Saturday, December 17, 2011

Keeping an Eternal Perspective

Acceptance that the disease cannot be slowed has changed our focus.  We are about through with doctor appointments and now we are focusing on Dave's comfort.  His pain has increased rather dramatically recently but fortunately, it is not constant.  We have some good medications to control the pain and other symptoms,  Now we are addressing more directly the issue of his impending death.  Many more family and friends have visited or sent flowers or notes of love and concern.  What a joy and comfort that all brings to us both.  It just makes our hearts happy.

Doug and Amy with their dogs and Dave
On March 5th we had a great visit with Dave's only brother Doug and his wife Amy.  They brought a yummy lunch and visited for a couple of hours.  We were so happy to have had that chance to just sit and visit with them.  We see them at family functions but it is different when people come here and there are no other distractions.

March 6th was our annual Stake Choir Festival.  Each ward prepares a special number and then there is one number that we all sing together.  There are over 200 voices and it is thrilling.  This year the theme was on family and that was particularly tender for us.  We had a very big day with a practice in the morning, church, visitors in the afternoon and the festival.  It was a difficult day for Dave due to pain and fatigue but he wanted very badly to participate.  Afterwards we visited with many dear friends that we had not seen since returning home.  The hugs and kisses were strengthening.  Dave was choir director in our ward for 11 years a number of years ago and he loved that calling so much.  It is not likely that he will be able to participate in the ward choir any longer and that is a sorrow for him.  His heart loves music.

We had three family birthdays between the 7th and 10 of March.  Benji turned 6 and Owen turned the big 1 year old.  We were not able to visit either of them on their birthdays but we did later.  My mother turned 87 on the 10th.  We had arranged to have a dinner at the Golden Corral with all her children and their spouses.  However, from the 9-12th she was not doing well at all so we changed our plans and moved to her home.  Dave and I picked up enough takeout from the Chinese Gourmet to feed the 12 of us and we had a nice visit. We felt badly that Mom was not feeling better.

On the way up to Murray, we stopped in Murray for an appointment with Dr. Rich's Nurse Practioner.   Then we met our daughter Jill and four of her kids at a park there in Provo and she took about 78 photo shots of Dave and I with her nice camera.  We had had the more formal shots at Christmastime when we got the family photos but we wanted some warm and playful photos of Dave and I.  She did a great job and Dave tolerated the busy day quite well.

Geneal, Dave, Sunee, Lola and Stewart
On the 12th we had a wonderful visit from Dave's 94 year old Aunt Lola Folkman, her son Stewart, his wife Sunni and Dave's Mom.  They had so much fun talking about old times and the laughter was therapeutic.  We hated to see them go.  Dave's Mom stayed with us for several more days until we went up north again.  She and Dave were able to spend some special time together.

The next day, Sunday, Dave gave the Gospel Doctrine lesson.  It was a little bit of a struggle for him but he did a great job.  I had the impression that this would be his last teaching opportunity and it appears that this is correct.

Dave, Kathy, Geneal and Helen 
John's 8 year old son James had called and ask if his grandpa could go with him to the Grandparents Day at their school on the 15th.  Dave could not tell that cute little guy 'no'.  This then was the day to take Grandma Smith back home.  On the way up we stopped and picked up little Benji in Woodland Hills since we had not seen him for his birthday.  We had the privilege of having him for the rest of the day.  He had a great visit with his great-grandmother on the way up.

While driving we got a call from Dave's cousin Kathy Palmer.  She called about another matter but the condition of her mother, Helen Wright, came up.  Kathy has been Helen's caregiver for about two years.  She told us that Helen was failing quickly.  We made a decision to stop in Alpine on the way to Bountiful and Grantsville.  We are so happy that we did.  Dave's Mom had not seen her for a couple of months and there was a joyful reunion.  She was able to talk to us a little and her famous smile was still there.  Three days later she passed away quietly with Kathy holding her hand.

After dropping Mom off in Bountiful, we drove to Grantsville, dropped Benji off with his aunt and uncle and Dave and I went to meet Lyndee and James at their school.  There was a very nice activity at 4 pm for the kids and their grandparents.  They met us and got us refreshments and then they sat and read with us for an hour.  It was precious time.  We were thrilled that Dave had felt well enough to go.  We had a nice dinner with John and the kids afterwards and I helped John prune his fruit trees before we left.  John and Traci have ten new baby goats--how fun is that.

James gives Dave a hug at Grandparents Day

Dave reading with Lyndee at Grandparents Day

Dave had his last scan on the 17th at our hospital to see if the chemo received three weeks before had slowed anything down .  He was doing well enough so I drove back up to Grantsville in the afternoon to see Lyndee perform in Grantsville's Sociable with her violin group.  Then I drove to Murray to stay the night with my Mom.  The next day I took her to get her hair done and do a little shopping.  Then we went to lunch with four of her nieces and all of her daughters plus two of the nieces' daughters.  We had a great time.  We don't often get together and Mom wanted to get together so badly.  Her niece Darlene lives in Montana but spends winters in Arizona so we caught her on her way back to Montana and it worked out great.  Mom did well until the end of the luncheon and she had a little 'spell'and passed out briefly,  We got her on her oxygen and got her home and she perked up after a bit.  These episodes seem to be coming more frequently.  She is also having more angina.  We don't know how long she will be with us.  It is hard to have my Mom and my husband having such problems.   I stayed over to make sure she was doing okay and left for home on Saturday morning.  Dave had done well without me but his pain is certainly escalating in intensity.  He has pain and tingling down both arms from pressure on nerves due to masses in his chest.  He is also having sciatic pain down one leg.  We do not know if that is due to cancer or from his previous lumbar disc problems 10 years ago.  He hasn't been able to sleep in a bed since coming back from Hawaii in mid-February.  He does much better in his favorite recliner in our bedroom.

We had been asked to speak in Flowell ward's Sacrament Meeting in January but we had a conflict so it was rescheduled for March.  We prayed that Dave would feel up to it.  He had been Flowell's High Council representative for about three years and had grown to love the members so much.  Sunday he was a little queasy and had some pain but he made it and gave a very touching talk, straight from the heart.  So many people came up afterwards with tears of love to give us hugs and kisses.  It was a very significant and tender moment for both of us.  The love that that so many in this community have for Dave is so obvious and so touching.  We had received flowers three times in the last week from friends in the community which have brightened out home and reminded us of how much we love this place we chose to live in.

That afternoon, Brent Jackson and his wife Debbie came for a visit.  Brent and Dave were partners for over 20 years.  It was very meaningful for us and I think for the Jacksons also.   They had such a good time visiting that the visit last much longer than anticipated.  

Monday the 21st we saw Dr. Rich again and we knew before he told us that things had worsened.  Dave was feeling tumor growth and seeing new tumors, he is getting nauseous more frequently and we can just tell that the last chemo did not help.  The report bore that out--tumors had continued to grow in spite of the chemo.  Dr. Rich suggested an MRI to see if they could identify whether epidural medications would help the nerve pain he is having.  After the MRI we will go to Hospice.

Monday Dave shared with me the feeling he had that his time was much sorter than the doctor had estimated. He seemed to have a sense of urgency all of a sudden.  Tuesday he sat down and planned out his entire funeral including the musical numbers.  He even printed off the music for piano and violin  for the piece Meditation that he wanted performed.  Then he made an appointment to arrange for a headstone from Denny Brunson.

Wednesday we went and looked over the cemetary and picked out the area we like, went to the city building and bought us two lots.  Now we are working on designing our headstone.  It seems like we are in a dream that we should wake up from soon but reality is beginning to set it.  That being said, we really feel a great sense of peace and calm in all of this.  We know we are in the Lord's hands.

Thursday John and Paul and his family all came down to watch BYU play in the Sweet Sixteen.  We had a great time together but after the game Dave started with pain that increased and increased and required lots of medication to get him comfortable.  He didn't get to deep sleep until 3 am.

Friday Dave had an MRI.  It was quite the ordeal because he has been unable to lie flat.  He required a lot of medication to get him through it and he was drowsy on the drive home.  Starling away, he kept asking me if I was awake or if I needed to stop and sleep.  He slept until home teachers came ande then watched the news and went to bed for the night.

In the morning he was still sleeping very deeply and I did not disturb him.  He awoke about 11 am and came stumbling down the stairs, barely able to walk and unable to hear.  He seemed confused.  I checked his BP and it was extremely low.  I was frightened and did not know what to do.  I called Brent Jackson who came over and evaluated him and we made the decision to put him on hospice.  This was a good decision.  Soon I had lots of help which I needed desperately.  I was not prepared for this sudden change of events.  All of a sudden, we were very needy.  Dave was restless and confused.  He wanted to get up but was too weak.  Dr. Jackson ordered an IV to flush his kidneys which appeared to not be working well.  This raised his blood pressure.  Medication helped sedate him and make him more comfortable.  The kids were all called and soon started to arrive to help me.  A hospital bed and oxygen also helped and soon I was feeling like I could deal with what was happening--I didn't like it one bit was the fear was gone and reality was setting in.

For 12 days, Dave was in a semi-conscious state.  The children and grandchildren came for moral support and one of my boys stayed with me all the time to help move Dave.  We had some very tender and poignant moments and treasured the last few days we had with him.  Many friends and family came to visit and usually he would recognize them but have difficulty trying to talk with them.  Some of those special visits were from Susie Adams who worked with him at the hospital the entire time he worked, Fawn Hunter and Ella Christiansen who were office staff for many years, Stew and Marge Jacobsen,  students and faculty from CUNORI along with the Brackens, the Brown who replaced us in Chiquimula, the Lyons who served with us as misionaries in Chile, Dr. Grose and his wife, and many more.

This is one of my favorites--Dave kissing Eliza, Mic's second child

Ella and Fawn--long-time employees of Dave's in the clinic

Grandson Jordan, Jill's second boy

son Challis and several grandchildren spend time with Dave

Sunday, April 3rd was General Conference.  My parents, Brian and Gunn and Woody all came down for a visit and had dinner with us. On April 5th he talked with Challis on the phone for Challis's birthday.  For some reason, he was able to speak when the phone was to his ear.  He wished Challis a happy birthday and told him he was trying not to die on his birthday.  What a tender moment that was.  It was obvious that his brain was working but that he just was aphasic.

My Mom and others returned on Wed, his final day.  My sons John and Paul gave him a blessing of release and he returned home to his Heavenly Father about 2 hours later.  His mother and many of the family were here.  I feel sure that his father, whom he has not seen in 47 years, was there to great him with open arms!  What a marvelous day to die on--the birthday of the Savior and the anniversary of His resurrection and the birthday of our church.  I cannot express how much the love and support of family and friends meant to me at this moment.

Going to the funeral home and dressing him with my children was one of the most spiritual times I had during this grieving period.  It was a pleasure to gather memorabilia to display at the funeral and to reminisce about his life and the great memories we had.

There was a viewing on Monday night and we were overwhelmed by the number of visitors--young returned missionaries from Chile, our dear friend Jynnae Whelan and her sister, who tended for us, and friends and relative from everywhere.  They love they brought sustained me and made my heart full to the brim with appreciation for their kind words and love.  Jynnae brought a beautiful plaque with a photo of Dave from when we attended the temple with her for the first time and an original poem she had written.  Dave had had a great impact on her life.

Jynnae Whelen and I

The funeral was held on April 12th.  The children all participated through speaking or prayers, and our good friend Kerry Watson spoke along with our Bishop.  Our ward choir sang a beautiful rendition of  'I Believe in Christ' which was so special and our grandchildren Stephen, Jordan and Tashi sang one of my favorite songs, 'Be Still My Soul'.  That was perfect and so beautifully done accapella.   Everything about the funeral was just what I needed.  I loved every minute of it.

My Mom was able to make it down again.  She was pretty weak that day and needed her oxygen but she came and gave me support.

Me and my Mom

Here are some photos from the cemetery.

All the family including our mothers

Micaela and grandkids

A new life is beginning for me but I have faith that the blessings of peace and comfort that were promised will continue with me on this journey.  I know we will be together again and that he is in a much better place.

1 comment:

  1. WOW! Thank you so much for sharing your journey. You continue to be a great teacher in my life! Love you!