What is this blog about?

This blog is the beginning of my journey through grief and loss and how God is moving all the while. I lost my husband and best friend, Eric to ALS on April 21, 2010. His grace is sufficient for me, has carried me through the fiercest storms and will continue to carry me until I meet Him face to face. I couldn't live another day without his Presence in my life. This blog will be a journal of my struggles and the ways He will show himself to me. I say this without even making my first entry, because I am confident He will be with me all the while. The title of this blog was inspired by a song I heard last week called "Moving all the While" by Sidewalk Prophets. It was exactly what I needed to be reminded of at that time. That is one small example of what I mean about God showing himself to me. I will use my own words, scripture from the most important book on this earth that is without error- The Bible, quotes from other helpful books I am reading, songs, people, circumstances and other ways God speaks to me. Please use the comment section on the blog as it encourages me to keep writing.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

A lot has happened since my last post on January 19th

Well, after I posted about my relationship with Todd on January 19th, I got engaged the next day!  Let's just say it has been a whirlwind since then.  It has been really great and now I am 13 days away from becoming Mrs. Todd Ritter.  To sum it up, God has been so good to me and the kids.  I am very busy as we are getting ready not only to become married but to blend our families as we move to Hamilton and start our lives together (after the honeymoon of course) Todd is an amazing man and he loves me deeply and my kids.  I love him and his kids more than you would think possible in 10 months.  This is a gift to find love twice in a lifetime and I am so blessed.  I will end at this as I need to be packing my house among many other things.  I was able to share my testimony on Mother's Day at our church and have attached the link below as it sums up so much of my life in under an hour (be sure to hit pause on the jukebox).  Thanks for your support, prayers and love over the years on this journey.  I don't expect to be updating this blog again, but stay tuned as I may start a new one, maybe on blended families..... :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Where has the time gone....

It has been several months since my last post and my life has been full!  I have a feeling this blog may come to an end as a new chapter in my life has begun again but I wanted to write a quick update to let you know how I have been and hopefully to encourage some of you. 
I am studying the book of Acts in Bible Study Fellowship this year and it has been a struggle getting into the word daily as I get so busy with life.  It is something I am in great need to do more of as God ALWAYS speaks to me through his Word.  But, studying the life of Paul has been so inspiring to me this year as he has endured so many trials in his life but always chooses joy.  In Acts 16, when Paul and Barnabus decided to part ways and chose new companions to spread God's word, they listened to God and obeyed and covered more territory and affected more lives than if they would have stayed together.  The principal from lecture and my notes that stuck with me is "God's stops are as important as his directions to move ahead.  When God shuts the door upon your desired plans, are you alert to perceive it because He has a better door for you to enter?"  In other words, when things change in my life and don't go as expected, do I insist on going my own way or am I open to hear what God has planned for me?  I have been asking God for a lot of direction in my life and I believe He has been blessing me with a complete sense of peace and joy.  I know He always has a plan for my life and wants good things for me and my kids.  I still have purpose in my life although it had felt like a "stop" when Eric passed away. 
The holidays have been both wonderful and difficult this year.  This is our first year withouth Kristi here with us and we miss her so much as we remember her smile and the joy she brought to our lives.  We miss Eric's infectious smile too and it still doesn't seem right that they are both no longer here with us.  It may never make sense until we reach heaven.  We just have to trust God who works all things for good.  My grandpa Ditmar passed away on December 29th this year.  He was 88 years old and leaves my grandma behind.  Even after living a full life, it is so hard to lose someone we love, even into the arms of Jesus.  In heaven, there will be no more sickness, sadness or death.  I can't even fathom that, but long for it. 
I was able to take a trip with my sister in law, Stephanie that we had planned last May with my sister before she got so much sicker.  We cancelled that trip to spend time here with her with no regrets.  Last minute, we were able to take Ashley(Kristi's daughter) with us in January.  What a blessing that was.  She is so much like Kristi and we had so much fun getting away for a little bit together.  Here is a video recap of our trip:  Don't forget to mute the jukebox at top right before playing the videos on this post. 

To fill you all in on my relationship, I have been dating Todd for almost 6 months now.  I can't believe it has been that long as I type this and then sometimes it feels like it has been way longer than that.  I am so blessed to have him in my life.  He is an answer to prayer and after lots of praying and even fasting, I am convinced that it is true.  Isn't it funny how we pray for something and then we still have to pray and ask God constantly, "is this from You?"  I picture God saying "Yes, my child"  and I say "Are you sure?" and God says "silly child, you can trust Me".  We have really grown close to eachother through spending time together and time with our families and friends.  We have great conversations and are so much in love. He has three kids that I adore and have quickly grown to love and he loves my kids.  I know this is strange and difficult for some of our closest family and friends and at the same time, they are so happy for us too.  I understand that completely.
We have even looked at our relationship through http://www.prepare-enrich.com/ which is a relationship assessment recommended by my Pastor that helped us look at many aspects of our personalities seperatley and together as a couple and stimulates conversation and direction for the future.  We met with my Pastor a few times and reviewed the test which was exciting and encouraging to us.  We are highly compatable which I already knew and better yet, it said as a couple, the two of us could accomplish a lot together which is our desire.  I have always thought, I can do so much more for God's kingdom with someone else who shares my passion for Christ.  I am still reading books on healing, relationships after death, etc and Todd reads them too.  A few really good ones I have read lately are "From We to Me" http://www.mlive.com/living/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2010/08/new_book_from_we_to_me_asks_be.html which talks about the decision to date again or stay single after death or divorce.  Also, I read "Love, Sex and Happily Ever After" http://books.google.com/books?id=DJKW-GK9xVoC&pg=PT1&lpg=PT1&dq=love+sex+and+happily+ever+after&source=bl&ots=6JiFrqJiX1&sig=5UKmecrAkYontWUO1GNzbx7wgNM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=uIMYT7qLI8vhggeO0rXiCw&ved=0CDsQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=love%20sex%20and%20happily%20ever%20after&f=false  this book was really good and tough to read as I know what God expects from me and I want to honor God with my life and actions and I want Him to bless me and a future marriage and spouse by remaining pure and keeping God #1 in my life.  It is subtitled "preparing for a marriage that goes the distance".  Who doesn't want that for their life? 
I will close this with some pictures and my annual animated Christmas card that recaps this year.  I am blessed beyond measure with my wonderful children and my family and friends and a man who loves me deeply.  I am blessed to have found true love twice in my life and excited for what the future holds for me. 

Blessings to you in 2012!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Did she say dating???

Well, I think I left a few of you hanging long enough from my last post.  I have been on a journey of being single again from the moment Eric slipped into the arms of Jesus on April 21, 2010.  It has been a year and four months.  I won't lie, I have been aware of the idea of being single again the moment we received the diagnosis of ALS on May 18, 2007.  I never dreamed the day I married Eric (August 26, 1995 since we are throwing out dates), I would become single again.  I dreamed with Eric of growing old together and sitting on the porch of the bed and breakfast we owned swinging on a porch swing as we reflected on our life together.  What a reminder that we are not in control of our days or our life for that matter.  On September 11th,  ten years after the twin towers collapsed, we know this is true.  Life is a vapor.  It is reassuring  to know that we have a God who is in control of all things.  He grants us good things and allows bad things to happen too, but He is still God.  We live in a broken world of sin, sadness, sickness and tragedies strike us every day.  It is hard to imagine living in this world without any hope.  I wish everyone could know that hope I have in Christ, but to some it falls on deaf ears.  Anyway, this post was not to preach the gospel, but to fill you in on what is new in my life. 
I told you I considered being single again when Eric was diagnosed, which is a completely normal thing to consider when you are told your husband has an uncurable disease and has 2-5 years to live.  I decided to take those thoughts captive though as I was married to Eric and committed to him til death do us part, through sickness and health and I honored that commitment to him with everything I had.
When he passed away, I had a whole in my heart and a void in my life because we had a great marriage and a special kind of love.  It wasn't always that way, but the last few years seemed to bring us closer than ever.  I grieved Eric's death quite heavily both while he was sick and after he was gone.  I knew I would have to do that to be able to move forward with my life in a healthy way.  I told you in previous posts of how I took last summer to figure out who I was without Eric in my life and that has been an eye opening experience as I have come to discover things about myself that are now different, but good as I move forward. 
I want to share the process I have gone through in attempting to date again because I don't think there is much out there to tell you how it is done.  There is no easy way to do it or figure it out, no manual or instructions as it is different for everyone.  It is a completely foreign feeling after you have been married for so many years and escpecially if you married right out of high school or college.  This blog was intended for widows and for my friends to understand what it is like for a widow so I will share my thoughts on this subject not as advice, but to let you know, it is completely normal to go through these thoughts and feelings, at least I hope so :)  So here goes...
After Eric passed away, I thought to myself, there is no one out there my age that could possibly be someone I could date.  I really knew no one and thought, I may remain single forever.  I knew I wanted to remarry some day.  Because I had a great marriage, I want to find that again some day.  I had considered a few single men I knew, and Eric and I actually discussed a few at one point which seemed ridiculous to be talking about.  I had my 20 year class reunion coming up last August and got on facebook to connect with old friends.  I found myself looking at the status of old friends from high school to see who was still single or divorced and thought I am so alone and felt even desparate at points.  I was not desperate, just felt that way when I was alone at night with too much time to think about everything and missing Eric so much. 
I found myself noticing guys anywhere I went that were good looking and would look to their finger to see if they were married.  Most men were or I would find out they were in their 20's.  Last time I looked at men, I was in my 20's so I didn't even know my "type".  To be honest, my type had become Eric: tall, dark and handsome.  I have learned a lot from time and books and my own thoughts from God that I can never replace Eric, nor should I try to.  He will always be my first love and father to my children and nothing can take that away.  It would not be fair to anyone else to have expectations or make comparisons going into a relationship.  I find I will talk about Eric often as I want to keep his memory alive for my children and because 19 years of my life have been spent by his side, but I will never try to "replace" him. 
I knew I should get through my grieving before I confused my life with dating or involving another person to get close to me.  Thankfully, I am so blessed with great friends who have helped me talk through so many things.  I have good widow friends who I could throw all my crazy thoughts and feelings at who received them with laughter and understanding.  I used to tell a friend "I wish I could just rent a guy to cuddle with". 
I meant it, I miss touch, everyone thrives on human touch.  Eric lost the use of his hands early in the disease so he could not reach out to give me a hug or hold my hand or touch my face. 
I started talking to my kids about the idea of dating in March.  I wanted to know how they felt about it and didn't want to suddenly tell them, Mom is dating someone and I want you to meet him.  I took them to dinner and asked them what they thought and could tell, they hadn't given it much thought.  They thought for a bit and then said, I guess it would be OK.  I told them, I just wanted to go out to dinner or have someone to talk to as I was lonely and missed companionship.  I was not planning on dating at that point, but wanted to give them some time to think about it and tell me how they felt.  I think most of my friends were feeling a little surprised at the idea of my dating too, mostly some men who seemed rather protective including my brother.  I think most people looked at me and thought, you seem so happy and doing so well, why would you want to confuse your life with dating! 
A year had gone by rather quickly as I looked back and I was still thinking there is just no one out there for me to date.  I had this desire to try to control the situation knowing full well it would be God who would bring someone to me and probably not in any way I could have tryed to plan.  I told you I am a planner and like to be in control.  Anyways, sometime in May, I was home alone one Sunday night and reading my email and came across one of many emails for a Christian dating website.  Somehow, they must find out when you are single because I have gotten so many since Eric passed away or maybe I just never noticed before.  So it said "look for free" so I thought, why not look to see who is out there.  About 30 minutes later after I felt like I had to answer 2,000 questions, I was able to look at profiles of other "christian men" in the area.  It was quite entertaining at first as I laughed at some of the men and their photos and intros.  I thought, is that the best you could do?  A few profiles caught my eye so I decided to initiate conversations with them but found I had to "pay to play" so next thing you know I am signed up!  Who would have thought I would go there.  I remember thinking, please don't let anyone I know "see" me!  Anyway, I started talking to a few guys and someone said "should we meet?"  So there was my first date.  Lunch at Panera bread driving my own car so I could make a fast getaway if needed.  He was a nice guy, but no excitement in our conversation or meeting.  I actually preferred talking to him online and I think I created him to be someone else in my mind that I was hoping for.  Even though there was no connection, I felt great being able to have enough confidence to go out and meet someone.  I felt like I had taken a step towards this new adventure, overcoming some of my fears. 
Shortly after that date, my sister got much sicker and I cancelled my membership as I wanted to spend all of my time and energy with Kristi which I am so thankful to have done.  In July, I decided to get back on the site as I had paid for three months  (it was cheaper and I am dutch)  I chatted a few men on line and went on another date.  Again, nice guy, but no connection and no potential for a relationship.  I decided that this website was not a good way for me to meet a nice man at the end of July and joked with my friends about becoming a nun.  I have heard a few stories about online dating sites and how some have found true love, but what I found was the desparate need to find something by my own ways and I tended to create an image that didn't compare to the people I met.  It sometimes would boost my confidence and other times would sink my confidence if someone would not respond and make me wonder what do they think when they look at my profile.  Am I complicated, too much for someone to consider dating?  It just didn't seem like the way for me to meet someone.  I have prayed all along since Eric's death for God to prepare the heart of someone for me some day and started to pray again to let go of my need to control it.  I got off the site and decided to trust God. 
Literally that week, I had dinner with my widow friend and she said, I just thought of someone I think you should meet.  She had known him for about 20 years and had never considered him before, even in our talks about dating again.  I told her I was open if she considered him someone I could be with.  The things I needed a man to be are #1 a strong Christian with faith in God as I knew that if that was solid, many of my other concerns and worries would become smaller.  I also need someone who will consider my kids and their feelings if we were to start a relationship.  So, she talked to him and he called me the next week.  We had our first date on July 29 and he is not tall, or dark but he is handsome. We had a great conversation over dinner and he took me by surprise.  I had no ideas in my head or even a picture of what he looked like before we met.  We have been out quite a bit since then and initially, I was hoping for him to do or say something that would make me not want to date him because it seemed easier than processing my emotions and how I feel.  It is exciting to be dating again and scary at the same time.   I have really enjoyed getting to know Todd and love talking to him.  We are taking it very slow dating, but have fast tracked the conversations to some very serious things that we want to know about each other which I think has been really good as I don't want to date someone just to be dating.  My life is way to busy with two kids and everything God has placed in my life.  I want to be sure that my desire to be with someone lines up with God's plan for my life. 
Well, this is another one of my long posts, which I am famous for doing but I figured I would just throw it all out there.  I know there aren't many details about the man in my life here, but if it is meant to be, you may meet him some day if you haven't already.  I do know, I am praying as he is for direction in this relationship.  I am also, giddy like a school girl and have an extra spring in my step lately.  I feel like a teenager sometimes and am really enjoying being with him.  Todd is a great, Christian man who is very considerate of my feelings and so much fun to be with.  I will include some pictures for you girls who love details...

I will end this with something Todd found:  Ecclesiastes 3:1

"Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God Chooses."

God has set a time and season for every activity, enjoy the time, games, events, holidays, get togethers, church, vacations......


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Chicago Adventure

Well, last week I was off to the Windy City, well a little west of Chicago to a studio in Aurora, IL.  I was asked about a month ago by my godly widow, Miriam Neff,  to be part of a video series for http://www.widowconnection.com/ She wanted to do some interviews with me for this series.  I didn't hesitate to say yes because I love it when God gives me opportunities to share with others.  I know God didn't cause me to be in this situation, but I am here never the less and if I can do something good with it that will help others, then dog gone it, I'm in!  So I decided to make it a road trip.  This one was three generations of girls.  Eric's mom has never been to Chicago and Maddie hasn't either so us three girls headed out for an adventure.  We arrived in Aurora the night before and swam and relaxed in the hotel then got up early the next morning and headed to the Studio to meet Miriam and her crew.  She had a make-up artist there to touch up our make-up and that she did!  I was airbrush sprayed and painted all pretty.  I never have worn so much blush and lip stick in my life.  I guess it's a lights and camera thing.  I started to get nervous.... This was for real and what was I doing here???  I got to relax in the green room for a little bit and other widows had arrived.  I met some amazing women that day and love the connections I get pretty instantaneously with other widows.  I started to get relaxed again.  They wanted to get some B shots with me, Maddie and Grandma Fox interacting and me with other widows, etc. for the intro for the videos which was fun and a little awkward.  I am not by any means an actress, so when you tell me to do something specific, I just start to laugh as I think of myself trying to do it, but it was fun!  Maddie was a star and her and grandma got to get made up too.  Maddie kept saying "Mom, I need more lip gloss".  It was time for my first interview and I headed into the studio that looked like a set from Beth Moore and I started to get anxious again.  I sat in a chair and prayed while they were going through Miriam's teleprompter.  "God, not my words, but Yours.  I don't know what to say. Amen."  I sat across from Miriam and she said you and me are having a conversation (one widow to another) and that instantly calmed my nerves as I was looking at her, not the camera's and lights and people in the studio and could just talk to her.  I don't know for sure all I said or how it sounded but both interviews went good.  As always, when I am done doing something God wants me to do, I breathe a great big sigh of relief!  After that, we stayed for some more outdoor shots and headed out having made some new friends 7 hours after we arrived.  What an amazing day that was.  I loved it all!  The video series should be finished by September and will be available for widow groups. 
We headed back towards Chicago to finish our trip with the Cheesecake Factory for dinner and downtown Chicago the next day.  We spent plenty of time at the American Girl doll store at Water Tower Place on Michigan Ave.  Now this was an experience.  Maddie was so excited as we had been talking about this for a while and now we were finally there.  She picked the new doll from Hawaii named Kanani Akina and then we had to look at every other doll and outfit and accessory in the store, check out the doll salon to get her ears pierced and then finish it off by having lunch in their cafe with our new family member.  After that, we took a narrated boat ride through the city on the river and out through the Locks to Lake Michigan to view the city skyline.  It was a great day despite losing my $33.00 parking ticket to get us out of the garage.  We arrived home almost midnight exhausted but refreshed in our souls.  Here are some photos of our day in Chicago:

This ends my post on Chicago, as once again, it is the middle of the night and I can't sleep but need to try.  I have been so busy lately running kids and picking up extra kids that I need to get sleep to keep my sanity.  My next post may shock some of you ... Could Lori be dating?  Oh, this could be interesting...stay tuned :)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The days of Summer...

I have been quite busy this summer as many of you know.  Our summer started on June 10, the last day of school.  That morning, I was asked to attend an assembly at the Middle School to see Zach presented with an award called "be an 11"  (higher than a 10).  I attended by myself that morning in my workout clothes having no idea what an honor this award was.  Only 6 8th graders are chosen each semester for this award and they find out in the assembly in front of the whole school.  I was overwhelmed with pride but also had this sense of sadness for Zach as the other families seemed whole and put together with both parents attending.  My sadness was intensified that day as I received a call that night at 10pm that my sister had passed away at Hospice.  The last post summarizes this time of grief so I won't revisit that as it is still so hard.  Our family has waves of grief continually over her exit to heaven.  I miss her so much!  I miss Eric so much.  Another good friend just went to heaven this week  leaving her cancer filled body in exchange for a new one and I have her funeral today.  I hate sickness and know God does too as it isn't part of his plan.  None the less, we are faced with grief. 
But this post is about some good things happening in my life this summer so I will start now.  I had my 2nd annual week away at the house I rented in Grand Haven this summer at the end of June which I just love!  The house is small but cozy and we spent days at the beach with beautiful weather, eating out for dinner at some great restaurants, mornings at farmers market or getting our free slice of bread at Great Harvest, walking the pier, even jogged it a few times this year.  My kids attended Camp Anew while I was there so I had three of those nights with no kids and some widows and other friends were able to join me for some free mom time.  We got home from Grand Haven, unpacked and six days later were headed to Colorado for 9 days with our youth group.  I was one of 8 adults who chaperoned this amazing trip out West.  We had 16 kids ages 11-15 attending.  All ten of our youth group were able to go plus a few siblings and cousins including my beloved niece Ashley just one month after losing her mom.  God knew she was supposed to be on this trip so a spot opened up last minute just for her to go.  I was one of the drivers and the drive flew by as we enjoyed every minute of our time even through the flat, boring states like Iowa and Nebraska :)  Maddie stayed with family and friends this trip as she was too young for the adventures that lied ahead of us.  This was camping to it's core and I am not a camper.  We slept in tents on mountains with ice and snow, we climbed a 14,000 ft mountain to the top, we white water rafted on a high, fast and cold river, we ate the same food for days (food is fuel), we went to the bathroom in BIFF's (bathroom in forest floor), we rock climbed with only a rope attached and our hands and feet and repelled back down.  This trip was the epitome of "do hard things" and I loved every minute of it.  We spent time daily in God's word and reflecting on our days and being quiet before Him so we could hear from Him.  These moments, though hard for the kids to always be still were some of my favorite times, sitting with mountains all around us reflecting on who God is and how amazing He is.  I came back exhausted, yet refreshed.  By this time our summer was half way over.  It is now almost the end of August and we have mostly been around Michigan doing beach days, hanging out with friends and family and  a trip to Michigan's adventure, and Camp Geneva for the kids.  We are doing remarkably well, all things considered.  It will be a year and four months tomorrow since Eric passed away, but this 21st will be celebrated with Zach getting baptized as well as my nephew Carlos birthday.  I know Eric would be so proud to see Zach making this decision and hoping he is getting a glimpse of this from heaven.  Hebrews 12:1 says "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us"  I like to think that Eric is part of that great cloud of witnesses along with Kristi and others who have left this earth.  Check out Heb 12:2 and 3 as well if you like that verse.  (Use the link at the top of my blog to search it online)  Here is a link to the video I made of Colorado if you're interested.  Colorado Video 
I woke up again in the middle of the night, the time I usually write and was planning to write about my latest adventure in Chicago where I had an awesome opportunity to be part of a video series for widow connection, but I realized that I had some catching up to do before that so stay tuned for that. 
I met a widow there who has a phrase on her email signature that says "Enjoy life, this is not a dress rehearsal... this is it!" so I am closing with that. 
some of my favorite pics from our trip to CO below:

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A post from Stephanie, my sister in law

I have been wanting to update my blog and feeling exactly the way my sister in law, Stephanie describes in her first paragraph below.  She captured the feelings of our family so well as tears flowed continuously as I read her post this morning.  I have asked her if I could share her post on my blog to update all of you on the past few months and the way our lives have been affected by Kristi's last few months.  It is so hard to put into words but Stephanie's post does it well so this will be my update.  I hope this helps you understand some of the feelings we have all experienced again with such a deep loss.  Keep in mind, the rest of this post is written by Stephanie Kammeraad from her perspective (not me :)  just want to give credit where credit is due.
Post from Kammeraad family blog by Stephanie:
I don't know where to start. I've thought about updating the blog almost every day, but more out of feeling a sense of obligation than out of a desire to write. I don't know how to put into words all that our family has gone through over the past couple of months. Yet I want to honor our family, and Kristi in particular, by writing something. So therein lies the stress that I've carried around with me for weeks: feeling I should write, yet not having the motivation to do so. And now that it's been so long since I've written, I've built up a self-imposed expectation that this better be a good one! (I know, I'm my own worst enemy at times!)

Okay, I'll just begin. After battling ovarian cancer for over four years, and after much prayer and many tears, Kristi and Brian decided that Kristi should stop chemo. In February Kristi's doctor told them that she probably has about six months left to live. In April she started to feel more tired and worn-out, and was struggling with getting her pain medication under control. In May right around Mother's Day she took a turn for the worse. A week or so later she and Brian were told that she was down to about two weeks left to live. Brian told us a couple of days after they found out when Kevin and I were over for a visit. Brian told us and when we had a few moments to absorb the shock, Kristi came downstairs. Oh the tears! SHE comforted US, saying "It's going to be okay," while hugging us and rubbing Kevin's back as he sobbed. We sat on the couch with her and Brian as the kids played together and it felt like we could sit there all day. We just couldn't get enough of her. We wanted to just soak her in. *Sigh*

The next week we went over again and not realizing it was going to happen, had our "good bye visit" with her. It felt so sudden. Kevin went first, and then he brought Carlos up there to see her after a while. When it was my turn, I didn't know what to say. It didn't feel like a good bye visit. It felt like I was just hanging out with her having a girl talk while she was feeling a little under the weather. We were in their room, sitting on their bed, playing with Maria at first, and then later after Kevin took Maria back downstairs, talking about the kids, both hers and mine, just chatting like we usually did. There were a couple of serious times when she cried and I teared up, but I just couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that she was dying. Soon. It didn't seem real. I know now that I was in denial.

When we left after that, I was a wreck. I cried all the way home. Our roommate put the kids to bed for us so that Kevin and I could just have some time alone to process what was happening. We cried on and off at the restaurant that night. (Good thing the lighting was dim and we were sitting in a corner!) This was on a Sunday and the next day I fortunately did not have to go into work as usual. I had the week off as this was the week that Kristi, Lori, and I had booked tickets a couple months back to go on a sisters' trip together. Oh how excited we all were once our trip was booked! It was so beautiful to hear the joy and excitement in Kristi's emails as we wrote back and forth to one another about it. We could hardly wait to go! (Another sigh.) But it just wasn't meant to be. God had different plans for us. I felt so heavy hearted that day and all through the next. Kevin and I felt so alone in our sadness. We know we have friends, but it didn't feel like we could connect with any of them right then. We didn't feel close to anyone, and it was very lonely. We lamented the fact that we hadn't kept in closer touch with friends over the past year and a half, and that we were still new in our church family. Hardly anyone knew what was going on (most of our friends new that Kristi was battling ovarian cancer, but no one knew she had taken a turn for the worse and that we were at the end.) I'm so thankful to God that he put it on my heart to reach out to a few certain people! Those particular friends were an absolute GIFT from the Lord, and stood by us in such generous and beautiful ways. I don't know how we would have gotten through those most difficult weeks without them. I know that I've digressed a bit, but I just had to acknowledge my deepest thanks to those dear friends.

My memory of the timeline of events is a little fuzzy now, but I think that Kristi went into Hospice Home of Holland the end of that week. We thought she would be there for only a day or two, but her body held on for three weeks before she went home to be with Jesus on June 10th. While she was in the Hospice Home, Kevin went there nearly every day, as did Lori, and their parents. The kids and I went several times. It was hard to see Kristi deteriorating, but she was such a sweetheart! She always had a smile for any of us who came to see her, and Brian and Kevin and Lori and their parents can tell many, many stories of her kind and loving nature coming out strongly all the way to the end. She was shining beautifully!

Kevin had been at the Hospice Home on June 10th and the kids and I came in at dinner time. Aunt Diane (Kevin's dad's sister) was there as she had flown in earlier that day. Kristi's breathing had become raspier that day, but we left around 9:00 p.m. saying that we'd see everyone tomorrow, under the impression that Kristi still had a few days left. By the time we reached Grand Rapids, the kids were almost asleep. We just didn't have it in us to "put them to bed," so we decided that I should continue driving around (nine times out of ten Kevin does the driving, but for some reason I did that night) until they fell asleep so that we could just plop them into bed when we got home. We literally drove around Grand Rapids on the highway and just as we were on the opposite side of town from where our house is, minutes after the kids had both fallen asleep, Kevin's cell phone rang. It was his mom, saying the Kristi had passed away.

That was one of the longest drives home. I was shaking. Kevin had to call Lori and tell her. I could hear Lori's sobs over Kevin's cries as they wept together. We called our roommates and thankfully they were both home when we arrived so we could drop the kids into their beds and then turn around and head back into Holland to the Hospice Home. I'm shaking now as I type all of this, recalling the sensations I felt that same night. After throwing an overnight bag together and tying up a few loose ends, we were on our way. We talked to Lori about picking her up so that we could all drive together, but we all decided that we'd just pack up our things and start out the door as soon as we each could and then would check back in with each other before we arrived at Hospice. In the crazy and beautiful way that is God's, due to the wrong exit that Lori's friend took who was driving her and then the wrong turn she made, we ended up turning into the driveway/parking lot of the Home exactly behind Lori. We got out of our cars at the exact same time and were able to walk into the Home hand in hand. I can still picture our walk down the hallway like it was yesterday. Oh the sobbing as we embraced Mom and Dad. Oh the tears as we gathered together around Kristi's bed. More sobbing as Brian came back into the room and heartbroken reached for his bride.

It was an exhausting and tough night and next few days especially. Brian and Kristi with the help of many people put together a beautiful visitation and memorial service. Our days were filled with friends and family and tears. Our family has a very obvious hole in it. Our first hole was left by Eric's passing last year, and now another hole with Kristi's passing. I keep thinking about how "now there are four." Four of us siblings & spouses where there used to be six. Four of the original Kammeraad family of Mom, Dad, Kristi, Lori, and Kevin. And now only four Rogalskes, where Brian, Ashley, Nathan, and Emily are now without their wife and mom. There have been and continue to be so many people who are praying for us and all of the people I just mentioned above. Thank you so very much. We couldn't get through all of this without your prayers. Please continue, as the grieving continues for everyone.

Before I end this extremely long post, I wanted to say a few words about Kristi. She was a beautiful, kind, loving, generous person. Such an amazing wife and mom and daughter and sister and friend. She had a strong relationship with God, and she will be leaving a beautiful legacy of faith to all of those whose lives intersected with hers.

I'll miss laughing and talking with her at family gatherings. I'll miss talking with her about the books we're reading. I'll miss her smile and the way she interacted with her kids and nieces and nephews. I'll miss her quirky sense of humor in her emails as we'd write back and forth about our menus for the family camping trips and holiday meals. I'll miss her homemade stamped cards and the way she wrote her letter "a"s. We love her. We miss her. We can't wait to see her again in heaven!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Where did May go? reflections of a really tough month...

I have not updated this blog in a while because my life has not been "normal" since Mother's day in May.  I got a text from my sister late at night asking if I could come the next morning with a warning that she didn't want to see anyone and she was feeling quite "poopy" (her words not mine) closest she ever comes to a swear word.  I came the next morning and could see that things had changed quite a bit with her condition of Ovarian Cancer.  Back on February 9, she had been told she had six months to live and it had only been three and she had turned a corner as her body was slowly being consumed by the cancer and was shutting down.  Looking back, the signs were there.  Not wanting to be with people, eating less, sleeping more.  We just didn't want to recognize this was happening.  Back in February, my sister and I had planned to take a trip to Myrtle Beach in late May with our sister in law and Kristi was really excited about getting away as was I.  Towards the end of April, Kristi told me that she wouldn't be able to take that trip with us and I was so sad.  Selfishly sad.  I had really wanted to have her all to myself for a bit and to create more memories with her.  After a rough Mother's day weekend, Hospice had told her husband, Brian it looked more like weeks left rather than months.  When someone is sick with a terminal illness, it is a process of grief called anticipatory grief that you go through as you slowly lose another piece of the one you love.  You move to a new normal with each change, some slow and some so fast you hardly have time to adjust.  Our trip was cancelled as we realized we may have only a few weeks to be with Kristi and talk with her, spend time with her and show her, Brian and the kids our love.  I have spent most of May in Holland when I could with my sister, my parents and my nieces and nephews and I have no regrets.  Life is such a vapor and too short in Kristi and Eric's lifetime.  It is now well into June and almost Summer break.  The days have blurred together for our whole family as we thought Kristi was going to meet Jesus on Tuesday night, May 24th as things had rapidly progressed but God had a different plan.  She was moved to Hospice Home on May 25th and has now been there two whole weeks.  Hospice has brought a wave of emotions over me as it brings back so much of Eric's last days here on earth.  Eric and Krisit's experiences are very different and my grief and feelings are also so different right now.  I didn't have this long to say goodbye to Eric as we did not bring him to Hospice to die, but to give me a break and manage his deteriorating condition.  It took us all by surprise when Eric slipped into the arms of Jesus.  Kristi is ready to meet Jesus, we have all said our goodbyes or "see you soon's" and I love you's and she is so ready to go, but she is still here.  People all over are joining us in prayer that God would take her home, but she is still here.  It is just a bittersweet time for me and my family.  Daily, I watch her life slipping away, yet I am still greeted by her smile and "I love you" and "silly girl!" when she is awake and coherant.  I just want to scoop her up most times and take her home with me.  I am missing Eric so much more now too.  I wish he was here each night when my day ends to comfort me when I cry.  When her time comes, we will again have to adjust to the void in our lives left as we hurt deeply for our loss.  Life will have to go back to some sort of normal again as we are still here living.  Until then, I feel like God has hit the hold button for me as I step back from life and concentrate on what really matters right now, being with my family.  Thank you so much for all of your prayers and offers to help us.  God has been filling us with his peace and covering us with his love.  If you haven't followed Brian and Kristi's blog, it is linked on the right of my blog or go to http://www.briankristi.blogspot.com/
In Him who continues to give me strength,