Lips Are For Kissing

I have almost forgotten what a kiss on the lips feels like. Once in a while, my granddaughter Leah gives me a kiss on the lips. It’s so sweet because I usually turn my head so she can plant one on my cheek, but she follows my lips with her pucker and I get the softest, sweetest kiss right on the lips.

On Christmas Day, my two and a half year old great-nephew, Xavier, planted a couple on me and I was like, “Oh yah, LIPS … they are for kissing.”

It’s kind of weird when you think about it, kissing that is. It’s weird but it’s absolutely wonderful. It’s been a while for me (I’m talking the romantic kind of kiss now) and with New Year’s Eve approaching, I’m thinking about it more and more. Plus, I’m a real sucker (no pun intended) for all those made for TV Christmas romance movies and for the classics too (classics in my books) like ‘When Harry Met Sally’ (Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal), ‘You’ve Got Mail’ (again Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks), ‘Family Man’ (Nicolas Cage and Tea Leoni). All of which I’ve watched over the last couple of weeks.

Anyway, at some point during Mike’s battle with ALS, he lost the ability to really lay one on me, so it’s been at least two or maybe close to three years since I’ve had a good one. I really wish I could remember the last really good kiss – the last full lip lock, total embrace, when his lips reached out for mine and vice versa. I guess it doesn’t matter. What matters is, we had lots of them. So my advice to anyone interested in my advice: kiss! Kiss a lot. Really plant one on him (or her) … and let your lips linger.

Happy New Year!

As you can see below, Mike loved getting kisses.

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PS – Thanks for the prayers and well wishes. We had a really nice Christmas and I hope you did too. In my last post, We Had Christmas, I said that I was pretty sure I was going to be okay and I was okay (for the most part). I think we all did well. It obviously wasn’t the same without Mike, but it was good.

Below, Christmas day – my sister Elanna receives a kiss from her husband Peter. He washes dishes and gives good kisses.

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All of us on Christmas day – Peter, Elanna, Michaela and Luke, my parents and us. Mike’s good friend, Ron also joined us along with our niece Heather, her husband Frank and their kids, Kaelyn and Xavier.

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Madison, me, Erin, Nathan and Leah

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We Had Christmas

I’m not the ‘feeling sorry for myself’ type, but recently I was a little tempted – it lasted for about 3 seconds. I was walking home from the Rec Centre, where I teach fitness classes, just enjoying the evening and minding my own business, when all of a sudden I remembered it’s my first Christmas apart from Mike. It was like, “Oh yeah, this is my first Christmas without him (I should be really sad).” But sadness didn’t have a chance to enter in because this was my next thought, “It’s Mike’s first Christmas in heaven!” Whomp, abundant joy. For a minute there, I was walking on air. I felt like dancing … I definitely danced on the inside, although I wouldn’t have looked that out of place had I danced down the South end of 224th St.

I should also mention that it’s Mike’s mum’s first Christmas in heaven too, which is pretty cool for these two!

I’ve had a few friends express some concern for me as we approach Christmas – it being my first Christmas apart from Mike. While I really appreciate the care and concern of family and friends, I honestly think I’m going to be okay. This is what I have to say, “We had Christmas.”

I’ll never forget the man I met a few days before my book signing at Save On Foods back in April when my book first launched. I was there to meet with my friend Shelley who invited me to do the book signing. She and I were going over the details of the event when a costumer she knew well came over to her to say hello. She introduced us and told him about my book – Hold On, Let Go. He was a friendly and jokey guy, but as soon as he heard my book was about my husband who had ALS, his smile disappeared. He shared that his wife also had ALS. He told us she passed away years ago and he proceeded to draw us a picture of their experience with the disease. Understandably, he was still very hurt. Unfortunately, he was bitter and angry. It wasn’t a pretty picture. ALS of course isn’t pretty, but this man and his family had experienced complete devastation with this illness. There was no indication of peace or joy … just sorrow and grief.

While comparing stories, this man told me his wife passed away just before Christmas. The last thing he said to me when he left the grocery store was, “You had Christmas.” I replied gratefully, “Yes, we had Christmas.”

We had many wonderful Christmases and last Christmas was extra special. Here are a few words from my blog post, ‘Typical Mike’ from December 28th 2014:

“It’s been a unique Christmas. Some things are the same, but some are very different. Mike says this will most likely be our last Christmas together here on earth so we are clinging to the moments and making this Christmas an extra special one … or I should say God is making it extra special. 

“We are having a wonderful time with family, but our times alone are extraordinary. The tender moments between sessions of suctioning and uncontrollable coughing and bowel care, are sweet. Its like there’s this glow around us. Maybe it’s all the Christmas lights I put up this year because Mike loves Christmas lights, but it’s a special glow, like angels are among us. It’s been a time of last words, and everyday I wonder why I’m so lucky to be able to say good bye like this. Nothing will go unsaid.”

When I wrote that post I had no idea of course that Mike would pass away only eight days later, but I knew in my heart it was our last Christmas together. I trust that everything that was meant to be said was said, although I have sometimes questioned over these eleven months if it was. It doesn’t matter now though, it was a wonderful good bye … and this year he spends Christmas in heaven.

We had Christmas, so please don’t be sad for me. Yes, there will be (more) tears over the next few weeks, but the joy far outweighs the grief (like most of the time).

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This picture is from our last Christmas in our house on Mountainview Cres – Dec 2011. The tree was always such a big deal for us. This year, Madison started us off with a Charlie Brown tree (a true Charlie Brown tree that came in a box with Charlie’s picture on it and everything) which I love and when I heard we weren’t allowed to have a real tree in our new apartment, I thought the little Charlie tree would do. But Mike would want us to have lights, so I found something a bit bigger. Still a little tree, but one I put lights and birds and a few ornaments on. I’m pretty unmotivated this year to do what I usually do at Christmas as far as decorating, shopping, baking etc but there are lights. If Mike is looking, surely he will see the two lit stars in our big window. I hung the same stars last year and told Mike I’d leave them up for his birthday. He wasn’t here for his birthday but we kept the stars up until Madison and I moved in August.

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This picture is one of the many Christmas cards I made over the years. This is when I actually used real scissors and glue to cut and paste.

Check out my post ‘Typical Mike’ in full. It’s about love and forgiveness and it’s my most read blog post.

Did you catch my last post ‘My Big Fat Awesome Legs’? It’s about self perception, God’s unconditional love and a little bit about world peace. It opened up the door for some interesting conversations. A days after I posted it, I went back and added a paragraph toward the end addressing my “teaser” “Jay”. Jay wasn’t a bully or a terrible person, just a regular boy with some bad communication (like all of us sometimes).

Anyway, thank you so much for continuing to tune in to ALS With Courage and for all your encouragement, support, love and prayers.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a joyful New Year!

My Big Fat Awesome Legs

You might see my title and think it sounds pretty superficial in light of what’s going on in the world today, but I hope you will read and discover it might actually have a little something to do with world peace.

The other day while working my new job as an Education Assistant, while out on the playground at recess, a little girl came up to me very upset about something a boy said to her. In tears she told me, that he told her, she wasn’t a girl. I immediately got down to her level and huddled her and her friend under my umbrella like we were a team and we needed to discuss the next play. First, I looked her straight in the eye and proclaimed how preposterous it was for any one to think she wasn’t a girl. I didn’t say it in those words exactly, but she immediately stopped crying, so I knew I was speaking her language. Then I told her something every girl should learn at her age, “He made that ridiculous comment because he likes you.” Again, I didn’t say it quite like that, but a light went on. Then I told her, “You can’t take it personally.” I don’t know if they understood the “personally” part, but happily they both ran off. As they left, I said it again a little louder, “Don’t take it personally girls!” And under my breath, I continued, “You are beautiful, you can do anything, you got this … Go, fight, win!”

I was able to share something with these little girls that I didn’t learn until I was older. Let me just put it this way, “Everything I really needed to know about life, I didn’t learn in school, I learned at my high school reunion.” Here are a few of those lessons:

  1. The “nerdy” boys grew up, filled out, got a good education and got great jobs.
  2. The popular boys were just regular guys in the real world.
  3. The popular girls were actually really nice (contrary to my belief that pretty and “perfect” equaled mean).
  4. Most of the rest of us, turned out okay … more than okay actually, pretty great.
  5. Here’s the kicker – the lesson I learned that meant the most to me: The boy who tormented me and teased me from about grade four right up until high school graduation, the boy who rode his bike up and down my street making fun of me about my weight and other things, really LIKED me … huh?

Let’s call him “Jay”. Jay glommed on to me right away at that 10 year high school reunion (19 years ago) and followed me around like a little puppy. It was kind of cute for about fifteen minutes but then it got annoying. Eventually, I asked him why he was following me and being so nice to me after tirelessly taunting me for all the years we were in school together. He said something like, “Why do you think I rode my bike by your house every day after school and knocked on your door and teased you?” I thought to myself, “Because you were a JERK?” But I said something like, “Why?” “Because I liked you. I had a huge crush on you,” he confessed.

Seriously!? I thought I should ask him for his address so I could send him the bill for my psychotherapy (I never really had any therapy, but I probably could have used some). I also felt like asking him if he would like his face to meet my fist right there and then, or if he would just like me to run him down with my car later in the parking lot (just kidding of course and I’ve totally forgiven him).

There were other “teasers”, Jay wasn’t the only one. Like they say, kids can be cruel sometimes – that’s just a rule of thumb. I wasn’t always an angel either regardless of what my mom tells you. So lets get tough, right? Let’s get some thick skin, right? Easier said than done.

I’m going to cut Jay some slack though because he didn’t start those thoughts; those thoughts came into my life before he did. He just drilled them home. He just confirmed my ugly feelings about my “ugly” self. He just made me think that he and everyone else thought I was “grotesque”. I never shared those feelings with anyone, I stuffed them down into the depths of my heart. Pretending I was okay with myself, but I wasn’t okay. And oddly enough, I often stuffed them down even further with food as I began my journey of on again, off again dieting.

People will read this and think how silly because she’s not fat and even if she was a little chubby as a child and teenager, what’s the big deal? Get over it! But you have to understand, it’s about an image, a self image that starts off as a whisper. A little faint voice that says, “Your legs are bigger than hers.” The whisper becomes louder, “Not only are you fat, you’re dumb.” Eventually the voices scream, “YOU ARE WORTHLESS!”

The yo-yo dieting and self loathing became routine for me … one begat the other.  It’s funny because I had words of encouragement and affirmation from home and elsewhere, but I guess the negative words are just louder. But if God’s words couldn’t get through, I guess no one’s could. I was believing the lies because I wasn’t buying into my Heavenly Father’s love for me. Even to this day, I struggle to believe He loves me the way He does. Not because He doesn’t show it, but because I think I’m not worth it. The dieting is long over (although my weight still fluctuates because I still stuff food a little now and then) and so is the self-loathing, but God continually tries to get this through, “I love you the way you are.” And I still find it hard to accept.

I still sit in the bathtub sometimes and wonder if I should cry over the size of my thighs or over the fact that I am so vain. Should I cry because I’m still not “good enough” or that, unlike me, so many people don’t have strong legs, hot water to bathe in, a roof over their heads, food to eat or safety? Wow, perspective can weigh a ton.

Let’s back up here though. Let’s talk about that love. I’m convinced that the mess in our heads and in this world exists because we can’t grasp how wide and long and high and deep the Father’s love is for us (Ephesians 3:18). Some people might think, “No, the world is messed up because of sin … the sinfulness of mankind.” Ya, but even before that, go back before the sin began. Think about Adam and Eve and how pure they were. They’d never been teased or told how unworthy they were and yet they still couldn’t grasp the love of God and trust He knew what was better for them than they did – like a Father does – instead, they did it their own way. And here we are today, still doing it our own way, unable to grasp His love or trust Him fully.

The voices say,  “You are ugly. You are fat. You’re dumb. You’re a loser. You are a disgrace. You should never have been born.” God says, “I made you in my image. (Genesis 1:26) I knit you together in your mother’s womb and you are fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139) The voices say, “You make the same mistakes over and over again, and there’s that one that is so huge, you’ll never be forgiven.” God says, “My mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:23) If you confess your sins, I am faithful to forgive you.” (1 John 1:9) “As far as the East is from the West, I have removed your transgressions.” (Psalm 103:12) “I blot out your sins and remember them no more.” (Isaiah 43:25)

He also says, “I knew you before you were conceived. You are not a mistake for all your days were written in my book. I know when you sit and when you rise. My plan for your future has always been filled with hope. I love you with an everlasting love. My thoughts toward you are as countless as the sand on the seashore. I rejoice over you with singing. I am for you, not against you. I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine. I am the Father who comforts you in all your troubles. I am not counting your sins. I love you even as I love my Son, Jesus. His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you.” (From Father’s Love Letter)

“I have always been Father, will you be my child? Will you accept my love?”

Regarding the “teasers”, the bullies, the haters? You know what they say, “Hurt people hurt people.” They also say something about fear, not hate, being the enemy of love. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I know fear and hate don’t come from God, but love and peace do. The bullies bully and the haters hate, because they too, perhaps even more so, have no idea how to grasp this perfect, extravagant love of the Heavenly Father and maybe they haven’t experienced (or can’t accept) the love of an earthly father or anyone else for that matter – I don’t know. Regardless, I don’t think Jay falls into this category though, I think he, along with many boys (and some girls), unfortunately communicate their feelings in a really mixed up way. And I can see how that has something to do with fear; perhaps we all fall into this trap on occasion.

Anyway, I am certain that if we could all grasp how wide and long and high and deep the Father’s love is for us, internal and global wars would cease … Oh the peace!

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This blog post was inspired by a challenge on Facebook that my friend Adele nominated me for – Post 5 picture in 5 days over 15 years old. This is what I said with the above picture (at 9 yrs)  and two other pictures:

“Day #4  – This has been a lot of fun, but time to get serious and let you in on a little secret. I’m 8, 9 and 10 years old and already hate my body. I was active, I liked sports and was good at sports and I was a fast runner, but this was the beginning of years of yo-yo dieting and self loathing. When I found this soccer picture a couple of years ago, I cried because I remembered hating my legs, but they were good legs. I’ve never liked the look of my legs but I’ve grown to love them for all they do for me. They are amazing! Time to get down on these strong knees and thank God for them!”

When I showed Mike this picture he cried and smiled … he loved it and loved me for me. He definetly helped me believe God’s love for me is extravagant. He’d want you to know it’s extravagant for you too!

I look forward to my 30 year high school reunion this summer (wow, time flies). Sadly, Jay won’t be there, he passed away a couple of years ago. RIP J.M.

I’ve had quite a few book sales already for Christmas, thanks! I have more available if you are local, otherwise you can order online: Hold On, Let Go – facing ALS with courage and hope

 

New Status: Joy Full

Well, it happened. The thought had crossed my mind and it was only a matter of time I guess. Someone called me a “widow”. My first response (in my head) was, “Like, um, a spider?” What? Oh yeah, a woman without a husband…no, a woman with a dead husband…no, a woman who’s husband died. Right.

Although I know some widows, and they don’t fit the following description, still, this is the picture I get in my head when I hear “widow”: an old woman, who wears black, maybe a veil and a shawl, sits in a wooden chair, rocking perhaps, knitting perhaps or just staring out the window…

While I’ve been staring out the window a lot lately and looking at my awesome new view, I definitely don’t fit that description.

I did a little research of the word “widow”, and here is something I found written by Wayne Blank in his ‘Daily Bible Study’ on his site, Keyway: “The English word widow is derived from an old Anglo-Saxon word widuwe which itself originated from a Latin word, vidua, meaning deprived (the English word void, meaning emptied, originated from the same word as widow). Widow is used to translate the Hebrew word of the Holy Scriptures, pronounced al-maw-naw, which although is used to refer to a widow, literally means an empty house. All of the literal meanings of widow starkly convey the physical void that is left in the life of someone who loses a spouse.”

Yes, I’ve lost a spouse, but my house isn’t empty and my heart is actually full. There is a physical void of course in my life, but I don’t feel empty at all. Sad sometimes, maybe even a little lonely once in a while, but not empty. I’m the opposite of empty; I’m absolutely full. Full of peace, full of hope, full of joy. Although these things are sometimes challenged in my life, I feel full of them.

So instead of being called a “widow”, you can simply just call me “full of joy”, The next time I have paper work to fill out and I come across “Marital Status”, I’ll rub out “widow” and write, “Joy Full”.

“I have told you these things so that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing.” (John 15:11 Amplified)These words spoken by Jesus come after His “vine and branches” lesson. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…” John 15: 1-17

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The above picture was recently taken by brother-in-law Gary at Wonderland in Toronto. I’m riding the tea cups with my 6 year old granddaughter, Leah (beside me) and Leah’s cousin/my niece/Gary and Pat’s granddaugher, Kaelyn (behind us). Nathan and us girls and Madison, Josh and puppy Glen enjoyed Thanksgiving with family in Toronto (unfortunately Erin had to work and couldn’t join us). We were very busy during our short stay and had a great time…best of all was visiting family and Mike’s memorial tree. Check out Mike’s tree and other pics on my facebook page (posted Oct 12). A huge thank you to Aileen and Ross and Pat and Gary who provided rides and comfortable beds and delicious meals for us and nephew John and wife Marianne for the exceptional Thanksgiving dinner!

Wayne Blank finishes his Daily Bible Study about widows with this, “…But, as is made very plain in the Word of God, no widow is ever left alone if she is someone who looks to God.”

PS – Christmas is coming! Here’s a gift idea for someone who has everything, my book – Hold On, Let Go @ amazon.ca    Hold On, Let Go @ amazon.com

A Little Bird and a Can of Worms

While on our hike up the Golden Ears Mountain (on September 5), an injured (or sick) bird fell right in front of us. The bird maybe fell out of a tree or rolled down the mountain, we weren’t sure, but the poor thing fell right in front of us. His eyes were open but he wasn’t moving; there was a faint sound coming from him. I felt so bad for Nathan who took on the job of putting the beautiful creature out of its misery. I felt bad for the little bird, for the bird’s mother, brother or whoever. I let the others get ahead a few steps and I cried and hiked and cried. The death of this bird opened up a can of worms for me. I prayed for Nathan, that the image of the dead bird wouldn’t stay with him (just like I’ve prayed the image of his dead father wouldn’t stay with him and his sisters). And I prayed for all of us who have experienced the inevitable heartbreak of death…which would be almost all of us, if not all of us. It was just a bird I thought, why am I so upset? But it wasn’t just a bird, it was a lovely living, breathing thing and then it was dead…no breath. Nathan consoled me by telling me that the bird was probably already gone by the time we came along. It helped a little. Still, I grieved and hiked and grieved.

Death is all around us. I don’t want to sound like a downer, but it’s true. It’s life – death is all around us. It’s funny how we never get used to it, even though it’s really common.

The other day, I listened to Mike’s and my playlist for the first time since we parted. It’s the playlist we listened to throughout the night before he passed and during his last breaths, while I sang to him and said good bye. Right away I was back in that room by his bedside. Those of us in the room at the time watched the pulse in his neck, wondering if it really was going to stop like the nurse said it would. We still didn’t believe it was going to stop until it did and then we wondered which one was the last, as if we could go back and catch that last one and hold on to it forever. I remember feeling the life in that room even though death had just occurred and I could barely breath. There was more life in that room than death. It was a room of life – a good room, even though it was a room of heartbreak.

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Mike and Molly at the dike. I love this picture!

I went to three funerals last week, speaking of heartbreak. One was for the grandma of a young friend. One was for my aunty Marlene’s daughter (aunty Marlene is my mom’s first cousin). She lost one daughter a number of years ago and this daughter, she lost suddenly, a few weeks ago (and she lost her husband some time in between). As I was choking out the words, “I’m so terribly sorry for…” Aunty Marlene said to me, “You have had such a great loss.” I tearfully said something like, “I can’t imagine your loss…this loss of a second daughter.” She looked around for her son and sadly and happily said, “Both my girls are gone … but I still have Brad.”

The third funeral, actually memorial service which was actually the first of the three, was for five people and it was at Elanna’s place of work (a long term care facility). Elanna leads memorial services there once every few months for the residents that have past away during that time. Sometimes I wonder how Elanna does it. She cares for, and loves these people (she works in recreation, but they call her “nurse” and she fills both roles well). She builds relationships with them and gets to know their families and then eventually she has to say good bye. It’s a lot of “good byes” over the course of a career.

I didn’t know any of the people being honoured and remembered at this memorial service, but I know the son and daughter in law of one of the women – good friends of my Aunty Marguerite.

The funeral for five was lovely. The music was so nice, the short glimpses into each of the lives was interesting, the pictures that got passed around were lovely and the stories shared by some of the family members were touching. Elanna and a co-worker did a wonderful job of leading the service. The room had a very peaceful glow and there was comfort there … still some heart break but peace and comfort. It opened another can of worms for me.

That night, Elanna, Michaela and I went to see the movie, ‘The Intern’ with Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro. It’s not a sad movie but it was a tear jerker for me and Elanna. At one point, Michaela (Elanna’s 15 year old daughter) looked at her mom and said, “Are you crying?” Then she turned to me to tell me her mom was crying (as if that was pretty funny) and saw me crying, “Are you crying too Aunty?” she said. Robert De Niro’s character, Ben captured our hearts. A seventy year old, retired widower looking for a useful way to spend his time, applies for a senior intern position at an online fashion company and gets the job. Ben comes from a world where chivalry is alive and well. He explains to a young fellow intern that men carry handkerchiefs because women cry. It’s like he understands the depths of a woman: her sensitivity and her amazing strength and he just supports it. He understands the value of making a difference and being a part of someone else’s “difference”. He actually reminded me quite a bit of my dad. And as Michaela pointed out a few time, there is a resemblance between the two in some scenes.

While Robert De Niro was capturing my heart, so was an older couple two rows ahead of us. During the coming attractions, I happened to catch a glimpse of the two love birds holding hands. It wasn’t your typical hand holding though, it was the exact way Mike held my hand every time we went to the movies. He would take my hand in his and pull it over on to his lap and rub slow, small gentle circles and other patterns on the back of my hand. He would frequently lift it up to his mouth and kiss it. I didn’t notice this “smooth operator” do any kissing, but every ten minutes or so, when I leaned toward Michaela and took a look between the couple right in front of us, I saw the man rubbing his sweetheart’s hand…he didn’t stop. When he got up to go to the washroom (or where ever), he was definitely an elderly man. He took the hand railing and struggled a little down the stairs. I thought, “That was going to be us.”

You might be wondering where I’m going with this, ‘A Little Bird and a Can of Worms’ story, and quite frankly, I’m wondering where I’m going with it as well. Perhaps it’s just a reminder to savour every moment, to give thanks in all circumstance and to cherish the love. Keep breathing, keep giving and keep going. Don’t take anything for granted, be hopeful, forgive the way you want to be forgiven and trust in the Lord with all your heart.

Death is part of life and the gateway to heaven for those who put their faith in Jesus … the best is yet to come!

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

I’m heading to Toronto tomorrow morning (Thursday) to visit family and to see Mike’s memorial tree and spread some of his and his mum’s ashes near Highland Creek where Mike grew up. It’s going to be a very blessed Thanksgiving and I’m sure there will be a can of worms waiting for me there.

Check out the this link: http://hwbrycewrites.com/blog/ It’s called, ‘Not Even a Nurse’, a blog post by H. W. Bryce, a man who observes my sister, Elanna doing her job the way she does it – with grace, compassion, care and so much love. It’s short and sweet and beautifully written!

The link to my book, ‘Hold On, Let Go – Facing ALS with courage and hope’ – Hold On, Let Go

“Are not two small birds sold for a very small piece of money? And yet not one of the birds falls to the earth without your Father knowing it.” NLT Matt 10:29

Conversations with the Man I Love

Half dressed after getting out of the bath, with a towel on my head, I lay across my bed and stare at the great outdoors through my window – the river and the trees and some buildings in the distance. I feel totally exposed, not that anyone can see me, but exposed as I lay myself bare before the Lord. I’m trying to just “be”, so He can do a work in me but that’s not easy. My high expectations say, get up, clean up, make your bed, get going, but I’m trying to be still. I feel I’m suppose to learn the discipline of “Don’t just do something, stand there.” Instead of what comes more naturally;  “Don’t just stand there, do something.”

If you read my last blog post, you will know that I’ve figured out some of what God has in store for me in this place, and that’s healing. It totally took me by surprise because I didn’t think I needed any “healing”. I’m really okay, but I guess God’s not okay with just “okay” … I guess He wants more than that for me.

So with the revelation of “healing”, I’m trying to not dodge what God is doing. I kind of feel like I’m back in elementary school in line for a vaccination shot or something. It’s scary and uncomfortable and I want to run in the other direction, but I’m not running. I’m actually trying to be still, which is hard most of the time. It’s like, how can I be still when I’ve got bills to pay, a dog to walk, a floor to mop, dishes to wash, shopping to do and a workout to get to?

There needs to be stillness physically, but I’m learning a stillness in spirit is just as, or more important. So even when I’m doing those things, my spirit and mind are “still” available to Him and His working, His healing, His comforting, His loving, His directing. It’s about making myself available to go with Him where He wants me to go even though it really hurts. And even though I say, “go with Him”, it might be more about “staying with Him”. I might have to “move” through something, but stay put….”stay put” in Him.

Part of what I’m learning is to stop squirming when certain thoughts and memories come to mind, like thoughts of Mike’s touch. It’s a painful place to go, but a very wonderful place too. That place I once knew, tightly wrapped in his loving arms. The feeling of goosebumps when he swept my hair off my neck and put his lips there, or same when he’d draw a slow soft line down my bare spine with the back of a few fingers. ALS took his touch away from me a few years ago already, along with the sound of his voice and the ease of conversation. Fresher memories are those of ‘one letter at a time’ conversations that tested our patience and love (love and patience won). The scent of peppermint body wash and Old Spice deodorant linger, along with the sound of his breathing, and his few looks that conveyed many things. My lover, my caregiver, my encourager, my adviser, my helper, my friend all in one … my wonderful companion! I miss him as my “companion” the most.

Companions come and go in this life, but there is one Companion that never leaves.

Only a few weeks after Mike was diagnosed with ALS, my good friend Celeste asked me if I would join her at her church for a ladies meeting. The meeting was about prayer mentors and Celeste asked me to come as her guest, as her prayer mentor. I was honoured of course not only to be considered her prayer mentor, but to stand with her and share. One thing I’ve learned from Celeste (among many) throughout out friendship is how beautiful vulnerability can be.

Anyway, when I prayed about what I should say that day to a room full of women who were looking for some prayer wisdom and inspiration, I got this word: “companion”. It was the greatest word I could have heard at the beginning of a treacherous journey with ALS. At the beginning of a journey of letting go of my best friend, Jesus said, “Here I am, your greatest Companion.” He said, “I will never leave you, I will always be everything you ever really need and I will be your forever Companion.” I didn’t share with the women there that day that my beloved husband had just been diagnosed with a terminal illness, but I did share from my heart about my greatest, highest and forever Companion and about my conversations with this Man I love. Conversations I call “prayer”, a closeness I can’t compare; a relationship with the Almighty … my Lord, Saviour and Friend and forever Companion … the greatest love of my life.

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What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer…

Joseph M Scriven, 1855

PS – I think it’s kind of funny that it took me so long to write my last few posts and this one was pretty much written three days after my last one. It was like my fingers couldn’t keep up with my thoughts. I’m wondering if writing is part of this healing process. I’m sure most writers would say, “Writing is always part of the healing process.”

Regarding my book, Hold On, Let Go – Facing ALS with Courage and Hope hhttp://amzn.to/1FFBkSS, I love this message I got from my friend, Hilary:

Hi Nadine! Last week I was rushing, running to work, got to our building (BC Cancer Research) and made it to the elevator just in time to be on time. But then the elevator broke! I was stuck on the elevator (by myself) for over an hour! I made good friends with Josh, the security guy with whom I was connected when I used the emergency phone in the elevator. Best of all, I had your book! So I sat and read while I was stuck in this elevator. I was only there for about 70 minutes, while I was reading about you and Mike, dealing with ALS day in and day out. I felt like I had it pretty good. It’s all perspective, right? I have always wondered what it would be like to get stuck in an elevator. The funniest thing to me was when it was all over, and the elevator repair guy opened the door, 2 people were kind of leaning in with this look of anticipation, like, “what’s she gonna do? Burst into tears? Hugs?” I just popped out of the elevator and said, “Thank you, thank you so much! I have to go to work!! Thank you again, BYE!” Thankfully there was an adjacent elevator in good working order. Just wanted to say thank you, thank you so much for getting me through what could have been a really stressful experience! Love and blessings, Hilary

Here’s another story that really touched my heart. My parents were recently in Manitoba visiting my dad’s family. When they returned they told me that my uncle John’s brother in law (my late aunt Suzy’s brother) Ed Weibe passed away. They said they were told that when he died, my book was on his bed side table, opened, alongside his Bible. I was speechless, wow!

I’m grateful for the messages I get almost daily of how my book is touching the lives of others – it’s an amazing blessing! Mike would be so pleased his story is making a difference in people’s lives. Perhaps he and Ed Weibe are discussing it now.

Getting Out of the Boat

I am so easily distracted. It’s kind of crazy. I sit down to work on a blog post and end up searching “yellow lamps”. I go to put on a load of laundry and find myself hanging a picture, or vice versa. Unpacking a box takes forever. Organizing my kitchen is impossible. Forget about reading a book, I can’t even get through a page. I’m so forgetful too (more than usual). I write something down so I don’t forget, but I forget where I wrote it down. Sometimes I think I’m losing my mind. I get mad at myself for being such an “air head”. I tell God I’m sorry for being so easily distracted when I’m spending time in prayer and in His Word.

I’ve done a little research and good news, I’m not losing my mind. What I’m experiencing are symptoms of bereavement. I’m also learning that I’m pretty hard on myself and perhaps I need to cut myself some slack…everyone else is. My family and friends are so patient with me. And God, He is so patient. He loves me and He waits for me. I’m definitely learning more about His grace. Even though my “prayer life” isn’t what is has been in the past, my communion with Him is greater than ever.

God continues to patiently direct my footsteps and He has brought me to a place I love. It’s a beautiful place by the river so I think it’s an appropriate time to get out of the boat. Although, being at a river might make you think of getting in a boat, I’m getting out of the boat. Let me explain: In my February 27 blog post called, ‘Take Courage, Here Am I’, I wrote the following, “I really feel if I step out into this huge ocean of mourning, I will drown … so I just sit in the boat and patiently wait for the waves to subside. Even when the waves subside, I’ll probably stay in the boat because I’m afraid. I’m afraid if I step out, I’ll sink; I’ll drown. This ocean of mourning is huge and from the middle of it, there is no shore.”

I have no idea what it’s all about, but I’m getting out of the boat and I’m pretty sure I’m going to be okay. I’m not as afraid as I was before, although just writing that makes me burst into tears.

Most mornings since sleeping in my new bedroom, I wake up between 5:00 and 5:30. I go pee and then lay in bed and doze a little on and off until the sun rises. I watch it rise (sometimes hidden by the clouds) through my very large and very exceptional bedroom window. I hate to brag, but I have two of those windows in my room. One faces east and that is of course how I can watch the sun rise – and the birds fly and I can also look at the Fraser River and watch the trains go by. The other window faces north, with a view of an empty lot and some trees. On the other side of the trees, is the historic Haney House and Museum, where I have gone everyday since I moved here to take Madison’s new puppy, Glen out for a walk. We don’t go in the house, we play in the yard and stroll the path that leads to the next street over and a large park.

Recently, I shared on Facebook some pictures of different views from my new place. Some of them are of the Haney House and some of the Haney Wharf which is just steps away, and three of them are pictures of my building’s roof top view: two of the river and one of the Golden Ears Mountains. And this is what I said: “My realtors, father/son team, Art and Nathan Neufeld of Remax are amazing! I told them I’d like a view of the Golden Ears Mountains, but even more, I really wanted a view of the Fraser River … they found me a place with both.” Beyond that, they are really great guys and always do an outstanding job!

It was funny because the same day Nathan Neufeld messaged me telling me he wanted to show me this place, Madison also texted me to tell me she saw a place online she thought I would like, turned out it was the same place. I love it here and I know Mike would love this place too: The history, the river view, the “sketchy” (or rough) neighbourhood and all the characters. I’m constantly saying to myself and/or God and others, “Mike would love this (or that).” Elanna says it too.

Something is happening here in this place with the stunningly large windows, the sunrises and the river view. I think there is some healing happening here. I never would have thought I needed any “healing”, but that’s what I feel the Lord has in store for me here. I’ve talked before about being vulnerable, but being called out of the boat and into a river of healing would have to be the most vulnerable I have felt. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to do much; God’s going to do all the work and of course He has already begun.

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Pic 1 – rooftop view, Pic 2 and 3 – view from my patio, Pic 4 and 5 – At Haney Wharf

On another note, I’m feeling the same way about the change of seasons that I do every year. I really hate saying good bye to the summer, but I gladly welcome the fall. I started my new job this week (although I’m on call and haven’t been called in yet) and I will continue to teach fitness classes. I’ve been teaching fitness for 25 years now! I became a certified fitness instructor just before Nathan was born and he turned 25 in July (that’s how I keep track). It’s been amazing and I have always loved teaching group fitness classes and hope to be able to do that for many years to come. I’m a very blessed woman!

I really thought my summer was going to be low key. A time to unwind after a very busy (and understandably tough) winter and spring. I was under the impression that it was time to do nothing. Maybe lay by the pool and get a tan. Well, I did lay by the pool some times and was in the pool, especially during our extreme heat wave, but for the most part, I was busy.

Here are some of the highlights:

I went to Victoria twice. The first time I went with my good friend Karen Acaster. Karen told her friend, North Vancouver MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly), Jane Thornthwaite about me and Mike and our book, Hold On, Let Go – facing ALS with Courage and Hope, and within a day or two, Karen and I were invited by Jane to their next session at the Legislature. We were introduced by Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows MLA, Doug Bing and Jane gave an excellent speech about ALS and the need to raise awareness and find a cure. She, Doug, other MLAs and Karen and I did the Ice Bucket Challenge after the session on the steps of the Legislature. Karen and I were treated like royalty, we were served lunch, given a tour of the buildings and we met many amazing people including House Speaker, the Honourable Linda Reid.

The second time I went to Victoria was with Nathan and Leah. We decided to go to Victoria because our trip to Toronto was postponed (until October). We had a great time visiting some of Mike’s favourite places (places he and I took Erin, Nathan and Madison when they were growing up) and we had a really nice visit with Mike’s aunt Aileen and cousin Monica.

I went to Kelowna with Madison and her boyfriend Josh to ride in the ALS Cycle of Hope fundraiser event with Scott McComb’s team. Elanna, Michaela, Luke and Peter also decided to join us (kind of last minute, which was very cool – Peter couldn’t ride because he was still recovering from his fractured knee). We had a great time together, we also made new friends and went to the kangaroo zoo.

Just last weekend, I climbed the Golden Ears Mountains. Erin, Nathan, Madison and Josh had planned on going and I thought I’d just hang back and take care of Glen, but when they mentioned taking some of Mike’s ashes up to spread, I knew I had to go too. Our friend, Nuala joined us as well. I forgot how gruelling the trek is, but it was well worth the physical and even more, mental exhaustion. Nathan has done the climb many times, but the last time the girls did it was with their dad (and Nathan, Katrina and Amanda). As we approached the top, I become quite emotional when Erin said, “This is where dad helped me last time.” She was a little ways ahead of me, just slightly out of my reach and I wished I could have just extend my hand and placed it on her, to make her feel secure, like her dad did. I’m so sorry my children have lost their dad! He’d be so proud of Erin climbing that mountain just a year after her hip replacement surgery. He was so proud of his kids and he had good reason to be.

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Many other highlights include spending time with James, my cousisn’s little boy who has Down syndrome and Autism. Madison and I both worked with him to help him get ready for Kindergarten and he sure taught us a lot! He is such a sweetheart and it was such a blessing getting to know him and spend time with him. Also, hanging out with family and connecting with a few friends and welcoming Madison’s new puppy, Glen (he’s a pug). And of course being here by the river in my new place on this next leg of my journey.

As excited as I am about my new home, I miss the one we left. Thank you again Elanna, Peter, Michaela and Luke for making your home ours. I know it’s hard for Elanna in particular. First Mike left and she and he were very close. They were great friends for many years and like blood brother/sister. She tells me often how much she misses him. And now Madison and I are gone, so their house is a little quiet. But we will always be close. We are not just sisters, we are best friends. She’s the best sister a girl could have.

Wow, I made it. I actually finished this blog post. It’s hard to believe I’ve posted weekly in the past. Those of you looking for more frequent posts, thanks for your patience!

PS – My book is still doing well on the Amazon Best Seller’s List. I look forward to resuming promotions. Link to my book, Hold On, Let Go – facing ALS with Courage and Hope: hhttp://amzn.to/1FFBkSS

In closing: From the book of Mathew in the Bible – “Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, ‘It’s a ghost!’ But Jesus spoke to them at once. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘Take courage. I am here!’ Then Peter called to him, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.’ ‘Yes, come,’ Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. ‘Save me, Lord!’ he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. ‘You have so little faith,’ Jesus said. ‘Why did you doubt me?’ When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. ‘You really are the Son of God!’ they exclaimed.” Matthew 14:22-33 New Living Translation (NLT)