Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011: Peacefully Resting

After a rough night of pain and panic attacks last night Kristi finally rested peacefully today.  This comes at a price of course as she is now pretty much unresponsive.  It's very difficult to see her like she is now - very still, too still.  She has been unresponsive since this morning.  I rubbed her cheek tonight with my cheek and whispered "I love you" into her ear and she responded by grabbing my hand and squeezing...so I know she heard me. 

I had a chance to read through a bunch of poems Kristi has written throughout the years and came across this one she wrote when her grandma died:

Final Goodbye
Death is such a difficult thing
and so hard to comprehend.
So many broken hearts
that do not quickly mend.
I just don’t understand
why people have to die.
It grieves my heart so badly
to see my family cry.
I know that death is better
than living here on earth,
for our treasure is in heaven
after that miraculous rebirth.
The pain I feel right now
will slowly fade away,
but the memories I have of you grandma –
they are here to stay.

There are several more dealing with depression, anxiety, grief and faith and they are all very powerful.  Many of these I have never read.  What an amazing legacy she will leave behind; I am so proud of her. 

That's all I can muster up tonight for an update.  Tired.  Emotionally drained.  Physically drained.  mentally drained. 

Good night.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011: Can She Come Home Now?

Lord, please take her.  End her suffering.  Please please please...


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011: Getting Physical

Blog entry number 700.  Who would have thunk it?!

The changes in Kristi are becoming more apparent as her physical appearance is starting to change.  The most noticeable change I saw today was in her arms.  Her face is appearing thinner but her arms have become very bony.  It was probably a gradual progression all week but I just noticed her arms today.  It startled me when I noticed them;  freaked me out.  I had to leave her room and go cry in the hallway.  I didn't know what else to do. 

Tonight I finally got around to transferring some pictures from my camera to Kristi's laptop.  I had some pictures from Ashley's last soccer game.  I got some really sweet action shots of Ashley that I wanted to show Kristi. 
When I told her about them she looked like she knew what I was talking about and acted like she wanted to see them.  I got excited and was going to get the laptop when she started talking about something I couldn't understand.  When I asked her about the pictures again she said "what pictures?  Oh I'm so confused.  What am I supposed to do?" and she started talking about wanting to "go right now".  Sigh.  Thought I had her back for a moment.  I know, I know.  I need to let go; and I have...for the most part...but every now and then she appears very coherent and it's so nice to get those moments...just wish they would last...like another 40 years maybe.

Speaking of pictures, here is a picture of our weekend getaway about 3 weekends ago.  We received an anonymous gift of a 2 night stay at the downtown Grand Rapids JW Marriott.  It was the week leading up to this getaway weekend when Kristi's pain really began to intensify.  Even though Kristi was in a great deal of pain all weekend and spent most of it in bed, we did have a great time.  We had adjoining rooms which made it very convenient for having a "boys' room and girls' room" for the first night and the 2nd night Nathan and I had "movie night" in mom and dad's room.  After the movie I kicked Nathan out of course in exchange for Kristi.  :)  Anyway, here is a family picture I took as we were packing up to leave.

Thank you to the anonymous donors!


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011: Progressing

Another noticeable decline in Kristi's connection with reality today.  Very little emotion when you speak with her.  Not many smiles today at all either.  When you talk to her she has a blank stare.  It's all a normal progression of the dying process but is hard to just sit and watch.  Kristi's parents and brother were here most of the day with me which helped make the day go faster...I also had a chance to take a break and go home for a bit this afternoon...that was very nice.

The nurse makes it sound like it could be a few more days...brutal.

Anyway, I thought I would share this note from Nathan's 5th grade teacher and class (with her permission):

"Dear Parents,

Today we presented Nathan with a prayer blanket. Each child spent time by the blanket in prayer for Nathan and his family. Then they tied a knot on the blanket to symbolize the prayer that was offered on the Rogalske's behalf. We then gathered as a whole class with Nathan and his blanket and prayed a special prayer over him. It was evident that Nathan was honored by our symbol of love and care for him. Please take a moment to view these pictures and see the Christian love that our students exhibit for each other. Then please pray a prayer for the Rogalske's as Kristi is nearing her heavenly homecoming."

What an amazing school!



Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011: Fading and Bittersweet

Though the physical change in Kristi was less dramatic today, her level of consciousness is heartbreaking.  Remember that lit up face and great big heart warming smile I talked about yesterday...it's dimmed to little more than a slight flicker.  She still recognized me this morning, but it was a struggle for her to muster up even a very slight smile.  It broke my heart.  Sure, I know she is nearing the end, but nothing like reality kicking you right in the gut.  It literally took my breath away.  I felt alone and isolated.  "This is it" I thought to myself.  There's nothing I can do but watch. 

It's evening now and her parents left a while ago.  While they were here I went home to say good bye to the kids for the weekend (Kristi's sister is taking them).  After the kids and Lori left I just sat on the staircase for a while.  The silence was deafening.  As I walked around the house I saw Kristi in every room.  I just wandered around the house aimlessly...sobbing.  Kristi was such a big piece of my life puzzle.  She was the glue that held this family together.  I now will have to rely only on memories.  Fortunately, I have taken over 13,000 pictures since we've been married.  All of the photos pre-digital I have scanned and made into digital files.  Whenever you come over to our house you can always find at least one computer scrolling through the pictures (screen saver).  I love to watch them, but it does bring back a lot of memories. 

God will give us the strength to get through this, I have no doubt about that and Kristi will get her wish soon.  I am very excited for her on one hand, but can't help but be overwhelmingly sad on the other.  Bittersweet, that's what it is.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011: The Bravest Person I've Ever Met

How many of us could be (literally) on our death bed, in our final moments, each breath a struggle, every word nearly impossible to speak, be completely honest and say "I wish he'd beam me up already!"?  That's what Kristi said today...that's my girl!  She is the bravest, most courageous woman I know.

This girl is amazing.  She is so excited to get to heaven she is getting frustrated at waiting.  The other night she was chanting "take me now, take me now, take me now".  When I sit in the lounging area of our room sometimes I just stare at her.  She sleeps most of the time but when she wakes up and sees me, her face just lightens up, her eyes open as wide as they possibly can and she gets this great big smile.  Then she nods off again.  But for those 3 or 4 seconds my heart just melts. It doesn't matter if it's the first time of the day or the 100th time of the day...every time she smiles at me like it's the first time.  I will miss that smile the most. 

What keeps me going is how excited she gets when she talks about meeting Jesus face to face.  She is so ready to go and that brings some healing to the hole that will be left in our hearts.  I asked her today if she wanted me to post a prayer request on her behalf.  This is her prayer request:

"God, please take Kristi home to Jesus now; she is ready"

When I told Ashley this, she said behind a face drenched with a steady flow of tears, "then that's what we have to pray for, Dad".  I lost it.  Absolutely lost it.

Thank you, Ashley, for your courage, and for reminding us "old" people that it's not always about us, about what we want.  You are wise beyond your years.  I love you, Dad.

Good night.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011: Still Peaceful

We brought Kristi to the Hospice House this afternoon to rest peacefully and that is what she is doing.  She looks so peaceful right now.  Sorry to those friends and family that wanted to visit with her but couldn't.  She went very quickly.  Hard to believe just 3 weeks ago she was attending soccer games, driving the kids to school, laughing, smiling, etc.  Just a little more than a week ago we were visiting with friends in the neighborhood street for over an hour.  And now we're down to her last hours.

This is a very tough time.  Thank you for all of the prayers...what an awesome display of Christian love you all have shown us.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011: Peaceful

Kristi's condition has turned very grave.  Her breathing has become very shallow and she is very weak.  Our Hospice nurse has said she is really down to her final few days, probably no more than 3. 

Kristi told our pastor tonight she is very peaceful and very ready to go; that brings a lot of comfort knowing where she is at emotionally and spiritually.  Please cover my family as well as Steve and Linda Kammeraad, Kevin (brother) and Stephanie Kammeraad, Lori Fox (sister) and their kids in prayer. 

Thank you so so so much.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011: A Better Morning

After about 3:00AM, Kristi slept about a 3 hour stretch.  This is the longest stretch she's had in quite a while...that felt good for both of us.  The day is off to a good start!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011: On the Decline

Kristi's condition continues to decline.  Her coherent moments are becoming less frequent and shorter in duration.  She is very confused and hallucinates often.  This is very difficult to watch.  She is up every 15-30 minutes at night to go to the bathroom.  Today she got a catheter in but she thinks she has to go so she gets up anyway.  She then goes to the bathroom and slips in and out of alertness while on the toilet...this can last up to 30-45 minutes. 

When she sees family her mind is still very much "with it", but then she is usually confused after they leave.  "Who was here today?" 

Very difficult.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011: Update on Kristi

I haven't updated on Kristi's condition in a while because we had many family and friends we needed to talk to first.  This change came on very sudden.  3 weeks ago she was driving, picking the kids up after school, going to soccer games, having coffee with friends, etc. then out of nowhere, it seems, everything stopped.  The swelling in her feet became unbearable.  Her stomach has grown to what she describes as "7 months pregnant".  It is really unbelievable. 

She is pretty much in bed 24 hours a day.  She spends most of her time in our bedroom, but usually for a bit in the morning and in the evening she comes down to her hospital bed in the living room.  She is on a good amount of pain control medication (aka morphine) which makes her pretty incoherent and confused much of the day.  But, she still has her sense of humor and that cute little smile. 

Well, it's been an hour between putting everyone to bed and starting this so I'm going to go watch some meaningless TV.  I'll fill in more later.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011: New Beginnings

When I was younger I liked this song called "Closing Time" by a group named Semisonic.  There's a line in the song that I reflect on every time I hear the song: "every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end". 

Together you, myself, and Kristi have bravely endured this cancer journey for four and a half years; a journey that has brought so many highs and so many lows; a journey that has spread God's word to all 50 states and over 80 countries across the world.  Together, we have done this and have proven that good things can come from life's most challenging circumstances.  Together, we have demonstrated how God's love can shine even in the darkest of times.

Our journey together began on January 23, 2007 and continues on through today.  Like most journeys, however, this journey too is drawing to an end and a new journey will soon begin.  When the new journey begins only God knows. 

Today, we are faced with the reality that Kristi is going Home to be with Jesus soon.  Her health has deteriorated to a point that makes Hospice believe we are down to but a few short weeks. God's work here with Kristi is almost complete and so we will, again together, mourn for her passing but celebrate the legacy she is leaving behind. 

For Kristi, however, a new journey begins:  Kristi will soon be walking side by side with Jesus.  I can see it now:  Kristi will be President of His card stamping club!  Something urgent must have come up (in heaven) that requires many new cards to be stamped that has made God decide He would like her sooner rather than later.  So it is. 

The coming weeks will be very emotional as she begins to say 'good-bye' to many of her friends.  Kristi has influenced so many people over the years that makes saying 'see you later' (instead of 'good-bye') to each and every one impossible.  If you're hearing of this for the first time by reading it on the blog we are very sorry.  Please understand.  You know Kristi:  if she could she would be going around to everyone personally...even our international followers.  :)

As I said, the next few weeks will be very emotional as she will soon not be able to have a coherent conversation much longer as things progress.  For right now, she is coherent a few hours a day...and those hours we cherish.  No one knows what tomorrow brings so for now we just live day to day.  I'm hoping that one day soon Kristi can muster enough energy for one more post; she has wanted to but just can't get the strength or focus. 

In the meantime, please continue to cover her, myself and the kids, her parents, sister and brother, and all the family in prayer.  Many prayers will be needed.  Thank you all so much!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011: This will be hard...

I'm sorry for not keeping up to date; I know the silence must be difficult for those that follow our blog.

We are not ready to share everything at this time but it's important that I share this with you:  know that Kristi's health has taken a sudden turn for the worse.  But also be comforted by the fact that she is getting very good care at home right now.  She still has a lot of pain and is very confused, but she can still smile and laugh so that helps.  I will share more when we get her stabilized, but right now things are a whirlwind.

At this time we're asking that only immediate family visit.  As I said, Kristi is very confused with everything going on and visitors coming and going makes her very unsettled. 

Thanks for understanding and I'll share more when I know more...because I am also very confused with everything going on.

For now, please pray for comfort, peace, guidance, strength and patience for our family over the next few weeks.  Thank you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011: Keep 'Em Coming

Please keep the prayers coming for Kristi.  She is still in a lot of pain and very uncomfortable all the time.  We're not quite sure what's happening at this point but what we do know is that she has a lot of pain and swelling.  Right now we are in need of many prayers.  Prayers for comfort for Kristi, understanding for the kids, and strength for me would be greatly appreciated. 

Perseverance.  We will persevere.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday, May 8, 2011: Prayers

I don't want to go into a lot of details right now but please pray hard for Kristi.  She has been in an extreme amount of pain since last week and needs comfort.  Thank you!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011: New Furniture...

Normally one would be excited and waiting in anticipation of the delivery of a new piece of furniture. You would have spent hours shopping for it together, debating back and forth whether you should go with plaid or a solid color, extra soft cushions for comfort? or firm cushions for better support? do you match the carpet or do you match the paint on the walls? So many choices to make and quite fun actually…and the new arrangement of furniture that would ensue…!

But not so much fanfare with the piece of furniture we’re getting delivered today. Nope. Not this one. Today is a bittersweet day: today we get the hospice bed delivered. Bittersweet because the bed will help with Kristi’s swelling and pain, but bad at the same time because we’re getting a hospice bed delivered; bad because of what the bed represents. We will try to decorate the bed and make it as cheery as possible for the kids, but for me, it will be a reminder of what’s yet to come. The pain she has yet to endure. The buckets of tears that will be shed over this bed.

For now we just wait. Wait for that truck to pull up in the driveway to deliver the bed.