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Thank you for visiting my new website. For those of you who have been following my blog, please update your bookmarks and start following my blog posts here. If you’re looking for earlier posts, you can view them all by clicking here.

Please know that I am working on moving all of my posts from Blogger to this site. One step at a time.

If you have any questions, you can reach me here.

Thank you!

Nadine.

Must Love Long Walks and God

As much as I absolutely hate saying goodbye to summer, I’m getting excited to welcome fall. I can hear it’s faint whisper just around the corner. It’s already preparing us for it’s arrival with it’s intermittent cool breezes and changing leaves. It’s only a matter of time, those autumn colours will speak, “Maestro, music please.”

Another summer has flown by. I predicted it back in June when coworkers were counting down the days to summer holidays. In my head I was thinking, “Please don’t.” As quickly as it comes, it goes. I am ultra aware of time’s ability to fly by, to pass even quicker than last year. So I try with all my might to embrace each day, every hour and minute for what it is—a gift!

Speaking of gifts and how time flies, my fiftieth birthday recently came and went … obviously, I survived! Letting go of my forties was like letting go of other things I’ve come to love; I grieved giving them up, but I happily keep marching on. It felt like a bit of an accomplishment actually, but more so, I was just so grateful and humbled to reach this milestone.

Among the many highlights of the summer, turning the big 5-0 was one and taking Leah horseback riding almost weekly was another. Then there’s this one—the one this blog post is based on: my aunt’s wedding. Ultimately, the highlight is the incredible love story. So, let me just go back to the beginning. Or at least back to when we first started noticing something was happening.

Auntie Marguerite is one of the most jovial people I know. Good cheer, laughter and smiling are her specialty. It kind of runs in the family. This is my mom’s younger sister and they are so similar in this way. Anyway, to see her typically large smile increase, gave us a clue something was up.

She shared with us that she had started walking on a regular basis. She actually found a walking partner; a nice man from her church. Over the course of about eight months, every time we saw her, there was something that indicated that maybe this male walking partner was becoming more than just a friend. After a visit with her, I’d say to my sister, “Did you see that ear to ear grin?” After another visit, Elanna would say, “Did you see her nails were done?” And of course she was looking extremely fit. The frequency and distance of their walks was increasing.

One day, Aunty M confessed that she had developed some romantic feelings for this lovely Frenchman, Jean-Marc (who she called John). She was concerned though, that the feelings weren’t mutual. She said that she was making her hand available for holding but he wasn’t noticing. She said he talked a lot about his late wife, which she really liked, but thought maybe he wasn’t ready yet.

Then, one day I got the long awaited call from my ecstatic Aunty Marguerite announcing that John had professed his love for her. She said, what he said was absolutely beautiful and took her by complete surprise. I think it was about the one year mark from when they started their walking partnership.

The details of course belong to them, so I’m going to skip right over to their wedding, which happened just a couple of weeks ago. It was an emotional occasion to say the least. Aunty Marguerite, who recently turned seventy, had been a widow for forty years. And Jean-Marc, seventy five, had been a widower for ten. I think these two probably never imagined that God had such extravagant plans for them at this stage of life. It’s a love story, I’m sure the Lord is using, to prove how He doesn’t stop moving mountains in our lives. Time doesn’t matter to Him. It doesn’t stop Him from renewing hope in a defeated soul, or providing a friend, husband or wife, or answering a prayer we’ve given up on, or shaping us into the glorious likeness of His Son.

Anyway, I don’t think I’ve missed my mom as much as I did the week of my aunt’s wedding. It’s funny because at the same time, I was writing chapter eleven in my next book, which is all about my mom. I was just telling how my mom would light up when she talked about how excited she got on payday to buy her brothers and sister new clothing; how she loved dressing her little sister up and doing her hair. Aunty M still talks about how my mom (eleven years older than her) doted on her and spoiled her and how it blessed her beyond measure.

The week leading up to the wedding, Elanna and I helped our aunt find the perfect white fascinator to wear and someone to do her hair. It wasn’t until after, I thought, wow, that’s what Mom would have done … she’d be so happy we helped take care of those details in particular.

Elanna and I went to Aunty M’s house early in the morning the day of the wedding. We wanted to be there when hairstylist and friend, Jackie arrived to make some introductions. Aunty Marguerite was as giddy as a school girl, she was on cloud nine … just so excited! I was sad in a way because my mom would have been there, having so much fun; but I was also as happy as I’ve ever been for anyone.

Our aunt and Jackie hit it off right away, like we knew they would. Auntie M proceeded to tell Jackie, through the permanent smile on her face, all about her wonderful fiance. I don’t think she could have stopped talking if she wanted to and Jackie happily listened as she blowdried and brushed, curled and sprayed.

Earlier, my aunt asked her daughter Colleen to fix up a bouquet of not-so-fresh flowers on her dining room table. Colleen and her sister-in-law, Shalin, were busy doing their daughter’s hair and Colleen told her mom that those flowers didn’t really matter right then and she’d do it later. So when I had a minute, I took the vase of flowers into the kitchen to clean them up and this is where everything kind of stopped for one very profound moment. Alone there, freshening up a week old bouquet of flowers, I could hear Auntie M say, “Have I told you about my husband who passed away?” Just typing this sentence opens up the flood gates.

I can’t stop thinking about this moment. It was almost like God was saying to me, “Nadine, you will never stop telling people about your husband who passed away, and that’s okay. You will go on about Mike and love him for the rest of your life. At the same time, you will be on cloud nine for a long time about marrying Chris and you will continue to fall deeper and deeper in love with him.”

So, needless to say, the waterworks were just getting started and we hadn’t even gotten to the ceremony yet.

The ceremony was lovely and I pretty much held it together until the reception. We sat at, what I called, the “cool” table, with Auntie Vicki and cousins Shelley and Larry. We had lots of fun and I just kept thinking how brave Shelley was and how she must still be in shock having recently lost her husband Bruce so suddenly. At a celebration like this, I’m sure she’d feel so lost there without him. (I wrote about Bruce’s passing in my last post, Wednesdays With Leah)

After dinner and before the speeches, when I went over to the equally as “cool” table beside us (where auntie Gail, uncle Larry and cousins Julie and Chrissy were sitting) to say hello, Uncle Larry jokingly said to me (I think he was joking), “Our table took a vote and we nominate you to speak at the open mic on our behalf.” This started a little back and forth about why the other was the better choice to get up there and say something.

I really wish I could have rose to the challenge but I’m just not good on the spot. Plus, I was so emotional, had I taken that microphone, and opened my mouth, a bunch of blubbering would have come out and that wouldn’t have been “cool” at all.

Had I had more time to think about it and been able to keep my cool, I probably would have simply started by introducing us – the children of aunty Marguerite’s siblings (uncle Larry, and the two with the front row view in heaven – my mom and uncle Eugene). Without conferring with my cousins, I know I could have said, that to each of us, Auntie M simply represents LOVE. How even though, she raised four children of her own, and then had a bunch of grandchildren and great grandchildren and has many friends and family, when she is with any of us, we receive her undivided attention and buckets of love. She genuinely cares deeply for each of us and our children and grandchildren. It’s a selfless love that comes from above, that spreads beyond any limits. Her role modelling of love has been exquisite!

She loves God first, then the person right in front of her (regardless of who it is), and all the people around her. And now, Jean-Marc, this very blessed Frenchman, moves up the queue and gets the best view of this incredible love in action. The more I get to know him, the more I realize, it’s well deserved and Auntie M is also very blessed to get a similar, very special, exquisite love in return. And we all wish them many wonderful years of marital bliss, good health and happiness!

So, it’s taken me about a week to write this and we’re that much closer to fall. School starts tomorrow (Tue) and that’s when I go back to work. I partly chose this career as an Education Assistant because of the awesome holidays, but as hard as it is to let go of the freedom of summer, I’m ready for routine and I’m ready to see those beautiful faces at Blue Mountain Elementary.

What I hope to take with me to work and everywhere I go, is more love – this exquisite love from above that spreads beyond limits – and greater expectations in God. Remembering that anything is possible with Him!

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory… Ephesians 3:20

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A huge thank you to Cindy from Once Upon a Tea Leaf (tea and gift shop) in Maple Ridge for allowing us to take all the white fascinators in stock to Auntie M’s house so she could select the perfect one. And a huge thank you to Jackie for fitting this beautiful bride in on short notice and doing a fantastic job on her hair.

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Aunty M and Uncle Larry coming down the isle.                                                                 Picture borrowed from cousin Chrissy.

All us girls gathered around Aunty and Jackie

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Me, Leah and Auntie M having lots of fun trying on fascinators a few days before the wedding.

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Back to turning the big 5-0, when Mike turned 50, he called it the big 5-OLD, you can read about it (and laugh about it) in his blog post Hawaii 5-Old from January 20/12. One of my most read blog posts!

Wednesdays With Leah

(From Sun June 24)                                                                                                                            June has been an exceptionally busy month, but this past week was a little over the top and I’ve been feeling physically and emotionally drained. I was pretty tired yesterday when I arrived home after an unusually busy Saturday morning. I went upstairs to have a bath but laid on the bed instead – for just a second. “Just a second” became many seconds. After about ten or fifteen minutes, I remembered I needed to text my sister about something but had left my phone downstairs. Chris gave me his phone to use. While Elanna and I were texting back and forth, a notification came across his screen. It said, “Tomorrow: Nadine and Mike’s anniversary.”

I was aware on and off throughout the month that our anniversary was coming up, but I have a tendency to lose track of the date. When I saw that reminder on Chris’ phone, it kind of took my breath away. Even though Chris and I were talking, he had no idea I was all choked up because he was outside in the hall folding laundry.

Thirty years ago today, Mike and I got hitched. I can still see my young self—just a kid, oblivious to the journey of love ahead. It feels like yesterday, but at the same time, a world away – a world of love, grief, joy, pain and restoration. It’s been exceptional, incredible, amazing!

I’ve just completed chapter five of my next book. I’m not under the same pressure to get it done as I was with the first one, so it’s slower going than I’d like. I need to be more disciplined with my time. Having said that though, I put it on hold while I write this piece. I look at this as a little reprieve and an opportunity to connect with whoever takes the time to read it.

This new book, like the first one – ‘Hold On, Let Go’ includes my blog posts. I don’t have as many this time, so there will be more fresh writing. This book also includes some journal entries from the journal I kept when Mike was first diagnosed with ALS. I treasure that journal of course but reading it isn’t easy and I’ve had to be more vulnerable than ever sharing some of it. I always envisioned me reading it to Mike years later – dreaming he’d either be healed of ALS or long outlive the statistics.

Something I’m noticing as I go through that journal, is the regular (maybe monthly) sleepovers with our granddaughter Leah. Here’s mention of one: Fri July 22, 2011 – “When Nathan dropped Leah off, Elanna was over. We all went for a walk. Leah slept between me and Mike. I just love watching her sleep…” Sat July 23 – “I woke up early and got up, leaving Leah and Mike in bed. I read and prayed for a while and then Mike came down and joined me. Leah followed shortly after. We had the usual for breakfast – smoothies. We sat on the front porch and listened to the birds and played with [our dog] Molly.”

Leah was two at the time. She is nine now and throughout this school year, she’s had regular overnight stays on Wednesdays. She has stayed other nights a few times as well, which is a bonus, sometimes with her little brother, which is another bonus. But Wednesdays are our nights!

Chris picks Leah up from school on Wednesday afternoons and I meet them at our place shortly after when I get home from work. She spends time on my iPad. She loves to make movies, play games and watch videos (she and Chris enjoy the funny cat/dog videos, I enjoy the laughter). We have painted on numerous occasions, watching YouTube tutorials, as well as directive drawings. We go for walks with the dog(s) and sometimes go to the playground at the school down the road or in our complex. She’s teaching me to crochet – that’s what we did last week. We have gone a few times to visit the residents where Elanna works – it’s a senior’s long term care facility, where Leo and Glen (our “therapy” dogs) volunteer.  And we almost always go for dinner with my dad to Tim Hortons. Bed time is lovely. She usually plays a little more on the iPad while I get ready. Then we read a book, say our prayers and say good night (sometimes, while she drifts off to sleep, I sit up beside her and read or write).

I know I am lucky. I know I am incredibly blessed. I don’t take this time for granted. Wednesdays with Leah are a gift!

We still have the “usual” for breakfast and Chris typically takes her to school while I get ready for work, but sometimes I take her too. A couple of weeks ago, when I dropped her off, as soon as I said, “Good bye, I love you!” I thought to myself, soon she’ll be graduating from high school. It goes so fast. I felt sad. My niece Michaela was graduating that weekend, so maybe that’s why I had that thought. I occasionally picked Michaela and Luke up from elementary school when Elanna worked and now they are almost all grown up. I say to myself what I said when my children graduated, “You shouldn’t have blinked.”

When I dropped Leah off and had that split second graduation thought, I asked myself if I was savouring every moment – unlike with my own children – time seemed to slip right though my fingers. I’m not as busy now, and more wise; I know more than ever how time flies.

Along with Michaela’s graduation, June included birthdays, the ALS walk, a few friend’s book launches, many appointments (for my ongoing whip lash injury), a memorial service, a bridal shower for my Auntie Marguerite, and the list goes on.

But then everything comes to a halt. Last week, after a class I was teaching, I got the message my cousin Shelley’s husband Bruce had passed away that morning from a heart attack. And the whirl wind stops for a while as you try to wrap your head around that one. As Elanna and I made our way over to Shelley’s place, we wondered if at this stage of life, that’s what the rest of it will be like: trying to comfort each other in our losses, illnesses, grief, shock? That was last Wednesday (June 20).

Just two days before that, on Monday while I was at work, I had a 911 message from a good friend. She asked if there was anyway I could go sit with her son who was having emergency surgery that day; she was out of town and couldn’t get there until much later. He had got himself to the hospital just in time. He almost died.

There are constant reminders that life is so fragile and that tomorrow is not a given. Today is to be embraced and savoured. Some get more time than they expect, like my friend Karen’s dad who outlived his prognosis by a year. Then there’s Bruce, he was young, three boys still at home, no warning and he’s gone. Shelley’s mom, auntie Vicki greets us at the door and tells us there’s just one question on her mind, “Why?”

We all ask why from time to time. Lots of things just don’t seem right … things don’t always make sense. I find the older I get and the more knowledge and wisdom I gain, the less knowledgeable and wise I am … about life, about God, about everything. The mysteries are bigger, but you know what? So is God!

“Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, And how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?”       Job 26:14 (NKJV)

This past Wednesday, we went to McDonalds for dinner instead of Tims. Dad has a gift card from there he wanted to use, plus Tims has been out of chilli a few too many times lately. Leah brought a card for him that she made at school. It was a thank you card. It had lovely words, a drawing of a horse and a loonie she found, taped to the inside. He loved it! What a beautiful scene it was, the two of them sitting side by side, with the homemade card proudly displayed on the table in front of them. He kept offering her his fries – even though she had her own – and his drink. He also slipped her a little cash in there at some point. The thing is, he’d give her the world if he could. But here’s another thing, he’s giving her more than that. He’s giving her his time and attention. He’s telling her stories and imparting wisdom. He’s speaking to her words of praise and encouragement. He’s sharing his food, money, his life, his love. My dad who recently turned eighty with his precious great-granddaughter, sharing food at McDonalds, was the most beautiful sight to behold. Not everyone gets that kind of gift and I know they know it, especially him.

(Finishing this piece on Friday, June 29)

Today, Leo, Glen and I had so much fun at Elanna’s work going around and visiting the residents with her. Elanna eventually had to get back to her routine and went on her way. I told her that before we left, we’d have one last visit with our good friend Jean. Jean is always so happy to see us. She loves to sing and while Glen sat on her tummy and Leo at the end of her bed, she sang a few songs for us. I asked her if she knew the song, ‘Jean’, from the movie ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ (1969). I explained it was my late husband Mike’s favourite song and we listened to it often. She wasn’t sure, so I found it on YouTube and played it for her. We sang along a little. She asked me to print out the lyrics and bring them next time. I said I would. She asked me to also bring the lyrics to ‘Moon River’. I responded, “Wow Jean, Mike and I loved that song and we also listened to that one a lot.” I told her I’d bring the lyrics for both songs next time. She thanked me for coming and said that it was the best visit. I agreed. She didn’t need a thing from me, just a little bit of my time was the greatest gift she could receive … and I treasure her time as well! (I wouldn’t normally mention a resident’s name for confidentiality sake, but Jean is the mom of an old friend)

After Chris wished me a Happy Anniversary last Sunday, he went off to church. He was on power point and had to leave early. I went to Nathan’s church to hear him drum. It was unusual that I beat Chris home. Soon after though, he came through the door with two lovely bouquets of flowers. He handed me one, gorgeous with brilliant colours and said, “These are from Mike.” He handed me another, smaller bouquet of daisies, “These are from me.” Later, he explained that he knew I liked daisies and that those daisies might not be real daisies but they looked like daisies and well, the price was to his liking. I replied, “Oh, so that’s why the more extravagant ones are from Mike?” He said, “Yah!” Then after a pause, he continued, “Do you think it’s possible to get reimbursed?” We both laughed. Mike would probably say, “It’s okay, I’ll give her the daisies.”

Not everyone gets this kind of gift and we both know it! I will hold on to it for as long as I can and do my best to savour every moment!

“Collect moments not things. Treasure time together. Value love above all else. Be grateful.” Happy Wives Club.com

To my dear cousin Shelley and your boys, auntie Vicki and cousin Larry, I am so so sorry for your loss. You are in my prayers and thoughts. Bruce was an exceptional man and I end with a few lessons we could all learn from him: Be exceedingly kind and give generously of your time. Lend a helping hand as much as you can. Pour yourself out!

PS – Project Wellness has a new website! You can check it out at projectwellness.ca You can watch the video there of our local MP, Dan Ruimy honouring dad in Parliament on his 80th birthday (just scroll down on the first page). It’s awesome! See pictures of Dad’s and Chris’ latest trips to Malawi, including the recently drilled wells (42 to date) and other news.

FullSizeRenderLeah with Leo and Glen

From There to Here in Three Years

I’ve been calling it, ‘Mike’s Flight’, but the more I type, ’Journey of Love’ sounds right too. This one’s about naming a painting, remembering Mike and celebrating life and love in new and wonderful ways.

Leading up to the third anniversary of Mike’s passing, I decided I wanted to do something special to express my love, grief and gratitude. Also, with a new year here and the reality of turning fifty this year, I was thinking I should perhaps expand my horizons a little. One way to do both was to paint. I saw a paint night advertised at 4 Cats art studio here in Maple Ridge that caught my eye. It was on Friday, Jan 5 and it was a scene of trees, birds and a beautiful sky… it was perfect!

Mike has been gone for three years now and it’s like a fog recently lifted. I can see beyond my own two feet and the view is exquisite. I just feel so honoured and thankful to have known him, to have called him mine. The gratitude outweighs the grief now, although the grief still weighs a ton sometimes.

Grief has become very intriguing to me. I have found that it changes and weaves and winds in so many ways over time. In his book, ‘A Grief Observed’, C.S. Lewis describes it this way, “Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.” I call it a journey of grief. Also on a journey of love, I explore the great expanse of both. I’ve come to learn that grief is an expression of love; it’s simply a fact of love. In which case, the journey of grief and the journey of love is one.

As most of us know ALS can be horrible, but here’s one way God used it for good: it drove Mike’s and my love to heights and widths unmeasurable. I’d have to say our love became perfect. Not that humans can love perfectly, but God does and His love over took us. We clung to God and relied on Him exclusively. His love held us up! His love sustained us! His love wooed us and wowed us and the joy we found there couldn’t be compared to anything ALS could take from us or anything this world has to offer.

In ‘A Grief Observed’, Lewis compares the feeling of grief and loss to the feeling of being concussed. I actually had a concussion a few months ago. It was my first and hopefully my last. When I read Lewis’ analogy, I thought, “Good one.” He goes on to say, “There is sort of an invisible blanket between the world and me.” I can really relate! Recently though, a sort of blanket was lifted for me. Here’s what I mean…

A few weeks ago, my son Nathan invited me and Chris to a Saturday night church service where he drums sometimes. The music was awesome, and I’m not just saying that because I’m the drummer’s mom. It was so powerful! We really felt the heavy presence of God there. About four songs in, they played one of Mike’s and my favourite hymns – one we listened to several times during our last few days together called, ‘Lord I Need You’ by Matt Maher. As soon as it started, I closed my eyes and there I was beside Mike in that place of our final goodbye. I’ve stood there in my mind so many times over these three years, but this time was very different. I’ve only ever seen the room the way it was, the way I left it… the way I left him. This time, without even a pause, from the instant I closed my eyes it was like a thousand little lights burst from him in vibrant colours. Dancing, twirling swirling waves of brilliant energy moved toward the glow of the Lord at the end of the bed. Then came Mike. He leaped out of his body, feet first and joined the procession of light. As he pushed off the bed with one arm, and reached in the direction he was going with the other, I got a perfect view of his fresh new face and the look of pure JOY! I’ve imagined him moving from his body to the arms of Jesus before, but this was nothing I did. This vision was a gift!

What I said earlier, “A fog recently lifted,” I’m thinking now, maybe I’ve just climbed above it. Yes, I’m still forgetful, still pre-menopausal, still pretty easily distracted. I still feel lost without my mom and miss her something fierce… and so on. The glorious vision I shared with you was a wonderful surprise and my painting experience was really cool too, but what has brought me to this exquisite view is simply this: placing one foot in front of the other end keeping my eyes on my Saviour and Guide, Jesus Christ.

Mike and I would have been married for thirty years this June. I think that’s pretty amazing! Chris and I will be married for one year in May. I think that’s amazing too. Even though our love is young (meaning it hasn’t been that long), it’s so deep. We didn’t really need to test the waters or wade in. We were able to jump right into the deep end. We both knew true love when we saw it and weren’t going to let it drift by. It’s not always going to be smooth sailing of course but I’m overjoyed here in the deep end with Chris. Mike would be thrilled to know how loved and supported and cared for I am by him. I’d say “I feel lucky in love” if I believed in luck. Instead, let’s call it, incredibly blessed! Chris shows his love and support in so many wonderful ways. He probably has no idea how much even the littlest gestures, like encouraging me to paint a picture for Mike and helping me name it, mean to me.

This journey of love I’m on is awesome! The older I get, the more I reflect on the pursuit of God’s love for me since day one. His pursuing and wooing has been intense and the lid of the box I had His love in, has long blown off.

One more little story I want to share before I end in hopes to send you off feeling encouraged and really loved. I’ve been writing a speech for an upcoming woman’s event and before I started, I prayed a lot about it. I felt I had a choice to fall back on a speech that I know well or pray and wait and listen for something else. At the same time, I was contemplating the new year and the goals I set and some feelings of regret – like I’m falling short in many ways, especially as I stare fifty in the face and time keeps slipping through my hands. I prayed and prayed and one day, right there in the bathtub, when I said it again, “Lord, what do you want to say? What do you want to tell us?”

He replied,

“Enjoy My Love!”

Then I heard it again with a comma,

“Enjoy, My Love.”

He calls you and me Love.

God’s beckoning love never ceases to amaze me!

“And I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love. I pray that you can understand how wide and how long and how high and how deep that love is.” Ephesians 3:18

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I’ve done three paint nights since this first one (all three with my sister) and I think I’m hooked (we’re hooked). This first one, on the third anniversary of Mike’s passing, was all about him. My sister Elanna, Chris’ sister Kelly and I enjoyed our time together painting, but I was focused and I really wanted to do my best for Mike. I was serious. We stapled our canvas to the wall and I wanted to know where the artist was situated so I could see well. One of the ladies there said something about relaxing and later made another comment along the same lines as she laughed at me (I had said something to Elanna about being in a sweat) – I ignored it and in my own world, continued to consult the Lord, asking Him to guide my hand. I didn’t say much, I was in the zone. The original painting had many birds, but painting just one bird was very nerve wracking so I left it at one. It’s called: Mike’s Flight/Journey of Love. I’ve relaxed a little since then.

If you missed my last post, I encourage you to read it. It’s about my friend Randy – his courage, faith and love! An awesome story called: Thank you! I Love you!

And the link to my book: Hold On, Let Go, Facing ALS with courage and hope

Thank you! I love you!

The morning I got word my friend Randy passed away, I wish someone had first told me to take a seat. I literally dropped to my knees in shock, regret and grief. It was one month to the day after my mom passed away and three days before Christmas. I hadn’t been by to see Randy in a week and a half and I had the strong urge to drop in the day before just to say hi from afar as I had been fighting a cold/cough. Busily, I put it off thinking I’d see him in a couple of days to wish him and his family Merry Christmas… regretfully unaware, Randy didn’t have a couple of days.

When I first met Randy, about nine months before, he was still standing. He leaned up against his chair like Mike did when he could no longer find his balance. Although Randy’s speech was affected, he was clearly understandable and I actually found comfort and joy in listening closely to his soft voice. He had that familiar look and sound when he laughed, a wide range of facial expressions and he got frustrated when he couldn’t communicate the way he really wanted to… classic signs of ALS.

When my oldest daughter Erin told me about a friend’s dad who had ALS, I thought it was most likely the same man my mom and dad had told me about – who lived close to us in our town of Maple Ridge. My parents, and Randy and his wife Blanca, had a mutual friend: Harry. Harry had worked with Randy pre-ALS and was hopeful I would go and befriend the couple. I told my parents I’d gladly go but I didn’t want to just show up unannounced. I thought maybe Harry could pass on my contact information or maybe even arrange a visit. As it turned out, I met Randy and his family through Erin – who became instant friends with them when they first met, just shortly before she introduced me.

My connection with Randy and Blanca was instant as well. During our first visit, I told them if they needed anything, not to hesitate to call or email me. Within days I had a message asking if I knew of any wheelchair vans for rent because they had an appointment in Chilliwack to see the ALS team. I called my friend Cynthia who I knew had a wheelchair van for her dad. Cynthia and family borrowed our wheelchair van when Mike was still alive to take her dad to church on Sundays and on other outings. Cynthia said we could use their van, no problem! I got back to Randy and Blanca and told them I had borrowed a van and then I happily offered to drive them. They gratefully accepted.

It was a difficult appointment for sure. I guess you could say every appointment with the ALS team is difficult because it’s about tracking the decline of health and preparing for the next stage of the illness. The ALS team is amazing – they are kind, compassionate and supportive of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that you or your loved one is dying, there is no cure, no hope of recovering outside of a miracle. Emotions ran high, but by the grace of God we got through it and I felt like the Lord used me and my experience to help in a substantial way. I was praising the Lord and lifting my two new friends up to Him, in-between conversation, all the way home.

We had a wonderful visit after the appointment that day and as I got up to leave, I could see Randy had something important he wanted to say… I sat back down and listened closely. We had touched slightly on the topic of faith earlier and he wanted me to know that he wasn’t a religious person and that he never went to church. He said these exact words, “I wasn’t a believer, but now I believe.” He explained that God made His existence and His love for Randy clear to him through the people he brought into his life, including Erin and me and his dear friend Harry.

It was an unforgettable moment when Randy committed his life to Christ. I prayed and he prayed along with me in his heart and when we were done, Randy looked up toward Heaven and said, “Thank you.” It was absolutely beautiful! The three of us, somewhat battered and beaten up by ALS, basked in the power and peace of our Saviour’s love and His healing touch. (And at the end of every prayer after that, he looked up and said, “Thank you.”)

There were many more appointments. When I’d introduce myself to the doctor or respirologist or occupational therapist or whoever, I’d introduce myself as “a friend.” Before I could finish, Randy would say, “BEST friend!” If Chris was along (my now husband) or my sister Elanna, then he would say, “BEST friends!”

There were lots of visits. Sometimes it was just the two of us, like the week I went over everyday to sit with Randy when his sister Terri went away. Terri stayed with Randy weekdays when Blanca still worked. Even though Blanca, who worked from home as a child care provider, could keep an ear open and check in on Randy, she really appreciated someone being with him at all times. She and Terri thought I was doing them a favour but it was the other way around.

Our families became very close and sometimes visits were like a party. There was lots of talking and laughing and sharing. There was also a growing sorrow knowing we were watching another loved one succumb to the dreadful ALS. Every time we said good bye, Randy would say, “Thank you!” and “I love you!” He would say it to everyone individually, and we each said it back. When he could no longer say the words, he mouthed them. When he could no longer mouth them, he gave us a certain look that we previously discussed that became his “Thank you!” and “I love you!”

I usually stood behind Randy and rubbed his head, neck and shoulders. He was once a man with broad shoulders able to bear the weight of the world. A man’s man, good with his hands, a hard-worker, a fisherman, a friend to everyone. I never knew the pre-ALS man, with skilled hands etc. I knew this man who taught himself to operate a motorized wheelchair with his head – extremely determined, sensitive, courageous and vulnerable. He was so caring and kind, a good listener and confidant, a BEST friend.

The regret of not going to see him the day before or a few days before he passed away has often been paralyzing. I’ve asked God why He didn’t make the pull to go over stronger, like He has at other times, many times throughout my life. I’ve had so much guilt as I’ve questioned what kind of best friend was I. Over the year, God has been slowly convincing me that I was the best friend I could be to Randy and I don’t know the rest but I have to trust that it was the way it was suppose to be and that it’s ok. Plus, Randy would want me to focus on the time we spent together and all the joy we shared, not on the time I wasn’t there and the accompanied grief and regret.

Ultimately we had an extraordinary friendship that has changed me forever and that I will always treasure.

I know some people were a little concerned about me diving right in with Randy…understandably. Could my heart take the inevitable pain – could it withstand more heart-break? I admit I thought about it too… for a few minutes and then that little bit of doubt was gone. And boy oh boy what I would have missed out on had I let fear keep me away. That would have been something to really regret!

Randy has left a legacy of faith! As a non-believer, when Randy was diagnosed with ALS he could have become bitter. His attitude could have been, “See, I knew it! Surely there is no God. And if there is a God, He’s definitely not a good God.” Instead, he looked further than that and found the compassionate heart of Jesus. He had little if any knowledge of God and no awareness of His love but in his despair, he recognized God was there, and that He cared deeply for Randy with an extravagant, unconditional and eternal love that would never fail him.

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At the ALS walk in Abbotsford the spring before Randy died, he had a large team of supporters – mostly people from his work. Harry was there and I asked Randy if he wanted me to tell Harry that he had a huge influence on Randy’s decision to believe and receive Jesus into his life as his Lord and saviour and ultimate BEST friend. Without hesitation Randy said, “Yes!” Randy told me that Harry’s constant, dedicated walk with the Lord all the years he knew him spoke volumes. He said Harry didn’t say much, he just lived out his faith. (He said other Christian friends made impressions too)

Losing my mom a month before Randy, caused me to stuff a lot of my pain away. Writing this piece has forced me to open the door and face some of that grief. It has taken me a few months to get through it… and a million tears but the joy of remembering our extraordinary friend Randy and telling you about him is indescribable.

Speaking from all of us, we miss Randy so much! He taught us a lot! Our lives will be forever changed because of him.

Dear Randy, Thank you! I love you! And Merry Christmas!

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9

In loving memory of Randy Walters – June 4, 1954 – Dec 22, 2016

Love and prayers to the family Randy adored:                                                                        Wife Blanca, sons Chris and Cory and sister Terri – Thanks for sharing Randy with us!

Dances With Leaves

The way the sun has shone on the autumn leaves in the trees these past few weeks has got me dwelling on the extreme beauty this season brings. The sun is lower in the sky and instead of shining from above it comes in from the side like a spot light and illuminates the brilliance of the simple, yet remarkably crafted, fragile leaf.

Fall captivates me; it romances me. It causes emotions to run wild in me. I liken it to the crescendo that bridges the third and fourth movements of Beethoven’s fifth symphony. I’m not much of a classical music listener but this is the best way I can think to describe what this magical buildup to the passing of the life of the leaf is like. Whether it lets go of the tree or the branch sets it free, it’s graceful dancing decent in the breeze causes a dancing on the inside of me.

Eventually, the vibrant canopy that dazzled overhead becomes a lush, colourful carpet under feet. I love the variety of oranges and yellows and greens, but it’s the deep reds that really mesmerize me and at the age of 49, I’m like a kindergarten student again collecting and examining leaves for the first time.

I have an aunt in Hospice right now who is patiently waiting for the Lord to take her home to Heaven. While my sister Elanna and I were there visiting recently, she said she couldn’t understand what the Lord was waiting for. Elanna told her that He has the exact perfect time in mind. Elanna explained that He’s most likely preparing her family to say good bye and He’s still using her here to be a glorious witness for Him. Our aunts reply: “Wow, really? Ok, sounds good!”

It’s been a huge blessing spending more time with our aunt since her cancer diagnosis. Elanna and I have enjoyed our “girl time” with her in Hospice and are reminded over and over again of our mom, who one year ago went to hospital to fight her own cancer battle. As heart broken as I still am, I can’t help but compare that experience and now my aunt’s, to the exquisite journey of the simple, yet remarkably crafted, fragile leaf.

“To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven”           Ecclesiastes 3:1

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I barely finish this post and guess what? It starts to snow.

I had to put a piece I’ve been working on for weeks on hold lately. I switched to this one about the leaf, not that this one was necessarily easy. I’ve been writing about my dear friend Randy. Every time I go and add a few sentences, I end up crying like a baby. I didn’t realize how much grief I have stuffed. He passed away with ALS one month after my mom died. Anyway, writing about Randy, anticipating my mom’s one year anniversary and spending time with my aunt in Hospice lately, is causing me to be slightly (and sometimes extremely) weepy and a little distracted I guess (and it doesn’t help that I’ve recently binge-watched the show ‘This Is Us’, and that I was (and maybe still am) concussed… and that I have a tendency to cary the weight of other people’s burdens on my shoulders). I don’t feel like the “Nadine who can do anything and everything” I have at times before. So friends and family, please be patient with me. In fact, let’s be patient with everybody because you never know what the next person is going through.

Having said the above, I’d also like to say, that the joy of the Lord never leaves me. The joy of the Lord is my strength! And I am absolutely full of it (joy that is). I am so grateful for the constant presence of the Lord in my life and like Psalm 16:11 says, “In His presence there is fullness of joy.” I’m always in awe of His beauty that surrounds me and I wonder how anyone can say, “Where is He?” I find His strong presence there in nature, whether I’m outside enveloped by His genius artistry or just looking through my window at the leaves blowing in the breeze, I’m forever saying, “God, you’re amazing!”

In other news, I am so happy to report that my dad, George and my husband Chris recently returned from Malawi Africa where they had three more wells drilled. That makes wells number 37, 38 and 39 for Project Wellness projectwellness.ca. Wow!! Check out the Facebook page for pictures and other news.

ALSO… (a drum roll would be suitable right here) I’m so proud and excited to announce that ‘The Event Horizon’ by Nathaniel G Sands (my son) was released on Oct 31. I read part of the manuscript of this deep, philosophical, post-apocalyptic, si-fi adventure that reads like poetry (it might be a little out of my league) and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Here is where you can find it:  The Event Horizon amazon.com

Like the Event Horizon Facebook page to stay in touch and find out more.

A Lost Little Girl Like Me (Deep Calls to Deep)

Chris and I both cried our way through breakfast the other day. While I choked down my delicious gluten free pancakes, I watched Chris devour his sausage and cheese omelette and at the same time, continuously wipe tears away. It’s like they just wouldn’t stop. We didn’t stop either, we kept on eating like nothing was wrong… this sort of thing isn’t that uncommon. Before the server delivered our meal, Chris started tearing up. When I questioned him, he said he saw a couple walk in and the woman clearly had cancer.

Chris and I traveled down the Oregon Coast this past week – it was kind of like part two of our honeymoon. For me, it was a dream come true; Chris had been before. The breakfast I’m telling you about took place in a town where Chris and Heather spent a couple of days, three years ago. Chris showed me the hotel where they stayed, and a few other memorable places. The Pig N Pancake restaurant where we were eating was where they ate. Hence the opened flood gates when the women who seemingly had cancer walked through the door. Chris explained, “This is my Victoria.”

A week after our wedding, Chris and I went to Victoria for his aunt’s surprise birthday party. It was a quick trip because Chris had sold his house and had to be out that same weekend. We stayed one night and took in a few sights and everything we saw, reminded me of Mike (he and I spent a lot of time there together over the years – sometimes just the two of us, sometimes with the kids, always when his mum vacationed there from Toronto visiting her sister and brothers). I loved it but had no idea it was going to hit me so hard. Chris watched me wipe away many tears those couple of days as I was overwhelmed with the opened flood gates of memories.

The thing is, away or at home, I’m constantly reminded of Mike and if it’s not tears on my face, it’s a big smile. Every once in a while, I ask Chris if he’s getting tired of hearing about Mike. The last time I asked, he said, “Never.” Chris has really gotten to know Mike and likes getting to know him better. I feel the same about Heather. She was an incredible woman, someone I would have been honoured to call my friend. As weird as it sounds, I feel a strong connection with her.

Anyway, I’d like to go back to the Pig N Pancake. I don’t mean to get more delicious gluten free pancakes, although that sounds good too, but I’m talking about getting back to that part of my story. (You’re probably still wondering about the word “delicious” and “gluten free pancakes” in the same sentence, but it’s true… they were amazing.) Here’s the thing, when Chris started tearing up, so did I. Just when the tears where welling up in my eyes, the server brought our food. I had never ordered pancakes before; my mom ordered them all the time. She loved pancakes and when my pancakes were placed in front of my face, so were many beloved thoughts of her. In that moment I missed her more than ever.

I felt completely numb the morning my mom died. I had stayed with her over night like a couple of other times, but this one was different. She had been moved from a hospital room of four, to a room for one at the end of the hall. It felt like the end-of-the-line kind of room. Chris stayed too. We tried to get comfortable on the skinny cot the nurse brought, but this night wasn’t about getting a good sleep-or any sleep, this night was about watching and waiting and praying… this night was about a final so-long.

If I hadn’t already decided to marry Chris before this, my decision would have been made and the deal would have been sealed right then. Since meeting him, he had already absorbed hundreds of my tears on various sleeves as I continued to grieve Mike’s death and now he held me up as I realized my mom’s last breath had come and gone.

My mom had a short battle with cancer (lymphoma). How long for sure, we don’t really know, but from diagnosis, it was less than two months. Ultimately, it was the chemotherapy that killed her. She was in the hospital for two weeks. My sister, Elanna and I agree that sharing a lot of the constant care she needed was an amazing gift. It was a drop in the bucket of pay-back to the life time of care she gave us. We all did everything in our power to keep her comfortable as she endured the side effects of the chemo and sadly the shutting down of her kidneys and other major organs.

Numb is the word I use to describe how I felt the morning she died. Today, I think I feel the same way. It happened so fast. She was at a fitness class a few weeks before she went into the hospital. Watching my dad grieve the passing of the love-of-his-life for over 55 years has been painful enough. Grieving her myself had to be delayed. I’m still shaking my head and questioning, “Is she really gone?”

When I see a freshly made bed, for a split second, I think “my mom’s been here”. Same thing when I see ‘Mom and Dad’ on my cell phone call display, from one extreme of elation to the immediate opposite of deepest disappointment, I sadly remember, she’s gone. Elanna shared recently how when she went into her laundry room and saw freshly ironed clothing hanging there, her first thought was, “Mom!” Then, instantly, that sinking feeling, no, she’s gone.

I’ve been feeling a little lost lately – more at times than others. I guess the feeling kind of comes and goes. I don’t mean my soul, all is well with my soul, it’s more my heart and head that feel lost (and feet sometimes as I often question, what was I doing here again?) After Mike passed away, I felt that way a lot.

For a long time, I blamed my scattered thoughts, memory loss and inability to focus, on the grieving process. Then, about a year ago, I was like, wait a minute: pre menopause! Lately, the above feelings mixed with the feelings you get when your a little girl separated from your mom at the mall for too long – discontentment, anxiety, fear and so on – I describe it in one word: lost. And even though I’m all grown up now and I’m not afraid, I’ve decided the longer the separation from my mom, the more I feel this way.

As I’ve pondered this lost place, God has met me in it with His comfort, guidance and grace, and I’ve heard Him speak, “Deep calls to deep.” The first time I heard it, I thought of Canadian Christian artist, Steve Bell’s beautiful acoustic arrangement of, Deep Calls to Deep (Author unknown). My friend Suzy, most-defiantly his biggest fan, got me hooked on him. She invited me, Elanna and our mom to one of his concerts years ago. Since then we’ve been to a few with her and other friends (she always saves us front row seats). Anyway, I knew “Deep calls to deep” was part of a verse I was pretty sure found in the book of Psalms. Indeed, chapter 42 verse 7 says: “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.”

My first thought was that the deep things of God, call out to the deep things of me (and maybe vice versa sometimes), and the water from above, flows into the waters below and as this blended H2O washes over me, there’s this deeper communing with my Lord producing indescribable joy and peace.… something along those lines. I’m not a Bible scholar of course, but I’ve been there before and feel I’m just speaking from experience. I did a little research how my take on the Psalmist’s writing compares to others. There were some different ideas, but most included this idea of “communing”… deep communing with God.

Sometimes, it just seems easier to stay in the shallow places. I think we all resist the ‘deep’ for various reasons. The deep can be scary; the fear of the unknown. It’s beyond our comfort zone. We have to be more vulnerable there. We get stretched there. We have to listen there, and wait there and we wonder what He’s going to say there. But when we let go and follow the call, Agape love invades the soul and we are forever changed there. The author of Steve Bells’ Deep Calls to Deep, puts it this way: “Deep calls to deep and my soul finds no resting place but Him. He is my God, the yearning of my soul His touch can still. And each rare moment, I felt His presence, I shall remember and forever cherish…”

I’ve decided that this lost feeling is okay and it’s probably not going to change. I’m just passing through this place and even though I love my life and want to fulfill all of God’s plans for me here, I have a longing for my heavenly home. It’s like a little piece of me is there already with mom and Mike, Mike’s mom Sheila, Randy and Heather and the list goes on.

Recently, while gathered around a table in one of our favourite coffee shops (dad, Elanna, Chris and me), a friend asked us what was so great about heaven. What are we going to do in heaven. What’s the big deal about heaven? I know the Bible has lots of amazing descriptions of heaven and one of us could have really tried to sell it. Instead, what blurted out of my mouth was something like this: “Our Saviour and Lord is there – our best friend, Jesus. We look forward to seeing Him and being in His presence.”

If you are feeling like a lost little girl like me, don’t worry. Follow the call as Deep calls to deep!

God’s peace!

“Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life …”  1 Peter 2:11 Message Bible

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If you missed my last blog post,  you can check it out here. It will fill you in on Chris’ and my story: You, Me and a Cherry Blossom Tree

You can find my book, Hold On, Let Go – facing ALS with courage and hope here. Or get from me personally if you live locally.

Here is Deep Calls to Deep in full:

“Deep calls to deep

And my soul finds no resting place but Him

He is my God

The yearning of my soul His touch can still

And each rare moment

I felt His presence

I shall remember

And forever cherish

Deep calls to deep

For he created me to be His own

He understands

The joy and pain of life He too has known

And each rare moment

I felt His presence

I shall remember

And forever cherish

Deep calls to deep

And at His feast I am a welcomed guest

He gives me food

The hunger of my soul is laid to rest

And each rare moment

I felt His presence

I shall remember

And forever cherish”

You, Me and a Cherry Blossom Tree

It’s late, really late. I hesitate to look at the time. I’m tired but I can’t sleep. Different sounds and shadows of trees on my new bedroom wall are just a couple of things among many that keep me from sleeping. Also, and mostly, thoughts of my mom have come on strong.

I keep putting this off – writing that is. I procrastinate, but tonight feels right to get started. I check Facebook…Instagram…email…Facebook again. Then, all of a sudden, here I am. Almost instantly, I feel like a caged bird set free. My soaring skills are a little rusty but the joy of writing feels just the same. It feels like home to me.

If you are (were) a regular reader of my blog, ALS With Courage, you will have noticed it’s been a while since I posted my last piece… just over a year actually. It doesn’t mean I haven’t written anything. My list of writing projects of the past twelve months, include: a couple of letters to the local newspaper editor, my mom’s obituary and eulogy, a few emails I carefully composed and most recently, wedding vows.

In my last blog post, Shades of Yellow, from June 2016, I mention that perhaps instead of writing about my life and sharing it on the internet, I would just live it. I knew in my heart, that after almost five years of blogging, I needed to take a step back. Today, I take a step forward. Today I pick up the proverbial pen again and let the words out.

Speaking of stepping forward, I got married last month. I tried to keep the fact that I was seeing someone, and then engaged, quiet. I wasn’t shouting the news from any mountain tops like some excited brides-to-be understandably do. I was quietly telling close friends when I saw them. The reason I was keeping things under wraps is because not everyone in my life was ready for it. Me moving forward was ok, but giant leaps like this one were a little hard to take. I tried to keep the cat in the bag on my Facebook page, but the cat was let out of the bag shortly before the big day and then pictures of us, the bride and groom, were shared and the “cat” had long ran away. It actually brought me some relief. I had to just let it be, after all this is my new reality.

I agree it happened really fast. I wasn’t looking for love, but it found me. I’ll share how that happened shortly but what I wondered is how I could love another so quickly when my heart still ached for Mike. How could I “move on” with another man when I was still grieving the loss of the love of my life?

Grief is a funny thing, not funny haha but funny in how it’s hard to define, mysterious kind of, not concrete. It can be extremely complicated and just so simple sometimes. It’s different for every person. It comes in all shapes and sizes and is not constrained to any timelines. After a while it lightens up but unexpectedly becomes heavy again. You can stuff it down, hide it away, lock it up and throw away the key, but like Houdini it eventually has to breath and it has a magic way with locks and things. It can be sharp like broken glass and prickly like a cactus and sometimes soft like the pillow where you lay your head and bawl your eyes out on. It can be the ugliest monster you’ve ever seen but ultimately pretty, exceptionally beautiful actually… that’s if and when you receive the healing it’s meant to bring.

I sure have learned a lot about it over the last few years. It’s been a journey of grieving since I first heard the word “ALS”. Some might think because I got married again, that I’ve finished grieving Mike’s death and ALS, but that’s not true. In fact, since meeting Chris, my new husband, I’ve grieved deeply. We both have, and I think we both have received a lot of healing in grieving together. I touch on it in my wedding vows. Part of my vows go like this:

“Chris, You know I have struggled with the timing of us. But I needed to trust God…and of course, I couldn’t fight the love. Something special happened the moment I first heard your voice and in an instant, you were my friend and by the end of the conversation I was smitten. The love grew in leaps and bounds as I got to know you. I didn’t think I needed anyone, but God knows what we need better than we do. He provided someone to help bare the burden of my grief, except it wasn’t a burden for you, it was a blessing because you were grieving too. It’s been something extremely beautiful. His joy feels complete in me but continues to increase. He is just so faithful! He is a God of extravagant love and that love and all His glory is on display today as we come together as one. I look so forward to continuing this journey with you, with the Lord as our guide. And I will strive and rely on Him to help me be the wife He desires me to be for you.”

The healing process is a marvellous one but it doesn’t mean I’m over Mike. On the contrary, I miss him more than ever and he’s never felt more a part of me than he does right now.

The road of grieving for me has taken many twists and turns recently. My mom’s passing in November still leaves me and my sister speechless and in disbelief. Since she passed away, our poor dad has also lost a sister and a brother. We stick close and are there for each other but some days I struggle just to keep my own head above water.

Other friends have passed as well – a few with ALS, including our dear pal Randy (who I’ll have to tell you about another time) and Darryl who I’ve mentioned in my writing before. When it comes to ALS, I’ve said it a few times, I’m in it for life… in whatever capacity and for however long the Lord wants me to be. It’s heart breaking but hopefully soon, there will be a cure.

I’m thrilled to have my amazing partner Chris to continue this journey with. I recently told him while I was hugging him that sometimes when I’m hugging him, I’m actually holding on for dear life.

Here is part of our story. This is what we shared in our wedding brochure:

“To  tell  our  story  is  to  tell  of  Him…”

Chris – When my wife Heather, who was very ill with cancer, took her daily afternoon nap, I would go out to clear my head. One day while browsing aimlessly in the House of James book store in Abbotsford where we lived, I saw Nadine’s book. On a wall of about thirty books, her’s was the only one I could see. I was drawn to the picture of love on the cover and the title, ‘Hold On, Let Go’. It looked like a story that could help me. I put it down and thought I’d get it another time. When I went back the next day, it was sold out. I ordered a copy and when it arrived two weeks later, Heather’s health had declined further and I was afraid of what that book was going to tell me (that was in July 2015). The book sat on my table for three months. Heather passed away in August, we had her memorial service in September and in October I traveled to Ontario to visit relatives – I took the book to read. There were a lot of similarities in our stories and a lot of healing in Nadine’s writing for me. Five months later, I reached out to Nadine in a letter to thank her for sharing her and Michael’s story…

Nadine – It was about 9pm and I was curled up on my couch contemplating the speech I was giving at a conference the next day. I was a little overcome with some negative thoughts, like “Who would want to hear me speak anyway? This is a big mistake,” and so on. I was praying and battling those kinds of lies. Right when I needed it most, I received a Facebook message from a man I didn’t know. It was a beautiful letter. He explained who he was and told me about his wife and their journey with terminal cancer and how she passed away a few months after Mike. He told the story of how he found my book and how it ministered to him and how he wanted to meet me and thank me in person. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend the conference because he had to work, but he wished me well and said he’d be praying for me. His letter really encouraged me and the negative thoughts disappeared. The timing of Chris’ letter was absolutely perfect…

Chris – I wanted to hear Nadine’s speech so I asked her to speak at my church. We talked about it on the phone and agreed on a day a couple of months away. There was an instant connection when we spoke. I planned to go to another author event she was going to be at in White Rock, but couldn’t wait the few weeks to meet, so I took a chance and asked her out for coffee. She accepted and our “coffee” turned into a three and a half hour dinner date. At one point Nadine started professing her deep love for Jesus. I was speechless and a little in awe because shortly after Heather passed away, I started praying that when the time was right, and if there was ever going to be another woman in my life, the Lord would bring one with a huge heart for Jesus. I knew then that Nadine was the answer to my prayer and I started praying that her heart would be opened to me…

Nadine – I had some walls up for sure and I thought it was too soon, but the Lord’s timing is perfect and I quickly knew Chris was a gift from Him. March 4th (2016) was the day I received Chris’ letter. “March forth” is a message we have taken to heart. Even though we will never “move on” from Heather and Mike – they will always have a place in our hearts and in our lives – we keep “moving forward” in God’s plans as He directs and guides. We aren’t finished grieving and we may never be, but to grieve together is such a wonderful blessing. With indescribable joy, love and peace, we look forward to serving the Lord together and experiencing all He has in store for us as husband and wife.

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We didn’t plan it but there we were, under a beautiful Cherry Blossom tree in the park where we had our wedding photos done. As our photographer, Warin (Warin Marie Photography) snapped pictures, a mysterious breeze swept in and gently blew the pinkish hued peddles off the tree – they just floated in the air all around us. I said to Chris, “You know Mike and I had a thing for Cherry Blossom trees, right?” With a big “Wow, this-is-kind-of-crazy” smile, he replied, “Yes, I do know that.” Later we agreed, it was like Mike showed up, or at least he was sending a message. I feel like the blossoms were his blessing. I just read this about the Cherry Blossom Tree, “In Japan, the cherry blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life. It’s a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful but that it is also tragically short. When the cherry blossom trees bloom for a short time each year in brilliant force, they serve as a visual reminder of how precious and how precarious life is.” Titled: ‘The Significance of the Cherry Blossom – From Beloved Tree to Cultural Icon’ From Huffpost by Homaro Cantu.

Under that tree, I felt like Mike was saying to me, “You are exactly where you are meant to be.” I felt absolutely surrounded by his love, Chris’ love and ultimately the extravagant, amazing love of our heavenly Father.

It’s funny because the original plan for the cover of my book, Hold On, Let Go – facing ALS with courage and hope’ was to be a picture of Cherry Blossoms – it was in the works. But through a series of events, a picture of me and Mike ended up on the cover which is what ultimately drew Chris to my book. Had the plan never changed, we never would have met.

“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.”  Romans 11:33,36

After working on this piece for over a week, I post it late on June 14th, Chris’ birthday. Happy Birthday Chris! I wish you a year filled with abundant joy, surpassing peace, and lots and lots of love and laughter! Thank you for embracing me and my love story. Thanks for being a listening ear, a shoulder for my tears and a pillar for me to lean on. Thanks for your patience, understanding, kindness and incredible love! You are a gift from above! God bless you!

Side note: I call our wedding day (May 6) the most beautiful Mayday since 1948 when my mom was May Queen of Port Coquitlam, BC. (Perhaps a future blog post title). After telling our friend Shayna, who offered to help plan and decorate for our wedding, that we promised my mom she’d be there (not knowing how little time she had left) Shayna added the most beautiful touches of my mom. And the ribbons on sticks that were waved by our guests and the ribbons in the tress were a magical touch indeed. A huge thank you to Shayna and her husband Roger for helping make our wedding incredible, wonderful and blessed beyond measure. And to everyone else who helped… Thank you!

In my last post, Shades of Yellow, Chris is the man I went on the coffee date with. Wow, what can happen in a year…

I dedicate this post to my mom, who loved without walls, fences, limits or conditions. Her love was like our Father’s love and I am forever grateful and inspired to love like that.