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 on April 4 from 12:00 to 4:00pm. (Amazon launch date - April 2) ... Thanks for the encouragement Shelley and everyone!
The link to my book on Amazon -

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)

The link to my book on Amazon -

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.