A friend commented, “Seems like things always happen in threes. We’ve had three deaths in the Byng neighborhood within less than six weeks.” He enumerated them: there was Margaret Painter on Nov. 4; then Roman Harjo in early December, and now there’s George Milligan.”

I’ve written previously about the loss of Margaret.

In a community the size of ours, it is really true that “No man is an island.” I had planned to go to Roman Harjo’s funeral Dec. 14. We had known that family for more than 30 years. Both Roman, his wife, Viola, and their daughter, Tawanna, were Byng School employees for many years.

Mr. Harjo wore many hats. He was a former rodeo clown; he was an excellent cement finisher; he did a good job maintaining the grounds of Byng School. Most of all, the Harjo family was such a help to me in the 70’s when we began working on an Indian Education project, The Indian Way. With the help of Byng Indian students, we produced a series of books aimed at making non-Indians aware of Native American customs and culture.

The Harjos were Seminole, and they were experts on that tribe. When we first started on the project, we always consulted with them to find where and when the pow-wows and other tribal events were scheduled. I can honestly say that without the Harjo family, there would never have been a first book or any books in the series.

Roman suffered a massive stroke more than a year ago and had been a patient in a local nursing home during that time. Any time I saw Viola or Tawana I asked about him, and they always said, “He’s not doing well,” or “He’s about the same.” I always intended to visit him but never got around to it. I, like everyone else that knew him, was saddened when we read of his death in early December.

On June 24, 2006, my husband, George, suffered a stroke. He walked into the hospital emergency room that Saturday morning, but he never walked again. At first, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and possible tick fever, for he did not meet any of the criteria for stroke. Three days later, an MRI confirmed, however, he had suffered a stroke. After a couple of weeks, the doctor suggested that he enter a nursing home.

The following months were a roller-coaster. Sometimes, he only slept. On other days, he was more alert and was able to communicate. He did not seem to be in pain, though as an active person, he was frustrated at not being able to get up and walk. Nurses and aides often found him with both feet on the floor, convinced he could walk.

I am very grateful for that five and a half months. We had a unique time together. For the first time in a long time, we had time just for each other. I was with him every day and he was always interested in what was going on. His younger sister, Thelma, died in Pennsylvania; and Joe Dixon, our beloved long-time pastor retired, and he was aware of these happenings. It was a good time, and he was well cared for at the retirement center.

Ironically, he seemed to be doing better during the last few days of his life. We looked forward to his throat muscles being treated with Vita Stim, a new procedure that is sometimes successful in enabling patients to be able to swallow and to get off the feeding tube. We were excited about that prospect. An aide was working with him on standing and even taking a few steps. All of us believed that within a few months, (by March, I told him) he’d be able to come home. More than anything, that was what he wanted.

Chris, the charge nurse at night, who often visited with George during the wee hours told me that he passed George’s door at 2 a.m. and George smiled and waved to him. Chris came back 30 minutes later and he was gone. His homecoming was much sooner than any of us expected. His memorial service celebrated a long, useful life.

I’d like to thank so many people who have called or written notes. Many of them say, “I don’t really know you, but I feel that I do, and I’m praying for you and your family.” Many have told me that they, too, are widowed, and they assure me it will get easier. I’m sure that is true. I’m aware on my weepy days, I’m indulging in self-pity, but I’m hoping to do better soon.

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When I walked to the track on Saturday morning, I saw flashing lights at the Tex and Helen Seymour home. The fire truck pulled out as I neared the house, but the ambulance remained. I learned that Helen had passed out and, at first, was not responding well and the family feared she had suffered a stroke. At first her left side seemed to be affected, but by the time I arrived, the symptoms were less pronounced. The family decided to take her to the emergency room to be sure she was going to be okay. Testing indicated that her potassium level was low, and steps were taken to adjust her electrolytes. She was released to return home. That afternoon she was still feeling a little weak, but the family was celebrating the birthday of their daughter, Dana. She and her husband, Kyle, live in Oklahoma City and were here for a birthday-Christmas visit.

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Despite being pastor-less, New Bethel Church is maintaining “business as usual” as much as possible. The Lottie Moon Christmas offering is always a major concern, and we had our usual coin-counting party at Bill and Sandra Dixon’s home on Wednesday night. By Sunday we had surpassed our $6,000 goal by $1,000, and all the lights were lighted on the board that shows the first stanza of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” Randy Golden supplied for the morning service Sunday, and Joe Dixon was present for the candlelight service and Communion at 4 p.m.

So, despite problems, sorrow and heartaches, there is joy and peace in our community. We wish you a great New Year.



It was good to see several people present who have had health problems. It was good to see all the Aldrich family present. Vanessa, the daughter from OSU has had thyroid surgery and will have an additional procedure next month. Serena, her mother, seemed fine now, but she has worn a heart monitor and caused some concern for her family and friends who believe she may have been somewhat stressed as she enters the final stretch of work on her Ph.D at College Station, Texas. John Aldrich was here from the University of Michigan. Calvin, who teaches science at Byng High School, and his father, Dave Aldrich, were mourning the recent death, of Dave’s brother-in-law, Randall Griffin, a former Byng resident.

Sara Dixon was home from Utah for three days. The Dixon family has had a traumatic few months with Sara’s illness. She is looking well and appears to be much better.









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