A Year of Change

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As I reflect over the past year one word comes to my mind: change. This has been a year of changes. It began with my Dad passing away on January 4 from lung cancer. You can read about our last days with him here. The first few months I adjusted well, but it seems as the one year anniversary of his death looms near, a quiet sadness has overcome me. 

In August, after much prayer and wrestling, Doug and I felt it was time to leave the church we had attended for several years. Another change that brought a loss of close friendships, but the gain of new friends. We are adapting to our new church family and seeking where we can serve there. 

The first week of October, my mom experienced a mild stroke. There doesn’t seem to be any lasting effects from it for which I am very thankful. The stroke would be followed by several Afib episodes that landed her in the hospital for three weekends in a row. I moved in with her to help care for her. Doug stays at our house and I run in and out to gather things each week. That craziness finally became too much and we decided as a family to move in together in one house. Unfortunately, neither one of our houses could properly accommodate all of us. God has always provided for us, and once again He proved faithful and led us to a house within just three days. 

A few months ago I began to pray for the Lord to work a servant’s heart in me. One that naturally serves from a heart of devotion to Him and not self. While I would have preferred Him sending me to a homeless shelter, God has used this year of changes to begin that work in my heart. Caring for a loved one exposed my selfish heart and caused me to cry out to the Lord for help. 

I don’t know what 2020 holds. I hope the only change will be in me. My changeless God working in my heart for my good and His glory. 

How has your year been? What word would you use to describe 2019?

 

Whitey Dog, Christmas and Dad’s Final Days

Lamp and Ball jarMy Dad loved dogs. So it was only fitting that a large, yellow-white dog showed up one day at the house. We called him Whitey. He roamed between the yards of Dad’s house and our neighbors. He was there as we helped Dad get into the van for a doctor’s appointment or ER visit. Upon our return, he ran to greet us. One evening carolers stood outside the patio door to sing for Dad. Here came Whitey, taking his spot beside a little girl who was usually scared of dogs but for some reason not of him. Dad quietly sang some parts to the songs under his breath. My tears flowed at the sound of his voice and the sacredness of the moment.

We finally made it to the chemo education appointment. Dad decided that he would not do the chemo and radiation. Hospice began to come to the house three times a week to drain his lung. He continued to not be able to eat. He lost more weight and weakened.

My sister, Cassie and her husband, Tyler came down from Minnesota for our last Christmas together. It would be their first time seeing him since his diagnosis. They stepped right in to care for him and for us. My sister cooked us meals, tended to Dad and even got to have her own trip to the emergency room with him. She came up with a great Christmas idea for us: we would get ornaments and pictures that represented some memories we wanted to share with him and go through them on Christmas morning. 

A few days later, it was time for her to say goodbye and travel back home. I can’t imagine the sadness and pain she experienced as she said goodbye to Dad knowing she would not see him again. He stood at the glass door watching as they pulled away. How hard for him, too.

New Year’s Day arrived. Nothing to celebrate. Dad finally realized he could no longer stay in his recliner and moved to the hospital bed. Close friends came to visit. He and Mom held hands a lot. One evening he seemed almost himself, making jokes and laughing. But that quickly passed, and he began to weaken even more. On Thursday, January 3rd, the hospice nurse told us she didn’t think he would make it through the weekend. His eyesight was gone and he wasn’t able to talk. But she said he could hear and we should talk to him. I noticed Whitey was now sitting at the patio door. He had never done that before. Mom and I agreed that he probably sensed something was wrong and wanted to be there. Later in the evening, Doug and I stood at his bedside and Doug read Dad’s favorite scripture, Psalm 100, to him. He also promised him that he need not worry about Kay; he would take care of her.

Mom, Doug and I all knew he wasn’t going to make it through the night. Mom asked Doug to move our vehicles in preparation for the funeral home director to be able to get in to remove his body. Around 2:15am, we three gathered around him holding his now cold hands and weeping. We watched each rise and fall of his chest wondering if it would be the last. At 2:44am on Friday, January 4th, Dad did breathe his last and his chest rested.

Through it all, Dad was never angry or questioned God. He walked by faith, knowing that Jesus would be in his sight when He passed from death to eternal life. Whitey was never seen again. I like to think he ran beside the vehicle carrying Dad as it was leaving the driveway and he ran until he could run no more.

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
(English Standard Version)

Posts in this series:
Impending Doom and Dad’s Diagnosis
Food Fights and Cancer Staging

Food Fights and Cancer Staging

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“Dad, you are going to have to eat if you want to beat this,” I told him. His appetite was already decreasing and he hadn’t started chemo yet. He tried to eat, but his favorites no longer tasted good. Sometimes food would get caught in his throat. The white trash can beside his recliner was his new best friend. He coughed up phlegm over and over, sometimes it seemed like for hours.

One of the hardest things for me was to watch someone who loved food no longer be able to eat. He tried to drink Ensure, but dairy products worsened his phlegm issue. I was angered by his inability to eat. Did he not understand, if he didn’t eat, he would never make it through chemo? I pleaded, “Dad, please, just a few bites.” I threatened, “If you don’t eat, you’ll have to have a feeding tube.” Finally, I had to resign myself to be happy with two bites of jello. He tried. He really did. There comes a point when it’s no longer worth arguing over.

On October 30, we met with the oncologist. She staged his lung cancer as Stage 3. This stage seemed doable and hopeful to us. She was confident, that with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation, he would be able to beat it. Before anything could be started he had to go through Chemo Education. We scheduled the appointment. He wouldn’t make this one, though, because of an infection. Later we learned the cancer could have caused a false positive for it. Days continued to pass with no treatment.

The day we returned for Chemo Education, Dad was very sick. He was weak. His breathing was labored. The nurse walked us to the conference room to discuss the chemo/radiation plan but I stopped her before she could start.

“Look, my Dad is not doing well. He’s having a hard time breathing. We don’t know what to do.”

She asked a few questions, left to speak with the oncologist, and returned to tell us to take him to the Emergency Room. This would be the first of a few ER visits. Once again Chemo Education was rescheduled. Mom and I spoke privately about the chemo. For whatever reason, it seemed God was keeping him from it.

There were two ER visits that week. He was finally admitted to the hospital on the second one. That weekend we learned through the pulmonologist just what malignant pleural effusion meant. This was one of his symptoms from the lung cancer. His cancer was now in the fluid lining his lungs. If you Google it, as I did, you realize it’s prognosis is poor.

“Doctor,” I said, “we just want someone to be honest with us. What are we looking at here?”

“Well, I’m not an oncologist but anytime there is cancer in the fluid it is Stage 4.”

Silence. Stunned silence.

Dad responds, “But she said it was Stage 3.”

“She is wrong,” the pulmonologist stated emphatically. “It is Stage 4.”

We stare at him in disbelief. Tears well up. Somewhere in the conversation six months to live was mentioned. Those words changed everything.

To be continued.

Posts in this series: Impending Doom and Dad’s Diagnosis