The Secret Place

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He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty

Pardon all the Old English, but this song, written by James MacDermid in 1908 is locked in my musical memory, and rises to my lips from time to time.  It’s taken from David’s 91st Psalm. 

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night
Nor the arrow that flieth by day
Nor the pestilence that walketh in darkness
Nor the destruction that wasteth at noonday

Click HERE to listen to The Ninety First Psalm sung by Edward Palmer

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge,
Even the most High, thy habitation,
There shall no evil befall thee
Neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling

I couldn’t find a recent or updated recording but I love the words and the music.  Over the last month I’ve made it into a prayer.  Not just recited words, but words that have been hidden in my heart since voice lessons during college.  When tempted to be fearful about my cancer diagnosis, and upcoming cancer surgery, and the possibility of treatments after that, I’ve asked God to keep me dwelling in His secret, protected, shadow, where He shields from danger.  I’ve asked Him to be my refuge, my dwelling place, because close to Him, evil can’t touch me.  His angels are all around me, guarding me from stumbling and tripping up in my fears.  Many a night over the last month, with the constant knowledge that there is cancer in my body, and not knowing how much, I’ve whispered these prayers to the Lord as I drift off to sleep.  Oh what comfort.

For He shall give His angels charge over thee
To keep thee in all thy ways.
They shall bear thee up in their hands
Lest thou dash thy foot against a stone,
Against a stone

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All of this reassurance, and promise of protection, had more to do with my fears, than the cancer.  More to keep me from evil temptations to doubt God’s goodness, or fall apart with anxiety, than the number of cancer cells, or the type.  After all, I was trusting my Lord back in 2002 when He allowed me to have stage 3 cancer, (with a 50% chance of a 5 year survival) and the ensuing year of treatments.  During that season He kept me close and gave me courage, and walked through the trial with me.  Then with Gary's 9 year illness, we both knew the closeness of our Lord and were continually en-couraged by Him.  Then for the last 60 days, He kept me close again and gave me courage, and eliminated the cancer with no further treatment needed. 

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty
He shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty

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Someday I will likely get sick again, probably more than once, and He will comfort and strengthen me then too, until I finally enter His presence and see my savior face-to-face.   We live in a fallen world, so there are repercussions, illness being just one of them.  No one is exempt.  I am grateful to God that we have incredible medical advancements, and I received GREAT care by my health care team, but as a Christian, I know everything is an opportunity to glorify God, so let me say PRAISE GOD today.  Yes, for healing me quickly this time, but mostly for walking along with me, giving me comfort, and strength. 

The Lord said...“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him.  I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.  He will call on me and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.  With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16

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Success To Spare

A few days ago I had the privilege of telling our story to a group of ladies at our church about our 9-year trial.  I was asked to share how God had helped us along the way.  It's been 5 months since Gary went to Heaven and it was the first time I'd gathered my thoughts about our years with Alzheimer's Disease as a whole, and the key ways our Lord impacted us during that time.  It's a story of God's power on display through human weakness.  If you would like to listen, click on the photo of Gary and I below.  (It's audio of my talk along with a slideshow of the photos I showed during my talk.)  OR, If you would rather read the notes of my talk they are posted below the photo. 

To listen to the talk, click this photo:  (If you are viewing this in an email, you may need to view in your browser. 

To read my notes, start here:

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you for power is perfected in weakness.”  Most gladly therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I’m so happy to be here tonight to BOAST about my weaknesses because Christ used them to display His power.  In order to do that, I need to go back a few years so you can see how God gave us more than we needed to succeed.  Tonight you’re going to hear a sad story, but I don’t want you to be sad. You may be afraid that something like this would happen to you, but I don’t want you to fear.   You may be right in the middle of something just as hard or harder, but I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed.   I want to encourage you.  I want to bring us to the God of grace who wants to strengthen you.  I want you to smile with me at our great God, because I’m going to tell you what He has done. 

40 years ago...

my husband and I promised God that we would love and serve each other no matter what.  “For better or worse.  For richer or poorer.  In sickness and in health.”  Looking back, we are grateful to God for our daughters, their husbands, and our grandchildren.  We began attending Grace about 34 years ago and loved serving in the college ministry here for many years.  Gary was an electrical contractor and I helped him with his business.  We lived in the same home our entire marriage and had no plans to leave it ever.  We were enjoying our grandkids and looked forward to travels to visit family and friends. Our lives were full and like most people, we had plans and dreams for the future.  Our plans were not to be.

About 9 years ago, Gary began to have difficulty with his thinking, particularly with problem-solving.  This showed up in his work first and then other areas.  Because of some other things going on right then, we both wrote it off to his being over-worked and super busy, but the cognitive problems got worse.  We sought medical help.  At this point, it was clear, he had “mild cognitive impairment” so there were months and months of medical and psychological tests to discover the cause, and after eliminating a long list of possibilities, it was determined that he had Early Onset Alzheimer’s Type Dementia.  He was only 57.  (Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and is rarely contracted under age 60.  Dementia is an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities.  I would guess that most of you have someone in your family or know someone who has dementia of some form.  As the Baby Boomers age, there are going to be more and more who suffer with it.)   

Shortly after Gary’s diagnosis...

he asked me to find the Alzheimer’s Association website so he could read about the typical symptoms of his disease.  (Memory Loss, Confusion, Personality changes, Repetitive behavior, Loss of communication, and the ability to walk, sit or control his body.  Eventually he would need full time assistance with everything.)  I watched him read the list, with tears in his eyes.  He never asked about it again but a few days later he prayed with our friends and asked God “that during his illness, he never do anything that would dishonor the Lord.”  He feared that as he would lose control of his mind, he would do something sinful, but Gary didn’t panic, get angry at God, or beg Him to take it away.  He submitted himself to God’s plan for him.  Gary was content with the biggest, scariest trial he would ever face.  It was scary for both of us because we knew what would likely happen as the disease would progress, and we would begin the “long goodbye.”  But even so, back in 2010, Gary shared the Lord with our 4 year old granddaughter.  He was barely speaking at the time when he very clearly said to her… ”When you get to know my Jesus, it’s gonna be great!” 

"I am well content with weaknesses..."

I wasn’t always well content…I had my own set of fears. 

Would we both be unselfish enough to go through this trial in a way that pleases the Lord? 

I would have to give up my time, pursuits, energy for the sake of serving Gary completely.  He would have to give up the things he loved, his work, his home, his fish pond.  Gary’s responsibilities were added to my own, and it was a crushing weight.  The transition into my new role was not always smooth.

 Early on someone gave me a wonderful book by Robertson McQuilken who gave up his career in order to care for his wife with dementia, because of his vows of love before God.  This book set the tone for me.  God used this man’s wonderful example to encourage unselfishness in my life.  This trial really revealed the idols in my heart that were stealing my worship away from God.  I found that “keeping things the same and comfortable” was an idol in my life.  At times I resisted the changes coming.  It was a grace of God that He revealed this to me.

 Would I be able to keep Gary at home with me or would he need a nursing home?

I couldn’t bear the thought of him not being with me, yet what if I wasn’t capable of caring for him.

Would I keep loving Gary when he no longer knows me? How do you love completely with no return on that love? 

He was already getting confused about who I was.  He thought I had a twin sister who was trying to come between us.  Between these episodes and the loss of his abilities to care for himself, there were many tears and prayers shed together.  The losses were painful.  I was in desperate need of grace and strength.   

“I am well content with distresses.” 

On top of the personal losses, there were financial losses. 

We had financial needs. – Recently I was going over the events of the early years of the trial.  Things were so difficult then.  With Gary’s diminished capacity to work, we needed extra help to keep business alive, until we knew what was wrong.  His business had been suffering for multiple reasons, but mostly because of his increasing mental problems.  There was a real estate investment we had made before we knew Gary was sick, and it became a financial burden because Gary couldn’t keep up with it.  We were financially unprepared for Gary to stop working.  Once we knew what was wrong with Gary, we closed our business but that meant we lost our medical insurance as well as income.    We were left with no resources of our own, and had to depend completely on God to care for us.  HE DID.  There were financial gifts and practical helps abounding from the body of Christ.

God showed us that He was listening to my cries for help in a remarkable way. – I decided to apply for a job at our local Starbucks.  For minimal hours there were full benefits, so we could get our medical insurance.  It was close to our home and Gary could stay alone for short periods at that time.  I don’t know how I got the job, apart from the Lord.  There was a group interview with about 15 young people.  Around the circle of applicants we were all asked ‘Why we wanted to work for Starbucks.’  Many noble answers were given, such as ‘wanting to be part of the SB community,’ or ‘wanting to change the world’ by selling such a good product that is fairly traded, and helping third world farmers.   When it came round to me I said, “I really need a part time job, close to home that provides medical benefits.”  The next day I got a call from the local store manager, and I was hired.   I asked for the opening shift so I could get home to Gary when he was waking up.  I was there for two years while we waited for Gary’s Medicare to begin.  Though it was not an easy job, it was perfectly tailored to our needs, by the One who upholds us with his strong arm. 

Those years were exhausting. – I had to be at work from 4:00 am -8:00 am every weekday.  When home I was liquidating Gary’s electrical inventory, tools and truck.  There were many medical appts., as well as my regular activities.  On top of that, our house was becoming a burden, since Gary was unable to take care of all the maintenance issues in the house and garden.  I'd get off work, come home and mow the lawn or fix broken sprinklers...the things Gary used to do.  I decided we should downsize and sell our beloved home.  That added more work to do as we prepared it to sell.  Looking back, it is amazing to me that I was able to persevere during these two years.  Only by God’s strength.

“I am well content with difficulties.”

What seemed difficult for us, was easy for God.

There were so many difficult unknowns.  How would we survive financially?  Gary was confused about who I was.  Our ministry at Grace was fading away.  We ended up switching from College Ministry to Mainstream because Gary couldn’t keep up with the pace and the constantly changing faces of the college students any more.  For instance, he used to be involved in the lives of the students, having conversations on a Sunday morning, but he increasingly withdrew, getting his coffee and donut and sitting down alone.  It seemed our usefulness in the body of Christ was ending.  I didn’t know that God was preparing us for a future ministry.  I will tell you about it later.

In 2010 we moved to a smaller place that I could manage.  At the beginning Gary and I went for walks and even took a couple of trips across country to see family, but his physical difficulties progressed, confusion got worse and soon we were staying close to home, limiting our days out.  Gary’s world got smaller and smaller.  So mine did too.  I was depressed for several weeks over how Gary was declining so rapidly.  This verse really ministered to my heart then, and repeatedly since.

 “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32

If God gave the very greatest gift for our good, then everything else He gives is good for us too.  Through redirecting my thinking to what was true, God healed my heart and restored my joy.  I referred back to this verse many times during the ensuing years.

One year later

in 2011, my sweet parents (both in their 90’s) moved in across the street.  It was such a blessing to have them nearby but as their needs increased over the next three years, a new layer of responsibility was laid upon our family.  I was able to help them some, but eventually caregivers were needed for them as well as Gary.  During the next 3 years, even though there were ups and downs, we settled into our trial.  It was at this time that God did an amazing thing.  In addition to 6 caregiving hours, Gary and I received wonderful support from our Bible Study and other friends at church.  But on the days I was alone with him, Gary was needing more assistance than I could give him.  Most of the time, Gary was content to sit in his recliner and listen to music or work with his "projects."   But when I needed to move Gary to the restroom, or in or out of the car, or getting ready for bed, or up in the morning, my body was getting hurt.  The wheel chair was heavy.  My hands hurt, trying to help Gary dress, as he gripped the fabric.  Supporting him as he “scissor stepped” was hurting my shoulder.  Something needed to change… I told the family:  "What we really need is a young man with a strong back who can help with sporadic physical and personal needs throughout the day...10-15 minute segments and then go.  It doesn't make financial sense to hire someone to be here all the time, since caregivers need a 3 hour minimum and they'd be sitting twiddling their thumbs 90% of the time."  Well of course that seemed impossible.  The timing seemed right for a live-in helper, but we couldn't even think of the right type of person.  A student would be gone too much.  A retired person likely lacks strength.  The Lord had provided the room, but who could fill the bill?  We ended the discussion with "We'll just have to keep praying about it, and see if the Lord will work it out.”

Just a few days later, April called. A young man in their college ministry in Florida who had been praying for us, and following my blog, said he’d really like to come out to California to help you both.  He wondered if you'd like his help?"  He’s a CNA, works from home, loves Jesus, responsible, young, strong, and willing to exchange rent for care.  No one suggested this to him.  God prompted him to come to our aid.   Jason was with us during a very important transitional time and served us wholeheartedly during those months.   He forever endeared himself to our family.  He will always be a reminder that... “God is intimately acquainted with all my ways.” Ps. 139 

God had been graciously strengthening us for seven years.  He proved His power in our lives in each daunting situation.  I think it was to prepare us for 2014.  We would need it more than ever.  It is hard to describe the stresses and losses of last year.  Even with all the good help from family, friends, and caregivers, there were times I wondered how I could manage to help all three of my dear ones. I felt like I was putting out fires constantly.  For most of the year I was managing 9 caregivers between the two households.  Gary became completely bed-bound, sleeping comfortably 22 hours a day, only awake while being fed his pureed food or having his teeth brushed.  On the rare occasion he actually opened his eyes he did not appear to recognize me.  He could do nothing for himself.  My father was bed bound from a small hip fracture, and my mother was hospitalized with a heart condition.  Things deteriorated and by October, both of my parents were in Heaven.  There was much to do in planning their memorial services, settling their affairs and selling their home.  There was little time to grieve their loss.  I found myself increasingly lonely for Gary, sad about his condition, and overwhelmed with the pace of life and big decisions to be made throughout the year. 

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Remember…2 Corinthians…

“When I am weak, then I am strong.” I was strengthened over and over.   In fact God gave me victory over these things.  Here’s how:

“In all these things we over-whelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”

Romans 8:35-37- Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Just as it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

Pastor John explained in his commentary that to "overwhelmingly conquer" means to “Over conquer.”  It's having victory with "success to spare."  If we belong to Christ, He will make us victorious in our weaknesses. 

Yes, I was lonely. 

Since 2011 there had been no more “I love yous,” but I found that God was enough.  When the feelings of loneliness rose up, I called a family member or friend, to ask for prayer.  I remembered Romans 8:32; that God made the greatest sacrifice and would fill the voids in my heart.  I did not despair. He heard every cry of my heart and provided encouragement every time I needed it.  It might be a special verse, note from a friend, or remembrance of something Gary had said in the past.  Remember that at the beginning I feared that I wouldn’t be able to love Gary enough.  God gave me more love than ever for Gary.  That’s SUCCESS TO SPARE!

Yes, I was sad. 

Gary’s ability to read, talk, smile, understand, steadily diminished for years.  Thankfully, he was comfortable and peaceful, but watching his helplessness was heart wrenching at times.  Early on, by GRACE, I began “thinking about what is true.” (Phil.4)  This trial was not going to go away.  I tried to embrace that fact, and began to think of ways to give Gary a meaningful life.  (flip book, memory books, gadget box)  This has turned into ministry on my website.  It gave me SO MUCH JOY to do these things for Gary. GOD CONQUERED SADNESS WITH JOY!  That’s SUCCESS TO SPARE

 


Yes, I was easily overwhelmed and uncertain. 

2014 was a rollercoaster ride.    It is hard to pace your life, when you don’t know how much longer your dear loved ones will be alive.  There were multiple events across the street.  My mom had heart problems, my dad was falling and ended up with a hip fracture and bed bound for 6 weeks.  The days with my parents were precious and I’m so glad they were nearby.  I would not have been able to travel to be with them.  During this crazy time, my health began to give me trouble.  Headaches, blood pressure, weight gain, allergies, neck pain.  I was encouraged to get refreshment in order to not “burn out” so I knew I needed to carry on with my life a little.  I enjoyed a couple of small trips last year, some special weddings, and kept up with my artwork which is always a sweet time for me to think and relax.  I feel like I’ve been in a time capsule for years and lost time with my family and friends, especially the grandkids.    Gary’s condition was fairly stable as he slowly declined, but precarious.  Some event would occur that would take his life.  A bed sore could lead to a systemic infection.  Aspirating his food or drink could lead to pneumonia.  Failure to swallow, could lead to starvation.  He was so weak, that I began praying that God would take him home in God’s perfect time.  On the other side of this trial, He is giving me back the postponed relationships and my body is recovering.  GOD CONQUERED UNCERTAINTY WITH TRUST.  That’s SUCCESS TO SPARE!


Yes, I was in need of wisdom.

There were so many big decisions to be made, and my “head” couldn’t help me.  (I could use the entire evening on this point alone, but will just give you a couple of examples.)  Should I continue going to church on Sundays without Gary?  Should Mom and Dad go to assisted living?  How many caregivers could they afford to hire?  What about “end of life” planning?  What would Gary want?  How long should my mom be on life support?  After Mom died, should my Dad live with me?  When should my dad go into Hospice care?  Etc., Etc. 

Hooray for James 1:5.  “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach and it will be given to him.”  Absolutely true!  Every time I faced a big decision, the Lord gave me the wisdom I was asking for.

Gary set the example for me way back in 2007.  It was a time when he was confused about my identity, and was unsure if he could trust me to sign a Social Security form I’d asked him to.   He went missing one day and 45 minutes later I got a call from our pastor, Rick Holland.  Gary was in his office getting his advice, making sure it was ok to sign.  Rick reassured him and Gary signed and came home.  That incident, laid the groundwork for me when up against big decisions throughout the following years.  I will never forget it.  GO TO YOUR ELDERS!  Heb 13:17 “they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.” 

Many decisions I needed to make involved our family.  Thankfully, my daughters and their husbands are all believers so their advice was invaluable to me as well.  We came together over many issues to see what the Word of God said.  One of them helped me think through my concerns with going to church without Gary.  Leaving Gary with a caregiver on a Sunday morning was one of the hardest things I had to do.  I would be a weeping mess during the hymns.  Why? Grateful to be there, praising God’s character, but sad to leave Gary at home after so many years of being at Grace together.  But God wants us to meet together with the body on the Lord’s Day.  By His Grace, I chose to obey, and it was such a blessing every Sunday morning to know I was pleasing God. 

GOD CONQUERED MY QUESTIONS WITH BIBLICAL ADVICE.  That’s SUCCESS TO SPARE!


In all these things...

'GARY AND LAURIE, overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.’

Our Pastor, JOHN MACARTHUR wrote… “Just as we can only love God because he first loved us, we can only hold on to God because he holds on to us.  We can survive any threatening circumstance, and overcome any spiritual obstacle that the world or Satan puts in our way because…‘in all these things, we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.’ Romans 8:37”

Continuing in Romans 8, For I am convinced that neither death (Gary’s death) nor life (my life alone) nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present (our trial, your trial), nor things to come (the unknowns we fear), nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, (even Alzheimer’s Disease) will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   

Forty years ago...

I said “…till death do us part.”  Five months ago God parted us and I said “good-bye” to my Gary.  Gary is in Heaven with his Savior.  He is fine now, "extremely fine.”  He is finally "home" and I am so relieved and thrilled for him.  His mind is whole.  He is experiencing joy like never before, because, at the beginning of his Alzheimer’s, he wrote in his own words…

 “I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ…to be all He represented Himself to be in the Bible.  The Christ, the Son of God.  I believe Him to be the soon and coming King.  I am not a believer by birth, nor can I be without God enabling me.  Jesus has forgiven all my sins, and has made me a member of His family.” G.P. 

One of his favorite verses is:

Romans 6:23 - “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If you don’t know Jesus, and have not yet turned from your sins, and submitted to His Lordship in your life, please don’t delay in making things right with God, through Christ.  There is no victory, no success apart from Him. 

Meanwhile, my earthly life goes on.


My hopes of Gary smiling at me, or saying a word, or noticing if I walk through the room, are over.  But now there is something new.  Feelings of joy and satisfaction, for Gary's new condition.   I can’t wait to see Gary again, in Glory, where he and I will be face to face with the One who made it possible for us to keep our vows and love each other “no matter what.” I'm forever grateful to God for allowing us to travel this road together upheld and strengthened by the love of God.

My 40 year ministry of serving my husband is over.  God has me changing gears and it feels odd.  Please pray for me going forward.  As I grieve the loss of my Gary, I want to grieve in a way that brings God the attention and honor He deserves, letting others know that God is more than enough for any problem or loss, for those who are truly His.  It’s easy to get ‘self-focused’ as a new widow, with many options before me.  I want to make the best use of this time for the Kingdom.  The faithfulness of God has not diminished just because Gary is not here with me anymore.  God was faithful and good to Gary.  That was evident in his life.  The same faithful and good God is MY God too.  I am excited to see how else He will continue to display His strength through my weakness.

One of the things I’m most looking forward to is being useful at our Alzheimer’s Dementia ministry at GCC. We meet on the last Saturday morning of each month, for breakfast, spiritual encouragement, and prayer.  We offer others spiritual support.  Please pray for this very special ministry.  There are no doubt many in our church who are touched by dementia, and could use the spiritual refreshment.  Perhaps you would like a place to serve.  Some in our group have a hard time coming to church, because there’s no one to sit with their loved one at home for a couple hours, or assist them on the campus.  (i.e. You can’t drop off a loved one with dementia while you go park.  They will wander away.)  Others need help applying online for govt. services.  The needs of primary caregivers are great and always changing.  If you believe the Lord would want to use you to help us, please join us.  Please let others know about this and encourage loved ones to come. 

Pastor Rick McLean gives oversight to our group at Grace Community Church.  818-909-5519

I love sharing the practical things I’ve learned in caring for Gary.   I've made many of them available in the Alzheimer's Resources section of my website. 


I can’t think of a better way to finish our time together, than by reading what Susannah Spurgeon wrote after the death of her husband, and preacher, Charles Spurgeon.

I have traveled far now on life's journey; and, having climbed one of the few remaining hills between earth and Heaven, I stand awhile on this vantage-ground, and look back across the country through which the Lord has led me.

A well-defined pathway is visible, but it appears devious and wandering; sometimes skirting a mountain-top, whence one could catch glimpses of "the land that is very far off"; and, further on, descending into a valley shadowed by clouds and darkness. At one time, it runs along amidst steep places, and overhanging rocks; at another time, it winds across an open plain, brilliant with the sunshine of goodness and mercy, and fanned by breezes which are wafted from the fields of Heaven.

There are flowers of joy and love growing all along the way, even in the dark places; and "trees which the Lord has planted," give shade and shelter from too great heat.

I can see two pilgrims treading this highway of life together, hand in hand—heart linked to heart. True, they have had rivers to ford, and mountains to cross, and fierce enemies to fight, and many dangers to go through; but their Guide was watchful, their Deliverer unfailing, and of them it might truly be said, "In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years."

Mostly, they went on their way singing; and for one of them, at least, there was no joy greater than to tell others of the grace and glory of the blessed King to whose land He was hastening. And when he thus spoke, the power of the Lord was seen, and the angels rejoiced over repenting sinners.

But, at last, they came to a place on the road where two ways met; and here, amidst the terrors of a storm such as they had never before encountered, they parted company—the one being caught up to the invisible glory—the other, battered and bruised by the awful tempest, henceforth toiling along the road—alone.

But the "goodness and mercy" which, for so many years, had followed the two travelers, did not leave the solitary one; rather did the tenderness of the Lord "lead on softly," and choose green pastures for the tired feet, and still waters for the solace and refreshment of His trembling child. He gave, moreover, into her hands a solemn charge—to help fellow-pilgrims along the road, filling her life with blessed interest, and healing her own deep sorrow by giving her power to relieve and comfort others.


Please pray for me and yourselves as well, that God’s strength would be abundantly displayed through our weaknesses.  Let us anticipate how our Lord will give us success to spare…enough for our own difficulties, with an overflow to help others also. 

 “in all these things, we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”

That’s Success To Spare! 

I would love to hear how God has strengthened you in your weakness, if you'd like to leave a comment below...

What's Next?

(A quick note here before I get started...  Our family wants to say a huge THANK YOU to those of you who came to Gary's celebration service on Saturday.  It was a truly wonderful morning.  Your presence with us was SO SPECIAL and my heart is about to burst with things I want to say about the morning.  That's for another post.   If you had to miss the service, it was recorded, and I'll let you know when it's available.)

Not sure what it will be yet...but right now, am basking in God's love, remembering my amazing husband, and thinking about the future.  In the three weeks since Gary's departure, many of you have asked me this question...

"So what are you going to be doing now?" 

Now that my number one love and ministry is not needing me anymore, my life is going to look a little different. 

One thing that struck me yesterday, is that the faithfulness of God has not diminished just because Gary is not here with me anymore.  God was faithful and good to Gary.  That was evident in his life.  The same faithful and good God is MY God too.  I am excited to see how He will display that in MY life in the years I have left. 

I don't know the details yet, but I do know some things for sure...  I want to spend more time with younger women, encouraging them to live lives pleasing to God.  (Titus 2)  I am looking forward to more time with grandkids so I can help them along the way as I enjoy them. 

"Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons." Deut. 4:9

As I move into my new role as a widow, there will be things to learn and discover.  Gary would want me to embrace it, and try to see God's work in my life.  There will be grief, but that is normal.  I will try to seek comfort from the Lord. 

In my home, Alzheimer's Disease is gone but I'm not walking away from those who are suffering from it.  I'm going to have more time now to help with our Alzheimer's Support Ministry at church.  I intend to continue making the little instructional videos to encourage care givers, and provide other resources as well.

Peace

I stood on our favorite beach yesterday, and cried, because the final chapter of Gary's life is finished, and I miss him.  It won't be the last tears, but there is peace in the missing.  It's so hard to explain and if you are a Christian, you know what I mean.  It's a deep-seated joy and comfort that comes from the One who gave His life in exchange for mine.  He said He would never leave or forsake me and he hasn't.  He said nothing would separate me from His love and it hasn't.  Gary is gone, but I am not alone.  I'm anticipating a closer relationship with the Lord, and new opportunities to see His grace and love in my life. 

I know there will be aspects of my future that will be really difficult but not impossible.  As you can see from this photo from Gary's Bible (Romans 8), nothing can separate Christians from the love of Christ.  In verse 38 you can see that includes DEATH.  Gary has died, but lives on.  He is fine.  I am fine.  I'm very much loved by God, because I'm in Christ.'  v.39

There will be joyful and sad discoveries, strange new feelings, and things to learn in these next weeks.  I'm wanting to bring you along this next part of my journey too.  Thank you for caring.  Thank you for listening.  I love to share with you and hope to continue doing so. 

Happy-Sad

It is hard to describe the opposing feelings within me.  Sadness and loss, are intensified, even though I've been saying "goodbye" to Gary for a long time.  The hopes of him smiling at me, or saying a word, or noticing if I walk through the room, are over.  But now there is something new.  Feelings of joy and satisfaction, for Gary's new condition.  He is finally "home" and I am so relieved and thrilled for him.  There is a new happy freedom for me too, as I can come and go, without giving thought to arranging for caregivers or concerns for Gary's well being.

He is fine now, "extremely fine,"  but I miss him.  When his body was taken away, it was really hard for me.  It was the form that his soul was housed in for nearly 65 years, and I loved the whole man.  Inside and out.  The finality of death added a new level of sadness to my life.  It was just the shell he lived in, but I've been one flesh with him for 40 years, and that is over.  "Widow" is a new title for me, but I'm Gary's widow, and he has shaped me.  We shaped each other.  God used us in each others' lives to cause growth.  I'm forever grateful to him. 

In this odd little time between Gary's death and his Memorial Service, coming up on Saturday, I've been crying and laughing.  I find myself habitually looking in our room to see how he is, feeling strange at the grocery store, when I don't need to pick up Gary's foods, and wishing he was here to talk to even though he couldn't respond.  But preparing for Saturday, is new and different, and I'm loving going through the old photos and memories as I write his eulogy.  It's such a neat way to receive comfort.  After next week, I'm sure I will start to explore the "new normal," but for now, I'm doing ok, and enjoying the busy preparations. 

Thank you all who are so lovingly caring for our family during this time.  My heart is empty and full and I'm ok with that.

Memorial Service

You are most welcome to join our family as we celebrate and remember Gary's life on Saturday, May 30, at Grace Community Church, (13248 Roscoe Blvd., Sun Valley, CA 91352) at 9:30 am in the Worship Center.  Reception following.

 




"Till Death Us Do Part"

Forty years ago I said “…till death do us part.”  Two days ago we were parted and I said “good-bye” to my Gary. For the last nine years I have been grieving the loss of my husband, and dreading the moment in time when we would be separated from each other and now it is here. I can’t wait to see him again, in Glory, where Gary and I will be face to face with the One who made it possible for us to keep our vows and love each other “no matter what.” My heart is empty and full at the same time.

Thank you for your love and prayers.

Memorial Service

You are most welcome to join our family as we celebrate and remember Gary's life on Saturday, May 30, at Grace Community Church, (13248 Roscoe Blvd., Sun Valley, CA 91352) at 9:30 am in the Worship Center.  Reception following.

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his godly ones." Psalm 116:15

Grasping at Straws

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The months are marching on.  Gary is sleeping through them.  He wakes a few times a day, and I tend to his physical needs.  His senses and strength are minimized to almost nothing.  I wonder that he is still living.  But he is living, and the other day, I cried just at the thought of him not being here.  I must confess mixed emotions and am not sure how to pace my life and thoughts, hoping that God will take him home to heaven where he can have a perfect mind, but joyful that he is still my earthly companion.    I’m so grateful that I’m not the one to decide Gary’s ultimate, and final departure from our marriage and this life.  I leave that to his Creator.

Connecting

Meanwhile, I still love him, and am finding joy in the littlest things.  Years ago I was the typical wife, full of expectations.  If Gary didn’t give me the attention I wanted, I was tempted to complain.  Things are different now.  Because those more obvious acts of love are missing, I am learning to appreciate more subtle “connections.” 

 2006 - Gary shares his ice cream with grandson, Micah. 

2006 - Gary shares his ice cream with grandson, Micah. 

When Gary's eyes open, sometimes for as long as 30 seconds, I spring into action, to get in front of his gaze hoping for a look of recognition, or I place one of his orchids on his tray table in front of him.  The funny thing is, by the time I have the plant in place, he’s asleep again, but I like to try anyway.   

Occasionally I give him his favorite…Coffee ice cream.  Only a few bites, but I think he still likes it based on how he eagerly takes it off the spoon.  It makes me smile because it reminds me of his nightly ritual bowl of ice cream for many, many years. 

 
 Commentary on Romans by H. Ironside

Commentary on Romans by H. Ironside

When he makes a monotone, humming sound I try to discern if he needs something, or is trying to sing, or speak.  I ask him to tell me more, and find myself praying that I will understand if I need to. 

I come across an underline in a book he’s read.  I read it to see what was important to him.  What did he want to remember?  It helps me continue to follow his lead, even now.

 

 

In past years, we talked and laughed and loved.  Currently our interactions are few and far between as I grasp at the straws of what’s left of Gary’s abilities.  I don’t have too many regrets over the years,  but it's good to remember that we can always be more appreciative and encouraging in our relationships.  I share these little incidents with you in the hopes that you will make the most of every opportunity to love your spouse, (or anyone in your life).  We are not promised next year or even tomorrow.  Don’t waste the time you’ve been given with your loved one.  

Redeem the Time

"Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is , through the living and enduring word of God.  For, ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF THE GRASS.  THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER."  (1 Peter 1:22-25)

Watercolor Journal - A Pebble in the Hand

Small actions end up meaning so much later on.  At the time, I didn’t know how much a few little rocks would mean to me.  Yes, they are pretty, and smooth, and remind me of a special place, but now they speak to me in a much deeper way.  Gary and I collected them at Moonstone Beach during our many visits here.  I’m here again.  This time alone since Gary can no longer leave the house.  It’s hard to leave him, even though I know he is well cared for, but I know he’d say… “GO!  Have Fun!”  So here I am. 

 

If interested click HERE for note card and print.

 

Last week, in anticipation of being here, I had the pleasurable experience of painting this exact handful of pebbles. 

 

 

 

 
 I stood still for about 20 minutes waiting for this Egret to get this close, and right after this he caught the mouse and took it farther away to dine in private. 

I stood still for about 20 minutes waiting for this Egret to get this close, and right after this he caught the mouse and took it farther away to dine in private. 

I’m here to relax, remember, and make some new memories of my own.  Today, in fact, I explored a new area nearby, and saw something new!  An Egret hunting in a grassy field, and catching a MOUSE if you can believe it!.  I’m so happy I got to see 5 of them when on a walk in the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.  They were too far away for a good photo, but easy to see in person. 

 

 

 

Gary was so good at noticing the unique things.  One time he’d say, “Let’s collect all GREEN pebbles this time.”  Another it was “Collect pebbles that look like jelly beans.”  Anyway, we did, and over the years have accumulated a few jars of smooth, little rocks.  One time I found all the colors of the rainbow and laid them out on Gary’s handkerchief.  He was also good at finding the perfect flat pebble for skipping too.  I marveled at how many skips he could get out of a throw. 

 

 

Why so special?  It was time spent together, marveling at Creation.  God didn’t have to make rocks in various hues, but He did.  He didn’t have to make light with a spectrum of color, but He did.  I’m happy to be here, for the both of us, being able to look at things with fresh eyes, and refreshed for serving again. 

Getting time away for respite looks different for everyone, but Jesus set the example for us long ago.  Let’s all try to find a way to follow in His footsteps. 

“But Jesus Himself would slip away to the wilderness and pray.” Luke 5:16. 


Precious Treasures

“For we have brought nothing into the world,

so we cannot take anything out of it either.” 

1 Tim. 6:7

We enter the world naked.  We bring nothing with us when we breathe our first breath.  Soon we are soothed, and wrapped in a blanket and maybe a little cap is put on our head. 

 My dad, Bill Ransom and his brother Richard.

My dad, Bill Ransom and his brother Richard.

We are showered with little baby gifts.  A rattle, a pacifier, a special blankie, a teddy bear. 

During our growing up years we accumulate toys, bikes, a special treasures we keep in a box...a feather, a special rock, or shell…memories.

 Dad, at age 17, with the trophy and the model airplane he built to win it.  It took him a year to build it from scratch. 

Dad, at age 17, with the trophy and the model airplane he built to win it.  It took him a year to build it from scratch. 

Soon our possessions get bigger, more expensive, more “weighty”…a car, a diploma, a house.  Items resulting from hobbies.  Collections.  Albums of memories.  Trophies. 

And so we use and enjoy our “things” for many years.  But, aging or disease or both come with physical and/or mental limitations.  Most of us have to think about downsizing eventually.

The “special” things get condensed and the “non-meaningful” things get tossed so we can live in a more manageable way. 

If we live a really long time, we’ll likely have to downsize again, maybe to just one room.  Special treasures, will be given to those who will appreciate them and everything else, will be given away or thrown out.  All that’s left is a bed, a bookcase, a dresser and whatever memories can hang on the walls.

Immediate surroundings may blur as our vision wanes, and the voices of those we love may be our last possession.

When death finally closed the eyes of my dad 10 days ago, even his wedding ring, never removed in 64 years, was no longer his, but became my precious possession. 

Some of us will outlive those we love.  My dad outlived my mom.  I am outliving him.

We enter with nothing.  We leave with nothing.

 Mom and Dad arrive at their new, smaller home.  June 2011

Mom and Dad arrive at their new, smaller home.  June 2011

When my ailing dad came to live with us 2 weeks ago, he was in the final downsizing phase of his life.  He and my mom had come to live in the condo, across the street from us 3 years ago.  Before that they moved from their large country home into a smaller house in town.  Each move generated bags of items for donation, trash, garage sale, or distributing to family and friends.  Each move left them with less. 

After 96 years, my dad’s soul left earth and went to Heaven.  I had the privilege of going through the experience of both my mom and dad departing Earth within the last 3 months.  One of the more poignant lessons has come from working my way down memory lane, going through the precious possessions that my parents left behind.  Since my parents were both very detailed and interested in family history, there are many treasures packed away, and most are labeled as to their origin.  Every time I open a new little box, and find a little note from them, it’s like they are still here.  I'm enjoying this process.

Some of the memories surfaced by these household items are not so pleasant.  For instance, my mom’s ankle brace, dad’s medications, walkers, wheelchairs, shower chair, hospital bed, etc., etc.; evidences of the effects of the Genesis Fall on 91 and 96 year old bodies.  I was so happy to dispose of these things and glad that neither one of them will ever again experience the maladies that plagued them in their later years.

God wants us to know that we come with nothing and will leave with nothing.  Well nothing “temporal” that is.  My dad left me with a precious treasure over the last 2 months of his life.  Our relationship grew in ways I hadn’t expected.  With my mom in Heaven, he and I shared some very precious moments, and short but meaningful things were said.  The Lord truly gave me some wonderful times with him, and precious memories, which glorify God, because of the way my dad trusted Jesus, and prayed together, in spite of some very trying times.  When struggling with his physical suffering, he would often end up saying “It’s in the Lord’s hands.” 

The ONLY things we take with us into the next life, are not "of this world" but they are very real.  Here's a few...

  • Our relationship with Christ, the salvation He provides, and all the spiritual blessings in the Heavenly places. (Ephesians 1)
  • Our relationship with other believers who we will enjoy eternity with as we worship God and enjoy him forever.  (1 Corinthians 2:9)
  • The blessings given to each Christian when they get saved, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  (Galatians 5:22-23)

 

 

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return there. 

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. 

Blessed be the name of the Lord.” 

Job 1:21

 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy,

and where thieves break in and steal. 

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven

where neither moth nor rust destroys,

and where thieves do not break in or steal;

for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

Matt. 6:19-20

 

 

 

 

 

Delayed, Disappointed, Confused?

It's a favorite of mine...Psalm 25.  In my Bible, it’s got underlines, and notes in the margin.  I'm drawn back to it when I have decisions to make or am feeling overwhelmed.  The first time in my life that Psalm 25 had a huge impact on me was 12 years ago, when I was fighting Stage III cancer.  David’s prayer-song has been a comfort to me ever since. 

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Many of you know my mom went to Heaven in July.  We are adjusting to the “new normal” with her gone.  My dad is lonely, in frail health, and though we enjoy being together, our short visits are limited since I can’t leave Gary alone.  Being responsible for my dad's care, is a weighty thing. 

Over the last months my health has been threatened with headaches, weight gain and overall tiredness.  My father broke his hip (now healed).  My mother died.  Gary has lost more weight, is now unable to walk and is confined to bed.  He no longer seems to recognize me or others. 

A recipe for depression?  Yes, BUT then God ministers to my heart .  God will NOT let His own be "put to shame."  In Hebrew, that means disappointed, delayed or confused. 

Now…let me walk through this precious Psalm and share my heart as I go…Ok?

1 To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

You’ve got my soul Lord.  All of my inmost parts.  Again I give myself to You.  You have my attention.  Nothing is beyond your concern, care and plans.  You are large and in charge. 

2 O my God, in You I trust, You are worthy of my trust! 

Do not let me be put to shame;

Don’t let me be delayed…Help me to pace my emotions & energy knowing that Your timing is perfect.

Don’t let me be disappointed…Let me see glimpses of the wonderful things going on in the midst of things not turning out the way I expected.

Don’t let me be confused…Give me clarity in the face of much information and many opinions.

Do not let my enemies (the enemies of my soul…Satan and his demons) exult over me. Don’t let them have the last laugh by discouraging me.

3 Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be put to shame;
Those who deal treacherously without cause will be put to shame.

What a sweet promise…that if I “wait” for You to act, I won’t be “delayed, disappointed or confused.”

4 Make me know Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.

I want to do what you would do, Lord.  Let your love and wisdom flow through me.

5 Lead me in Your truth and teach me, 
For You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day.

Keep me always learning from your Word because You are the One who saved me.  I'm eagerly looking to You for direction and help for the two frail men I love.


6 Remember, O Lord, Your compassion and Your lovingkindnesses,
For they have been from of old. 

Show Your compassion to Gary and my dad.  Be merciful to us. 

7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
According to Your lovingkindness remember me,
For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.

Lord, You are using the pressures and stresses of these days to reveal sin, lying beneath the surface in my heart.  You are good to do so.  Please forgive my impatience, and pride.

8 Good and upright is the Lord;
Therefore He instructs sinners in the way.

You are SO GOOD, to point me in the right direction.

9 He leads the humble in justice,
And He teaches the humble His way.

I’m incapable, inadequate, often wrong, and proud.  Keep me humble in order that I can follow Your lead.  

10 All the paths of the Lord are lovingkindness and truth
To those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.

ALL the paths…I’m so encouraged and comforted by this promise that everything You do, is merciful and true.  There is no unkindness or deception with You God.  Your ways are good, even these current difficult days. 

11 For Your name’s sake, O Lord,
Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.

Because of who You are, You forgive.

12 Who is the man who fears the Lord?  He will instruct him in the way he should choose.  His soul will abide in prosperity, And his descendants will inherit the land.

So many promises, to the one who fears God.  “He who fears God, has nothing else to fear.”  Spurgeon  Wisdom in decision making…Everything my soul needs…Care for my family...

14 The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him,
And He will make them know His covenant.

And more...Intimate relationship with the Lord and promises KEPT.


15 My eyes are continually toward the Lord,
For He will pluck my feet out of the net.

I want to keep looking to God for everything because he’s going to rescue me from temptation.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
For I am lonely and afflicted.

God, give Your grace to our family as we experience loss and suffering.  It is hard to see my dad and my husband like this. 

17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
Bring me out of my distresses.

My problems seem big to me but to you they are not.  Save me from MY actual distresses, and from "feeling" distressed. 

18 Look upon my affliction and my trouble,
And forgive all my sins.

Give your attention to the problems I’m facing.  Forgive those sins of worry, doubt, and trying to do things in MY strength.

19 Look upon my enemies, for they are many,
And they hate me with violent hatred.

Deal with the unseen but very real enemies of my soul, for I know they want to discourage me and wear me down.

20 Guard my soul and deliver me;
Do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in You.

Keep my soul safe as you bring me all the way to Heaven one day and don’t let me be disappointed, delayed or confused, because I’m going to hide in your protective love.

21 Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
For I wait for You.

Build integrity and righteousness into my life and let them keep me strong and protected because I’m choosing to wait on You. 

22 Redeem Israel, O God,
Out of all his troubles.

You are the ONLY answer to the troubles of this life.  We look to You eagerly anticipating our marching orders and asking for Your help every day.  Help my resolve when I am weak.

 

 


My Mini-Retreat (Caregiver Care)

This week I did something I have never done before.  I took myself on a mini-retreat in search of a breath of fresh air, time to think, remember, create, and rest.  Everyone is busy, not just caregivers, but there is a daily weariness that I experience that is hard to explain.  The idea of leaving Gary for a couple of days, was not appealing until recently.  A couple of years ago, he would have been confused about my absence, but now he is unaware of the passing of time, or who it is that is caring for him.  Things have been much harder in 2014 and my attention is diverted in many directions in addition to the sad decline in Gary.  So, for several weeks I've been planning to take a couple of days off, and let the Lord take care of me.  I packed a good book, my watercolors, and my Bible.

Sunday

Sunday morning, Gary's caregivers arrived and I said good-bye.  It began with a beautiful drive.  I enjoy driving when there is no traffic, beautiful vistas and Keith Green's music playing.  Two of my favorite's are The Prodigal Suite, and Stained Glass.  I was surprised how many times I was reminded of former times, and in a way, Gary came along with me.  We were dating when we first heard Keith Green at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa.  His worship music was a big part of our early years, and still is. 

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I arrived at 3:00 at Moonstone Beach in Cambria on the Central Coast.  Gary and I have stayed in several different hotels here, but The Fogcatcher Inn is our favorite. 

 

 

 

My adventures began with a brisk walk along the boardwalk along the bluff.  It was quite windy, and cool, but very refreshing.  How often I had walked hand in hand with Gary on the same boards.  But this time I was alone and it was ok. 

 

 

 

I took tons of photos.  Tried some "selfies," and shot scenes for painting reference and of course capturing the views to help my own memories.   

I walked along the beach too, scoping out a good location to paint the next day, and found a 3 pebbles to save.  Each time we went to Moonstone Beach, Gary and I would gather "theme" pebbles.  One year he'd look for jelly bean shapes and colors.  Another, it was all white, or all green or all brown.  They sit in jars in our sun room.  I must confess, it's not as fun gathering them, without someone to show your special "find" to. 

 Painting reference

Painting reference

Back at the room, I worked on a sketch for the beach painting to be done the next day.  It is an amazing thing to have uninterrupted time.  Throughout my retreat, I kept thinking, "What?  It's ONLY 5:00?" instead of the typical "What?  It's 5:00 ALREADY?"  Here's a preview of the scene I was planning to paint "plein air" (outdoors). 

At dinner time I got a Tri-tip Sandwich to go at the Main Street Grill in Cambria and brought it to my room and saved half for lunch the next day. 

The evening's entertainment was the film, "Miss Potter" about Beatrix Potter starring Rene Zellweger.  I've seen it before, but somehow it seemed fitting for this occasion.  One of her comments as she was anticipating the publishing of her Peter Rabbit book was "We shall look upon it as an 'adventure'.  It is a very sweet story, and I related on many levels; especially her love of watercolors, and the outdoors and her losses. 


Monday

One of the reasons we love the Fogcatcher is the complementary breakfast!  It is not just danish rolls, mind you, it is the real deal, complete with sausage, eggs, waffles, and pastries.  Peets coffee and a tray to take it to your room if you want.  Now, about the room...Cozy, and facing the ocean, the view from here was better than the nicest restaurant. 

I had brought along "The Glory of Heaven" by our pastor, John MacArthur because I decided to focus my thoughts on Heaven this week.  I want to think about Gary's future (and mine).  A couple of thoughts on this...Since, as Christians, our "citizenship is in Heaven," (Phil. 3;20), we already belong there.  It's where we are going one day and we can benefit partially now, from all the bounty of Heaven.  Something else...To be "absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord!" So when we're in our earthly bodies, we are not at home with the Lord.  We are walking by faith not by sight.  One day, Gary will shut his eyes for the last time, and when he passes into eternal life, he will walk by sight, not by faith.  His faith will become sight! 



I spent the rest of the morning painting the view out my window.  I'm only including one tree because I'm allowed to do it however I want!  :) Here's the start of it.




The afternoon was spent browsing the gift shops and galleries in town.   This might seem odd, but it reminded me of Gary too.  He enjoyed looking in all the "cute little shops" as he called them.  We never came to the Central Coast without coming home with a new plant from a local nursery.  One favorite place in town, is an old house, complete with gardens in back, and each room in the house is a showroom.  The mud room is for gardening related gifts, and the kitchen is where they sell herbs, essential oils, and potpourri.  Out back there is a 'fairy' garden with cute displays.  This is where we first saw a Newport Fairy Rose bush.  It is an aggressive rose, and gets really big.  Gary bought one 15 years ago, at the same shoppe and planted it by out arbor out back.  in no time it covered the big arbor and was beautiful.  It was one of the things I hated to leave when we moved.  Seeing it again, made me miss Gary. 

In the late afternoon, the lighting was just right and the tide was low enough to go back and paint the outdoor scene.  I got set up in just the right spot, on the sand, and began the fun challenge of capturing the beauty and feeling of the place, while keeping up a pace to beat the encroaching waves and mist as the wind began to pick up.  I suppose I was out there for 90 minutes before snapping a couple more photos and calling it quits, planning to finish it up later. 


The day ended with another long walk and a good dinner.  This time, Asian Chicken Salad.

Tuesday

Breakfast. Reading about Heaven. Prayer. Painting.  Frequently I would start to think of doing something...such as going for a coffee refill and ask myself "Will Gary be ok if I go downstairs and get the coffee?"  "Oh, yea, he's not here.  Go ahead and get the coffee."  It's a big adjustment being 'on my own.'  One thing caught me really off guard and hit me hard.  I decided to wash the windows before heading out.  As I did, it reminded me how Gary loved to do that whenever we were getting ready to travel.  He took great pride in getting them streak free.  Silly, what makes you get emotional, but I really missed him right then, washing my car windows in the hotel parking lot. 

I stopped for one last long look at the ocean at the south end of the beach on my way out, and had a snack there.  I decided that I would like to do this again, maybe next year.  It would be nice to look forward to.  I was able to go to the same places Gary and I shared together, and enjoy myself.  It was a happy/sad time, but I know he would want me to be doing these things and that makes me feel bold about venturing out a little. 

 

Driving home, normal anticipation of being with my love again was clouded by the knowledge that he wouldn't be able to participate in my joy.  But in a weird way he does.  We are 'one flesh.'  My joy or sadness is his, and his is mine.  On the way home, I stopped for a late lunch in Solvang, which was OUR first stop on our honeymoon road trip 39 1/2 years ago.  I was facing more memories, and again, It was ok.   When I got home and greeted Gary I wish I could say he responded but he didn't.  I told him all about my time, away and maybe he caught some of it, but I couldn't tell.  I put the 3 pebbles in his hand, and helped him hold them for a minute.  Hopefully it brought back a good feeling for him like it did for me. 

"Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  Psalm 23:6

Never Forget

I want to remember the "old" Gary. 

 2004

2004

One of my greatest fears is that when Gary is gone to Heaven, is that I won’t remember how he was in the past.  His strong body is wasted away, and there isn’t much left.  He looks so different.  His muscle wasting has revealed his skeleton, covered only by his skin.  His skin is easily bruised, especially on his fore arms where the slightest bump can cause a minor skin tear.   His remaining muscles can barely support his own weight and only with two helpers.  Shaving is difficult because his cheeks are so sunken.  His eyes no longer twinkle with an unspoken private joke.  They usually look right past me.  His voice is unused.  His attempts at speech are lip movement only.  His mouth is open all the time, causing his saliva to thicken and his mouth to get dry.   

 Stealing a kiss on Valentines Day.  Three months ago.  He's lost more weight since then.

Stealing a kiss on Valentines Day.  Three months ago.  He's lost more weight since then.

Gary is comfortable and content.  Except for meals, he is asleep.  His Dr. said that most people with Alzheimer’s at this stage are no longer eating.  Because he is a young Alzheimer’s victim, who had a strong body to start with he is doing better than most.  Most of his energy is going to digestion, organ support, and the disease itself, and so he is very, very sleepy all day.  He sleeps in the recliner from 9:00-2:00 and then back to bed for the rest of the day.  Swallowing is getting more challenging so food has to be just the right consistency for him.  Many meals are only partially eaten because he falls asleep.  It seems the final decline may be right around the corner. 

Sometimes I want to scream at the disease…“STOP THIS!”  It feels like a powerful train engine, slowly moving forward.  My attempts at jumping in front of it to try to hold it back would be useless.   Instead I am trying to make it a pleasant ride down the tracks for both of us.  I play his favorite hymns, swab his dry mouth with cool water, and remind him of the past with a familiar touch and voice.  I try to take care of myself too, with nourishment for my mind, soul and body. 

One of the reasons I write a blog and post old photos are to help my heart remember.  I saved a recording of Gary’s voice on a voice mail message several years ago.  I play it when I want to hear him talking.

I want to remember these Alzheimer's years too. 

 Dear friends who are moving away this month came to say 'goodbye' to Gary and I.

Dear friends who are moving away this month came to say 'goodbye' to Gary and I.

They are rich.  They are precious.  In many ways more sweet than the 30 years before dementia came in the door.  Gary is still Gary.  It’s just that his brain and body are dying.  God’s promises are still true.  "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Jesus)  

I don’t want to forget the sights and sounds of this hard journey.  It’s all part of the bond and love in marriage, and joy of serving Christ together.  We are on our way to Heaven, both of us.  This world is not our home.  We’re just passing through mortality and one day will put on immortality.   Every part of this life is valuable and worthy to be remembered because the past, present, and future are all connected.  I don't want to "discount" the last few years as wasted.  I have the privilege of assisting my beloved Gary along his difficult way.  Along the way I get to observe some of the amazing things God is doing in our lives. 

"But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, 'I believed, therefore I spoke,' we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.  For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. 

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4)

I want to look forward.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look NOT at the things which are SEEN, but at the things which are NOT SEEN; for the things which are seen are TEMPORAL, but the things which are not seen are ETERNAL."  (2 Corinthians 4:13-18)

For we know that i the earthly tent (body) which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. " (5:1)

Life is a Continuum

It's not that hard to remember his past because it is tied to his present and future. 

Past - Gary's sense of humor directed at the important things in his life.  Even thoughts of life and death, reflected in this favorite book of his.  It's a collection of funny and serious epitaphs. 

Present - Now that he is nearing the end of his life, it seems appropriate to think about his life and the seriousness of eternal things. 

Future - One day he WILL be in eternity, as we all will.

 

 

He had a favorite epitaph in the book, that I heard him tell people about many times.  Gary is still with us of course, but I think would be appropriate to share today.   He has it highlighted...

 I can't imagine seeing this on a tombstone, but it's so poignant.

I can't imagine seeing this on a tombstone, but it's so poignant.

May I encourage you...

  • Record yourself sharing your testimony so your family will have your voice and story to remember.    We wish we done this with Gary.
  • Ladies, nurture your relationship with your husband, and learn to follow his lead so you will be able to move confidently through a trial knowing what he'd want you to do.  Don't waste the years in complaining about trivia.
  • During a trial, no mater how small or large, hang on tenaciously to God, trusting Him, knowing that there are future blessings in store, as well as good surprises along the way.
  • Believers, let us learn more about Heaven and think on it often.  That is where we will be for eternity.  God has much to tell us about it in His word. "...they will see His face..." (Rev 22)
  • Unbelievers, think about your future.  We don't know the number of our days as a mortal, but everyone will live for eternity in Heaven or Hell.  Make sure you give thought to this now when there is time.   To read more...


"Just Breathe"

“Take a deep breath, Mom.”  That’s what my son-in-law, Ryan said to me the other day.  It was exactly what I needed to hear at the time.  The afternoon had been chaotic.  On my way back from my chiropractor, where I’ve been getting a series of treatments for a very painful neck, I got a call from my sweet mother, who was being taken to the hospital from her own doctor’s appointment, by ambulance.  Her doctor was rightly concerned about her escalating symptoms, and she needed a higher level of care, and better diagnosis of what was going on with her heart.

When I received the call, I knew several things needed to be done.  My dad, frail himself, would need someone to stay with him for the rest of the day and overnight.  Gary can’t stay alone either.  It’s a blur to me now, but I DO remember spending time with my dad, comforting and praying with him, being on the phone for a couple of hours trying to line up care for my dad, and Gary, and locating mom’s purse which did not make it to the hospital from the doctor’s office.  Just like the recent earthquake, the accompanying adrenaline rush and problem solving began. 

 This makes me laugh.  I saw this on a recent outing.  Reminded me of my posture BEFORE the visits to my chiropractor,  Dr. Sawyer in La Canada !  He has really helped my neck pain! 

This makes me laugh.  I saw this on a recent outing.  Reminded me of my posture BEFORE the visits to my chiropractor, Dr. Sawyer in La Canada!  He has really helped my neck pain! 

Stressful things happen to everyone.  We try to manage the situation but it is hard to stay calm in the midst…  Ryan was here, helping out with my dad, and Gary that night, when he wisely reminded me to be calm and relax.  In recent weeks, my blood pressure has been acting up and I’ve been dealing with chronic headaches.  I’ve written about this before, but caregivers must be careful to do what they can to stay healthy.  The most common reasons I’ve heard for high blood pressure is stress and age.  Sadly, there’s nothing I can do about my age, and not much I can do about the stresses of life either.  It’s a fact of life that we are going to be assaulted from time to time with “troubles.”

I used to think Doctors were coping out when they blamed symptoms on "stress."  Not anymore.  When discussing my high blood pressure, my doctor brought up the burden of caring for Gary, and I said, "But I've been doing this for 8 years and never had any physical problems."  She answered, "Yes, but you're 8 years older now." 


 Mom and I at the Christmas Concert, 2013

Mom and I at the Christmas Concert, 2013

Let me quickly interject that Mom is out of the hospital, and happily back home after a few days of testing and resting.  She is so precious to me.  I am grateful that God is keeping her great big loving heart going. 

 


I don’t know for sure if my health issues ARE due to stress, but they certainly draw attention to my “full plate.”  Doctors are telling me to manage stress, friends are really concerned and people I barely know are asking me if I’m feeling ok.  (I must look tired or something.)  So, I’ve been looking at how full my plate has been lately.  What's on the plate?  Increasing moments of sadness over Gary slipping away from me and the changes in his body.  My dear parents relying on my advice and help.  My artwork and the associated deadlines.  The daily tasks of life.  All while not feeling well.  I am not trying to be a superhero.  I’m just doing the “next thing” that needs to be done.  Whether brushing Gary’s teeth, going for a MRI, shipping a greeting card order, or picking up a prescription for a loved one, we do what we need to.  It’s our joy and privilege to help those we love, and keep things running smoothly.  You know what this is like. 

So we make changes if we can, and if we can’t we live with acceptance and flexibility   For those of us who are Christians, we trust that God is with us in the midst and has a perfect plan with our lives which we don’t always understand.  I want to live close to His side, abiding with him and drawing on His strength.     

The apostle Paul had way more troubles than I do but this is encouraging. 

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; WE ARE AFFLICTED IN EVERY WAY, BUT NOT CRUSHED; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-11

Practical stuff I'm doing:

 New succulents for the patio.

New succulents for the patio.

SAY NO - Accept that I can’t do everything I want to especially when I don’t feel good.  I had to cancel our monthly ladies bible study group that meets at my house, to be moved elsewhere.  Even though I "could" have hosted them, I needed to rest. 

SAY YES -  to a change of pace.  I’ve been sprucing up our little patio a little bit each week.   It’s been a very nice diversion. 

SLEEP -  I’ve been trying go to bed earlier.  Thankfully, Gary is a good sleeper, unlike many with Alzheimer’s so my sleep has been sweet lately..  “I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustains me.” Psalm 3:5

EAT HEALTHY -  Juicing anti-inflammatory vegies.  (Recently learned that stress causes inflammation.) I’ve been enjoying a spinach, carrot, apple, ginger combo.  The ginger makes it zippy but I like it.

 Walking in our neighborhood.

Walking in our neighborhood.

RELAX AND BREATHE - Trying something new…diffusing essential oils.  Hoping they will help with the pain in my sinuses.  Our room smells SO good now.  (Eucalyptus, Peppermint and Lavender) 

EXERCISE - Even a 20 minute walk is invigorating. 

GO TO THE DOCTOR -  I’m having different tests and treatments to get to the bottom of these headaches.  So far, they are not abating, so will get a brain scan this week.

GET ALONE WITH GOD -  I’m talking to Him more than usual, (especially in the night) and enjoying my time alone with His word in the mornings.  Here's why... 

“We were made for Him, we are meant for Him, we have a correspondence with Him, and we will never come to rest until, like that needle on the compass, we strike that northern point, and there we come to rest - nowhere else.” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones


Upside Down and Backwards

Ok, so it happened again.  Monday morning I went into protection mode.  As mommy or grandma being protective feels normal.  As a wife, not so much.  Here’s what happened.  I was sitting in the sunroom at 6:30 am, when the earthquake began, I got up and immediately went back into the bedroom to be with Gary.  In years past, I’d go to him so I’d feel safe by his side, but not today.  This time was different. 

 5 Freeway at Newhall Pass - Northridge Earthquake 1994 (Photo by Gary)

5 Freeway at Newhall Pass - Northridge Earthquake 1994 (Photo by Gary)

Growing up in earthquake country, I am not shocked or panicked when one hits, but they still give me an adrenalin rush and spur me to action.  It’s amazing what you can process in just a few seconds.  “Is it stopping?  Is it strong?  Should I move to a doorway?  Where’s the safest spot if it gets worse?  Most of the time I end up feeling rather silly, because even though we do get occasional earthquakes here, they are not typically bad enough to cause any damage.  I did, after all, survive the 6.6 1971 Sylmar Quake (65 dead, 2000 injured), and the 6.7 1994 Northridge Quake (57 dead, 5000 injured).  I was 16 and 15 miles away, respectively.  For those, I felt justified in going to a doorway but our damage was limited to some dishes and pictures falling.  So on Monday morning, being 27 miles away from Westwood’s 4.4 earthquake, there really wasn’t much to write home about, but there’s always the adrenalin, and the not knowing how long, or how strong. 

 Random Building, San Fernando Valley - Northridge Earthquake (photo by Gary)

Random Building, San Fernando Valley - Northridge Earthquake (photo by Gary)

In the middle of the Northridge Earthquake, I remember Gary taking charge, calling across the house to our daughters in the dark, telling them to stay in their doorway, (where they were hugging each other) and then stay in their rooms till they had shoes on because there was broken glass throughout the house.  Then he went out and checked the gas line, and gave us the all clear.  We all felt so safe with him watching over us.  But, this time, for the first time, I went into “protection mode.”  If it got worse I wouldn’t be able to move Gary anywhere quickly.  If the walls came crumbling down, we’d have to ride it out together, covered up with pillows and blankets.  I just knew I needed to be with him.  Not for my safety this time, but for his.  Now I’m protecting my husband because he’s defenseless. 

Gary and I experience many apparent “role-reversals” on a day-to-day basis.  It can be unsettling.  My world and how I function in it, has me feeling upside down and backwards.  Here’s how I’ve been working through the quakes of change again..

Gary has always been my protector.  No matter how we rearranged our bedroom furniture, where the sleeping bags were in the tent, or how hotel rooms were laid out, he always wanted to sleep on the side closest to the door.  When walking down a sidewalk, he’d move to the side nearest the street.  "The side of greater danger,” as he put it. 

 2000 - Photo by April

2000 - Photo by April

One of Gary’s roles was to protect me.  God ordained that husbands “love their wives as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself up for her (the church).”  (Eph.5:25) What does it mean to “love a wife as Christ loved the church?”  Lots of things, but the main point, is to love sacrificially.  Jesus laid down His life for all who would believe and become His Church.  He died to protect them from eternal death.  For a husband to love that way, means he’ll protect her, get between his wife and harm, “take the bullet” for her, if necessary. 

 My hero - 1976

My hero - 1976

So, I struggle with having to take on so many of Gary’s roles.  BUT, here’s the really great thing.  My primary role as wife is to be Gary’s HELPER.  When God made Adam, he decided that Adam wasn’t complete without a helper.  He made a suitable helper for man.  Woman.  (Genesis 2:18) Then he made them One, husband and wife.  What could be more HELPFUL than protecting a helpless husband during an earthquake? 

God never leaves me in a quandary.  His Word is all I need for navigation through this life and it does not contradict itself.


Just a note to parents…I can’t resist saying that our culture is frequently promoting ideals that are opposite from Biblical roles.  Women are doing the rescuing of the men in many movies and tv, and though I have nothing wrong with a woman learning how to defend herself, and doing so, beware the constant message we may be giving to our young ladies through the media.  Ever After is a movie that comes to mind.  Cinderella rescues Prince Charming from the thieves, and then rescues herself from the bad guy. Prince Charming shows up to say “I love you” but that’s about it.  There are media examples on both sides, but just be aware of it.  More and more, the roles are disappearing all around us, regardless of the standard set forth in God’s word which has not changed.

 

 

Tidbits & Treasures 02/18/14

 I Peter 1:11

I Peter 1:11

Two words…

I was reading my Bible this week and ran across a note I’d written in the margin.   It says, “Cup & Glory.”    It’s from the book, “The Cup and The Glory” by Greg Harris.  The ‘cup’ of suffering is linked to the ‘glories’ to come, and this theme is traced through the Scriptures.  Dr. Harris was motivated to study this subject as a result of his own suffering.  I have jotted these two words multiple times over the years next to verses containing this theme.  Contrary to popular belief, it seems that the path to glory is laced with suffering, but the benefits are amazing.

He introduces his book like this.  “What follows are some of the lessons He (God) taught me from this, some of which I was most reluctant and slow to learn.  They are not necessarily for everyone, but rather are intended for those who are presently struggling with suffering in some area in their life, especially the painful perplexity of why God would allow them to experience such depths of misery, when we know He could remedy it whenever He wanted.  Hopefully, it will offer new insight into the graciousness of God as He lovingly uses suffering to draw us nearer to Him and to conform us closer to the image of Christ.”  Pg. 18

 “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10


 "A Fine Romance"  Susan's diary of her visit to the English Countryside. 

"A Fine Romance"  Susan's diary of her visit to the English Countryside. 

Inspired by Susan

Let me introduce you to one of my artistic inspirations, Susan Branch.  We both share a love of being home, hand-crafted art, journaling, and watercolor painting.  We both came to the craft late (well, I came back after a lengthy break).  Maybe you’ll have fun exploring her website if you like creative ideas, and ways to make your home cozy and beautiful.  She has great, simple recipes too.  Her blog is loaded with great photos, illustrations, and vignettes of life on Martha’s Vineyard Island.  www.Susanbranch.com


A Sign

I’ve been reading about the Israelites’ great EXIT from Egypt.  Moses was hand-picked by God to lead His people out of their slavery and into the Promised Land.  He had his doubts and fears about this great task.  “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”  Exodus 3:11

God answered, “But I will be with you, and this shall be a sign for you, that I have sent you…when you have brought the people out of Egypt you shall serve God on the mountain.” Exodus 3:12 

Moses had the assurance that he would encounter the presence of God, and THAT would be the sign that God had sent him.  After that, he was to lead the people in worship.  That’s all he needed to know…God would be with him and He was, leading, providing, and interacting with them all through the wilderness.  I want to live like that.  Believe, trust, obey, see God at work, and worship. 


 Looking good...my twin bed on left, Gary's Hospital bed with special air mattress. on right.  The lump at the footboard is the pump.

Looking good...my twin bed on left, Gary's Hospital bed with special air mattress. on right.  The lump at the footboard is the pump.

Medical Air Mattress…a solution for dementia patients and their spouses.

3 years ago, when Gary began to be much more sedentary he developed some bed (pressure) sores on his heels.  At first I didn’t know what they were, but basically they looked like big blisters.  This happens when the body isn’t moving enough and one part is pressing down on the bed for too long.  The blood doesn’t circulate there, and a sore can develop.  It can happen really quickly.  It’s even worse when there’s weight loss and less padding on the bones, so the pressure is greater.  This can be a huge problem, and it is not uncommon for dementia patients to die from systemic infections, that start with a pressure sore.  So, I began setting my alarm at 2 hour intervals during the night so I could get up and roll him over.  As you can imagine, this was exhausting and I began to do research to see if there was a better way to keep him protected.  Well, I found the most amazing thing!  I know some of my readers are caring for a loved one and will want to know about this.  It’s a circulating air mattress.  It has 15 channels of air, and a small motor which deflates and inflates these channels in sequence.  You can set the timing and duration.  It’s a twin sized mattress that fits his hospital bed (in fact is designed for hospital use) but for the first 18 months, I had it next to my twin mattress on our King box springs.  You never would have known it was not a regular King sized bed.  Now I have my twin bed pushed up to Gary’s hospital bed.  But the mattress has been chugging along, pumping air, 24/7 giving us both a good night’s sleep for about 3 years.  Pretty cool, huh!  Now that Gary has lost so much weight we have begun to change his position again when in a recliner chair, but in bed, his mattress keeps his skin from getting damaged.  It was about $1500, but if you already HAVE the pressure sores I think Medicare will cover some or all of the cost with a Doctor’s order.  I got ours after the sores were healed, but it was a very good investment and I think it has really saved Gary much pain and misery.  There are lots of choices, but here’s the one we got:  http://www.medicalairmattress.com/mdt24supradps.html  Good Night Zzzzzzzz……

For more info on adapting your home to care for a loved one...click HERE

Eight

Shortly after my last post on Friday, the 24th, something went haywire with the text.  You may have missed it, or shared it, and so, now that it appears the problem is fixed, I'm reposting.  The thing is, I had no other copy of it so I rewrote it.  Since I am a bear of "very little brain" I'm sure this new rewritten post is slightly different than the first.  Please don't feel the need to reread it, but I just wanted you to know.  I've deleted the messed up post and this will replace it.  I've saved the comments at the end of this post, and you may leave new ones if you wish at the end. 


This begins the 8th year of Gary's Alzheimer's Dementia.  ONE PHRASE and ONE PHOTO from each year were selected to describe the progress as time marches along.  For those who have asked recently how Gary is, this will get you up to speed.  Please don't be sad about this.  Illness and decay are part of the human condition and there is much to be gained by facing reality head-on.  My comments on our journey are at the end. 


 2005 Grandpa, Grandma and Micah

2005 Grandpa, Grandma and Micah

 

2005

Blissfully Ignorant

As we held our most recent grandchild at the time, we had no idea what was ahead.


 2006 Grand Canyon

2006 Grand Canyon

2006
Something’s Wrong

Gary and I both noticed little lapses in his short-term memory and slight confusion were gradually increasing.  Even with missed appointments, slowed thinking and getting mixed up about things he should have known, it never occurred to us that there was something physical going on.  We blamed it on his heavy workload.  His face was less expressive as the year wore on.

“I’m loosin’ it, Laurie!” he’d say.


 2007

2007

2007

Dreaded Diagnosis

We began seeing doctors late in 2006 and after what seemed like an eternity of testing, Gary received the diagnosis, “You have an Alzheimer’s type dementia.”  This was a scary time for both of us, but getting an answer was a relief of sorts and we spent much time in prayer together.  In July, we closed our business, and Gary stopped driving.  He bore it well. 

He prayed, "Help us be responsible, and draw favorable attention to what You're doing here."


 2008 Griffeth Observatory

2008 Griffeth Observatory

2008

Together Time

With Gary not working we were able to make lots of memories.  We took day trips around town, Huntington Gardens, a trip to Florida to see our daughter’s family, and we even watched a missile launch at Vandenberg.  We couldn’t be on the go every day of course, but Gary seemed to enjoy the activity.  It gave him a sense of getting up and getting ready to work.  He couldn’t stay alone anymore for his safety’s sake. 

During these months, he would occasionally forget who I was.  He thought I had a “twin sister” or something.  He kept a letter in his wallet that he wrote to himself, at the suggestion of, our pastor, Rick.  In it, he had stated who he was, who I was, and our family members.  (Someday, maybe I will write a post about this precious letter.)  He would read it, when feeling unsure.  It gave him his bearings and comfort.


 2009 Observing the projects

2009 Observing the projects

2009
Change

It became obvious that we needed to make a change in our living situation.  Our home, yard and koi pond were too much for me to manage, since Gary was now incapable of maintaining them.  Many friends and family members helped us get our home of 34 years ready to sell.  Gary enjoyed seeing familiar faces and watching the projects going on around our house. 

We sold Gary’s truck and ski boat and started having garage sales and selling Electrical inventory and tools.  He knew the truck was sold, but then forget, and get concerned when he couldn’t find it in the driveway and when he saw a white work truck, on the freeway, he’d say “I think I saw my truck.”  He really, really missed his truck.


 2010 Moving day

2010 Moving day

2010

Leaving the Familiar

In June we drove away from the home we lived in our entire marriage.  Packing and moving day went really well, and Gary rode in the U-Haul with our son-in-law.  It was a fairly easy transition for him.  He never asked about going back to our old home but one time he said he missed the fish pond.

 2010 Our new home

2010 Our new home

We settled in to our new condo.  It would be easier for me, and safer for Gary.  He enjoyed the many walks around the neighborhood, stopping to pick up a twig or pull a weed in someone’s garden.  We took more day trips and Gary ran errands with me enjoying the car rides.  The change was stimulating for both of us, and yet Gary had some physical declines immediately after the move that never improved.  He wandered off 2 times but both were within my sight and easily resolved. 

Our church began an Alzheimer’s support ministry in the fall which we have been part of ever since.


 2011

2011

2011
Help Needed

As Gary’s world was needing to become simpler, my functionality was being challenged.  The activity of busy grocery stores was becoming too much for him to handle.  In Trader Joe’s he once said, “This is hard for me.”  Neither could he safely stay alone, or sit in the car, or wait while I tried on clothes or went to the dentist.  So for several hours a week, I engaged a care giver and/or he went to the Adult Day Health Care Center.  This was all harder for me than him because I hated letting go, especially of his personal care.  But Gary was cooperative and made another adjustment.

We went to Florida to visit our family, where he enjoyed watching the grandchildren, but it was difficult in the airports and boarding planes. 

He still enjoyed working with a screwdriver, even if unconventionally, and manipulating “gadgets” such as nuts and bolts, or carabineers and pieces of rope. 

I began writing a blog about our life with Alzheimer’s.


 2012 Lombardi Ranch

2012 Lombardi Ranch

2012

Remembering & Living

This year brought the end of the Adult Day Health Care.  Gary needed too much help for the staff to provide, so we increased the home care.  Gary’s occasional lack of balance resulted in a couple of tumbles and needed support when walking.  We worked hard to retain the memories, by making memory books for him and playing family movies.  Visits from old friends were met with a smile of recognition and sometimes a handshake.  There were many outings this year with Gary’s wonderful new caregivers.  He went to the mall, the lake, Vasquez Rocks, and the billiards room.  By the end of the year a wheel chair was brought along in case he got too weak, or too imbalanced to walk. 

In the fall, we signed Gary up for Hospice and he has been receiving those benefits ever since.  He has to be recertified every 2 months. 


 2013 Our 38th Anniversary

2013 Our 38th Anniversary

2013

Simplify

Gary’s physical problems increased to the point where I needed MUCH help moving him around the house and helping him walk.  We had a live-in caregiver for the first half of the year, and made many adaptations to our home to make things easier for both of us.

There were a couple of outings in the Spring, but most of the year was spent at home.  Gary became excessively sleepy spending most of the day in bed or a recliner.  Meals took 45 minutes due falling asleep during the meal.  Gary needed two people to help him go on a walk.

I did more and more things without him.  Family birthdays, church, etc., are too taxing for his tired body and mind.  I don’t think I will ever get used to going to things alone while he is home with a caregiver. 


 2014 A rare moment with eyes open.

2014 A rare moment with eyes open.

2014

???

 I don’t know what this year will be like.  Right now, Gary only opens his eyes for a few minutes at a time and only a total of 30 minutes a day (on a good day).  He sleeps about 22 hours, only waking up (but eyes shut) to eat, and be walked to the shower, recliner or back to bed.  He is gentle and peaceful.  He rarely speaks.  Maybe twice a month, he’ll say a word or two.  They are ALWAYS pleasant words.  “Yeah.”  “U-huh.”  “I will.”  “Hi.” 

I may not know when he is hurting or what he needs, but we try to treat him the way we would want to be treated and entrust his care and comfort to the Lord. 


8 years is a long time.

Will there be a 9th, 10th, 11th?  I don’t know.

Remember Gary’s prayer?  He asked God to

"Help us be responsible, and draw favorable attention to what You're doing here."

That is our goal.  You can’t miss the many good things that have happened because of these I difficult years.  Strengthened relationships, God’s love, kindness and care on display, joyful moments, and a greater longing for Heaven to name a few.  There’s a purpose for every day of those 8 years.  BUT, the days are wearying at times and mingled in are moments of crying out to God and asking Him “How much longer?”  

Thousands of years ago, Kind David asked the same questions that those in a trial (and their observers) ask. While he suffered, he turned to God for the answers.  He focused on who God is, and by trusting in God’s salvation, loving kindness and bountiful care he found joy.  Here is his song:

"How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.

But I have trusted in Your loving kindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me."  Psalm 13

I have been there…asking “How long, O Lord?”  and thankfully, the Lord has strengthened my faith every time.  He reminds me of how he has watched over us, with love and kindness during these years.  A couple of books I’ve enjoyed are: “How Long, O Lord” by D.A.Carson, and “Treasury of David” by Charles Spurgeon (Chapter XIII) 

If I can encourage you in any way, send a private message to me via the CONTACT tab at the top or leave a comment on this blog.


I PASTED THE COMMENTS FROM THE MESSED UP POST RIGHT HERE (you can leave new comments at the end...

Jerri Whitten DiPrima: 

Lori, it is amazing and obvious that God has chosen you and Gary to get help started in our church home for others walking this most difficult walk. I would love to have had help like this for my Mom and Dad. No one understands how much this disease affects not only the immediate family but old friends work cohorts, and others unless they know someone who has had to walk through it. I know you have been chosen because of your faith and strength and obedience to our Father but it is a heavy cross to bear... Gary's prayer is being answered and God is indeed faithful. Thank you.

Laurie:

Thank you Jerri. I just got back from our monthly ministry meeting. One of the things we talked about was the idea, from 2 Corinthians 4 that "this momentary LIGHT affliction is producing and eternal WEIGHT of glory" It was so encouraging.

I think as the baby boomers age, that this ministry will be all the more useful with so many folks coming down with Alzheimer's.


terry pagach:

As believers, God's ways are mysterious but good. He glorifies Himself and comforts at the same time! Thank you, Laurie, for sharing God's steadfast love and constant faithfulness. Knowing that He didn't spare his own Son from suffering, we can expect it. I'm grateful that His word has sustained and strengthened you both! Mick and I love you both and pray for you both. May 2014 be the year our Lord returns and brings [all] his sons [children] to glory. Loving Him along with you because He first loved us! Thank you for pointing us to Christ...even in suffering.

Laurie:

Gary would LOVE for 2014 to be the year Jesus returns! Meanwhile, we pray for endurance and joy. Thank you for your sweet friendship and prayers.


Glenna's Page:

Thanks for this encouraging summary of your journey as a couple, Laurie! We are praying for you all.

Laurie:

Love you too my dear! Say hi to the fam.


Georgene Girouard:

I've been blessed to look back at your 8 years. My heart is amazed at the grace God has given you to care for your husband Laurie. Your commitment to him encourages me so much! God bless you... I mean REALLY bless you Laurie!

Laurie:

I DO feel blessed. Thank you. I'm constantly amazed at all God has done. I'm sure you could share a zillion things too, from your own journey.
Hope we get to meet one day.


Lukas Vandyke:

Thank you for writing this. Your life is always an encouragement. =)

Laurie:

Thanks Lukas. God is faithful.


clydetweets:

I'm encouraged by your steadfast faith in the Lord Jesus, Laurie. We are praying God would bless you with more confidence in Him. Have you ever read a book called Spectacular Sins? It's by John Piper and it's free as a .pdf from their website.

Laurie:

Thank you for your prayers. I'm assuming that "Spectacular Sins" refers to the curses on this earth, which include sickness and death, which are used by God, for our good, and to display His glory. Not to good with the roots, but guessing... "spectacle, or inspect, to see"?? Just wondering. Will have to check it out, because I like to read Piper. Thanks for the recommend.

(Sing) "Tum-Tum-Ta-Tum"...39 Years Later

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Yesterday we celebrated 39 years of marriage... Family came over.  They showered us with flowers and cards.  We ate Tri-tip and BBQ Chicken.  Gary stayed in bed until everyone arrived at 5:00, so he'd be well rested for the evening and hopefully connect to the goings-on.  On the special days...it's easy to give in to pity parties, wishing things were different, but making a new memory is great medicine for me on Birthdays, Anniversaries, Christmas.  One thing I've learned over the last 7 years is that it is really important for ME to celebrate things REGARDLESS of Gary's ability to respond.  If he IS taking in his surroundings, then that's even better.

So, we had a party.  Gary opened his eyes once or twice during dinner while he munched his Steak, and Garlic Potatoes, but for the most part, he remained non-communicative.  Right after dinner we settled in by the TV so I could show everyone Gary's present from me.  I made him a DVD with the audio of our wedding with photos.  During the hours I spent putting together the video, editing the photos, and listening to the ceremony,  I was surprised by the effect it had on me. I was so happy, listening  to Gary repeating his vows.  I miss hearing his voice now.  I cried as I listened to the challenges laid out by our Pastor,  to love unselfishly no matter what.  I am faced with that choice every day.  My heart was flooded with gratefulness for 39 years.   Gary gave a gift to me last night too.  Toward the end of the video, he opened his eyes and watched for a few minutes, and even made some sounds, trying to speak.

Pastor Travaille prayed this poem for us.  God has truly answered this prayer for Gary and I. 

 

Oh Perfect Love

All human thought transcending

Lowly we bow in prayer before Thy throne

That theirs may be a love that knows no ending

Whom Thou forevermore doest join in one.

 

O Perfect Life

Be Thou their full assurance

Of tender charity and steadfast faith

Of quiet hope and gentle, brave endurance

With childlike trust that fears not pain nor death.

 

Grant them the joy that brightens earthly sorrow.

Grant them the peace that calms all earthly strife.

And may they ever know a faith in Christ as Savior

That dawns upon eternal love and life.

Through Jesus Christ our LORD

Amen

 Dating - 1974

Dating - 1974

  Anniversary Celebration - 2013

 Anniversary Celebration - 2013

Lots of people ask me "How do you do it?"  "How do you stay joyful?"  Let me say that there's nothing special about Gary and I.  We made a promise to God, in 1974 in front of each other.  We prayed for God's strength and blessing, and we meant it.  We didn't know that I would get cancer, and then that Gary would get Alzheimer's, but we knew that no matter what, God would expect us to keep our vows.   And you know what?  He's the one that has made it happen.  Gary and I are just sinners, saved by God's grace.  My joy is not natural.  It's from Jesus' love for me, and the fact that we are just passing through this life.  Our marriage was grounded in that love.  I posted the wedding DVD I made for Gary if you want to watch the photos and listen to the ceremony.  Hopefully it will encourage you.  The music sound is distorted, but you can hear Pastor T, and us just fine.  It's 28 minutes long.  At the end is a doodle type note Gary wrote me just for fun. 

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Snowflakes and Me

 Me and Snowflakes....we go way back.  Badger Pass at Yosemite sometime around 1956.  I still remember the big 3-D snowflakes on the front of the lodge. 

Me and Snowflakes....we go way back.  Badger Pass at Yosemite sometime around 1956.  I still remember the big 3-D snowflakes on the front of the lodge. 

Here in Southern California the forecast for today is: 73 deg.  Wishing we had a bit more of a typical winter here, I got to thinking about colder Christmases.  My dad and I were recently reminiscing about the coldest skiing experience we could remember and we agreed that it was at Bridger Bowl, Montana.  He was in his 80's at the time.  We were riding the lift together and absolutely miserable.  The wind was blowing right through our ski clothes.  I don't remember my dad ever being cold.  Growing up, he always tried to make my brother and I feel warm, and never complained about being cold himself.  He used to let me put my hands on his coffee cup in the lodge to warm them up.  One time when my brother and I were kids I remember crying as my toes thawed out at the end of a fun day of skiing.  It was in Aspen, Colorado, and there were ice crystals in the air.  It looked like glitter as I looked out the car window enjoying the heater.  Even my painful toes didn't stop me from taking it in.  I still remember how beautiful it was.  When snowflakes drift down and land on your jacket, they truly are beautiful.  Only in the really cold, do they last very long once they land.  I'm so glad I had the opportunity to see snow on the many ski trips we took.  I gained a healthy respect for the cold too, and the powerful changes that come with winter.

These amazing macro photos of snowflakes will blow your mind.  These beautiful creations require very cold temps. In fact, the photographer has to work fast to capture them before they begin to melt.  For centuries, it's not been possible to see the detail.  How wonderful that now we can see the intricacies.  I was reminded of the passage in Job describing God's powerful hand in the weather and seasonal changes.

"God thunders with His voice wondrously, doing great things which we cannot comprehend.  For to the snow He says, "Fall on the earth," and to the downpour and the rain, "Be strong."  He seals the hand of every man, that all men may know His work." 

"Then the beast goes into its lair and remains in its den.  Out of the south comes the storm, and out of the north the cold.  From the breath of God ice is made, and the expanse of the waters is frozen, also with moisture He loads the thick clout; He disperses the cloud of his lightning."

"It changes direction, turning around by His guidance, that it may do whatever He commands it on the face of the inhabited earth.  Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen." Job 37:5-13

 1977 Gary at June Mountain, California

1977 Gary at June Mountain, California

As you can see...Gary's had a few encounters with the little flakes too. Most of them had melted into his mustache and we always laughed at this picture. Though we'll never be snow-skiing again, we're still enjoying some big snowflakes that decorate our room in this crazy warm weather.  I had no idea that one day I'd be using an old college art project as a memory aid for my husband, whom I hadn't even met when I created it.  I hang these seasonal banners in our room to remind Gary what time of year it is so the "Winter" sign is temporarily pinned on. 

I never noticed it before today, but I think I must have been influenced by the blue snowflakes on the ski lodge as a little girl! 

 1972 College design project - 2 dimensional design for use in my home, constructed. This winter banner is one of four.

1972 College design project - 2 dimensional design for use in my home, constructed. This winter banner is one of four.

 Hand appliqued felt snowflakes. 

Hand appliqued felt snowflakes. 

Please know that Gary and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas celebrating the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ.

From our house to yours, we send our love.

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"Fellowship of Suffering"

 Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a distant land.  Proverbs 25:25

Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a distant land.  Proverbs 25:25

I am suffering.  It's not always intense.  It's not all the time, but I get hit with waves of sorrow as I watch the deterioration of my dear Gary's mind and body.  What encourages me most?  The comfort that comes from others.  In fact, we (my family and I), have experienced many varied blessings that ultimately come from God's care.  Reminders of what is true about God and His promises to His children, beautiful music that lifts my heart from despair to joy, opportunities to serve and enjoy this big beautiful world are everywhere. 

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul says,"  ...the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction SO THAT we will be able to comfort those who are in ANY affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."  Many folks who have served us, have never experienced anything like our trial, so don't ever think that just because you've never suffered from dementia in a loved one, that you can't offer encouragement to someone who's suffering.  According to Paul, ANY suffering qualifies ANY believer to offer refreshment in Jesus' name. 

But THIS post is about those who are going through similar difficulties.  I want to tell you about three friends.  God has been blessing me in a way I didn't expect by including me in a very special "fellowship."  Let me tell you how it started.   A bunch of us girls met in a Baptist church over 50 years ago.  In Junior High we spent many hours at slumber parties, pool parties, and summer camps together.  Oh the Laughter!!!  Over the years we drifted apart, 20 years, 30 years and 40 years for one of them, since we've been in communication.  Now we live too far away to spend time together but thanks to Facebook and email, we are back together.  We are reunited in a sort of "Fellowship of Suffering."  One of these friends is a recent widow.  Another has a husband who is loosing a battle with cancer.  Another has a husband recently diagnosed with cancer. 

 We're all here in this camp photo.  I'm in the middle row, 2nd from the left with my white "babushka" scarf.  My 3 friends can remain anonymous. 

We're all here in this camp photo.  I'm in the middle row, 2nd from the left with my white "babushka" scarf.  My 3 friends can remain anonymous. 

Who would have thought that after so long, we'd be regularly communicating.  These women know Christ.  They are ministering to me by reminding me of His great love and care.  They are not just "playing church" as I suspect many of us were as young teens, but have matured in to women of God.  We center our conversations around the relationships we have with our Savior.  They each know the loss, pending loss or potential loss of a husband, like me.  "Like me."...  There is a bond between us.  It is special.  It comes as a surprise to me, that God would bring back these friends from so long ago to be comforters in my life. 

 Camp Rancho at Forest Home. 1966

Camp Rancho at Forest Home. 1966

None of us are comfortable with the idea of death taking our dear husbands.  Death is not just "a part of life."  Whether it threatens and goes away, gradually overcomes, or suddenly crashes in on our lives, we resist it.  Life is a precious gift.  Because God saved us, we are able to meet these kinds of challenges with inner peace and joy.  None of us would say we have that kind of strength in ourselves apart from Christ living in us.  A quick request for prayer via a Facebook chat, or an email to a friend can lead to the sweetest dialog with true encouragement because we remind each other that our good God is in control and we can trust Him.  Little explanation is needed with these 3 because they understand me in a unique way.

I am quite amazed at the surprises along the way as I "suffer."  One of the dearest is these ladies' ministry to me.   

Beauty Captured with Word & Brush

Hello friends!   Step across my welcome mat, and come on in to my new website!  I've been sprucing things up with a new logo, a fresh layout, and I've been carefully placing the decor.  I’ve wanted to have you over for a long time, but we’ve been under construction, and not ready for guests until NOW.  If you have been visiting me on my blog, and now you’ve made your way here, you'll be glad to know I packed up my journal, “I Have Been Young,” and brought it with me to my cyber-home.  There are so many blank pages yet to be written on, I can hardly wait to share more.  I'm excited because moving in to my new website has allowed me to gather several areas of my life into one place, and since they are all related, I’m hoping you can settle in to a comfortable corner of my world and be enriched, encouraged or challenged in some way. 

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As you can see, Colors By Laurie is the name of my new website (www.colorsbylaurie.com) and it's also the name of my watercolor business.  As you may know, I love COLOR.  (My “Welcome” page has the back-story on that.)  Also, at the top of the page, the journal entries from my blog are now sorted into areas of interest (Art, Family, Alzheimer’s and Lessons) so you can easily choose a collection to browse.  I’ve added links and resources that I’ve found personally helpful.  You are a very special guest and my 'e-door' is always open to you.  I hope you'll come back often, and invite your friends! 

My hope is that your visits here will enhance your life

through my artwork and writings.


LIVE

Friends, we live in the present moments!  Alzheimer’s Disease is a good reminder of that.  My husband may not remember the past, but he still feels the sun on his skin, hears the music and tastes the cinnamon roll.  Being fully committed to “the present” and not worried about the future, or trying to “live in the past” is a lesson I am really trying to learn and will continue to share my heart with you. 

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REMEMBER

Of course, we remember the past.  Memories can be vivid or faded, happy or sad, regretful or satisfying.  Finding ways to enhance the happy memories, and learning from the others, move me forward to growth.  I love finding creative ways to keep Gary connected to who he is through memories, and helping others preserve the beautiful and valuable moments from their lives with my artwork.

ENJOY

I want to encourage all of us to enjoy the here and now, the memories and whatever is around the corner.  Through my customized artwork, and journal writings, it is my sincere hope that your joy will be increased as well.

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I have a very special gift for one of you!

There will be a drawing on Saturday March 23, 2013 at 6:00pm Pacific Standard Time for an 8" X 10" original watercolor painting! The winner will choose either a Personalized Monogram or an Architectural Portrait.  The creation of the winner's painting will be featured on my blog for the rest of you as your consolation prize.  Start to finish, a behind-the-scenes look at of one of my customized watercolors!

RULES:

  1. Go to Home Page.
  2. Click on My Gallery.
  3. Browse my paintings.
  4. Make note of your favorite painting.
  5. Enter drawing either of the following ways.

TWO WAYS TO ENTER:

  • Leave a comment at the end of this blog, and tell me which painting is your favorite.
  • Like my "Colors By Laurie" page on Facebook

You can enter the drawing 2 different ways which gives you 2 chances to win!  I'll add your name to the jar, post the winner on this blog AND my Colors By Laurie page next Saturday night (23rd).  Please check back.

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I hope you enjoy looking around the rest of my new place for awhile.  Click HOME or BLOG at the top of any page to go back and forth.

Thanks for dropping by, and please come again!  

IMPORTANT!

THE FIRST TIME YOU POST A COMMENT, YOU'LL BE TOLD YOU ARE NOT "LOGGED IN".  ON THAT SCREEN YOU WILL SEE A PLACE TO CREATE AN ACCOUNT WHERE YOU'LL ENTER NAME, EMAIL, AND PASSWORD, THEN YOUR COMMENT WILL SHOW.  I NEED TO KNOW WHO'S COMMENTING IN ORDER TO ENTER YOU IN THE DRAWING!