Our days are full of little blessings. These are unexpected moments of wonder and hope; connection and mystery. Blessings can be the actions of friends and strangers or the steady gaze of a neighborhood dog. These moments remind us that we are walking this hard road with God.
December 12: (Sara)
I can’t believe we are at month 21 and my dad is doing so well. I remember so clearly hearing the initial diagnosis (18-24 months) and fearing the worst. I think God is pushing me to tackle my pessamistic tendencies and reminding me that with Him all things are possible. It is a huge blessing that as we approach the holiday season again, that my dad is not only still here on earth, but thriving on earth. Today I feel deeply blessed by that and anticipate my arrival back in the Seattle area where we get to all celebrate that today again in person.
November 14: (Sara)
Some might find it troublesome that no blessings have happened to the family since August 4, but I assure you that isn’t true. I know I always have the best intentions to post every day, but somehow life gets in the way. So since I last posted, I have received five bouquets of unexpected flowers, I’ve seen three shooting stars, I’ve received a care package in the mail, I’ve been treated to lunch at least three times, I’ve received a card from my sister, I’ve received countless texts and emails filled with salutations and messages of encouragement, I’ve had four cups of coffee bought for me, I’ve been brought dinner when I wasn’t feeling well, and I’ve been unexpectedly thanked by a staff member. If I would spend another five minutes thinking about it, I’m sure I would come up with more. I am blessed many times over every week and thankful for each one!
Looking back over this journey with brain cancer from the perspective of an “extraordinary” (doctor’s words on July 25) response to the chemotherapy, I think I can pinpoint the beginning of my recovery to the visit of Rev. Shinil Park of Grace Community Church in Surrey, B.C. and his wife Hyojin on May 18. The Parks drove from Surrey (near Vancouver, B.C.), a 2+ hour drive, to pray with Jinny and me in our home. While our prayer time together did not instantly heal me (as I sometimes hope prayer will), I did go out that evening and mow the grass—which I could not have done or even seriously thought about doing in the weeks prior to Rev. Park’s visit. I have gradually improved ever since that day. May 18 was also 16 days after my second chemotherapy round, and I am in no way denying that the chemotherapy was also playing a significant part in the process. But it remains true that on May 17 I would not have thought of mowing the grass. On the evening of May 18 I did it…and was exhausted for 2 days afterward. Today I do everything I used to do in the yard and am not abnormally tired afterward.
I wanted to mention Rev. Park on this “Blessings” page because of his gentle & gracious support as well as his deep faith in God’s healing power, characteristics which he shares with his wife Hyojin. Though we were strangers to them, they came to us and something seemed to begin with their presence. Hopefully we will get to their Friday night prayer service in Surrey sometime this fall.
So many people and communities are praying for us. I am actually a little anxious that prayers will abate with the good report from the last MRI. Please don’t stop praying! This tumor is almost always fatal given enough time. I would like that not to be true in my case.
During this journey, I have had the privilege of being prayed for by what I think of as “the whole family of Jesus.” The church I served for 23 years, Mercer Island Presbyterian, is a mostly white congregation. Dr. Park’s church is Korean. Next Sunday we will attend the Pentecostal Covenant Church here in Seattle where a friend’s dad is the pastor of a largely African American congregation. We will go forward for the healing prayer time.
There are many kinds of healing that we and our country need. The love and prayers of so many congregations, the “whole family of Jesus,” plus the love and prayers of Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, agnostics, unbelievers, and many, many others not of Christian faith, have enriched our lives and brought healing on a deep relational level that we only hope everyone in our nation and our religious worlds can experience in their lifetimes. Even if this tumor kills me, I would never give up the experience of this kind of healing.
August 1-3: (Dale and Jinny) We received gifts of zucchini, apricots, lettuce, and flowers from gardener friends Jim, Rosie, and Bruce.
July 20-27: (Dale and Jinny) We hosted our first neighbors at Pittsburgh Seminary in 1967, Jan and Ed Spence (from Arizona) for dinner. They are on their way to Alaska on a cruise. Two days later we hosted our former exchange student Eriko and her husband Shigeki from Japan for three days. We had gorgeous weather – perfect for seeing every volcano and mountain! Another few days later we hosted new friends Son (Vietnamese) and Sam (Indonesian) who are connected to Union University of California; Dale is the president. They are men of vision and faith. These old and new friends are a blessing to us.
July 19: (Jinny) Evan (8) and Gracie (almost 7 months) spent the day. We had fun walking to a park and playing.
July 17: (Dale and Jinny) We spoke at Mercer Island Presbyterian Church, our home church, about our journey with brain cancer. We are called out into the middle aisle along with daughters Dana, Sara, and Katy. Pastor Sheri then had people in the pews move out to us, surrounding us with their touch as she prayed for us and for Dale’s healing. We were all touched by the love shared.
July 8-13: (Dale and Jinny) We relaxed at the Orcas Island home of friends Bob and Barbara. We hiked, read books, played games, browsed through shops, collected shells and weather rocks on the beach, and hosted daughter Katy and her friend Derek.
July 2-4: (Dale and Jinny) We spent the weekend in CA celebrating the 100th year of the protestant church is Vietnam. Dale felt strong coming off a week of chemo and gave out the diplomas to Union University of California graduates. We stayed in the home of our best man Gary and his wife Denise. Lots of memories!
June 19 (Jinny) – As Dale and I rode home from church we were thinking of how blessed we are by the prayers of people all over the world. Here are some represented in our huge pile of cards and printed emails: Protestants, Catholics (sequestered and not), Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, communists; men, women, children; single, divorced, married, widowed, gay, straight, old, middle-aged, young; family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, people who know people we know; Rabbis, Pastors, Priests, Jesuits, Nuns, Teachers; Vietnamese, Koreans, Japanese, South Africans, Jamaicans, Latinos; Americans from north, south, east, and west, Native Americans, African-Americans, Amish, “Angel Stitchers” – and MORE! We feel surrounded by the love and support of the whole family of God. We are humbled by such an outpouring of love.
June 19 (Dale) – Father’s Day. I am grateful to God for the gift of Dana, Sara, and Katy as my children, as well as Evan and Gracie as my grandchildren.
June 9-15 (Jinny and Dale) – We traveled to western Pennsylvania to visit Dale’s mom Aileen, his sister Jill (from Ohio), his brother Rick and sister-in-law Barb (from New Jersey), our nephew Wade and his wife Timberly and daughters Rachel, Katie, Grace, and Emma, college friends Marilyn and Graham, and Dale’s 1962 high school class. We had a great time!! An added blessing was meeting flight attendant Gayle on our Alaska Airlines plane who recognized us as Jinny was her son Sean’s first grade teacher 16 years ago!!
June 6 (Dale and Jinny) – We were fortunate to have dinner with Channareth Tun from Cambodia. He is in Seattle to receive an honorary doctorate from Seattle University for his work to rid the world of land mines. “Reth” is himself a double-amputee resulting from his stepping on an unseen mine in his early 20’s. He has devoted his life to advocating for all the countries of the world to sign a pledge of using no more land mines. For his untiring work, Reth received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. We were honored to spend a few hours with him and to hear his story.
June 3 (Dale and Jinny) – Today is our 44th anniversary!
June 2 (Sara):
I sit here in absolute wonder over the outpouring of support I have received from all around the country in response to my latest blog entry. I spend each morning moderating comments, replying to emails and facebook messages, and soaking in the love and encouragement. I feel blessed to have found an opportunity to bond with so many unexpected angels in the people who reach out to me with heartfelt support. With each comment, my loneliness recedes a little farther. All of you who read this blog and take moments to write with passion and authenticity are my blessings today. I am deeply moved by all I learn from each one of you and am experiencing a feeling of renewal as a result of your kindness. Unknowlingly, you are answers to my prayers. Thank you.
May 23 (Dale):
Several weeks before my diagnosis with brain cancer, when everyone still thought I was dealing with a pinched nerve, an online university specializing in degree programs for church leadership and theological education for poor working pastors, surprised me with an invitation to become their president. I love their vision and their leadership, and so after prayer and discussion with Jinny I said yes. After my diagnosis I told them it would not be possible for me to accept their invitation. Two weeks ago they surprised me again. Their board had discussed their previous decision and affirmed it a second time. They felt strongly that God was telling them to ask me again. To my surprise I again said yes. The line from the movie Shawshank Redemption came to me: “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” I decided to get busy living. I was installed as president and given an honorary Dr. of Divinity degree. It was a powerful spiritual experience for me. I spoke to on the verse of scripture “The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God…” (See my blog entry dated May 23). I hope that whatever blessings my presidency will bring to the University will somehow repay the blessing they already have been to me.
May 22 (“Gram-Gram” Jinny) – Our grandson Evan turned 8 today. He is a wonderful blessing to our family.
May 20 (Sara): I get my mail at the post office. I often skip stopping because with great regularity I go inside to my post office box only to find junk mail and bills. In cold, windy Montana, you really think twice about how often you get out of the warm car for no reason. But yesterday I received a key in my mailbox. This means a package has arrived that needs to be stored in a larger post office drawer. Since I wasn’t expecting anything, I was curious. I opened it to find a care package from my college roommate Mandy. Inside were a number of items that took me on a trip down memory lane. I loved every minute of it and was deeply touched by the effort it must have taken to put it all together. I am blessed to have her in my life as a dear friend who rises to the occasion no matter how long it’s been since we communicated. Thanks Room for making my day and being such a great friend!
May 2 (Dale): This experience sometimes feels a little like being surrounded with angels. One of our consistent angels is our clinical nurse coordinator, Candice. Always friendly, always practically helpful, always responsive to our myriad email questions. And with a sense of humor like my own.
Our other most consistent angel is Georgia, our friend from church, “Buggy’s” physical therapist, my “torturer,” and the one who helps me a couple of times a week to regain the strength and flexibility in my right arm and hand. She supports both Jinny and me with her very practical love, and brings strength, optimism, and laughter into our home with every visit.
April 29 (Jinny): Dale and I took the 3:27pm Sounder train out of Tukwila Station to Tacoma. Our daughter Dana picked grandson Evan up from first grade and brought him to the station to meet us so he can ride the 4:25pm train back north with us for an overnight. We all love the train ride! It makes Evan’s visit extra exciting. Sometimes we play “Go Fish” or “Hangman.” Other times we talk about what we see outside the windows on the double-decker train. We enjoy each other’s company.
April 24 (Jinny and Dale): Easter Sunday. Our granddaughter Gracie Frey Kara Zahler is baptized. May God bless her all the years of her life.
April 22 (Jinny and Dale): Dale got his wedding ring back from the jeweler. It had to be cut off prior to the biopsy. Miraculously, the cut missed the inscription: “Come let us sing. V.F. + D.S. 6-3-67.” Now the resized ring is shiny and back on Dale’s ring finger!
April 21, 2011 (Sara): I helped a client sell their home last fall. It was a long process. Their home was old and in rough shape and would require just the right buyer. It was on the market four years. But it finally came together and they purchased their dream home in our area soon after. For some reason they picked today to stop by the office just to tell me how happy they are in their new home. This happens often directly after a sale, but six months later? Never. What a nice surprise and blessing for my day.
April 20, 2011 (Sara): Wow, the outpouring of love that has come in response to the initial postings on this blog is overwhelming me. Just now a client walked in to my office for the express purpose of giving me a hug and sharing how what I’ve written has touched him. The comments, emails, facebook posts, and messages arrive hourly, bolstering my spirit and wrapping me in love. I was nervous to put my whole self out there, afraid the ugly truth wouldn’t be accepted. But the opposite has proven true. It has brought people closer. The affect it has had on my soul and my heart is nothing short of miraculous. Thanks everyone.
April 17, 2011 (Dale): On Palm Sunday afternoon we received a call from a Vietnamese friend from Hanoi. Until his retirement, he worked in government service his whole life, being a member of the Communist Party and rising high in government circles. In the last several years we have worked together on several projects to assist the poor of Vietnam. He had just heard via the international grapevine about my diagnosis. He kept saying, “I am very upset. This cannot happen to you. You must trust Crist. Crist will not let this happen to you. Crist will help you.”
I realized that when he said “Crist” he was meaning Christ. Here was a Communist Party official, an atheist at least in theory, telling me that I must trust Christ for my healing. A friend who was at the house when the call came said, “Never have I found such great faith even in Israel.” The friend, of course, was quoting what Jesus had said about the centurion in the Gospel of Luke chapter 7, (when the centurion said to Jesus “Just say the word and my servant will be healed.”)
April 15, 2011 (Sara):
I picked up a cold in the last two days (ugh!). I’m unfairly blaming a variety of members of my family starting with my smallest niece who had a little congestion when I saw her last week. Unfortunately, as I have been away for three weeks, I’m needed in the office. I manage a wonderful staff who has covered for me in my absence, but they deserve a little facetime and I have piles of paperwork to catch up on. That said, it’s all I can do to hold my head upright, weighed down by my cold and general stress over life circumstances. But then the unexpected happened…twice. First, one colleague brought me a gift certifcate for a massage saying I looked like I needed a little time to destress. Less than an hour later, another stopped in my office to bring me a gift certificate for a full facial mentioning I needed so pampering. What blessings! I am lucky to have such perceptive, kind, and competant staff members. I know they will step up as my life takes me from the office with greater frequency and I treasure them. Thanks for my daily miracle you all!
April 10, 2011 (Jinny): I have a flip calendar on my kitchen counter that I’ve had for years. Today quote says: “In thy will is our peace.” Amen.
April 8, 2011 (Jinny): Georgia returns; Dale’s hand has regained some of its strength, an encouragement. Our son-in-law Cory arrived from Montana to join daughter Sara. He volunteered to mow the grass for us; nice! Dale’s first week of chemo ends today and he has felt well throughout the week, no ill effects!
April 4, 2011 (Jinny): Our friend Georgia, a physical therapist, comes to teach Dale exercises for his weak right hand and foot. This Bible verse from my reading on tape for the blind today touched my heart – Psalm 57:1: “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”
April 2, 2011 (Jinny): We had to call Delta Airlines to postpone a planned flight to Pennsylvania April 3rd to visit Dale’s mom, as Dale would be beginning his first chemo pills that week. We were set to have to argue with the airline representative over payment of a postponement fee. The young woman who answered our call took the information and listened to our request for postponement due to medical reasons. When we answered “Seattle Cancer Care Alliance” as the place our doctor worked, she said, “I’m a survivor.” She continued to graciously take care of the arrangements, the fees waived away without discussion. She then told Dale, “You will need your energy up for your treatments, but you can do it! Don’t lose hope.” Her name was “Keiko in Texas.” She was like an angel to us.
April 1, 2011 (Jinny): We met with the neuro-oncologist in the morning, receiving the news of Dale’s diagnosis and expected life expectancy (an average of 18-24 months). Our family gathered at home in tears, huddling close together in love, trying to grapple with the shocking news. A couple hours later I went to the grocery store to buy a handful of items for supper. I was in the express lane with my purchases on the conveyer belt with other shoppers before and behind me. Suddenly an unknown woman reaches into me and says cheerily, “I see you did not receive your free bag of chips. Which one do you choose?” I chose Dale’s favorite: rippled potato chips. I took it as a good sign as we hardly ever buy chips and here someone was reaching over people to give me a free bag!!