stronger and more determined to build a loving family. She married Dave, whom I adored from the start, and blessed me with a sister, Sarah, AND a brother, Mitch.

My mom was blessed with a true love story.

When Mom was hospitalized on their 39th anniversary this year – September 9th – I asked Dad what his favorite memory was from their wedding day. He said the moment was when Mom was being photographed at the front of the church. It was early evening, and the sun shone in the church window and cast a spotlight on her. Dad said she looked so beautiful in that moment.

My dad showed us what true love makes possible. He did so much during the early years of her Parkinson’s diagnosis, and then he literally catered to her every need beginning in the fall of 2020. Timed feedings, ordering medications, battling with insurance companies, taking her to appointments with seven or more different doctors and therapists, helping her with personal care, and still sleeping next to her at night when she was loud and restless. I am still in awe.

My mom loved her family most of all.

She was the person I could talk to about anything. My mom was a much more soft spoken soul than I. However, I learned that a soft voice did NOT equate to less importance. When she said something, I learned to listen and take note. She could say more with few words than I could with many.

Sarah recalls Mom showing up at her house with a bucket and rubber gloves when she had sick kids and saying, “What can I do to help?”

Mom was Sarah’s most reliable babysitter ever, even when the kids had a fever or were sick.

Mom was so proud of her grandkids. Her face lit up every single time she saw them, and the last day they saw her was no exception.

Gabriel’s special memory of his Nana was watching outdoor community movies in Durant during the summer. Nana and Papa would take the older kids to the outdoor movies and then have a sleepover at their house.

My mom was a great cook and baker.

Dad has often said that the way to his heart is through his stomach. His mom Laura was a great cook and baker, and my mom and his wife Sandy was a great cook and baker also. Mom made the best bread and buns from scratch, and Dad said it’s part of the reason why he married her.

Mom took pride in teaching her kids and grandkids how to cook and bake. We especially enjoyed our holiday baking days together.

Mom loved gardening.

One of her favorite Mother’s Day traditions was to plant flowers.

When her daughter-in-law Hannah joined the family, Mom and Hannah immediately bonded over their love for plants.

A few years ago, Mom won an award for her beautiful arrangement in a planter on Durant’s Main Street.

My mom always tried to do the right thing and wanted people to think well of her. She was a true example of kindness.

She and my dad always made the time to serve others. And she valued her service to others.

Mom was always willing to help, even later on when she really couldn’t.

My mom had an incredible work ethic.

Her former co-workers all echoed the same sentiments: Sandy was a hard worker, a cheerful giver, and a loyal ally in any project.

My mom was a noble warrior.

After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease more than a decade ago, Mom did so well for so long. And that’s because my mom, Sandy Kay Schulz, was a fighter. She kept the worst things at bay for nearly eight years.

And then, when she was hospitalized and in rehab for 70 days in 2020, she came home with that same fighting spirit. It made no difference that she would never eat or drink orally again, or that she had a permanent trach tube and other obstacles. She was back and making the most of it.

And she could only do that with the support of my dad, whom she said yes to and built a family with.

My siblings and I all checked in on Mom frequently. We were fiercely loyal to the woman who was our rock for so many years.

Sarah and her littles took Mom to visit local parks and fun places during the past three years on what they called “Nana Tuesdays.”

Mitch played cards with Mom at least once a week.

I took Mom out for haircuts and pedicures. We also enjoyed shopping at the mall or at Target.

We all learned how to administer medicine, do tube feedings, clean her trach, and perform multiple caregiving tasks.

During Mom’s four months at Cedar Manor, we all took turns visiting her daily and are so thankful to everyone who came to see her there. The most common word we heard – and even overheard – from staff when they talked about my mom: sweet.

Mom lived with me for the final ten days of her life, and it was the most amazing gift. My dad and siblings all rotated shifts to help out. I was able to tuck my mom in at night, say bedtime prayers with her, and tell her how much I loved her. And in the mornings, since we decided to let her eat and drink for pleasure during her final weeks, I brewed coffee, and we sat side-by-side in my loveseat, drinking coffee and watching the Today Show together.

We were all incredibly blessed to have a great few hours with Mom last Wednesday, just before she took a turn for the worse. Mom repaid our love with even more of her own – by rallying one last time for all of us.

So, what do we do now? Life will continue on.

We keep Mom’s memory alive by leaving here and taking a piece of her with us.

Together, we do things to ensure that up there (point to heaven), Sandy is smiling down on us.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Smile! Mom had a contagious smile.
  • Go to church.
  • Volunteer in your community.
  • Work in a garden.
  • Enjoy good food – especially sweets.
  • Express your love for others.
  • Be kind to those who are struggling – a single mom struggling to make ends meet, someone with a disability, anyone.
  • Remember Sandy Kay Schulz not for her disease or her death, but for her wonderful life.

On behalf of my family and my mom, thank you all SO much for being here today. Thank you for loving my mom and remembering and celebrating her life with us.


Yesterday’s Roller Coaster

Yesterday was a gloomy day when I woke up and looked out the window at the gray sky.  But then Jag licked my face and trotted out of bed ahead of me, and I smiled.

I was super tired from staying late at optical for inventory prep the night before.  But then I had a 24 oz. honey vanilla latte from Coffee Hound.  All was in equilibrium again.

As I drove to my church lady job, I thought about the funeral to be held at the church at Noon.  But then my best friend Jen called and we talked about happy things, like her new career move and our adventures in Miami and Chicago.

I began proofreading the funeral bulletin before printing it.  But then I found out Donald Trump (on my short list of people to meet someday) is coming to Iowa in June.

I went back to finalizing the funeral bulletin and began printing it, pondering the images of sad families whose funerals I have witnessed before today.  But then I exchanged emails with my sister, discussing my nephew and the arrival of the new baby in May.

The family walked in.  I felt the hurt in their hearts and my eyes began to water.  But then the funeral and burial were over, and the family shared happy memories over lunch in the church fellowship hall.

I was once again tired at 2:00 p.m. when I left the church for the day, and I wanted to take a nap.  But then I arrived at optical and the time flew by.

I was missing my friend Jen.  But then when I looked at my schedule for the upcoming weekend, I found I have time to make a trip to Kansas City to see her and catch up in person.

The wind was cold on the way home.  But then I cooked some spaghetti and opened a bottle of wine.

I knew I had to go through the monotony of working for the man again today.  But then I was back where I started the day, in my bed with Jag curled up by my side.  And I looked out at the pretty city lights.  Ending the day at the top is always a good thing.

I Ate Mabe’s Pizza on the Day My Grandpa Died

My grandpa Fosaaen passed away on December 22, 2008 – the Monday before Christmas.  As I begin my Monday today, I can’t help but think back to that morning two years ago.

Mom called me between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. that day and could barely get the words out, “We are going to Decorah to the hospital.  Do you want to come along?”  I didn’t even think about it and immediately said, “Yes, when are we leaving?”  I hung up my phone, left a message for my boss, and got ready.

On the drive from Durant to Decorah, I thought about the possibility of Grandpa not making it to Christmas.  But then I thought, no, he’s gone through a lot and is as strong and stubborn as they get.  It will all be fine.

When we arrived at the hospital, Grandpa was happy to see us.  We spent some time with him, and when he got tired, we decided to go to lunch at Mabe’s.  Eating Mabe’s pizza – my favorite – just wasn’t the same that day.  And that was the first moment when I realized things just might not end well that day.  I still love Mabe’s pizza, but I can’t eat it without thinking of Grandpa.

We went back to the hospital, and a few hours later, Grandpa had fought his last fight and went to heaven.  I had never been with someone when they died before, and it was painful, peaceful, and exhausting all at the same time.

Then the rest of the family came, we spent what seemed like hours re-hashing the day, and we drove back home.

We still had Christmas at Grandpa’s house on Christmas Day, and we opened our cards he had waiting for us.  The day after Christmas was the wake, and the following day was his funeral.  It was a dreary, rainy/icy day, and the grandchildren carried his casket from the church to his grave site.

All of the cousins with Grandpa at his house - Thanksgiving 2001

You may think this is a downer of a story to tell right before Christmas, but it’s not meant to be depressing.  You see, the day after Grandpa Fosaaen died, I sat down at my computer and wrote the following speech.  I had no idea if I would be asked to – or would be able to – speak at his funeral.  I never delivered this speech in public, but instead saved it to a flash drive knowing it might give me comfort in the days, months, and years ahead:

I think one of the many beautiful things about life is the many memories we have, and I have so many memories of Grandpa to share.  On Tuesday night, I began typing and before I knew it, I had assembled quite a list.  I am sure my younger cousins all have good memories of Grandpa too.  These are merely my memories that I would like to share with you.  They are very random and at times humorous.  While this is a funeral, it’s also a celebration of Grandpa’s life, so it IS OK to smile or even laugh.  🙂

Things you may or may not know about my grandpa, Irvin Fosaaen: (Please note, much of these fun facts are from the perspective of a much younger Melissa.)

– Grandpa had a lead foot.  Even in the front seat, I would feel queasy on our trips between Ossian and West Union – THE Scenic Byway = Melissa’s private countdown to destination arrival; this was also the case on the route between Ossian and Decorah. Thanks to the “fuzz buster” we could be alerted when cops were out to get Grandpa.  I loved to be the back-up alert, just in case Grandpa didn’t see or hear the incessant flashing and beeping on his own.  Grandpa also taught me that sometimes the cops are tricky and don’t turn on their radar until we’re really close.  Also, grocery stores would make the device go off without reason.  However, I was always on alert for a cop who happened to be near the grocery store.  Now THAT would be tricky!!

– My grandpa and I both had red hair.  His own kids didn’t even have red hair!! I was SO the chosen one.

Grandpa, Sarah & Me
I was a bit disappointed when I had to start sharing Grandpa with Sarah in 1985. At least she wasn't a redhead!

– Grandpa was born in 1919 – wow.

– Grandpa’s middle name was Kermit.  How cool – just like Kermit the Frog in The Muppets.  I wondered many times when I was younger if his parents really liked Kermit the Frog.

– Grandpa attended A.A. meetings regularly, and I loved A.A. meetings with Grandpa.  Lots of older people to look cute for….I was all over that.  I’d sit and color or read a book or play a quiet game while people shared very sad or exciting stories.  I could say all of the A.A. themes with them and would join in.  In my mind, it was like a second type of church.  And Mom and Dad taught me that God gave us a voice for a reason.  I also loved the goodies at the A.A. meetings.  Always so many delicious desserts AND I could boast that I had cooked/baked whatever Grandpa and I brought that night.  The A.A. people were my buddies – I’d always walk out of those meetings with a few dollars and candy in my pocket.  Sweet!

– Grandpa liked his coffee.  Even in the middle of July with his house a steamy 90+ degrees, he’d have a pot of coffee brewing.  And Grandpa liked his coffee strong and black.  No cream or sugar.  I was so proud of myself when I grew big enough to drink his coffee and actually like it.

Grandpa gave me the hat and coat for Easter, along with a basket full of goodies from the Easter Bunny. Yes, the Easter Bunny always made a stop at Grandpa's house!

– Grandpa’s freezer = Schwann’s push-ups galore.  Grandpa always had a ready supply of push ups for me.  And unlike Mom, Grandpa would tell me, “Go ahead, have two!” even before I thought of asking.

– When I stayed at Grandpa’s I got to stay up until Midnight and sleep in as late as I wanted.  Grandpa and I would watch Johnny Carson together.  I still think of Grandpa any time Johnny Carson is mentioned.  For you young ones in the crowd, Johnny Carson was the Tonight Show host before Jay Leno came on the scene.

– Grandpa always had a desk and lots of books.  I think this is genetic, because I love my apartment office, complete with book shelves and a desk.  Grandpa would sit at his desk and open mail, write letters, and mail cards.  He had lots of phone numbers, addresses, and useful information taped on the wall next to his desk. I knew our U.S. Senators’ and local legislators’ names at a very young age because of the education that Grandpa’s desk wall gave me.  What’s more is that Grandpa actually called or mailed them when he was concerned about an issue.  Now that is political activism!

– Grandpa loved to work in his garden – specifically his rose garden. Grandpa’s roses were very well-known in the community and county, for that matter.  Grandpa showed me how to arrange the flowers so they looked nice – complete with babysbreath and the works.  I’d even get my own materials to make my own creations!  And Grandpa always told me that my flowers looked beautiful.  Grandpa’s roses brightened many weddings and special occasions, all free of charge.  (I wanted to insert a photo of me and Grandpa with his roses here, but alas it is still with the picture board we assembled for the funeral two years ago, at my uncle’s house.  I must find a reason to post that when I get it back.)

– Grandpa was just a nice guy.  He had lots of friends who stopped by to say hi, and quite a few whom he spoke to in a low voice when I was around because he was helping them through tough times.  I never heard one person in Ossian ever say anything negative about my Grandpa, and I know why.  He was a great friend and community volunteer.  He was active in the garden club and also the EMS crew.

– And his favorite love was that of his Lord and his church.  Grandpa had a

I'm all dressed up in a dress from Grandpa - even received some birthday sunglasses to complete the outfit.

strong faith and loved Stavanger Lutheran Church.  I’d always sit up front with Grandpa in church and be proud that I was Irvin’s granddaughter.  And I was even more excited when asked if I was wearing a dress that Grandpa had bought for me.  I would enthusiastically say “Yes, isn’t it pretty?” and Grandpa would just smile.

I will miss my Grandpa terribly, but I am also happy that he is in heaven right now smiling down on us all.  I know it is selfish to want him here now, but you see, Grandpa wasn’t just my grandpa – he was my friend too.

Two years after he has passed away, I still get teary-eyed every now and then when I think of Grandpa Fosaaen.  With quite a few recent deaths in the extended Schulz family and in the Durant community, my heart goes out to those who are still grieving over the holidays this year.

My stepmom Jo gave me an ornament that brought me comfort that year, and this is what it says,

“Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.”

Holidays are a happy time with those we have close to us, but they can be painful when we remember those whom we miss.  But they are with us in spirit, and they get to spend Christmas with Jesus.