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.

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For My Mom

This Mothers’ Day is extra special to me. Several months ago, I nearly lost my mom to complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Since Mom’s return home on November 6, 2020, I have tried very hard to realize every moment with her as a gift. We should all do this every day, but life’s tasks get in the way. We get busy with many things that really don’t matter that much. We think there will always be a tomorrow with those we love.

Until something happens that alters us. And that’s where I am today. While my mom has lived with Parkinson’s disease for nearly eight years, I didn’t fully begin to appreciate the depth of this diagnosis until about two years ago. And I didn’t fully make Parkinson’s disease a part of my daily thoughts until August 2020.

Parkinson’s has now become my part time job and volunteer activity, all rolled into one. While I help with Mom’s care here and there, I have felt a pull to do more.

And that is why for Mothers’ Day this year, I am raising money for Parkinson’s research – so others do not have to live with this terrible disease.

Will you donate to help us find a cure for my mom and the millions of others battling Parkinson’s disease? Your donation in any amount will make a huge difference: https://foxtrot.michaeljfox.org/spring/ForMyMom

100% of your donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) will go toward research to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. I chose this specific charity because MJFF has very high ratings when it comes to financial integrity and organizational strength.

Thank you for your continued support for me, my family, and especially my mom. Please consider donating to MJFF at the link above, and give your mom a big hug for me.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

Five Years in Five Months

The last time I wrote a blog post, I was ten days away from moving from Des Moines to Davenport. And finally, nearly 90 days after moving, I have progressed enough with my life’s tasks to be making time to blog once again.

This was a pretty fast move. I had a move to the Quad Cities area in my sites for late 2021 or even 2022, but you know what they say about plans…..

My reason for moving back to the Quad Cities area was family, and specifically my mom. Her Parkinson’s has been progressing more rapidly since the summer of 2019, but with so many things, we always think we have more time.

Me and my mom enjoying an afternoon together, just one week before she was rushed to the ER in Davenport.

Then she aspirated while eating a donut on Friday, August 28, 2020, and ended up in the Genesis ER in Davenport, soon to be transported to the ICU at St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois. It was the closest ICU bed open. (So yeah, those Covid-19 news briefings telling us that we had plenty of open hospital beds in Iowa at that time…..)

I went to Peoria the next day and stayed there for two nights even though I was not allowed into the hospital due to Covid restrictions. I went to support my dad, who was the only one allowed in to see my mom. I was his chauffeur and tour guide, selecting spots for outdoor fresh air relief and good meals.

During that Sunday in Peoria, I attended mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, and that is when I was hit with a wave of “You need to move NOW.” OK, God. 10-4. Moving. ASAP.

So the next two months were a blur with rearranging my life and preparing for a move. Things seemed messy, but I knew they would work out. God told me they would. And they did, even better than I could have ever imagined.

While Mom was in Peoria, we were riding a roller coaster. She was better, and then she was sedated. She had g-tube surgery. And then a tracheotomy. She was also on a ventilator for a few weeks.

Mom was finally transferred to Select Specialty Hospital in Davenport and then to acute rehab at St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids. While in Davenport and Cedar Rapids, I was able to visit her once a week. She was released to go home TWO DAYS after I moved to Davenport. Chills.

Pedi time!

Since moving, I have been able to continue to work from home and visit my parents an average of two times per week to help with Mom’s care. She has five g-tube feedings every day that include a combination of Parkinson’s medication and her liquid food, and Mom tells me I am a pro during my feeding shifts. She requires daily and monthly trach maintenance, and I have helped with some of that. I have also helped her shower, given some pretty awesome manis and pedis if I do say so, played solitaire, lost at UNO, colored, and baked with her.

My mom is a fighter. And she shows so much gratitude toward me every time I help her with something. I tell her that it is my privilege to be able to help her. I recently heard the term tragic privilege, and that sums up how I feel on the inside.

I am thankful that my mom is able to safely live at home, and that my dad is such a rockstar with shouldering 99% of the workload to care for her. I have a newfound admiration for caregivers and those living with Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases.

I feel like the past five months have actually been five years, based upon the emotional and spiritual journey I have embarked upon. This lady is not the same one who woke up on Friday morning, August 28, 2020.

While I wish my mom did not have a horrible disease that was robbing her of the life she once knew, I am thankful for how this experience has strengthened relationships, humbled me, and begun to transform me into a better person.

And if you are facing a really tough moment in your life, consider going to mass. You may sob the entire time and feel immensely vulnerable like I did, but you might also be quiet long enough to hear God telling you something important. 😉

The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception – August 30, 2020