Sunday, February 22, 2015

Circle of Life

This week, welcome Amy Wallace, the
1995 Miss Kansas runner-up, as my first guest blogger. She
writes a real tear-jerker here, so grab your box of Kleenex and prepare to meet one of the many who influenced this professional woman, wife, and mother of three.
Read more about
Amy at the end of this post.


Circle of Life  by Amy Wallace

“Hey kid!” I can still hear his booming, gruff, yet tender voice. The voice of Ray Donald Jones, RD, or Don, but just Grandpa to me.

In my upper elementary years, he was the lunchroom monitor at my school. That didn't last very long. I think he called a kid a piss ant. That was one of his favorite things to say. I’m sure his loud, gruff tone didn't sit well with the grade school parents!

I love this picture because it shows his sharp-dressed style, fabulous
hair, and him looking at me with such adoration.

Each summer Grandpa would come out and help with harvest at our farm. His job was to drive the wheat trucks. When I first learned to drive, I did the driving and he was my co-pilot. He cussed me up one side and down the other about how fast I was driving. He was probably right.

My husband recalls a funny memory from when he was a boy. Sean and some buddies were hanging out at the local gas station where Grandpa worked. The boys were looking at the magazines when he surprised them shouting, “Hey you kids, this ain’t a [gosh darn] library!” Oh Grandpa, he wasn't known for his grace or tact!

My favorite photo of us is framed in an old rusty horseshoe. When I was competing at Miss Kansas, he had a gorgeous bouquet of flowers delivered to me, and in the arrangement was a horseshoe for luck. Included with it was a card addressed to "Amy Graber Futere Miss Kansas." Spelling wasn't his strong-suit, but I loved it and still have the envelope today. The frame holds a photo of us after the parade at the meet and greet. There wasn't a more proud Grandpa in the place!

top picture: my favorite picture with Grandpa Don in the lucky horseshoe frame
bottom picture: proof of his spelling skills

One afternoon I was painting my bedroom. I had the door closed so I could paint behind it. He threw the door open and marched straight in stepping on the tray of paint right at the edge flipping it over. Paint went on the wall, the door, his pants and shoes, the carpet—everywhere. Graceful he was not.

He came off as pretty rough and tough, but he had a sensitive side. If I ever stayed home sick from school, he would stop to check on me. When I moved to college and he couldn't see me all the time, he called just to check on me.

Once married, we moved to Garden City. Grandpa decided to send us valentines in the mail. How sweet! But he didn't put enough postage on them, so we had to go to the post office and pay to get them. We had fun teasing him about that every chance we got.

the Valentine's Day debacle
In April of 1997, I was student teaching and we celebrated Grandparent’s Day. Grandpa came to school with me. This is one of my last good memories of a healthy man. I was so proud to have him there, and he was so proud to have been invited.

I don’t recall the exact time I was told he had cancer, but I specifically remember when I realized he wouldn't get better. They were moving a hospital bed into his house. This was it. It was coming to an end, and there was nothing that could change that.

As we celebrated Christmas in ’97, we knew it would be his last. He was thin, weak, and tired. He gave my mom a tree to plant in her yard, and I knew that he knew. The end was near.

It was February. We started a round-the-clock vigil at his bedside. In anticipation of his upcoming birthday, we requested a card shower. It was a treat each day to retrieve the cards and read them to him.

On a Wednesday, I emptied the mailbox mid-morning. Once again, our tiny town didn't disappoint. The box was full of birthday greetings. I sat next to his bed and read each one. His eyes were closed, his breathing loud and rattly. Suddenly we realized the mail had just been delivered. The cards we just read were from the previous day. Now we had a whole new batch to go through!

We read the new batch of cards and his breathing got slower and farther apart. And then, just as gentle as a soft breeze, he was gone. And there was peace. He left that sick body with his family at his side. There was no more suffering. It was finished. It was 1:18 pm on his 74th birthday, February 18, 1998.

4 Generations:
my mom, Peggy; me, the baby; Nellie Jones and her son Don, my grandpa

If someone had asked me if I wanted to be in the room as he passed from this life to the next, I’m not sure what my answer would have been. But as God must have intended it, I was. And I will forever be grateful for that experience. 

Death was not scary. It was quiet. It was peace. It was sacred. It was a moment, one last moment, that could be ours. Something we shared. I was there for him, and he was there for me. And I will cherish it for the rest of my life.

About a month after his passing, Sean and I learned we were pregnant with our first child. When she came into this world nine months later, we gave her his name, Macy Dawn. He would have loved her compassionate heart and fiery spirit. She wears his name well, but that is a story for another day.

Does Grandpa Don remind you of anyone in your family?  Have you ever had the opportunity to be with someone as they moved from this life into the next?

About Amy Wallace

It is my great privilege to be a guest writer for my good friend and colleague, Melodie Hofer Harris. During the summer of 1994, I was at a bit of a crossroads in my life. I had just completed two years of college at K-State, and the love of my life (now my husband of 20 years) had graduated and was moving on to the real world. I wasn't sure where I fit into that picture, or for that matter, the big picture of life. To help pay for my schooling, I was competing in the Miss America Circuit.

That summer I participated in the Miss Cheney Lake Pageant held annually each July in Cheney as part of the Sedgwick County Fair. I was getting to know my home-hostess, Paula Voth. As I explained my lack of direction and uncertainty about school, work, and life in general, she encouraged me to apply for a position that was open at her school. I filed my application with Superintendent Don Wells and landed a job which changed the path of my entire future. I was hired as a teacher’s aide at Cheney Jr. High where Melodie Hofer was a teacher. 

Two years later when I married, Melodie presented me with a handmade crosstitched “Wallace” that still hangs on my refrigerator. In 2001, I returned to Cheney to work as the curriculum director and three years later, became the principal at Cheney Middle School. Today, Melodie and I remain co-workers, but more than that, friends.

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