Monday, 28 October 2013

Thrill Ride

Anyone who knows Mike well knows he's a big kid at heart. He has always loved pulling a good prank. He was quite often the instigator of neighbourhood water fights. He was in there like a dirty shirt when it came to a road hockey game. He's a die-hard trick or treater...which he and the kids are gearing up for in a few days. And he loved going to Playland.

Vancouver's Playland is the oldest amusement park in Canada and was one of our children's favourite places to go when they were younger. Sometimes we all went as a family and sometimes Mike would just take the kids and whatever friends wanted to tag along. Who better to take a bunch of kids to Playland than another kid, just bigger, with a driver’s license and money, who rides all the rides and buys lots of mini donuts and cotton candy.

The park's main attraction and this family’s favourite ride is the 55 year old wooden roller coaster. Simply named the Coaster, this dangerous "thrill ride" isn't considered so because of it's great height and super speed, but because it's "rickety" and without seat belts. The feeling of flying out of your seat at any moment is real and pretty scary, but hasn't happened to anyone...yet.

ACE (American Coaster Enthusiasts), has honoured this famous roller coaster with "classic" and "landmark" status. ACE awards "landmark" status to rides that are historically significant and "classic" to wooden rides that: use lap bars to allow the rider to float above the seat - have no other restraints to allow riders to move side to side in the car - a ride without head rests allowing all riders to view upcoming drops and turns.

All roller coasters have them...drops and turns that is. They have their ups and downs for sure. The unexpected curves and swerves are all part of the ride. It can be exhilarating and terrifying...Life is kind of like that too. It’s a little hair-raising at times and can have you on the edge of your seat and sometimes you just want to scream, "GET ME OFF THIS THING!"

I'm not much of a thrill seeker myself. But when life feels like a wild ride, I find the best thing to do is to stay calm and trust God...not necessarily in that order. Whether it's the twists and turns of ALS or anything else in our lives that seems a little over the top, I tell myself, STAY CALM AND TRUST GOD!

Some wise advice I applied to memory when I was young and I have been trying to apply to my life since then, from Proverbs 3:5,6 goes like this: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make you paths straight." Memorizing and quoting this verse isn't that difficult but putting it into practice can be. It's not something you learn to do in five minutes, it can take a life time to perfect.

My children know this verse well, or so they should. I've written it in birthday cards, I've spoken it on graduation day, I've sent it in Facebook messages. Last week, Madison and I were having a conversation via text message. She was a little anxious as she contemplated big decisions. I texted "Don't worry AND trust God all the time". She replied, "Okay". I smiled and thought we should always respond that way.

Last week Mike and I prayed for:
Friends who had to put their dog down...a young man with a brain tumour...a young friend with drug addiction...a couple whose baby died...friends with cancer...a mother's broken heart...a friend with with Parkinson’s...others with illness, alcoholism, depression, divorce, physical pain and so on.
I'm sure we all feel like we are on a roller coaster ride sometimes. 'Stay calm and trust God' should be written on the lap bar.

"Beyond our understanding, He is teaching us to trust…
His plans are still to prosper, He has not forgotten us.
He is with us in the fire and the flood...
Faithfull forever, perfect in love, He is sovereign over us."
from 'Sovereign Over Us' - Arron Keys

Nathan and Mike on the Coaster in 2001
Madison and Mike, friend Alison and Erin 2003
friend Ali and Madison 2004
friend Jamie and Erin 2004
Erin and cousin Melanie 2007
All of us on the log ride at Playland 2001
All of us with my parents on Splash Mountain 2001

Saturday, 5 October 2013

To the Moon and Back

A couple of weeks ago when I was at the grocery store, I picked up a jar of Smucker’s strawberry jam. I love Smucker’s, but I rarely buy it because it usually costs more than all the other brands. While reaching for the less expensive and less tasty jam I normally buy, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the sale tag on the Smucker’s. No questions asked, I grabbed a jar and actually kind of hugged it. I grinned from ear to ear not because of the $1.69 savings, but because the Smucker’s jam reminded me of Mike. When Mike did the grocery shopping, he didn’t care about the price. He would get the Smucker’s because he knew I liked it best. And that is just one small way he loved me.

Mike and I have had the same discussion regarding our love for each other many times over the years. It goes exactly like this: When he tells me he loves me, I ask him, "How much?" He shows me the distance of about an inch with his thumb and index finger. I say, "That's it?" He says proudly, "Compared to an ant!" And then I say again, "That's it?" He explains that compared to an ant, an inch is a lot. He says that an ant can't even stretch his arms out that far as he stretches his arms out as far as he can. I usually say one more time, "That's it?" Then he asks, "Well, how much do you love me?" I say, "To the moon and back compared to an ant." He replies, "Double that and you got me!"

Double? I don't think so, but maybe Mike has loved me more than I have loved him. He was always thinking of me, always doing little things for me like writing notes for me on the dining room table with Alphabits cereal, and he usually put me first.  He would probably say I did the same for him, but I just felt really loved. I still do of course, even though he is unable to dump out a box of Alphabits and construct a message for me...With a nod, a smile, a certain look in his eye and I know its love.

Last weekend, Mike's health declined very quickly. Friday it started...the coughing, gagging, choking and by Saturday afternoon, we thought it was pneumonia (pneumonia is really common with ALS). We were constantly suctioning saliva from his mouth and trying different things to clear the congestion. Saturday evening, completely exhausted and pretty much unable to breath, Mike agreed to go to the hospital. My sister, Elanna and I bundled him up, and we were off. Elanna drove and I sat in the back with my arms around Mike. We were all really calm on the outside, but on the inside I was pleading with God to give us more time. It seemed to happen so fast and I wasn't ready for this.

When we got to the emergency room of our local hospital, we were whisked in right away. Within fifteen minutes, Mike was having his chest x-rayed. Elanna and I were so surprised and really excited when the news came that his lungs were clear! His stats were great too! Like I keep telling Mike, he's the healthiest sick guy in town. Dr. Alan (a friend), the nurse and the respirologist were able to get things under control and in no time we were home again.

It's a week later and Mike is still fighting this nasty cold, and in his condition it's pretty devastating. Throughout this whole ordeal, his gestures of love have been on my mind; the nod, the smile, the certain look in his eye and all I can think is, "Double that and you got me!"

He'd reply, "Hey, that's my line."

Through thick and thin, Mike remains positive and courageous!

After reading my recent blog post, Heaven Scent, Mike's response was: "Man can't live on bread alone." From Matt 4:4 where it says: "It is written, man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." Mike hasn't eaten anything by mouth for a couple of weeks and he is still!

Mike was given a medication to help dry up secretions. He tried the drops, but they weren't very effective, so he was prescribed the same medication to be injected. Elanna and I were given a lesson at the hospital, but the next day when I actually had to give Mike the injection and Elanna was at work, he coached me through it by typing step by step instructions.  When I was done, he typed: Good job…You are a natural…I feel better already. I left a bit of a welt, and it was red, but he just smiled.

In a Facebook message to me this week, Mike says – “I’m ready when He is.”

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.” GK Chesterton