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Two Years After: The grief journey as a family

August 12, 2017 4 comments

August 12, 2017, marks the second anniversary of Brenda’s passing. Two years and we still have days when we feel like we cannot participate in life. Yet the family are in this together (Phil. 1:30). We know it will not always hurt this much but even after two years it still seems so fresh as this woman loved and is loved, so deeply. We are choosing to move through this together. That’s how we roll in the Pue family.

We have established traditions around the anniversary date that we will maintain. It starts with all of Brenda’s boys – sons, grandsons (and Ellie) – attending the airshow. Why? It’s hard to explain, but when Brenda was in her final days she insisted that her boys go to the airshow, something we have enjoyed together many times. It was important to her.

I wondered if she just wanted time alone with Kristin (our first daughter in law), or maybe was just desiring some quiet time. We were at a stage where someone had to be with her at all times and Kris gladly stayed with ‘Mom’ while we all packed into the car and went off to enjoy something that in some ways took our minds off what was taking place at home. So part of our memories and thoughts about how intentional and thoughtful Brenda was, we went again and enjoyed the display of flight.

This  morning we gathered early as a family and go to the cemetery where we hold a private time as family sharing stories of Mom, Grammy and wife amidst tears. Then a reading to refocus us on hope for the future and healing followed by checking in with each other as to how we are doing with our grief. Jon closed as he prayed for us and we then we headed back.

It brings some joy to me to see how comfortable the grandkids are at the cemetery. They were an active part in her burial, actually hauling the buckets of dirt and helping the Burial Grounds Custodian tamp down the dirt as it was layered. My oldest grandson Landon dropped a note to Grammy into the burial box, Liam placed a flower in the grave and even my sweet Ellie who was dressed in a cute dress got herself all dirty helping with the dirt. Now when they come they feel comfortable and not afraid or fearful.

There is always something planned for the children to participate in our remembrance service as we want them an active part of our day. Today they laid a rose with us on the gravesite and either said something about Grammy or placed a drawing there for her. Dear Ellie found this morning hard. She loves so deeply.

When we gather at the house it is time for Grandpa’s (or as Georgia would say “Gwampa’s”) World Famous Pancakes . We placed more roses on the table with us in recognition of Brenda’s absence and we continued to share wonderful stories about Mom and Grammy while we eat as well as appreciating doing this grief journey together.

Tomorrow we pack up for a week away at Barnabas, a place illed with memories of Brenda. During Brenda’s illness we held a few family retreats here. It is a “thin place” as the Irish would say. We decided as a family to join together with Barnabas to finish a new bedroom in her memory. So we look forward to seeing how the construction has come along since our last visit.

IMG_3532Brenda and I have spent literally months at Barnabas over the years. Training Arrow  leaders, ministering to families, hosting retreats and all of our sons have  served there over the years. It as without a doubt Brenda’s favourite place on the planet and we wanted to acknowledge this by creating a memory of her there that we will be able to see used for ministry over the years to come.

Our week at Barnabas encourages our family value of summer camp and provides at time when we can learn together and just hang out without any other pressures on our busy family. It is not by chance that Dr. Steve Brown (Arrow Leadership) is the speaker for the week we are there and we all enjoy sitting under Steve’s teaching made especially touching in that he and Brenda worked so closely together, he married Jeremy and Shari and has been know to our kids for years. This being the first year at Barnabas with our newest grandson Roland (or Ro as he is already called) will be bitter sweet. Brenda would be all over him but we will gladly take turns caring for him.

I am not sure how the descending of the Pue clan onto the island affects others. We will definitely make it a bit noisier with our laughter and sheer number – 13 of us! I want all to realize that sometimes, in order to heal, we must free ourselves from others expectations and also from our own. There are times in a day when we actually feel like laughing and the Pue’s enjoy those times. We see loving laughter as a cathartic gift just as much as our tears. I’m sure we will laugh and cry, but we will do it together.

What are we learning about grief so far? There are many things I will share from my perspective in another blog that I will write while at Barnabas. But as a family unit we are realizing it takes time to heal such a loss. We have learned to be gentle on ourselves realizing we all travel at a different pace in processing the loss. We decided early on that we will take as much time as it takes. My friend, Susan Perlman, encouraged us to mourn as it is necessary to heal fully.

There is a season for everything,

and a season for every activity under heaven . . .

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance.

– Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

It is a joy for me to watch my children treating each other with care and it is hard to imagine journeying alone through this. All are at different places but at this two year mark we can see how we have come along since last year.

The greater your loss, meaning the closer you were to the person who has passed, the more time you are going to need to heal. It is a testimony to Brenda’s relationship to each of us that we need more time. We all think that we were her favourite, but she made everyone think that.As people of faith we can see how God created us with the ability to heal, and we know that healing will happen.

It’s happening right now but more on that later.

 

 

Those Last Days by Kirstie Pue

August 25, 2015 10 comments
Mom and I a month after her diagnosis.

Mom and I one month after her diagnosis.

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.

Mom in the Neighbourhood by Kristin Pue

August 18, 2015 9 comments

11150720_10152647169076572_7645671183546204186_nSince 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.

Categories: Family, Observations

Brenda Pue: too well loved to ever be forgotten

August 16, 2015 12 comments

IMG_9820

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

Categories: Family, Living with Cancer Tags:

If Your Spouse Has Cancer…

April 22, 2015 6 comments

Hmmm. Interesting.

When talking with other husbands about my wife Brenda’s cancer diagnosis and current status they commonly say something like, “I don’t know how you do it!” Part question, part statement – it got me thinking what can you do? What am I doing?

Brenda was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer. Her cancer is labelled as “terminal” and by that an oncologist means that it cannot be cured. (We realize the X factor is of course God.) This prognosis is something we never anticipated would happen, but it can and it did. Prior, I had never given one thought as to how I might handle such a situation.

When stating “I don’t know how you do it” a man reveals a moment of self-reflection. He is imagining being in my circumstance and wondering what he would do if faced with a similar challenge. So, at the risk of being superficial, let me share some of what one can do if your spouse is staring death in the face.

1. Remain hopeful. I’ve been helped by not thinking out too far in advance. You need to believe in your spouse and what God can do. We have Hebrews 6:19 hung above out door. hope

2. Don’t be selfish. There are many times you will be tempted to throw a pity party for yourself – but your focus must be on the care of your loved one. Put their needs ahead of yours. Use inspiration for your attitude from The Princess Bride where Westley’s response to Buttercup’s demands is always “As you wish.”

3. Try not to whine. Yes you have experienced losses but try not to layer those onto what your spouse is experiencing. Don’t be thinking about what you do not have. This is related to the point above but with more of an encouragement to view time properly. Keep a long-term perspective.

4. Make a point of celebrating. Treasure the moments when a deep richness breaks through. Laugh when you can. Soak up truth and grace in those moments – times when you feel so much love between one another that you would not really want to trade it.

5. Lower your expectations. Pain causes us all to act in ways different from how we normally are. This means there will be moments of ‘oddness’ we need to put up with it. Lift yourself above the moment and realize these are unusual days. Just get over it.painscale

6. Trust God. Regardless of the outcome I realize that I can trust God in all of this and that provides hope. Hope plays a HUGE factor in a cancer patient building up their immune system to help fight the cancer. Hope with them. Don’t place your hope in false or weak things. Don’t create false hope. Instead trust in God all of the time. Early on in our journey I realized God wanted me to fully trust Him. He actually wants us to live everyday like that. He is a God of hope.

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7. Be positive. Be a glass half full kind of person. You know the question, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” It’s a way of determining if you are an optimist or pessimist. During a cancer journey you will experience all sorts of twists and turns along the way. Try, in each situation, to look for bright spots and recall with one another the things you are thankful for.glass half full

8. Focus on better days. Help your spouse not to dwell in the past. It is hard for them to remember what life used to be like when they had energy or hair. Instead, encourage them to save their energy for looking forward to enjoy one day at a time. Lean into each day and discover what purpose God might hold in it for you two to learn and experience together.

9. Be tenacious in your love and care. Keep doing all these things despite how difficult it might be. I have a coffee mug with the 1939 British motivational quote, “Stay calm and carry on” to reminder me. Make sure your loved one knows you are there – right there for them – always. Go out of your way to assure them by speaking their love language.keep-calm-and-carry-on-original

10. Take care of yourself too. Remember that to be any good in caring for your loved one, you must care for yourself too. Get rest; have close friends you can talk to; invest in others; pray; and arrange to have some breaks. Taking care of yourself is part of taking care of your spouse.Take Care

I did not start all of these things just because of Brenda’s diagnosis but because I love her. They were instilled in the covenant I made to her on our wedding day. It is found in a Bible passage that was read over us as a blessing and is from 1 Corinthians 13:4,6-8.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love does not want what it does not have.
Love…takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.

What might you add to this list?

Categories: Family, Living with Cancer

Time For A New Journal

January 1, 2015 8 comments

New JournalNew Journal

New Years Day is when I open up a new journal for the coming year. As I do so I recognize that last’s years journal is not nearly full – quite blank actually with sporadic writings. Some years I overflow into two journals but not 2014. It is not that there wasn’t much happening – just the opposite. There was so much taking place that I barely had time to write. When I could find a moment here and there, I was lost for words.

One year ago today we received a phone call from our family doctor telling Brenda he had seen something in an x-ray that he wanted to have a closer look at. This led to her cancer diagnosis of stage-four lung cancer spreading to the brain and bone. At that moment, time stood still. From that moment on, time has been different for me.

We were told that Brenda might not see her birthday in August and that she would definitely not see another Christmas. However, doctors can’t know God’s time plan for Brenda. We are grateful to have celebrated the Christmas that was not to be. We are living with cancer as a reality in our lives now.

A lot can happen

How Time Feels

The first year of living with cancer seems to last forever. I have lost count of how many medical appointments there have been. We seem to measure time by when the next appointment is. Then when waiting for blood work test results or the latest MRI or CT scan time seems to take forever. Each day feels like a week. Weeks feel like months, and months feel like years.

Lengthening Days

Time has become very precious to me this year. Every second does count and we rejoice at every day we have together. Here in the northern hemisphere, and at our latitude, we are in a season when daylight increases by one minute per day. Brenda and I were out walking together and she asked, “So what are you going to do with your minute today?” At first I did not understand what she was talking about. She then explained about the lengthening of the daylight hours. This led to a very enjoyable, fun, and reflective conversation about how we might each use our extra minute that day. Suddenly I found myself dreaming about how I could use that minute – and then the new minute tomorrow and the next day.

For most of us, time is something that we never seem to have enough of. We have so to do that we scarf down our meals to get meetings just in time to get a seat. Then it is off to the next thing, and the next thing – then we swiftly make our way home for dinner and just when you think that the day is finally over – there is another meeting at the church or a workout that is calling your name. When we finally get to sleep it can be near or after midnight and we need to get up at 6am the next day. With all the expectations on us plus adding family, friends, relationships, volunteer work etc. – who has time for anything else?

How often have you heard in the marketplace, “Time is money”? Well time is not money. Time is life and you and I get to choose how we spend it.

How We Spend Time

The way that we manage time can be one of the most challenging parts of our working life. But remember that Jesus had more day-to-day demands than can be imagined and yet he moved throughout his days with a peace that came from knowing that there was always enough time to accomplish His Father’s will for that day. All the time that God allows to us, is just enough for the work that He calls us to. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Each year Brenda and I take a day to do planning for how we are going to use our time and resources in the 12 months to follow. It is our family annual general meeting and we do this right around the change of the calendar year. We are about to have that meeting and dream about our intentional use of our time in 2015. I said “dream” because we have certainly been reminded this year that time is in the Lord’s hands. However, this year it is perhaps more important for us to meet and discuss our use of time. We now have to factor in our energy level and capacity for activity. We have to be selective about our relationships – spending time with those who are inspiring and hope carriers and not draining. We are discerning about how we spend our minutes.

So I am thinking a lot about time. In fact I am spending more time than ever before planning how to spend my time.

Time With God

Time is precious. It is our most precious commodity. That is why I wanted to write something about it and emphasize that the most important activity of our day is actually our time with God. I have never been perfect at having intentional time with God but I have a long enough history and experience to know that it is extremely important.

Scripture reminds us, “Make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-to-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing!” ROMANS 13:11-12 MSG

If you spend days, weeks, months acting oblivious to God it is going to make a difference. What if you didn’t spend consistent time with your spouse, your family or friends? It would result in losing touch with one another – a lack of closeness making you feel “out of touch.” The same thing happens in your relationship with God if you do not spend consistent time with him.

So with all that you have to do during the day, make sure that your time with God does not go by the wayside. Make it a priority for the day. You can move around other appointments, but not your time with God. Figure out what works best for you. When is the best time? Just find a few minutes of private Bible reading, prayer, and close by thanking God for all He does for you and who He is. By doing so you will learn to love Him.

So that is how I am going to use my extra minute. Quiet time with God in my library and favorite chair.

Every day God thinks of you. – Psalm 68:19

Every hour God looks after you.- 2 Thessalonians 3:3

Every minute God cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

Because every second, He loves you. – Jeremiah 31:3