Praise God, and some Video
Last night (Thursday) we celebrated the life of a dear friend and sister in Christ, Josette Kruge. Josette passed away from cancer just a few days ago. Hers was a battle of over six years. Our church was full for the service--standing room only. It was a great time of worship and praise as we celebrated, singing some of the same songs we sang for Abby's service.
The thing I will remember about Josette most was that she was always concerned about everyone else. She would call to ask about how Abby was doing, or we would run into her at church. From the moment your conversation began, she would be totally focused on you. It was like there was nobody else in the room, nothing else on her mind, nothing distracting her, absolutely no problems in her own life, you had her full attention.
Yet her cancer devastated her body--and if anyone had reason to complain about the horrible things cancer can do, not to mention the fact that sometimes the treatment is worse than the disease, she did. But she never did.
Instead she offered encouragement. She prayed. She brought gifts. She visited, as long as she could. She called when she could no longer.
Early in Abby's treatment, as soon as we found out that she was really going to lose her hair from the radiation and the chemotherapy, Josette brought hats for Abby. What a wonderful gift--only a cancer victim can truly appreciate the gift of a hat (or joy of giving a hat). I remember her saying "Look what I found--I got these on sale!" It wasn't until I was in the service last night, telling this story to those assembled, that I realized what that really meant to her. She was known for being thrifty--miserly, some might say, in a joyful way.
So Abby has another friend in Heaven now.
On a happier note, Amy got a call from Carlin's mom (see this entry) today. Carlin had a post-radiation therapy PET scan recently, and currently it shows no tumor activity. Praise God! Please keep praying, he will be continuing his chemotherapy treatments in an attempt to make sure the tumors never return.
Last, I put the Cancer Kids Segment from KPHO Channel 5 on Ourmedia. It is in Windows Media format.
[Amy writing] First, I want to let you know that the news segment didn't air at 5 on Christmas Eve after all, it was moved to 6 pm. Sorry for those of you who were watching and waiting. The writer of that story is planning on writing/producing a follow up story just about Abby. We'll let you know how that comes together and when it will air.
Thanks to you all for your prayers over the last month. We are doing as well as you can expect. We have times of crying and also times of joy and peace. C. R. has stayed busy with a media project (building a MythTV client and server, basically a TiVo on steroids) and in the process he is converting all our VHS home movies to DVD format. We have appreciated the blessing of his time off from work. I am trying to catch up on housekeeping and organizing knowing that we will soon return to our regular school routine. It is hard sometimes to "bump" into something that reminds me of Abby...the memories are everywhere. But, I know it's all part of the process and am thankful and certain that God even directs the timing of those encounters and He continues to be faithful in our grieving. We plan to spend some time counseling with one of our pastors from church later this week.
The kids are also hanging in there. Josiah is pouring himself into his "Abby journal". He is writing memories of Abby that I'm sure will bring him great comfort. Daniel and Elizabeth also received journals which they are "writing" and drawing in. We will help them write their memories until they are ready to do it on their own. One of the best healing activities for them has been that they are taking turns sleeping with the famous "Panda bear" (Abby's bear who went on almost every hospital visit with her). They are so gracious to take turns with him and rejoice with each other when it is someone else's turn. The boys are also taking turns "sleeping over" with Elizabeth in Abby's bed. We are glad to see that Daniel has been able to express himself often. His expression will become quite serious and he'll say, "I miss Abby" or pray that she's having a good day in heaven. Then, he'll smile his bright smile as if he knows that there's no doubt whatsoever that she is happy. Even little Elizabeth knows our family isn't complete and she just keeps reminding us several times a day with a smile, "Abby is in heaven."
[C. R. writing] I've noticed that Abby's absence is not the screaming, gaping, empty void that I expected. Instead, it's more like a cold draft, like the kind you feel on an evening in late fall when someone has left a window open, but you're not sure where. You're sitting on the couch, immersed in a book or a TV show, and every so often you feel a cold wind brush across your cheek. It's cold enough to shock you, make you shiver. And you want to get up to shut the window, but you can't find which one is open.
It's my prayer that over time, it will become a warm breeze that we feel, as the memories of Abby become entrenched in our minds.
[Amy writing] As for our holidays, they were...different, but different is probably good. We enjoyed spending time with my family on Christmas Eve and C. R.'s dad on Christmas Day. Elizabeth was sick the entire time with the nasty respiratory flu bug that has been going around so she was a little out of sorts and just wanted to be held. We enjoyed the opportunity to cuddle with her more than normal. God was incredibly gracious in that none of the rest of us caught it nearly as bad as she did. We were shocked and thankful when we realized that Daniel didn't even get a single sniffle (which is by God's grace because he always catches everything). C. R. and I were blessed with an anniversary gift of a couple of days alone at home. We left the kids in Tucson with my wonderful family and headed back to Chandler to celebrate, pray and process. It was a great time of refreshing for us.
[C. R. writing] New Year's Eve day my dad came up to stay with us and we took a day trip to Sedona to hike the Devil's Bridge trail. Devil's Bridge (name notwithstanding) is an easy hike with a 30-foot high natural stone bridge at the end of it and a fantastic view of the landscape surrounding Sedona. It's a perfect hike for kids 4 and over. (See HikeArizona for more details, search for "Devil's Bridge", you have to register to see the content, but this site is a great resource if you are a hiker).
I had been there with the men of our homegroup many years ago, and did not remember that there were two trails, one that led to the underside of the bridge, and one that leads direct to the top of the bridge. The lower trail is fairly easy until you get to the other side of the bridge. Then there is a short portion of the path across a smooth natural cliff formation (with accompanying 25 foot drop--no railing!). That leads to a steep climb to the top of the bridge.
The trail was somewhat crowded that day. When we reached the underside of the bridge and Amy noticed that our 2 year old toddler and 4 year old very active Daniel had to cross this treacherous, highly unsafe, fraught with danger section of trail she (understandably) started to get a little...anxious. I, on the other hand, playing the part of the intrepid explorer leading his hardy band in the wilderness, prepared to conquer whatever is placed in our way, offered to carry the entire party on my back and subdue this portion of the path. We definitely learned some valuable lessons about a mother's protective instinct and how grief can play a very active part in minute-by-minute choices.
Fortunately I did not truly have to carry everyone, just Elizabeth, and Daniel did not leap headlong off the cliff (nor off the bridge, which was Amy's second greatest fear of the day), and we were treated to a spectacular view full of the fingerprints of God once we reached the top of the bridge.
It was a great way to start the new year together as a family.
During Abby's treatment, Disney/Pixar released the movie "The Incredibles." We all went together to see it along with some of our best friends. It was a bonding time for us--Abby was out of chemotherapy, was not neutropenic, and was feeling well that day. The characters resonated with us, I'm sure by design (either director/producer Brad Bird's, or God's--probably both). I see pieces of myself in Bob Parr and Josiah identifies with him as well. There are facets of Helen in Amy. Parts of Violet are in Abby. Give Dash red hair, and you have Daniel. For any of you who have not seen it, it is a wonderful movie which is, at its core, not about superheroes. It's about family. Truly, every family has within it the makings of being "super." God created the family unit, and He directs the creation of each family member, bestowing on each the gifts, talents, skills, and abilities to complete the family. Together, we are far stronger than we are apart, and that is by design.
We've made it this far, and a new year is before us. Our faith and trust in the Almighty has been tested, and I hope found true. With that knowledge, the year ahead seems full of amazing opportunity. We pray that it appears the same to you.