Sunday, 29 December 2013

Peace On Earth


This Christmas I was so excited about some of the gifts I gave.  It's such a great feeling to find something special, for someone special, knowing the gift will mean a lot regardless of the size or cost. I was actually quite proud of myself and all my great finds. I thought for sure this year I was going to give more than I could ever receive...wrong!

My receiving started well before the 25th. One huge gift came from friends in the fitness community. Fellow fitness instructors and many participants went in on the most amazing gift for me and Mike...I'm still in shock. Over seventy names were written on the cards that accompanied the gift. Wow!

I received many other special gifts as well, including one from Mike. With help from some elves (who happen to look a lot like his sisters), Mike gave me a gift that took my breath away. I will cherish his gift for the rest of my life. But as I ponder gifts given and received throughout the season, I continually give thanks for the best gift I was given...another Christmas with Mike!

Every day with Mike is a gift and the peace we have in the midst of ALS is also an amazing gift. For Christians, Christmas is about the perfect gift given to an imperfect humanity on the very first Christmas; Jesus Christ. And the peace that comes from knowing Him is inconceivable. I am not offended if you don't celebrate Christ at Christmas...Season's Greetings and Happy Holidays to you for sure. But if you do celebrate Christ at Christmas and if you know him personally every day of the year then you may know about this peace that surpasses all understanding that I am talking about.

Oswald Chambers puts it this way: When you really see Jesus, I defy you to doubt Him. If you see Him when He says, "Let not your heart be troubled...", I defy you to worry. It is virtually impossible to doubt when He is there. Every time you are in personal contact with Jesus, His words are real to you. "My peace I give you" - a peace which brings an unconstrained confidence and covers you completely, from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. "Your life is hidden with Christ in God, "and the peace of Jesus Christ that cannot be disturbed has been imparted to you.

Peace on earth came in the form of a baby born in a manger; fully man, fully God...the Messiah. Born to us...a Saviour!

Merry Christmas, Season's Greetings, Happy Holidays...Peace!
Elanna, Peter, Michaela and Luke continue to make us feel at home in their house...we are so grateful and super blessed to be here with them. Thanks for everything you guys! 
 
Me and Mike with our beautiful children and granddaughter Leah. We are all grateful to spend another wonderful Christmas together!
 
Me and Elanna with our parents...luckiest girls in the world!
 
Erin, Nathan and Madison...our greatest gifts
 
Elanna with her gems
 
 
 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Temperatures Rising

It's been really cold here this past week. I know compared to the rest of Canada it's almost tropical, but for us west coasters, it's freezing. The temperature has been as low as minus eight degrees with the wind chill factor of -15. Compared to Calgary (-28) and other places across the country (-40), it's pretty balmy here in the Vancouver area, but I'm a big baby and it's been way too cold for me! Though, I will take cold and sunny over warm and rainy most of the time.

Lying in bed the other morning, a little chilly and not quite awake yet, I was either dreaming or recalling a favourite memory in my slumberous state. Mike and I were in our old little room, in our old cozy bed all cuddled up together. He had his big strong arm around me pulling me up against his hot body. All tucked inside him, I felt warm and secure. Hidden under the covers, like two spoons in a dark drawer fitting perfectly together, quiet and still on a cold winters morning. When fully awake, I decided that this is definitely what I miss the most.

Trying to describe that feeling of being enveloped in a warm body, being held and hugged...snow falling, temperature rising on a cold winters morning; there aren't words to describe that feeling. I didn't realize at the time how wonderful, how exceptional it is to be held like that. But now I know and it's what I miss the most.

This morning, again feeling a little chilly and still sleepy, I decided to recreate the scene. With our beds pushed together, I re-arranged Mike's pillows and nuzzled in next to him. My strong arm around his frailty, gently pulling my cool self up against his hot body. Hidden under the covers, not as perfect a fit, but still like two spoons in a dark drawer, quiet and still...snow falling, temperature rising on a cold winter's morning.

How wonderful, how exceptional it is to hold and be held like this!


                                                                           January 2011

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Richer Than You Think


The more things we lose because of ALS, the richer we become...does that make any sense? Perhaps this "devastating" illness isn't as devastating as we thought. Almost everything about our lives has changed, but the best things remain. Mike has lost his job, his home, most possessions, the ability to drive, write, run, walk, talk, eat and so on. But the best things in Mike's life still belong to him, such as love, laughter, family, friends...we are richer than we think.

"You're Richer Than You Think"...that's a Scotiabank slogan. My mom worked for Scotiabank as a teller most of her working years and loved it and they loved her...she was their best employee! Anyway, I wonder if those Scotiabank advertising geniuses know how insightful their "you're richer than you think" statement really is. Apart from high interest savings accounts, investment plans, mutual funds and RRSP's, their "You're richer than you think" is very true for most of us.

The other night, my parents, Mike's mum and sisters, Aileen and Pat, and Mike and I watched some old home movies. One video we watched was a video Mike and I made for my mom for her 60th birthday (16 years ago). There were some skits Mike did with my mom and a song and dance/skit he and our children did together to the song 'Sixteen Candles'...they just changed it a little and sang 'Sixty Candles' instead (the cake was pretty much on fire with that many lit candles). It was one of those "you had to be there" things, so I'm not going to try to describe it. It was funny though. Super funny! We laughed and laughed. Being with family, laughing together, talking, sharing, and reminiscing; this is what it means to be 'rich' and we are richer than we think.

Mike and I and our children have had the amazing opportunity to travel to Malawi, Africa on a few occasions (as I have mentioned before). It was an invaluable experience for all of us, especially for our kids. After observing how people live in this very poor country, they realized quickly that they are richer than they think.

Madison is doing a fundraiser this month for 'Project Wellness' - our family/my parent's charitable organization. She is going to run 25K across Maple Ridge the weekend before Christmas and all money raised goes to Project Wellness. We just started spreading the word and she already has friends and hockey team mates interested in joining her. My dad, in his mid-seventies still goes to Malawi a few times a year to drill wells, oversee building projects and farming projects. He makes sure the children are fed and have school uniforms and have medical supplies etc. These are the things the money donated to Project Wellness goes to.
                                                               Malawi pictures (2007-2008)
Madison and Gerald
 
Nathan and Madison and some happy children
 
Mike, Erin and friend Lauren visiting patients at a hospital
 
Me and Mike with a group of children
 
For more information on Project Wellness and/or Madison's fundraiser, email me at nadinesands@shaw.ca or go to projectwellness.ca
 
 
 

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Take Hold of His Robe


A couple of weeks ago, feeling totally exhausted, completely drained, burnt out and at the end of my rope, I called out to God (not out loud, just in my head) for a touch from His hand. There is power in His touch and I thought if He would just reach down and touch me, I would have the strength to go on.  A tap on the shoulder, a pat on the back, a kick in the pants...any of those would do. If He would reach out and place His healing hands on me, I'd be okay. Almost instantly, after my quiet shout out to the Lord, I remembered a woman who was the epitome of someone totally exhausted, completely drained, burnt out and at the end or her rope. A woman I read about in the Gospels and then really got to know and came to appreciate when I read the book 'He Still Moves Stones' by one of my favourite authors, Max Lucado.
Max Lucado says this about the woman: "We don't know her name but we know her situation. Her world was midnight black. Grope-in-the-dark-and-hope-for-help-black."
This is her story from Mark 5:24-34:
A large crowd followed Jesus and pressed very close around him. Among them was a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had touched him. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, be encouraged, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
Max continues to elaborate this woman's situation:

A chronic menstrual disorder. A perpetual issue of blood. Such a condition would be difficult for any woman of any era. But for a Jewess, nothing could be worse. No part of her life was left unaffected.
Sexually...she could not touch her husband. Maternally...she could not bear children. Domestically...anything she touched was considered unclean. No washing dishes. No sweeping floors. Spiritually...she was not allowed to enter the temple.

She was physically exhausted and socially ostracized.
She was a bruised reed. She awoke daily in a body that no one wanted. She is down to her last prayer. And on the day we encounter her, she's about to pray it. Risky decision. To touch him, she will have to touch the people. If one of them recognizes her....hello rebuke, goodbye cure. But what choice does she have? She has no money, no clout, no friends, no solutions. All she has is a crazy hunch that Jesus can help and a high hope that he will....

By the time she gets to Jesus, he is surrounded by people. He's on his way to help the daughter of Jairus, the most important man in the community. What are the odds that he will interrupt an urgent mission with a high official to help the likes of her? Very few. But what are the odds that she will survive if she doesn't take a chance? Fewer still. So she takes a chance.
"If I can just touch his clothes," she thinks, "I will be healed."

Occasionally I crash. Taking care of a man with ALS is a big job. It's sometimes too big. Even though we have excellent help, I burn out. Though mentally, physically and emotionally spent, there is no 'calling in sick' or 'taking a leave of absence'. A couple of weeks ago, not able to even pray out loud, in my head and in my heart I asked for a touch. And then this woman came to my mind and inspired me to reach out and touch Him. "Take hold of His robe," I have been repeating to myself since then..."Take hold of His robe!"
Are you exhausted? Burnt out? At the end of your rope...perhaps hanging by a thread? Are you feeling helpless, hopeless, alone, afraid? Are you worried, sick, broke or just simply broken? Take hold of his robe...take hold of His robe!

God’s help is near and always available, but it is given to those who seek it. – Max Lucado

PS – I have had a few weekends away over the last year, thanks to the help of great home care staff and a wonderful team of family members, including Nathan who stays with Mike overnight and who is able to assist Mike with all his needs. Mike says Nathan is an excellent care giver. I have a hard time leaving Mike for a few hours, let alone a couple of days, but I’ve learned that a little time away for me is beneficial for everyone.

 

Monday, 11 November 2013

Grasping at Straws


Clean teeth and fresh breath have always been very important to Mike. Before he gave up control of his oral hygiene routine, he brushed, flossed and rinsed with mouth wash a number of times a day. He carried dental floss with him in his pocket and kept some in the car. He would always take a step back when conversing with someone if he didn't think his breathe was fresh. Same when I went in for a kiss, if he hadn't recently cleaned, he'd turn his head and give me his cheek.

I remember watching Mike brush his teeth with a hand that just wouldn't cooperate. He was losing the ability to hold his tooth brush and I knew he wasn't getting the cleaning he desired. But he kept doing the best he could and never gave up. He struggled for a while before I suggested I help. Without hesitation, he handed over his tooth brush. He didn't really have a choice; it was that or gingivitis. Plus, he was getting good at letting go.

Brushing Mike's teeth has become more and more of a challenge. He struggles to grip a straw with his lips and draw water up to his mouth. It can take a really long time, but Mike likes to rinse well before and after brushing. So, with the same persistence he has had for so many other things, he keeps trying and doesn't give up. He is patient with himself. When water enters his mouth, he smiles a little. His lips unable to seal tightly, allow some water to dribble out. After he swishes the water around in his mouth the best he can, he loosens his lips and the water spills out and rolls down his chin and I catch it in a dish. And then he repeats the process. He laughs at me sometimes,  on my knees, I must look bored as I wait but really I'm intrigued at his determination. My arms get tired holding the cup in one hand and the dish in the other. He probably thinks "some fitness instructor you are". He used to say that to me when I would cruse around a parking lot looking for the closest spot. When he drove he always went straight to the back of the lot where there were lots of spots to park.
Anyway, Mike just never gives up. He doesn't quit. He has displayed the same constant determination at every stage of this illness without fail. Maybe sometimes on the inside he is screaming "I quit!", but on the outside he is composed, calm, okay. He has had to let go of almost everything, but he still perseveres, he is still determined. He was once a strong, fit, athletic man capable of so much. Now with all his might, he draws water up a straw.

"If God has made your cup sweet, drink it with grace; or even if He has made it bitter, drink it in communion with Him. If the providential will of God means a hard and difficult time for you, go through it...You must go through the trial before you have any right to pronounce a verdict, because by going through the trial you learn to know God better. God is working in us to reach His highest goals until His purpose and our purpose  become one." Oswald Chambers


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, 28 October 2013

Thrill Ride


Anyone who knows Mike well knows he's a big kid at heart. He has always loved pulling a good prank. He was quite often the instigator of neighbourhood water fights. He was in there like a dirty shirt when it came to a road hockey game. He's a die-hard trick or treater...which he and the kids are gearing up for in a few days. And he loved going to Playland.

Vancouver's Playland is the oldest amusement park in Canada and was one of our children's favourite places to go when they were younger. Sometimes we all went as a family and sometimes Mike would just take the kids and whatever friends wanted to tag along. Who better to take a bunch of kids to Playland than another kid, just bigger, with a driver’s license and money, who rides all the rides and buys lots of mini donuts and cotton candy.

The park's main attraction and this family’s favourite ride is the 55 year old wooden roller coaster. Simply named the Coaster, this dangerous "thrill ride" isn't considered so because of it's great height and super speed, but because it's "rickety" and without seat belts. The feeling of flying out of your seat at any moment is real and pretty scary, but hasn't happened to anyone...yet.

ACE (American Coaster Enthusiasts), has honoured this famous roller coaster with "classic" and "landmark" status. ACE awards "landmark" status to rides that are historically significant and "classic" to wooden rides that: use lap bars to allow the rider to float above the seat - have no other restraints to allow riders to move side to side in the car - a ride without head rests allowing all riders to view upcoming drops and turns.

All roller coasters have them...drops and turns that is. They have their ups and downs for sure. The unexpected curves and swerves are all part of the ride. It can be exhilarating and terrifying...Life is kind of like that too. It’s a little hair-raising at times and can have you on the edge of your seat and sometimes you just want to scream, "GET ME OFF THIS THING!"

I'm not much of a thrill seeker myself. But when life feels like a wild ride, I find the best thing to do is to stay calm and trust God...not necessarily in that order. Whether it's the twists and turns of ALS or anything else in our lives that seems a little over the top, I tell myself, STAY CALM AND TRUST GOD!

Some wise advice I applied to memory when I was young and I have been trying to apply to my life since then, from Proverbs 3:5,6 goes like this: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make you paths straight." Memorizing and quoting this verse isn't that difficult but putting it into practice can be. It's not something you learn to do in five minutes, it can take a life time to perfect.

My children know this verse well, or so they should. I've written it in birthday cards, I've spoken it on graduation day, I've sent it in Facebook messages. Last week, Madison and I were having a conversation via text message. She was a little anxious as she contemplated big decisions. I texted "Don't worry AND trust God all the time". She replied, "Okay". I smiled and thought we should always respond that way.

Last week Mike and I prayed for:
Friends who had to put their dog down...a young man with a brain tumour...a young friend with drug addiction...a couple whose baby died...friends with cancer...a mother's broken heart...a friend with ALS...one with Parkinson’s...others with illness, alcoholism, depression, divorce, physical pain and so on.
I'm sure we all feel like we are on a roller coaster ride sometimes. 'Stay calm and trust God' should be written on the lap bar.

"Beyond our understanding, He is teaching us to trust…
His plans are still to prosper, He has not forgotten us.
He is with us in the fire and the flood...
Faithfull forever, perfect in love, He is sovereign over us."
from 'Sovereign Over Us' - Arron Keys


Nathan and Mike on the Coaster in 2001
 
Madison and Mike, friend Alison and Erin 2003
 
friend Ali and Madison 2004
 
friend Jamie and Erin 2004
 
Erin and cousin Melanie 2007
 
All of us on the log ride at Playland 2001
 
All of us with my parents on Splash Mountain 2001
 
 
 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

To the Moon and Back


A couple of weeks ago when I was at the grocery store, I picked up a jar of Smucker’s strawberry jam. I love Smucker’s, but I rarely buy it because it usually costs more than all the other brands. While reaching for the less expensive and less tasty jam I normally buy, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the sale tag on the Smucker’s. No questions asked, I grabbed a jar and actually kind of hugged it. I grinned from ear to ear not because of the $1.69 savings, but because the Smucker’s jam reminded me of Mike. When Mike did the grocery shopping, he didn’t care about the price. He would get the Smucker’s because he knew I liked it best. And that is just one small way he loved me.

Mike and I have had the same discussion regarding our love for each other many times over the years. It goes exactly like this: When he tells me he loves me, I ask him, "How much?" He shows me the distance of about an inch with his thumb and index finger. I say, "That's it?" He says proudly, "Compared to an ant!" And then I say again, "That's it?" He explains that compared to an ant, an inch is a lot. He says that an ant can't even stretch his arms out that far as he stretches his arms out as far as he can. I usually say one more time, "That's it?" Then he asks, "Well, how much do you love me?" I say, "To the moon and back compared to an ant." He replies, "Double that and you got me!"

Double? I don't think so, but maybe Mike has loved me more than I have loved him. He was always thinking of me, always doing little things for me like writing notes for me on the dining room table with Alphabits cereal, and he usually put me first.  He would probably say I did the same for him, but I just felt really loved. I still do of course, even though he is unable to dump out a box of Alphabits and construct a message for me...With a nod, a smile, a certain look in his eye and I know its love.

Last weekend, Mike's health declined very quickly. Friday it started...the coughing, gagging, choking and by Saturday afternoon, we thought it was pneumonia (pneumonia is really common with ALS). We were constantly suctioning saliva from his mouth and trying different things to clear the congestion. Saturday evening, completely exhausted and pretty much unable to breath, Mike agreed to go to the hospital. My sister, Elanna and I bundled him up, and we were off. Elanna drove and I sat in the back with my arms around Mike. We were all really calm on the outside, but on the inside I was pleading with God to give us more time. It seemed to happen so fast and I wasn't ready for this.

When we got to the emergency room of our local hospital, we were whisked in right away. Within fifteen minutes, Mike was having his chest x-rayed. Elanna and I were so surprised and really excited when the news came that his lungs were clear! His stats were great too! Like I keep telling Mike, he's the healthiest sick guy in town. Dr. Alan (a friend), the nurse and the respirologist were able to get things under control and in no time we were home again.

It's a week later and Mike is still fighting this nasty cold, and in his condition it's pretty devastating. Throughout this whole ordeal, his gestures of love have been on my mind; the nod, the smile, the certain look in his eye and all I can think is, "Double that and you got me!"

He'd reply, "Hey, that's my line."



Through thick and thin, Mike remains positive and courageous!

After reading my recent blog post, Heaven Scent, Mike's response was: "Man can't live on bread alone." From Matt 4:4 where it says: "It is written, man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." Mike hasn't eaten anything by mouth for a couple of weeks and he is still smiling...wow!

Mike was given a medication to help dry up secretions. He tried the drops, but they weren't very effective, so he was prescribed the same medication to be injected. Elanna and I were given a lesson at the hospital, but the next day when I actually had to give Mike the injection and Elanna was at work, he coached me through it by typing step by step instructions.  When I was done, he typed: Good job…You are a natural…I feel better already. I left a bit of a welt, and it was red, but he just smiled.

In a Facebook message to me this week, Mike says – “I’m ready when He is.”

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.” GK Chesterton
 

 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

He is Able


When Mike was diagnosed with ALS two and a half years ago we prayed diligently for a long time that God would heal him. God didn’t heal him, but He still could and the decline of Mike's health doesn't make it more difficult for God to heal him now. God's power is limitless and it would be just as easy for God to heal Mike now as it would have been for God to heal him before the illness really took off.

I must admit though, my hope for healing faded a while ago and my prayers for healing waned. And then recently, God said to me "I am able!" And I said, "I know." And He said "Then why don't you pray for your husband's healing anymore?" And then I asked for forgiveness and I asked for more faith. And then I resumed my plea!

It's funny because hundreds of prayers have been answered since we first prayed for Mike's healing. But, why not this prayer? Why not the healing prayer? I'm not really a "why?" person. I usually accept the "no's" with the "yes's" and trust God's decisions. And so it is with this as well. I have decided that I will pray for Mike's healing until it happens or until we part and I'll continue to accept the "no's" with the "yes's" and praise God that He is able. And of course, I have to trust His decision.

Last night after I gave Mike his last smoothie of the day and crushed up his meds and put them in his feeding tube, I brushed his teeth, suctioned his mouth, washed his face and stood him up, I held the urinal and he went pee. I gripped him real tight around the backs of his arms and helped him inch his feet toward his wheel chair and I wheeled him to the bed room. I parked him right beside his bed, suctioned his mouth again, stood him up, held him super tight and helped him inch his feet to turn around and rest his butt on the edge of the bed. Then I flipped him onto the bed (I call the move the flip). I quickly made sure his arms were beside him comfortably and his head straight on the pillow. I took off his shoes and socks. I rolled him on his side and put a pillow behind him to keep him propped. I put a pillow between his legs, a pillow between his feet, a pillow under his top arm and two small pillows stacked under his bottom arm and I wrapped the fingers from both hands around the pillows. I pulled his shoulder out from under him slightly, tilted his head just a little, put an ankle brace on his left ankle, and suctioned his mouth again.

When Mike gave me his signature “good job” smile and in barely a whisper told me “perfect”, I pushed my bed up against his bed, I ran to the washroom, ran back and I jumped in (Mike has been in a hospital bed for a couple of months now, so we sleep in separate beds...kinda like Lucy and Ricky Ricardo from the "I Love Lucy" show). Anyway, I jumped in and we said our prayers. I of course prayed for Mike's healing among many other things and praised God that He is able.

The following are lyrics of a song I love. It’s called God is Able, by Hillsong:

God is able and He will never fail.
He is almighty God.
Greater than all we seek, greater than all we ask,
He has done great things.

Lifted up, He defeated the grave.
Raised to life, our God is able.
In His name, we overcome, for the Lord our God is able!

God is with us, God is on our side.
He will make a way.
Far above all we know, far above all we hope, He has done great things!
Lifted up, He defeated the grave.
Raised to life, our God is able.
In His name, we overcome, for the Lord our God is able!
God is with us and He will go before,
He will never leave us, He will never leave us.
God is for us and He has open arms and He will never fail us!                                                                   He will never fail us!                                                                          
Lifted up, He defeated the grave.
Raised to life, our God is able.
In His name, we overcome, for the Lord our God is able!
PS - When Mike got his hospital bed, I slept on a mattress on the floor intending to get a bed and just never got around to it. A few angels took care of it and got me a bed. I call it "the cloud" because it's so comfortable and because it came from three angels.
 
 
 
Me and Mike at the dike last week - one of our favourite places to walk and pray
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Heaven Scent

Mike has always liked pudding, cooked pudding, not that instant stuff. He liked it as a child and he likes it just as much as an adult. He used to make if for our children all the time, it was a perfect after school snack. He would time it just right so the pudding was warm when the kids walked through the door. That’s the way he likes eating it…warm. He also likes the pudding skin, so he would pour the pudding on plates instead of in bowls in order to get lots of skin.

Mike no longer eats the pudding skin. He chokes on the skin now. So when I feed it to him, I carefully peel the firm top layer of the warm pudding away and take the softer, creamy goodness underneath it. Mike eats pudding pretty much every day. It is the perfect consistency. Anything thinner, like soup, is too thin; it slips down his throat without warning or goes down the wrong tube. Anything thicker is too difficult to swallow.
A few bites of mashed potatoes and gravy once in a while, a little apples sauce here and there, a couple spoonfuls of ice cream or soft cheese when he craves something savoury and pudding. This is what he eats, and poor guy struggles with these. The rest of his calories get mixed in a blender and go in his feeding tube, straight to his stomach. Mike is determined to eat, and even though he probably shouldn’t, he isn’t ready to abandon his taste buds quite yet and I don’t blame him.

Eating is one of the great pleasures in life, and good food is a wonderful gift and a tremendous blessing. So, of course losing the ability to eat is terrible. Mike is taking it quite well though. I ask him what he would like to eat and he gives me a “let me think about it” look, and then we both laugh.  His favourite foods like pizza, steak, fettuccini alfredo and BBQ ribs are a thing of the past and when we smell these foods, or see them or talk about them, the look on Mike’s face would say he lost a good friend.
A few months ago, when Mike’s food selection was becoming more and more limited and we were both becoming more and more disappointed, I would visualize a banquet table laid out for him in heaven. The table covered with the most mouth-watering dishes imaginable. If we saw a big, fat, juicy hamburger advertised on TV, I’d tell him that it was going to be at his “big feast” as well.

It was very appropriate that a sermon preached this summer by our pastor and friend, Brad Warner was on this very subject. The sermon topic was on ‘hospitality’, but Brad spoke about the banquet table in heaven and he carefully described the scene in his usual compelling way. I loved hearing him describe the dinner, or party as he put it. It helped with my vision of Mike’s feast…a meal fit for a king! And of course, much better and far more important than the meal itself, is the presence of a King; Jesus Christ!
These are some of the notes I scribbled down on a scrap piece of paper from Brad’s encouraging sermon: >‘Feast’ or ‘banquet’ is mentioned in the Bible over one thousand times, along with ‘food’ and ‘friends’. >Revelation 19 talks about the feast at the end. >Luke 14 talks about the banquet in heaven >The invitation goes out to everyone…all are welcome! >Have you trusted in Jesus? Are you going to the party? >Give your sin to Him and He will give you His salvation.

A couple of days later, my dear friend Carol, who lives in Vernon, B.C. ended an email with Song of Solomon 2:4: “He brought me to His banqueting table; His banner over me is love.” Wow, great friends think alike!
Anyway, back to earth, here it is the season of fall already. Summer is over now, but won’t soon be forgotten. It was a beautiful summer! We experienced record heat and it was the driest summer in years. Our daily walks mostly took place in the evening when it was a bit cooler. Most nights the aroma of BBQ filled the air. Mike and I both agree; it’s surely the scent of heaven!


 
Mike getting his moneys worth with the condiments - winter Olympics in Vancouver 2010
 
 
A few summer pics:
 
Mike and Leah heading out for a walk
Madison and Mike at the dike. Madison has been back at university in Calgary for a few weeks now...she says she misses our walks together the most.
 
Out and about in Granddad's new van...a beautiful wheelchair van received as a gift from Mike's parents!
 
Leah and auntie Erin at the mall
 
Dad and daughter time! Mike hangs out with Madison and Erin while they get pedicures a week before they go back to school...Madison a student and Erin a teacher.
 
Pay back time! Erin gives Mike a pedicure.
 
Nathan and Leah on 224th out side the candy store while the six of us take a walk through town.
 
Soccer season begins (two weeks ago). Leah with Nathan - her dad and coach.



 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Treasured!


After a couple of very busy weeks, I couldn’t wait to sit down at my computer and write a blog post. I have a number of ideas floating around in my head and the stories I tell myself while I am busy and unable to take down some notes sound great, but when I sat down for the first time in a long time in front of a new Word document, I went blank…writer’s block, I guess. While I have writer’s block, my mom doesn’t. This week a lovely letter to the Editor was posted on our local Times website as well as a couple of pictures and mention of my mom and her letter in the Times Newspaper.
 
The following is my mom’s letter:

Grateful to be part of a family that cares Dear Editor, I am very thankful when my husband George Klassen is by my side when I wake up, but when he isn’t, he is in Brazil or Africa, feeding widows and orphans and drilling wells for fresh water. One of his favourite times at home is when we can go for coffee with our children and enjoy good conversation and a good laugh. We have two wonderful daughters. Elanna and her husband Peter have been a blessing to us and to our daughter Nadine and her husband Mike. Mike was diagnosed with ALS around three years ago, and they had to sell their house because of awkwardness getting around. With no questions asked, Elanna and Peter offered them some living space in their home, and it is wheelchair accessible. They made some adjustments so it would simplify the needs for Mike and Nadine. It is such a blessing for George and me to see the interaction of those two families. They all help one another. Nadine is a wonderful, caring wife who shows constant love to Mike, and he to her. I’m sure there must be some frustration at times for both, but even though Mike can’t speak verbally, he speaks with a nod of the head or a big smile on his face. We have many good times together. We are proud of our family, which includes five grandchildren and one great grandchild. They are all very active and keep us happy and proud. We can be proud, but only because of God’s blessings. He is so good! Thanks to my husband for helping others and for being a good husband and dad. Thanks to Peter and Elanna for their love and help to their little sister Nadine and her husband Mike, and thanks to Mike and Nadine – they have been a real encouragement to us all. Also, a big thanks to Mike’s family who live in Toronto and come out to visit and help as well. They are a great family, too. I also want to thank all the friends who have been so wonderful in giving and also in prayer. Thanks to Ron and Dan for their visits with Mike. Love and thanks to all.           Sheila Klassen, Maple Ridge                                                                                                                                                                  

My mom loves her family and is extremely proud. She is very friendly and likes to socialize and talk about her greatest blessing…her family. We often tease her because she always has pictures of her kids, grandkids and great granddaughter on hand and delights in showing them off…even to complete strangers.  She would drop anything to lend a hand (and so would my dad) to a family member, a friend or anyone. She and my dad don’t have many possessions and as missionaries, live a modest life, but they would consider themselves the richest people in the world. I have always felt treasured!
 
My mom and dad with Mike at the ALS walk in June. Check out their website at projectwellness.ca
 
Mike with his mum and sisters, Pat and Aileen yesterday at the dike.
         
                        
 










 
 

 

 
Mike with his mum and sisters, Pat and Aileen yesterday at the dike.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The High Road

There is a lot to learn from a person who is decreasing in his body and increasing in his soul. I wouldn't even know where to begin to explain what I have watched and learned from Mike in the past two and a half years. I am watching a miracle unfold right before my eyes. As his health declines and things are supposed to be getting uglier, there is so much beauty. The decline of Mike’s health would cause one to think that ALS has got him beat, but in fact, Mike is beating ALS by creating something beautiful out of it. The apostle Paul in Philippians 4:12, says: ‘’I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.’’ It's like Mike becomes more content with every loss. It's a supernatural process where he loses, but gains. He is confined on the outside, but absolutely free on the inside. He can’t move, but is more alive than most healthy human beings. 

Here is my dilemma; I feel like every day is a day closer to our parting, but every day is more beautiful than the one before. Sometimes I don’t know where the tears of sorrow and the tears of joy meet. They flow mingled down my cheek together and I’ve never been so happy and sad at the same time.
I’m sure Mike thinks he has nothing left to give, but his giving is greater than ever and his teaching more profound. He is in a place God wants us all. He is in a place of total reliance on Him, a place of complete surrender and a place of being one hundred percent available to God. Being in that place has made him an incredible example. He perhaps would say he has had no choice, but he has had a choice. He has chosen the high road and is graciously allowing the Lord to do His mighty work in and through him opening up a whole new world to the people around him of God’s great power and love. God’s grace and goodness flow mingled down all over us.



We have been living with my sister and family, Elanna, Peter, Michaela and Luke for a year now. We miss the home we had and the life we had, but consider this a very special time. Family is our greatest treasure here on earth and being with family is everything to us. Our children and granddaughter, our parents, our siblings (including in-laws), our nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, cousins and dear friends are what we treasure and thank God for every day.

                                
At the ALS Walk in June in Port Coquitlam, B.C.                                                                                        Peter, Elanna, Luke, me, Madison, my dad and mom                                                                          Michaela, Nathan and Leah, Mike and Erin
 
                                                             The "I Like Mike" Team 2013
 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Ahoy Matey - By Mike Sands


Our daughter, Madison, recently was invited to play for team Canada at the world ball hockey tournament.  My wife, Nadine, her sister Elanna, and I tagged along.  The tournament took place in Newfoundland .

Newfoundland is the eastern most province in Canada.  The Vikings discovered Newfoundland in the eleventh century.  It wasn’t settled until John Cabot landed on it in the early 1600s. Cabot noted in his journal that as he lowered a bucket in the Grand Banks, instantly the bucket became full of fish. When word got back to Europe of this abundance of fish, many pulled up stakes and set sail for what Eric the Red had called ‘Vinland’.  Newfoundland has rugged terrain and harsh weather that is similar to parts of Ireland.  Irish settlers felt at home on ‘the Rock ‘and were one of the few groups that remained.  Newfoundland has a distinctive Irish flavour to it that remains until this day.                                             

Up until the early twentieth century, Newfoundland’s economy was centred around the fisherman.  Back in the olden days, the occupation of a fisherman was one of the most dangerous ones around.  Many harrowing tales have been related of men battling the rough seas in an effort to get their share of the bountiful haul that awaited them. Many a b’y came back a man. A common epitaph in cemeteries was ‘’lost at sea’’.  In the good ol’ days, fishermen didn’t have the luxury of advanced weather systems or radios.  It was strictly ‘red sky tonight, sailors delight ‘as their only warning of inclement weather.   If the sea didn’t get them, they also had to worry about crashing into the shores by torrential winds, rain and waves.  Lighthouses eliminated many of these disasters.                                     

When we were in Newfoundland last month, we visited some of these lighthouses.  Plaques around the lighthouse grounds showed the evolution and historical significance of the lighthouse in Newfoundland. The first lighthouses were bonfires on the ends of points at harbour entrances.  Candles were used in the 18th century. By 1800, oil lamps were used.  Whale oil was often used after a kill.  Kerosene, which was invented by a Canadian in the 1840s, was used extensively in Canada after 1860 because it was cheap, reliable and efficient.   Electric lights came to lighthouses around the end of the 19th century.  The lighthouse remains a very important tool in the Atlantic region. It stands to reason that Newfoundland, being the eastern most point in North America, would have frequent interactions with foreign sailing vessels.  The following is one such interaction.  This is an actual radio conversation (released by the chief of naval operations) of a U.S. naval ship with Canadian authorities off the shores of newfoundland in October 1995. CANADIANS:  Please divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision. AMERICANS: Recommend YOU divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision. CANADIANS: Negative, you will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.  AMERICANS: This is the captain of a U.S. naval ship.   I say again, divert YOUR course!  CANADIANS; No, I say again, divert your course.  AMERICANS; ‘’ This is the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States Atlantic Fleet.  We are accompanied by three destroyers, three Cruisers and numerous support vessels.   I DEMAND that you change your course 15 degrees north.  I say again, that’s one five degrees north, or counter –measures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.’’  CANADIANS; This is a lighthouse, it’s your call.

When I was a kid growing up in the Toronto area in the 1960s-70s, I remember Newfoundlanders, or ‘Newfies’ as they were referred as back then , as always being  the butt of many jokes. These jokes were generally corny in nature; eg how did the first Newfie get to Toronto? Answer; He got a breakaway while playing ice hockey on the St. Lawrence River.  And how did he get back?  Answer; he was called offside.  Or the one where you ask your friend ‘’how do you keep a Newfie in suspense? ‘’Answer; I’ll tell you tomorrow.  In other parts of the world, these ‘corny’ jokes centred around the nationalities of Poland, Ireland or Scotland.  In Canada, we picked on Newfoundland.  I’m not sure why we chose Newfoundland over any of the other provinces to be the butt of our jokes.

Although Newfoundlanders were the butt of many jokes when we were kids, they played a very important role during the second world war. Newfoundland was strategically located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.  It was a strategic post that the allies used to fuel and launch aircrafts / destroyers / submarines.  It was also our countries first line of defense against any invasion from the German enemy.   One historic battle off the coast of Newfoundland that was related to me by an ‘old tar’ while I was visiting Newfoundland last month,  went as follows; The HMS Newfoundlander was approached by two German destroyers off the Grand Banks.  As the destroyers approached, the captain hollered out, ‘’ cabin boy, cabin boy, get me my red coat.’’ After the HMS Newfoundlander took out the two German destroyers, the captain took off his red coat and handed it to the cabin boy to put away. One hour later, five German destroyers approached the HMS Newfoundlander and again, the captain hollered out, ‘’ cabin boy, cabin boy, get me my red coat’’.  After the five German destroyers were sunk by the HMS Newfoundlander, the captain again took off his coat and handed it to the cabin boy to be put away.   This time, the cabin boy inquisitively asked,’’ Captain, why do you always order me to get your red coat whenever the enemy approaches?’’  The captain replied ,  ‘’Well son, I like to wear my red  coat because if I’m ever bloodied  during the battle, none of my crew will realize I’m hurt and that is good for morale.’’  An hour later, fifteen German destroyers surrounded the HMS Newfoundlander.  As well, the German destroyers had ten Stuka dive bombers accompany them.  The captain yelled out, ‘’cabin boy, cabin boy, bring me my brown pants.’’

I was diagnosed with ALS in 2011.  When someone tells you you’ve got three to five years to live, ones fear instinct kicks into overdrive.  Anyone who says they’re not afraid when first diagnosed, is just fooling themselves.   Even General George S Patton, who had ice in his veins when staring down his enemies, stated, ‘’ If we take the generally accepted definition of bravery as a quality which knows no fear, I have never seen a brave man.  All men are frightened.  The more intelligent they are, the more they are frightened.’’  But you can’t stay in fear mode forever; you have to go on living.  Like the captain of the HMS Newfoundlander and so many of the seamen who stared death in the face while on the high seas, they had to carry on.  ’’When you’re going through hell, just keep going ‘’, was probably a motto many of these men swore by.  The secret to getting yourself through trying times is to get yourself in the right frame of mind.  In ‘’ The Wizard of Oz’’, the cowardly lion needed the Wizard to give him a medal in order to put him in the proper mindset to face his fears.  I look to God to get me in the right frame of mind to face this dire diagnosis.   In nautical terms, God is THE lighthouse.   When your boat is in trouble, you have to keep your eyes on the Lighthouse.   THE Lighthouse will make your paths straight and lead you to a safe landing.  Eventually all bad things must come to an end. There is a rainbow at the end of the storm. The rainbow may not be a cure for ALS, or a sudden reversal of my symptoms.  But if you have the belief, like I have the belief, that something grand awaits us after this life, then there is nothing to fear. I remember watching the movie, ‘Gladiator ‘. In it, Maximus Meridius (played by Russell Crowe) states, ‘’Never let your future demise disturb you.  You will meet it with the same weapons of reason which today you arm yourself against the present.’’  So I wait, knowing that my faith is being sure of what I hope for (taken from a plaque in my bedroom). 

P.S. One last Newfie joke that I remember from when I was a kid: Did you hear about the Newfie who was killed while ice fishing?  Ya, he was run over by a Zamboni at centre ice of Maple Leaf Gardens.  Corny, yes,  but it brings a nostalgic smile to my face every time.
 
 
I’s the b’y who builds the boat, I’s the b’y that sails ‘er.  I’s the b’y that catches the fish and brings ‘em home to Liza.
 
 
Kissing a cod is a Newfoundland tradition that welcomes newcomers to the island.  I couldn’t get Madison to kiss a cod, and had to settle for her kissing a lobster.
 
 
The Cowardly Lion receiving his medal for courage.