Monday, August 31, 2009
Last summer I was working at a golf course down here in Lethbridge. A little girl and boy came in with their dad for a late dinner. The dad stepped out for a moment so I asked the girl, probably about 6 years old, where her mom was. My heart broke as she looked up at me with sad eyes and replied, “It’s called cancer.” Her mother had passed away two years earlier. Though at any age it seems like it’s too soon to lose a loved one, I thought, “Thank-you Lord that I’m not 6.”
Last fall I met someone who would become a dear friend. Her dad had passed away months earlier from ALS and frontal lobe dementia- a tragic and rare combination. Not only did he lose all physical function just like my dad, but he also lost his memory and much of his mental function. At one point she said to me, “At least your dad remembers who you are.” At that point I thought, “Thank-you Lord that it’s just ALS.”
Today is my first official day as a teacher-intern at a high school in Lethbridge. (Yes, I'm blogging when I should be lesson planning!) This weekend, one of the teachers here, who thankfully is a believer, lost his wife suddenly due to complications from a massive blood clot in her lung suddenly leaving behind a 6-year old son, 4-year old daughter and 4-day old baby girl. I thought, “Thank-you Lord for the years we had and that I had a year and a half to say good-bye to my dad.”
At any point life there are a number of circumstances that could discourage hope and faith. There are a few Biblical exhortations that come to mind. The first is from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17: “Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Our tough circumstances in life are not always God’s desire, but it is his will that we be thankful. Why? Simply put, we are his light on this earth. If we can praise God through the storms, what does that tell the world about the God that we serve?
Another that the Lord has reminded of is from James 1. “Consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds. For you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything.” We can be joyful in the storms of life because we know that they God is his soverieignty can still use them for a good purpose and we know that this life is only preparation for the next.
John MacArthur compared this life to the back of a Persian rug. From our perspective it looks like a big group of jumbled threads that seem to be woven together in a mess. It’s not until we flip it over, possibly not until eternity, that we see the intricate tapestry woven together to create something beautiful and our faith in Romans 8:28 become sight: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God who are called according to His purpose.”
As I think of the old hymn, Count Your Blessings, I have many to name one by one. I had my dad for almost 24 years of my life. He set an incredible example in faith and pointed me to everything I need for life and godliness. My dad was my dad right until the end. He did not lose his faith, his family or his mind. Until his last breath, he encouraged us to not let this disease discourage our faith in Christ. Until the very end, he gave practical advice and cracked his famous smile. Lastly, I had the gift of a long good-bye. Nothing was left unsaid. So many of us got a chance to thank him and encourage him in the impact he made. I am thankful for other believers in the family of faith. Thought we don't all know each other personally, we can support each other in prayer and be encouraged by the faith and hope displayed in tough times.
I praise God for situations that He uses, whether good or bad by the world’s standards, to show himself faithful to the lost word. My dad’s words from last summer come to mind at this point: “If you were to live with the perspective that today was your last day on earth, what would you do to impact the Kingdom of God?” I tend to think that all those around and myself included are invincible. Every so often, I am reminded of the fragility of this life. Everyday is truly a gift and I need to ask God to continuously remind to make His kingdom work my priority.
Friday, August 28, 2009
We are going to continue participating in Betty's Run for ALS every June. Store it somewhere in the catalog of your mind! Jesse's Girls was the second highest fundraising team this year! Whoo-hoo. Going for first next year...nothing wrong with a little competition for a good cause, right? :)
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
After he went down for a nap Saturday afternoon, Ang left to go to the viewing at the funeral home. When he woke up from his nap he asked Frankie where his mama was. When Frankie told him that she went to see Papa's body, he broke into a hysterical crying bout saying, "I don't want my mama to go to heaven yet! I want her to stay here!" It took about 10 minutes of Frankie assuring him that his mom had gone to see Papa's old body, not his new body in heaven, and that she would be back very soon before he would calm down. Poor little guy! I can only imagine the panic that would have overtaken his little mind as he thought his mama had gone to heaven to see Papa.
Ethan's shining moment though, was definitely at the cemetery. Gerry shared a few comforting words with our family and encouraged us to share the memories and the funny stories. He said, "Sometimes he (my dad) was just crazy!" of course meaning, sometimes he was hilarious, funny, had wild ideas... you get the picture. All of a sudden, Ethan very loudly whispered to Mike with the sincerest concern in his voice, "Was Papa crazy?!" And then said, "Crazy like this?" and proceeded to make a "crazy" face to Mike by blowing up his cheeks, pulling on his ears and wiggling his eye balls around.
We all had to bite our tongues. It seemed like an inappropriate time to laugh out loud yet an appropriate time to allow joy to overflow from his little heart to ours.
Dad's earthly resting place is 1903A4, Garden of Heritage, Eden Brook Memorial Garden. I know... kind of a strange address to post but a few people had asked about it!
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Dad's new normal is fabulous. The obvious truth is that he is much better off. He is now completely healed of ALS and probably loving eternal life in his brand new body. He is living the life he was created for. But the fact is, the rest of us- the ones still passing through this life- don't feel better off without him. We miss him. What do we do in the meantime?
God has really broadened my perspective of contentment during this journey. I used to think that it had to do with just money. Be happy with a little. Not so much. I have learned that contentment is "satisfaction in God's sufficient provision." Now more than ever, I realize that God's provisions extend beyond just finances. He promises to provide everything that I need. That means comfort, assurance, people, discernment, relationships, guidance, healing... you name it. If I need it, God has promised to provide it through Jesus (Philippians 4:19). The promises stand. Yet, on a few occasions, I have felt the overwhelming feeling of despair creep up on me, especially when I begin to worry about the future. In the meantime, God is always extending the invitation to trust in Him to meet all of my needs.
This is very challenging to me when I think about life without my dad. How many times have I gone to him for much needed dad stuff: godly wisdom, where in the Bible is... [insert verse here], a comforting word or help with an automotive disaster- all things I thought I really needed. What it keeps coming down to for me is, "Will I consciously choose to believe the promises of God?" I want with everything in me to trust God. I'm waiting to see how healthy grief and faith in God's promises weave together. Faith doesn't nullify grief and grief doesn't nullify faith. I will choose to trust God as I let him heal what needs to be healed in me and my family.
In the meantime, our new "normal" has the same foundation. The new structure, whatever it is, will look different but whatever is it, it will still be built on the solid rock.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
My mom was furious and in disbelief: "You did what?! Jesse, you CANNOT pretend to ROB banks. They have those automatic buttons behind their tills that they ring in an emergency situation. She could have called the police! You could have been arrested!"He still thought he was hilarious and assured her that would never happen. When she relayed the story, we were trying to imagine how we were going to explain to people the almost headline...
"Southern Baptist Pastor Arrested for Attempted Bank Robbery..."
Outreach Canada Corporate Chaplaincy Minstry: I was so thrilled for my dad when he became a corporate chaplain. He had a renewed passion for reaching people and He was able to make a living doing what he loved to do anyways- connect with people and share the love of Christ. This corporate opportunity gave him a springboard to share his life and faith with many who may have never walked through the church doors. When he worked, he was responsible for raising his own support and I know he would delight in helping out the ministry that reflected his heart. If you share his heart for seeing lives changed through corporate chaplaincy, visit: http://en.outreach.ca/ContactUs/Donate/Finances/tabid/398/Default.aspx
The Jesse Morales Evangelism Award: My dad attended the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary from 1989-1994 where he built upon his passion for evangelism with formal ministry training. A scholarship has been set up in his honor and will be given out annually at the CSBS Graduation. Cheques payable to the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary; Re: Jesse Morales Evangelism Award; 200 Seminary View, Cochrane, AB, T4C 2G1 CANADA
The ALS Society of Alberta: This "ugly" disease, as he often referred to it, is what ultimately ended his life here. Donate to this fund to help support the society who was an incredible support to us, raise awareness about an unfamiliar disease, and funds for research to find a cure. To donate online, please visit http://www.als.ca/events/mysite.aspx?fid=3737 or a cheque can be mailed to the ALS Society of Alberta, Suite 400, 320 23rd Ave SWCalgary, AB, T2S 0J2, Re: In Memory of Jesse Morales
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Three weeks ago today is when my dad spelled out on the letter board, "I feel like I am in the last stage of this disease." He had sensed that something had changed in his body. We are so glad for the "couple of days" that has turned into a few weeks. Family and friends have had opportunities to visit and encourage him in the last days. We've just had so much of the gift of time.
His health and strength continue to decline. He drinks when his muscles will allow him to swallow. He spends most of the day resting though muscle loss has made being comfortable very difficult. The disease has attacked the muscles of his body in full force. (Muscle atrophy is caused by death of the motor neurons in ALS.) Unfortunately, the nausea has returned. No one is sure of the cause but it makes things very difficult. He continues to, "Wait on the Lord," with great patience and thankfulness. Continue to pray for physical, emotional and spiritual peace during a turbulent time.
We were all very encouraged by the Word shared at church this morning. Gerry talked about the hope that we have in the face of death based on a few promises found in Philippians. We were reminded that God is in the business of doing a complete kind of work in us and using whatever He can to conform us to the likeness of His Son. We were reminded that this life is just the warm up to the main event. It's a drop in the ocean compared to eternity. And lastly, we were reminded of where our home is. As believers, our citizenship is in heaven. I so look forward to a painless, tearless and fearless heaven!
Please continue to pray. For my dad, pray especially for physical ease. For our family, pray that we would be reminded of who God is at this time and that we would be guarded against discouragement. We are so thankful for the support we have received during this time. So many of you have been the hands and feet of Jesus to our family. Thank you!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Today I had to pay a shop mechanic to fix my car. You know, one of those jobs that dad would've done for a small fraction of the actual invoice. I'm sure some of you have had a moment like that sometime in the last year and a half considering the number of vehicles that have come through his garage over the last decade! He was a master mechanic and can still diagnose faulty car noises from his kitchen chair.
His vehicle motto used to be, "Why buy a new car when you can fix an old one?" I'd always say, Because then you wouldn't have to fix it!" He would smile and say, "There's no such thing as a maintenance free vehicle." Sadly, true. But he did LOVE to work on cars. Last week I said to him, "Hey, do you think they'll be maintenance-free vehicles in heaven?" He cracked a smile for that one!
Monday, August 10, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
We've been blessed with help with the kids so Angela can spend some time with dad! And... we have a new addition to the family- Mom and Dad have a new grand-puppy.... Iggy (yes, named after Mike's favorite hockey player, Jarome Iginla).
I saw the smile today that I haven't seen for a while. My Aunt Remy was talking to him and at the end said, "It's okay Jesse- you're still good-looking!" His eyes lit up and his smile spread from ear to ear. I said to him, there's that famous smile that's been missing for a while!
Dad is doing okay. He does seem to get a bit weaker everyday but we don't know where the bottom is so for now, he's still here and we are cherishing the moments! We are so grateful for all the prayer support. It really does work! Thanks again, and I'll continue to keep you posted!
Friday, August 7, 2009
I have so much enjoyed reading some of the comments from far and wide. I wanted to share this one with you from a friend all the way in BC. I just had to giggle at what he wrote because it is exactly my dad's instructions for his own funeral- "Make sure they talk about Christ, not me!" Enjoy...
"Transformation. Two Greek words combined to create this word - metamorphosis - and it describes the transformation process of a larva becoming a caterpillar and ending into a beautiful butterfly.
I knew Jesse before he surrendered his life to Christ in Richmond, BC in the mid-1980s. Kathy prayed consistently, expectantly, patiently for his conversion for four years before he finally did. And what a joy it was to see the transformation the Spirit of God brought to him. From one who ignored Jesus into a man who fell in love with Him. Jesse just could not stop talking about Jesus.
Before his conversion, he and Kathy once attended the Bible study I led in Richmond, and, he slept through it. After his conversion, he immediately shared his faith, getting to work early Friday morning for Bible study at Downtown Toyota with whoever wanted to come and listen.No, it was not merely that Christ was in his life; no, it was not that Christ was part of his life; but yes, Christ was his Life!
Knowing Jesse, he would now probably want us to talk more about his Christ than about him. The Christ that Jesse loved and served is One whose arms are open to embrace the repentant sinner, with the words, 'Welcome home, dear one. I've been waiting for you. What took you so long?' These same loving arms will welcome Jesse with the commendation: 'Well done, good and faithful servant.' Having experienced it firsthand, Jesse always sought to connect people with the transforming power of Jesus Christ. This is Jesse's challenge to me- what about you?"
I have to ask because I know my dad would... :) Have you experienced the transforming power of Jesus Christ in your life?
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Tomorrow morning, we are going to record the song that Christina and Angela wrote for my dad so that in the likely event that we cannot sing it live at the funeral, it can be played! It is such a special song. My sisters are very talented! It's called, "I Want To Be Just Like You." They've been singing it for him everyday with hope of encouraging him. Here's a little sneak preview at the chorus:
I want to be wise, but not too proud to show my weakness
I want to be strong, but not ashamed to ever cry
I want to have faith, that never wavers in the storm
I want to be light in this dark world
And love with all I am
Dad, I want to be just like you.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Ethan is enjoying communciating with Papa. He runs up to him and places either hand on his legs. (Raising his right leg means yes and raising his left leg means no.) He'll ask, "Papa, do you love me?" or "Papa, want me to sing again?" Dad raises his right leg and Ethan shrieks with excitement, "He said YES!" Maia still wanders up to Papa, softly rubs his hands and says, "Of-oo!" (which of courses means "Love you!" in toddler). She also wanders around the house saying, "Ssh. Papa." She's learned that he needs quiet in order to rest!
Last week they started a new game where she she would show Papa her tummy and he would touch it with his toes causing her to shriek with excitement. He usually became physically tired of the game before she lost interest! Last night he was sleeping on the lazyboy. She lifted up her shirt and said, "Papa?" She then wandered over to his sleeping body and pressed her tummy against his foot and still shrieked with excitement. I guess it's still a fun game if only one person is playing!
Thank you for your prayers! I will keep you posted.
Thanks for your prayers!
Monday, August 3, 2009
Last night he said he was feeling weaker than ever before and it is becoming more apparent. He can hardly hold up his head and cannot carry much of his own weight when transferring between chairs. He's still been sleeping most of the days but unfortunately has been restless during the nights. He's woken up with difficulty breathing. Last week, the nurse suggested sedation when he approaches the very end. It does not speed anything up but will make him more comfortable.
Yesterday the old movie, "Heaven Can Wait" was on TV in the afternoon. Ang said to dad, "Is that what you're thinking Dad? That heaven can still wait?" He shook his head no and then I said, "You're probably thinking, heaven can come anytime now." He nodded. Keep praying for that peaceful transition into eternal life and I bet if you asked my dad, he would say sooner rather than later.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
We've had the blessing of a long goodbye. We have all said what we think we need to say yet I cannot escape the feeling that there is always just one more thing to tell him. I had a moment of sadness wash over me last night as I sat beside him and he slept. I thought to myself, I'm really going to miss him! When he opened his eyes, I leaned in, tried to choke back the tears and told him, "Dad, I'm really going to miss you." I know that God is faithful. He has promised to provide for our every need. God has worked through dad to impact many lives, mine included and that legacy of faith will carry on through generations. I will be forever thanking God for what He did in and through my dad's life. There is nothing more I could have asked for in a father. And for that reason, I'm just really going to miss him.