Just Me

Friday, June 28, 2013

Jesus is Near...

I already blogged today, but life changes quickly...

I think my blog has become my Journal..telling you where I am and how I am feeling. The nurse left today telling me that she didn't think he would be here in 4 days. She told me if things changed to call immediately. Within an hour, there were changes in his breathing. So, I called and they came back to the house. She examined him and then told me she didn't know if he would make it through the night. It hits like a freight train...emotions vast as the ocean, mind spinning like a tornado-the phone calls and texts started and responses of encouragement and prayer flooded my heart. His family came in from Michigan, they had planned on coming tomorrow, but decided even before this to come tonight. I am thankful. 

So, here I sit...at 1:00am waiting, praying, thinking. Waiting on the dreaded last breath. Praying that it comes quickly so his suffering will end. Thinking and wondering what will be next? 

I am thinking of the hope I have because of Jesus. So easily in these moments we can fall into the "Life isn't fair" mentality and honestly it isn't. Life is HARD! But because of my Redeemer Jesus, I have the hope that God will use this for my good. I know he has a plan for this that will blow my mind when it comes full circle! I know he is going to use this someway, somehow, to reach others. Because of my Savior Jesus, I KNOW that Dave will soon be home in heaven for all of eternity. And because I know Jesus I will see my husband. I do not have to say "Good-bye", I can say "See you later"! That brings me such peace. A peace that only comes when you know him. 

I think I can speak for Dave and give you a message from what he would say to you if he could! 

So from Dave to you...

"Life is short. Life is hard. Life is painful. But there is an answer to our hurts. I made a decision many years ago that changed not just my life, but my eternity. I chose to see myself for what I was, a sinner. One that on their own, on my good works, could not ever make it into heaven. The Bible says that our righteousness, the best parts of us, are like filthy rags. The Bible tells me that my efforts can not get me into heaven. And it also tells me, that Jesus chose to die on the cross for me. And three days later, he defeated death and hell and rose again. The Bible tells me that if we confess with our mouth, that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God raised him from the dead, if we will humble ourselves and ask him to save us, HE WILL! And in that moment, we are sealed for all of eternity! We are promised from the one who can not lie, that he will save us from an eternity in hell. I am nearing my last breath. And if I could choose any good thing to come from my passing far too early, is that someone trust Christ because of this. If my death can make an eternal difference, it would flood me with joy. This journey has been hard for my family to watch and endure. But they know that in that moment of my last breath, I will immediately be with Jesus...and it brings comfort and peace to their minds and hearts. If you wouldn't have the same comfort, ask yourself why...maybe you need to meet my Jesus! He is waiting on me. He is telling me that I fought the good fight, I finished my course, I have kept the faith. And he is welcoming me home!"

I believe that is the message Dave would leave with you. If you do not know Jesus as your Savior, you can. No sin is too big, no life too far gone. His blood will cover it all! And it would bring hope and healing that this death was not in vain. But good, eternal good, did come out of it. 

I made a song list on my phone entitled "Songs for the Journey". I have added to it for quite some time. Songs that really ministered and spoke to my heart throughout this process. Songs that I know were gifts from the heart of God to my heart. They speak deeply to me I decided to play them and close my eyes and pray tonight. The first song was one written by a man who has truly grieved. He lost his daughter in a tragic accident in 2009. He has walked through the valley of the shadow of death. He has stood on the holy ground by his daughter's death bed when the angels gathered her and took her to heaven. I want to share it...it speaks where I am better than any word I could write to you. 
This is not how it should be. This is not how it could be.
But this is how it is. And our God is in control.
This is not where we planned to be, when we started this journey.
But this is where we are. And our God is in control.
And we'll sing holy! Holy! Holy is our God!

So as I sit by his bed tonight, with these words being the cry of my heart, I ask for you to pray. Pray that his suffering will end. Pray that our loving Jesus will come quickly and pick him up in his loving arms and carry him home to heaven. 

Steps in this Journey...

Grief is a strange process. I think I started grieving in March. I have a great tendency to hold things in. To wear a mask. To determine to "Do it right" to the point that it harms me. These are some of the main reasons I began blogging. Writing helps me take the mask off and be real. 

I am all over the place right now. I have calm, controlled thoughts one minute, then the next, I am crashing and don't know how to take the next step! 

Today I was reflecting on some of this process and the relationships I have. I could see the way God has been preparing me for the days that are near. He has slowly shown me that I am going to crumble. I am not going to go through this process, the normally independent woman that I am. I am going to need my friends to circle around me and hold me up when I fall apart. He is preparing me for the mountainous load of not only being a single mom, but also a grieving single mom to grieving children. I know that I can not do this alone, and he has graciously brought me to a place of being ok with that. 

I had a tidal wave moment today. I was just driving to the bank and my brain started spinning. One thing lead to another in my thoughts and it hit me...my husband is dying and he is getting very near to his last breath. Then I realized in that moment of thought, I had stopped breathing. It was only a moment, but it literally took my breath. I have had several of these tidal wave moments through this process, but this one was different. And I think it is because the last breath is so near. I wondered if this would be the last trip to the bank having my husband still in my home. I have been having a lot of those thoughts and questions lately...will this be the last trip to the grocery with him being home, or my last church service, or my last night. It is getting close and it is becoming so real.

Our nurse is coming today. I was heart broken to hear she is going to be on vacation for the next two weeks. I don't think he will be here when her vacation is over. I have bonded with her. She is not just a nurse, she is a friend. She has had to do some not so pleasant things to my husband and in those moments she has said, "It is my honor to care for you." I almost fell apart...such compassion, such a servant's heart. We have loved the nurse that God chose for us. She ends every visit in prayer with him. She has been a precious gift. 

I don't believe I can comprehend the depth and range of emotion that I am about to experience. The Lord is preparing the path for me in some really incredible ways though. He has prepared this normally strong, independent woman for what is coming. He has brought me to a place of accepting that I am going to break. Friends, I am ready for you to embrace me and love on me and my family when that hour hits. I am ready for your help in any way that you want to give it. I am ready for lots of prayer when you are with me and when I am alone. I am ready to weep with you. I am going to need you all desperately in my life. I am so blessed to know I am not going through this alone. Not only is the Lord going to hold me, but he is going to send me an army of love from the many women that I hold close to my heart. 

Please continue to pray for all of those that are walking this journey. Please pray for the mercy and peace of God to fall on our home. Pleas pray that God is glorified through us in the days ahead! THANK YOU to all who are praying in this journey...those prayers have been sustaining me in ways I can not express!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nearing the End...

I have known this day would come for quite a while. I have wondered what it would be like to be "here". Today I experienced it...

"The end is approaching..."

I woke up this morning really tired. Between the storms last night, Dave getting me up 4 times, and the 3 dogs that slept in a twin bed with me...I got little to no sleep. So, my plan for the day was to do as little as possible. I was going to relax. Our nurse called this morning and came for a visit. She has visited more frequently since last week's all nighter. I also got a call from our social worker saying she had some books on grief for my kids and wanted to drop them off. So, around 11:00 our social worker was here. She always has such great insight for me. She makes me think. I tend to be strong (whether I really am or not) and push through, but as this journey goes on, I realize how big this is...it is MUCH bigger than what I am capable of walking. I am thankful for the things she says that makes me think. I spoke with her about what is going on with him. She told me he is progressing quickly. The thoughts and emotions flooded and were all over the place...such sadness and relief all at the same time.

Our nurse arrived while she was still here and started her routine with him. When she was done, I asked her as well about what she was feeling and seeing. I have had my feelings and thoughts. I watch him day in and day out. I see things. The last couple of days have been "bad" days for him...(such an insignificant word for his current state). I guess, I have just seen a difference. He is weaker. He hasn't been out of bed at all since Sunday. He has only been drinking water and eating ice for several days. He has not had anything food wise in probably 3-4 weeks. He is SO thin...it is heart wrenching to look at my once big, strong husband laying helpless in his bed day after day, shrinking down to next to nothing. She agreed, things are progressing quickly for him. I mentioned that his mom was coming next week, is it the kind of quick that means they should come this weekend. Her response, "Yes if she wants to see him awake." 

This is happening...it hit like a tidal wave. 

I have been praying for a quick home going for him. And God is answering. But it is so painful. The social worker told me today that I really do not know all that is ahead for me...I couldn't agree more. How do you sit, knowing that your spouse is going to die soon and experience so many thoughts and emotions at once???

On one hand, deep sorrow. Sorrow in the fact that I planned on growing old with this man. Sorrow in the "what should have beens" for us. Sharing visits with grandkids. Laughing together-which is something we have done a lot of. Sorrow in the fact that he has had to suffer for what seems like an eternity. The humility he has had to suffer through. The pain. The heartaches. I sit by him often and look at him. Usually we sit in silence, but I always wonder what he is thinking. Sometimes I ask, sometimes I just let him think. Sorrow for the kids who have already been through great losses in life. 

And on the other hand, relief. I have carried this load for a long time. It is a huge, mountainous load. I have only recently realized the magnitude of it. Yes, I will feel relief when this load is gone. But it will be replaced with a load as a wife mourning her husband. And as a mom who is helping her children in their grief. I will be relieved when I don't have to get someone to sit with him so I can go to Wal-Mart or a ball game or church. But in those same moments, I know I will wish I had 5 more minutes...

This cup is so bitter. This is the best way I have found to describe this journey for me: I am standing on a railroad track. I am stuck. I can not get off of it. I see the freight train barreling towards me. I can not stop it. It is coming. It is going to hit. When it hits, it will be ugly and messy. I know it will hit, I just don't know when. Today, that train got a whole lot closer. And I am bracing myself for when it strikes. The Lord spoke to my heart earlier this week about this process and the days ahead. The Bible specifically tells the church to care for the widow. I am so self-sufficient, I struggle saying I need help...but the Lord made it clear to me that one of the reasons he has called the church to help the widow is because it is a load much too big for them to bear. It brought such comfort to me to know this is what he has for me. I can lean on my church for the help I will need. And I am so thankful for such a wonderful, loving, supportive church!

The other aspect from today is that I experienced HOPE. I KNOW, when Dave takes his last breath, he will immediately be welcomed into the arms of Jesus. I have thought about that and we have talked about it. What we think it will be like. That the pains in this life will no longer matter. There will be no more hurt for him. He won't walk with a drop foot anymore, no need for his brace! Cancer will no longer matter. No more tears will be shed! And he will be in the presence of Jesus for the rest of eternity. He will experience the angels around the throne saying "HOLY HOLY HOLY"...Very soon, he will see Jesus. 

Only Jesus knows the moment Dave will breathe his last breath. Today, I try to look at him and appreciate now. It is so hard with his body being so run down and beaten up from cancer. But today, I have him. I can hold his hand and hear him say, "I love you." Even though this day has been very hard, I am thankful for today.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


This week has been a week of many changes. Monday night, Dave started having hallucinations that didn't stop. He was trying to get out of bed, but was very weak, and so I was afraid to leave him for even a minute out of fear of him falling. He is on blood thinner, so he is a fall risk. Kaitlyn helped me till about 2:30, I was hoping to sleep a little, but every time he had to go to the bathroom, I had to get up and assist him. So, sleep was minimal. My mom came over around 4:30am and tried to let me sleep, but again, every time he had to use the bathroom I had to wake up. I was basically up all night long. I did call hospice and they would have come out, but I opted to wait on our nurse. 

She was here first thing Tuesday morning, along with their social worker. It was decided that Dave needed 24 hr care in his current state. As much as I hated that fact, relief flooded my mind and heart. When I became a caregiver, I accepted each change that came. Each new level of care he needed, I added to life. When I heard I was going to have help with it all, I realized the magnitude of the load I was carrying. I started thinking of the freedom of being able to go to Trevor's ball games and not worry about who would be with Dave. I could run to the grocery or bank anytime I needed to. I would be able to pick Kaitlyn up at the airport and not have to worry about who was with Dave. I could take Sarah to her appts in Columbus and not figure it all out. Because we had a nurse here all night, I was able to sleep in a bed for the first time since January because I didn't have to be in ears reach of him. That made a BIG difference for me the next day! I didn't realize how much where I am sleeping is affecting me.

But, on Wednesday morning when I came upstairs, the nurse informed me that he slept almost all night. Up very little. He doesn't need 24 hour care at this point. My heart sunk. It is all up to me again...the mountain sized load was back on my shoulders...

His nurse feels he is transitioning. His body is starting to fade. For two weeks now, he has eaten popsycles and drank water. I am guessing he has now lost about 90 lbs. He is fading away in front of me. He is vomiting almost daily and struggles taking his meds. She said he will probably have more episodes like Monday night. When it happens, call and they will send help for me. Due to his age and how strong his heart and lungs are, he could linger for weeks like this. They are encouraging me to start shifting my focus from him to my kids, who will really need me when this is done. So, the first step I took in that was arranging to have an aid come in 3 times a week for an hour. My nurse told me to leave the house when they are here. To get out, go to the grocery, sit at the park, grab a cup of coffee-just get out for that hour. RELIEF...

This week has been hard on many levels. The back and forth of the care level he needs, the lack of sleep, keeping up with my kids (one of which is currently out of the country), paperwork for his insurance, (I HATE PAPERWORK!!!), and just LIFE. 

I woke up today, not rested after another night on the couch, and feeling very blah. As I started through the day, I realized I am frustrated and angry today.

I am angry that it is so difficult to go anywhere...especially now with the risk of hallucinations returning. I am angry that we can't enjoy our summer. I would love to have some fun with my kids, but life is revolving around Dave's care (and it has been for months). I am angry that I see so many people who are happily going on vacation...and I can't go to wal-mart without it being an ordeal. I am angry that my husband is suffering day in and day out. I am angry that in order for life to be normal, it will have to be a new normal. I am angry that in order for this load to disappear, my husband has to die. I am angry that I will be a single mom...again. I am angry that my kids are suffering yet another loss in their life. I am angry that I am angry...

This is hard. There is no way around grief without walking through it...unless you want to end up on the other side damaged and scarred from this journey. And I do not want that. So today, I am walking in this "ANGER" that I am experiencing. When people say, "How are you?" my first response is always "Good." The truth is, when I am walking focused on the Lord, I can hoenstly respond that way. But I am not good today. I am angry. Cancer Stinks. It is robbing me of years with the man I pledged my life to. It is financially attempting to destroy us. It is taking a father from my kids. It is an ugly, ferocious beast. And we are only one family affected by it. I hate cancer. I am angry that my husband is dying at the hands of this disease.

Now, some truth...don't get me wrong, my feelings and thoughts are very real. But God's word is full of hope and truth. I may not be feeling it, but I can KNOW it! The truth is, God has a purpose and a plan for this. He wants to redeem every pain we experience and use it for our good. And I know he will do that. He is the great provider, the Jehovah Jireh. Our income is less than the bills we owe each month (before gas and groceries) and we are current on every bill! That is a miracle. Many have given to help us out. There is a link on my blog to give through paypal and we also have a benefit account at any 5/3 bank location. God IS providing and he has used many of you to do so! THANK YOU!!! He promises to be a father to the fatherless and a husband to the widow. If he promised it, he will do it. As hard as this is, someday, I will wish I had 5 more minutes...even in the heartache and struggle, this is a precious time WITH Dave! So even though this is hard, today, I have my husband. God shows up in little, unexpected ways so frequently. Whether in a post on facebook that says exactly what my heart needs, or in a song. Sometimes, it is in a word of encouragement from a stranger that says, "We have been praying for you!" God's family is amazing...I have friends praying all over the world! It is such an encouragement to know people care and pray for us. 

Today I am angry...
I will not stay this way...
I have HOPE because I have a Savior who is full of hope! 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Happy 8th Anniversary...

Today, we celebrate 8 years. Of course, I have done a lot of reflecting today. I thought about the good times-and we have had our share of them. I have thought about the HARD times...and we have had our share of those! 

I thought about that evening in Clarkston, MI in the little wedding chapel where we stood before God and the two witnesses that were strangers. I remembered what I was thinking that night...it was a second marriage for each of us. Both of us entered this marriage knowing that marriage was hard.  I remember looking in his eyes as I pledged my love and life to him..."for better or worse...for richer or poorer...in sickness and in health...to love and to cherish...till death do us part." I meant it. I took it very seriously. I had no idea that it would only last 8 years. 

I have so many wonderful memories with him. Not long after we got married, he took me to Mackinac Island for a day. We toured the Grand Hotel which was a dream of mine since High School when I first watched "Somewhere in Time"! We took advantage of the few times we were able to get away-A few days in Nashville for our first anniversary, a get away in Hocking Hills, even a few days spent in Columbus. We had several years of attending a Columbus Blue Jackets game together...LOVED those!!!

Then in January 2010, life changed and we began a 3+ year battle with cancer. In August last year, we were told that he was not curable and life has changed. My perspective of events changed as well always wondering-"Will this be the last_____?" 

And yes, they were...

Today a friend told me this is the Bronze Anniversary-known for beauty and durability...we did it! We both pledged our love 8 years ago and have fulfilled those vows to the end. 

So many thoughts...so many things I could say...but decided I would end with a letter to my husband.

Dear Dave~
Today marks 8 years. I can't say they have been easy and honestly, the majority have probably been harder! 
We entered this marriage not knowing what all life would bring. And as hard as it has been, I would do it all again.
I have loved serving you and caring for you. It has been an honor and a privilege.
You have done well providing for our family. And I do not want you to worry about us. Our Father has provided for us so far and he will continue to do so. You are leaving me in wonderful hands!
Remember, no one leaves this life with everything finished...do your part and leave the rest to God. He can do better with it than we can anyway!
My kids have grown to love you. I have loved watching them serve you. It shows their love for you. They have shown compassion and care for you. You are loved!
I SO appreciated your talents. Whether it was repairing a car, building our beautiful armoire, or fixing ANYTHING and I mean ANYTHING.Your mechanical mind amazed me. There was little you couldn't fix. I rested knowing you could handle it. I used to love to come out to the garage and watch you work! You are a very talented man.
I enjoyed serving the Lord with you. I appreciated the time  you took in preparing for your Sunday School lessons and also enjoyed our time leading the youth group with you-that was a dream come true for me. You loved studying the word and I truly appreciated that!
We both know our time together is short. BUT, I know, and it brings me such peace, that you know Jesus. You have trusted him as your Savior and I know when your time with me is over, it begins with him! It will be an honor to stand by you when He comes to take you home. 
I know your desire is that good come from this. That people are drawn to the Lord through your passing. My prayer will be the same. 
Thank you for marrying me. Thank you for being a faithful husband. Thank you for loving me and our kids. 
This is not easy. This is the hardest thing I have been through. But I want you to know that through this process, I have learned the love of Jesus like I never knew it before. I am thankful for that. 
I love you. I love your humor...I love that our love language is sarcasm...I love the moments that we shared that I will always cherish. I love our 8 years together! From here to eternity, I have loved you!

Here is a song that I dedicated to Dave 2 years ago after he almost died during surgery. He ended up in ICU, had 4 surgeries, and spent 11 days at OSU during that time. He was in the hospital for Valentines Day and this song played on the radio that morning...it was perfect and continues to be the perfect song from my heart to his...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Today is a Gift...

I don't think I can put into words, what went on in our home tonight, but I will try...

Every day is gift from God...I admit that most of the time, I do not embrace each day that way. It is so easy to get caught up in the routines of life and forget what is right in front of us. But today...today WAS a very special gift, straight from the heart of God to our family.

In 2005, God allowed Dave and I's paths to cross via internet dating, and the rest as they say, is history! We were married on June 17, 2005. Sarah was 10, Kaitlyn was 7, and Trevor was 3. We became a family of 9, with his+mine!!  We had no clue the twists and turns that life would throw our way in the next 8 years. 

My kids have had a difficult road since their dad left us in 2002. Their relationship with him has been hard on them. I have seen the affects of divorce more times than I would like to count and have wished numerous times that life could have been different for them. The past couple of years have been the hardest for them. My kids have not known much life without Dave. Trevor, being 3, remembers little before him. Dave has been like a dad to them. 

A week ago, Sarah asked that we allow Dave to legally adopt her before he passes away. I was shocked, but fully understood the whys behind this. I started looking into this option. At first I assumed that it would be a process that required an attorney, a couple of appointments, a court date or two, and we know that our time is limited. 

My first contact was a friend from my church who has a heart for adoption and knows it firsthand. She has even started an adoption agency in Springfield. She started looking into the details of what it would take to make this official.  As the day went on, a friend of Sarah's called me, who just recently was adopted by his grandmother. It required little...fill out the papers that can be printed on line, go to the courthouse, pay the fee and file the papers, get a court date, appear once, (and usually within a few days of filing), and it is official. So, his grandmother, emailed me the forms, I printed them all off and we were going to go file within a day or two. 

I sat down and told Dave her wishes. Tears appeared in his eyes and he said he felt very honored and was willing to do this. What an honor to be chosen to be a dad...

The next day, Sarah had an appointment with a specialist in Columbus for a jaw issue. The treatment she needs requires up to 10 appointments in their office, a special pillow, and a custom made mouth piece. If Dave adopted her, we would lose child support for her and also her dad's insurance. This issues needs fixed and I can not afford to pay cash for it...now we had to decide-fix her jaw or go through with the adoption...I was devastated...a choice needed made and our time is limited...

I vented to a couple of my friends about it all. And one of them told me they were going to pray that when I woke up in the morning, I would know what to do. I went to bed, hoping, praying, that this would be the case!

I woke up and I can't say I knew immediately...but it wasn't long into that morning when the Lord laid on my heart what we were to do. The friend that I had originally contacted concerning an adoption had recommended that if we didn't have time to do things legally, we could do this spiritually. We could take it before the Lord and He would honor it. So, I went to Sarah's room to speak with her about it. A vow made before the Lord is an eternal one. Let's face it, legalities can be changed. I had concerns for Kaitlyn and Trevor and how they would feel with it. A spiritual adoption could include them. I felt like this was the direction the Lord wanted us to go...she agreed. 

I spoke with Kaitlyn and Trevor and they were both ready and excited to do this as well.

I started contacting some people influential to my kids, and close to us as friends and asked them to join us to witness this event. I even ordered a cake to celebrate...it said, "Forever Family"...And tonight was the night...

We gathered around Dave's bed. One of our worship pastor's played "Blessed Be Your Name" and "Your Love Never Fails". The girls' youth pastor offered to do whatever I needed, so I asked him to share a verse and say what the Lord laid on his heart. We opened in prayer and sang the words to that wonderful song. Tears flowed quickly from many eyes. The presence of God, the Love of God, was heavy in the room. He shared from 1 John 3:1&2 "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God..." When they adopted in New Testament times, it was forever...NOTHING could separate that relationship. We then prayed and then the kids and Dave, signed their contract. They read...

"Certificate of Adoption
This is to certify that
has been adopted as the daughter/son of Dave Szalla
under the Court of the Lord
on this 12th day of June, 2013"

MANY tears were shed...as we made it official in the eyes of the Lord and the witnesses in the room. The kids each shared what Dave meant to them, Dave shared his heart, and I did too. I think Dave was overwhelmed that my kids CHOSE him to be their dad. And my kids needed to belong to a dad, one that has been there through life with them. 

I believe tonight was a night of healing. And it wasn't just for one person in particular. Wounds that go deep, received the love that was freely given...lives that needed to belong to someone, were chosen...and God was honored and glorified in the process. 

THANK YOU to each person that had a part in tonight...this was a precious gift that my children and I will cherish in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. We know Dave's time here is getting short. I am so thankful that he is the father of my children...and that my children belong to him! 

I am also thankful that when the Lord calls Dave home, they still have their Abba Father to lean on! That his perfect love will never fail them and He will guide them through their life! 

Today was a gift....