good life – by jenny schoenberger
Part of cultivating a good life is finding the inner strength you never knew you had.
In 1995 I was a single mom and raising my two sons. They were 8 and 9 years old at the time. I became involved in Cub Scouts with my sons, and I happened to meet a wonderful single man. It just so happened that his only child was in my youngest son’s class and Cub Scout group. We spent time getting to know each other at scouting events and eventually he asked me on date. Our first date went well and we continued to see each other – although we included the kids on our dates. In the fall of 1996, we were married.
As perfect as you think life should be when you get married, it is very different the second time, especially having to blend families. It was a struggle many days and a lot of hard work. We were pregnant several months after we married, and our sweet bundle of joy was born a year after we were married. It did bring the boys closer because they now shared a sibling who was part of all of them. Even with that, things were still challenging (as you would expect with four boys!), but we worked through every bump that came along.
Shortly after becoming pregnant, I began to notice things with my husband that I didn’t think were normal. He spent a lot of time in bed or a lot of time building things. He had several back surgeries in his past and he always said it was his back keeping him in bed. We began to have serious medical issues with my biological middle son in 2001. Through everything we went through with him, I began to question more of what might be going on with my husband.
Things got worse and he finally began to get help at my urging. He was put on antidepressants. I never could have imagined what the next year was going to bring. Doctors were changing doses on his medication and then changing medication. When he reacted to higher doses, it was reduced. I saw changes in my husband. I knew the medication dose was not helping, but he refused to go to the doctor. He had had enough of the changing of meds and decided to just stay on the one he was on.
On June 21, 2002, I woke up to the alarm for work. My husband wasn’t in bed. I checked the house but couldn’t find him. I turned on my coffee pot and in front of it was a note in a sealed envelope. I stared at it for a long time before opening it. I guess I thought the longer I put off opening it, I could put off what I feared would be inside. I did finally open it and read it. It was a suicide note.
He expressed how much he loved me and the boys but felt we were better off this way because he felt like a burden to us. I searched the house again and finally discovered that he had taken his own life.
I thought my world just ended in that moment. All I could think was that I wished I were with him because I had no idea what to do now. How could I raise four kids alone — three in high school and one starting kindergarten? How could I pay the bills? How could I go on alone and how do I plan a funeral?
I couldn’t tell you to this day how anyone else in the family was coping because I was in shock and don’t remember. I did plan a funeral that day. I picked a burial site, funeral home, church, flowers and a headstone. I continued to raise my kids and attend all the school and sport functions alone. I continued to work and bear the financial burden alone. I continued to live, but life was very different. I was different. Nothing would be the same again.
I found strength to continue on even when I thought I couldn’t. I changed. I wasn’t afraid to do things alone after a while, but it took time. I could finally sleep alone. I could go to parent-teacher conferences; I could do prom for the boys. I had no choice but to be both Mom and Dad.
Life has gone on without him here. I have had so many things happen that I thought he would be there for — our youngest’s first day of school, our kids’ high school graduations, my oldest son joining the Army and serving two tours of Iraq, our kids’ marriages, our grandkids being born. Instead, I did them alone, but I survived and have become stronger. I had the courage to leave Wisconsin and move to Arizona.
I learned that what you have one day, you might not the next, so cherish each day with the ones you love. For this I am thankful to my husband Bob. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him and talk to him. He has helped me find strength in myself that I never imagined I had. He will always and forever be a part of me.
Note from Becky
Jenny Schoenberger is our Controller for Becky Higgins LLC. You know … taxes, numbers, spreadsheets, inventory, fulfillment, and all that stuff that David and I are so grateful to have someone managing for our business now. It was quite the collection of tasks that David personally had to manage in our earlier years of running the business while also working full time as an anesthesiologist, so you can imagine how grateful we are for Jenny. In a nut shell, we love her! She works hard, day in and day out, quietly behind the scenes, doing her thing and keeping our customers happy by making sure we have enough product in our shop and keeping reports and taxes straight, and all that “fun” stuff (fun for her; not for me – ha!).
Jenny adds a fun flair to our team meetings as the self-proclaimed “numbers girl” among several of us “creatives.” Bless her! We balance out each other well, and we are grateful every day for how she contributes to the growth of our business. On a more personal note, and as you can tell from her post, Jenny has endured some pretty heavy trials in her life. We all do in different ways, but this? This is unique and heart-wrenching and I absolutely know that in one way or another, someone reading this today is going to be impacted in a way that will hopefully feel like a blessing. Jenny, thank you for sharing how you can cultivate a good life, no matter what hardships you’ve been through.