Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Sunami of Grief

Grief is an interesting thing. It comes and it goes. It is unpredictable in its power and timing. It is sometimes overwhelming. Much like a sunami it comes at unexpected times and leaves an unforgetable wake.

It has now been nearly two months since the passing of my mother. It wasn't long after my return to California that I was buried once again in the business of life. Work had been neglected and needed attention. The girls were anxious to have their father at home. Friends had not been seen and Susanna and I longed for time together.

Strangely these past to months have been full of life. I feel at peace and am thankful to God for the mercy he showed my mother. He allowed my mother to finish well and we were afforded the luxury of spending intimate and significant time together in the last months of her life.

There is not a day that goes by that I do not have a thought of my mother. But tonight I am overcome with grief. There are significant decisions to be made in life and I am without a guide. I look at pictures and am reminded of those that were once here with me but are now with my mother in heaven. I am the lone patriarch left to discern the path that lays ahead.

Two thoughts come to mind. One goes back to Jesus. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. In sorrow and grief intimacy with God and others is found. This is our comfort.

The other is my never ending need for a parent. This is the hole that many speak of that can never be filled. I desire the unconditional love that only a parent can begin to offer. I desire to be cared for as I care for my own daughters (except with more patience and understanding of course). It is this desire that compels me to pursue God and his son Jesus.

God have mercy on me. Comfort me and show me the way. Please give me wise counsel and vision. I miss my parents. Thank you for not abandoning me. Amen

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Mom's Eulogy - "The Legacy"

My mother was laid to rest next to my father on Wednesday of this week in New Carlisle, OH. Her memorial was on Monday in Arvada, CO. Both days were cold but beautiful with a fresh blanket of snow.

I was honerd to give my mother's Eulogy at her memorial service. It was powerful to reflect on her life. There is much to be learned from it.

Below is the text of my speech. Maybe it can serve as a catalyst for your own reflection during this time of grieving.

Steve

In Memory of Corrine Leoni
January 5, 1941 – January 22, 2009

I want to begin by saying thank you to all of you. You have cared for my mother in ways unimaginable during her lifetime. Don, I especially want to thank you for the faithfulness, tenderness, love, and companionship you offered my mother these past 13 years. You two were meant for one another.

Thanks also to those who have offered extra support these past few weeks, especially my sister, Angela, Maxine Patterson, and my aunts Pearly, Lois, Ruth, and Eunice. I am so glad we were not alone.

It is a great honor to offer some words of tribute and possible comfort to you in honor of my mother, Corrine Leoni. It is, in some sense, a daunting task. In many ways I know my mother better than anyone, and in some ways not at all. But on one thing we will all agree: My mother was quite a remarkable woman.

Corrine Veryl Kirkpatrick was born in Wichita, Kansas January 5, 1941. She was the youngest of 5 siblings and grew up of very modest means. In fact, throughout her 13 year marriage to Don, they had a little competition. They would each tell stories in a vain effort to win the coveted title of “poorest Kid growing up”. The verdict is still out. There is no clear winner.

Mother graduated high school and shortly thereafter attended Friends University, not far from home in Wichita, KS. Upon receiving her undergraduate degree she applied to and was accepted into the University of Northern Colorado where she earned her Master’s degree in Teaching.

This is where the relationship with my mother begins for many of you. This is when she moved to Denver to take a job teaching elementary for Jefferson County Public Schools. She met my father, a Captain in the USAF, in the late 1960’s at an event hosted by Calvary Temple. After a long courtship Paul finally proposed and they were married in 1970.

By 1975 it would be easy to argue that my mother was on top of the world. She was married, a mother of two beautiful children, and was on a grand adventure living in Germany with her husband Paul Hoke who was working on the “Constant Keystone” project, a project that was designed to unite the command of all NATO land and air forces across the continent of Europe. Before leaving the states she had earned a masters degree and worked for one of the most prestigious school districts in the United States: Jefferson County Public Schools.

But all this was about to change. I once asked my mom if she ever wanted to know what the future held. She replied to me that she would prefer not to, for if she knew what the future held the joy of the present might be taken away from her and she might not have the strength to live on. Sometimes the weight of the future is just too much to bear.

My father was killed suddenly on September 26th, 1975 as a passenger of a Sikorsky helicopter that inexplicably crashed in Northern Germany on a routine mission. My mother was at home, sick with mono. I was 2 years old. My sister was 6 months. Within one day of being informed of her husband’s death my mother returned to New Carlisle, Ohio to bury her husband and be cared for by his family.

The next few years were difficult. She eventually relocated to Arvada, Colorado and moved into the home that she and Paul bought brand new in 1970. She was a single mother of two. Within the next couple of years she lost her father to cancer, her brother to a drunk driver, and her mother-in-law to cancer. My mother’s most valuable assets were quickly disappearing, namely the relationships she had with those most dear.

But she endured and did not lose faith. For those of you that knew my mother well, she never wavered in her faith and did not become bitter. She instead viewed adversity as an opportunity to grow. I often think of James where he wrote on endurance: “My brothers, count it pure joy when you are involved in every sort of trial. Realize that when your faith is tested this makes for endurance. Let endurance come to its perfection so that you may be fully mature and lacking in nothing.”

I tell this story because it is the start of a remarkable journey for my mother and the beginning of the legacy. My mother was handed every reason in the world to disown her faith and to become bitter with the injustice of her situation. But her faith never relented.

The years following were filled with the best and worst of life. The ups and downs were very high and very low. She fell love and was married to Dick Peterson in 1980. He was a very kind and gentle man that not only loved her, but also loved Angela and me as well. He retired in the early 80’s and they were able to build a dream home together before he died of pancreatic cancer in 1989. I was 15. My sister was 13.

Yet another opportunity to become bitter, but she kept her faith. While Angela and I reeled in anger and the feeling of abandonment, my mother deepened her faith, seeking a deeper intimacy with God and with others. She thought she was going to break at times and even tried to run away from it all one night. Thankfully, she was forced to turn around just past the Morrison exit when she remembered that she was responsible for leading her group of girl friends through bible study that evening. She showed up, bared her soul, and her friends gave words, prayers, and support that got her through these difficult years.

We all survived and God was faithful. He never left her and provided for her in every way possible.

I would argue that the last 13 years of her life were some of the best. A definite high. She fell in love with and was married to one of the best men I have ever had the privilege to know, Don Leoni. They were married in 1996.

My memories, like yours, are filled with Don and Corrine being “out and about”. In any room, in any situation, they brought life together. They were able to attend the weddings of Eric and Hope, Angela and Rod and mine to Susanna. They welcomed the birth of four grandchildren, Jack, Luke, Camille and Anna. Corrine delighted in her grandchildren, these four and Yalisa, and was the type of grandma who got down on the floor to play Legos, in the sandbox to play trucks and build castles, and was just as quick to put on a Tierra and play princess dress up with the girls. One of my favorite memories is my mother putting a mesh butterfly cage on her head and playing “bee-keeper” with my girls.

In October, I had the opportunity to travel to Honduras with Don and Corrine, as part of a partnership through Agros with a group of 24 families fighting to pull themselves out of poverty. This experience opened Corrine’s already compassionate heart to the suffering around the world and impacted her perspective of her own journey. She expressed to me that she understood now and wanted to grow deeper in relationship with the poor.

Shortly after Thanksgiving she was diagnosed. Definitely another low. While suffering from cancer, she shared with me a very interesting thought. She shared that she finally understood what her husband Dick had said during his fight with cancer – “why not me?”. Most people ask, “why me”. Yet, we are not entitled to a life with out suffering. All suffer at some point in their life. This we have in common. What we have, what my mom had, is the comfort and presence of God in the midst of our suffering. Through life experience and this journey to Honduras, my mother’s heart had been softened and opened to the pain of the world and to others. I would argue that her heart had become more like Jesus, the one who suffered that we might live life more abundantly now and in the life to come.

My mother’s favorite verse was written to the Romans by the Apostle Paul. He wrote “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

My mother embraced this verse for the entirety of her life. God gave her the faith to believe it represents the truth which, in turn, gave her the strength to go on during difficult times. Ultimately, not only did she find life for herself, but she gave life to us all.

I think you will all agree that our lives are better for having known Corrine. Our perspectives and world views are better for having known Corrine. Our faith is stronger for having known Corrine. She left a legacy of relationships and a web of love among us.

I want to close with a dream I dreamt on the night of her death. Please, bear with me. I think there is great truth in it. I dreamed that I was at her death bead and as she was dieing she gave birth to a beautiful child. In her last breath she asked if I would take it and care for it. I was filled with emotion, tears running down my cheeks. I promised that I would.

Given my mother’s age I thought a dream about my mother having a baby was a bit weird. So I gave it thought and have concluded that it is a powerful metaphor. My mom lived an inspirational life. She influenced many in her simple pursuit of Jesus. In her death we have all been able to reflect on her life as well as our own. We have been inspired by her courage and spirit throughout this time.

Through my mothers death I believe she has given birth to a legacy. Like childbirth, this legacy has not come without great pain, struggle, anticipation, and joy. This is a legacy which I think she would like us to have. It is our choice whether or not we choose to accept this new “child”. For some of us, we have been reminded of our faith and it is in it’s infancy. For others, our faith has grown to be mature and complete. It is our choice whether to accept the gift that my mother labored her entire life for. It is the same gift that Jesus and the saints have also labored for. It is our job to care for the gift. To nurture it. To embrace it until we reach maturity in Christ that others might enjoy life to the full as well.

I want to leave you with the two thoughts my mother gave to me in her last days. I asked my mother what advice she would give to my generation and the generations behind me. She replied with two things:

1. Keep it Simple (Live simply)
2. Pursue relationship with Jesus

We remember Corrine today as a woman who embraced all of life, the downs along with the ups, who loved God and loved others. Who loved me. Who loved you. We honor her as wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend and beloved daughter of God.

Thank you and God Bless.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Corrine's Memorial

A memorial service for Corrine will be held on Monday, January 26th at 1 PM at Arvada Covenant Church (5555 Ward Road) in Arvada, Colorado. There will be dessert and coffee following the service. All are welcome to attend.

It was Corrine's wish to be buried in New Carlisle, Ohio next to Steve and Angela's father, Capt. Paul L. Hoke, USAF. A graveside tribute will be held on Wednesday, January 28th at 1 PM at the New Carlisle Cemetery (11545 Musselman Road) in Ohio.

We wrote a few days ago about Steve, Don, and Corrine's recent trip to Honduras with Agros International. It was Corrine's desire to do all that she could for the 24 families of Brisas Del Volcan. Before she died she asked that in lieu of flowers gifts be given to Agros International in her memory. You may give online via the website at http://www.agros.org/ or via mail using the following address:

Agros International
2225 4th Ave.
Second Floor
Seattle WA 98121

Please feel free to email the family at corrinesfamily@gmail.com with any questions or comments.

Onward and Upward!

Praise the Lord!

Corrine died peacefully early this morning with Angela at her side.

Arrangements are pending for her memorial sevice at Arvada Covenant Church in Colorado with graveside memorial service to follow in New Carlisle Ohio.

Corrine's desire, in lieu of flowers, was for donations to be made to Argos international. More details to follow soon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Near the End

Corrine is hard to recognize. She looks like everyone does when they are near the end: mouth open, eyes nearly shut, skin drawn tight across her bones. The only thing that distinguishes her from others is her crown of fine gray hair and her recognizable nose.

She is breathing with short, shallow breathes, mucus building in her lungs with no way to escape. Her pulse is over 110 bpm and blood pressure is low. Her skin is becoming mottled, which is a sign her body's energy is being preserved for her vital organs. There is no doubt, Corrine is near the end.

I am praying that death would come quickly. I wish it were just so Corrine's wouldn't have to endure any more pain, but it is more than that... I want to quit suffering too. It is hard to just 'be' with her, even though every moment is a gift. It is difficult to witness the decay of someone you love so deeply. It is hard to be able to do nothing at all.

The selfish truth is, I want Corrine's life to end so that we both can beginning living again. We both want to 'go home.' Her to heaven, and me... I just want to go home and ride, and remember, and forget. And feel the rain on my face instead of tears.

I've overcome my fear of my mom's death. Soon I have to face my fear of living without her.

-Angela

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Agros, Honduras, and Corrine


"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." I stumbled onto this passage (James 1:27) more than 13 years ago while studying abroad in Sri Lanka.

Most of you know that my mother has a very kind and empathetic heart. She does not struggle to care for others. It seems to come naturally for her. However, what many of you may not know about my mother is her large and growing heart for the rural poor in Honduras.

Don, my mother, and I recently visited Honduras together to encourage 24 families we have been walking with for the past 3 years as they work to lift themselves out of poverty. It was the highlight of my year to travel Mom and Don to see our friends in Honduras. It was the first time in many years that my mother "saw me in action" and the first time ever we had travelled together to a poor country. We learned a lot about each other's hearts during the trip, but I was especially taken by my mother during a visit to a local woman's home by the name of Ana Lucia.

The story of Ana Lucia is one that on one hand will break your heart, and on the other give you reason to believe in God. She is 29 years old and has been married for 15 years to a good man named Galo. They have 5 children and live in a home they purchased ~2 years ago. The path to their home is steep and slick with mud. The electricity has been hardwired, but is not yet hooked up. It has two rooms with only a sheet dividing them. The kitchen and bathroom are mostly outside. (Surprisingly, in spite of the obvious differences in quality of life, we both shared the common experience of home improvement projects!).
While a guest in her home, Ana Lucia shared that she was left by her mother when she was only 2 years old. Her mother left her father for another man. Subsequent to this her father disowned her and decided he wanted nothing to do with her. It was not until ~10 years ago that he finally relented and acknowledged her. Ana Lucia was raised by her grandparents.

All of us shared stories of struggle, loss and abandonment that afternoon. Towards the end I was able to share that it gives me tremendous satisfaction and joy to know that my girls are growing up in a situation better than I did (you will recall my mother was widowed when I was 2). My mother was with me, both of us crying as I shared. At that moment my mom got up and walked over to Ana Lucia, gave her a hug, and told her how proud she was of her and that she loved her. Both of them were weeping, it was a beautiful and healing moment for both Ana Lucia and my mother. Ana Lucia was finally able to hear the words from a mother she had longed her entire life to hear.

Something magical happened in that moment. Relational healing. The spirit was there. Joy was found amidst sorrow. Ana Lucia knew she was loved and respected by this beautiful and caring woman from Colorado. This was a gift far greater than money. It was a gift that restored and healed the soul which gives further strength to endure and prosper.

My mother was deeply touched by the trip. She later told me that it changed her life and that she wanted to give more of her life to the poor in the years to come. You cannot turn a blind eye to the rest of the world once you see how the other 2/3 live, especially if you have friends there.

You may have noticed the link at the right hand side of the blog. It is a link to Agros, the organization with which we partner. I thought you would want to know more about the journey my mother, Don and I have been on together these past few years. There is no doubt in our minds that the poor offer an unbelievable door to the heart of Jesus. This was a passion we shared together.

Steve

Silence

I have been silent the last few days and have not to written. I feel so conflicted... the decision to move Corrine was not an easy one for me. It felt like a defeat. It is hard because I feel I let her down, yet I am relieved. I want to be with her, yet I am thankful I no longer have to be. I feel I have evaded responsibility and failed as a daughter and as a friend.

That's the thing about feelings. So many can be felt at once, peace and chaos can walk hand in hand. Our feelings create the allusion of truth, but feelings are not always the best measuring system. I know we made the right decision. Corrine is getting the best possible care, and we were given freedom... Sometimes freedom is hard to handle.

I see how this time with Corrine has weaved us with others in unexpected and beautiful ways. But I also know, out of necessity, there are paths I walk alone. I've said it many times, I'm not only losing my mother, I'm losing my best friend. Everyone who loves Corrine is losing some one just a little different. She had so many names and played so many roles; mother, sister, aunt, teacher, mentor, and friend.

I'm trying to appreciate this silence within me... where I don't have to 'be' anyone... and no one is expecting anything. A silence that means acceptance with out needing understanding.

I wait alone, embraced by the love of others, listening to the strong quiet voice of God who says "Fear not..."

-Angela

Monday, January 19, 2009

Just "being" together

There have been no major developments to speak of today. Mother rested well for most of the day and she seems to have made the transition to life at the Collier Hospice Center. I am with her now and feel confident that pain seems to be under control and she is as comfortable as possible given the circumstances.

The moments of verbal communication are very few now. My most special interaction of the day with mom was when she was able to whisper goodnight to Susanna (my wife) over the phone. Other than that there has not been much. I can occasionally get a nod of the head or a faint smile, but these moments are becoming more rare.

It goes without saying that my relationship with mom has changed a great deal these past few weeks. Losing the ability to communicate with her has been extremely difficult. These past few days I have found myself working very hard to simply communicate (in any way) with my mother. She is not always able to respond with words. However, a squeeze of the hand or nod of the head can bring a tremendous amount of joy. A simple word becomes profound and special because of the effort that went into it. But truthfully, I long for more.

Although most communication is lost, I am learning that words and touch are not the only gateway to intimacy. God provides for our needs in other ways. The power of simply being together, for example, is making itself clear. I have found great comfort in just "being" together with mom. As I write she is in a bed not more than 5 feet from me. There is comfort in know that she is there. We don't have to talk, sing (thankfully) or touch. I just find joy and comfort in being together. I guess that is why we are here by her side. It is our hope that she is receiving as much comfort as we are through this process of being together.

The future is yet unknown, especially as it relates to the eminent loss of my mother, but I have a hunch that we will learn another secret to living life to the full in her death. Communication. Being. Togetherness. Relationship. Reconciliation. Mom's sickness has given new power to these words. All of them hint at living life more as God intended. Let's not forget the lessons lest this struggle be without purpose.

Until tomorrow...

Steve

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Successful Transition

The facilities here at the Collier center are very comfortable, well designed, and pleasing to the eye. Thus far the staff has proven to be excellent. I think we are in good hands.

Steve

Moving Corrine to Collier Hospice

Corrine's body is going through tremendous amounts of change right now. She is struggling with dehydration in addition to the trauma the cancer has induced. As such, she is restless with few moments of lucidity. We, as her family, feel that it is time to move Corrine to the Collier Hospice Center in Wheat Ridge.

Don has shared on multiple occassions that caring for Corrine at home has been very special for him. He is incredibly thankful for the time she has had with us at home. It has not been without emotional pain, but the benefits have far outweighed the challenges for all involved. It has gotten to a point where mom is not really aware of where she is. I think it is less important about where she is and more important about who is with her during moments of awareness.

Mom appears to be free of pain for the time being. She will be transported by hospice around 2PM this afternoon. We currently plan to have family with her the bulk of the time while at the Collier Center and will keep all informed as we undertake the next part of the journey.

Steve

Saturday, January 17, 2009

On Death, Intimacy, and the Seemingly Mundane

My wife, Susanna, gave me a book the other day written by Henri Nouwen titled In Memoriam. It is a journal he wrote in an attempt to process what he went through when he lost his mother. I have found encouragement in the book not because of any profound revelations, but rather because I find my personal experience validated in Nouwen's words.

It is surreal to be with my mother on a daily basis as her life seems to be coming to an end. Strangely, I have discovered a deeper sense of intimacy with God, my mother, my family, and friends throughout this journey. Tonight, as she suffered through pain and a little fear we were able to pray, read Psalms, and sing together. Her participation was silent, but it was intimate.

If you think about it, this experience is extremely common. Each of us will one day lose our mother, if we have not lost her already. But the experience is so unique to each of us. The fact that it is common does not lessen the profoundness of the journey. It offers an opportunity to experience intimacy in a way that would otherwise escape us in the daily travails of life.

Interestingly, the process in real time seems a little insignificant at the surface. One section of Nouwen's book resonated well with me. He writes that

"it is difficult to put into words what I want to say. Such words as "love" and "care" can so easily be interpreted in an emotional way, and yet none of us standing around my mother's bed were ever very good at expressing our feelings toward one another. In fact, during these long hours of waiting, none of us said anything very new. The words were the same as always. Yet, as we watched her life slowly fade away, we all sensed that the bond between us which she had created was growing stronger and deeper. . . Old boundaries that had maintained certain distances between us were being lifted so that new intimacies could grow."

Here is to loving deeper in 2009. Love does not come without pain, but in pain we find life.

Steve

Resting Well

Corrine had a good nights sleep, which means we did too... and she is resting well today. Her breathing pattern is inconsistent and at times there are up to about 25 seconds between breaths. The nurses inform us that she may go as long as 40 seconds.

We are enjoying the warmth of the day. The snow is nearly melted, and we have had the doors open to get some fresh air. I am headed to the airport to pick up my husband, Rod, who is visiting for the weekend.

Thank you to everyone who has expressed concern for me. I can assure you that, yes, I do see the hand of God and know He is a good, loving God who only wants the best fo us... but it doesn't keep me from asking questions or expressing insecurities... in fact, sometimes asking the hard questions is all I really need to do. I don't need "answers."

It seems that often our attempts to "answer" all of our very human questions takes away from the majesty of God, instead of adding to it. It is the unknown that makes the mystery of God so great and His story so intriguing.

-Angela

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pointless?

Corrine is weaker today. She hears what is going on around her, but is unable to participate. For her safety we put up the rails of her bed. In addition to keeping her from falling, the rails help her to turn over and re-adjust her position. For the first time, Corrine did not completely wake up for her bath, although she did participate in small ways like turning from side to side. She is more easily agitated and I have not been witness to her smile or laughter.

Today Corrines suffering feels pointless to me. It seems she is past being able to experience joy in this life. She is very confused and unable to reconcile what is going on around her verses what is happening inside her head. Corrine doesn't understand why she's still here, and neither do I.

I have felt God's comfort and strength, yet I question. What is to be gained by her pain? Is there some lesson we have failed to grasp? Who is responsible for her continued suffering? I know this is a fallen world... but it hurts so bad to be helpless, to be unable to 'do' anything for her. For my heartfelt prayers for Corrine to begin her life in heaven to be answered, "In MY perfect timing, not yours."

Last night, around 3am, Corrine begged me not to leave her. She pleaded "Help me!" with tears in her eyes.

"I'm doing everything I can" I told her as I gave her another does of medicine.

She repeated "Help me! It hurts."

So I held her hand and stroked her forehead. And I sat. And Prayed. Because there was nothing else I could do.

Now, I cry, and talk honestly with God. "What's the point?" I ask and hope someday, in my heart, I'll know the answer.

-Angela

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Little by Little

I returned to Denver tonight to be with my mother after several days at home in California. My mother has changed in the last several days. Physically she is much the same. Mentally things have deteriorated. She seems at peace but her thoughts are not coherent. Her biggest concern for the evening was to make sure we were prepared for Christmas dinner. Do we have potatoes? Who is coming? What day is it?

Mom still recognizes those of us around her on a daily basis. She is still beautiful, albeit weak. It is hard to see her go. She will be missed.

Please pray for her that she remains at peace and not in pain. Also pray for those of us caring for her that we might have patience, stamina, and wisdom.

Goodnight.

Steve

Corrine's Concerns

Corrine has not had much pain to speak of, but is becoming a little more agitated. In addition to calm words of assurance, Corrine is needing a little bit of medicine to reduce her anxiety. The nurses assure us it is normal... It is a journey to the end, and people often fret over the preparations. Also, dehydration can cause hallucinations, and she is taking in less liquid each day.

Last night Corrine woke up with a start. " I need more cash, I don't think I have enough! In the morning we have to go to the bank. I need more cash!"

Jesus already paid the price for us to go to heaven, so maybe Corrine just wants to tip the chariot driver?

-Angela

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A little confused

Corrine is waking up a little more confused these days. Last night she asked me if I would go to Madagascar with her. Another time she asked if I would drive. Corrines's in a hurry to get where ever she's going and she's concerned about being late. She tries her best to get up so she can 'get ready.' We assure Corrine she has nothing left to do here but rest... that soon she'll be in heaven. Once convinced, she lays back to sleep once again.

Corrine's vitals are ditto what they've been, but it is clear her condition is changing. When she does awaken, she is not talkative and much of what she says doesn't make sense to us. Much to our surprise, Corrine is still taking her oral medication and we have established a regular interval for her anti-nausea medication. She is drinking very little.

Corrines favorite part of the day was when her grandsons came to visit. She clearly acknowledged them and beckoned them into the room, speaking loud and clear "ring, ring, ring, I want my boys." She also enjoyed a bed bath complete with a good hair scrub.

As for me, what a difference a day makes. After a long nap this afternoon and a good book to read, I am much more calm and confident. I am not on the verge of an angry outburst, and I feel much more comfortable in my skin, I am acceptable just the way I am. Thankfully, God has given me a moment of peace, again.

-Angela

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

No Change

I'm usually one who enjoys change... always wanting a new challenge, to go on a new adventure. But right now, I'm relieved there are no changes to report. Although nausea is becoming a more constant issue, Corrine was still able to take her pain pill... and I am just about to go relieve Don of care duty so that at least one of us can have a good nights sleep.

I am feeling defeated... it is draining to be constantly on gaurd, trying to protect and care for some one so vulnerable. I just want to do the right thing, but perfection isn't possible... it's hard to let go and believe that God is in control.

Tonight's prayer is an echo hundreds of years old "I Believe! Help my unbelief!"

-Angela

Dancing in Heaven

Corrine is ready to put on her dancing shoes in heaven. When paster Bill from Arvada Covanent came, She did a little jig in bed to practice, and suggests we do the same. We were laughing about 'the proper way to clap.' After demonstrating the wrong way for a lady to clap... hands cupped to produce a loud pop... and the correct way... one hand stays still while the fingers of the other hand hit you palm...Corrine piped in "We're a little judgemental, aren't we... these things don't matter." And we continue to laugh.

It feels good to laugh with Corrine. To know, even towards the end, Corrine has not changed from the woman she has always been. The woman, we were reminded today, who was social director of her career class when she was in her 20's. The mother who hosted birthday parties and played in sand boxes. The friend who invited everyone to BBQ's and decorated the church. Corrine is the same woman and she's preparing for the biggest celebration she's ever attended.

Corrine's time is getting closer. She asks for water, but goes to sleep before drinking. When Corrine does drink, nearly as much drips down her neck as goes down her throat. We are now prepared to use an all liquid medication regimend so she won't have to swallow.

Corrine needs a lot of help to reposition her body and is less able to communicate clearly what will make her comfortable. We just do the best we can to read her body language and resort to positions that have been good for her in the past. Termperature regulation is a bit tricky, rotating between kick the covers off hot, and fetal position, grabbing for blankets, cold.

We will continue to do our best and join Paster Bill in his prayer of thanks for Gods perfect timing.

-Angela

Monday, January 12, 2009

Patience

When I was young Steve and I participated in a play at our church. It was called "The Music Machine" and featured an eccentric conductor, animals who could talk, and children's' songs with life lessons. I believe it was baritone turtle named Herbert who slowly sang the song about patience...

"Have patience. Have patience. Don't be in such a hurry.
When you get impatient, you only start to worry.
Remember. Remember, that God is patient too
and think of all the times when others have to wait on
you."
It's funny that this is the song that keeps coming to my head... but it is so true for me, my impatience leads me to worry. It's easy to worry about all of the little details: How much medicine? When is everyone coming and going? Will I stay healthy? What should I write? When will Corrine's time with us be finished?
Worrying is a vicious circle. It is counter-productive and tiring. It's the opposite of acceptance and trust. Being impatient is one of the character traits Corrine and I share. So, I sang her the song tonight after giving her evening medication.
Corrine smiled as she lip-synched every word...
-Angela

Quiet Day

Corrine was dissapointed when her nurse Shirly left. Shirly could not tell her how long it would be before she got to go to heaven. It could be tomorrow, or it could be weeks away. It's the same story they told us before Corrine began her journey with Hospice.

We have been so impressed by our hospice care providers. Corrine has cried with joy because of the love she has experience through their calm voices and tender hands. And they have been very good guiding us through her care and preparing us for what lies ahead.

Corrine's vitals continue to remain the same, with an elevated heart rate and lower than normal blood pressure... but consistent with a few days ago.

Corrine's face is pale, her skin taunt over her cheek-bones. Corrine is slow to speak, her voice is quiet, and her words are a little slurred. But when Camille called this morning she spoke a loud and clear "Happy Birthday!" and her eyes lit up the room.

We are thankful for continued pain management. We followed the nurses advice and left a light on and background music playing last night. Corrine rested much better, except for needing help changing her position periodically.

Corrine enjoyed a comfortable bed bath this morning and is resting well.

-Angela

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dreams

As you know if you read the previous post, I went to the National Western Stock show today to watch freestyle reining, which is like pairs figure skating for horses. The riders create an original routine set to music of their choice, with costumes to match. The personalities of the pairs really shine through. There were a few in particular where horse and rider were picturea of grace and unity... they demonstrated what I strive for with every ride. It was both inspirational and heart-wrenching.

When I was little, my mom used to take me to the stock show. She would walk down aisle after aisle of cows, chickens, and goats with me without complaint. Mom would wait as I stood in awe of the Budweiser Draft Horses with feet bigger than dinner plates and wait some more while I examined every stall to find my favorite horse. Once, Mom sat in those cold, hard seats until after midnight watching a horse jumping event. Best of all, when I told my mom that I would one day compete at the stock show, she didn't laugh.

Of course, as a supportive parent I suppose she did a lot of head-nodding and smiling. When I was a child, I said things like that along with things like "I'm going to be president of the United States." Although my political aspirations have not grown (I just wish them for others now), I never run out of dreams having to do with horses.

A few years ago, I got a new horse and began making long-standing dreams come true. I ride in trail competitions, which is like motorcross for horses, and had visions of learning reining.

Today I was dreaming again when I told her "Maybe it'll be me riding there someday." Mom responded confidently, "Yes. Maybe next year."

But there is no next year with her. I'll never take her on a carriage ride. She'll never see me compete again. I'll never be able to show her the horseman I've become.

I'm heart-broken, feeling like an abandoned child left on the door-step of a church. "What am I going to do with out my mom?"

So tonight, I pray that I will see all of the good that is coming from Mom's suffering and ultimate death. I pray for lost to be found. For Peace. For Unity. And for a better understanding of God's unending love. I pray that my mom's suffering, and my own, will make a difference in the lives of many and her legacy will last forever.

I pray that dreams will come true!

-Angela

The Daily Life in the Leoni Household


Mom is doing very well today, just tired. We are waiting for the certified nursing assistant to make a visit for Corrine's bath. He should arrive any minute now.


Meanwhile, Angela is off to the National Western Stock show with her Aunt Eunice Bollinger today. Thought you would enjoy a picture of the girls before they left. I have a hunch that Angela will be taken by the horses and Aunt Eunice by the hats that are both to be prominently on display at the event!


Many thanks to MacKenzie Smith who spent several hours yesterday scanning a lifetime of pictures into digital form. Here he is with my sister Angela and his mother Lois Smith hard at work.

Hope you are doing well.
Steve

Breakfast of Champions

I was sitting with my mother this morning and she asked what time it was. I replied that it was about 8:30 or 9 in the morning. She promply responded by asking for what I would call the breakfast of champions: Coke and Apple sauce. Mmmmm....

She is in good spirits this morning. Weak but good.

Steve

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How to Change the World

For those of you who know my mother well, you know that she has a great sense of humor and a little bit of spunk. She woke up today to see Maxine, a long time friend at her side, and told her that her husband, Steve, was going to shoot her for spending so much time with her. Maxine assured her this was not the case. Later in the day she woke up and said, "when is all this Jazz going to end. I'm ready to go." Through it all my mother is still my mother. Light hearted and to the point.

There is nothing new to report on Corrine's health. She is still very weak but continues to drink a little liquid throughout the day. Her moments of lucidity are fewer and fewer. She speaks with a soft voice and is at times difficult to understand. The times she is awake, however, are sweet times indeed.

Interestingly, my mother's sickness has demonstrated to me how to truly make a difference in the world.

My mother has been married (and widowed) on two prior occasions. First to my father. Second to Dick Peterson who succumbed to cancer in 1989. Dick was a father to Angela and I, as well as to his own children Jill Najar, Karla Drake, Stephen Peterson, and Martha Gorski. Currently my mother is married to Don Leoni who is father to Eric Leoni and Paula Baccus.

I say this to make a point. Many people feel that to change the world one must have large amounts of money or political influence. I would argue that this is not always true. My mother has made a large impact on 8 separate family trees. This is not insignificant.

Observe how Jesus changed the world. When he died only a limited number of people in a small part of the world knew of his story. Jesus did not raise an army or take on the title of King that was offered to him. He did not write any books or letters that we know of. Jesus did not even advocate for a new religion, just a new way of life. Christianity came after the fact. The way that Jesus changed the world was by living life deeply with a few. In living life together with the disciples for three years the world was changed forever.

Family is the most natural way God intended us to be deeply in relationship with others over the long haul. As family we have the opportunity to influence one another for better or worse. My mother clearly influenced us for the better and, as a result, gave our children (her grandchildren) a better family to grow up in. This blessing will be passed down and expanded upon from generation to generation, and each generation is larger than the one prior. Relational impact scales over time.

Each of us "kids" has made it a point these past few weeks to share with mom how she has dramatically changed our lives for the better. Eight family trees have been influenced for the better. Although pundits may say this is only a small impact, I believe that this is the seed of something big in generations to come.

Let us remember to go deep with few, starting with our family, and then with our neighbor. The world can be changed if we do. It just takes time.

Steve

Pictures Added to Prior Posts

Scroll down to see. - Steve

Strength and Weakness

Corrine slept through the night in relative peace. She would wake up, confused, wondering where she was. Then, with a little help, she would adjust her position and sleep. Corrine sat up this morning to talk with Don and give him a hug. At nine, she struggled to take her pills for pain and nausea. Yesterday, Corrine was excited to eat apples in heaven, and today she added coffee to the menu. When she saw Steve with a mug, she asked for a cup and drank a few sips of black coffee... Corrine always says "I'm sweet enough, I don't need any sugar."

My Morning Reflection

"I didn't think I could do this." I told my mom when we were talking about her care the other day.
"I didn't think you could either." She said with a smile. "But when your faced with adversity you do a lot you think you can't. That's just the way it is. You keep on taking one step at a time. When you are weak, God makes you strong."

Corrine was talking about her own journey, and mine, when she told me that. Coming from her they aren't empty words, Corrine knows what it means to be weak and broken. Corrine was widowed with two children ages 9 months and 2 years. My father died in a helicopter crash while they were living in Germany... after some time with family in Ohio, Corrine moved to Colorado, became a teacher, and took one day at a time.

She fell in love with the man who became my Dad, Dick Peterson... and a few short years later cared for him while he journeyed towards heaven, suffering with pancreatic cancer. She was left, grieving, with two teenage kids, ages fourteen and nearly sixteen.

By her own admission, she was not perfect, none of us are. Corrine needed assurance just a few days ago, that we had forgiven her. Even so, there was no doubt Corrine was strong. She did not become bitter. She did not hide from the pain. She grieved, and asked God why, and was sometimes angry. Corrine searched for Truth and relied on Faith. She saw the hand of God when her friends reached out and prayed, and encouraged her along the way. She lived one day at a time.

Then, Corrine opened her heart to love again and accepted Don Leoni's proposal for marraige. Thirteen years later she is faced with the ultimate weakness as her body fails. She can no longer care for herself, yet she is strong, holding fast to the God who has always been faithful. And she lives one hour at a time...

And Corrine spoke the truth when she told me. "You just keep taking one step at a time. When you are weak, God makes you strong."

-Angela

Friday, January 9, 2009

On Intimacy

Why is it that it often takes tragedy (or suffering) to find intimacy? In the midst of this difficult time, the four of us (Don, Corrine, me, and Angela) had a very special time together this evening. We cared for one another. Shared with my mother the deep love and affection we have for her. And we read scriptures together. I felt as if I was living in the ever so illusive "good 'ole days" before cell phones, blackberrys, televisions and the internet. We lived life together. In the midst of suffering we found comfort.

My mother was very tired today. Fortunately, there was not any pain to speak of. She did, however, spend much of her day in sleep. Mom's moments of lucidity are much fewer now. They are minutes at a time instead of hours at a time. I am thankful that as I write she is sleeping peacefully in the room next door. There is no doubt that her days with us are few.

Before going to bed, she whispered to us that she would like to read parts of the bible together. A few thoughts...

Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians "For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is."

He later continues "clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."

These are thoughts on how faith in Christ can manifest itself in this world. Soon my mother will be absent in body. She will, however, be with us in spirit. Let us continue to be reminded of the most important things in life and pursue everything that is good and perfect.

Turn off the TV. Slow down. Be with each other and pursue, even work for, deeper relationship with one another. Don't wait for tragedy or suffering to experience the fullness of life.

Goodnight.

Steve

Hard Night, Peaceful Day...

Corrine had a hard night. Her body is changing, and it's frightening her a little. Sometimes it's harder for her to breathe. Her chest feels tight even though the oxygen level in her blood blood is normal. Due in part to this anxiety we had a harder time controling her pain.

We called the nurse at around 2:30 am and she stayed on the phone with us for nearly an hour while we did what she suggested. She helped assure us we were giving the right medication at the right time. We gave Corrine doses of oral pain medication as well as medication to relax her and help control nausea.

We also prayed a meditative prayer we've practiced at different times. It repeats "Lord Jesus Christ have Mercy on me." The consistency of a meditative prayer helps relax and calm all of us. We don't have to think of the 'right words' to say. It encourages us to acknowlege our need for God and that He is merciful. Last night it gave us all a small measure of peace.

We ended with the Lords prayer:
Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name...
When we reached the end it held even more meaning than before when we said together:
...Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven!

Corrine was able to rest in relative peace the majority of the morning. The nurse paid us a visit and we are well prepared, with oxygen and a new medication to help dry mucus caught in her throat. She is losing some of her ability communicate her needs clearly and she may be slipping into a deeper sleep. We are taking it one step at a time... Trusting the best we can.

I read a journal entry I wrote on a family vacation we took in December of 1997. It read "I found I couldn't solve the world's problems in one sitting, or my own either (although I wouldn't call them problems, but challenges). Anyway, as I was reading and writing I decided on a key verse that I would keep in my pocket the entire trip... literally.

Dueteronomy 31:8
"Know the Lord goes befor you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged."
I think I'll stick that verse in my pocket once again.
-Angela

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Nothingness

"What have you been thinking about?" Steve asked this evening hoping for some more wisdom.

"Nothing" Corrine said before telling a story.

"I was with a friend about a year ago when she was going through this. I asked her if she felt closer to God, and she said no. Then I asked her what she was thinking, and she said 'nothing.' Now I understand... I'm not far from God, I know He's close, but I'm just not thinking."

I can't tell you just how encouraging that word "nothing" is... There is an internal whispering that tells me I must not have enough faith, or read the bible enough, or pray correctly because much of the time I 'feel nothing' about God.

I know He is present. I know God is giving me strength. I do not doubt, or at least not very often. Even with prayer or reading or talking with discerning people I still have "nothing." Yet I'm not empty... how can it all be true at once, this "nothingness" and Godliness?

When I found out my mother had cancer I cried. I prayed. I meditated. I read an entire fantasy novel, and watched no less than 8 full hours of television. All in three days... not to mention the days that followed.

What would Mother Theresa be doing? Or Billy Graham? Or my pastor? Would they have some amazing words to live by? Could they all get along? Would God be closer to them than I? Am I doing something wrong? I don't think so... and this is my confirmation: I know Corrine is a couragous and faithful follower of Jesus Christ and she told us that, right then, she felt "nothing."

Corrine slept most of the day with no major changes in her health status. However, the nurses still say she could go quickly. You just never know, we are not in control.

-Angela

Collecting Pictures

Corrine slept through the night without needing any additional medications. She woke this morning wanting to sit up and go to the bathroom, and she did. Her bowels worked well with only a little help, so she is not constipated. Corrine is very pale and tired, but still has her thankful and caring attitude. The nurse is not going to come today since we have been able to keep her relatively comfortable. Yesterday, the nurse gave us additional medications that we can administer as a suppository to help to control fever, pain, and nuasea. We are prepared for changes in her condition and always have a nurse on call...

Now for the fun stuff...

We are looking for pictures... Corrine the adventurer, mother, friend, creator, child, sister, aunt... you name it, we want it... from all stages of her life...

We want her grandchildren to know what a dynamic life thier grandma led. Corrine was not a photographer and we do not have a lot of pictures of her adventures until Don, who is talented. Maybe you have some pictures we could use...

How to get them to us:

1. Scan the picture to make the picture available electronically.
2. E-mail the pictures to Corrinesfamily@gmail.com
3. Write an explanation: date or general time period, event, and people who are in the picture

Alternately (if technology is not your way):

1. Send us the pictures or negatives (along with a self addressed return envelope if you want them back) and we will take care of getting the pictures digital.

We are having so much fun sharing memories with one another and learning more about Corrine's past. Thanks for looking!

-Corrines' family

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Another Day of Waiting

Corrines body is changing. Blood is running in her urine. She is feeling nausea once again. It is getting hard for Corrine to find a comfortable position. She slept fitfully most of the day. We are out of control... and that is uncomfortable.

Tensions are running high. We can't perfectly communicate. Misunderstandings happen. We are tired, searching for the peace my mother has. Trying to do what's best and finding every answer flawed...

I have been the cause of hurt. I have needed to be forgiven. I have been imperfect, even with the best of intentions... and I am swimming in a sea of grace. I am secure in the love of God and family and friends.

Grace is so uncommon... yet in this place we are practicing what it means to be grace-filled. Feeling how much freedom is gained from forgiveness. And how to accept the imperfect love of another and serve each other the best we can.

Your love and prayers are felt and appreciated.
-Angela

On Healing

Yesterday was much of the same. My mother rested much of the day. She continues to be very gracious and kind throughout this process. Truthfully, I don't have anything new to write about her physical condition. She is not in pain. She is drinking water but not eating. The only medical apparatus at her bedside is a catheter. She is comfortable, for which we are thankful.

I talked with my mother yesterday about life. As some of you know, hers has not been easy. She has endured a remarkable amount of loss and pain. Many in a similar position would have become bitter and angry throughout the process. But my mother has not.

She reminded me of her favorite verse in the bible. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." She continued by sharing that "even in this process I see this to be true. Just look at the healing that has happened."

True, my mother has not been physically healed as of today, but God has an eternal view of the soul. The only things that are of eternal value here on earth are our relationships. They are the only thing to my knowledge that we can enjoy in this life and the life to come. First with God. Then with people. We are all mortal. We all have endured much. We all have hurts and pains that shape who we are. To the extent we can be healed of these hurts is to the extent we can be freed to live life more fully. Real or imagined, most of these hurts are "caused" by God or people.

Can we pray for healing. Not just of the body, but of the spirit and soul as well.

Please know my mother has experienced healing in her own life through this process and also observed it in others. This is continuing affirmation of my mother's life verse that all things work together for the good.

One last thought on death. Most of us, myself included, are afraid of the process. My mother shared, in only the way she can, that "people have lied to her, it hasn't been that bad, in fact it's been kind of pleasant." Let's embrace the truth that there is nothing to fear and pray that this continues to be my mother's experience.

Until next time...

Steve

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

One More Day

I'm not sure if your familiar with the song One More Day but it's chorus is; "What I'm wishing for is one more day with you!"
I feel conflicted because I want one more day. I just want to sit in the same room with Corrine and know she's breathing the same air. I want to hear her laugh one more time. I want the assurance that I my heart will heal. I want another day. Yet,
I want Corrine's suffering to end. I want her thirst quenched. I want her to be whole again.

Corrines at peace, she knows its time. Corrine has said all she's needed to give comfort, wisdom, and peace. God has continued to use her strength and courage to encourage us on our faith journey. Corrine is ready to go.

I remember 20 years ago. I was sitting beside my father's bed, listening to him breathe, clenching my teeth, and holding back tears. It was a very similar situation. I remember when dad took his last labored breath. As I ran from the room I heard my mom cry "Praise the Lord!" Over and over she repeated His praise, even through her tears. I didn't understand. I couldn't agree. I couldn't see God's hand.

But, I've witnessed God heal a broken heart. I trust God has a plan. I've seen God's grace. I know I'm not alone. I've had Corrine to show me how to live and how to pray, so even as I hope for one more day... I will join her when she cries "Praise the Lord!" and meets the heavenly host.

-Angela

Corrine was weaker today, spending all of her energy in morning conversation. Her pain is under control and Corrine is resting easy in God's hand. We are waiting, trusting in His time.

Corrine's Happy Birthday




Corrine reached her 68th birthday yesterday and through her pain found much to celebrate. She rehashed memories with old friends and family and her laughter filled the room once again. Corrine held her hands to her head, caressing her hair and smiling like a model when I teased her about having a bad hair day.

As for me, my brother took the brunt of my difficult morning. Lack of sleep and constant juggling had put me over the edge, so I spent the afternoon on 'cake therapy.' Corrine is very creative and over the years has used that gift to bless many people. Every birthday Mom used to lovingly create cakes for us. When we were old enough, she would lets us 'help.' We would gladly lick the beaters and carefully place candy.
Corrine is a great teacher, patient, kind, and encouraging. When I was about 13 my mom and sister Karla helped me to bake a cake for my dad. There was a figurine standing at the edge of a lake, fishing. Yesterday, I baked a cake for my mother. It was a 'train cake' with nine seprate cars. As I crafted doors from fruit roll-ups, and cargo from candy I thought about how much love a bit of frosting can hold.
The grand-kids enthusiastically made candy mountains for the train to go around. They licked their fingers as they plunged gummy worms in snow made of marsh-mellows. Joy abounded when they presented grandma with her cake and she praised their works of art and mine. Pictures were taken with genuine smiles as the candles were blown out.
My mom has always been generous with her compliments. Even now, as Corrine lays, unable to rise from her bed with out being held, she is doling out praise and love. Through her encouraging words, I am gaining confidence. God has given each of us unique gifts and we often only see them reflected in anothers eyes.

Corrine had a good nights sleep, resting well without any extra pain medication. She woke up this morning with her usual question "Why is this taking so long?"
She paused before adding, "It's all very small, minute, when you compare it to all the good."
"What is?" I asked.
"Suffering" she said, her hands forming quotation marks. "is just for a minute, but God is good, He gives us so many good things."
I agree. After all, He gave us Corrine!

Corrine is resting well and we have a lot to celebrate! Her pain is being managed and she has not needed any oxygen. Corrine is now used to the cathater so it doesn't bother her any more. Miraculously, swallowing has become easier and she can drink with out nearly the pain in her throat. When Corrine asked about the nurse today she said with a smile, "I'd like to get clean, but I don't want a car wash!" She thought for a moment "Not a car wash, you know what I mean."

Don and Corrine's 13th wedding anniversary is today. Corrine is blessed to have a husband like Don to care for her. Don, too is an inspiration to us as he walks with Corrine couragously, even with a broken heart.

- Angela

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Saying Goodbye

Today was an emotional day. It is the best of times. It is the worst of times. The moments I have had with my mother these past few weeks have been some of the best of my life. But it is so difficult to say goodbye. Short of Divine intervention there will be a day very soon where my mom is no longer responsive to words. Soon after that she will pass on to be with Jesus.

Today was a day of potential goodbyes.

A very dear and special relative of my mother stopped by this morning. Circumstances were taking her away from my mother for a few days and she wanted to make sure she said goodbye. The exchange between these two women was precious. After a lifetime of memories together they made a plan to see each other in heaven. My mom's relative told my mother to expect her in heaven, she believes in Jesus. My mother responded by encouraging her to pursue two things in the years ahead. (1) Read about Jesus in the bible. Get to know Him. And (2) Find a little group of women to meet with often to find encouragement and support in life and in Jesus.

These are words to live by and are consistent with my mother's way of living.

My mother also said goodbye to my eldest daughter, Camille, today. Camille turns 4 on January 12th. They might see each other tomorrow, but we just don't know. My oldest daughter has a very special connection with her grandmother. They love to play together. Hide and seek. Coloring. Reading stories. Talking. All are things that they take great joy in when together. My mom has been an amazing grandmother to both of my girls. I am thankful for their relationship.

Before getting time with Camille my mother told me that being a grandmother is one of the greatest highlights of her life. "There is nothing quite like your first grandchild, there is just something special about it."

Camille, like her grandmother, has a very tender and caring heart. She crawled up on her grandmother's lap today, gave her a big hug and handed her a torn and ragged blanket, her most prized possession on earth. She gave it to her Grandmother to sleep with and to be comforted by. Needless to say, my mother burst into tears and, with a smile, told my daughter that sometimes you can make someone so happy that they can do nothing but cry. They hugged each other and after pictures, and time with Anna, Camille asked if she could help grandma go back to sleep by laying down with her. This she did. I love children. They are so genuine and without pretense.

Many of us have been preconditioned to hide our emotions or to have a stiff upper lip. The exchange today between my mother's relative and with Camille reminded me, once again, that the most valuable things in life are invisible. They are rooted in the relationships that we have with one another. There is no greater joy (or pain) that can be felt that when in relationship with another. Death brings both of these feelings in spades.

Thanks to all of you for loving my mother through the years. You have helped make her a very rich person indeed.

Steve

It's hard to follow up such a beautiful expression of Corrines day and the truth written in Steve's words with the practical aspect of Corrine's physical death. There is sometimes shame in having to be reliant on someone else to care for you and being physically unwell. Often someone's health is talked about in vague terms. I am trying to be sensitive, but I also want to be completly honest.

Corrine has not been eating for quite some time and is only drinking approximately 1.5 cups/ day. Her body is in the process of shutting down and dehydration is a natural part of the process. Today Corrine decided on a cathater to help eliminate the possibility of accidents. It also has the added bonus that she won't be forced out of bed. Corrine is getting used to it, but still finds it a nousance. Corrine's breathing will continue to become slower and may become labored. We will be prepared to give her oxygen starting tomorrow if it will help her to be more comfortable.

-Angela

Dreams of Heaven

Corrine had a good day yesterday. Pain free, and peaceful. It is amazing how each of us are experiencing some of our last moments with Corrine in very different ways. God's grace is shining thru as we sit, care, read, and pray with her.

Last night, Corrine was having glimpses of Heaven. Corrine must have been seeing the feast prepared just for her when she woke up and asked for a hamburger. I think they must be preparing a BBQ. Corrine always enjoyed a good western BBQ with red paisly napkins. I wonder who will be gathered at the table?

This morning, Corrine was contemplative as we gathered around her bed. First Corrine assured us "It's not that hard. " "What do you mean?" we asked. "Dying" Corrine said with a pause, as if gathering strength to continue. "I thought it would be much harder. It's not painful, I'm not afraid."

Breathing slow and deeply, Corrine continued with tears in her eyes. "Am I being mean? I don't want to be mean" And we assured her, truthfully, that she was being a great patient. Corrine has been a gift to us through this process.

Corrine then took the time to address each of us, Steve, Don, Rod and I individually.

God is Good, there is nothing to fear. God is taking care of us and giving Corrine the courage to continue on her journey peacefully!

We look forward to seeing how the day unfolds...

- Angela

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Corrine the Comforter

Corrine slept through the night, waking every few hours to change positions or rinse her mouth with water. Each time she woke she would ask me "Why is this taking so long?" She's in a hurry to get to heaven.

Then Corrine aswered her own question. "I guess God's still working on me." And then I began to cry, which turned to deep weeping, and she comforted me. It seems so backwards that Corrine, lying broken, is still caring for me. But that's God's grace—He can make good in every situation.

Corrine's pain medicine was increased yesterday. She isn't able to swallow very well and is reluctant to drink because it feels like 'something is stuck in her throat.' She was only able to swallow her pain medication today, so to we are going to use alternatives to control her other symptoms.

Corrine said goodbye to Anna and Camille when they left the house this morning for the day. She told them a story about her dog, Jacque, a toy poodle she had when their daddy Steve was growing up, and how much Jacque meant to her. She handed them each a small, white stuffed poodle and said "That's about how big Jacque was when we brought him home. You can take them home with you, they are yours to keep."

Corrine brought comfort and joy to both girls with that story and simple gift. It's so often the little things that mean so much.

If you want to visit Corrine, please scroll down and read the post labeled "Visitor Guidelines."


Thank you for your continued prayers and support!


-Angela



Friday, January 2, 2009

On Love, Friendship, and Marriage

Corrine is upstairs sleeping peacefully tonight as she has for much of the day. She remains comfortable and is conversant intermittently throughout the day. But in truth her body continues to fail her. You will recall that the cancer started in the esophagus which is located just above the stomach. Today is the first time Corrine has had a hard time swallowing which has obvious implications for eating and drinking.

The good news is that my mother is still very much herself. We had an intimate time with Don tonight as the two of them shared how they met and fell in love some 13 years ago (their anniversary is on January 6th, one day after my mother's 68th birthday). Don did most of the talking but my mother piped in with comments and her typical sense of humor. We all laughed and thoroughly enjoyed one another's company. The time was short, but sweet.

I have been thinking a lot about relationship. Marriage is one many of us know. Friendship is a relationship that I hope all of us know. It is a powerful thing.

A very long time friend of my mother's stopped by today to just sit with her. As it happened my mother woke up. Surprised to see her friend at her side she said "how long have you been there?" Her friend replied something to the effect of "Corrine, I have been here for you always, as long as I can remember." I can vouch for the validity of this statement and was reminded today of the power of friendship.

These snapshots of love, marriage and friendship give me pause to reflect on my own life. I am grateful to have deep relationships with friends an family. But now I am inspired to go deeper yet.

Onward and Upward.

Steve

Visitor Guidelines

Jennifer, the hospice nurse, just facilitated a very good conversation about the transition to heaven that Corrine is experiencing. We have decided, together, that as long as Corrine's pain can remain in control we will continue to care for her at home.

To best support Corrine, we ask that you please call before visiting. This does not lessen our love for you, but grows from our concern for Corrine. Jennifer emphasized that a quiet environment will help her make the transition more peacefully.

If you have visited Corrine recently, we kindly ask that you leave space today for those who have not had a chance to say goodbye.

If you would like to visit, remember to call first. For those visiting, please keep these things in mind:
  1. All visits need to be kept short. Plan on spending about 3 minutes with Corrine.
  2. When you talk with Corrine, please talk to her... Don't try to draw her into conversation or ask her questions... Her role now is to be a listener.
  3. Keep conversations outside of her 'room' in very low voices as sound carries through out the home.
Thank you for helping us love Corrine.

-Angela

In Corrine's Own Words

I have had a very sweet time with my mother this morning. There is no doubt she is tired and fading quickly, but she is at peace. She asked that I share with you what she feels and is thinking about today.
  • She wants her friends and family to know that "all is well with her soul"
  • She wants you to know that she is "excited to see Jesus, I'm getting closer"
  • And she asks that you "please forgive me for anything I've done that has been hurtful to you"

These moments bring life (and death) into focus so sharply and quickly. I think what my mom wants more than anything for us left behind is to experience a little more heaven here on earth. What that means is for us to have right relationship with God and with each other. Relationships are a gift from God that he so wanted us to enjoy and receive that He sent his only son, Jesus, to show us the way and to heal us so that we might know intimacy more fully with God and man. This is His gift to us, that we might be reconciled here on earth and begin to experience a taste of life here as it is in heaven. Right relationship is at the center of the secret to living life eternally, beginning today.

Until next time...

Steve

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Good Day

Corrine had a good day today. She was able to rest well and experienced only minor, intermittent pain. Pearly, her elder sister, was able to spend a good part of the day with Corrine at her bedside. It was a very special time for both of them.

My girls (Anna age 2 and Camille age 4) are doing super. When they are around my mother is the most alert with a great big smile. It is amazing to me how children can light up a room and how willing they are to love regardless of one's circumstances. One of the highlights for Susanna and I was watching Camille read (actually recite by memory) a bedtime story to their grandmother before bed tonight. Very special indeed.

I asked my mother not long ago what advice she might have for those of us she leaves behind. The answer was two fold: First, pursue Jesus and second "simplify". I continue to reflect on these words as we continue down this road.

One last thought before I sign off for the night regarding prayer. Remember how Jesus prayed. "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Until tomorrow...

Steve

Using e-mail to organize help

Thank you so much to everyone who has offered to help. We really appreciate the support.

On a practical note, organization and communication is very difficult for us. We have different people answering the phone, long distance phone calls, critical calls from Hospice, and distracted minds to contend with.

In order to make our care for Corrine as easy as possible, instead of calling to volunteer to help with any current or future requests, please e-mail Corrinesfamily@gmail.com

New Help Requests

1. A friend of Corrine's from Arvada Covanent Church is helping to organize food for the family. Please e-mail how you would like to help. For example, can you provide an entire meal for _# of people—or would you rather provide a portion of the meal, or, are you flexible? If you do not hear back immediately, don't worry, it's just because Don and Corrine are so popular : )

2. We are also trying to look ahead and find people who would be willing and able to host family or friends from out of town. If you have the space and the inclination, e-mail with the number of people you can comfortably host as well as the general area you live.

3. Transportation may also be needed, so if you have a vehicle and you are a safe driver... no crazy drivers please : ) e-mail us the type of vehicle as well as number of people you can safely transport.

Thank you for your understanding about using this new e-mail address as our primary mode of communication for the help we need.

Corrinesfamily@gmail.com

Continue to use the 'comments' part of the blog to post encouragements. We read them to Corrine as we recieve them.

Thank you for your love, prayer, and support.

-Angela

Welcome 2009

Corrine had a peaceful night with angels standing guard. She experienced her own fireworks show, only this time it was much less frightening for her.

We are going to take today one minute at a time. Likely, Corrine's visitors will need to be limited, both in number and duration. We are going to try to keep upstairs as peaceful for her as possible, but there is space in the basement for conversation and memory swapping, as well as for the grandchildren to play.

I don't know Don's family and friends well, so I can't identify who might be a good support for him. But you know who you are! We (her family) don't want to discourage you from visiting and supporting Don in any way. We love him too and want him cared for in this trying time.

-Angela

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Good night 2009!

Thank you to everyone who helped today; we have felt the support. Food, omputer help, visits, cards, and comments from the blog have all been very encouraging.

Corrine was surprised this afternoon with the visit of her older sister Pearly and her husband, Wayne. We heard about Corrine as a six year old wearing a beautiful blue dress her sister pressed for her and dancing around with a camisole. So I guess she has always been a vivacious girl! After hearing that story, Corrine told me she was looking forward to dancing in heaven because she's always had two left feet.

Corrine also had several other adoring fans come visit her. Susanna, Steve's wife, and two loving girls, Camille and Anna. They brought with them a load of energy as they climbed onto the bed to give hugs. Corrine's face lit up with joy as she expressed her love for them.

Corrine was able to take her evening medications and the nausea is under control for the time being, but breathing is beginning to slow and become less rhythmic. The pain has continued to be in control for the time being.

We know there is a crowd of angels waiting for Corrine and watching over us. Corrine wanted me to express her love to all of you and to tell you above all that "God is Good! And He loves you very much!"

Talk to you next year,
Angela

Something you can do

Please feel free to post notes to Corrine using the blog. We can easily read these to her when she has energy. I'm sure she will find encouragement in your words.

To do this, click on the "# comments" link at the bottom of any post. At the bottom of the following page you can add a new comment.

Steve

Visitors, please read

Thankfully, it looks as if the pain has been managed since about 8 am, and we have anti-anxiety medications coming soon. We met Corrine's nurse, Shirley, who is very compasionate and clear... I feel we have a good basis of care-takers, and they are just a call away.

Corrine has had a very busy day, meeting with the social worker to discuss how to talk to young ones, business meetings, and meeting her new nurse and having a physical assesment.
All of this action has made her very tired.

Corrine is requesting that visitors be kept limited. So, if you are planning a visit, know that we are attempting to keep the place as quiet as possible for her. Please do not ring the bell, and meet with Don, Steve, or Angela before going to visit Corrine. We will let you know if she is sleeping, or if she would like you to step in for a short visit.

If you have talked with me previously about helping me with the things on the list, please plan on coming. I will be available.

Thank you, Angela

1st night at home

Well, we made is through our first night. Corrine woke up very frightened around 2am. She saw "a bright light, like fireworks going up in the sky." At her request, we called the hospice nurse and they responded immediately... the nurse drove right over. When she arrived Corrine had already calmed down a bit with Don and me at her side.

The hopice nurse decided not to do a complete assessment since movement causes pain and Corrine had found a comfortable position. The nurse did talk to the three of us and explained that Corrine was going through changes rapidly. The dreams, as well as the fear, are often part of that change. We were directed to talk to our regular nurse about anti-anxiety medication to keep her more comfortable.

As always, Corrine is showing her concern for others. She is concerned for her grand-children. So, we are going to talk with Hospice about how to best talk to younger children about her illness. Her grandchildren are 17, 5, 4, 3, and 2.

So, that's the plan for the day. I will try to keep this updated as possible... also, please keep your eyes open for "help needed" posts and call if you can help. We sure could use it.

Thanks,
-Angela

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Help Needed

1. Computer Skills: I need someone with good computer skills who can help create a medical chart to meet with me (Angela) personally and create a chart we can use to keep track of her medication. Thanks, we have this covered

2. Shake deliverer: Corrine likes a specific type of shake from the shop just a few miles from the house. I was hoping to get one delivered. Thanks, we have this covered

3. Personal Shopper: We need a few things that can be found at a super-market: Contact lense solution for soft contact lenses, Cytaphil lotion (the runny kind, not the thick kind), 2% milk, instant oatmeal, ripe avacado, Arboro rice (rice used to make rissoto) and apple juice.
Thanks, we have this covered

4. Baby Monitors: We would like to borrow a set of high quality, easy to operate baby monitors to help us better serve Corrine. Thanks, We have this covered!


PLEASE CALL (after 8am) for details and to set up a time!!!

I will try to make note here as soon as the request is filled... it is important to call so we don't get repeats.

By the way, please ask for Angela if I do not answer the phone.

Thank you!

Settled at Home

We have made Corrine as comfortable as possible in her new 'bedroom.' She has had a very hard day with the stress of coming home, getting all of the equipment bought or rented and placed appropriately, and getting used to her new care-givers (currently Don and Angela with help from friends and family). It is a steep learning curve! Thank you to everyone who made it happen.

We did finalize our relationship with Hospice and have already needed to contact the on-call nurse to get help with her pain control. They were very kind. One of Corrine's regular nurses meets with us tommorrow to further assess her progress and make adjustments as necessary.

Corrine was not able to eat today, but is still able to drink and swallow her pain medicine. We will see what tomorrow brings.

To be completely honest about her situation, the doctors are estimating her time with us to be very short (one doctor said it was likely to be a few days to a few weeks). That makes it a quick adjustment for those who love her.

As of right now, visitors are welcome (she really likes the support), but please call before you come... Thank you for your understanding!

-Angela

"Be Still and Know that I am God!"

Going Home to Arvada

Corrine has made some important decisions. She has decided to sign up with the local Lutheran Hospice and they have been working today to make coming home a good transition. Don is currently shuffling furnature to make room for the new hospital bed which will be delivered shortly. And her medications have already arrived.

She is going to be residing in the family room. She'll have a beautiful view of the mountains and lake, as well as the fireplace that also acts as great temperature control (it's gas).

Since Corrine will be home and someone will always be with her, we'll try to be good about answering calls. If we are unable to answer, please leave a message. And, you can also leave a 'comment' on the blog and we will be sure to read it to her. Corrine has been enjoying the cards and letters she has been getting and is encouraged to know people are praying for her as well as her family and friends.

I'm going to go get Corrine now (Tuesday around 2:00 pm) and she'll have just enough time to get settled before the Hospice team arrives.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Plans to Go Home

Corrine is currently at the hospital, but is scheduled to be discharged tomorrow. She was given 2 units of blood today, and it seems that the new pain regimen is working well. The tumor is proving to be very aggressive and is the cause of Corrine's internal bleeding. The doctors can not locate the specific source of the bleeding, nor can they stop the bleeding in any way. They also cannot be sure of the rate that she will continue to bleed. Currently Corrine seems to be losing blood at a 'moderate' rate. To put that in perspective, yesterday Corrine lost almost a full unit of blood. By God's grace, it seems Corrine may not have to face a long, drawn-out battle with cancer.

We met with the local Lutheran Hospice today and it looks like they will be a good match. They are close to home and come with good recommendations. Corrine is still in the process of making the final decision with the support of friends and family.

I have altered my plans and will continue to stay in Colorado so I can be as supportive as possible. In addition, my brother, Steve is planning to fly in on Wednesday.

Everyone is lending their support, which we really appreciate. Look for updates soon if you are looking for a way of supporting Corrine and her family. We will be creating a calendar and hope to find a more organized way for people to volunteer.

Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers!

-Angela

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A note from the creators of 'Loving Corrine'

Hello, I'm Angela and I'm Corrine's number one fan, I'm Corrine's Daughter! I know how important it is that you know about how the people you care about are doing. Because Corrine is loved by so many people, we want to make that process as easy as possible. We thought that by creating a blog we would eliminate the e-mail chain and make it easy for you to follow her progress day by day. My husband, Rod, set up this blog today and I will try to make entries as often as possible. Some days, other people may post in my stead.

I usually reside in Tacoma, WA but I am hoping to be with Corrine as much as I can as we all go on this journey together. Thank you for coming along. Your prayers and encouragement are felt!

So, here is the update...

Corrine has been at Good Samaritan Hospital since Friday for pain management. She is in the process of working with the doctors and nurses to find a regimen that will enable her to manage the pain with oral medications that can be monitored at home. We'll be meeting with doctors and in-home care-givers tomorrow and if all goes as planned, she may be released.

Corrine is in the process of making important decisions about hospice care. There are several programs offered by Kaiser (her health insurance). We recognize the importance of this decision and pray the right hospice for her will surface.

For now, Corrine is celebrating Steve, Susanna, Camille and Anna's (son and family) decision to move to Arvada for a month. Due to Steve's ability to work from anywhere, and their desire to be close, they have sub-letted (rented) a place in Old Town, Arvada. Some shopping may be necessary to have the clothing appropriate for Colorado climate, since Chico, California doesn't get much snow. They are looking forward to spending time with friends and family in the Colorado area.

We'll keep you posted as soon as we know more.

-Angela

Purpose of this Blog


We created this blog as a way to help keep you—Corrine's family and friends—informed about her health and related challenges as they unfold. Things change so quickly, it's hard to let all of you know where things stand at any given time. We'll keep it updated as best we can.

Thank you for the prayers, help, and other support you've already given. Please keep them coming.