Wednesday, 30 November 2011

It Takes a Village - Part 1

They say it takes a village to raise a child, I’m thinking it takes a village to support a guy with ALS.
Alan from 'Jim’s Mowing' came over yesterday to put up our Christmas lights. I wondered if Alan and his young assistant, Trevor knew I was feeling a little blue, and decided to come by to cheer me up. They had no idea, but that’s what happened when these two men showed up with a really tall ladder to hang our lights.
A few weeks ago, I opened the front door and a man was on the porch just about to put an envelope in our mail box. He said hello and told me his name was Alan and handed me the envelope. He said he was from ‘Jim’s Mowing’ and that he saw the article about us (called Sands of Time) in the Maple Ridge News. He said he and his colleagues wanted to offer their services free of charge…raking, mowing, weeding, gutter cleaning etc. I took the envelope and thanked him. I was at a loss for words and got a little choked up. I didn’t even shake his hand…I just kind of stood there in awe. Alan said he was impressed with our courage and genuinely wanted to help.
My mom was over at the time, so I opened the letter and read it out loud. The letter said that he, (Alan) and a number of his colleagues in their organization read our story. He said that our fortitude and courage is a lesson to them all and they agreed a letter should be sent asking if there was anything they could do to help us. The letter stated that they had decided last year to try and support the ALS society and those who are coping with ALS because one of their own guys is in a similar situation. Alan’s letter stressed that they would all really like to help in any way, regarding jobs to be done around the yard. He said they were not seeking publicity, recognition or any gain, but just sincerely and honestly wanted to help. He said they very much hoped to hear from us. My mom and I both with tears in our eyes said “Wow!” in unison.
I emailed Alan a few days later and thanked him very much for his thoughtfulness and generosity. I told him that perhaps in the spring time, he could do some yard work for us. He quickly responded and said, “Do you need your Christmas lights hung? How about your gutters cleaned?” What a guy…what a great guy!
Alan is an answer to prayer. As Mike and I pray every day that the Lord will provide for our needs, He supplies faithfully!
                                                Trevor and Alan from Jim's Mowing.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

A Girl's Best Friend

Saying good bye is so hard. I’m watching the final scene of the movie, Marley and Me, where John, played by Owen Wilson is saying good bye to his beloved best friend Marley, a very old and very beautiful golden lab. I’ve seen the movie before and know that the ending is horribly sad, but I continue to watch it anyway, breaking my rule of NO SAD MOVIES! Watching the final scene in the movie reminds me of a scene in my own life where I had to say good bye to my beloved friend Isla (pronounced like Island).
Isla was Madison's dog. Madison asked me every day since the day she could talk if she could get a dog, and 3650 days later, I said yes. So off to the dog pound we went to find the dog of Madison's dreams, which she thought was a black lab. We went to a dog shelter in Aldergrove and saw seven black labs, but none of them fit the bill. I said to the lady at the shelter, "Look, we aren’t going home without a dog!" She sent us to another shelter in the area and there we fell in love with Isla, a German Shepherd Husky cross with one blue eye and one brown eye. Isla was already seven years old, but a puppy at heart. She fit right in with the family and was so grateful to be wanted.
Even though Isla developed terrible arthritis, she would chase a ball for hours. She was obedient and loyal and she was beautiful on the inside and outside…like most dogs. She grew old gracefully and toward the end, we dreaded the inevitable. I prayed that we wouldn't have to put her down; that she would go peacefully at home…the way we all want to go. I was, however, not going to dig my heels in. If she was suffering, I would do what had to be done. I always said as long as she eats and wags her tail, she isn't going anywhere.
A few days after Isla stopped eating and wagging her tail, I suggested to Mike we take her in and have her put down. He insisted we give her the weekend to improve and if there were no improvements, we would take her. On Tuesday morning, Mike woke me up and said that Isla had taken a turn for the worse and he would come home from work at lunch and we would do what we dreaded doing. I got up and hurried out to the back yard where Isla was trying to get comfortable. I watched her take her last few steps and collapse on the dewy grass. I went and got a blanket and my Bible. I covered her with the blanket and sat down beside her. I opened my Bible to Psalm 1 and read out loud. The verses brought me comfort and the sound of my voice brought her comfort. The sun was shining and the birds were singing and my back yard became a little like heaven as Isla found her way to a better place. Just before she took her last breath, I read Psalm 46:10&11, which says: Be still and know that I am God…the Lord Almighty is with us; He is our fortress.
My friend Hilary who works at a Veterinary hospital came with a co-worker and picked Isla up and as they drove off, I blew Isla one last kiss.
Today, our friend Celeste and her pretty five year old came by say hi and give a gift and a beautiful card. On the front of the card, it says: To everything there is a season. Ecclesiastes 3:1&2 says: There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die… On that cool October morning two years ago, Isla's season of living came to an end.
Isla lived life to the fullest and seemed thankful for everyday…a valuable lesson we can all learn from man's best friend/a girl's best friend.    
                                                      Isla...a girl's best friend!

                                          Isla with Kitty the day before we said good bye

Thursday, 24 November 2011

My New Bike - by Mike Sands

Well, the verdict is in.  Exercise is good for you.  Those who have the get-up-and-go live longer, healthier lives than those couch potatoes who sit around doing nothing.  Sitting around has repercussions for every part of the body.  It appears the only thing that sat its way to success is a hen.  Now I’m not saying that idle couch potatoes are not important to society. After all, its lazy people who invented the wheel and the bicycle because they didn’t want to walk or carry things. With the onset of my illness, I knew it was time to get off the couch and get more active in order to stave off the symptoms.  My only question was, ‘what mode of exercise would I choose’.
 I joined a health club last year, spent $300 bucks and didn’t improve my fitness level one bit.  Apparently you have to show up.  Recently, I tried aerobics; once.  When I came home from the class I told my wife I had to quit because I broke a toe.  She said, ‘how is it now?’  I said, ‘I don’t know, you’ll have to ask the lady whose foot I stepped on.’  I then tried jogging.  The trouble with jogging is that by the time you realize you’re not in shape for it, it’s too far to walk back.  Cycling was the ideal fit for me.  Cycling is low impact on the joints and it offers you a chance to enjoy a scenic view while getting healthy.  I had a rough start to my fitness program, as my illness made it difficult to negotiate turns and my reflexes were suspect.  The photos below show the results of the two spills I had on my bike.  But like they say, I got back on that bucking bronco and continued.  In fair weather, the dikes are an ideal milieu for biking as the scenery is second to none.  With the onset of winter we purchased a stationary bike which I now ride an average of 10 miles a day on.  I believe exercise makes me feel better than any of the medication I am on, and therefore will continue doing it until my legs will not permit it.
Cycling with a flowery scenic background.  My sister, Pat, insisted I wear my helmet and elbow pads whenever I go for a bike ride.


                                                      Injuries from my first accident.

                                                     Accident # 2...down but not out!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Big Brothers

Mike’s brother Gary was in town recently. He lives in Toronto and frequently comes to Vancouver on business. It is a great opportunity for us to see him. Mike and Gary are eight years apart…Gary being the big brother. Because of the eight years and three sisters that separate them, Gary and Mike weren’t necessarily that close growing up. But they did share a closeness that Mike often speaks about; they shared a bed room. Mike tells me that being the younger brother he had an earlier bed time than Gary. He would have to go to bed alone and was afraid of the dark. He says he would lay frozen in his bed, scared of the monsters in the closet and was so relieved when it was time for his big brother to crawl into the bunk below him. Gary played the Beatle’s Abby Road record and Mike says he would fall asleep listening to what is still his favourite album. Mike’s big brother offered something that was invaluable to him: comfort, security and protection…and some great tunes to help him drift off to sleep.
I always wanted a big brother. I have a big sister and as a child, I dreamt of having a big brother as well. When my sister married her husband Peter twelve and a half years ago, my dream came true. I got the big brother I always wanted…and it was well worth the wait.
Peter would do anything for me…just like a big brother. Mike isn’t much of a ‘handy man’, so Peter is my ‘go to’ guy. If I need something assembled, I call Peter. If I need shelving hung, I call Peter. Computer problem, leaky faucet, new light fixture…I call Peter. He has put down flooring, put up a wall and helped paint the outside of our house. He has shown up with his lawn mower, weed eater and that big saw like thing to trim our high hedge. Peter is kind and thoughtful and he looks out for me and my family…just like a big brother.
Mike was lucky to have a big brother growing up and lucky to acquire three more over the years when his sisters got married. Like the big brother I acquired, his would do anything for him too. Big brother (in law) Mike is a fairly quiet person, with a huge heart. Do anything for you at the drop of a hat kind of guy. I talked to big brother (in law) Ross on the phone the other day and just in the few minutes we talked he said something that revealed his compassion and thoughtfulness. And then there is big brother (in law) Gary. Mike and Gary have been great friends since they were teenagers. Their relationship reminds me of a verse in Proverbs that says: There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother… Gary is that kind of friend. He’d give you the shirt off his back!
(It can get confusing because out of five guys, there are two Garys and two Mikes and brother-in-laws Mike and Gary are brothers too)
On Gary’s most recent business trip (back to Mike’s brother, not brother in law), our son, Nathan, Mike and I picked him up at his hotel and went to a Greek restaurant close by. Mike had been to the Greek restaurant before and said it had good food at good prices. He knew it was in the area, but not exactly sure where. We headed in the direction he thought it was, and sure enough, we drove right to it. Gary thought that was pretty good and said that he had a terrible sense of direction. After we were seated, Gary told us a story to give us a better idea of just how bad he was with directions. He said that once while on holidays in the United States with his family, he and his three children ventured out in the RV. When it was time for them to make their way back to where they were staying, Gary got lost. He said he approached an intersection and when he looked down the street to the right, he saw a fire truck, so he turned to follow the truck thinking it was probably going in the direction of the town. When he heard the marching band behind him, he quickly realised he had joined a procession of floats, antique cars and clowns…he had drove right into a parade. In time with the beat of the drums behind him, Gary started waving and his three teenagers hit the floor. I don’t really do the story justice. When Gary told it, it was so funny…we were killing ourselves laughing.
The parade story reminded me of something I once heard; something that has stuck with me for years, but I can’t remember who said it. Anyway, it goes like this: our lives are like a parade. As we look on, we can only see one float go by at a time. But God, who looks down from above, can see the whole parade…the beginning and the end at the same time. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but He does and that brings me a lot of comfort and peace.
Note to our big brothers: Thanks for everything! You are all nice guys and great men!
                                                Nathan, Mike's brother Gary and Mike

                                            Mike and brother in law Gary making a toast

                                   Brother in law Peter assembling Mike's new stationary bike


Monday, 21 November 2011

He Gives a Hoot

Ida from the Healing Room (see blog post Man of Steel) told Mike to look for signs that the Lord is near; to look for signs of His love. I believe there are signs all around us of God’s love, such as oxygen, water, food, shelter etc., but Ida was challenging Mike to look beyond the ordinary…to look for the extra ordinary signs. Mike has a strong faith and he isn’t the type of person who needs signs. He is already convinced of God’s love, plus faith is about not seeing and still believing.  Anyway, I knew what Ida meant. She meant that Mike should look for personal signs…extra ordinary signs for an extra ordinary time in Mike’s life.
The other night when it was time to go to Madison’s hockey game, Madison headed out to the van with her equipment and Mike followed behind her. I told them I’d be right there, I just needed to grab a few things and turn out some lights. I was just heading out the door, and Mike was there on the front porch. He had come back to the house to ask me to get the camera. I knew right away that there had to be something extra ordinary for Mike to be calling for the camera. I asked him what it was. I asked if it was a racoon, because racoons can be vicious and we probably shouldn’t be getting up close to take a picture of a racoon. Mike shushed me and said, “Just get the camera.” So I grabbed the camera and followed him outside. We went out to the drive way and he said, “Up there.” He looked up at the owl sitting on a wire right over our drive way. Madison was like a statue. She said in a soft voice, “He’s been staring at me the whole time.”  I couldn’t believe it was an owl. I have never seen an owl before, outside of a zoo, that is. It was a very large owl, and it's eyes were in the back of his head, keeping a close watch on all of us. Owls, of course, don’t have eyes in the back of their heads, but they can turn their heads 270 degrees. I took a few pictures, but I was unable to capture this magnificent animal because it was so dark. I do have a magnificent image of it in my mind though, and I can’t stop thinking about that owl.
I’ve been talking about this owl a lot and Mike keeps saying, “Why do you give a HOOT?” I wondered if it was one of the signs Ida was talking about, but I was stumped…what kind of sign was this owl? Maybe it wasn’t so much a sign as it was a reminder. Maybe the Lord sent the owl to remind us that He has eyes in the back of His head. Well, not that He has eyes in the back of His head, but that He never loses sight of us.
Like never before, we find comfort in the fact that He never loses sight of us. This weekend on a road trip with Madison’s hockey team, while we were about an hour from our destination of Prince George, Mike took his pills. I could tell there was a problem when he took the last one. It seemed like he was having trouble swallowing it. I was just talking to him not long ago about how we need to cut up or crush his pills and I should have implemented that plan right away. Mike was indeed having trouble swallowing the pill. He kept taking sips of water and looked like he was growing more and more concerned. He was breathing, so I remained calm and kept handing him the bottle of water and asking if he was okay.  After a few minutes, I knew he wasn’t okay. He struggled for quite a while and panicked a couple of times. Thankfully, one of the other hockey moms stepped in to help us. We were so relieved when Mike finally chucked most of it up, but small pieces remained for a few hours. Later, he said it was the worst thing he has ever experienced. It was one of the worst things I have experienced as well. It was so hard to see Mike in that situation and I couldn’t help but wonder, with some fear and anxiety, what is yet to come.
As I anticipate what’s ahead, I find so much comfort in knowing God never loses sight of us. We are not doing this on our own…He always sees us…He is always with us and I am not that afraid. Meanwhile, I guess all my going on about owls has left Mike thinking about them too...I can hear him on the couch singing; “OWL be home for Christmas…”

                                          If you look closely, you can see the owl on a wire.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A Man On a Mission

My dad showed up yesterday morning just as Mike and I were getting into the van to leave to go see Erin. He said he had called, but no one answered. I did hear the phone ring a little earlier, but my hands were tied and when Mike said my parents called, I thought I’d just call them back later from my cell phone. My dad, a man on a mission, took a chance that we were home and drove over anyway. He knew we were going to Erin’s (he must of read my blog post from the day before) and wanted to give us a little cash to pass on to her for groceries or whatever. He also wanted the receipt for the new stationary bike we bought for Mike. He said they wanted to buy Mike a bike, but we beat them to the punch, so they insist on reimbursing us.
My mom and dad are missionaries. Whether they are off feeding orphans in Africa, helping out in churches in Rio De Janeiro, visiting the sick in Ridge Meadows Hospital or driving a recently widowed friend to Port Alberni, B.C., they are always on a Mission. My parents have their own charitable organization, called Amazon Evangelism. Project Wellness, a division of Amazon Evangelism focuses on caring for the needs of orphans in Africa – food, water, education, medicine etc. Recent articles in two local newspapers featured my dad and his latest trip to Malawi, Africa (my dad has done the last few trips solo). The Maple Ridge News, calling their article; Maple Ridge Charity Builds Better Life in Malawi, informed its readers that Project Wellness drilled its twentieth well in Malawi last month. Twenty wells provide 20,000 people with clean water, which changes those 20,000 lives forever. The article also mentioned the schools built and the land bought for farming. It also informed its readers that all monies raised go directly to the missionary work and the needs of others. There are no paid staff members. All workers involved are volunteers, including my mom and dad. The only payment my dad has received lately for his missionary work, came from a couple of extremely grateful Malawian women; two chickens and a bowl of rice flour.
When my dad returned home from his last trip a few weeks ago, he and my mom came out to the rink to watch Madison play hockey. Because I am the team's safety person, I am on the bench with the team during games, so in between periods during the ice clean, I went over to say hi and hear how his trip went…I wanted details. He said the trip went well and without much further ado, he pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket. I recognized right away that it was a page from the book he reads every day called My Daily Bread. He said he pulled out the page for me because he knew I'd appreciate it. I read it and he was right. When I got home, I put it between the pages of my own daily bread, My Upmost for His Highest. I've pulled it out a few times to read it's comforting words.  The writer, David McCasland calls the piece, He Guards Me Well and includes a beautiful paraphrase of Psalm 23: "The Lord my Shepherd guards me well, and all my wants are fed: Amid green pastures made to lie, beside still waters led. My careworn soul grows strong and whole when God’s true path I tread. Though I should walk in darkest ways, through valleys like the grave, no evil shall I ever fear; your presence makes me brave. On my behalf Your rod and staff assure me You will save." McCasland goes on to say; "No matter what you're facing today, Jesus knows your name, He knows the danger, and He will not leave your side. You can say with confidence: The Lord my Shepherd guards me well."
At the rink that day, I wanted to hear about the newly drilled wells, the beautiful orphan children, the travel experiences, the adventure, the dangers etc. That would all come in time, but my dad, a man on a mission, wanted to quickly bring the focus back to the Shepherd and remind me that whatever our circumstances, He guards us well!
The picture featured in the Maple Ridge News article Maple Ridge Charity Builds Better Life In Malawi

Monday, 14 November 2011

I'm Not Giving You the Finger

I’m guessing we will never really adjust to Mike’s illness. There isn’t enough time to adjust. When we almost get used to one change, other changes happen. Day to day, the changes are pretty subtle, but over time, they become quite significant. For instance, Mike was running six minute miles in April and now he is just thankful he can walk…even if it’s at a snail’s pace.
Just over a month ago, Mike got a brace for his right hand. It’s a brace he wears at night to prevent his hand from curling up into a tight fist while he sleeps. Mike calls the brace the ‘claw’. While I put the claw on Mike before bed I usually have a little pep talk with his fingers. As I struggle to lay them out straight, I tell them that even though they are very stubborn, we still love them. I kiss them good night so they know they are loved and perhaps a kiss will make them all better…it always works with my granddaughter, Leah.
Today we were getting ready for our ride on the dike, but because it was so cold and because it was later in the afternoon, we decided just to go down the road to Merkley Park. I bundled up and then helped Mike put his gloves on…not an easy task. It took a while to get each finger in the right hole and hold them straight enough to pull each one through. I talked to the fingers one at a time as I tried to push each of them in their proper places. “You are a little rebellious; you just need to straighten out a little.” I said to one.  “Come on, you can do it.” I said to another. I really had to be firm with the middle finger. “Give me that finger.” I said to Mike. He said, “I’m not giving you the finger.” I think Mike was enjoying the entertainment.  
Mike’s ability to cope with the changes continues to amaze me every day. He never complains; he rarely gets frustrated; he just rolls with the punches. I think the changes have been easier for him to take than the rest of us.
Our daughter Erin messaged me last night. She said she was really missing her dad. She said she was worried about him and hates being away from him. This morning she emailed me and said “I am feeling better now. I had a good cry last night... and this morning... and likely I'll be getting one in at lunch as well. I wish I could hold myself together. I read an article on the bus this morning about assisted suicide and an ALS woman trying to make it legal and I broke down in tears. Luckily there was a homeless man sitting beside me who gave me a shoulder to cry on…well I guess not literally but he did offer me some of his bottles.”
Mike and I are going out to UBC tomorrow to see Erin. She can’t wait to see her dad and I know when she does, she will be encouraged. He has a way of making all of us feel better. I think while we are out, I will shop for some mitts for Mike.
                                                   Me and Mike at Merkley Park

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Poof...You're a New Man

Mike was exceptionally slow on Thursday; his movements and his speech. He said he was very jittery and his muscles were really stiff. I could tell he was struggling more than usual. At one point we were getting ready to go for a bike ride and Mike said he needed to go lie down.  I joined him and we read together and I gave him a neck massage. After a little while, Mike said he was ready to go for a bike ride, but he didn’t want to go all the way to the dike today, he told me he would just go down the street to Merkley Park (the dirt track at the high school). Instead of riding my bike with Mike, I walked over with Molly our dog. When Molly and I got to the park, Mike was well into his ride. Molly and I walked across the running track toward the dirt track and I could see Mike in the distance. At first glance I thought Mike had been healed, he looked like the Mike I’ve always known. He didn’t look like a sick person. He was moving so fast. There were no jitters, no stiffness, no limitations. He looked like he was floating on air and as we got closer I could see a grin from ear to ear.
I threw the ball for Molly in the middle of the grass field and watched Mike ride through the leaves and under the beautiful coloured trees. After about 10 laps, he pulled over and joined us. I told him he didn’t look like a guy with ALS. He smiled and told me to watch him as he walked around me. He said he felt much better and showed off his smoother gait.
Mike told me he thinks that as you approach the pearly gates, you first walk through some bushes and the bushes catch all the things that hinder you…all the illness and disease and other stuff. He said, “You walk through the bushes and then POOF, you’re Arnold Schwarzenegger.” I knew what he meant, but still I said, “Arnold Schwarzenegger? He hasn’t had much positive publicity lately.” He said, “Not Arnold Schwarzenegger, but someone like him...someone svelte. I said, “You mean like a new man?” He said, “Yes!” He hopped back on his bike and said he was going to do a few more laps and he rode off into the sun. Molly and I headed home and Mike came a little while behind us. He did seven more laps (10K all together) and ‘poof’ he was a new man.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Man Of Steel

On Monday night, Mike and I went to the Healing Room at the Maple Ridge Community Church. The Healing Room isn’t so much about a room; it’s more about a group of people who pray. They come together once a week to pray for the needs of anyone who walks through the door. We have been to the Healing Room once before…actually twice, but the first time we went in August, they were closed. So we just prayed together outside on the steps of the church.
Ida, who prayed for us last time greeted us at the door and asked us to have a seat. While we waited to go into a room where we would receive prayer, Ida chatted with us. Ida asked Mike how he was doing. He said, “About the same.” She said she was hoping to hear he was doing better. He said to her, “Well, the same is better than worse.”  She smiled and agreed. She asked him if he was hoping for a miracle. He said, “Not necessarily, I just want God to be there with me every step of the way.” She again smiled with her very lovely smile and gave a confident look that said, “He is with you and He will never leave you.” She looked at me and asked me if I was hoping for a miracle. I said “Absolutely!” We talked for a few more minutes and then were asked to join the prayer team waiting for us in the next room.
Mike and I went in and sat down. I knew three out of the four women on the prayer team. I got up and gave my friend Jennie a big hug, I was so glad to see her. I know Jennie and her husband Brian from the prayer meetings I used to attend at the municipal hall. The room we gathered in was small with subdued lighting. The ladies apologized because the room was so cold. They explained that they were unable to operate the thermostat. I told them it was fine because Mike is a really warm person. I knew Mike would appreciate the cool air. One of the ladies put a chair in the middle of the room and asked Mike to have a seat. They asked if it was okay for them to lay their hands on him while they prayed. With one of Jennie’s hands on my shoulder and all other hands laid on Mike, including mine, they took turns praying, and with passion, compassion and power, they prayed up a storm. One of the women stood right in front of Mike and took his hands in hers and prayed for his hands. She grabbed hold of his arm and legs and prayed for his limbs. She placed her hands on his chest and head and prayed for his mind and body. She called him a ‘man of steel’, which I thought was very fitting because Superman is called a ‘man of steel’ and Mike is like Superman…a super hero in my eyes. At one point Mike became teary eyed. I explained to the ladies that Mike isn’t sad. I told them that a symptom or ALS is heightened emotions. When they were finished praying, one of the women turned to me and said, “You are very strong.” If you want to make me cry, talk about how strong I am. She said it again and told me that God knows how strong I am. Then she quoted a verse that has been on my mind a lot lately, ‘When I am weak, He is strong’. She told me to remember that when I can’t be strong, the Lord will be my strength. Before we left, they broke out into song. They sounded like a chorus of angels as they sang to Mike, “Oh how He loves you, Oh how He loves you, Oh how He loves you and me.”
When we left, Mike told me that he didn’t get choked up because he was upset about the disease; instead he was moved by the kindness of the women and the presence of God. On the drive home, he told me that he hopes that God heal him just so those nice ladies would be encouraged and for the sake of all the other people that want if for him so bad. He said he didn’t know if he wanted it bad enough. He said he didn’t feel like it was a life or death situation. He is looking more and more forward to the life beyond those pearly gates.
Valour is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul – Michel de Montaigne

Monday, 7 November 2011

Like Mike

The night before last, after Madison’s hockey game, we stopped at Wendy’s/Tim Hortons for a hot chocolate and a frosty. While we were enjoying our snacks, Mike said to us, “See that guy over there?” Being discreet, he tilted his head toward a very large man sitting with a very large woman on the Wendy’s side of the restaurant. My first thought was ‘do you think we’re hard of seeing?’ The guy was huge. He had to weigh at least 350, maybe 400lbs. Mike said, “That guy’s healthier than me.” If it was possible to choke on a frosty, I would have.
Before I could get all upset about the comment Mike made, he had us laughing. He said he was jealous of the fat guy and he said perhaps he could talk him into trading bodies. Mike told us he was going to go over and ask the guy if he was interested in making the trade and then he practiced what he was going to say to make a deal. Mike said that if the guy asked about his arm twitching, he would tell him he was just a little nervous about coming over to talk to him.  When the guy asked about his slurred speech, Mike would say he had had a few drinks. And when the guy asked why he stumbled when he walked, Mike would tell him he twisted his ankle earlier that day.  Mike even had us convinced that the guy would be getting a screaming deal. Madison suggested he could just go on the Biggest Loser to lose all the weight.
Mike has spent his life taking good care of his body. An avid runner, ball hockey, and soccer player, he has always loved being physically active. Mike has also paid attention to good nutrition; he has never been a smoker, or drug user and not a big drinker. Statistically, Mike should live a long and healthy life, but of course there is no guarantee. I’m sure if he was asked, he would say he wouldn’t have done anything differently and he would say he is thankful for the life he has been given…whether long or cut short.
Our good friend, Karen starts her chemo therapy treatments today. Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer this past July. She had a mastectomy in September and today she will get her first dose of chemo. Karen is tough as nails, but is particularly worried about losing her nails, one of the many side effects of the paticular chemo therapy she's receiving. Mike and I have been praying that she won't lose her nails.
Like Mike, Karen has always taken good care of herself. She has always been physically active. She loves running, walking, hiking and cycling. She has participated in many of my fitness classes, challenging me to keep her challenged…a very tall order. Last summer she did the Grouse Grind about 20 times. Like Mike, Karen has been diligent to prevent illness and disease, but unfortunately, as I mentioned before, there are no guarantees. Like Mike she has kept her great sense of humour, she is super positive, she is thankful for everyday and she is living life to the fullest. Like Mike, she is going to fight like a world class champion, but at the same time, she isn't afraid of dying. If anyone can beat it, she can and we'll be watching and praying.

                                 Erin and Mike at the finish line of the Vancouver Sun Run - 2008


                                       Karen and I flexing at a hockey fundraiser - 2009


Karen at the Walk For a Cure - breast cancer fundraiser Oct 2011. Her team, Team K3, won the prize for pinkest team. You can check out Karen's blog at mybreastshot.blogspot.com. She is a such an inspiration!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Happiness is a Way of Life

We have a sign hanging on a wall in our house that says; Happiness is not a destination, it is a way of life. I was thinking the other day how important it is in our society to live a long life. Perhaps there is more emphasis on living a long life than living a happy life. Wikipedia says; happiness is a mental state of well-being characterized by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.  According to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, here is the definition of happiness: a state of well-being and contentment.
A while ago, Mike and I read a book called The Healing Code. One of the exercises in the book is to rate how you feel about a particular situation on a scale of one to ten and then use words to describe the feelings associated to that situation and then pray about those feelings. The idea is to change the way you feel about something stressful to reduce the stress in your life and help your body heal. When Mike and I first started the exercise, I would ask Mike to use words to describe how he felt about his illness. He used words like: anxious, worried, scared, sad and helpless. Over time the words he used were: a little anxious, a little bit sad, a little bit worried and a little bit scared. On July 13, I recorded in my journal the only word Mike used to describe how he felt about his illness, and that word was ‘content’. I think it’s interesting that even though, Mike wouldn’t and didn’t use the word ‘happy’ to describe how he felt about his illness, he used the word ‘content’ which is a word used in the definition of happiness.
The apostle Paul says in Phil 4:12-13; “For I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be…I am ready for anything through the strength of the One who lives within me.” The NIV bible puts it this way; “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
Mike wasn’t and still isn’t surrendering to ALS, he is trying to live the best life he can in spite of it. He has always been a happy person…content in every situation and ALS can’t take that away from him.
Our daughter Erin recently had a picture on her Facebook page that said, What ALS Can’t Do: It cannot shatter hope. It cannot destroy peace. It cannot corrode faith. It cannot suppress memories. It cannot conquer the spirit. It cannot silence courage. It cannot invade the soul.
This morning when we woke up, I observed Mike as he struggled to get out of bed. Once he finally sat up, he slowly stood up and made his way to the bathroom. I thought how amazing it is that even though Mike’s life is changing drastically, in ways that would perhaps fill most of us with fear, he is content…he is happy. It really puts things in perspective for me and I am convicted and humbled once again.
Having a good laugh - our daughter Erin, our brother-in-law Gary (Pat's husband), Mike's sister Pat and Mike at the ALS walk in Coquitlam, B.C. August 2011

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Drop Everything and Pray

Today, Mike and I dropped everything and prayed together. Prayer is normally a part of our everyday lives, but being exceptionally busy over the last couple of weeks, we haven’t had a decent prayer time together in a while. Mike prayed first and he moved me deeply as he spoke slowly and thoughtfully. His words were slurred, but sounded beautiful to me and I am sure, exceptionally beautiful to the Lord. After giving thanks, he prayed for things in the order he usually does: our children, our parents, our siblings and their families, some friends, and the orphans in Africa. Somewhere in there, he prayed for me…that my ‘burdens would be light’. He kept yawning (yawning is a symptom of the illness) and at one point apologized to God for yawning so much. I could sense the Lord sitting right beside him appreciating Mike as he laid his burdens down on His big lap. He talked with ease and eloquence, the words slowly rolling off his tongue...so comfortable, so content, so lovingly.
Oswald Chambers says: "We look upon prayer simply as a means of getting things for ourselves, but the biblical purpose of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself. Be yourself before God and present Him with your problems – the very things that have brought you to your wits end. But as long as you think you are self-sufficient, you don’t need to ask God for anything."
Mike didn’t pray that much differently than any other day, but today I was moved to tears as I listened. He wasn’t out to get anything from the One who could give him everything. He was simply being himself in the presence of the Lord.
Oswald Chambers continues: "To say 'prayer changes things' is not as close to the truth as saying, 'prayer changes me and I change things'. God has established things so that prayer, on the basis of redemption, changes the way a person looks at things. Prayer is not a matter of changing things externally, but one of the working miracles in a person’s inner nature."