This Blog has been quiet for a week or so as we mourned the passing of my father-in-law, Harold Schreiner. A friendly, happy man who could make a friend out of a complete stranger in just a few minutes. The one ”stranger” he did not get the chance to meet…but we wish he had… was Lara, our German Exchange Student. But not meeting Harold did not change the love and caring Lara had for him, and for our family, during a time of loss.
On the morning of Sunday, February 26, we talked to Harold, as we had been doing every morning for the past couple months. He sounded good, he was happy. We were given a sense of hope that he would be with us longer after hearing his blood platelets had increased in the past few days, as opposed to dropping over the past few weeks. After that phone call and some chores, Terry and I planned to take Brittany and Lara to Canyon Lake with a stop first at the Goldfield Ghost Town by the Superstition Mountains. It’s like an old western town that was turned into a commercial Ghost Town Tourist Attraction.
We were at the Ghost town for about 45 minutes when we stopped to watch the 3:00pm gunfight show in the old western town. Just as it started, Terry received the call from his sister, Judy, with the sad news. We realized later that is was really no coincidence that we got the news when we did. Harold was an avid Western Movie fan and loved John Wayne movies. And there we sat, in the middle of a western town in the middle of a shoot-out.
We quickly went home and all the kids gathered at our house. There were many hugs and tears and stories about their Grandpa. And Lara was right there for us, feeling our pain, crying with us and offering hugs of support. She was truly with our family during a very sad time. I asked her if she wanted to go to a friends house if it was too sad or difficult for her. She quickly said no, she wanted to be with us…her family.
As we made our plans to travel to Western Nebraska for Harold’s funeral, I had to put plans for Lara into effect. A month earlier, I had to make those plans because we thought we were going to lose Harold. Terry went back to Nebraska to see him when he was rushed to the hospital due to intestinal bleeding. The options were surgery or do nothing. He chose not to have surgery due to his age, 86 years old. Doctors decided to try another non-evasive procedure to stop the leak but they were only allowed to go so far before a stint that he had put in years ago for an aneurysm stopped them. At that point, the family was prepared for the worst. Harold even called his church Pastors so he could receive his last communion, which he did. But God… and Harold… had other plans. Miraculously, the bleeding stopped. Harold started to feel better but was very weak. Doctors sent him home with Home Health Care providing help to Harold, and my mother-in-law in nursing him. We talked to him every day, and he was starting to get around a little better…but he was just never back to 100%. It gave the family time to call him every day and tell him we loved him. It also gave us time to prepare for his leaving us. The thing is….he was more prepared than all of us…writing his obituary and planning who would be his pall bearers.
So, when we received that phone call, I put my plans for Lara into action and called one of my best friends of 9 years, Kim, to tell her the news. We left a day and a half later and Lara was to stay with Kim. Just 4 blocks away, it was the perfect place so Lara’s routine was not disrupted too much. After all, her American family would now be leaving her for several days…the family she trusts, that cares for her, that knows her little habits, schedule, foods, way of life, etc. I had to be sure she would be comfortable. I had a few choices of where she could go, but Kim’s house made sense. She is close enough that Lara could still take the bus to and from school without someone having to drive her 4 miles to school, she has an extra room, she could come home to get clothes, help feed the dogs, get the mail and just feel some sense of normalcy while we were gone. There’s also another teenager in the house who Lara knows, Jessica. And… Lara and Kim have a few things in common so I knew Lara would enjoy herself. Kim and Lara are both BIG organizers! Plus, Kim is a photographer, and with Lara taking Digital Photo in school, I knew they would teach each other a thing or two! Kim helped Lara with a digital photo assignment and some editing. Lara showed Kim how to organize some things on her computer. Kim took portraits of Lara and Lara was a willing candidate! I posted the pictures below. They made a perfect pair!
I also asked some of Lara’s YoungLife friends to keep an eye on her and keep her close to their heart. Who better than to ask of that than a Christian Youth Group and it’s Leaders? And they did! YoungLife Leader Ginger had Lara over one day and they planted Ginger’s vegetable garden! Ginger said it was such a special treat to have Lara at her house. And Lara had her first American gardening experience!
Morgan and Gabby and Lara had a sleepover at Morgan’s house on Friday night. And on Saturday, they got together with Jack and his mom, Becky, and cleaned up an elderly woman’s yard. Lara said they had 4 trash bins full of waste! That was her first American community service project!
And when Lara was at the house for a short time after school, she fed the two outside dogs, the cat and fish. She missed our little Bichon, Angel, who spent the week with our good friend, Jon and Paula. Lara also took care of some business things. She collected rent checks that had been dropped off and marked off who paid rent on a dry erase board we use. She certainly knows our business!
I texted Lara a lot while we were gone and called when I could. One day she said, “I wish I was with you guys.” Another day she said, “You guys can never leave me like this again!”. I laughed at that. Then my response was, “Well, what’s going to happen when you leave us on June 2nd?” She said, “That is different!” I guess it just shows how close all of us are… during all the good times… and this one sad time. Rest in Peace, Harold Schreiner 1925-2012.