Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011: Baby Steps

That's what we're taking...


Saturday, June 25, 2011

June 25, 1989: Kristi and I Meet

grieve 1  (ɡriːv) [Click for IPA pronunciation guide]
— vb
1.to feel or cause to feel great sorrow or distress, esp at thedeath of someone

That's the definition of 'grieve' according to dictionary.com.  Yup, that's an accurate description.  The pain is still very raw.  Today, I turned around in the bathroom and I saw some of her jewelry hanging on a stand on the counter.  Seems like just yesterday she was wearing that.  That led into me sorting through all of her jewelry...including the little pouch that the funeral home returned Friday.  Inside the pouch was her wedding ring and what she had on at visitation.  

22 years ago tonight Kristi and I met in Grand Haven. I was driving the circuit with a friend and she was walking the boardwalk with a friend. I shouted something really smooth out the window as we drove by and I had her hook, line and sinker! (I believe it was something like "hey babe!"). The rest, as they say, is history. I only remember the date because it is exactly 6 months to Christmas...and of course, Kristi bought me a 6 month anniversary present...on Christmas day...and I said, 'um, whuuut?' So that's how I always remembered our meeting date.  But, in my defense, her birthday is December 17.  So, I had to cover her birthday (which she made perfectly clear on our 2nd date - you NEVER combine a birthday present and Christmas present), and Christmas!  There's no way she could have expected me to remember our 6 month anniversary date, right?!  I didn't think so either!

It's been another tough week. So many things around the house remind me of Kristi. Jewelry, clothes, books, hand written notes to remind her to do something, her last scribbles she made in her final days, etc.  Everything.  I was describing to a friend the other day that everything in this house is Kristi.  Every time I turn around there she is.  It seems like yesterday she was walking through this house.  It all happened so fast.  

We did get out Wednesday and visited some friends at a cottage they rented.  A day of sea-doo'ing, tubing and fun was just what we needed.  On the ride home Ashley said, "Dad, that was the funnest day of summer break!".  We need more of those days!

Nathan, me, and Ashley


Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011: Celebrating Kristi's Life

Here is the video that was shared during Kristi's funeral service...

Kristi Rogalske, the Courage to Shine from Calvary Church on Vimeo.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011: Father's Day 2011

Well, nothing like starting off this new life with a big holiday:  Father's Day.  Kristi used to take all the kids shopping and get me something special for Father's Day.  Then there was always Kristi to burden most of the "duties" on Father's Day to give me, the father, a day all to myself; whatever I wanted to do.  Yup, kick back and yell to the kids to bring me this, bring me that.  OK, so maybe it didn't work quite like that, but Father's Day in the past was always a very special day.

It was different this year.  For one, we didn't go to church...not ready for that yet.  There was no Kristi next to me in bed to wake up to...and my traditional bad joke... "well baby, better get ready to work some OT today!".  Just woke up to silence...which I guess is a blessing...and it will be, in time.  After taking a shower I went downstairs to my three kids...all sitting at the dining table.  They had "prepared" breakfast (bagels), had my cup of coffee ready and all greeted me with an exuberant "happy Father's Day!".  It was quite awesome!

After breakfast we went over to the couch where each one presented their gift and card to me.  It was quite beautiful.  After reading Emily's card she said "turn it over, Daddy, I drewed (her way of saying 'drew') a picture on the back, look, it's our family, all 5 of us."  She had drawn 5 little stick figures representing our family.  Then she went on to say "I even drewed mommy".  Yup, you sure did, dear.You sure did.  I held it in for as long as I could and after Nathan and Emily left the room I lost it.  Just lost it.  Started crying.  Ashley was sitting behind me and started rubbing my back...then she started crying.  I stopped crying and gathered myself long enough to hold it in while the kids got distracted again.  Then I quickly left the room and went upstairs to my bedroom...where I cried like I've never cried before.  I just cried and cried.  Loud cries.  Even slammed my fist on the night stand.  I grabbed a pillow and just held it like it was Kristi.  After 10 or 15 minutes Ashley came up and tried consoling me.  She is just like her mother.  But I just kept crying.  I couldn't stop myself.  I can't believe this.  Seems like just yesterday she was here.

Ashley captured this video of Kristi playing Mario Cart...as you can tell by her reaction, she won.  :)  Keep in mind when watching this video that Kristi was in a great amount of pain.  But, that was Kristi, full of life and enjoying every minute of it.  For us, a cherished memory for sure.  This was one of the last videos of Kristi...

I miss her so bad...more than words can express.  Please pray for the hurt to start the healing process.

I've been asked several times if I am going to keep going with the blog.  For now, yes.  The story isn't done here.  Kristi left a legacy, a legacy we're going to keep alive.  I'll update through our struggles, our grieving, our journey to redefine what "normal" will be like, my struggles with becoming a dad trying to raise 3 children...2 of them girls (yikes), etc.  I know Kristi would want me to keep the blog going.  So, yes, I intend on keeping it going...who knows, maybe Ashley will become my new writing partner.  I said "maybe" Ashley...don't get your hopes up.  :)  hi honey, I love you!!

Until next time, thanks for continuing to hold us up in prayer!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011: Adjusting

Wow, what a whirlwind the past 8 weeks have been.  Everything happened so fast.  It's still hard to process that she's really gone.  It just seems like yesterday that...

The funeral service yesterday was incredible.  I've heard many people say "the most moving funeral service they've ever attended".  I agree!  What a tribute to an amazing woman.

We're all adjusting to life without mom.  It's been hard so far, but we're only a few days into it.  "They tell me time heals".  When people make similar comments the cynical part of me always wants to ask who the "they" is they're speaking about...but anyway, I'm counting on it...I'll add "Time, and prayer, heals"

I'll write more soon.  I need to get some stuff done.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011: Funeral & Visitation Info.

2 visitations:
Monday, June 13, from 6:00 - 9:00 PM
Tuesday, June 14, from 4:00 - 7:00 PM

Langeland-Sterenberg Funeral Home
315 E 16th Street
Holland, MI  49423

Wednesday, June 15, at 4:00 PM

Calvary Christian Reformed Church
400 Beeline Road
Holland, MI 49424


Saturday, June 11, 2011: Kristi is Finally Home

Kristi passed away peacefully last night with her mom and dad, Aunt Diane, and myself at her side. She is now resting cancer-free, pain free, and most importantly, in the comforting arms of Jesus. After all that she has been through over the past 4 and a half years, we take solace knowing that she has finally met Jesus.  I’m sure that He was just as captivated as we all were by her great big, contagious smile when she came running towards Him. 

Last week, Kristi said this: "When I get to heaven, I'll get as close as I can to the front row and I’ll save you all seats."

The following days, weeks and months we will mourn for her loss, we will miss her gentleness and we will yearn for one of those heart-warming smiles.  But rest assured, God will be our provider of comfort, healing and understanding, and one day we too will be united with Jesus.

Visitation and funeral information will follow.

I love you Kristi and will miss you until we meet again.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011: Checked Out

Kristi is awake quite a bit during the day but to say she's lucid during that time would be a gross overstatement.  I spent most of the morning and the early afternoon with her (at one time we even snuggled in her bed) but yet, when her dad was sitting next to her later in the afternoon she asked him "has Brian been here today?"  Ouch.

Often times she will ask a question and you give her an answer, then she will look into space for several seconds, then ask you "what are you talking about?"  Many times it's very difficult to even determine what she's talking about.  This is quite a change even from yesterday.

She has also developed quite a rattle in her breathing.  It's so hard to listen to.  It just seems from day to day there are some pretty significant changes happening.  I realize this is all a normal progression of "the process", but it sucks (ir)regardless.

I watched her tonight and just cried.  Then cried some more.  And then some more.  It really hurts just sitting on the sideline watching someone die; and die slowly.  When you ask her she says she doesn't feel any discomfort, so that's somewhat comforting.

There was one nice surprise today...Aunt Diane arrived from Mexico.  We don't get to see her much so she is always good to see...and Kristi was very happy to see her.

Anyway, that's where we're at.  Good night.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tuesday, June 7, 2011: A Sweet Embrace

Not much to report out on Kristi today...she just continues to get weaker and weaker.  The tumor on the left side of her neck that she had radiation treatments for has grown quite large.  You can see a very prominent lump under her left ear about the size of an egg...maybe sticks out about 5 - 10mm.  Her spirits remain very high as she continues to delight the nurses and doctors with her humor.  She is going out with grace, dignity, humor, beauty, and can look back on her life and say "I made a difference". 

This whole experience is surreal.  Kristi summed it up best when she said: "so you're all just basically sitting around waiting for me to die."  To which I replied:  "well, honey, you can word it that way I guess, but I prefer to say 'we're waiting for you to go running into Jesus' arms.' "  Then she says..."you're funny". 

I look at her and ask myself 'could I be in her spot and be as calm and peaceful as her?'  I have to be honest...I think I'd be scared to...well, death.  She just lies there as if to say to herself "OK, any day now". 

Ashley came to visit with her today.  This was a risky decision but after her last visit when their separation was enough to break the heart of even the toughest, most hardened criminal, I felt I had to bring her back for a better "good-bye".  Sure glad I did!  Seeing the look on Kristi's face when she saw Ashley was priceless.  It was her biggest smile of the day; she even reached out to hug her.  It was a very sweet moment.  The two of them just chatted for about 10 minutes about who knows what.  Doesn't matter.  There was a big embrace and maybe just a couple of tears this time when it was time to go.  After Ashley left the room Kristi reached for me to hug and as we hugged she whispered into my ear "thank you, that was the best decision ever".  Whew!  I was nervous, but Ashley did awesome.  She has matured so much through this ordeal it is amazing.  She is amazing.  And I know she's reading this so don't let it go to your head.  Clean your room.  Love you!

OK, enough for tonight.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011: No Update Tonight



Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sunday, June 5, 2011: Day 12 - Expressions

We've been blessed these past 2 days by a return of some coherence...by Kristi, just to clarify.  The doctor stopped one of her meds and she has regained some alertness.  Today we all (Kristi's family and I) spoke to her at different times and we all got an "I love you".  This morning when I came back (I slept at home last night) I got a great big smile and a hug and my "I love you" that I have been craving.  It was so nice.  She can only whisper a few words at a time but she whispered the ones we've all been wanting to hear - "I love you".

Tuesday will mark 2 weeks without food and 1 week without water.  The only thing she has eaten for the past 2 weeks has been a few ice chips.  Her arms are looking very frail and her face is very thin.  When I spoke to her yesterday she whispered softly into my ear "very peaceful, very quiet, very still".  When I was reading to her this morning I read some random Psalms, one of which was Psalm 4...Psalm 4 ends with this verse: "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."  How fitting!

I had to leave the kids again tonight.  That's getting to be a tougher and tougher process.  I can tell it's really starting to wear on the kids.  The hugs are getting longer...less willing to let go; the eyes are getting tearier; their faces sadder.  They're getting tired; they miss their daddy.  They miss some resemblance of normal - whatever that ends up being.  Pray for the kids tonight. 

That's all for tonight.  Kristi needs some more ice chips.  Gotta go!

Good night.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday, June 3, 2011: Day 10

When we arrived at Hospice by ambulance last week Tuesday I certainly didn't think we would be here 10 days!  The morning after we checked in our case manager nurse here at the Hospice House said "it could be a week to 10 days".  I thought to myself "you're crazy, lady!".  Man, she must not have read Kristi's report, I thought to myself.  Well, here we are...10 days later!

Although this week and a half has been somewhat therapeutic for me (and Kristi's family) to get my last "good-bye" in and my last hug and "I love you", it hasn't been a whole lot of fun for Kristi.  They have the pain meds now to a point where she doesn't feel anything...and for me, that's the most important thing.  I have to admit, when I hop in her bed and snuggle up next to her before I go to bed at night it feels really good.  Her skin is so warm, so soft.  Sigh.

Kristi's sister got a nice surprise tonight...when Lori was telling Kristi good-bye for the night Kristi opened her eyes and mouthed two "I love you's" to Lori!  Wow.  I'm glad Lori was here for that...she needed that!  Man, that was incredible!! 

Well, that's all for day number 10.  Until day 11, have a good night....time to go snuggle!!


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thursday, June 2, 2011: Like Mother Like Daughter...

Oh, the memories we have together,

I sure do wish they could last forever.

I don't understand why God is calling you home,

but there is a reason, that is for now, unknown.

We always walked together, but now we must part.

I want you to know, that you are always, in my heart.
by: Ashley Rogalske

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011: Hospice Day 8

Day 8 is ending much like day 7 began...with Kristi nearly unresponsive to any verbal or physical interaction.  She is down to very few words a day.  In fact, I have not heard her speak once today.  But, apparently when I was home saying 'hi' to the kids she spoke to the nurse:  the nurse told Kristi she was going to give her some more pain meds to which Kristi replied "awe, you're so nice."  Seriously, this is what she said!  Keep in mind she's hardly spoken for 2 days!!  Now why doesn't that surprise me?! 

It's very difficult to see her like she is right now.  It's just not her.  She's flat on her back, pale, very still, her only movement is when her body twitches, the only noise she makes is when she gasps for air, and her mouth is open because her jaw muscles have relaxed.  It's tough to look at, just plain tough.  This past week has sucked every last bit of emotion out of me.  At times I feel like a walking emotionless zombie...all my emotions have been tapped out. Drained. Empty.

Tonight, after visiting with the kids for a while, Nathan had tears in his eyes when it was time for me to come back to the Hospice House.  He didn't want me to leave.  Oh man, the things that must be going through his mind.  Last night Ashley was begging me to stay home and tonight Nathan has these big tears in his eyes.

I feel like I'm being attacked from every angle; like someone is trying to make me crack.  That 'someone' keeps forgetting about you guys - our prayer warriors!  This is some of the most gut wrenching stuff ever to live through and we are very fortunate to have thousands of people all over the world praying for us.  So we try to keep this in mind (I read this to Kristi today):

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I'll end with that.  Good night.