Friday, 27 February 2015

Take Courage, I am Here!

I don’t like going to bed. When I’m totally exhausted it’s okay, but I avoid going because it’s the biggest reminder Mike’s not there. I used to love going to bed and listening to music with Mike, watching him drift off. Sometimes he was already asleep when I crawled into my cozy bed beside his. Sometimes I wrote, sometimes I read, sometimes I curled up as close to him as I could and sometimes I just stared at him until the weight of my eyelids overtook their strength. I never liked giving in to the sleep that always beckoned me because then I had to say good bye to another day with my beloved. And I knew the days were drawing to a close.

For the first few weeks after Mike passed, I would stay up until about two o’clock in the morning most of the time. I would only go to bed when I knew I was going to crash the second my head hit the pillow. I’ve slowly been able to go to bed earlier, like 12:00 or 1:00am and I usually read or something. Tonight I’m writing this blog post and listening to music (right now I’m listening to one of our favourite songs, ‘Oceans’ by the group, United). I keep thinking about Pastor Art’s gentle advice to embrace the mourning because that’s where God’s comfort is found, but I’m still struggling to fully surrender to the mourning. I keep wondering what will happen in six months or twelve months, will it hit me then? Will I drown then?

I really feel if I step out into this huge ocean of mourning, I will drown … so I just sit in the boat and patiently wait for the waves to subside. Even when the waves subside, I’ll probably stay in the boat because I’m afraid. I’m afraid if I step out, I’ll sink; I’ll drown. This ocean of mourning is huge and from the middle of it, there is no shore. 

The above is how I feel, but below is what I know:

From the book of Mathew in the Bible - “Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, ‘It’s a ghost!’ But Jesus spoke to them at once. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘Take courage. I am here!’ Then Peter called to him, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.’ ‘Yes, come,’ Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. ‘Save me, Lord!’ he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. ‘You have so little faith,’ Jesus said. ‘Why did you doubt me?’ When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. ‘You really are the Son of God!’ they exclaimed.” Matthew 14:22-33 New Living Translation (NLT)

At 2:00am alone in my bed, Jesus says to me, “Take courage, I am here!” His eyes are on me like mine were on Mike, except His eyelids never grow weak—that in itself brings me so much comfort. And eventually, when I step out of my boat, if I should sink, He’ll reach out and grab me.

Here are the lyrics to "Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by United. I recommend you Youtube it, it’s beautiful!

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine


Below are pictures from my dad's and Nathan's trip to Malawi where two wells were drilled a few weeks ago, including a memorial well in Mike’s name. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this very precious gift that will serve many people in a very special African village. Access to clean water is a matter of life and death…thanks for your gift of life! 


Nathan at Mike's well above and below


My dad chose the Bible verse and inscribed it on Mike's well,
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant." Matt 25:23

My dad at Mike's well

Nathan enjoying a visit with the children


Check out more pictures of the Malawi trip on my new Hold On, Let Go/ALS With Courage Facebook page. Thanks for the "Likes" friends!


Thanks for all the Amazon pre-orders! For local friends and family, I have been invited to do a book signing by my friend Shelley who is in charge of the book department at Save On Foods on 228 St and Lougheed Hwy here in Maple Ridge. Dates and times haven't been chosen yet, but I'll keep you posted (it will be around the Amazon launch date - April 2) ... I hope you can come. Thanks for the encouragement Shelley and everyone!




Sunday, 15 February 2015

I Hope You'll Judge My Book By It's Cover

Sometimes, all of a sudden I think, “Oh yeah, he’s not there.” and my stomach burns; my heart aches. Mike has always been there. I met him when I was 18, I married him when I was 19, and for almost 27 years, he was there, now he’s gone. I’m totally lost without him. When he left, a part of me left too and the rest of me is just kind of wandering around.

I never feel alone though. God is very close; He is so merciful. It’s the first thing I said after Mike passed, I told my sister Elanna, “God is so merciful.” She agreed. The Bible tells us, God’s mercies are new every morning. I’m convinced they are new every minute. During my “mourning”, His mercy carries me.

Merriam-Webster defines mercy like this: a blessing that is an act of divine favour or compassion, kindness or help to people who are in a very bad or desperate situation. And another source defines it: the disposition to be compassionate and forbearing.

God is rich in mercy and He is love and this is how I move on.

On Friday, I went to a workshop downtown. It was a public speaking workshop for authors of Influence Publishing. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I signed up anyway (I need all the help I can get when it comes to speaking in public). Although it was exhausting, I’m really glad I went. I whole heartedly engaged with the other authors and I feel like I made some new friends, but I only half heartedly participated in the various exercises … I had to be reserved. I could only give so much.

The instructions of one exercise, was to state our name, the name of our book and to give a very short description, all in thirty-seconds. This is what I said, “It’s a ‘stay positive in difficult times story’ about my husband Michael Sands, who was diagnosed with ALS in March of 2011, and our journey with terminal illness. It’s about giving thanks in every circumstance, having faith, being hopeful and bottom line, it’s about love! My book is called, ‘Hold On, Let Go - Facing ALS with courage and hope. And my name is Nadine Sands.”

The first time I said it, I started with my name and title. We all practiced reciting our scripts in different ways and after saying it a few times, everyone got better, stronger, but my hard exterior started to crumble. I chose to not participate in the three minute speech to elaborate on the description of our books at the end of the workshop. I wanted to tell my new friends more, I really did. I’m passionate about our story, about Mike and his incredible attitude and grace in the face of death but I knew I’d have to tell about his recent passing and even though I could share that with the ladies at my table and with a few people one on one, I couldn’t say it to the whole group … standing at the front … with a microphone. 

I would have liked to tell the group how my book is based on my blog, ALS With Courage. How I felt called to start my blog in order to keep family and friends informed of Mike’s brave battle and how unexpectedly, it became an amazing outlet for me. I would have said that we clung to faith, hope and love while we let go of everything and while we let go of everything, we gained exceedingly more than we could have imagined. Perhaps I would have told them about a few of my most memorable blog posts (most memorable to me) like, ‘Mike’s Glass is Half Full’, ‘Grasping at Straws’, ‘Hold On and Let Go’ and Mike's 'Ahoy Matey'. I want them to know that Mike contributed to the blog as well and how he always inspired our readers to keep looking up and how he made them laugh. I would have explained that while the book is about a courageous guy fighting for his life, a disastrous debilitating disease, the interweaving of sorrow and joy, and a journey of grief, it’s really mostly about love. 

You don’t have to go further than the cover, to know that my book is a love story. I hope you will judge my book by it’s cover.

I’m without my Valentine, but not without his lingering love and the incredible, unchangeable, unfathomable love of God. And His mercy carries me… 


I think Trista from Influence Publishing did a fantastic job designing my book cover ... it's far from what we started with, but I can't imagine anything else. This look defines my book ... it's a look of love. (Pre-sales now on Amazon - released April 2)

I invite you to “Like” my new Facebook page - Hold On, Let Go/ALS With Courage

Next time, I'll post pictures of Mike's memorial well.



Thursday, 5 February 2015

Hope Goes a Long Way

I’ll never forget that Christmas morning smile. When I woke up and looked at Mike, he was as bright as the Christmas lights. My first thought was, he’s happy to be here for Christmas. Mike wanted to say something to me right away, so I got the alphabet. “I would have said Merry Christmas at 5:55, but I can’t talk,” he spelled. He had to go pee early in the morning and I mentioned the time. 

The sadness is starting to sink in. I’m past the “shocked slash numb” stage that I talked about in my last post, although I’m still a little shocked (and still collecting rocks). 

I’d give anything to go back to Christmas morning, just to get a glimpse of his smile one more time. It’s like I didn’t see it coming, but everything leading up to Mike’s passing was a clue it was near. I feel kind of dumb now, but I think God was preparing me and protecting me at the same time.

The following is a quote from my November 29 post, ‘Trooper’, “After Mike was all tucked in and comfortable in his bed, I said, “Let’s pray.” I stood beside his bed and started to speak … I opened my mouth and without thinking, the words just came; the Spirit moved in a mighty way. I could barely keep up with the words, it was like a river of words flowed from my mouth and a river of tears flowed down my face. I ended the prayer by saying, ‘Lord, whether we have a really short time left together, or if we have more time than we think, please prepare us to part.’” 

I asked God to prepare us to part a few times and looking back, it’s obvious He had been preparing us for a while, and even though I figured so, I still didn’t believe it was actually going to happen. I was just so surprised. I must have rocks for brains … or God was protecting me. You can be prepared to die, but very conditioned to live and hopeful to the very last minute, that something will happen and take the love of your life off death’s door step and put him back on the front lawn. Hope goes a long way and I think it’s one way God protects us.

Mike was ready to let go for quite a while before he finally did. I think he stuck around for me and the kids and the rest of the family, but he had heaven on his mind for a long time. 

On November 16, I wrote the following in my journal; “Tonight after a long session of suctioning in the bathroom (Mike was on his commode), while down on my knees cleaning up things, Mike and I caught each other’s eyes and exchanged a long smile. Then he motioned for the alphabet. With the same smile, he spelled out, ‘I can’t wait to see you in heaven.’ When he got to ‘you’, I knew what he was going to say and was overcome with emotion. Able to hold it in, I only started crying at ‘heaven’.”

I told Mike that I’d meet him for a picnic when I get there and I whispered the same thing in his ear a few minutes before he left us. 


Mike has been taken off death’s door step and is fully alive on the other side. I can only imagine what he’s been up to, and at some point, he’ll size up a nice patch of soft grass by a crystal clear river for our picnic … he’ll probably pick some flowers and maybe we’ll even collect some rocks. 


PS - Our friends Neil and Donna came for a visit last week. It was so great to see them! They were at Mike's memorial service, along with their daughter Deana, but I didn't get a chance see Neil there amongst the many people. Neil and Donna always speak with so much hope. Their hope for Neil's healing and a cure for ALS makes me happy and reminds me of me and Mike. We won't lose hope!

          Neil, Donna, Mike and Me at the ALS Walk at Mill Lake in Abbotsford last spring

               
                  Mike thought Neil looked a little chilly so he offered him his Leafs blanket - looks good on you Neil!

                                                           Go Team Hemmings!

Mike and me at the ALS Walk - A picture by Donna and Neil's granddaughter, Evie.                            I love how the sun is shining right down on us!

PSS - Lots of people have been asking about my book, Hold On, Let Go. It officially comes out on Amazon on April 2 and is available now (pre-orders). Copies have already been sold and I just found out, it's already a best seller in three categories (which means top 100 in those categories) ... wow, I'm so honoured! Local friends and family can also get a copy from me. I'll have some copies for sale pretty soon - I'll do a local book launch or something.




Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Good Grief

How can “good” and “grief” go together? Aren’t they opposites? “Good” is good and “grief” is bad … right?

When I hear, “Good grief” I think of Charlie Brown who is famous for the expression. I love Charlie Brown. Poor little guy … nothing ever seems to go his way. We are big fans of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the Peanuts gang. As a family, we have two Charlie Brown specials that we like to watch in particular, the Halloween special, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and the Christmas special, A Charlie Brown Christmas

The kids know exactly where, in A Charlie Brown Christmas, I start to tear up and they give me the look like, are you going to cry again? Linus’ explanation of what Christmas is all about gets me every time, along with the scene where the Peanuts gang transform Charlie Brown’s sad little Christmas tree into a spectacular display of ornaments and lights.

What we like best about It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is when the Peanuts gang compare what they get after each house they trick or treat at. One says, “I got a chocolate bar.” Another, “I got a pack of gum.” And another, “I got a quarter.” Charlie Brown exclaims, “I got a rock.” He gets a rock every time.

Anyway, back to good grief, I’ve been learning how grieving is good and how my mourning involves a little rock collecting of it’s own.

One day last week, I woke up with rocks on the brain (not to be confused with “rocks for brains”, but instead, rocks were on my mind). All of a sudden, I needed rocks. With way more “important” things to do, I was off to the river.

Pastor Art gave me some wise advice a few days after Mike passed away. He reminded me of Matthew 5:4 which says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” He said sometimes we busy ourselves, we avoid grieving, but only when we grieve do we fully experience God’s comfort.

Curious about “mourning”, I googled it like I do many things and this is what I found: Grief is the beginning of mourning. Grief is what you feel or think when someone dies, or when you lose someone or something (including divorce, illness, injury, loss of a job, pet, treasured possessions etc). Mourning is how you let it out, or how you express the grief—outward expression, actions and reactions. There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I think I’m still in the “shock slash numb” stage … numb is normal, as well as shock, sadness, guilt, and anger.

I told Pastor Art that I wasn’t going to try to be happy and I wasn’t going to try to be sad; I was just going to “be” and see where that takes me. I just want to be available to God and whatever He has planned for me in the “mourning”. I’m trying to heed Pastor Art’s advice to not busy myself and not avoid grieving, but I’ll admit I’m not necessarily embracing it … but I have started collecting rocks.

I don’t think I’ve fully grieved the loss of pre ALS Mike. The man who took care of me, who held me and kissed me and enveloped me with his strong arms and legs in our warm bed. He was like my cocoon and I, his butterfly. 


The losses came fast and furious and I could barely keep up. Some things I’m over, some I’m not—I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. But now I can truly grieve and even though I’m a little scared of what that’s going to look like, I invite the comfort of God to envelop me … to be my cocoon and I, His butterfly. 




I got the idea from Pintrest to mod podge (glue) cloth hearts on rocks and stamp words on the back. I've used Mike's last "I Like Mike" Walk for ALS t-shirt for the cloth hearts.




South Alouette River at Maple Ridge Park


North Alouette River on 132 St



Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Forever You'll Stay in My Heart

Our goal as a family was to honour Mike and to bless everyone who came to his memorial service last Friday with a glimpse of Mike’s life, but the blessings fell heavy on us. For me it was like a down pour of love and support … I had no idea how blessed I was going to be. Regarding the hundreds of hugs I received, I thought Mike would be so happy because he had been unable to hug me in a very long time. It was like hug therapy.

Our dear friend and Pastor, Art Birch, started Mike’s service with some exceptionally wonderful words. I can’t remember them exactly and I hope to gain a copy of his speech, but everything he said meant so much to me and honoured Mike perfectly. Many friends and family have since expressed similar feelings. He thoughtfully spoke with such eloquence which took me back to the many years Mike and I and the kids listened, with so much respect, to his preaching at the Maple Ridge Baptist Church (he pastors at a church now in Abbotsford).

One thing Pastor Art said during his beautiful tribute was, “Mike didn’t necessarily say, ‘I love you,’  he showed it.” ... so true!

Mike wasn’t great at expressing with words how he felt, but he certainly knew how to let his actions speak louder than words. One of his mottos was, “Talk is cheap” and he liked to “walk the walk”.

A number of months ago, feeling the need to say, “I love you” to our children, Mike dictated a message to me to relay to them. With their permission, the following is part of that message:

“…My goal when you were born was to protect and take care of you, to have fun with you and to love you with all my heart. I feel I accomplished that goal to the best of my abilities. I hope you felt protected and cared for and I hope you had fun with me and even though I didn’t say, “I love you” much, I hope you know I loved you and of course still love you more than anything. You are the sunshine of my life, the apple of my eye, forever you'll stay in my heart. I love you Erin, I love you Nathan, I love you Madison…from dad”

Mike quoted from one of our favourite songs, You are the Sunshine of My Life by Stevie Wonder. The song was played during Mike’s memorial service and even though, by my lack of proper communication, it wasn’t the same favourite version we listened to all the time, it of course contained the same sweet words: “You are the sunshine of my life, the apple of my eye, forever you'll stay in my heart.”

Madison, Mike, Erin and Nathan (Madison's grad, June 2012)

Erin and Mike at an ALS Walk

Nathan, Mike and Leah out for a walk in our neighbourhood

Madison and Mike at a favourite park close by


I asked four pastors to speak at the service; Art, Brad, Trevor and Paul … our pastors and dear friends.

Because the memorial service fell on Mike’s birthday and because Mike hadn’t really eaten anything for over a year and a half before he passed, I asked Pastor Brad to please speak about the banquet table in heaven. 

On Sept 17, 2013, I wrote a blog post called ‘Heaven Scent’. It was about Mike’s journey of letting go of food. I called the post ‘Heaven Scent’ because after our many summer evening walks, Mike and I both agreed that heaven must smell like BBQ. The following is some of that post: 

“A few months ago, when Mike’s food selection was becoming more and more limited and we were both becoming more and more disappointed, I would visualize a banquet table laid out for him in heaven. The table covered with the most mouth-watering dishes imaginable. If we saw a big, fat, juicy hamburger advertised on TV, I’d tell him that it was going to be at his “big feast” as well.

It was very appropriate that a sermon preached this summer by Brad Warner was on this very subject. The sermon topic was on ‘hospitality’, but Brad spoke about the banquet table in heaven … I loved hearing him describe the dinner, or ‘party’ as he put it. It helped with my vision of Mike’s feast … a meal fit for a king! And of course, much better and far more important than the meal itself, is the presence of a King; Jesus Christ!”

Brad quoted Isaiah 25:6 “…the LORD will prepare for all people a feast with the best foods, a banquet with aged wines, with the best foods and the finest wines (God’s Word Translation). I say, “Cheers Mike!”


                              At Barb's Fish and Chips in Victoria, Vancouver Island
                                Mike loved fish and chips with lots of malt vinegar 

                                 Cheers! All of us including my mom at Swiss Chalet     
                                          and Mike and brother-in-law Gary below

                                          

Pastor Trevor (from Discovery Church) went next and quoted one of Erin’s Facebook posts, which says: “I know that today you are running miles and miles with that big smile on your face. One day we will run together again. Your chains are gone, you've been set free!” Trevor said, out of all the many wonderful messages on Facebook, this one stood out to him the most. 

I thought it was extremely appropriate considering I asked him to please say something about Mike leaving his earthly body behind and receiving a new, perfect one in heaven. No more illness … no more ALS! Trevor couldn’t have done a better job of portraying Mike’s new life in God’s domain … running free - no more chains! 

                                                 Mike and Leah, 2010
                           

Pastor Paul from the Burnett Baptist church closed the service in prayer. It was very meaningful to us because by God’s grace and perfect timing, Paul walked into the emergency room of our local hospital a couple of minutes after we did on Saturday night (the night we went in - two nights before Mike passed) and prayed for Mike. He was there to visit someone else, but came right over when he saw us and offered comfort and strength through prayer and encouraging words.


                           One of my favourite pictures of us on the dike, taken
                                  shortly after Mike was diagnosed in spring 2011


I just want to say a huge thank you to these wonderful men. Mike considered them spiritual mentors and dear friends. And thanks to Brad for also taking care of many ‘behind the scenes’ details.

Thanks to Helen and the Burnett Baptist Church for providing the food and bulletins and to Sheila and the Maple Ridge Baptist Church for hosting the service and to the other ladies, including Patty who served the food and cleaned up. And thanks to Pastor Shawn for operating the sound and projector etc. And to Nolan at Garden Hill Funeral Home, Elanna and I kept saying, "He's perfect for this job!"

A huge thank you to Alana and Vid Wadhwani for putting together the pre-service slide show and the middle slide show and the short one at the end. And thanks to Erin who put together the eulogy video (she, Nathan, Madison and I were in the video) and for revising the wonderful birthday video she did for Mike last year. Because of audio issues, she had to edit the video and take some of the clips out, but if you were in the original video, Mike saw it last year on his birthday. He loved that birthday video … his grin from ear to ear and the tears in his eyes told us so!

Last but not least … from the very bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone (from near and far) who came out to our celebration of Michael’s life, and to those of you who couldn’t be there, but sent a lovely message. To those who sent cards and for all the kind and comforting words on Facebook, on my email, on my phone and on the condolence page of Mike’s obituary (gardenhill.ca). And for the food, flowers and other gifts and for the donations to Project Wellness for Mike’s memorial well. God bless you all!


                         Mike in Malawi Africa sharing cereal with two friends, 2008

Nathan and my dad, George Klassen are leaving for Malawi on January 30 and will be drilling two wells and checking in on a building project already in progress (the trip to Malawi was already planned before Mike passed away). One well will be drilled in Mike's name.

                            My dad with orphan children in Malawi a couple of years ago

                                        Nathan and Madison in Malawi, 2008 

                         Mike with Erin and friend, Lauren in hospital in Malawi, 2007


Saturday, 10 January 2015

Ultimate Finish

Like I said to my Facebook friends, my heart is broken but the love of my life is free - I couldn't be more happy!  

I’m happy for him, sad for me.

I knew Mike was going to die, but I really didn’t believe it in my heart. It shouldn’t have been such a surprise, but it was. We all agree - we knew it was coming, but still, we’re shocked.

In the minutes leading to his last breath, I complimented Mike on his remarkable feat. I told him he fought a great fight and that he couldn’t have done it more brilliantly. I told him that, together, we made an exceptional team and we did our very best. I kept saying, "Tooth and nail dear, we fought tooth and nail!" I told him it was a great honour taking care of him and such an honour to be his wife. 

At a later time, my sister Elanna and I will blog about Mike’s last days (she was with us all the way). It will bring us so much joy to relay his peaceful passing and how the Lord showed exceeding mercy and grace.

I stayed up late the day after Mike died, trying to word his obituary. I laughed and cried as I penned the following with great pleasure (I think he’d really like it):

Michael David Sands (1962 - 2015) His glass was always half full. Lessons to be learned from this wise and courageous man: Give thanks in all circumstances. Have faith, be hopeful and love deeply. Talk is cheap so walk the walk. Be generous. Never give up! And if you don’t have a napkin, just wipe your hands on your socks (he always wore knee highs). Our beloved son, brother, husband, father, granddad, uncle, nephew, cousin and friend, was called home to heaven on Monday Jan 5. His chains are gone, he’s been set free! He’s doing cartwheels now with Jesus and enjoying steak dinners and fettuccine. For four years, Mike battled ALS with brilliance and when the Lord called him to give up the fight, he humbly obeyed. A friend says, “Though his earthly body may have ‘lost the battle with ALS’, his spirit conquered it tenfold.” Mike will be dearly missed, but his lessons live on forever! A celebration of the life he leaves behind and his new life in glory will take place on Mike’s birthday, January 16 at 3:30pm at Maple Ridge Baptist Church (Wear bright colours). A memorial well will be drilled in Malawi, Africa in Mike’s name this spring, so In lieu of flowers, a donation to Project Wellness is appreciated…that was Mike’s wish. Project Wellness address: #405 – 12090 227 St. Maple Ridge, BC V2X 6J5

My dearest Michael, I love you to the moon and back compared to an ant…and far more than that. Your sweetheart, Nadine


You can view Mike's full obituary online at gardenhill.ca




Thank you everyone for your care and concern, your love and support!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Typical Mike

It’s really late and I should be going straight to sleep, but here I am in bed listening to one of my favourite Christmas songs and the sound of my beloved Michael breathing…he’s fast asleep beside me. My heart is absolutely full and my cheeks are soaking wet and I wonder how I will ever explain what’s going on inside of me. In four minutes it will be December 27, 2014, and I am grateful beyond words for another night with Mike and the sound of him breathing beside me. Every night I wonder if tonight will be the last time we say good bye.

It’s been a unique Christmas. Some things are the same, but some are very different. Mike says this will most likely be our last Christmas together here on earth so we are clinging to the moments and making this Christmas an extra special one…or I should say God is making it extra special. 

We are having a wonderful time with family, but our times alone are extraordinary. The tender moments between sessions of suctioning and uncontrollable coughing and bowel care, are sweet. Its like there’s this glow around us. Maybe it’s all the Christmas lights I put up this year because Mike loves Christmas lights, but it’s a special glow, like angels are among us. It’s been a time of last words, and everyday I wonder why I’m so lucky to be able to say good bye like this. Nothing will go unsaid.

I tell Mike everyday I love him and he gives me the look “I love you too.” A while ago, when I told Mike “I love you,” he wanted the alphabet board. I picked it up and held it right in front of him like I do many times a day. I started, “A? E? I?” He raises his eye brow slightly. “Is it I?” I ask. Yes, it’s “I”. “Is it the letter I?” I question. Yes. “Is “I” the word?” Yes. Then I move on. A? E? I? It’s “I” again. I ask if it’s the letter “I”. I get a slight nod no. J? K? L? It’s “L”. I ask Mike if it’s “love”. He raises his brows. “You love me back?” I say. He smiles, and keeps going. “I love you more than ever,” he spells. With a lump in my throat, I tell him I love him more than ever too.

When we moved out of our house two and a half years ago, I found some old home movies we never had converted to disc. I put the little tapes in a box with the intention of having them put on DVD but I forgot about them. A couple of months ago they came to my mind and I finally took them in to be transferred. The DVDs were ready just before Christmas so I wrapped them up and put them under the tree for Mike…turns out it was the best present I could have received. After Christmas dinner, we all gathered around the TV and watched one of the discs. I randomly chose one marked “new house” not knowing what we’d find…it was perfect. Mike was behind the camera most of the time. It started at our old townhouse on 236th St with our kids and some neighbour kids in the back yard. Mike also showed the empty rooms and packed boxes as we were in the middle of moving. Then Mike was at the river filming the kids and their friends floating down the river on rafts and then swimming in the swimming hole (Davison’s pool). Suddenly, at one point, Mike’s lying on an air mattress on the rock next to the water, suntanning. A random woman comes up to him and offers to put lotion on his back. All smiles and flirty, Mikes like, “Sure, what’s your name?” She replays, “Anything you want it to be,” and proceeds to rub him down with lotion. We were killing ourselves laughing. This is typical Mike Sands. There was also some footage of Mike and Erin’s trip to Toronto that summer. His mum and dad were on there along with his siblings and some nieces and nephews. It was really cool. The video ended in our back yard with little Michaela and Luke playing fetch with our dear departed dog, Isla. It was very special.

In one scene, we were at the townhouse loading up a truck and moving to our new house (old house) on Mountainview Cres. Madison is sitting in a chair in the back of the truck, I’ve got the camera in the passenger’s seat and Nathan is in the middle. Mike gets into the driver’s seat, starts the engine and begins singing, “And they loaded up the truck and they moved to Beverly…Hills that is, swimming pools, movie stars…” Again, typical Mike Sands…the wise cracks about Granny in the back, the jokes, the laughs…that was Mike! His silliness ten years ago and the laughs they produced this Christmas Day was the greatest gift he could have given me. It was a wonderful gift for everyone in the room.

When I put Mike to bed tonight, I couldn’t contain the tears (which isn’t that unusual these days), and I apologized for not appreciating him more…his silliness, his jokes, his love for making me and others laugh. I apologized for not pouring out joy in his life like he poured out in mine. All of a sudden I could only remember how unkind I was to him sometimes and how loving he was to me. I hugged him and cried and said I was sorry. I held him tight and wished I had shown more appreciation for Mike and all those light and funny moments with him.

Then Mike wanted to say something. It took a while with the alphabet board, but this is what he said, “In all the years we've been together, you’ve never judged me for the countless mistakes I’ve made.” I replied, “What mistakes?” He said, “See, you have forgotten them already.” He continued, “Heaven is about love and forgiveness—you are already there.” He went on to say, “You are the perfect girl for me…God gave me the perfect girl.”

Mike would often tell me I was the perfect girl for him, that he was so lucky to marry the girl of his dreams and how I was his “sweet heart”. But tonight I didn’t feel like a “sweet heart”, I felt a little like a failure. I wanted to go back in time and show him more love and truly embrace the joy he brought into our lives. 

I really don’t recall Mike making many mistakes and he apparently has forgotten mine—even though we both made many of course. I guess that’s what love and forgiveness is all about…its about forgetting…or at least putting the past behind you. Mike has spelled out to me a few times, “Heaven is about love and forgiveness.”

Hebrews 8:12 says, “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (American Standard Version).

To forgive and forget is to love with the love of Christ.


Anyway, I’m finishing this post here in my bed next to Mike. It’s weird because in three minutes it will be December 28, exactly twenty-four hours and one minute after I started writing this post. Mike is fast asleep beside me and my ears are attentive to his every breath. His breathing is like music to me and I’m so thankful for twenty-four hours and one minute more with my beloved Mike.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Mike and Me

Madison, Nathan, Mike and Erin

Michaela, Luke, Mom, Dad, Erin, Leah, Nathan and Madison

Peter, Michaela, Luke and Elanna

Sands Selfie