Fed By the Spirit and by the Neighbors

Family Christmas 2015We had a wonderful Christmas celebration here at home. Our children and grandchildren had a wonderful luncheon that was catered completely by my neighbors Wanda and Doug. I didn’t have to do a thing. We opened presents and just enjoyed each others company. There was a spirit of peace and joy, knowing that Steve was with his Heavenly family and reunited with loved ones. We will see him again. I’m sure we won’t always be happy and light because I imagine the grief will hit us each individually, but this time is one of peace and a sort of graduation to a new chapter. This family picture is the first one without him, but we will carry on. The love of a family is priceless.

handlebarToday my son Brad and I went to the mortuary to make final arrangements for the funeral. We had it all pre-planned and pre-paid but we had a few details to finish up. We decided to put a handlebar mustache on his headstone, and on the funeral program cover. Won’t that be fun? He was known for his handlebar mustache. I think he would like that.

Neighbors are visiting and bringing love, hugs, and  food. I was worried about feeding my family during all this because I hate to cook and I don’t want to cook and I don’t have time to cook, but my dear friends are bailing me out. Today we received soup, salad, rolls, pizza, cookies, and a complete roast beef dinner. Tomorrow someone is bringing dinner again. And my friends in California are sending a half a ham and a turkey. And on the day of the funeral the Relief Society is serving us lunch at church. This is just great! I so appreciate not having to worry about meals this week. Thank you thank you thank you.

Obituary

Steve0051Steven Michael Christiaens passed away peacefully on Christmas Eve due to cancer. He was born in Ogden, Utah on September 25, 1951. Steve was known as a man of integrity and caring. He was the owner of Awesome Pest Control and he always had his clients’ best interests at the top of his list. He loved traveling with his wife, eating, reading, and going to the movies with his family. He was a father, son, husband, brother and grandfather whose family could always rely on in any situation for help and support.  Steve is survived by his wife Glenda, children Pepper, Sid, Andy (Kathryn), Brad (Avery), his 3 sisters, 2 brothers, 9 grandchildren, and his wonderful mother. He is experiencing a sweet Heavenly reunion with his father, two sisters, and grandparents. He’s gone home for the Holidays. The funeral and viewings will be held at 2901 West 9000 South in West Jordan, Utah. The funeral will be on Tuesday, December 29 at 11:00 AM. Viewings will be on Monday, December 28 from 6:00 – 8:00 PM and on Tuesday, December 29 from 9:30 – 10:30 AM.

Gone Home

Home-for-Christmas-Sermon-Series-IdeaToday Steve was breathing rapidly and noisily and was not responsive. His eyes were open but he did not interact with us. His mom and one of his sisters called to say goodbye. Around 12:30 I played a Josh Wright CD for him and went downstairs to talk to a  girlfriend. At 12:50 I felt that I should go check on him. She and I went up to the bedroom and he had passed away. My first reaction was one of delight and joy that he was finally out of pain and gone Home for Christmas, although I was sorry I wasn’t there at the exact moment of death. Then I was sad, then happy, then sad,… Interestingly, our son Andy in Atlanta was listening to the exact same CD at the same time.

The Hospice nurse came right away and arranged for the mortuary to pick him up, and for the medical supply company to pick up the bed and other supplies. Our grandson Marlo and our son Brad stayed with me the whole time. Along with our daughter Pepper we went to dinner at Steve’s favorite restaurant and reminisced. It was fun and touching and bonding and Steve would have loved that we did that.

We wrote the obituary and scheduled the funeral for next Tuesday. It will be nice to honor him and celebrate his life. A new chapter begins for all of us.

Going Home for Christmas

1997

1997

Today Steve is breathing rapidly and his chest is rattling loudly. The hospice nurse thinks he most likely will die this weekend. I told him to go Home for Christmas. It would be OK with me if he passed on Christmas Day. We’ll see. We’ve reduced his meds down to two. One liquid for anxiety and one patch for pain. He seems comfortable but is generally unresponsive, with his eyes open. Our sons and daughter are spending time with him, saying I Love You and playing some music. I told him I would miss dancing with him. I will.

Decline

Update: Steve is mainly sleeping now. I have to wake him up every few hours to turn him over so his bedsores don’t get worse. But it is hard to rouse him. He can only talk in a whisper and can only say a couple words at a time.  I tried to give him his 8:00 PM pills just now and he cannot swallow them. I called the Hospice nurse and she said this is a sign of the approaching end of life, and this is probably his last week. I got the important medicines down him, and tomorrow I will crush them into yogurt to see if that works for him. He has a patch for pain, which is working. He seems comfortable and when asked if he is in pain he says no. Thank YouThis morning he got a big smile on his face and looked at me and said, “Thank You.” So sweet.

Thank You Christmas!

Jingle BellsMy husband Steve is declining a bit more rapidly now. He sleeps most of the time and is not fully aware of his surroundings. I am crying more. Fortunately, our daughter’s suicidal episode seems to be resolved now, but that was awful. This afternoon while driving I listened to Christmas carols on the radio and the thought came to me that Christmas would hold bad memories for me and would never be the same. Then I had a flash of insight: I am thankful that all this is happening during Christmas time. It’s a beautiful time of year filled with the Christmas Spirit. Just tonight a man and his son came from our Hospice provider with a guitar and sang Christmas songs to Steve.They included the Hawaiian Christmas Song (Mele Kalikimaka), which is Steve’s favorite. Tree with starsHow wonderful. And someone is hitting us with the Twelve Days of Christmas – putting a gift (stars for our Christmas tree) on our doorstep every night, anonymously. And we had fudge and a CD delivered to us by our bishop, and we received tons of Christmas cards, and  people’s houses are lit up, and we have Christmas Day to look forward to as we buy gifts and think of each other. So Christmas is a gift for me this year and I so appreciate it. So yes, Christmas will never be the same for me. It will be better, and hold memories of peace and love and joy during a challenging life event. Thank you Jesus.

Death Watch

Brad, Avery, Glenda, Marlo, Braxton in front

Brad, Avery, Glenda, Marlo, Braxton in front

Last night a wonderful couple from our neighborhood, Don and Lydia, came and sat with Steve while I went with my son and his family and my grandson to see Star Wars The Force Awakens.We wore Star Wars T-Shirts. We had a wonderful time seeing a great movie and enjoying each other’s company. I came home buzzing with joy and fun. And Steve had fun. He asked Don if he liked Asphalt Pie from Winger’s. Don said yes. Steve said would you like some now? Don said, yes, do you have some in the freezer? Steve said no you have to go buy some! And he did.

Quinn Michael Christiaens one month old

Quinn Michael Christiaens one month old

Steve is a little disoriented now. He thinks we are in France. Sounds delightful. He also thought our new grandson is a girl. We convinced him otherwise, although he resisted. We reminded him that Quinn Michael has Steve’s middle name, so of course it would be a boy.

I feel like I’m on some weird death watch. Not only is Steve getting closer to transition, but our 38-year-old daughter is suicidal and threatens to kill herself every day. Although the police met with her today to perhaps take her back to the hospital, she somehow talked them out of it. As far as I know she is spending the night in her car right now with her dog. My plan for tomorrow is to get her stuff moved into a storage unit, because she was evicted from her house while she was in the hospital. She insists that she won’t need her stuff because she will be dead. But I have heard this story so many times before that I believe she will survive and will want her stuff back in the next few months. I just can’t believe that two of my loved ones are so close to death at the same time. I feel a little bit numb. I do my best to stay in the present moment and take one day at a time, knowing that the future will take care of itself without me fussing over it. The hard part is being a witness to both of them suffering so much. Perhaps they are meant to enter Heaven together…

Moving On

moving boxesToday I was not able to spend much time with Steve, although he was mostly sleeping. I met about 10 women at my daughter’s house and we boxed up everything to get it ready for the movers to come and put it all in storage. Then later a couple of men came over and disassembled her bed. So everything is ready for the movers. Thanks to my friends from my church who were so kind to help. My daughter is still in the hospital working out some emotional/mental health issues. She will be released when the treatment team believes she has an appropriate safety plan in place that will prevent a suicide attempt. This evening her son Marlo and I dropped her car off at the hospital so she will have it when she gets out. She doesn’t want any contact with the family….forever. She is especially mad at me because I won’t let her live with us. I just really can’t handle it right now. I am taking care of her dog, and moving, and that is enough. I know she will figure something out. She is smart and resourceful and will be able to move on.

star wars2I am planning to see Star Wars Saturday night with my son and his wife and our grandsons Marlo and Braxton. Our neighbors will come to keep an eye on Steve. In preparation, Steve, Marlo and I are watching the original three episodes. We would watch the second three episodes also, but they were just crummy and we don’t want to watch them. Tonight we watched The Empire Strikes Back and Steve fell asleep like he did for the first episode. He was acting confused all day. This is the worst he’s ever been. He is having some trouble eating. For example, he sipped on a spoon that he thought was a straw, and he spills a lot. He also asks frequently exactly where he is. I am losing him slowly and piece by piece. Today he said, once again, that he is ready to move on.

Award Winner

My girlfriend sent me a text saying “Wow…you win the most horrible life sucks award.” I’m sure things could be worse, but last week my granddaughter was hospitalized (She’s OK now) and my daughter lost her job, lost her apartment, got in a car accident, and is in the ER right now. Apparently she texted someone that she might overdose intentionally on sleeping pills so the police took her to the hospital against her will. As for me, I’m still not getting too upset about things. I just have no more room for upset. I do my best to focus on the present moment, and I make sure I meditate twice a day. That makes a huge difference in my energy level and ability to keep plugging forward. Even exciting events are not too exciting. For example, my son got engaged yesterday. Deep down I am very happy for him and wish him the best, but I’m not overcome with joy and hope at this time. It will come. It will all come back to me. I think I’m in a self protection mode and I’m thankful for it because if I really focused on all this stuff and got all upset I would feel worthy of the Most Horrible Life Sucks Award. But really, all is well. Life is a school of learning and this is just a rigorous semester. The Professor (God) is a great teacher and wants me to succeed.

Steve is drowsy again today and a bit cranky. He can carry on conversations but just gets a little off track. But his pain is under control and he is generally comfortable. Yay!

Girls Night Out

 

Avia, Glenda, Pepper, Avery

Avia, Glenda, Pepper, Avery

I was exhausted yesterday  but knew I was going out with my granddaughter (Avia), daughter (Pepper), and daughter-in-law (Avery) for fun. It was challenging to get the energy flowing, but I did it and had a GREAT TIME. So glad I went. It was a great break away. My grandson Marlo stayed home with Steve so I didn’t worry. We went for manicures and pedicures, then went clothes shopping, then out to dinner.

Avery, Avia, Glenda

Avery, Avia, Glenda

After dinner Avery colored Avia’s hair and they stayed up until midnight. I couldn’t make it that long, but there’s just nothing like a good girls night out to focus on fun and just let problems take care of themselves for awhile. Very rejuvenating.

Steve has slept all day today. When he woke up around 2:00 he asked for a bowl of cereal, scrambled eggs, hash browns, juice, and toast. He ate the bowl of cereal while I was cooking. I brought up the hot food to him and he promptly fell asleep. Yes, he knows I’m not a great cook, so sleeping instead of eating my cooking was a wise choice. It’s 6:30 now and he is still asleep. I need to wake him up to give him some medicine. My guess is that he will now be awake all night. We’ll see.

eggsIt’s about 10:00 PM now and guess what Steve wants to eat? You guessed it – scrambled eggs, hash browns, juice and toast. He has no memory of already having that today and not eating it. Well it aint gonna happen! He also wanted a bowl of cereal and since we were out of Frosted Flakes, he asked me to go to the store to get some. Our grandson Marlo went, and as soon as he returned I asked Steve if he wanted some Frosted Flakes and he said, “NO.” Are we having fun yet? Honestly, we interpret these as humorous events that actually sort of bring our family closer together. So it’s all good.