Life is a series of steps. Any parent will tell you that watching their child take their first step creates a memory that is burned deep into their synapses. Parents love to see their children grow and develop, and eventually become independent adults who pursue their own dreams and life goals.
Watching our loved ones take their last steps is also a very emotional memory. I can’t express in words how much my parents, Larry and Toni Winneroski, mean to me. I also love my mother- in-laws Susan Hoffelder and Judy O’Rourke and my father-in-law Don O’Rourke deeply.
Susan Hoffelder is in Heaven now. She passed away last year and it was one of the hardest things that my wife and I have experienced so far in our lives. We watched her battle bravely with Parkinson’s Disease. Mom graduated at the top of her class from Notre Dame Law School after raising her three girls and two sons. She went on to become a partner in her law firm as well as a realtor. She was one of the most intelligent, and others-centered people that I have ever met. It is no wonder that my wife is the incredible person that she is. She is just like her momma.
I am a research scientist and have worked with exceptionally talented teams to try to develop new medicines to treat neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. I can explain to you what happens in the brain when someone has these conditions, but nothing can prepare you for the heartache and emotional toll that it has on you when you have to watch one of your loved ones battle with these diseases on a daily basis. It is just as hard, or maybe even harder, on the family caregivers who have to deal with the results of these diseases every day.
Mom was always very active, but slight leg tremors turned into stiff legs, which eventually made walking very difficult for her. She kept walking and even took up boxing to help keep her physical conditioning as optimal as possible as she battled Parkinson’s Disease. Eventually the disease overtook her strong will to beat it, and she was confined to a wheel chair for the last few years of her life.
I remember some of her last independent steps, because my parents, Susan, her friend Steve, my daughter, and my wife and I all took a trip out to Arizona and Utah to see the Grand Canyon and Arches National Park. It took mom a long time to walk up to see the beautiful red arches up close, but she was bound and determined to walk up to see them herself. Mom was a fighter. All the way until the end. She loved Jesus. She loved her family. She loved adventure and music, and now she is whole again in the presence of her Lord and Savior.
Mom always encouraged her family to be strong too. To not be afraid to pursue our own dreams. She loved all of my stupid ideas and she was one of the main editors for my little book Our Glory is His. When she visited us in Indianapolis, mom and I would both get up super early and brew some coffee and talk about life, our family, what and who to pray about/for. We loved to encourage each other and laugh about our crazy dreams. She loved my writing and she was an exceptional writer herself. We both write from the heart. I am blessed to still have the chance to write and I’ll keep writing until I take my last step too.
Mom also loved my idea to start a coffee company. She loved coffee too, and mannaandcoffee.com and madscientistcoffee.com are both partially inspired by our crazy early morning conversations and her encouragement.
I have honored my mom and dad in manna posts awhile ago. I felt that it was time to honor Susan Hoffelder, my fellow dreamer, writer, musician, lover of life, animals and people. Mom and I also share a deep love for Jesus and we both have a burning desire for our family members and all who are hurting, discouraged, lonely and lost to come to saving knowledge of Jesus. I have had many highs and many lows in my life, but having a constant awareness of the sweet presence of the Holy Spirit in my life is an indescribable feeling that you have to experience to believe.
Life is hard. It is even harder without encouragers in your life like my wife, my family, my friends and my parents, who know me well and love me anyways. As important as family and friends are however, I’m sure mom would echo the statement that our steps on this earth may end some day, but a step towards faith in Jesus will be the most important step that you ever take and lead to a life that will never end for all of eternity.
I love you mom and I miss you like crazy cakes! I will do my best to keep your memory alive and to not give up on those crazy dreams that were born over cups of coffee, laughter and tears of joy and hope that we shared together.
Well said brother…