We’ve all seen people dying on television and it’s no big deal. It’s fiction and you’re not actually there. But when it actually happens right before you, the difference between fact and fiction can be a lot different.
My mother-in-law passed away this August (2017). I’ve never experienced anything like it. She was a beautiful person who left this world way too early. Cancer took her away from her family way too fast as cancer often time does.
My father died of cancer nine years ago, but he died of lung cancer due to many years of excessive smoking. For my mother in law, Vanda was just an unfortunate event. Born to a family where cancer is prominent, it has also claimed other deaths in the family including that of her older sister.
Cancer is a cruel disease, it eats away at your body and soul often times without giving the patient or their loved ones an opportunity to process what’s happening, or to figure out ways to help… It’s fast, unmerciful, and certain. It has no regard whether you are rich or poor, kind or unkind, it will rip through your body with no regard or reason.
The last couple of days before her passing, she became pale and despondent. Although heavily sedated for the pain, her ability to process information was drifting away. The last day, her senses were pretty much gone. The evening of her departure, her breathing became erratic and her eyes wide open. It was almost as she was fighting her way to stay a little longer. Three of her four children had not yet arrived from out of town, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s why she was holding on.
She spent a great part of that evening gasping for air, and just before 4 am the following morning she passed.
I’ll never forget the look on her face, her complexion as white as snow, her blue eyes dull (she passed with her eyes opened), her hands cold as a chilly winters day. My husband, her son, held her hand through the end.
The funeral home came to take her away quickly after her hospice nurse declared her to be deceased. We didn’t stick around to see her being taken away. I’ll never forget the feeling I experienced in that room while she lied there. Even when people were talking, I felt a comforting silence almost confirming, that she was now in peace.
Below is the eulogy I wrote in her memory. I’ll miss having wine with her while she joyfully cooked for her family. It was her way of showing her love…
We are gathered here today in memory of our dear wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend Vanda Kaufman to acknowledge the joy she was to those who were blessed to have known her. This eulogy is a small account of her legacy, love, and perseverance.
Vanda’s parents, Bhror and Val Lind migrated to the United States from Sweden and settled in the Chicago area in the early 1920s. They had four children, Vanda being the youngest. Vanda grew up in North Lake, Il. She graduated from Leyden high school in 1957. After graduating, She attended Ravenswood Hospital in Chicago to become a certified radiological technologist, a career path she performed until her first child Linda was born.
Two years after Linda’s birth, her second child Glen was born Christmas Eve after her water broke just before they were on their way to the families traditional Swedish ‘smorgasboard.’
Two years after Glen’s birth, Wayne and Vanda welcomed her third and largest child Mark weighing in at 9 lbs, 8 ounces (Ouch!) Two years later determined to beat the US tax system, their fourth child Michael was born on April 15. Soon after, Vanda settled into her new role as a mother and wife. Being a mother of four, she quickly became an expert at juggling the needs of all.
Vanda remained home until Michael started kindergarten. During this time she had the opportunity to supplement the family income by taking a position at the local school as a Special Education teacher’s assistant. A job she enjoyed until she returned to the radiological career she had left behind many years before. Vanda had the determination to strive and succeed in an environment that had evolved significantly since her departure.
Working 3 to 11 pm afforded her the opportunity to train her kids to fend for themselves since her beloved husband Wayne was also busy battling the daily drudgery of bending sheet metal during the day. It was her way of preparing her children for their futures.
In spite of her hectic schedule, Vanda, always a socialite, would make time to spend with neighborhood friends. When she wasn’t involved in the kid’s sports and school activities, breaking up fights, or running to the hospital to mend a broken bone or two, she would spend time gardening, canning, and sewing.
Vanda always strived to be the best at everything she set her mind to, she became an expert at everything she did. Weekends were spent camping. Almost every other weekend the family would pack their camper and head to Green River Oaks for a time of fun and bonding with friends and other campers.
After years of committing to her family and career, Wayne and Vanda were fortunate to enjoy time to themselves and traveled to California so Wayne could have the opportunity to reconnect with his father again.
Camping once again became a big part of their leisurely time and gave them an opportunity to develop many long-lasting relationships. Wayne and Vanda remained in California for five years before settling in Cherokee Village Arkansas where they remained for another five years.
During this time Vanda picked up square dancing, quilting and started attending the Methodist church in Hardy Arkansas where she rekindled her relationship with the Lord.
Wayne and Vanda finally settled roots in West Plain, MO in 2000.
Vanda has spent many happy years here. She volunteered at the local hospital, participated in church activities and events diligently with an open heart, and a captivating smile.
We will remember her for her compassionate, steadfast attitude, her lust for life, dedication to friends and family, and for those who were lucky, her Swedish meatballs.
Although it is hard to say goodbye, we know she’s now with the Lord dancing in the streets of heaven with her sisters Greta, June and her parents Bhror and Val, and even perhaps blessing the angels with her culinary talent many of us enjoyed here on earth. She will be missed greatly but will never be forgotten.