A dear friend of the family passed away last week...Beth Hellberg Creason was good friends with my sister Jill more than anyone else in the family, but she meant more than that to me when I decided to go to her memorial service this past weekend.
Our families were good friends during my most formative years...We moved to Hermiston when I was just finishing kindergarten, and left after the 6th grade.
During that time, my parents got involved in Marriage Encounter, a weekend couple's church retreat thing that would take them away for weekends several times a year. That meant that they needed to find a place to put their five kids, including me, and a LOT of the time, that meant going out to Max & Marilyn's farm.
Max & Marilyn took us kids and were always fine with having some more kids around. They made us work a bit (I remember moving pipes early one morning before church and school) but mostly they let us ride their horses all we wanted, and boy, I can remember more than one Monday morning being dropped off at school by Marilyn feeling pretty darn saddle sore!
The person who taught me to ride a horse was Beth. She was a teacher from her very early life, and eventually became a teacher (elementary school) in her hometown, and did that for nearly 20 years.
Beth wasn't just your average nice gal from the country. She was fantastic. She had a quick smile, and easy laugh, and I never once knew her to be unkind to anyone.
As any kind human being would, but especially as a child, that made a big impression on me, and that impression was revisited and echo'd by many at her memorial service.
Beth, for so many people, represented some of the best of all the goodness in the world. And for that, she will be sorely missed.
I found out that Beth died suddenly last Sunday, after she became antibiotic resistant to a meningitis that she had been fighting for some time. She was only 46.
Her sister Joy is a friend of mine on Facebook, and it was through her that I found out that Beth was seriously ill on Sunday, and within hours she posted an update that Beth was gone.
Their brother Kurt is also a friend of mine on FB, but is also the friend of mine from my earliest memories. The other siblings, Marilee and Tim were close friends of my oldest brother Jeff, and Trina -- Trina was that middle child like me who is the spark of the family and the driver who often keeps things moving.
ALL of them deserved to have as many people come to pay their respects to Beth, but also to them. ALL of them had a key role in my life as a "second family" to me and my own siblings.
And so I went.
When I decided to go, it was largely because I knew how my own husband's family felt when their son David died. The shock and sadness among all of us when we lost David was made the slightest bit better by the support and love of those who came to the memorial service and offered support and meals for the family in the days following David's death.
The Hellberg family parents still attend the church I did as a child, where my own father used to preach. It was an amazing weekend of not only catching up with childhood friends, but seeing the old church, seeing how my old house had been sold and moved away (yes, put on wheels and moved to another location) and the "fellowship hall" where the reception following Beth's memorial and after church the next morning was held in what would have been my old living room or kitchen.
It didn't bother me at all...time changes the landscape in amazing ways, and I was able to see as I drove out of town, how Hermiston's high school is new, the hospital where my baby brother Jeremy was born has been replaced, and my old elementary school is in the midst of a complete remodel including new construction.
And on the way home, I saw the wind turbines that dot the landscape in the Columbia Gorge, and the gorgeous transition of desert to green that happens along that glorious stretch of highway to the West.
In a matter of hours, I was home with my family, with my husband and daughter, and thinking about my weekend on the other side of the state.
Thank you to everyone -- Kurt and Ericka for putting us up, Paula Newcomb for coming too and lending such a wonderful time to catching up with each other, and of course the Hellbergs, and so many others, who made this a special weekend.