June K. (Rolstad) Berg - Past Birthdays Revisited - 2010
- Published on Sunday, 07 November 2010 19:27
- Written by Stanton O. Berg
June, God took you to your heavenly home on October 23rd, 2008 at age 80 but just 16 days before your next birthday on November 8th. You would have been 81 years of age then and would have been 83 years of age this year 2010.
You began your journey into the shadows of Alzheimer’s in early 1998 when you were diagnosed with this disease in January of that year.
While you and I continued to do many things and travel to many places in the early stage years of your struggle with this terrible disease (1998-2002), it was the middle and late stages of this disease (2003-2008) that defined the horror of the disease. Painful and sad as the details are, they enable one to understand the blackness and despair that this disease causes to victim, family and friends!
On your 79th birthday in November 2006, I wrote the following for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
“June, my beautiful, sweet, humble wife of 54 years - You are deep in the shadows of Alzheimer's and probably will not understand what I am saying. I only hope that God will place this message in a secret chamber of your heart where in another time and in another world you can recall and understand my words. I remember the time when you returned home very late for supper. I heard distant sirens and feared the worst. But then you arrived all smiles and puzzled to see me standing in the door with a tear stained face. To my explanation you responded - "I never thought I was so important." My voice and words failed me and I could only hug you close. How could I ever find the words to tell you that to me you are like the sun with my world revolving around you? You will always be the love and light of my life! If you travel into life's sunset before I do, walk slowly - wait up - watch for me.”
On your 80th birthday in November 2007, I wrote this tribute to you for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. This birthday message more than any other defined the cruel disease!
“June, today is your birthday. Your ten year battle with Alzheimer’s has left you lying wounded, vanquished and exhausted. Like a snuffed out candle, only the slightest spark remains of what was once a warm, bright, vibrant and glowing lady. Your mind only in the “now”, wanders through unfamiliar surroundings. Some people look friendly, some look familiar, and some do not. Some surroundings are void or dark. Some areas are so sad that you cry. All are confusing. The simple act of coughing or sneezing frightens you. You sit with your eyes closed drawing a curtain on a world that is always bewildering and sometimes fearsome. Well meaning friends and relatives try to jog a no longer existing memory with references that are also long gone. When you awaken from a sleep or simply open your eyes it is into another strange and different world. There is an occasional flicker of familiarity but that is quickly lost. Your injured mind has abandoned you to a mental feeling of isolation and solitude. Your signature smile that would always light up your face is forever gone with only an occasional trace. The sound of your voice has been stilled. Even the touch of your hand cupped over mine is just a memory. You cannot walk, eat or bath without help. There are occasional uncontrolled tremors. Your life has been reduced to little more then a mere existence. While you are like a stranger who no longer knows me, you remain and always will be, the love and light of my life.”
For your 81st birthday I again prepared a tribute for the Minneapolis Star – Tribune for November 2008. but before it could be published you passed away a few days before your birthday.
June, you are 81 years of age and near the end of your 11th year with Alzheimer’s. Though you are weak and weary of the struggle, you are still holding onto life with a fragile grip. June, as I look back over your life, I see it as a reflection of doing God’s work with no thought of praise, reward or hesitation. You “walked the walk.” In your humility you always made light of and ignored your own achievements. I remember the time a few years ago when I had received some special recognition - you gave me a card that read:
“Stan: I am very proud of all your accomplishments and these all pass on to me and make me feel like a queen.”
June, I wish I had sent you such a card in return to tell you how proud you have made me. While I now tell you often, Alzheimer’s always gets in the way. When God some day scans the record books of our lives, he will not be impressed with mine but I know he will smile as he reads yours…God will see your grateful heart as he hears you thank him amid tears at the meal grace periods – “for all he has done for us” – even when you were deep in the shadows of Alzheimer’s. As God closes your book of life, I am sure he will say: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Thank you June for spending most of your life with me, (56 years) for loving me unconditionally and for giving me so much more than I could ever have imagined - as I have said so many times before, “thank you sweetheart for making my life an adventure”.
Last year for what would have been your 82nd birthday, I again published a tribute to you in the Minneapolis Star – Tribune for November 2009.
“In August of 1952, you and I were married in Bloomington, Illinois. We established a home, raised a family and because of my forensic science work, we traveled extensively throughout the United States and Europe. You were God's greatest gift to me. You gave me 56 years together before Alzheimer's took you away on 23 October 2008 - 16 days before your birthday. As I have told you many times before, you have given me a life of adventure and a life with only the regret that it is over and that you have had to suffer the horrors of Alzheimer's. I owe you an unending debt! Your passing was as if a most beautiful symphony that played during our life together, had now ceased to exist! Before your Alzheimer's diagnosis in January 1998, your world, your character and personality was represented by a vast sea of bright and beautiful lights. After your Alzheimer's diagnosis, these bright lights all begin to slowly dim. As you slipped deeper into the shadows of Alzheimer's, the lights gradually flickered out one by one. Eventually the time came during the last two years of your life, when the brightness that marked your world and life was replaced by one of darkness. You rarely ever opened your eyes to a world that was then alien and strange to you. God mercifully took you home on the 23rd of October 2008. Death has ended your life and changed but not ended our relationship. Whatever we were to each other, we still are. I talk with you every day. While your Alzheimer's death has left a heartache that no one can heal - Your love leaves me with a memory that no one can steal.”
Published in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune – Celebrations – Sunday November 14th, 2010.
Also Published in the weekly edition of the Colfax Messenger, Wednesday November 3rd 2010.- June was born 8 November 1927 on a farm in rural Dunn County, WI just north of Colfax. June was the oldest child of Haldis and Henry Rolstad. June in later years graduated from Colfax High School with the Class of 1946.
A Reader's Letter
“March 7, 2012
Dear Mr. Berg,
My name is Nicole Antrican and I am writing you to express my deepest gratitude, admiration and love. I read the “Past Birthdays Revisited” letter you wrote to June published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune November 2010. As I read the letter, I understood the level of unwavering love, devotion and respect you have for your beloved June and the magnitude of a love so beautiful.
Perhaps someday I can share with you the journey I have been on and provide more insight to why your letter meant so much to me. I want to give you a little background about myself so you can better understand. I am 32 years old, have a loving family and have been blessed with many things in life. I attended Totino Grace and interestingly enough, learned two days ago that God has woven your life in mine.
I clipped that letter from the Star Tribune November 2010 and keep it in my bathroom so that when I get ready each day, it serves as a constant reminder. A reminder of how it isn't enough to simply love your spouse but rather a journey to grow in love and to cherish one another. It is through you I have reflected on past relationships and better understand the kind of husband I desire and deserve. I have shared that letter with my family, friends and co-workers. They all know how it touched my heart and in reading the letter, touched theirs too.
On Monday my mom and I went to Keys Café for lunch and much to my surprise as I later glanced down at the cash register, I saw June Berg!!! I yelled! "June-My June!!-Mom! That's June!" I quickly picked up the card and read it as fast as I could, turned the card holder around to see your name along with address in Fridley and proclaimed to the waitress that you wrote a beautiful letter published in 2010 that has changed me forever. I encouraged her to read it when she went home so that she could better understand why I was so passionate about the card I was holding.
It was then I realized that I needed to reach out to you to let you know that I am thankful for you. I admire your devotion raising awareness to a disease that affects so many but also your humility and vulnerability sharing your most intimate thoughts to all. You have been through so much with the loss of your beloved wife and mother within one year of each other.
I pray for you and your family each day and thank God for allowing me to be touched by your life's journey with June.
Truly the best love story I have ever known. Mother Teresa said it best. "We can do no great things, only small things with great love." Thank you for all that you continue to do and share.
With love and prayers,
After battling Alzheimer's for almost 11 years, an exhausted June was called home by God on October 23rd, 2008. Her funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star in October 2008 can be seen on this website under the "In Memoriam" label - Click on: