For a Friend

A year ago, the hearts of many were heavy as we received word of the passing of an outstanding lady that my wife and I were lucky to know and call friend.

We last saw her at handbell practice in early November after returning from a week-long Caribbean cruise. She was fighting chest congestion for a month, thus at the end of rehearsal, my wife and another ringer convinced her to escalate her troubles. Later that week she went to the hospital, received X-rays, was admitted, and never returned home.

Being gracious, funny, and a good one to kid, those that knew her, loved her. No matter what she did, she always gave it her best, and with the ability to laugh at herself … and, much too young to leave the living.

We, and the family, thought she would be home for Thanksgiving or shortly thereafter, but the lung cancer was too aggressive and too advanced. I can’t recall ever crying for so many consecutive days – not for any friends or my grandparents, aunts, uncles, or parents. It was very hard for us in this house, and it also impacted our entire holiday season.

Nonetheless, we grabbed our bootstraps, and focused on her husband because that is something we could do here and now. I’m proud of him as he’s done well, and I’m happy with the little part that I’ve played.

Today is the first anniversary of her passing – thus, why I couldn’t do a cartoon post. She wouldn’t be much for the today’s hub-bub, thus would be fussy with me to post as normal – but that’s ok, she’s not here to stop me … besides, I can use this to  kid her again!

I’ve thought a lot of her this week, and even write this with tears – but it’s something I had to do for a good lady.

A few days after her funeral, I posted this tribute to her, as I share a constant reminder I have of her.  Besides, I know I’m a better person today because of her role of a portion of my life – but my wife and I still miss her.

Her funeral was difficult for the entire handbell choir as she was one of us, besides, her husband asked us to play. I still recall the difficulty of that rehearsal for the entire choir, but also his strength and pride through his smile as we concluded at the funeral.

Today is a good time to share this beautiful version of Beside Still Waters we played with heavy hearts for our friend and handbell colleague.

Meanwhile, “Hey up there – how are the butterflies?” (actually, an inside joke for her that I couldn’t resist)

On Movember

Bloggers for Movember is a movement to promote mental health and/or cancer issues. I learned about it from Le Clown, whose post became Freshly Pressed. I promised him then I would do a post, and not that he has soared past Freshly Pressed status and one his way to heading WP, I fear his possible wrath.

While some suggested growing a moustache during this month to support the cause, I had to pass on that idea. After all, I had a moustache for many years. I shaved it on January 1st several years ago. Interestingly, it took my wife two weeks to notice – and that was after someone asked her when I shaved it! Therefore, I’m going the blog post route. I also invite anyone here to join the cause, thus use Le Clown’s post as your guide.

Whether though family or friends, most, if not all, bloggers have known someone had their life shortened by cancer. Some of you may recall this past post when we lost a good friend. We last saw her at handbell practice urging her to take care of herself; then three weeks later we were at her funeral.

At this moment, my wife has beaten melanoma – and we continue to hope and pray for the continuation of a positive tomorrow.

My first close exposure to cancer was in the early 1980s as we lost an aunt – my Dad’s sister. Later that decade, cancer took my mother at an age that I have passed. My dad’s other sister fought cancer before losing her life to other complications. In other words, it’s in my genetic linage.

I cannot proclaim that getting a prostate exam is a memorable event – but I do get it twice a year. I don’t know why, but my urologist likes to talk politics with me soon after entering the room.

Let’s look at the given: 1) My family history; 2)He is so far to the political right that he is almost left; and 3) He is about ready to stick his finger where the sun doesn’t shine … therefore, I am very careful with how I reply to his inquiries.

Men, if you are over 50, follow the advice of Larry the Cable Guy and Git er done. Ladies, if you have a male in your life over 50 that you cherish, encourage them with your velvet-hammer manner. After all, whether timely or belatedly, it’s a perfect way to celebrate Proctober.

On an Aspect of Health

This story started early last November (2011) as we were at our first handbell rehearsal after returning from cruising the southern Caribbean. We only missed one rehearsal, but it still good to see our handbell friends. At the end of the rehearsal, my wife and one other choir member convinced our dear friend that she needed to get return to the doctor to tell them that whatever they gave her was not working.

By the end of the week, our friend and her husband went to the hospital for routine x-rays. Doctors admitted her and eventually diagnosed her with lung cancer. She never smoked and never had any other cancer. We never saw her again as she died three weeks later at age 56. Her passing was difficult for us, and some of you may remember I shared my feelings along this journey – and eventually dedicated this post to her.

This past February I celebrated my 59th birthday – thus I am now older than my mother who passed away one month short of 59. Yes, it was cancer. She smoked for many years, but after a breast cancer diagnosis and a radical mastectomy, she stopped smoking – but in the end, liver cancer shortened her life. I spoke at her funeral, thus recounted that journey in a three-part post starting here (for anyone interested).

Also in early November, a handbell player unexpectedly left the choir because of her out-of-town mother’s health issues. Recently, and out-of-the-blue, doctors diagnosed our former handbell player with lung cancer. That news is relatively new, so we don’t know about her prognosis. Nonetheless, many are shocked.

I find it interesting that we hear so much about breast cancer, yet my wife recently heard that more women die of lung cancer than breast cancer. With the recent news and because I wanted verification, I found this graph from the American Cancer Society. (The full report)

Because the Dancing with the Stars is what got us interested in taking ballroom dance classes, it’s no surprise that we regularly watch the show. We love the waltz, and this one by professionals Anna Trebunskaya and Jonathan Roberts (a married couple) is wonderful; however, as the video shows, there is more to the story. As I end this post linking handbells, ballroom dance, friends, relatives, and cancer, I hope you take four more minutes for this video and consider telling others about this post.

On Cancer News

About 6 weeks ago, the news reported the good and amazing news that deaths from cancer declined. Considering over 20 years has passed since my mother succumbed from her cancer battle, I say Amen to progress. Interestingly, the next week we received news that doctors diagnosed two of our friends with cancer – and one of those friends I would consider in my inner circle.

Here are some of my hopes for them.

  • Hope that they will attack with a determined, positive attitude.
  • Hope for patience with their spouses.
  • Hope for strength and support for their spouses and immediate family.
  • Hope they do not fall into the “why me?” pit of self-pity.

The latter may seem a bit odd, but I still recall a TV interview with a group of cancer survivors during my mother’s battle those many years ago. The survivor simply said, “Why not me? What was so special about me that I deserved to be immune?”

The survivor’s answer was a simple “nothing” – and I related it to my mother. She treated people well, yet she was not special enough for the world to spare her from the battle, and someone else gets it.

Several months ago a friend of mine told me of one of their friend in their late 20s was diagnosed with cancer. Once again, I simply asked the same question. He suddenly stopped to think as the question caught him a bit off guard … then he kept thinking after he relayed my question to his spouse.

To everyone fighting cancer, I pray for your strength and healing – so be strong and keep your head up.

PS: Since the situation involving my mother became a special moment in my life, I invite you to read my story here (a past post).

On a Message of Power

This is the second in a 3-part post. For those seeing this for the first time, here’s Part 1.

Let us be confident in approaching the throne of grace that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help. Hebrews 4: 16

Other References

Prayer and the power of prayer are aspects of living religiously. Prayer is a trust in God and his ways. Through prayer we receive God’s grace, mercy, joy, freedom, guidance, and peace. Biblically, the gospels have many accounts of Jesus praying, and the apostle Paul always wrote to those who were in needs, thus encouraged power.

This story, one involving my prayers and faith, demonstrated how God acts through the power of prayer. Although 20+ years have passed, the message is timeless.

In January 1968 doctors diagnosed my mother with liver cancer. This was her second round with cancer as she had a mastectomy several years earlier. Through her battle she fought like I never imagined. She took all the treatments and all their side effects; she demonstrated an unbelievable courage.

Because of the physical distance between myself and my parents, I was removed from the struggle; therefore I didn’t understand the day-to-day problems. While I called, visited, encouraged, and prayed, I realized the terminal effect of liver cancer. Through my prayers I continually asked for strength for all of us.

My parents used Florida for its weather and medical facilities, and I knew her June 1987 trip back to Ohio would be her last. On August 20th at 4:30 a.m. I received a call from Dad saying they were off to the hospital. Knowing that she had been declining, I began a series of 2 ½-hour journeys to the hospital. With each trip I could see her declining condition. Prayers became more frequent and more intense; and I started feeling the effects of my efforts.

It was her seventh day in the hospital. As I left the hospital to return home, I realized the next time I would see her, she would be gone from us. The long drive home was filled with even deeper prayer as I asked for three things: continued strength, for no more suffering for her, and for her not to be taken from us while I was on the road. I left the hospital at 4:30 pm, arrived home at 7:00 pm, and received the call at 10:00 pm.

After discussions and some consoling with my wife, I began the necessary phone calls. In the one to my pastor I shared a personal thought I had through prayer while at her beside that day. He reassured me of that thought, and then I stated, “I might share that with others at the funeral.”

I obviously didn’t sleep much that night. Yes, I was also thinking of what I would say to those attending the funeral service. I had many glorious thoughts in my mind, but not on paper. A tremendous sermon was mentally created and never to be repeated again.

The Thursday trip to my hometown was also full of thoughts; thoughts of joy and sorrow that brought tears to my eyes. I kept thinking about what I was going to say and became preoccupied with my desires. Yes, continually praying for the right words to say and the strength to say them.

Friday I saw her in the casket for the first time and realized that speaking at the service was asking too much of myself. Through several long discussions with the local pastor I shared my stories and thoughts. While admitting to him that my expectations were probably too high, he reassured be that he would deliver my themes in his message.

Through prayer I didn’t give up hope of being able to accomplish my mission. Many of the long Saturday visitation hours were taken in deep thought by asking for strength from God through the beautiful flowers, the people visiting, and through Mom.

Sunday morning came a great revelation – Write out those words, thus if I couldn’t read them, the pastor would! Through the Sunday morning service, readings, and sermon I found new strength, and the pen moved quickly; especially considering I’m not very good with Bible references.

Nobody in my family knew of my desires. As my wife saw me writing, she realized I was up to something, so I told her what I was doing, my arrangement with the pastor, and asked her for her support and confidence.

Later in the day I shared the written message with others. The pastor said, “And you think you can read this?” My closest hometown friend who had recently and unexpectedly lost his father said I wouldn’t have the strength to do it. A cousin, also a pastor, read it and his only commented, “You won’t be able to do it.” I told each of these people that I realized that I probably couldn’t, but I had to try. Later that night, I asked Dad’s permission to speak at the funeral, and he granted without knowing anything about my message.

That night was one of little sleep as the mind couldn’t relax. I arose early and was never able to read through the message without crying. The final moments at the funeral home were difficult and my wife kept saying “Don’t do it” as I’m sure she didn’t want me to humiliate myself. I always responded by saying that I’ll make my decision right before my time in the service.

As the funeral service went on, I began to feel a new inner strength. I knew I was going to do it. At the stated time, I went to the pulpit and told the people that if I couldn’t continue, the pastor would deliver my message.

I continued to speak with an unbelievable calm that was filled with confidence. Not once did I shed a tear or stammer my words. I made it through every difficult passage. I felt unbelievably strong. At the end, I shook the pastor’s hand and said, “I did it” and then began to cry as I returned to my seat. God gave me great strength for a given situation, and then quickly pulled the plug on my adrenalin.

I soon regained my composure, and my wife simply smiled. I felt great, comfortable, and so at peace. The last part of the service, the ride to the cemetery, the graveside rites, and the time thereafter were easy. I had then, and still have today, such a great calm.

When I returned to work, many co-workers expressed their sorrow and concern. Without telling my story, I told them of my great peace, yet they looked perplexed.

Throughout my life I’ve prayed from many things: a lower heating bill, more time on task, a sports win, or something at work. All important at the time for some reason, but I never prayed for anything as I did on this occasion. My success this time had to be due to what I was praying for and my continual, deep-spiritual approach.

The following Bible passages support my experiences and beliefs.

What did I say at the funeral? Click here.