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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.

 

 

“But If Not” Book Offer for 100 Huntley Street (30% Discount)

December 20, 2016 1 comment

Did you know that 100 Huntley Street is Canada’s longest running TV Talk Show? After decades of serving Canadians it is still a place men and women tune into to hear the stories of real people. With thanks to Lorna Dueck and her team I was invited to share a little about Brenda’s book and our family journey in grief after cancer.

Lorna is so easy to talk with I hardly noticed the cameras and lights. She and Brenda were close. In Brenda’s Bible she had a list of some leaders she prayed for each of the seven days in a week and Lorna was one of those leaders.

There is special offer for book purchases through 100Huntley to help share this story of courage, hope and trust with other men and women suffering with cancer or any terminal disease. To order click here to go the Arrow Leadership Store 

  1. Click on ADD TO CART
  2. Then Click VIEW CART
  3. Enter COUPON CODE using 100Huntley and the click UPDATE CART and a 30% discount will appear.
  4. Note your Cart total at the bottom of the page with your discount applied and PROCEED TO CHECKOUT
  5. At CHECKOUT fill in your billing data and you may safely use your credit card with Arrow’s PayPal system.
  6. Arrow will ship your books quickly.

Thanks to both Arrow Leadership and 100 Huntley Street for helping to encourage and comfort people during times of great testing.

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.

Brenda Pue: too well loved to ever be forgotten

August 16, 2015 12 comments

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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:

100,000 Visits

April 25, 2015 1 comment

Visitor Sign

When you are ill, you often do not have the energy to be around people – even those you are close to. Visitors can take a lot out of you. This is one reason that people with cancer begin move into isolation.

FlushotAnother reason is the concern about picking up something. Cancer treatments weaken your immune system. They stop bone marrow from making blood cells that help fight infections like the flu or even a common cold. Brenda is at greater risk right now of getting an infection. When her immune system is compromised by radiation and chemotherapy we have to be careful about who she is with.  Our family and close friends have all been subjected to getting flu vaccine shots and encouraged not to visit if they are feeling sick in any way. We are thrilled with how healthy Brenda has been this entire journey. Not one cold, flu or fever episode.

Despite all these cautions, Brenda made the decision early on not to hide away in total isolation during her cancer journey. I understand this. Brenda has always lived life by sharing herself fully with others. Just because this is an awkward and highly personal season doesn’t mean she would hold back from trying to help others by her authentic sharing of what she is learning on the journey. Now we still do have visitors come to physically see her, but as public people we as her family are having to be careful not to overdo it and yet still provide Brenda the interaction with others that she desires.

So, our ‘daughter’ Kristin, her mother Sharon, and our ‘adopted daughter’ Steph became her communications team and set up a site and system where Brenda could share her journey via a blog and interact with many people whenever she wants and is able. Caring Bridge was selected for her journal and it has served us well. Brenda is able to post when she can and perhaps more importantly, read and reread the comments of visitors when she wants to.

Brenda has written about her experience with a lung cancer diagnosis. She is authentic and profound. Her faith and outlook have inspired people literally around the world. A friend from church, Tim Cunningham, began collecting all of Brenda’s writing and the vision is to one day create a book for cancer patients.

Thanks to all of you who have followed Brenda on this journey. Your comments and support for her mean more than I am able to express. This past week Brenda surpassed over 100,000 visitors.

That is a lot of visitors! Sure glad they were not all lined up at the front door. <Big Smile>

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