Sunday, 28 April 2013

It's all Relative

Madison is home. First year university, accomplished! It was a tough year, but she did it and we are really proud of her. Madison wasn’t happy being away from her family. And when she left for university, last August, we were packing up the family home; our house was sold and we had already moved to my sister’s house (see blog post 'Home Sweet Home'). Plus, we were looking for new homes for her beloved pets: her cats, Professor Fluffy and Pepsi and her dog, Molly. I can’t imagine how tough that was for her.

It was love at first sight when Madison found Molly on line. Madison searched for the perfect pouch after grieving the loss of her first dog, Isla (I have blogged about both dogs – ‘Separation Anxiety’ and ‘A Girl’s Best Friend’). Mike couldn’t understand why we would go to Bellingham, Washington to adopt a dog. He kept asking why we would go to the United States for a dog, when there was a pound just a few miles away. He stopped asking when we brought Molly home and he met our adorable new puppy for himself…and fell in love.
Madison was only a few weeks away from finishing her first year of university when she surprised us and came home for the Easter long weekend. She caught a ride with some friends and showed up wearing blue bunny ears, carrying a basket of chocolate. It was a wonderful surprise and on the second day of her three and a half day visit, Nathan came over and said he was going to call Christian and arrange a visit with Molly.

Christian is Nathan’s friend. They became friends in grade 8 and one day shortly after, they figured out that they were cousins as well…kind of. Christian was over at our house and saw a picture on the fridge and asked Nathan why we had a picture of his cousins on our refrigerator (a Christmas picture of my cousin Sean’s children). Nathan told him that they were his cousins. Turned out that Christian’s mom and I had the same aunt and uncle. Her dad’s brother married my mom’s sister…Auntie Marguerite and Uncle Trevor. Tragically, Uncle Trevor died in a plane crash many years ago when their fourth child and only girl was just a baby. Now, their three sons and daughter are in their thirties and forties and have beautiful families of their own…Uncle Trevor would be extremely proud!
Anyway, Molly lives with Christian and his mom and dad, Alison and Raj and brother Taylor. The Hardie family is Molly’s new family and Nathan felt it was time Madison (and me and Mike) saw Molly, it had been way too long since our last visit. When Nathan hung up with Christian, he said, “Let’s go!” and we were off to see Molly.

Molly was happy to see us, but it was apparent, she was a full-fledged Hardie. They were her people now and she loved them the way she loved us when she lived in our house. And the Hardies love her. Molly is their dog now and we are really happy for all of them. Shortly after Molly moved in with the Hardie’s, in a message from Raj, he said, “Molly has been a blessing. A smile that’s been missing from our faces since our Golden Retriever, Max died.”
It’s a unique friendship for sure. Not only do we share the same relatives, we share the same love for a wonderful dog, but even more than all that, we share the same illness; ALS. Alison’s dad had ALS.

One day not long ago, Alison sent me a lovely message, including three poems her mom wrote years ago. I was overcome with emotion because reading the poems was like reading a portion of my own heart. I didn’t know Alison’s mom, Judy (I might have met her when I was a child), but now I feel I know her well.
With permission from Alison, Judy’s poems:

May 15 - Me: A brave fa├žade. A stiff upper lip. I am tough and I keep my pain well hidden. But the smallest of things reveal my fragile self. My body betrayed with unexpected tears. A kind word.  A remembered melody.  The sound of a bird in the morning. There should be joy in the morning.

May 26 - We: Last night I held you. I ran my hands over your back; your body is frailer now. No, frail is not the right word...less robust. I saw the obscene twitching of nerves on your back and know it is spreading when you touch me. Your fingertips are cool, your touch so delicate, but I know this is the new you. And can you still feel me?
July 23 - Going Backwards: You walk unsteadily carefully planting. One foot before the other. You eat uncertainly, grasping with difficulty the fork and the spoon. You speak haltingly each word carefully chosen: Simple, monosyllabic. You cry unabashedly. Heart on sleeve.  At a moment’s whim.  Body behaving like a child's. Heart and mind: still you.

Alison went on to say in her message, making me cry even more and laugh out loud:
A month later my mum was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer so the battle spread to two fronts.
Anyways I am sharing this with you because I appreciate that you are sharing your experiences. I think it helps everyone to understand the disease but most importantly you are allowing God's Grace to shine in your lives.
With love, Alison.

(PS Molly is snoring up a storm behind me, reminds me of my Dad!!!)

Christian and Nathan - a few years ago
Judy and John Watkins - John lived with ALS for less than a year, he died in 1997. Judy died three years later in 2001

Judy and John Watkins and their family - Alison in the middle back row
Me and Molly when she was a puppy...a new Canadian
Molly as Rudolph Christmas 2010 - The look that stole Madison's heart!
Alison, Christian, Molly and Raj (Taylor not pictured)
(I shared this picture before - blog post 'Home Sweet Home')
Madison and Molly

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


I wake up and look at Mike. His eyes are open. He looks at me and smiles.
Mike inspires me every day!

He inspires those of us around him to receive each day as a gift and to live it to the fullest under any circumstance.
It’s impossible to feel down or unhappy around Mike.

He makes me smile a hundred times or more a day.
He never complains and still looks forward to watching Judge Judy on TV or an NHL hockey game.

He takes nothing for granted and appreciates small things like watching his granddaughter hunt for hidden Easter eggs.
He nods and smiles when we find a comfortable place for his arms propped on pillows and it makes me feel good.

A few minutes later he wants to stand up, so I slowly lift his arms off the pillows and raise his chair. I help him to his feet and lean him up against his chair and he is happy there for a while.
A runner once, a soccer player, a great athlete: now he stands a little and has accomplished a lot.

He remains calm, content and strong.
Mike inspires me every day. His courage, determination and positive attitude just blows me away!
                                                         In Bulgaria - December 2012

Friday, 5 April 2013

The Writing on the Wall

I remember it like it was yesterday. Mike came out of the men’s washroom with a mischievous grin on his face. It was one of those “I’m up to something” grins that I had seen many times before. Erin, Karen, my mom and I were waiting for him in the hall of the science wing of the education building at UBC. We were there for an event Erin’s class was hosting, about eighteen months ago.

Mike wanted a pen, he didn’t tell us why he wanted a pen, but he needed a pen. We all checked our purses and pockets; no pens. He would accept any writing instrument: a felt pen, a pencil, a crayon, an eye liner, whatever we could offer. I had a lip stick, but I needed to know what it was for. With the same grin he had when he came out of the washroom, he ushered me in. He pointed out the writing on the wall in one of the washroom stalls, it said, “God is dead - Nietzsche”. Perhaps written by an over-zealous , misguided philosophy student.
Mike is pretty passionate about his beliefs and needed to respond to set the record straight. As much as I opposed the idea of my expensive lipstick being used to write the rebuttal on the wall in the men’s washroom stall, I didn’t really have a choice. It was his duty to make right the wrong of a student who was long gone for the sake of every other student yet to use that toilet. So I handed over my lip stick and Mike made the necessary changes, and then we took a picture of his lipstick lesson of truth.

The Bible says, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” The statement refers to Jesus, who is “the way, the truth and the life” and “whoever believes in Him will receive everlasting life” from John 14:6 and John 3:16.
Having just celebrated Easter, the death and resurrection story is still resonating in my mind. The picture of a beaten and bloodied Jesus and His brutal death on the cross leaves me speechless, humbled and extremely grateful. From the words of an old hymn; “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus”.  He paid a huge price as God’s sacrifice, nailed to a wooden cross along with the sins of the whole world. Not only did Jesus die for mankind, He rose again. It’s the greatest victory in all of history and our God lives!

Romans 6:23 says: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.
Considering gifts are usually free, “free gift” is a little redundant, but I guess the word “free” in this New Living translation is used to stress the point that the price has been paid and there is nothing we can do or have to do to earn a place in God’s kingdom. You must believe in Him to receive the prize, but the cost is covered.

Oswald Chambers says, “The underlying foundation of the Christian faith is the undeserved, limitless miracle of the love of God that was exhibited on the Cross of Calvary; a love that is not earned and can never be.”
Who doesn’t like free stuff? I love free stuff! But we’re talking about a home in heaven here, not a free sample at the grocery store or a buy one get one deal on shoes. This is big…it’s huge!

Over the years, Mike has often quoted the wise and famous words, “The best things in life are free.” After a walk on the Sea Wall in Vancouver or a bike ride on the dike here in Maple Ridge or a picnic in the park or at the beach, Mike, with a big smile on his face would remind me and the kids that indeed, the best things in life are free! The best things beyond this life are free too. And Mike, closer to the “beyond”, is drawing strength and encouragement from his “free gift” of eternal life.
The other night, I asked Mike a few questions. I said to him, “If you didn’t have the Lord in your life, would you be depresses?” He answered, “Yes!”

I asked him, “Are you ever depressed now?” (Because he could still experience depression with the Lord in his life) He said, “No.”
Then I asked, “Why do you think you are never depressed?” He explained, “I’ve got my eyes on the prize.”

The following is a prayer similar to the one Mike and I prayed at different times in our lives when we decided to follow Jesus and accept God’s free gift of eternal life:
“Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for my sins and rising again to give me eternal life. Please forgive my sins. I open the door of my heart and receive you as my Lord and Savior. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me the free gift of eternal life. May your will be done in my life and help me be the person you want me to be. Amen!”

But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you, you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!   From Romans in the Message Bible