I had the incredible honor of caring for Mom in the last week of her life. As a nurse, it was the only thing I had to offer to her as a gift, to fulfill her wish to die at home, and it was the greatest privilege of my life. Yet, even now, it seems so small in comparison to all of the gifts she gave me in the five years I’ve been a part of her family.
That last week was hard for everyone. Realizing how quickly everything had changed was a huge shock, but we were yet again blessed with extra time with Mom. Her strength still astounds us all. In those last days we all had individual time with her – time I think we will all hold onto dearly because of the real moments of connection with her. Moments we never thought we would have again when we first gathered as a family around her bed. But Mom continued to amaze us by opening her eyes, smiling and even speaking small sentences to us. The five days passed both too quickly and so slowly at the same time. Those days all blend together now.
The most amazing thing I witnessed during that last week however, was the love between Carson and Brenda. Their tenderness toward one another was beautiful. How Dad would do anything for her, assisting me in caring for her in a way that no one else could. Helping me change and wash her; lifting her gently to reposition her on the bed; putting her favourite lip chap on so her lips wouldn’t dry out (even though he went too far down her lips, making mom wave him off). The way he whispered in her ear in her final moments, selflessly encouraging her to go meet her Lord, was both amazing and heartbreaking. I can only begin to imagine how hard that must have been, to let go of your life’s great love. It was so beautiful, the way he served her until her final breath.
Even in those last days, Mom served Dad too, giving him gifts better than presents. Gifts like opening her eyes when we didn’t think she would again. Doing things for him that was better than an “Oh Wow”, which she gave to others when she woke up and recognized them, but not to him. The gifts she gave him were things that seemed so simple, like pulling Dad in by his shirt so he was closer to her. The way she would spend so much of her precious energy just to reach up and touch his cheek. How she would turn her head to lean in and kiss him, and then how Mom spent an entire days worth of her energy moving over to Dad’s side of the bed because, after 39 years, her side just wasn’t close enough to him anymore. She loved him so deeply.
Mom served Dad by giving him the moments of confidence that allowed him to let go. Being able to witness those intimate moments meant everything to me. It was just another gift that Mom gave me, sharing the glimpses of their love with me, showing how even in the final moments, love is more than enough. I learned so much about marriage in those days, that it is about carrying each other to the finish, even if just one of you crosses the line. Theirs was, theirs is, a great love.
Love is what mom emanated. It’s been more evident to me than ever since she passed. She shone in every room she entered, and she brought people into that light by loving each person. The fact that people who, to most of us, may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of our lives, cried when they heard of her passing, speaks to how Mom touched their lives. It demonstrates how important people were to her and how much love was a part of her life. I learned so much about Godly love from Mom, I learned that love cannot be confined to just a marriage or a friendship, but to it is meant to be given equally to every relationship that we enter. She has inspired and challenged me to love differently.
Thank you to all who joined our family for Brenda’s Service and those who made it possible. Thanks to Christian Life Assembly and Kurt Witt for sharing this video of the service for those around the world unable to be here in person.
Since Mom “slipped into heaven” the days have felt so long…and the roller coaster of emotions, so overwhelming. Mom had prepared so well. She took time to plan the details of her Celebration of Life and Hope Service. There were details for the family, gifts for people she loved. She left us lists, all sorts of lists, and every day as I look through them, they make me smile.
One of the first things we noticed was her “communication plan”. On this plan she had written who she wanted us to let know of her passing and memorial details. So Kirstie and I printed some pictures of Mom with her Celebration of Life details and headed out one afternoon to fulfill her wish. As well as the neighbours around Mom and Dad’s house, the list started with Porters, her favourite coffee shop. Then the dry-cleaners she went to and the Subway next door owned by a high school classmate of Jeremy’s. It seemed a bit strange doing this, but soon became very clear to us what an impact mom had on the people around her, in every area of her life.
Just before we had left the house the home nurse came by to pick up supplies and had told Dad how she loved getting to know Mom and that nurses in her office had been reading her Caring Bridge and want to attend the service if they can.
At the dry-cleaners, the owner started crying and hugging us, saying how sorry she was and how much she loved Mom. At Subway, the owner was brought to tears. He thanked us for coming in and letting him know, and told us that he’d be at the service without a doubt. I can’t say that the guy at our Subway would know who I am, but I am definitely inspired to live my everyday life a bit differently.
Kirstie and I got back to the car, and just sat there for a minute. Kirstie then said “So many people loved Mom. She even touched the lives of these people who only knew a small part of her. And we get to be a part of her family!”
Mom was the first person I went to for advice on raising my boys…she had so much wisdom to share. I will always be thankful for the times she allowed me to call in tears and how she’d help me walk through any situation with grace. She taught me so much and I pray that I can raise my boys to be Godly men as she did hers.
PUE, Brenda Susan
Aug. 29, 1955 – Aug. 12, 2015.
A spunky, fun-loving leader of leaders, Brenda Susan Pue made a lasting impact through her work with Arrow Leadership, where she mentored and encouraged leaders from around the world to “Lead More Like Jesus.”
On August 12, Brenda passed over the threshold peacefully while at home. She was 59 years of age. Surrounded by her loving family, and after courageously living with cancer for 588 days, she quietly “slipped into heaven.”
Throughout her life, and especially as she faced cancer, Brenda was a woman of courage and faith. Writing authentically about her journey, she impacted many readers who followed her blog (www.caringbridge.org/visit/ brendapue). A charismatic woman, Brenda was known for her contagious laughter and winsome smile. Just being around this remarkable Vancouver resident made God seem closer at hand and easier to know and trust.
She will be lovingly remembered by Carson, her husband of 38 years; their three boys, Jason (Kristin Paterson), Jeremy (Shari Boileau), Jonathan (Kirstie White) as well as their five beloved grandchildren, Landon, Liam, Mac, Ellie and Georgia.
The immediate family is profoundly grateful for all the love and support they have enjoyed over the past 20 months from Brenda’s mom, siblings, friends, and medical professionals.
Come join an inspiring Celebration of Life and Hope that will be held on Saturday, August 22, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. at Christian Life Assembly, 21277 56 Ave, Langley. In lieu of flowers, donations will be gratefully received for two of the ministries about which Brenda was most passionate: Arrow Leadership and Barnabas Family Ministries.
Brenda Pue – too well loved to ever be forgotten.
Published in Vancouver Sun and/or The Province from Aug. 15 to Aug. 16, 2015
We were getting ready for the evening, about to take turns by Mom’s bedside throughout the night. Jer and I were going to have a glass of wine, but then opted for something a bit stronger. We poured our glasses as Kristin came downstairs and said that Kirstie was crying. There had been a lot of tears over these last couple days but somehow I knew that this was different. We all gathered quickly around Mom to be with her. Her breathing was different, struggling more so than before.
The doctor had joined us and assured us that she didn’t feel any pain as we watched her breathe. Each breath was full of anticipation and wonder, is this the last breath? Minutes turned into hours and the hours felt like moments suspended in time.
We cried. We laughed at memories. But mostly we waited and were not sure what to do. My family and I were just content to be present. Everything had been said, love from each of us was well known to her. We held her hand, her arm, stroked her head in comfort- for ourselves and for her. Her breaths were shallow, and short, and the space long in between. The small breaths lingered like watching a bubble slowly climb into the air until it eventually burst.
On what was her last breath, the doctor listened for a heartbeat, searching and waiting for any sign. But there was nothing to be heard, and he turned to us and said, “she’s passed”.
For all the days I had to get ready, nothing really prepares you for that moment. She was gone. And in an instant, in one moment, she moved from a living and breathing saint to someone who dwells not just in heaven but also in all of us. She remains now in our memories, in our minds and actions, and in pictures that hang suspended from the walls.
Grief and sorrow take over. A sudden realization that life is no longer the same. Everything is altered. I said goodbye with a kiss on the forehead, that was unexpectedly cold for someone whose love was so warm.
Already, as a family, we had leaned on each other greatly. Now more so than ever. What’s ahead? Conversations that come far too early with precious nieces and nephews, and for me the fear of now trying to live without an anchor that has grounded me for years. Seems overwhelming…and it is.
I take comfort in knowing that Mom died exactly how she would have wanted to- at home peacefully, with loved ones close at hand.
It still seems so surreal, like having a bad dream and waiting to be scared awake to reality.
Already, I long for Mom to know my sons and daughters. That they could know the woman she was. I wish she could love them and guide them through this life as she did with me. I rue the times when I go to call her while I drive simply to see how her day was. I must tell myself that I did the best I could with the time that was given to us. And to not fall into the guilt of how I used my time, did I work too much? Should I have called or visited one more time? Rather, I can trust that she knows the deep and unrelenting love I have for her. The moments we have had will never be replaced and never lost.
I thought I was ready. But I was not.
Today marks the beginning of learning how to live again.
Our loving warrior teacher has gone ahead of us and we look forward to joining her in glory one day.
The celebration of her life will be held August 22nd, 1:30pm, at “CLA” Christian Life Assembly (21277 56 Ave. Langley. All are welcome (typical of Brenda). Come be inspired by the life of an amazing leader in life, family and faith. You will leave a better person as a result.
In lieu of flowers please consider a donation in her memory to Arrow Leadership Ministries or Barnabas Family Ministries.
When the doctor told me it would be good to gather the family my knees began to wobble. While I’ve have had more than a year and half to absorb my Brenda’s living with cancer this brought a solemn view of time for me.
My father before his death used “dweller on the threshold” to describe his understanding of where he stood – between this world and heaven. This aural poetry from Northern Ireland is a vivid image of end of life days. Brenda is there now, standing on that threshold with the door open awaiting her to step across at the appointed time. Knowing how much my dad loved her, he will likely be fighting to be right behind Jesus greeting her entry into heaven.
Our family are all together now in one big sleep over. The love, prayers and care is beyond description. It is Brenda’s desire that she be able to die at home and our doctor and incredible medical team are helping make that wish reality. Shifts between all our sons and daughters ensure that Mom is never alone. There is nothing left to be said – just love to be felt, actually felt. It is an amazing privilege.
There is only One who numbers our days and that is the Lord. Brenda knows this, and has taught us this, by exceeding all of the medical predictions and giving us so many new memories to cherish. Memories we will collect even today, and they will never diminish.
More reflections, and more of the story, will follow but presently we want to be left alone to savour the hours – remembering this actually is how we should live life everyday.