What it was like to work on Brenda’s “But If Not” book – the journal of her 588 days living with cancer? That is a question a few brave friends have gently asked me over the past months. Here is my answer today..
It was hard handling her words, reading her inmost thoughts while facing the ultimate challenge – death. Hard also because I know how the story ends. Hard because I remember those days and they are precious memories for us – days I would never regret.
Other pages cause me to laugh out loud. Brenda is very funny at times while recounting her experiences with cancer and openly sharing the feelings she experienced. The sweet story about the Jack Russell terrier that followed us home on a walk, her struggling getting words mixed up, and the funny interactions with her boys and grand kids are hilarious at points. She never really lost her ability to make us smile and laugh.
I’m also moved by the friendships that are obvious throughout the book. Brenda has friends literally around the world. Not fleeting friends, or Facebook friends. I’m talking about friends who walk life with you, and most notably her Palm Springs Prayer Group. Readers will glean a great deal about how to be a real friend though Brenda’s story.
For me, recounting the first eleven days was difficult. I am so grateful for our family during those days of tests and more tests until the lung cancer diagnosis was given. We were a close family back then, and we are even closer today because of Brenda’s faith and leading us well in this incredible journey. The last section of the book called the epilogue was written by our adult children. That particular section caused many tears on my part as I ‘listened’ to them share their individual perspectives on “Mom”. They sure love her.
When we received the first copy of the published book Jason asked me what it was like to hold it. I replied, “Good. It feels good.” We pray that readers will love the insightful, courageous faith filled words of “But If Not” and that these words will encourage others to live life with generous intentionality.
Today I am on my sailboat needing some time alone. At sunrise the horizon shone with red hues reminding me of an old mariners phrase. A reddish sky around sunrise means a lot of water vapour already present in the atmosphere and rainy weather is thus expected. This explains why sailors repeat, “Red sky in morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailors delight”.
Well today I changed it to “red sky in mourning” for that is what I am doing. Mourning the absence of my beloved Brenda and being sensitive to my own grief journey. Today, I had set aside in order to complete the edits on Brenda’s book “But If Not: 588 Days of Living with Cancer”. I knew that re-reading her journal of life and death would bring tears again, and it did.
It was actually both a time of tears and smiles. I read her words and was reminded of her attitude of gratitude amidst her pain. I read of the moments that brought her great joy while facing death and while they made me smile it served as a bit of a warning to me – or better stated, a reminder.
The reminder is found in this quote from page 246:
So may this journal of life and death inspire you to not waste a second of your life on things that are not going to last forever. Trust in God for eternity, and leave a legacy through your investment in others that will change the world through God’s love and mercy. In life we will experience disappointments, but it need not lead to discouragement. Trust Him.
Trust -is my focus word for this year. But these words also emphasized that we should not to put our time and resources into those things that are not going to last forever. That is important for all to heed.
What lasts forever? Only two things last forever and that is relationships with those we love and God’s Word. The other things we often allow to squeeze these priorities out of our lives will ultimately be burned up. I want to devote the balance of my years to investing in relationships, starting with those in my own family, while relying on the words of the Bible that are the only words that breathe life into us.
My friend Chuck Swindoll said it so well..
The wonderful thing about relying on God’s Book is that it gives you stability. It gives you that deep sense of purpose and meaning. No other counsel will get you through the long haul. No other truth will help you stand firm in the storms of doubt and uncertainty. No other reality will give you strength for each day and deep hope for tomorrow. No other instruction has the power to give new meaning to your life.
I have many moments since Brenda’s passing where I have been seeking new meaning to my life. I am finding it through being faithful in reading scripture daily. Brenda interestingly left me a list of those things she wanted me to continue doing after her death.
- Continue to lead our family and grandchildren.
Take care of yourself: your health, your friends and remember to take holidays for restoration
Continue to proclaim the gospel of grace through speaking, writing and encouraging leaders.
Travel strategically for ministry and pursue your passion for China and Africa.
Enjoy the business of executive mentoring.
Notice how they focus on things that are eternal? They are all relational and fuelled by the gospel or good news of God.
Only two things last forever—and I’m committed to both. How about you?
PS. Brenda’s book BUT IF NOT will be available soon and I will make it know once printing is completed.
I am pleased to announce I will be speaking with my good friend Dr. Paul Pearce at a special “Adult Get Away Retreat” at Barnabas on Keats Island April 15-17. The setting is spectacular. A quiet spot on Keats Island overlooking Howe Sound with comfortable and spacious rooms, delicious meals and warm hospitality.
This weekend is open to all adults—married or single. It is a spiritual retreat that includes relaxation, meeting new people and fun.
This faith-focused weekend will give you rest and renew your soul.
Our theme this weekend is TRANSITIONS: Exploring life changes as maturing adults and it is a particular Having just gone through, and still going through a huge transition in my life after the death of my wife Brenda the whole topic of transitioning in life is both relevant and meaningful to me.
Canadians approaching retirement are now the fastest growing demographic in the country. The sharp increase can be attributed to the aging “baby boom” generation, who account for almost one-third of the nation’s population.
“Transition is a great deal more than change…It’s a growing and a maturing and wisdom gaining process…It’s an opportunity to renew our dreams and refresh our calling. (Max De Pree).”
Everyone copes with aging differently. For many the so-called “golden years” are “years of adjustments” as we deal with changes such as winding down our careers, moving, becoming a caregiver, adjusting to a fixed income and other such consequences of aging. Some changes are expected and easy to cope with. Others can shock one’s sense of stability such as an unexpected decline in health, finding meaning and purpose after a career, or the loss of a loved one.
This weekend is for those who are approaching or already into the change of a new season in life (55+/-). Together we will explore how to embrace times of change and to better understand biblical teaching as we become, “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4). There will be practical helps in learning how to face and deal with life decisions differently as well as learning from one another so we might change and adjust to find new life and growth in our spiritual journey.
I cannot express how meaningful it is to talk about upcoming life transitions in advance of being thrust into the situation. I want to invite friends and friends of friends to come join with us for this relaxing yet meaningful weekend.
Specifically Paul and I will be engaging you on the following topics, all in the beautiful setting of Barnabas, one of my favourite places on the planet.
Areas related to Transitions
- Personal Equity – what you bring to this time of life.
- Vocational – what am I going to do?
$215 (per person) shared accommodation
Fees include program costs, six meals, two nights accommodation, transportation and all taxes
Contact Barnabas directly to register or for further information. Need Assistance?
Call Evelyn: 1 (604) 886-2220
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.
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.