Friday, October 31, 2008

Operation Determination Completed

It is Friday evening. 9:57. We are all settled in at the "sanctuary." Operation Determination has been completed.

This morning, Cousin Sue brought our emergency ballots, which we filled out and returned to her by noon. Our civic duty/responsibility/privilege has been completed.

Also, this morning, I had a bath. It felt good to have my hair and beard shampooed and to have my body washed. I was able to put a on a t-shirt, pantalones (aka, adult diaper) and even a pair of boxer shorts. With the addition of soft leather slippers, I was ready for the ambulance ride home.

My last hospital meal was quite good - baked chicken w/gravy and stuffing. For dessert, I chose something from the plastic pumpkin!

Soon after I finished lunch, Kyle and Steve from the Honesdale EMS were ready to carry out the mobilization phase of Operation Determination. After a few tearful goodbyes, I was off 3rd Floor, on to the elevator, and on my way to the ambulance. The ride to the the woodland retreat was relatively uneventful - Steve did a good job avoiding the potholes. When we arrived, our friend Keri was ready to capture the moment in pictures. Here, Keri is waiting on the porch for us to arrive. This is our woodland refuge . . .

Steve opens the back door of the ambulance and begins to move me out.

Now, out of the ambulance, I am greeted by Diane, one of the fine hospice nurses who cares for me and my family.

Kyle and Steve guide the stretcher up the narrow stone walkway leading to the front porch. Diane looks on to make sure that everything is running smoothly.

Once inside, they take me back the hall to the room that has been prepared for me. Unable to guide the stretcher into the room, they decide that they must lift me off the stretcher and carry me. Kyle and Steve eventually "drop" me into bed and get me positioned correctly. Oh, how comfortable it was/is!

I thank Keri for her sacrificial gift of hospitality. She and her family, with help from many other friends, have rearranged their lives and home to accomodate our stay with them. The room where we are staying, for example, has been filled with personal photographs and mementos from our bedroom at home. Keri poses with me. You can observe that I have been shedding tears of joy over the sacrificial gift that we have been given.

Our good friend Debbie has baked, has helped spruce up the room, and has run numerous errands to help Keri prepare the home for this day.

There are many others who have contributed in ways that we do not even know. For all of this, we thank God.

This evening has been somewhat of a blur, as medications have been adjusted for the ride home and I have adjusted to new surroundings. Our two families are quickly adjusting to living together in the same household.

Rod McLaughlin, the godly head of this household, has prepared his family well for what they may face in the days and weeks to come.

It has been a busy, productive, exciting day. Another gift from God above. I talked to our son from WP tonight. He is excited to come home, although he is sad to leave the place where God has him. I know that I will cherish our moments together, appreciate each conversation, enjoy each song we sing . . .

Tomorrow brings the promise of another new day. Until then.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It's Still Thursday. No, Wait. It's Friday!

It's still Thursday. A little after 9 p. I just talked to the WP plebe. He will be coming home in a few days, as I mentioned, to help his mom care for me and to spend time with me. While I respect his decision and look forward to our time together, I am saddened by the fact that he has to make this decision. I need to remind myself that God is in control and that He already knows how this will work out for my son.

We have been concerened about if and how I could vote on Tuesday. My cousin Sue came by today with applications for emergency voting ballots! Post it, and things will happen!

In a previous post, I referred the the chicken salad here in the hopsital as being bland. It was not meant to be a complaint - I find that most such salads are bland. It's the nature of the salad, so to speak. When I prepare chicken salad, I add grapes, dried cranberries, walnuts, and similar things to "jazz" it up. But I would not expect that in an "institutional" salad. The bottom line, is that I did not mean to insult the hospital food.

In fact, the food here has been quite good. I have opted to eat two meals here daily, and to have my wife pick up the third meal from a local eatery. I was concerned that having hospital food would ruin my appetite, but it has not. When I was in another hospital for chemotherapy, the food was very good, but I think I associated the food with the effects of chemotherapy and I lost my appetite. Take-out became necessary for every meal.

The kitchen staff, in return for my "complaint," began sending me burnt toast and watered-down coffee. Just kidding. Now I went too far. Actually, on one occasion they sent me a special tray containing scones and capuccino (I think that I already mentioned this occasion) and, on another occasion, a special piece of peanut butter pie. I am grateful for the whole staff, for their professionalism, for their kindness, and for their desire to go above and beyond to serve the patients.

My family has a long history with the kitchen here. My grandmother, my mother and at least one of my aunts, and many other relatives have worked there. Many other relatives work here, or have worked here, as nurses, therapists, technicians, etc.

Not a day here goes by when I do not hear someone say something kind about my mom - about how kind she was to the patients and her colleagues, how hard she worked, how much she is missed. Thanks, Mom!

And I cannot say enough good things about the nursing staff. The care I have received has been absolutely wonderful. Despite how busy they are at any particular time, the nurses have taken time to calm my fears, to be patient and gentle in meeting my needs, to answer my questions. Each one has been professional and courteous.

The PT staff and the Social Services staff have been similarly professional, patient, and kind.

The hospice nurses, above all the rest, have been exactly what we needed them to be - advocates for my care. They are helping us to face these "last days" with a minimal amount of pain and discomfort. They are going out of their way to ensure that the needs of each member of my family are met. They have been eager to help us carry out Operation Determination.

Our family and friends have been a wonderful blessing. Praying with us and for us - for God's will, for a miraculous recovery (if that be His will); bringing us coffee, ice cream and candy (the plastic pumpkin full of candy from my cousin Diane was followed by a second plastic pumpkin from my cousin Betsy - this one filled with chocolate; Diane later brought another bag if candy to keep the first pumpkin replenished!); bringing us coffee; bringing "goodies" from Highlights for Children for our son; encouraging us; calling us; playing hymns on the harmonica for us; simply sitting with us and sharing memories; running errands for us. Calling us. And the list goes on. God has blessed us with wonderful friends and a great family.

Of course, all of this is in the hands of our loving Father. All good things are ultimately from Him. He knows and meets our every need - often before we know that the need exists.


It is now 4:30 a on Friday. I slept like a rock for about seven hours. But I did it again, I woke up with my laptop on my lap!

The night nurse brought me my medication at 5a to get me back on track for the day. We had a nice conversation about illness and attitude.

A little more about last night . . .

We had a steady stream of visitors from about 1p to 7p last night. From Joe, my high school Spanish teacher; to Betsy, our good friend from Canaan; to Pastor Matt, our caped, Holy-Spirit-led crusader/leader; to Dave, our artistic young friend from Highlights; to Ruth, a long-time family friend and mother of my best friend from high school (Sometime, Mark's story needs to be written for all to read.); to Beth (Mark's sister). And others - already mentioned above.

The Tuttles treated us to a take-out (eat-in the-hospital-room dinner from Pauli's. Last night I tried the chili cheeseburger and wings. It was good. My cravings these days are focused on sweets and spicy food.

Here, the Tuttles agreed to pose with me - before I made a mess with the chili cheeseburger!

I am looking forward to getting back on my regimen of having mint chocolate chip ice cream (MCCIC) twice a day!

My children arrived about 7. I snuggled with my son and did a Hidden Pictures puzzle with him.
My daughter gave me the school update and uploaded some pictures for me on the laptop. By 8, my wife had a bad tension headache and was exhausted, so they all left.

We have enjoyed all the company, but we are looking forward to a bit of seclusion so that we can spend more time togther. First, as a couple; second, as a family.

I answered a few phone calls and began writing a new blog post. Until I fell asleep sometime between 9 and 10.

I am thankful for this new day. Operation Determination is underway. The actual move is scheduled to occur within the next eight hours. I pray that I would use each moment of this day to honor and glorify my Father in Heaven. That I would take every opportunity to be an encouragement to others. That I would point others to the hope found in Jesus Christ. In Him alone.

Hands. Choices. Responses. Great Expectations.

Hands. Referring to the last name of my in-laws. Referring to the appendages God attached to the end of our arms. Hands. Made for slapping. For striking. For clapping. For grasping. For enbracing. For feeling. For protecting. For writing. For working. For praying. For praising. For blessing. So many choices for how we will use our hands today.

Choices. So many choices about how we will live today.

Responses. God orchestrates the circumstances. We choose how to respond.

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Psalm 150:6.

Things are shaping up for our departure from here tomorrow. Operation Determination is underway. By tomorrow afternoon, Lord willing, I should be settled in a log cabin retreat in Beach Lake.

As I lay here in this hospital bed on Park Street in Honesdale, I am enjoying intermittent rays of sunlight. Reminders of God's love for me. Reminders of God's presence with me. Reminders of the abundant life that I have been given in Jesus Christ.

My wife just called from our home in Browdale. I may never step foot inside it again. I am thankful for God's provision. For soon, I - we - will all be stepping into the doorway to eternity with Jesus.

Only God knows what this day has in store. In the blink of an eye, we - all who have placed their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and accepted His free gift of eternal life - could all be taken from here in the Rapture - together. Have you considered how cool that would be? Or God could choose to move my legs and allow me to walk again. Again, He orchestrates the days, we respond.

Great Expectations. It is a shame how we put such limits on God's ability to do great things. His power is limitless. His resources are limitlesss. Let's learn to expect big things from our Great God! Let's learn to have great expectations.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Goodnight, Wednesday!

It is 10:15 p on Wednesday. Quiet here now after many visitors. I have uploaded some pictures to the blog and am preparing to soon close my eyes and go to sleep.

Tonight, I am determined to fall asleep without having my laptop on my lap.

My pain is signifificantly greater today. I am trying to alternate between taking injections and taking the medication orally. I cannot seem to get my body in a comfortable position.

It is less than a week before Election Day and I am not sure how I will get to vote next Tuesday. Is there a provision for an individual in the hospital with a fractured femur?

It has been a very busy day. But now it is time to say Good Night.

Small Group Visit

At our invitation, our small group (discipleship group) gathered in our hospital room on Tuesday evening. We had a great time eating candy from the plastic pumpkin, talking, laughing, singing hymns and praise songs, and praying.

Here, Bill describes to Brian the finer points of opening a piece of candy.

Janice responds to Bill, as Betsy searches for a candy gummy worm.

Rose just smiles!

Frank enjoys a Sugar Daddy while Terri look on.

Carol also enjoys a Sugar Daddy, knowing that her children will not be asking her about what she is eating!

Below is the small group gathered around my hospital bed. Pastor Matt stayed home to watch his children so that Carol could partcipate. My wife is taking the picture.

Our small group exists to encourage one another to live for the glory of God. We pray for one another and challenge one another to follow and serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pictures from Operation Determination

Operation Determination, as I call it, is our relocation to the McLaughlin home. Below are a few pictures related to the move.

Here, two of the young McLaughlin ladies are shown in the van on their way from our home to theirs, transporting some of the things that our family will need.

Here is the "famous" bowl that must not be stepped (on). Just a bowl of salad.

Mr. McLaughlin has gone out of his way to prepare his home for our arrival. He prepared a place for our daughter to sleep in a loft area located in his daughter's room. Here, three of the girls try out the new "sleeping" space.

Mrs. Mclaughlin, the tireless co-leader of the operation, rests at the wheel of the van.

Operation Determination will be a blessing! It will be almost like a vacation on the woods. We are thankful for the sacrificial hospitality of the McLaughlin Family.

Some Pictures from the Hospital Room

We are trying to remember to take some pictures while we are here in the hospital. Unfortunately, we do not always remember when guests are here, so all of our visitors have not been captured. But here is what we have . . .

My wife tries to get close to me on the hospital bed. My younger son's arm is in the background.

There he is! My younger son is now in full view of the camera.

The Ashleys dropped in for a visit, bearing a gift - Mountain Dew. I think that this is the first Dew I have had since being diagnosed with cancer. Later, we enjoyed chili dogs, taco wraps, and vinegar fries from a local eatery.

Rod McLaughlin and his daughter pose next to the hospital bed with me before taking our children back to their home.

Again, we have had many other visitors, but often forget to take pictures. We are thankful for the love that has been demonstrated to us through our many friends and family members.

A Humorous Mechanism

Somehow I did it again! I remember putting the laptown down last night before going to sleep, but it was on my lap when I woke up this morning!

I must have made a comment in the blog about the food here at WMH. I think maybe I referred to the chicken salad as being bland. I did not mean to insult anyone - in my experience, chicken salad is usually bland. The food here is good - especially when compared with some of the other hospitals in which I stayed. Praise God, I have not lost my appetite. Anyway, as a result of all of this, a tray was delivered to our room this morning featuring raspberry and blueberry scones, pumpkin spice cappuccino, and French Vanilla cappuccino. A very nice treat! Not bland at all.

To be honest, the food here is quite good, as is the quality of nursing care. I have been more than pleased with the professionalism and the lovingkindness demonstrated by each member of the staff.

I have to relate something humorous that is happening to me. Every time I start to sob/cry uncontrollably, God has given me a built-in brake mechanism. I get to a certain point of crying, and then I break into a yawn. And then I start laughing! Very strange.

I had trouble waking up. Very drousy. Most of this morning has been a blur. I was bathed. I've been medicated. My wife and I answered some e-mails and have spent some time talking about the logistics of going home.

We have had only one visitor today, and are enjoying the relative solitude. We continue to be awed by the fact that God meets our every need even before we can express it.

It is now 1:10 p. My wife ran to do some errands and pick up lunch - cheesesteak subs from the Honesdeli. Another treat to which I am looking forward!

I look forward to spending more time with my wife this afternoon. But I also miss my children.

Life is good. The Creator and Sustainer of Life is Greater. And greatly to be praised!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Lot of Candy. A Little Sleep.

From mid-morning until lunch time, I talked to a representative from Social Services. He asked me about our family and our support system. He wanted to know about each member of the family and how each is coping with these circumstances. I enjoyed describing to him each member of the family and how God is working in each heart and each life.

Lunch was bland. Chicken salad and pasta salad.

The afternoon brought many visitors, one bearing cookies, another bearing three harmonicas! I was blessed to hear Take My Life and Let it Be and When We All Get to Heaven played on this simple, yet beautiful instrument.

This afternoon I also had a sponge bath and shampoo. I actually had to have my hair shampooed!

The afternoon mail included a long letter from a good friend. It was one of those letters that I had to read in parts, because it made me cry so much. It was a beautiful letter.

My younger son and daughter arrived with my wife at about 3 p. We enjoyed taking some pictures; at our son's request, we each prayed; we read stories from Highlights for Children; and our son practiced counting to 100, by ones and by tens.

Around 4 p, our friends, The Ashleys, arrived - with Mountain Dew to share! Rod McLaughlin and his daughter Emily also arrived to pick up our children. My Aunt Betty and cousin Sue came by. A little later, my cousin Diane and her husband Lynn dropped in, bearing a Jack-o-Lantern full of "penny" candy from Weniger's Variety Store - the kind of candy we used to buy as kids. What a treat! My cousin Betsy stopped by after work - she works as a nurse in the recovery room; she spotted the container of candy and said that she had prepared something very similar, but forgot to bring it! She reminded me of the time that our parents dressed us (me, Betsy, and cousin Charlie) as Snap, Crackle and Pop of Rice Krispy fame.

By six, most of the visitors started to leave and my wife (and Mrs. Ashley) walked over to Pauli's Hot Dogs to pick up dinner. They brought back BLT wraps, chili dogs, and Boardwalk-style fries.
We finished eating just in time for our small group to arrive at 7. We were all present, except for Pastor Matt. We enjoyed eating candy out of the plastic pumpkin, laughing, talking, singing hymns and spiritual songs, and praying together. It was a sweet, sweet time of prayer!

By ten, we wound down. My wife and I read the e-mails and blog comments that came in throughout the day. My wife read some cards and napped while I finished this post. And now, it is time to put the laptop down so that I do not wake up with it on my lap in the morning.

I have been awake now for 20 hours and I need to sleep.

Please Do Not Step on the Salad

"Please do not step on the salad." That is the title that was suggested for this morning's entry. Last night, my daughter showed me a photograph of her friend holding an uncovered salad bowl, in the back of a van, on the way here to the hospital.

As I mentioned, "Operation Determination" - maybe I'll come up with a better name - is being relocated from here to the McLaughlin home by the end of the week, Lord willing. Last night, "they" (not the Vincent Van Patten family, but my daughter and the McLaughlin family) initiated the process by moving some things - starting with clothing and necessities, open food (hence the uncovered salad bowl), and so on.

I woke up at 4 this morning, laptop on lap again - I must have fallen asleep between 10 and 11 last night. I promised my wife I would not do it again, but I did. Anyway, I woke up, the nurse gave me an injection of my pain medication, and I decided to respond to some e-mails.

It is snowing. It's October 28! Schools have been cancelled. I have heard that there is already up to 6 inches of snow on the ground in higher elevations. I am not sure when my family will make it in to see me.

An "old" friend who is on staff here called me early this morning and offered to bring me a cup of coffee. So, I am enjoying a nice, hot cup of caffeinated coffee from Dunkin' Donuts. What a treat!
My sister just called. She is back in Columbia, SC after a weekend with her daughter in Philadelphia. I enjoy hearing from her once or twice a day. She likes to check up on me and the family.

The nurses were in for their morning rounds. I have been medicated and assessed. I have been cleaned up. I have had breakfast. It is now about 8:45 a.

I found this in a comment that a friend posted on the blog: It is from Psalm 119:75-76 . . .

I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.

The author of this psalm prays for comfort in the midst of his affliction. Based on what he wrote in verse 73, he understood that his affliction was the direct result of his sinfulness and that he deserved his affliction.

While I cannot say that my present affliction is the direct result of my sinfulness, I know that I am, by nature, a sinful person, that there is sin in this world, and that disease and affliction are part of the sin curse on this world. Some might say that I do not deserve to be afflicted in this way, but I do not look at it that way. I deserve death. I deserve eternal separation from God. God does not owe me anything. I chose to reject Him. I chose to ignore His call for so long. I chose to refuse His offer of the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ for 31 years. I chose to do things my own way instead of His. I chose to think that my way was superior to that of the Creator of the Universe.

Yet He chose to love me. He chose to save me from my own sinfulness. Paul wrote in Romans 5:8 . . . but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Although I rejected Him, He accepted me in Jesus Christ. O, the depth of His mercy, His love, and His grace. It is beyond description.

And, I pray for comfort in the midst of this affliction. And God comforts me. And He comforts my family. We enjoy the peace that passes all understanding. We find rest, in Him, in the midst of this storm.

It is about 9:30 a. It is quiet here in my room. My wife just called. She is not able to get to the hospital for a while due to the snow. I assured her that I am OK and that she should take this opportunity to rest and to spend time with our children.

The day is really just beginning. New opportunities are waiting. I am praying that I will be sensitive to God's leading each moment and that my attitudes, words, and actions will effectively adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ - so that He may be exalted and that others may find hope in Him.

Until later . . .

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday Evening Update

It has been about fourteen hours since I posted this morning. What a long day it has been! Lord willing, I can recall some of what occurred today. Instead of adding to the previous post, as I thought I would, I decided write a new entry. I may get confused regarding some of the details or the order in which things occcurred.

I spent some time this morning answering e-mails, reading other blogs, and writing some letters.
Breakfast arrived after 9 due to a miscommunication about surgery.

By the time I finished breakfast, well after 10, our pastor arrived for a visit. I enjoyed hearing about his weekend retreat with his wife and another couple.

Soon after we began talking, the hospice nurse arrived. We discussed the plans to get my pain under control, stabilize my femur, and prepare for me to go home. Sometime in the midst of this discussion, my wife arrived. We continued our discussion by asking about the logistics of moving our family to the McLaughlin home once I am discharged from the hospital.

The McLaughlins have graciously offered for us to move into their home for as long as I need care. They have a first floor bedroom that would offer me much more privacy than our living/family room. Being there would mean a built-in support system for my wife and children.
My wife would have less responsibilities as far as cooking and cleaning. She would be freed to spend more time caring for my needs.

At the same time, my son has prayerfully decided to come home from West Point this weekend to stay and help his mom care for me - and to spend time with me. The officers in his chain of command have been very supportive in helping him to make this decision. The worst case scenario is that he will have to repeat the academic year. If all goes well, though, he will be able to keep up with his class and graduate with his class. While we know that he is where he needs to be, we respect his decision to come home. He is filled the same Spirit as we are. We know that he has prayed about his decision. And we never want him to regret not helping his mom or spending enough time with his dad.

My lunch arrived at about the same time the nurse brought my medication. Although it was not what I ordered, I enjoyed Salisbury steak and risotto with cranberries and pineapples. It was
actuallly quite tasty!

During all the busy-ness of people coming in and out, my wife talked with our pastor until he left.
We did manage to pray together before he did go. I felt bad that I did not get to visit with him more.

The afternoon was busier yet. It was then that the nurse inserted my catheter, and I got cleaned up for the day. There were a number of visitors, all of whom encouraged us and prayed with us.

My wife went out (for a walk) and brought back dinner. After a break in the company, we enjoyed roast beef, mashed potatoes, and carrots.

Later, our younger son arrived, along with more visitors. By 8, our visitors left and I was able to read a new book and several older books to him.

My wife and daughter left about 9, both very tired from a busy day.

It is now about 10:45. I am tired. Falling asleep at the keyboard. I need to go.

I Do Not Like Mondays? A Week Later

It is Monday morning again. If I start out another Monday morning like this one, I may learn to hate Mondays. Well, that's taking things way to seriously . . . let me explain.

A few minutes ago. the lights came on, two nurses came into my room, greeted me, and proceeded to change mis pantalones, my pants, my dry pants, my adult diaper - I forget what manly name I am supposed to call it! Briefs. The procedure involves me turning my body, from side to side - to expose my back side - so that the the old pants can be removed, my body can be cleaned, and the new pants can be put on. It is a painful process for someone with extreme bone pain in the hips and thighs (due to bone cancer) and a fractured femur. Not having adequate pain medication prior to the "procedure" this morning, the pain was incredibly intense. I cried like a baby. A big, 45-year-old baby. It hurt. But I mostly felt bad for the two nurses who patiently and gently attended to the task. They remained calm and had a calming influence on me. [I feel so bad that others have to do this kind of thing for me. Funny, I am beyond the embarassment, humility, or shame that I should have with all this - I've just accepted that this is the way it is - but I feel bad for those who must attend to me.] Within minutes, it was over. Sometime in those few minutes, pain medication was given, and I am now resting peacefully - with laptop on lap, listening to the Honesdale traffic oustside my window, and typing this post.

Things are OK . Mondays are not to be hated. Mondays are to be embraced like any other day - as precious gifts of time from the Lord God Creator who gives us each day, along with the resources we need, to live for and glorify Him this day. So let us begin this day with praise to Him, with thanksgiving in our hearts, with a determination to glorify Him, with a sensitity to others that will allow us to minister to their needs and help point them to Him.

It is 6:45. Already this morning, God has given me a gift in the way of a conversation with one of the nurses attending to me. One who so kindly attended to my needs this morning. She shared with me how she will be leaving her work here to attend to her mother full-time. How she is looking forward to doing so. How diffficult it may be, at times, but how much joy it will bring. She told me about her dad, who struggled in his life, yet was changed by the Spirit of God and began a Bible-teaching church in the area. A passing conversation. An unexpected blessing.

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul.
While I live I will praise the LORD;
I will sing praises to God while I have my being.
Psalm 146:1-2.

It is 7 am. Today, I am going to try something new. I am going to post this entry as it is right now. Even without having my wife check it for "unnecessary weirdness." And, Lord willing, I will add to this same post during the day - to update and amend on the progress of this day in the journey of a man, a family, facing a difficult life circumstance.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Snap. Or No More Onion Breath

No more onion breath. The title was decided upon yesterday.

Snap. At 12:30 this morning (Sunday) I made a simple move and my femur snapped. The pain was intense and I did not know what to do. My wife called the hospice nurse on call, and we decided that the best thing to do was to go to the hospital to have it checked.

As we waited for the ambulance to arrive, my wife busily made preparations and I spent the time uploading photos to this blog.

By 2:00, the ambulance crew arrived. Sean and Bruce did a great job moving me out of bed, down the stairs (although that was probably the scariest ride of my life!), outside, and into the ambulance. By 2:45 or so, I was in the ER at Wayne Memorial Hospital.

X-rays revealed that I do indeed have a fractured femur. Snap. Although surgery is an option, I am not considering it (in light of our bigger picture here).

It was decided at this time that it would be a good idea to change my pain medication. I was given an injection of Dilaudin (sp?). So far, it has been quite effective. Although it has caused me to be very drowsy.

By 6 am I was admitted to a private room and fell asleep.

My wife left for home at 9:30. Before leaving, we discussed logistics for the day. She would go home, take a shower, and make some necessary preparations. She would send my two older children over to visit with me while I waited for her to arrive with my younger son. The two younger children would later go home with the McLaughlin family. The Chupick family would meet us at the hospital at 3:00 to take our older son back to WP.

My two older children arrived between 11 and 11:30. We enjoyed spending time together. It’s not that we did much or said much – other than me telling them how wonderful they are, how blessed they are to have each other and such wonderful friends, etc. We simply enjoyed being in the presence of one another.

My wife and younger son arrived about 2 pm. For an hour, we visited and prepared for our older son’s departure to WP. He was hesitant about going back, but we urged him to do so. He wants to make sure that he is there for me and for his mom. Understandably so.

It was a busy hour. At three, everything seemed to explode as the Chupicks arrived to pick him up, as our friend Keri came to get our two younger children, and another friend dropped off a quart of mint chocolate chip ice cream! So many people serving us in a variety of ways!

It is now a little after 5 in the evening and all is very quiet here. My wife is resting in the chair beside me. She has had a very busy day and has had very little sleep.

I would like to work toward getting home in the next few days. As long as my wife will be able to care for me there. Toward that end, we will need to get this pain under control and make sure that my femur is stabilized. Also, I will have to consent to having a catheter. As much as I wanted to avoid it – and as scared as I am (I am such a wimp when it comes to needles and tubes) – it will help my wife care for me more easily.

Going home means familiar surroundings. Privacy.

I thought that, being here, I might be cut off from my present ministry - such as it is - through e-mail and this blog. Praise God, He has provided for this. I was able to find and connect to a wireless network here at the hospital. As the Lord allows, I will take the opportunity to use it.

My daughter had agreed to take what I can write from this hospital room and post it on the blog – although it would have been delayed in getting out there. She also agreed to print out my e-mails each day and bring them to me. So I could read them, but not necessarily respond. But, for the moment, that is not necessary! For this, I am grateful.

Snap. It changed some things. For us, but not for God. His plans have not been changed. He is sovereign over all. We will seek to glorify Him even in this. We will continue to seek to see Jesus. To help others to see Jesus.

Each day is a day closer to seeing Jesus.

In glory.

Where there will be no more onion breath.

Guitar Jam with My Son

This evening, I moved upstairs to our bedroom. My son and I decided to get out the guitars and sing through a notebook of our favorite hymns and songs. It was such a blessing to spend the time playing and singing praises to our Lord.

An Evening with the McLaughlins

This evening, we were able to spend some time with good friends, friends - as I mentioned earlier - that have cared for our children in their home during our many hospital stays over the past ten months. It was an evening filled with many laughs and tears. And a very sweet time of prayer.

Below, our son and their youngest son emerge from upstairs as the fearless duo of Batman and Goggleman.
The ladies enjoy a great laugh together.

The reason for their laughter. There is no satisfactory explanation of what is happening here. Some kind of female bonding ritual, perhaps.

Our good friends relax after dinner.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday - In the Park?

Saturday. I'm not in the park, but it certainly feels like the 4th of July! Anyone recall these lyrics from Chicago? The Seventies?

I am excited to be alive today! I feel incredibly free!

Waiting for our son to arrive home this morning, my wife and had a very sweet time of prayer together.

We read and discussed a passage of Scripture - 1 Timothy 5:3-16 - Paul's writing on the treatment of widows. We discussed the responsibilities of the widow, the responsibilities of the family, and the responsibility of the church.

I am confident that my wife understands her role and responsibilities as a widow. I am also very excited about how God will be able to use her as an example and encouragement to others who are facing difficulties.

I have discussed with our older son his responsibilities and am confident that he will follow through, as will our daughter. Although they are young now, they understand that as they mature, their responsibilities to care for their mom and each other - and their younger brother - will increase. As for our younger son, I simply need to impress upon him the need to obey God - particularly by obeying his mom.

I know that our family - both natural and church - will continue to provide for my wife and children. There is great comfort in knowing this.

Ultimately, I am trusting that God will use all of these means to ensure that our family has the provision and security it needs, and that my family will continue to be equipped to live in a way that pleases our Father in Heaven.

Our son arrived home a little after ten.

Our good friends, the Tuttles, served us by getting up early this morning, driving two hours to Highland Falls, picking up our son, and driving him home. We spent rest of the morning visiting with them, reminiscing about all the great times we have had together in the past eleven years, and rejoicing together in God's goodness. Jamie helped my wife make some last-minute adjustments in our upstairs office to accomodate my move upstairs.

We have been catching up on life here and at WP. Some light-hearted discussions. Some deep discussions. All good. It is so nice having him home. One of our discussions was about him being at home with me and the family. We are together asking God for wisdom in this - we do not want him to miss anything at WP, but - at the same time - we do not him to have any regrets later about how much time he spent home with his family during this time.

As I have been mentioning, I have had many great e-mails in the past week. I have been blessed by reading each one of them, and blessed again by re-reading them with my wife. An e-mail arrived today from a former student from Canaan Christian Academy. This student gave me permission to share this on the blog; it is an example of the thoughtful encouragement that we have received from others:

One definition of bond: "to make or become firmly united" The other day while I was thinking and praying for you and your family I decided to look "bond" up in the dictionary and this definition truly describes your amazing family. You all are a HUGE blessing in my life. And I thank God for allowing me the privilege to know you. You have definitely let God do amazing things in your life. I see Jesus in and through you, through your blog and for the time I have spent time with you as my friends' dad, as my teacher, as my pastor, and as my mentor. You are truly a gift from God.

God has blessed us beyond measure. He has given us much more than we deserve. More than we could have ever imagined.

There is no doubt. He has given me a wonderful life. Filled with a wonderful family and friends. And to think, that is can only get better by seeing Jesus face to face. Way better than the 4th of July!

[My name is ,"Life is but a dream," and I approve this message.]

Friday, October 24, 2008

It's Friday. I'm Learning to Let Go.

It's Friday.

This morning, my wife woke me up, gave me my first morning morphine cocktail and a mug of hot coffee. I sat up, opened my Bible, and looked at several passages, mostly from the Psalms, regarding death and the brevity of life.

Before sharing some of what I gleaned, I would like to let you know that I am not certain, from day to day, how long I will be able to continue posting on this blog. I am told that my cognitive abilities will wane and that I may start getting strange thoughts in my head. For this reason, I have asked my wife to read all my entries before I post them.

At some point, I will have to let go of this blog. As I have had to let go of other things - like teaching and serving as an assistant pastor alongside one of the finest men I have ever known. But letting go of things is part of this whole process of dying. It is part of a mixed blessing. I have this time to enjoy with family and friends, to reminisce, to say goodbye, to help my wife make plans, etc. But, at the same time, I have to endure the pain of letting things go.

But as I learn to let things go, I think about what I will gain - as I let go of this world and step into the presence of my Savior, Jesus Christ. I have difficulty imagining what it will be like.

Last night, my daughter and I talked about the blog. She is thinking about keeping up with it as long as I am alive. She is praying about it. And if that is what she would like to do, I will support her is doing it. caption.

From there, as I have mentioned, the words I have written are in the hands of God and a bright young lady who is willing to follow God's leading in telling this story to others. My prayer is that God is glorified and that others find there is hope in Jesus Christ.

In Psalm 39, David reflects on the brevity of life, asking God to give him a proper perspective: to know my end and what is the measure of my days (verse 4). He compares the span of his life to handbreadths (very small measures), nothing before You (in comparison to God), and a vapor (vanity, meaningless). A proper perspective on the brevity of life leads way to his reflection on hope (in God), the providence of God over his life and circumstances, and a call for relief from his present pain and suffering.

As I read this psalm, I had a sense of gratitude because God has given and is still giving me a better pespective on the brevity of life and how important it is to use the time we are given to fulfill the purpose(s) that He has laid our for us. Like David, I have hope. My hope is found in Jesus Christ. My hope is tied to heaven, where He prepares a place for me. Like David, I know that God has planned out my life and circumstances for His glory. And I know that in these final days, I can run to Him for relief from my pain and sufferings. And even though the pain and suffering may not wane, He is present with me, helping me to endure. Helping me to understand that it is momentary. Reminding me, as He has so many times before, that my pain pales in comparison to that suffered by Jesus Christ on my behalf. Because He took on the pain meant for me at Calvary, one day soon all my pain will be gone.

In Psalm 90:12, Moses wrote: So teach us to number our days, that we might gain a heart of wisdom. This verse reminds us again of the importance of using our time wisely. Having a heart of wisdom, according to John MacArthur, involves taking our focus off of ourselves and putting it in God's sovereignty. Knowing that God is in control of our lives brings great comfort. And great freedom. We are free to live for Him.

From my personal experience in the past few weeks, I have been given a better understanding of this verse. Being conscious of the need - having the desire - to focus on God and on others - has been incredibly freeing for me. And, I would imagine, good preparation for being in the presence of Jesus Christ, where all eyes, all thoughts will be focused on Him.

In Psalm 90:17, he wrote: And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us, yes, establish the work of our hands.

I am not sure that I really ever reflected on this verse of Scripture before. But it certainly caught my eye this morning. When Moses speaks of beauty here, he speaks of God's delight, His approval and His favor. He asks that these things be upon us as we go about doing the work that He has established for us. He asks that our lives have value, significance, and meaning - by God's grace and mercy.

I am thankful that, by God's grace, my life has had meaning - not because of anything I have done, but because God created me and redeemed me and used me.

In Ecclesiastes 9:10, I read: Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.

Enough said. Get busy.

In Psalm 116:15, I read: Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.

I have no fear in dying. The God that created me, redeemed me, sustained me, and provided for me throughout this life in earth will be with me in death. He will see me safely into the presence of Jesus Christ.

Psalm 23 is a familiar Psalm. So familiar, that it is sometimes easy to skip over. This morning, I read verse 4 carefully: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Again, I am reminded that I have nothing to fear. God's protection is upon me. He will give me direction. He will provide of my every need - and He will provide for every need of my family when I am gone.

As I face these final days, my thoughts are focused on . . .

telling family and friends how much I love them and how much they mean to me.

not overlooking the importance of just being together.

how God has already provided for my absence.

encouraging others to live for Christ in light of the brevity of life.

helping others to see Jesus.

I cannot persuade anyone of the truth of Jesus Christ. That is a work of the Holy Spirit. I can simply share what the Bible says about Him and what I know to be true about Him and His work in my life. Beyond that, all I can do is live my life in a way that allows others to see Jesus in me.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday Is "The Candy Day"

It's Thursday. [I am not getting any more creative with my opening sentences.]

As my wife prepares lunch, I am taking this opportunity to begin writing this post for the day.

Skimming through the Psalms, I focused for a few minutes on the privileges we have as God's children.

God is . . .

our Glory (Psalm 3:3).

our King (Psalm 5:2).
our Deliverer (Psalm 18:2).
our Redeemer (Psalm 19:14).

our Light and our Salvation (Psalm 27:1).
our Helper (Psalm 33:20).
our Strength (Psalm 46:1).
our Guide (Psalm 48:14)

our Portion (Psalm 73:26).
our Shield (Psalm 84:11).
our Habitation (Psalm 90:1)
0ur Keeper (Psalm 121:4-5).

Our younger son has dubbed this day The Candy Day (details to follow).

After a good night's rest, my wife and I arose early - it was probably 4:30 when she got up, and a half-hour later when she woke me up - to see Stephen, Sheri, Sydney, and Samantha off to Atlanta.

My wife climbed back into bed - we have been sleeping downstairs on the pull-out sofa for a month now - and we began reading e-mails that have arrived in the past week. E-mails that I have read, but ones that my wife has not been able to enjoy because of the busy-ness.

At some point, our younger son came downstairs and snuggled beside us in the bed.

At 6:15, my wife woke up our daughter and pre-school preparations got underway. A friend graciously offered to drive our daughter to school today, enabling my wife to remain in her pajamas and enjoy a quiet morning at home.

The four of us were able to enjoy an extended time of prayer together before our daughter left for school. It was a very sweet time.

My wife prepared breakfast for me - scrambled eggs, bacon, and grits. It was quite a treat.

After a few light chores, my wife was able to crawl up alongside me and enjoy reading more e-mails. There are still many left to read. And new ones keep coming.

My son and I enjoyed reading several books together and have plans for doing some more constructive activities this afternoon. I was also just informed that we would be playing Monopoly after lunch.

The highlight of our day, so far, has been dubbed by our son as The Candy Day.

Yesterday, in addition to bringing home a great variety of fudge for dessert, Stephen and Sheri went on a scavenger hunt of sorts - at CVS - to pick up a variety of "treats" that I listed on a piece of paper.

Some people may choose to spend their final days in exotic locations, taking risks, or both. I simply want to spend time with family and friends and enjoy some of my favorite foods. And candy.

This morning, the three of us sampled the goods collected by Stephen and Sheri. The Candy Day experience featured samples of white cheddar cheese popcorn, Jordan almonds, Necco wafers, malted milk balls, mini-Heath Bars, and assorted flavors of Jelly Belly jelly beans. There is also toffee popcorn, but that will wait for another time. We taught our son to enjoy each flavor, especially when it came time to sampling the jelly beans. Guessing the flavors is difficult without lablels!

I also took some time to tell our son about how we used to visit the candy counter at the local variety store. All the penny candy. And how we could fill up a small candy bag with 25 cents worth of candy treats.

The best thing about this day, by far, is that we are spending a quiet day at home, enjoying being together.

I have observed that when things are busy here, more tears are shed. Tears associated with the sense of loss, of being apart. But when we are alone (as a couple or as a family), there is a greater sense of peace, of joy. We can focus our attention on one another. We can more easily focus our attention on seeing Jesus - together.

God is meeting our need for this day. As He does each and every day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Few More Pictures of the de Haan Clan

It's Wednesday evening. Things are quieting down here. The children have been bathed. Sheri and Stephen drove Peter and Phyllis back to the hotel after dinner. [Stephen grilled London Broil. My wife prepared twice-baked potatoes. Dessert was an assortment of fudge from Gertrude Hawk!] They are anticipating an early (5 am or so) departure for Atlanta tomorrow.

It has been a nice visit. I have especially enjoyed watching the three cousins playing together.

Below, Sheri poses with daughters Samantha and Sydney.

Nana and Sheri enjoy a moment together on the sofa.

Grandpa Peter and Stephen relax on the rocking chair.

Stephen and Sheri are back. We will enjoy some quiet conversation before bed. Good night!

Trusting God on Wednesday

It is Wednesday. Each day, even a Wednesday, is a gift from God.

This morning passed quickly. Our children went to school. Stephen, Sheri, and the girls arose late and enjoyed a breakfast featuring cheesy scrambled eggs. Sheri was gracious to prepare breakfast for me as well.

From the time I got out of bed, about 6:15, until about 9, I read and responded to e-mails, some of which I left from last night. One was from a friend who was instrumental in my entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ during the Storm of the Century in March 1993. It was a blessing to catch up with Bill, reminisce about the past, and hear about how he and his family are doing.

Soon after breakfast, my wife arrived home from taking the children to school; Peter and Phyllis arrived from the hotel in Clarks Summit.

We spent most of the morning sitting and conversing.At some point, I received a phone call from our friend Gail in Georgia. Gail and Grassy were our family-away-from-home in Georgia. We have many good times to remember; many funny stories to tell. Gail and Grassy were one of the couples that patiently loved us through the years leading up to our salvation.

It is now 1:30. We just finished lunch. Part of the clan is headed to Honesdale to visit some of the local shops. My wife is headed over to Canaan to clear my personal items from the classroom I was using. My office is much as I left it; but it will have to be cleared out as well. The whole process does not really bother me. At least, I did not think that it would. But there is something about it that makes me uneasy. An admission that another part of my life is over. That I have little or no influence over what goes on in the classroom. And I guess that is tied up with contentment – being content with doing the best I can with what I have been given.

My wife purchased a book to study with a friend. Between yesterday and today, I read the book and dog-eared pages that I wanted to go back to and review. The book is Trusting God (Even When Life Hurts) by Jerry Bridges.

I am no longer purchasing books, but have a desire to read as much as I can, to glean as much as I can, about seeing Jesus more clearly. Of course, nothing replaces the reading of the Bible. But the perspectives of godly writers are often helpful.

I typed out some notes, things that caught my attention, and included them here. Unless noted otherwise, all italicized items are direct quotes or paraphrases of statements made by the author himself. Any comments that I added are included in regular font.

God has a purpose and a plan for each one of us, and He has the power to carry out that plan.

No part of God’s plan can be thwarted. God does as He pleases.

We must learn to obey God one choice at a time, one circumstance at a time. It is an act of the will, based on the belief that God is in control of every situation.

God is sovereign. We are responsible. Prayer is necessary; it assumes the sovereignty of God.

There is no conflict between God’s sovereignty and our responsibility.Prayer is the acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty and of our dependence upon Him to act on our behalf. Prudence is the acknowledgment of our responsibility to use all legitimate means.

We must depend upon God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We must also depend on Him to enable us to do what we must do for ourselves.

Psalm 139:13-16. God created our innermost being and fashioned us in our mother’s womb so that we might be equipped to fulfill the plan that He set out even before we were born.

God made us thinking beings, and he guides our minds as we think things out in his presence.
(J.I. Packer)

Trusting God is first a matter of the will. But first, we must know that God is sovereign . . .

If we are to trust God, we must believe His truth.

As I consider what Bridges wrote about trusting God, represented fairly well by the sampling of snippets included above, I must conclude that a genuine trust in God must begin with a proper understanding of who God is. We can know Him and His character best through His Word, but also through the daily experience of seeing Him work day by day in our lives and in the lives of the people close to us. Because I know Him, because I know His faithfulness, I know I can trust Him with anything that comes my way, even (especially) in these final uncertain days.

God’s plan for my life is unfolding. One day at a time, one moment at a time. In each moment, He expects me to know and follow His leading. He expects me to act responsibly, to think, according to the standards that He has set forth in His Word and impressed upon my heart. He expects me to bathe each circumstance in prayer, so that my spirit might be in close communication with His. Also, that I might be ever aware of my dependence upon Him. My dependence upon Him. It becomes clearer every day, every moment. It is a part of seeing Jesus more clearly. Seeing Jesus. Trusting Jesus.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesday Trials

It has always been my intention in this blog to deal honestly with the circumstances, attitudes, issues, feelings, tensions, frustrations, fears, emotions (the whole laundry list) associated with our battle with Ewing's Sarcoma.

Not to bare all for any impure motive like a need for attention or sympathy - but to share enough of what we face so that others will know that we are, by God's grace, grappling with the uncertainty and suffering associated with such a trial in a way that is honest and authentic. We are relying upon God alone for the wisdom and strength that we need to live through this monetary (momentary, that is) affliction in a way that pleases God.

Our desire, from the beginning, has been to please God. By God's grace, we continue to pray that what He has seen, what He is seeing, is pleasing in His sight. And we pray continually that others may see through our frailty to His great strength, wisdom, and power. That others may see His love and grace shine through our circumstances. That others may know the hope that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. That others may experience the peace available to all who trust Jesus Christ to free them from their bondage to sin and free them to live wholeheartedly for Him.

As the days pass, our hope does not wane. Our hope intensifies. Each day is a day closer to seeing Jesus face to face. The peace in our hearts sustains us more than ever.

At the same time, the circumstances of each day become more difficult. As my pain increases and my body continues to shut down (I will not take time to share all the details - there is really no need to do so - but this is part of the challenge we are facing), our dependence upon God is put to the test. Do we still have hope? Do we still enjoy His peace?

In all of this, my dear wife's burden is increasing. I find it frustrating that the best I can seem to do is to pray for her and to encourage her through each circumstance. In all of the busy-ness, she wrestles with finding quality time to spend with Jesus, the only One who can truly help her through this. In these times, she needs her brothers and sisters in Christ to lift her up in prayer. Please pray for her to have strength. Please pray for her to have rest in Him, even in the midst of her busy-ness.

Don't get this wrong - my wife is strong in the Lord. She knows the source of her strength. Her love for me is unwavering. Because her love for God is unwavering. But she needs to be held up in prayer.

Today is one of those days that I feel like the two-month prognosis is accurate. I feel the pressure of time pressing against "the list" of things that should be accomplished before I go. Every day, I must face these feelings head-on and focus on the truth of God's Word. He still numbers my days. And I must be all about using these days according to the priorities that He has given me.

One of the frustrations that we face as a couple these days is that we have not been able to sit together for any reasonable length of time, to pray, to read the Bible together, to share the blessings that I have received through numerous e-mails from "people from the past." In 21 years, we have always found time to share such moments with each other; in the past three weeks, when we need each other most, we cannot find the time.

In addition to receiving numerous cards, e-mails, and phone calls extending prayers and encouragement, we have been blessed with many out-of town visitors - both family and friends. We have enjoyed spending time with each person who has come into our home.

The only drawback in all this is that there is only so much time. It is not possible to see everyone we would like to see. That we need to see.

There is one particular family that we need to see. That we have not seen or spent time with in quite a while. A family, like many others, that has given freely and sacrificially of themselves, to be a blessing to our family from the very beginning of my diagnosis.

On the day that the oncologist told us I had Ewing's Sarcoma, our children were staying with the McLaughlin Family. That night, we asked them to pray about being the family primarily responsible for the care of our childen while cancer treatments took us out of town - for up to five days at a time. Prayerfully, they agreed, and have taken in our children and treated them as their own on many occasions - sometimes at a monent's notice. We are grateful for their sacrifice and value their friendship. The gift that they gave us was not insignificant. We need to get together with them and spend some quality time in prayer.

I do want to slight any other families. Many other dear families and friends have helped us out in so many ways. Meals. Taking care of our children after school. Cleaning. Doing household projects. And the list goes on. We would love to have the time to spend with each person, each family, who made some kind of sacrifice on our behalf - we know there are many! But time just doesn't permit us to do so. I can only hope and pray that those of whom I speak know the depth of our gratitude and love for them. And that one day, Lord willing, we will all join togther in singing praises to our Savior in Heaven.

I was just looking through a pile of notes and found this:

Am I more consumed with God or with what God can do for me?

Interesting thought/challenge for today.

Most of "the clan" is leaving this morning for Easton, PA and the Crayola Crayon Factory. Lunches are being packed. Children are getting washed and dressed. There is excitement in the air. At least, among the children. The adults are getting ready for whatever the day may bring.
My wife should be returning shortly from taking our daughter to school. Due to various circumstances, they got a late start.

Such is the start of this Tuesday.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Photographs of the de Haan Clan

The de Haan clan arrived on Sunday evening. Today was spent talking, playing games, and eating. As promised, here are some photographs from our first full day together. Below, Stephen enjoys a quiet moment on the sofa. But just a moment.

The cousins take a break from their busy play time to huddle together on the double rocker. Batman looks scared!

Phyllis and Peter, the fearless clan leaders, enjoy conversation in the living room.

Sheri shares a mysterious smile in the midst of an exciting game of Scattergories. Is she already feeling uneasy about her "creative" answer?

Uncle Stephen and Grandpa Peter take a break from the game to ponder something. What, we are not sure. Perhaps it is Sheri's last answer.

Steve shares a quiet moment with daughter Sydney. Steve still looks concerned about Sheri's answer. Sydney is simply content to be with her dad.

Tomorrow is a new day, and there is a promise of more photographs.

Monday Again

It's another Monday morning. I remember growing up and listening to a song on the morning radio, called I Don't Like Mondays - by the Boomtown Rats, I think. It was not an uplifting song for a Monday morning.

Not a song for today, a day that the Lord has made!

I like Mondays, and Tuesdays , and . . .

Jeff Hiller, a friend and local restaurant owner (Trackside Grill, in Honesdale), dropped by yesterday with our meal for this evening - a large pan of ziti and meatballs, salad and bread. Another great blessing that gives my wife a bit of relief from her work as a wife, mom, and hostess.

The de Haan family arrived last night from Tallahassee. Peter and Phyllis spent the night in Clarks Summit. Uncle Steve and his family are here with us. And the day is just beginning. We are anticipating a great week together - many good conversations, some good laughs, and - of course - a lot of pictures to be posted here!

I continue to be blessed with e-mails from members of my "family" from The Walker School. The love and encouragement that I am receiving is truly overwhelming.

The pain in my body continues to intensify, but no pain can quell the joy that is within me because of the love of Christ and the manifestation of that love in the words and actions of those that love and care about me. The pain can and will be managed, but I do not think that I will ever be able to "manage" the blessings that continue to come our way.

There are brief thoughts about death and dying this morning. With death, for one in Christ, there is the association with faith, peace, and hope. There is no fear. There are no regrets. I know that God is with me. I know death leads to rest, comfort, the presence of Christ, a crown of life, and a joyful resurrection. All good thoughts.

The hospice nurse visited this morning. We discussed ways to get the pain under better control. We also discussed the changes that have been occurring in my body function.

There are signs that my body is slowing down and giving in. My body is not cooperating with my mind. To me, this is becoming a source of frustration, mainly because I know that I am becoming more of a burden to my wife. She, of course, does not see it at as a burden. She will continue to care for me, in whatever way necessary, to the very end. No matter what. With humility. With patience. With pure lovingkindness.

Taking a break from the laptop and focusing on being there with family, I enjoyed with them a late lunch and a game of Scattergories. It is now late afternoon. The energy level in this household is waning. And we are each settling into comfortable spots around the home. There's a whole lot of napping going on! The children, however, keep running on their extra fuel reserves and keep us on our toes!

My brother Scott recently mailed to me a copy of The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. In the introduction, Pausch writes,

Engineering isn't about perfect solutions; it's about doing the best you can with limited resources.

This statement, in Pausch's mind, is really not about engineering, but about living life at the end. Even with limited resources, we do the best we can.

He refers to himself as an injured lion that still wants to roar. Can you feel his tension? Despite the fact that he is near the end, there is still much to do. There is still much to say.

I feel the same way. There is still so much to say to my family and friends. There is still so much to say about my Great God and Father in Heaven. There is still so much to thank Him for. There is still so much to praise Him for.

Pausch feels the tension between spending time with and preparing his family for his departure from this earth and leaving a legacy through his last lecture. [I think that he can do both. He has to do both. In the end, I think that he finds that he has accomplished both.] He writes,

I have a chance here to really think about what matters most to me, to cement how people will remember me, and to do whatever good I can on the way out.

He wants to know if he can still roar.

I know what matters most to me. Seeing Christ is first. Spending time with my immediate family is second. Third, is my extended family and friends. Each day - really each moment - is a matter of putting those priorities in place. As I focus each day, each moment, on seeing Jesus, the two other priorities do naturally fall into place.

Pausch mentions that his final lecture will be expected to be about dying, but that it had to be about living.

In reality, one cannot be separated from the other. In God's economy, dying is part of living.
As I face death, I am forced to think about life and put life into proper perspective. My death and release from this earth is the inevitable end to my life on this earth. But it is not the end in the ordinary sense of the word. I have lived in order that I might die away from the things of this earth and find new life in Jesus Christ.

Pausch comes to the conclusion that his cancer does not make him unique. I agree. Cancer may give us a different perspective, but it does not make us unique. It does not define who we are. It does allow us to join the ranks of those who suffer uncertainty and difficulty, but we are all in that same category. We all suffer. It is part of living. We, like Pausch, must ask ourselves what we have to offer to others in these circumstances. We have to find our purpose.

What I have to offer - to my family, to my friends, to those that God brings into my life during this time - is hope. The hope that is found only in Jesus Christ. I can help others to see Jesus. This must be my purpose in the moments and days that remain.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Army Pumpkin

Our plebe carved (shameless pun here) some time out of his Saturday evening to carve a pumpkin - perhaps for the creative outlet, perhaps for the promise of a lightly toasted and salted snack of pumkin seeds - perhaps for both.

His younger brother and mother decided to get in on the action. Not shown, however, is the excitement of flicking slimy pumpkin seeds all over the kitchen. Not a particulary happy moment for mom!

I think I can detect in our son's expression just a hint of disgust at the sliminess of the whole ordeal.
What is he looking for?

Completed, the pumpkin sported a carved "A" for Army and is shown lit up on the back deck.

A Special Family and A Bake Sale

The Tuttle Family has been dear to us for almost twelve years now. We first met when our boys were playing YMCA soccer. We continued to get to know each other through several years of Little League and Teen Baseball. We attended church together in Honesdale. And when our family was called to help plant a new church, the Tuttles graciously agreed to come alongside us and be part of the new work that God was doing in Forest City. Even after we left the church plant, the Tuttles have been faithful in continuing with the work of the ministry in Forest City through Cornerstone Baptist Church.

We have enjoyed many great times together as families. Many meals together. Game nights. Summers of baseball, as I mentioned.

They have been there for us through thick and thin - especially in this past year. The sacrifices that they have made for us are too numerous to count.

Hannah, pictured with me below, recently completed her Senior Community Service Project. As a junior - she is well ahead of the game! She decided to organize a bake sale to benefit our family. I cannot express how humbling that is. You will notice the tears of joy that we shared as we posed togther for the photograph. Apparently, the response to the sale was overwhelming as many folks contributed baked goods for the sale and many people, in turn, purchased the items that were prepared.

A number of items were purchased and brought into our home by family members visiting from out of town. We enjoyed cinnamon rolls, a variety of cookies, a very moist chocolate cake, and an absolutely amazing pumpkin pie - with mounds of whipped cream to boot.

We are thankful for everyone who participated in this event in some way. We are thankful for the Tuttle family. For their friendship. For Hannah and her desire to help us in this way.

It's Getting Better Every Day and An Impromptu Tribute to The Walker School

Is it possible that each day of this life of mine is getting better?

In the back of my mind looms a cautious prediction from the oncologist (made about five weeks ago) that I may have a few months left. It was a prediction that was probably, in some small way, given reluctantly in response to a passing curiosity on my part) that I may only have a few months left to live - given the medical evidence available and the experience of the oncologist.

There were days, particularly three weeks ago, that we all thought that I was in my last days. We did not know, three Sunday nights ago, if I would wake up in the morning. [Please bear with me if you have heard or read this before from me, but I rehash it now to renew my perspective on this day at hand.] I woke up that Monday morning to the most beautiful smile I have ever seen glowing on my wife's face. I was alive.

But that same day, I could not kick the feeling that I was still very near to the end of life on earth. Feelings. I took every opportunity to say goodbye to friends and family members and tell them how much I loved and appreciated them. It was a tear-filled, emotional day. Yet a day filled with joy, knowing that leaving here meant being with Jesus. Seeing Him face to face.

In the past three weeks, there have been a few nights where I have felt that I was getting worse. Feelings. For the most part, I do not feel like I am dying. Feelings again. Although I am not really sure what I am supposed to feel like. At the same time, I do not feel like I am getting any better. If anything, the pain is increasing - it is being managed, but it changes locations and nature. My appetite has improved and I do not seem to be losing weight, but my tastes change almost daily. Hence, my frequent references to eating like a pregnant woman - certainly not meant to be offensive to pregnant women in any way. My body is certainly getting slower and weaker. I have less control than I am comfortable with. And I will stop there before getting too personal or graphic.

Having said all that, I am not sure where I am in this process of living and dying. But all that matters really is that God knows. And I have this day from Him. And today is more than enough.

Each day is better. Each day brings new blessings. Each day, God brings more people from the past into my life to encourage me and, for some reason, to graciously remind me how He has used me to be an encouragement to others.

I have been particularly blessed, this week, to hear from former colleagues and middle school students (now young adults) from The Walker School in Georgia. Actually, I am curious to know how the word of my condition has spread among that community. And I would like to encourage any that are still reading the blog to please leave an e-mail address for me to drop a quick note. The contact information does not get to me unless it is written in the body of the comment.
If any are uncomfortable in leaving an e-mail address, I can be e-mailed directly at

And now, here is my impromptu tribute to The Walker School in Marietta, Georgia . . .

I would like my Walker Family (I still consider you that) to know how much I appreciate you and how I have followed your progress in the twelve years that I have been gone. For so many years, I longed to be back there, but it was not to be. Walker was a great place when I was there, and I am confident that, although it is a much different place twelve years later, that The Walker Way still prevails [to the credit of many, but certainly the likes of Don Robertson, Dixie Bowden, Nancy Calhoun (who will always be my educational hero(ine)), and Patty Mosely] and that Love is [still] spoken [there].

Bruce, Mike, Jama, Carolyn, Pam, Blair, Philippa, Newton and (The Walker Middle School - I apologize for leaving anyone out) - thank you for many great years at Walker. I love you all and appreciate how you took me into the family in 1991 and helped me to enjoy six of the greatest years that anyone could ask for.

The parents that I worked with at Walker were some of the finest people I have ever known. The sacrifices that you made for your children and for the school really impressed me. After leaving Walker and being involved in several other schools in various capacities, from teaching to advising, to conducting educational workshops, I have always held up Walker Parents as the standard. From great special lunches to providing every classroom tool avaialble to help enhance the learning experiences of the students/your children, you all were amazing.

And students - you gave more to me than I could ever give to you. Not a day goes by that I do not think about at least one of you. I read the alumni notes regularly, and follow your accomplishments. [By the way - and here is an unsolicited plug for the Alumni Department - take time keep Walker updated with what is going on in your lives - it may seem trivial to you, but for some of us, it is a tremendous blessing to hear about the persons you have become and the accomplishments you have had.] To know that God allowed me to be a part of your lives continues to be a great blessing to me. And thank you all who have taken the time to get in touch with me, to encourage me and remind me of incidents that occurred when we were together.

I would like all of you who were part of our morning prayer/devotional group to know what an encouragement you were to me, particulary after I first entered into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in 1993. Remember the Storm of the Century? I think about you all often.

Thanks be to God for this aspect of my life.

Each day, as part of the whole package of blessings we receive, cards come in the mail. Some are humorous. Some are serious. All are encouraging. Many feature Bible verses.

I picked up a card this morning and spent a few moments reflecting on the handwritten verses that the sender put in the card.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am Your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my very right hand. Isaiah 41:10.

In context, God, through the prophet Isaiah, is reminding Israel that she has no reason to fear the judgment that He will exact on other nations; He has promised to uphold and strengthen her as a nation. He is a God who is faithful to keep His promises. Likewise, we have nothing to fear. God has given us many promises and He is faithful to keep His promises . . .

to give us peace (Leviticus 26:6)
to strengthen us (Isaiah 41:10)
to carry us through (Isaiah 46:4)
to comfort us (Isaiah 66:13)
to listen to us (Jeremiah 29:12)
to protect us (Acts 26:17)
to give us rest (Matthew 11:28)

to be with us (Genesis 31:3).

God has loved us with a everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). His love endures forever.

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Psalm 68:19.

Thanks be to God for a better day. For His Word of truth and comfort. For His provision of life and fellowship with other believers. For encouragement.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Special Visitor and a Quiet Afternoon Together

Each day God brings good things into our lives.

Almost ten years ago, God brought a young lady into our life who continues to be a blessing to us to this day. We first met Jenee when she stayed with our family while traveling as a missionary with the Encounter Revival Team (mentioned earlier in this blog). Jenee quickly became a dear friend to our family.

A few years later, God brought Jenee to Baptist Bible College as a student and as a participant in our ministry at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Forest City. During this time, she continued to be a blessing to our family.

Since graduating from BBC, Jenee has been a friend and blessing to our whole family.

When friends began asking us about turning this blog into something more permanent - like a book - our thoughts immediately focused on Jenee.

Jenee, we recalled, had mentioned the desire to write. And we have always been impressed with her God-given combination of humility, authenticity, freshness (as in perspective), and honesty.

She has graciously agreed to take what has been written in this blog and to follow God's leading to write out the story of God's working in the life of our family over the past year as we have together faced the challenges of living with cancer.

We are excited about how God will use this for His glory and, Lord willing, to provide hope for others who face life's uncertainties and difficulties.

Here is Jenee.

And here is Jenee with our daughter.

And here is Jenee with my wife.

It is late afternoon, Saturday. A quiet afternoon. We are enjoying being alone as a family. Not much excitement. Just being together. And that is more than enough for today.