June K. Berg - "Thankful For" on Thanksgiving Day
- Published on Monday, 24 November 2008 20:48
- Written by Stanton O. Berg
(June K. Berg - 1993)
"I will praise the name of God with a song,
and will magnify him with thanksgiving"
(Psalm 69:30 (KJV)
"O Lord that lends me life, Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness!"
Thanksgiving Day, is a national holiday celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November. It has officially been an annual tradition and a US Federal holiday since October 3rd, 1863, when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it to be a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens". The holiday has its roots in the first Thanksgiving Celebrated by the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 and 1623. The 1623 thanksgiving was significant because the order to recognize the event was from civil authority, Governor Bradford. Thanksgiving is now a major part of the overall holiday season that includes Christmas.
Thanksgiving time was a special event for June, second only to Christmas. June hosted Thanksgiving Day every year at 6025 Gardena Lane beginning in 1966, the year we built June's favorite home. Much time was spent in preparation. June always arose early in the morning on Thanksgiving Day to start the turkey cooking. This would be a big day in which the entire family would fill the home and share in the Thanksgiving Day festivities and dinner. The home resounded with the sounds of joy and happiness. In addition to the traditional Thanksgiving Day fare, candied sweet potatoes were a favorite part of the meal. June even sent out special Thanksgiving Day cards to the family. June's Thanksgiving Day cards were much on the order of her later to be sent Christmas cards. June was so busy during most of the day preparing the meal and later attending to everyone's needs that she barely had the time to eat her own meal.
Beginning in the year 2003, I first started an annual record that listed the reasons why June and I were thankful at each Thanksgiving time. Changes were added in later years as we watched Alzheimer's cast it's lengthening shadows over our lives.
The seed for this idea of an annual listing originated in Circa 1995. This was in the years before Alzheimer's came into our lives. It was at a time while June and I were still hosting Thanksgiving at 6025 Gardena Lane for the entire family. June surprised me and the family on that special Thanksgiving Day - June requested at the beginning of the meal, that each member of the family in turn, around the table, verbalize why he or she was thankful on that day. I remember my answer was a fumbling one and less than a good response as to why I was thankful. But, in spite of this awkward moment, I thought it was a good thing to do. Later in thinking about it, I resolved to do better in the future. Eventually June's idea of describing and listing the blessings that we were thankful for at Thanksgiving time evolved into the present day recorded listing.
In January of 1998, June was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. June had noticed short term memory problems in the year 1997 and asked her doctor about them at her annual physical examination in December of that year. June's Thanksgiving preparations in the year 1997 also, indicated to the family that something was terribly wrong. June inadvertently mashed the sweet potatoes instead of preparing them candied style as she had done for so many years.
June was always a lady with a thankful heart. June was one who always gave thanks every day during the prayers before the meal. Even as June traveled more deeply into the darkness of Alzheimer's, her first thoughts and words were to always "Thank God", amid tears for all he had done for her and for us. In this regard June usually led the table grace…even when she was deep into the shadows of Alzheimer’s she did not forget to say table grace…she would frequently become confused but not before she had thanked God for all he had done for us…I would then step in a finish the prayer for her by reciting the simple prayer and the words that June had taught to me and the children.
“Come now Jesus be our guest and let this food to us be blessed”
(The painting of "Grace" adorned the family home kitchen wall for many years.)
What I am Thankful For - Thanksgiving 2003
- God blessed June, and I and this entire family with an American birth and citizenship. An Englishman over a century ago is said to have reminded another Englishman that he was English and therefore he had won first prize in the lottery of life. Today however, this saying would be more accurate if modified to include – “Remember you are an American, you have won first prize in the lottery of life.” I can Imagine what our life would be like if we lived under the conditions faced by many of the less fortunate families of the world.
- God blessed me with a loving Christian mother who provided me with a pleasant childhood, pleasant memories and a loving home. While we were very poor, I never had the feeling of being poor.
- God blessed me with a beautiful loving wife June -June, a caring lady with a strong moral background, gave me over 50 years of unconditional love and companionship. June provided me with a family of children and grandchildren of whom we are both proud. June, a wife, a mother and a grandmother, also served as a model for the family on how life should be lived and how people should be treated. It was only a few days before Thanksgiving Day in 1951 that June accepted my proposal of a Marriage that lasted for 56 years before Alzheimer’s took her away from me...June was an exceptional lady...I have often thought that June and my meeting was a diviine appointment arranged by God. June became and still is the love and light of my life. June was truly my life's greatest blessing.
June and I were both products of the great depression years. We both grew up in poor farm families. We found a great life together far beyond what each of us could have imagined as children looking into the future. Our life together was and has been an adventure. In Looking back at my life, I have only the regret that June became a victim of the terrible Alzheimer’s disease. I can truly say that if I had a chance to live my life over, I would choose nothing different, if it meant a life without June, with or without Alzheimer's.
- God blessed me with a rewarding occupation. - an occupation that resulted in not only a comfortable living for the family but also provided the means for June and my final years.
- God blessed me with a rewarding second occupation in the forensic sciences. This occupation provided the means for traveling though out the United States and Europe. In the years before Alzheimer's took over June's life, it permitted June and I to visit most European countries and to travel to our favorite city of London many times. However, by the year 2005, June had moved deeply into the shadows of Alzheimer's and our world was changed forever.
(Thanksgiving Day at the Barron, WI Nursing home 2004...June on right, our daughter Julie in the center and family friend Jerry Anderson on the left side...June and I had driven down to Barron from Minneapolis to be with my mother Ellen (not in photo) on Thanksgiving Day. Our daughter Julie and friend Jerry had also driven down on Thanksgiving Day to spend the day with My mother/Julie's Grandmother Ellen and with June and I. My mother was then a resident at the the Barron Nursing Home and was in the middle stages of Alzheimer's...June was also in the upper middle stages of Alzheimer's and in her 8th year of her 12 year Journey in this disease. It would be in the following year 2005 that June would also need the care of an Alzheimer's facility...these were very sad days..June has her normal sweet look and smile...June and I would return a month later for Christmas.)
The following year's "Thankful for"...addendums and updates:
Thanksgiving - 2004-5
If June must have this terrible Alzheimer's disease, then I am thankful for the special times and moments together when:
- June rests her head on my shoulder as she briefly dozes off.
- June places one hand over mine as I hold her other hand.
- June still calls me by name.
- June still says “I love you Stan!”
Thanksgiving - 2005-6
(All of the thankful moments noted above (2004-5 update) have been lost in the years 2005-6.)
- As June's journey carries her more deeply into the confusing darkness of Alzheimer’s, I am thankful that June appears to be physically comfortable most of the time. I am also thankful that June appears peaceful most of the time and that her periods of mental anguish and fear appear to be few.
- I am thankful that although June no longer remembers God, I am assured that God still remembers June.
- I am also thankful that God still grants me sufficient strength, health and mentality, that I may continue to be a caregiver to June.
- While June does not know me or respond to me, I am thankful for the opportunity of being with June, holding her hand, assuring her of my love and having the opportunity to surround June with a zone of comfort, love and peace.
Thanksgiving - 2008
(June passed away one month ago from the complications of Alzheimer's in the early morning hours of Thursday 23, October 2008.)
- I am thankful that God has taken June home and that June is now free from any further fear, pain or discomfort, mental or physical.
"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
Revelations 21: 4
- I am thankful for having had the very high privilege of being entrusted as a caregiver and an advocate for June during the almost 12 years of her long and weary struggle with Alzheimer's. This has been my life's highest calling.
- I and the family miss June so very much. I am thankful for the many cherished memories of our over 56 years of married life together. June was a truly remarkable lady. June gave me much more than I could ever have dreamed or imagined. June and I had over 50 wonderful years together before Alzheimer's finally took over our life. Thank you Lord for the thousands of blessings that you showered on June and myself during our lifetime together. I am forever indebted.
Thanksgiving - 2009 - 2015
I am 87 years of age and thankful for every day that God permits me to be an advocate for June's memory and honor, and to promote Alzheimer's Awareness, Alzheimer's Funding, Alzheimer's Research and for Alzheimer's proper care practices. That God has permitted me to honor June with activities in her behalf that reflect the love of God!
On October 18th, 2012, the unthinkable took place. One is not supposed to lose one's children to death before one's own time comes. We lost our oldest son David to cancer...even during the saddest of times there are blessings from God...during the evening before David passed away as David and I discussed his end of life arrangements, the last thing David said to me was: "I love you Dad." What a beautiful final gift David gave to me!
"You’ve only One Life ~ It Soon Will Be Past ~ Only What’s Done For God Will Last.”
...Thank you Lord!...
and to all, a blessed, happy and bountiful Thanksgiving!
Stan Berg and for June
(June and Stan's Hands - October 2007 - Photo Jim Gehrz)
(First published in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Thanksgiving Day, November 2009.)
Vicki Cadogan - Limerick, Ireland - (20 November 2012): "Another great read Stan full of love and sentiment...a tower of strength... an inspiration..., keep up the great work, reading your words really helps me deal with my mother's illness."
Stacey Carpenter Cotton - Memphis, Tennessee - (21 November 2012): "I love the picture on this, ...I saw that same man praying at my grandparents house for almost 40 years."
Mary Jill Bringgold Duncan - Cannon Falls, Minnesota - (21 November 2012): "I love reading your posts, and June's words are definitely words to live by."
Dawn Laursen Galati - Orlando, Florida - (21 November 2012): "Feeling and sharing in your pain Stan. So hard to be thankful, when it is the 8th anniversary of my husband death tomorrow. I'm afraid there will be lots of tears..."
Merideth Sindel - Sydney, Australia - (21 November 2012): "I...would think it is only right and proper that you 'remember' her (June) publicly at this time that was and is so important to you and your family and others. I read the original post through and sat there trying to articulate what I wanted to say back. It is very interesting that The Kids wondered what was up when June 'changed' her traditional sweet potato recipe. No, I'm not being trivial or sentimental - family traditions: we all have them and are united by them, and in June's case, a sign of change. Re Thanksgiving Day, well, what I didn't wish to write was that we all have things to be grateful for as that can sound so much like a platitude or - even worse! - an affirmation. But how much the carer does have to be thankful for - every day, for their loved one and for their opportunity to be able to care for her/him, to know or hope that 'even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.' Good old Emerson."
Lisa Porter Power - Imperial Beach, California - (21 November 2012):"Thank you... I miss my Mama every day so greatly. Your writings of beloved June resonate with me so deeply and give me much comfort."
Nancy Stinson -Tampa, Florida – (21 November 2012): (Editorial Note: Link to this page shared with Nancy’s lifelong friend.) “I know you will be busy.. but when we were talking about memories a friend of mine shared his wife's journal... talk about memories.. I wanted to share it with you…it is long but worth the read He just lost his son and wife. I sure miss seeing you.... I close my eyes and see all the good times…"
Marie Christine Olivier - Mexico City, Mexico - (21 November 2012): "Stan, Thanksgiving is a most wonderful celebration! Please take time for yourself and your family to be together."
Kathleen Dean - Fredericktown, Ohio - (21 November 2012): "Prayers Stan... may God continue to be your guide."
Jennifer Dabney - Pomona, Californai - (27 November 2013): "Happy Thanksgiving to you. Memories can be so bittersweet but know you mean a lot to the people who love you as well as the people you have made friends with here..."
Bernadette Brady - Dublin, Ireland - (28 November 2013): "Thinking of you on Thanksgiving Day."
Christine Pickard - Lincoln, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom - (28 November 2013): "A Special Day, thinking of you, have a lovely Thanksgiving Day...,a good day at work, nice to be home now !"
Elaine Wharmby - Tamworth, United Kingdom - (28 November 2013): "Have a Happy Thanksgving Day with your family."
Bonnie Seip - Ottsville, Pennsylvania - (28 November 2013): "Happy Thanksgiving Mr Berg ! Enjoy the family time !
Gilda Yen Torino - Manila, Philipines - (28 November 2013): "Have a lovely day with your family tomorrow my friend. We don't have Thanksgiving Day here but I wish you the best."
Alzheimer Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, Inc. - Mount Pearl, Newfoundland - (28 November 2013): "Thank you so much for sharing. We certainly all have something to be thankful for; whether it's past, present or future - Amelia White, Events Coordinator."
Annette Lefevre Ekelman - Los Angeles, California - (28 November 2013): "Happy Thanksgiving Stanton! So glad you get to spend the day with your granddaughter! You are extremely blessed!
William and Robbin Grimes - Graham, North Carolina - (28 November 2013): "Happy thanksgiving to you Stanton I appreciate you."
Karen Baker - Winsford, Cheshire, United Kingdom - (28 November 2013): "Shared your blog on my twitter page also called dementia world links... happy thanks giving."
Isabel Harper - Belfast, United Kingdom - (28 November 2013): "Happy Thanksgiving Stanton."
Beth Ann Doucette - Lino Lakes, Minnesota - (30 November 2013): "Love all of this, Stan... Very beautiful and also emotional... We too are blessed and have so many things to be thankful for. So glad that you have such great memories... Thank you for sharing...Hope your holiday season is filled with memories but also new activities to add to your memory book."
Sue Strayer-Orcutt - Maple Grove, Minnesota - (26 November 2014): "You have a wonderful Thanksgiving Stan. The holidays are always so hard. We had to come to California from Minnesota to settle up my dads estate. My 52 year old brother passed away October 3rd following surgery so I flew here for a week to be with my dad as my brother took care of my dad who would be 95 next month. My dad passed away October 28th. It has been a really hard month for us. The only good thing is the beautiful weather here. It is so hard losing loved ones and especially so close to the holidays. God bless you Stan".
For the story of June’s favorite home at 6025 Gardena Lane and the many Thanksgiving's and Christmas's that were celebrated with the family, click on the below link. The poem I wrote about this home was during a day of deep sadness. This home was June’s home for almost 40 years. It was constructed shortly after the previous home was severely damaged in a tornado. 6025 Gardena Lane was the first home the June participated in the selection and purchase of a lot on a small hill, helped with the design of the home and watched it being constructed. 6025 Gardena Lane had a special place in June's heart. as it does mine:
June first noticed a problem with her short term memory during 1997. Short term memory loss is a hallmark first symptom of Alzheimer's. In January of 1998, June was diagnosed by the University of Minnesota as being in the early stages of Alzheimer's. June's long journey into the shadows of this terrible disease ended after almost 12 years when she passed away on 23 October 2008 from Aspiration Pneumonia, a common complication of Alzheimer's. June's funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star in October 2008 can be seen on this website under the "In Memoriam" label - or simply Click on this link: