Sunday, June 20, 2010

Janie's Sendoff

The following are some notes I made the week after Janie's memorial service for eventual posting here at the blog. My intention was to fashion them into a more readable form, but in reviewing them again,  I've realized 2 things: One, I'm just not going to have the time to do that any time soon and Two, the somewhat disjointed feeling of the notes actually captures the busy pace of those last days. 

So please forgive the rough read this time....please feel free to'll still get the idea....and of course if you don't like reading stuff like this just skip it - that's fine too and you won't hurt my feelings...actually, I won't even know, will I?


As many of you know, Janie's dying came up rather suddenly. We had made the decision (as I'll explain below) to stop any more treatments, but for whatever reasons had thought we might be able to have (at least) the summer together.

So I thought I'd relate the last few weeks leading up to her death.

April 26. Got x-ray, then bloodwork prior to chemo like usual. Dr. Eisemann didn't like #'s. Wanted CT Scan of lungs (higher rez pix than x-ray) and an MRI of brain. All in same day. Got news by 4:00: cancer back in brain and more in the lungs. Lungs: capillaries (I think) that get oxygen and put it in blood stream are getting thickened due to cancer. It means Janie will go on oxygen (for 'comfort') eventually. What to do? Well, if we chose to break off chemo, Eisemann would support that. Whoa. And the brain? Meet with Dr. Lovett (radiation doc) but probably same. Yikes.

April 28. Meeting with Lovett. Heart rate quite high. Instead of meeting, Lovett wanted ekg to track heart rate. Ended up in emergency room to track heart there. Lovett agreed: radiation of brain wouldn't help enough to be worth the aggravation and discomfort. "How long will it know, to die?" "Don't know. Could take weeks, months. Who knows? Everyone's body is different."

Problem: what to tell kids. Becca and Dan about to start finals at college. Afraid to tell them too much for fear of distracting from cramming for finals. Decided to tell them just enough news, but held back from telling about stopping chemo.

Problem: Carly's field trip to Gettysburg battlefield (8 hour drive) was next week...leave on morning after Becca and Dan get home on Tuesday after finals. Janie insisted I go. "I'll make it till you get back silly. Mom's here, Dia's here. Hospice is available. Go!"

So: met with Hospice Mon morning May 3, just to get introduced. They ordered oxygen "just to have in the house for someday." Oxygen arrived Tues afternoon May 4. Becca and Dan arrived home on Tuesday night. Laid news on Becca and Dan at 9:00 Tues night. Not fun. Shoved off in a red church van Wed morning May 5 at 6:00 am. Arrived late (construction) at Gettysburg 6:00 pm. Janie had an ok day. Very short of breath. By now her lungs had progressed some, so decided to try the oxygen.

Thursday, May 6 Janie had a rough day. Coughing and shortness of breath a bad combo. Oxygen. Visiting nurse recommended a little morphine and Atavan to help slow system and breathe easier. Helped by late in the day. Exhausting tour day at battlefield. Spoke with Janie from Little Round Top. Surreal. Very short of breath. Alarmed now. Spoke again later. Better. Relieved.

Friday, May 7. Drove home. Anxious. Seemed to take forever. Janie clapped when I came through the door. She'd had a better day. Showed her the pictures from the trip. Went to bed. Didn't know these were our last few hours together.


Saturday, May 8. I gave Janie a kiss and went to work at 9:00 with her eating breakfast at the table. Her mom was with her. By 9:30 she'd had a bad coughing fit. She felt sick and couldn't breathe and couldn't 'catch up.' By 10:00 Muriel called me, "I think you should come home now." Hospice was on the way. Janie was really struggling to breathe. The hospice nurse increased the oxygen, Atavan and Morphine. I held her hand. "Breathe. Oh please breathe." Still not enough. Her breathing deteriorated steadily. The rest of the Vermont part of the family arrived to be together and pray. We got Becca and Dan home from work. As I watched her struggling to breathe and as she had so little response to the oxygen and drugs, I began to realize that this was going to be the end. We took turns sitting with her and holding her hand.  By now my prayer had changed from, "Oh, God, please save her" to "Oh, God please take her."

The morphine was finally strong enough to make her seem like she was asleep. The nurse said, "the last thing to go will be her hearing," so someone suggested we sing. Jacob began and we all sang along as best we could through our tears:

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

Then on to the Doxology, then, "Great is Thy Faithfulness," and into several others, including "Blessed Be The Name" and "How Great Thou Art." Her breathing became very shallow and then it finally stopped. And we realized that we had just witnessed the very moment that my Janie had left this world and gone straight into the open arms of her Lord Jesus. We all hung onto each other and wept a lot, and let me tell you it was a blessed time and most pure and special. And I'm so grateful to God that He took her so quickly. To have watched her struggle to breathe for a prolonged time would have been dreadful I'm sure.

And now she's free! As grateful as we are for the treatments that extended her life for these six years, I still with jubilation for her say: No More! No more needles, no more biopsies, no more surgeries, no more Port-O-Cath, no more radiation, no more chemotherapy, no more x-rays, Cat Scans, Pet Scans and MRI's. No more vomiting and no more wigs and no more humiliation. It's over. It's done. She's free.

As I write this, Janie has been with Jesus for forty-three days! His promise to us is that He is returning someday in the same manner that he ascended. And with Him at His Second Advent will be those who have gone before us and are under his wings even now.  What joy and what rest Janie is experiencing. At last......


  1. ...mingled tears of sorrow and joy...thanks so much for sharing these precious stories, encouraging...

  2. Thanks, Chris. Though I had heard the story before, it is good to read. Must feel good to write, too.
    Is that really your calendar up top, too? I think it looks like your and Janie's handwriting. sweet.

  3. Yes, that's what our May looked like.....a quieter month, really...glad its behind me now, though it feels a little weird to 'move on.'


  4. Ah, this was so good to read, not easy... but good. Chris, I've got to say that there's real joy in the things I'm seeing that God brought you both through. I'm also glad you're willing to share these moments and insights with us. :)