Chasing a Rainbow

I set one goal last New Years and that was to keep Mike alive for as long as I possibly could. He died five days later. I guess you could say I failed that one miserably… not really. Sometimes God’s plans get in the way of our plans and whether we like it or not, His are always better than ours. Sometimes I agonize over the fact that I could have done more but God is so much bigger than I am and greater than anything I could or couldn’t do for Mike. He took Mike in His perfect timing. Case closed.

On January 5, we celebrated Mike’s first anniversary in heaven. I use the word “celebrate” loosely. I booked the day off and my sister Elanna had the day off, so we went to Fort Langley. There were other places we thought of going, places Mike liked, but I couldn’t get the Fort Langley cemetery off my mind. Mike loved it there. He loved cemeteries. It must have been the history buff in him. He liked walking around reading the headstones … the names and dates. He would guess the type of life the particular person lived and stuff like that. It was raining, so Elanna and I didn’t go around reading headstones, but we enjoyed our time there reminiscing about Mike with a few tears and lots of laughs. We spread some of Mike’s ashes in the area, mostly around big lovely trees. We also browsed in the shops and had lunch at Wendel’s (Bookstore and Cafe). Mike would have been very pleased and same with his mum, she liked the shops there too (she liked all shops anywhere and everywhere).

After Mike died, I tried to not make plans, set goals or dream dreams. At times, I wanted to forge a path and plow ahead, but as difficult as it was, I resisted most of the time. This is what I wrote in my post, ‘Conversations With the Man I Love’ from September 21, 2015, “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 supposed  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.”’ There was healing in not filling my life with “things to do”. The only thing on my ‘List of things to do’ was to rest in the palm of His hand and trust Him on a deeper level.

In the evening of the 5th, I took Erin (my daughter) up on her offer to teach my Pilates class and I went for a long walk. I didn’t think about where I was going, I just went. It wasn’t late but it was dark. I live in a “sketchy” area of town but I never feel nervous there. About an hour into my walk, I found myself on a street that does make me feel a little nervous. After being startled by someone (totally innocent), I picked up my pace and took the first right down a road better lit. I ended up behind someone smoking, so jogging, I crossed over and stopped abruptly right where my foot landed on the sidewalk, safe on that side. The little Christmas lights in the window of the store I was now standing in front of got my attention, along with the paper Canadian flags that hung across the top. The books lined up in rows almost pressing against the crystal clear glass, drew me closer. “Ken’s Bookcase” in sticky letters smack dab in the middle of it all, and I still didn’t get it. God was speaking to me, but it took me a few minutes before I heard Him. I had passed by this little used bookstore a few times before and I had been inside once – many years ago. I had gone in to check out the Bibles. I was interested in having a different version to compare with my ‘New International Version’ (before I used the internet for that sort of thing). I still remember that hard cover with jacket gem on a high shelf squished in-between others less brilliant looking. It was a Woman’s Study Bible, practically new. I pulled it down and examined the weight of it, the scent of it, the sheer genius of it. Then I opened it and a sunbeam or something like that shone from it. I recognized the hand writing of the inscription on the front page immediately. It was my good friend Colleen’s writing.

I wrote about Colleen and her husband Chris in my book, ‘Hold On, Let Go’. Colleen and Chris were our business partners for five years. We owned and operated Fitness Works together, a fitness studio (from 1994-1999). In my book, I describe these two as a little older than us and very wise friends, and spiritual mentors. This is what I say about Colleen (from Chapter 10, pg 167), “Colleen has a really good sense of timing. She listens to that little voice in her, prompting her to call or send a message. When she calls me early in the morning and suggests we pray for my parents who are out on the mission field, I don’t ask why she is calling so early or let her know she woke me up, I just agree.” Colleen always was and still is up to the Lord’s work, so finding this Bible she gave to a young friend who I also knew, was not a shocker.

I actually kept the Bible for a little while and beautified my own bookcase with it – exploring it on and off. I wasn’t seeing Colleen on a regular basis at the time (this was shortly after we closed our business) and kept forgetting to give it to her. I eventually took it to her and told her the story. Regardless of that, and how the book got in the store and why, I don’t doubt for one minute that the Lord directed my steps to that little book store that glowed in the dark on my walk the other night. God wanted to remind me that nothing gets by Him. That He is the orchestrator of the universe and that He placed the stars in the sky and named them; He covered seashores with tiny grains of sand. It’s nothing for Him to get a book back in the rightful owner’s hands or cure a dying man… according to His plan – it will be, or not.

When 2016 was fast approaching, I did what I felt I should, I started setting goals, planning and dreaming. You know, like a “New Year, New You” idea. But then I said in my head, “Hey, “this” you is ok. This you is on the right track. This you is doing just fine right here in the palm of God’s hand.” Besides, I am a “new” me considering 2 Corinthians 5:17, which says, “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (New Living Translation). What more could I ask for?

Plus, when I look back on last year – the year of one goal that failed miserably – more happened than I could ever imagine. I finished a college program, graduated and started a new career. I became an author, a speaker and a spokesperson for ALS. I moved into a beautiful new home, by the river with a spectacular view – a dream (I didn’t really dream) come true. I went places, met people and did things I couldn’t have planned had I tried. These were God’s plans, not mine.

So this New Years, I’m only setting one goal again. Don’t worry, I do have hopes and dreams (hopes and dreams are imperative for joyful living). I also know I have things I need to improve upon in my life and I’ve made a mental note of those things, but the only goal I’m writing down this New Years – the only one I’m setting in stone, is to stay as close to Him as I possibly can; to stay put in the palm of God’s hand. I’m just going to keep trusting Him.

On the 6th of January (the day after Mike’s anniversary), I got up early like I do most mornings and got ready for work in case I got called in. I figured if I didn’t get called in, I’d go to my friend Keri’s fitness class at 8:50. When I didn’t get a call and had some time to spare, I sat in front of my living room window and watched the sun come up. I thought about the day before and contemplated God’s faithfulness and His mercies that are new every morning. As the sun burst forth, so did joy in my heart. I praised Him for a while before I noticed the lightest drops of rain floating through the air. This is when I “burst forth” and scrambled to get my things together knowing somewhere was a rainbow out there. I grabbed everything I needed for the class and ran up to the roof of my building to see about a rainbow. Sure enough, on the other side of my living room view, there it was … just so beautiful. The other half of the rainbow was in full view at the end of my street that I walked up to go to Keri’s class at the Rec Centre. I kept zig zagging across the street to see it from the best angle.

I apologized as I ran in to class a little late. Keri and I both said at the same time, “Did you see the rainbow?” The class was fantastic as always and again at the end, I said I was sorry for being late and added, “But I was chasing a rainbow.” Keri said, “There’s your next blog post title.” I told her I was thinking the same thing.

Rainbows remind me of God’s promises, His unconditional love and faithfulness and, unlike rainbows, you never have to chase those things…they are right there…He is always right there.

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Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT)

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends!

His mercies never cease.

Great is His faithfulness;

His mercies begin afresh each morning.”

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Mike’s birthday is today (Jan 16th). Happy Birthday to our dearest Michael! We have now experienced all the “firsts”. You see them coming and don’t want them to come but want them to be behind you at the same time. They are all behind us now, but I can’t say that makes it any easier. We are blessed to be doing quite well nonetheless. Thanks again for your support and prayers.

Here is ‘Conversations With the Man I Love’ in full

Keri is also a writer/blogger. We encourage each other to write from the heart courageously. Here is the link to her blog, Keri On. Her last post, What If?, was written with so much vulnerability, I loved it!

Here is a link to an upcoming Apologetics Canada event I’m speaking at in Abbotsford BC, March 5. My speech is titled, From Worrier to Warrior – finding courage, hope and joy after a terminal diagnosis.

Here is the link to my book, ‘Hold On, Let Go – facing ALS with Courage and Hope’

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.