June 7, 2019
Help in Unexpected Places… For the Love of Animals
I arrive at the barn and sit in my truck gathering my stuff, gathering my emotions, gathering… I am overwhelmed with missing my Glen. There are moments where it seems slightly more distant but those moments are far and few between. Even when I sit in my counselling room there is still a part of me that thinks he is sitting upstairs in his chair watching sports or in the bathroom. He couldn’t do much else for years and when he could he did. When I need some administration thing done or computer thing done (the kind of stuff that rarely goes well for me) my first thought is that I will just ask Glen for help…and then remember that he’s not here. Strange, I barely turn on the television now probably because it reminds me of Glen. When Josh turned on the Raptors basketball game I watched with him because I am excited that Canada is in the finals but it was also etched with deep sadness because Glen would have loved it. He’s probably got front row seats in heaven beside an American – that picture makes me smile.
I hear dogs barking as I sit in my truck and pluck up the bit of energy that got me here to get out of my truck. I genuinely smile because I know those barks and whinnies from the horses I hear are for me. Animals have a special way of knowing who loves them, and who is in pain. I open my door and instead of going straight to say hi to DeOrro I walk to the barking dog tied to the other barn. It’s Lexi. Lexi is a boxer who I assumed just loved on everyone because she loves on me. I walk straight to her and bend down to her height. She immediately climbs up my body and wraps her front legs and paws around my neck in a strong embrace, licking my face as I try to turn my head away a bit. I can’t help but laugh. She loves me so much and honestly the feeling is mutual. Lexi belongs to my friends who lost their son and Lexi and Kahlua, their other dog who is a lovely labradoodle (I think) always greet me warmly. Lexi, especially warmly. Almost always with a doggie hug and kiss. My friend tells me that she doesn’t actually do that with just anyone, only special people and people that she senses pain. She is trying to help. It blows my mind.
Then there’s Aussie. Aussie is a shepherd cross and is just lovely. She is shy and when she trusts you she loves to be pet. She is so purely loyal to her owner, who is also just lovely. They all come to say hi.
Quincey is there that day too. I know she has blue heeler in her but can’t remember the rest of the mix. Super hyper and super affectionate when she holds still long enough but always comes to greet me. Her owner is another one I am especially fond of…like all my friends at the barn. I get so much love and support there I feel incredibly blessed.
I slowly make my way into my barn and am greeted by the cats Molly and Sally. They are extremely unusual barn cats. These cats will not let me just pass them by. They literally seek me out if I’ve walked past so that they can love on me too. They will try to climb up my leg if I don’t pick them up and cuddle them. They will cuddle right in and hold on just a tad too tight with the result being mini cat scratches all over my shoulders and legs but the love they give and receive is worth the scratches.
As I make my way down the stalls to the end I say hi to every horse in there. Shorty, the pony, is always super excited to see me. Most of them are but I’m pretty sure Shorty is especially happy because I will often come at the time that it’s ok to let him out to pasture so I have become special to him. He’ll poke his head over the stall door – no small feat for a horse of his small stature – and perk his ears up ready for a kiss. Adorable.
Finally I make it to my big D – DeOrro. By this time he is waiting expectantly with his head looking over at me, ears perked forward, looking handsome as ever. He is a beautiful palomino and quite the ladies man. He has a long flowing white mane and a beautiful straight nose. He has a way of looking innocent, though I know he isn’t always innocent. I greet him and he nods at me. I open his stall door and step in, first holding his face in my hands, trusting him to not bonk me in the head, which he doesn’t – he is very cautious of my head as per our agreement! I told him early on that I have constant headaches so he needs to be very careful of my head. He seems to honor that, which amazes me. Horses understand so much more that we give them credit for. He rests his head in my arms this day and relaxes that big heavy head, trusting me with his own health and well-being. I step in and give him a big hug. He stands very patiently while I linger. He wraps his head around me for a brief moment, then lets go. He has been very patient and wants into the field but he knows I need his love. He has been there every step of the way through Glen’s cancer journey and Glen’s journey from this realm to the next. I know he understands.
This horse has been a huge part of my best therapy. I have learned much with him about the ways of horses and the ways of people. He struggles with pain too. He is lame with navicular (degeneration of the navicular bone which is located in his hoof). I knew that he was in pain before I bought him but it was too late to turn back. The horse had won my heart. I love to gallop and so does he but he can’t. When he does even a canter there are many times now that he will give me some bucks because it hurts (and probably a bit of attitude but I truly believe most of it is pain). I don’t ask him for a canter anymore. If he wants to give me a canter I will often tell him no because I know it hurts if he continues and it will lead to bucking and really, let’s face it, I’m not exactly twenty anymore!
The other day he looked especially in pain but I needed some therapy so I cleaned seven stalls. I was stiff by the end but as I scooped poop I meditated and prayed. With each scoop of poop I scooped I was giving God the “crap”. By the end I finally grabbed DeOrro, put on my helmet and his bridle and hopped on bareback, which lately is how I prefer to ride. There are various opinions on saddle versus bareback but I happen to enjoy bareback riding and believe it gives the horse less pain too. I could be wrong but that’s where I stand. It was going to be a short ride as I had spent most of my allotted barn time cleaning stalls. I was simply headed down the 200 or so feet stretch of road to get to the small riding ring. Halfway there we encountered a tractor barreling at us at full speed. Any horse would be afraid but DeOrro seems especially terrified of tractors. He worked on a ranch and perhaps he had a bad encounter with tractors before but I really don’t know. I stopped him and held on knowing this was not going to end well. I spoke to DeOrro trying to calm him. I held out my hand and yelled at the tractor driver to slow down all to no avail. Just like everything we did for Glen seemed to be all to no avail. There was no stopping the disease that stole my husband from me and there was no stopping the tractor. As the tractor was about ten feet from us DeOrro whirled around on a dime and galloped the fastest he’s ever taken me. There was electric fence two feet to my left and tractor about four to five feet to my right. Hanging on and praying was literally my only option. “God, please don’t let him buck!” “God, please don’t let him veer to the left or the right!” “God, please don’t let him jump the fence!” DeOrro continued to bolt in a straight line. I made a quick decision and made a half second pull on the reigns to the right in the direction of the tractor just to distract DeOrro a bit and slow him down. By the grace of God my horse slowed to a stop and the tractor, who by now had finally clued in and slowed down, continued on his way. I was angry! Raging mad, which is completely unusual for me. The man had put me and my horse in mortal danger. This was a life and death situation. If DeOrro had bucked; if I had fallen off in his quick turn; if DeOrro had veered to the left into the electric fence or the right into the tractor – we would have been dead or very badly injured. I shook my fist at the driver and yelled, “Slow down!” He looked remorseful and sheepish and kept driving.
Slowly we turned back and had a little ride in the riding area. I thanked God again for a horse that calmed down fast. I thanked God again for my years of riding bareback that gave me the muscle memory to not even be dislodged in the least. I thanked God that it was me encountering the tractor and not any of the other ladies at the barn who have been trying the bareback thing…it could have ended so badly yet God gives me extra angels and takes care of me. I am reminded now that if I get hurt it’s just me. Glen is not here to come and pick me up. Glen is not here to hug me with the amazing enveloping presence that was Glen that made me feel so…safe. So loved. So secure. Yet God, in His great love for me has given me extra angels. Angels in the form of real angels from heaven. Angels in the form of dogs, cats, and horses. Angels in the form of people who come into my life along the way. I thank God for my horse, my therapy in the form of DeOrro, who even in his pain, walks me slowly back to sanity and life here on earth with the clippity clop of the hoof beats that lull me to peace when I feel that all around me is insanity. Though I still don’t understand the plan or like the plan of Glen not being here, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is watching over me and loves me. He has a plan. I surrender to the plan of God who sees the world in greater detail than I ever could. May my thread in this tapestry reflect the majesty of my Creator, even in the midst of my intense pain.
May 18, 2019
Never Vs. Eternal
This particular piece has been on my heart for a few weeks but I have had a hard time sitting down to write it….
My friend Leanne and I said goodbye to her husband Jeremy and walked into the Abbotsford airport together. We were off to Alberta to see our good friends Ray and Cassandra. We are closer than sisters and able to pick up the friendship even with time in between. That part was exciting. The next part was also good yet incredibly intimidating and terrifying to me. I was going home. Glen’s parents’ home to be exact for our niece’s wedding. I was excited about this, but without Glen the thoughts threatened to take me away. I pushed them all away with a prayerful word and continued steadfastly in, “It will be ok. I will be ok.”
The visit with Cassandra and Leanne, and Ray and the kids was fantastic. I crashed massively. I didn’t have to think about what new thing I needed to learn – at least not for a few days. I felt safe and secure for probably the first time in many months. We laughed. We cried. We rested. Cassandra kept asking what I wanted to do and I honestly didn’t want to do anything. I was tired of doing. I was just plain tired. The tiredness has not left. The exhaustion accompanies my every breath. I have always been a poor sleeper but now…it’s all but impossible to sleep. A miracle is that I discovered that some people don’t produce something called GAD and therefore never get a restful sleep and/or have trouble sleeping at all. I am one of those people so I have started on GAD nightly alongside my herbal sleep remedies and zquill and am sleeping somewhat better. There is much improvement needed yet I am hopeful that I am on a good track.
With my friends we went out for coffee (tea in my case). We walked a bit outside but it kept on snowing so that wasn’t very appealing. We shopped because I needed a dress for the wedding. My only other option was the dress I bought for Glen’s service and that would be…massively difficult to put back on again. We danced to the Wii until we were stiff and laughed ourselves silly because we are not dancers (at least not good dancers!). Cassandra curled my hair. We gave each other massages. It was good. Leanne left earlier than I did but I knew I would see her in BC soon. And then it was time for me to go to Mom and Dad’s. Home. Without Glen.
Ray and Cassandra, along with their daughter Alyssa, drove me to Didsbury. We got there and Mom and Dad met us at the door. Unbidden as usual the tears leapt to my eyes. Mom and Dad gave me hugs with tears in their eyes too. I kept thinking that Glen would surely walk through the door. He must be coming with Donovan and Josh who were driving my truck up from BC that day. But he wasn’t. He wasn’t ever going to come home again. Not to his parents home. Not to his earthly home. Not ever to be with me and the family again. Never.
I was led to the upstairs bedroom. I’ve never slept in the upstairs bedroom before. For the twenty years that Mom and Dad have been in this house after moving into town from the farm Glen and I have slept in the downstairs bedroom together. I felt loss, yet grateful at the same time. Already the familiar was being replaced. It made sense as my sister in law Donna and niece Melanie would share the downstairs room. It had two beds – though of course Glen and I shared one so we could cuddle on the double bed and fall asleep in each other’s arms. That will never happen again.
Donovan and Joshua arrived safely and I felt massive relief as they walked through the door. These two are now grown men. They are young and can of course still be goofy (which I’ve never outgrown either thankfully!), but they have been forced to grow up rapidly with the losses in their lives. The biggest loss of course being losing their Dad…He’ll never again be able to speak into their lives and show them how to do things.
Friday came and we spent the morning with Mom and Dad visiting. They are incredible people whom I love so very much! They instantly became Mom and Dad to me when I met them. We had stopped in at Glen’s place on choir tour for a break. I think the bus needed fixing too but that part is hazy for me. I just saw wide open farm and welcoming people. The rest of the choir went inside because it was chilly outside but I saw a black lab named “Sarge” and decided to remain outside and get some air. Sarge led me all over the property with excitement and soon we were in the barn while Sarge hunted for birds. I felt free here and loved playing with him. Then I spotted the trampoline and on I went not realizing that it was soaking wet. My pants, of course, got soaking wet! Mom, then Mrs. Hildebrandt, laughed at me kindly and gave me something to wear while she threw my pants in the dryer. I joined the rest of the choir who were all sitting on the couches and floor downstairs watching the video that I’m pretty sure Glen had something to do with the making of (choir and bus memories). That was my introduction to Mom and Dad – kind, loving, giving and gracious people.
Friday afternoon the boys and I hopped in our truck and drove out to Crossfield to help set up the reception area. It was disconcerting that after all these years I still really don’t know my way around out there. I know general directions but save for maybe one or two times this was Glen’s territory and he did the driving. When Glen drove we went a different way almost every time. All the country roads look similar to me so landmarks are difficult so I felt lost and insecure with directions. I really don’t have a built in navigation system in my brain either like Glen did…So we relied on Siri maps. At least now we know how to get to Crossfield!
The next day was the wedding. I’m pretty sure that the boys and I may have been holding our breath most of the day. I kept telling myself to breathe. Here we were in Glen’s home church, at the wedding of our niece whom Glen loved very much and dearly wanted to be there this day, with Glen’s family and extended family – all without Glen. He will never be there again. I will always be there alone without Glen knowing that my boys can’t always come with me. A spirit of sadness was definitely upon me yet I was desperately trying to smile. Our niece Alana was absolutely gorgeous walking down the aisle. Both her and Levi, our new nephew in law, were glowing and had eyes only for each other. My mind flitted back and forth between the reality of witnessing the beautiful ceremony and remembering the day Glen and I got married. We saw no one but each other. We sang to each other. We had a fly interrupting the vows Glen was speaking to me which made me laugh in our ceremony. We had Glen’s unity candle go out and refuse to light again…but we still held the candles together and as the fire became one, we became one. Tears flowed down my face. We were still one. We always would be yet never will I walk beside him again.
Levi’s Dad officiated the service, just as my Dad officiated our service 27 and a half years ago, and near the end he called up Brian, Glen’s brother and father of the bride so the Dad’s could pray a prayer of blessing on their newly united children. Tears flowed again especially as I saw the reactions of my sons. Never would they have that prayer of blessing in physical form from their Dad on the day that they get married.
We headed off to the reception and kind people hugged me along the way giving me their condolences. Alone. I felt alone in a crowd, which is an unfamiliar feeling for me. The boys and I found our table with Mom and Dad, Donna and Melanie and one of Dianne’s cousins (sister in law, mother of the bride) who was easy to chat with. I made it through the dinner. The speeches were beautiful and the bride and groom still glowing. The dance started. I had been overwhelmed enough. I felt myself falling apart and wanting the earth to swallow me. I told myself to stop it. I willed myself to walk to the bathroom in a pleasant manner, not a frantic run. I walked into a stall and cried. Never would I be able to dance with Glen again. Never again would he hold me in his arms. Never again would I have a date, the Glen date, with me to significant or any events. The word never, though distorted, rang true in my mind and I was grieved beyond words. The familiarity of all that was happening combined with the absence of the one I hold most dear became too much for me just a few days short of the four month marker of watching Glen pass from my realm into the heavenly realm that I can’t quite reach. I cried until I thought I was done, dried my tears, washed my face and walked calmly back out. The boys were bored to tears because they didn’t know anyone and had already informed me that they wouldn’t dance not knowing anyone. I put my arms on their shoulders and said, “Let’s go.”
I found Alana on the dance floor and danced with her a bit, telling her we were headed out and how much we love her. I was so completely grateful that we could be there to see her amazing day. But then she asked how I was doing and unbidden the truth flew out of my mouth, “Lousy.” We both had more tears and I felt so bad! She apologized and I apologized for crying – silly how we think we need to. Of course she is missing her Uncle Glen at her special day. She loved him too.
Josh drove home. My body is having massive trouble absorbing nutrients so my feet keep cramping up so bad that I can’t drive…not just a cramp that cramps and then goes away. When it comes it doesn’t go away for hours. I forget what the conversation was on the way except that the tears came again. It’s like a leaky faucet that I seem to have very little control over. Glen was like that in the months before he passed from this realm to the next. I was too but even more now. I was living in hope then. Now…it’s much more difficult. My hope has been broken to pieces and God is slowly restoring me and my hope to something that will be much bigger I think. But the truck ride home was difficult. Broken. Shattered. “Never’s” ran through my head. Josh reached out and held my hand. Donovan put his hand on my shoulder from the back seat while I wept.
We beat Mom and Dad home and commenced packing as we were headed home in the morning. Donovan and Josh headed downstairs to bed while I continued packing. Then Mom and Dad came home, walked straight to me in my bedroom, hugged me and asked how I was doing. Leaky faucet again. I broke down for the next half hour and cried with Mom and Dad again. “What do you need?” Mom asked. I don’t even know where this came from as I hadn’t thought it succinctly. I sobbed out the words, “I need to feel safe again!”
Mom, so frail and so kind, held me. I held on to her too, afraid I would break her she’s so small. Dad stood by with tears in his eyes. He soon walked out and Mom sat on my bed while I packed and we talked. This is so hard for them too! They have lost their youngest son! Dad soon walked back in and took me into his still strong arms. “We love you Laurel. You are our daughter and always will be. You will never be left out of our family. There is always a place for you here. We don’t ever want you to feel that you are a tag along – you belong. I have never met anyone as strong as you are.”
Of course he brought me to tears again. Those words will always be treasured in my heart and my mind. I love Mom and Dad so much!
Eventually I settled down into bed and turned out the light. Then in the stillness of the dark night of my soul I heard the whisper of my Savior.
“Never is a long time my beloved daughter.”
“Yes Father. It is…” my heart spoke back, breaking.
“Eternity is longer my sweet one. It’s coming,” spoke the Father’s Spirit straight to my spirit.
Yes. Never is a long time. But eternal is longer… My spirit began to slowly wake up again. I will see Glen again. I will dance with Glen again. I will hold and be held by Glen again. Maybe not now…but in eternity where we will be eternally and forever together. Loving, always and forever. To eternity and beyond Mon Cherie Glen. To eternity and beyond with Jesus. Thank you Lord!
April 14, 2019
My mind was spinning with not much in it but numbness. How can a mind spin with utter numbness? I stopped at a friends house to drop off some home made brownie’s for their adorable almost two year old. They were having a rough time so I stayed. Their dog needed a walk. He had not been walked in three days. My friends looked exhausted because they were. Their sweet little guy who calls me “Auntie Rorel” (did I mention he’s not quite two?), is struggling very hard with eczema – head to toe. He is absolutely miserable. It breaks my heart. So I stayed. I prayed with them, I offered to walk the dog and take the little sweetie for a walk. Off we went soon to be joined by my friend who needed a visit. We had a delightful time and I was glad to be able to cheer up my little sweetie with brownies.
I headed from there to the hospital. Yes, the hospital. Yes, the hospital gives me massive creeps. I am thankful for it, yet really don’t want to be there. For one, my Mom died there. For two, Glen was there for two weeks…and now he’s gone too…and I miss him like crazy… Yeah, not my favorite place in the world right now. Yet here I am, at the hospital. I was here to visit another friend. He has severe dementia and fell, breaking his hip resulting in the need for a hip replacement. We almost lost him and hard as this is, I really wanted to see my friend and his wife. I took a deep breath, parked my car and took another deep breath. “Lord help me,” I whispered. “God,” I added, “I hate this place.”
I took another deep breath and walked in to the all too familiar place heading to the car payment machines. From there I headed to the elevators. A young couple ran to the elevators and with not a word, nor a glance at me ran into the elevator. I joined them and snuck a glance their direction. Something horrible must have happened. I get it. I sent up a silent prayer for them and whatever was going on. I punched floor 3. Baker 3 – thank God it wasn’t the same floor as Glen had been on…or so I thought. I got to Baker 3 and asked what room my friend was in. The nurse there directed me to Baker 2. Room 2119. That sounded too familiar. My senses started to prick. The hairs on my arms began to tingle. My head began to spin. I walked through the familiar Baker 2 doors that were usually closed due to wandering patient risk. I stopped as I saw April, one of Glen’s nurses.
“Hi,” I said with heart pounding. “He’s gone,” I mustered out.
“I know,” she nodded. “I looked it up and saw. I’m so sorry. How are you holding up?”
I know she was being kind. I wasn’t holding up very good. Functioning, but miss him so much it hurts. It hurts all the time no matter what I am doing. I get distracted, which is good, but he’s always there. I answer in a vague sort of way. I find myself doing that a lot lately. I look towards what I am fearing – the room.
“I think I’m visiting someone in Glen’s old room,” I say quietly to April.
“Are you ok for that?” she asks with genuine concern.
“No,” I answer honestly. “But these people are important.”
I say a hasty goodbye and walk numbly to Glen’s old room. How can I even describe the heart-numbing walk? How cruel is this? My friend is in Glen’s old room? My heart was beating like mad. My head was spinning. I looked for the old gentleman that always sat outside our room – he wasn’t there. Where was he? This wasn’t right. Everything was wrong. This was wrong. How could I walk into the room without Glen being there? This was wrong.
I stood outside the door for a second and took the plunge. I stopped short in the doorway…There he was. Lying in the bed. Skinny. Beard and slightly balding. It could be Glen…but it wasn’t. It wasn’t me sitting there beside him. It wasn’t Glen in that bed. It was my friends and I felt awful for them because I know what they are going through.
“Mary (name changed),” I whispered. She looked up and immediately her eyes filled with empathy. “This is the same room that Glen was in.”
“Oh Laurel,” she said without getting up. “Is this too much for you?”
Yes! My mind screamed. Yes! This is all too much for me! We were supposed to grow old together. We were just beginning to enjoy life after kids want to leave and give you lots of time together kind of time. He was my life. He was my love. He was my best friend. He was someone I could spend every minute together with and never be bored with him or him with me. We adored each other…why God?…
“Please, just come,” I looked at my friend and spread my arms wide. This was not Glen. This was my friend and I guess I needed some exposure therapy. This room was bathed in prayer. It was fitting. The tears flowed as my friend embraced me in a hug. I think both of us were in tears. I forced myself to focus on my friend. We talked but I don’t think I was as encouraging as I had intended to be. This was really hard. I visited with them both – and he even woke up and recognized me, which was a really good sign. I prayed with them and smiled. I was feeling calmer.
“At least this room is bathed in prayer,” I said to them both. I gave him a kiss on the forehead because he was attached to many things so a little difficult to hug. He tried talking. Mary leaned in and spoke to him.
“Did you say you love her very much?” she smiled. “He’s been saying that to people that are special to him,” she added for my benefit.
He nodded. “Yes, something like that,” he said. He spoke quite clearly too.
I was touched. These were two incredibly special people and I pray that all goes well with them.
I said farewell and made my way out the door. What a day! I know that this all sounded awful…and really it was. But it was also beautiful in a very awful way. I was able to spend time with people that I love. I was able to focus on something other than Glen and paperwork, or my work (though I love it it’s nice to not focus on it.) I was given exposure therapy that I would have never agreed to had I been asked. My friends were in a room that was bathed in prayer. “Okay God. I don’t get any of this. The more I know the more I know I don’t know. You know best. About everything. I submit and I trust. I don’t get it but I choose to trust You again and again.”
I sighed, took another breath and left the hospital.
March 31, 2019 “How are You?”
This morning in church a beloved young man came up to Donovan and me with a question…
“I’ve been wondering how to ask how you are doing without actually bothering you with asking how are you doing…” he started. “You must get sick of being asked that and trying to figure out how to answer that.”
Yes. Yes we do. He couldn’t have been more right. And in the same breath, we still want to be asked. It’s odd. We don’t have a clue how to answer that for the most part and really, in many cases the answer depends on the listener. Do they actually want to know? If it’s a random stranger pumping through my groceries, chances are she or he does not really want to know. At least not in depth. If it’s someone close, they may want to actually know the depth of the pain and sorrow. Sometimes you just don’t feel like talking about it. Grief is a really strange thing. Grief hurts like the dickens – more actually but the monumental pain of it is hard to describe. It doesn’t just “go away”. Grief is, in many odd ways, a life long process.
Grief is a cycle like a hamster wheel that you just keep running over and over on but each time you cycle you end up in a slightly different place. Or, as one friend heard from God, it is like you choose to keep walking through the same revolving door over and over again. Maybe at first you don’t have choice. You are drawn into that grief revolving door with a magnet so powerful that it is useless to resist the pain of it. You want to feel the pain because nothing else makes sense. The sting of death is just too deep to understand. At some point you can choose when you will walk through that revolving door and how long you will stay there in that door that goes round and round.
At times it feels that if you go somewhere else you are betraying the one you love. It’s a feeling that does not point one in the right direction so thoughts need to take over. True thoughts such as, “It’s ok to live because you are still alive. It’s ok to smile, to joke, to have fun because you are still on this earth. It’s ok to be you and be filled with the joy of the Lord as your strength. It’s ok to laugh yourself silly at something funny; to focus on other things besides your beloved; to enjoy the cats at the barn; to enjoy a good horse back ride alone or with friends. It’s ok to live. And it’s ok to step back into the grief door because that magnet is still pretty strong. It’s all ok. And furthermore, the true thoughts need to say, it’s ok because Glen wants you to be happy and joyful. He was sad when you were attacked by others. He was sad and wanted to protect you if you were sad. He loved it when you smiled, when you laughed, when you tried, even if unsuccessfully, to do your hair. He loved you and loves you still even if it is in a different way as we don’t understand heaven – and Glen wants you to keep moving and living and serving God with the passion that is you…. That’s the self-talk that is going on and needs to continue yet it does not mean that there aren’t massive moments of grief that coincide with good and happy moments.
Another dear couple at the barn lost their son a couple of years ago. He was only in his late twenties. It is natural that they are still grieving him for as I said before, grief is a lifelong process. The road just changes slightly along the way to less bumpy. So the question of “How are you?” is one I circle back to. As he says (the man who has lost his son), we want to be asked how we are doing. And in the same breath we don’t want to be asked how we are doing. We want to talk about those we love and have lost. Yet we are afraid that if we start we won’t stop and we will bore the listener. When we are not asked how we are doing we wonder why on earth the person hasn’t asked us how we are doing. Don’t they care? When we are asked how we are doing sometimes we want to shout, and I quote my friend at the barn, “How the hell do you think I’m doing?! Awful! I’ve just lost my …!” Of course we don’t do that because we have filters most of the time. And I don’t normally use coarse language ☺. So we grumble together. We laugh together. We miss them together. We talk about the unfairness of it all and we do it together. Grief, just like depression, loves company. And yet even those of us who grieve need reprieve from the grief.
So how do you ask someone how they are doing without actually asking? How has your week been? It works and delivers the same message. How was your day? Sure. The answer remains the same at this stage of the game – a steady and constant “up and down” or “all right” or “not great”. Every once in a while I hear myself forget about the grief and say, “good”. “Good?” I say in my head. I then know that I am differentiating. I am good in many ways. I am good in just as many ways as I am very bad and not doing well at all. The grief is strong yet it is losing it’s icy claw like grip on my every waking moment. There are more and more reprieves. I also differentiate between what I choose and what I feel. I choose to be joyful which leads to “good” sometimes, even if that is surprising even to me. I know that I am shattered and that my world has been blown apart. I also know the One who puts me back together and I am privileged to call Him “Abba” and “Father”.
A young woman also approached me today in church. She is a good friend and I am privileged to call her a friend. She shared that when I asked for all of you to “storm the courts of heaven” with me to appeal for Glen’s healing she and many others rose to the challenge. She saw us all gathered before the great golden throne of God. She saw a beautiful red carpet rolled up to the throne. The floor was black and white tile in her vision. She felt the power of being in the high court of heaven and felt the pull of God intimately on her heart. Then Glen was taken from us to live in that place – a place that we cannot yet go completely with our spirits. She sought the Lord, as I believe we all need to. Why? We need to hear it from the Lord ourselves. She didn’t get an answer to the why. But she did get these words, “I’m sorry I couldn’t give you the answer that you wanted. I’m so glad you’re here (in the high courts of heaven). Please stay.”
I love that. Of course we both cried together. The words from God are a simple invitation to all of us. “I’m so glad you’re here. Please stay.”
We most certainly do not have all the answers – not even close! We do have a God that in spite of my great shattering I know beyond a shadow of doubt loves me, cares for me, and did not take Glen to hurt me but for some other greater purpose. We have a God that we can trust. A God whom we call “Abba Father” who rejoices with us and invites us into intimacy with Him and then says with a gentleness and love that we cannot completely fathom, “Please stay.” I hope, that along with me and this beautiful friend that we will all enter into that amazing Presence and find hope, comfort, peace, and above all, a place to “stay.”
“He Heals the Wounds of Every Shattered Heart…”
I read the words of the Psalm. Psalm 147:3 “He heals the wounds of every shattered heart.” I feel shattered all over. My heart feels like it’s in a million pieces. My body cries out in pain. I choose to trust again. I still have questions…Questions that really don’t have an answer yet I beg God for answers anyway. Questions like, “Why am I still on earth having been so sick with Lyme Disease for now forty years?” “How on earth is it that Glen is gone?” “How am I supposed to go on with joy without my beautiful man beside me?”
There’s more…yet they reverberate in cycles round and round in my exhausted mind. Being in Mexico was a beautiful break from the endless cycles that go round and round with very few answers. There were less reminders of Glen there and though he’s on my mind pretty much constantly there were times in Mexico where he wasn’t constantly in the forefront of my mind. That helped extremely much. I began to have a night or two of actual sleep, a real miracle since sleep for me is very difficult to obtain! Back home I was hit with massive physical pain again including daily, 24-hour migraines.
Glen was there with me. He was in the background and I kept trying to get closer but people were in my way. He wanted to greet as many people as possible yet also stay in the background. Typical of Glen. He never wanted to be noticed. I was just happy he was there. I was on a beach. Lot’s of people. A weird little animal that seemed to be a cross between a rabbit and a fish jumped at me with teeth like the dead blowfish I saw on the actual beach in Mexico. The little creature was biting me hard and it hurt a lot! I grabbed at it, trying desperately to get it off me while calling for Glen to help me. The creature lunged at me again and I saw I had no choice but to kill the creature as it lunged at me with superhuman strength. I was holding it back with it’s skull in between my fingers. I squeezed with all my might and it died. I felt bad. I was disgusted with what had happened. I called for Glen again. I don’t kill things! What was happening?! I kept calling for Glen as I felt the pain of the migraine again. Calling out in my sleep I woke up and was disoriented. Completely.
“Glen?” I called. Where was he?
“Glen?” I called again, thinking he must be in the bathroom. That’s usually where he was, especially lately. “Glen?!”
Now I heard desperation in my voice. I took a deep breath and oriented myself to where I was. Back at home in my bedroom in Abbotsford. Glen’s side of the bed was undisturbed. And then I knew the truth. Glen was not here. Glen would never be here again because Glen went ahead to the other realm that I cannot reach except in dreams. The reality was worse than the dream…
That, along with the migraine, set the tone for the next two weeks. I choose truth Lord. What is the truth? I must dwell on the truth!
“The truth My child, is that Glen is with me. I have called him here ahead of you for a large task. I needed one of you in this realm and one still on the earthly realm.”
I throw in my two cents at this point. “And you thought Glen would be best with you? Isn’t he the stronger of the two of us? I don’t even know how to back up the trailer! I’m not strong enough to put the blade on or off of the quad! I can’t even fix the wind torn to shreds greenhouse because I get too dizzy to stand on the ledge it’s situated on!”
I stop here out of sheer will and respect for God…I bow my head… “And you are God. I am not. If this is Your plan, and I know that it is, then there is good in it.”
God… “You are still not called to lift more than you can lift physically. You are called to what you have been called to all along. Build the ranch. Write the books I’ve instructed you to write. Preach and speak. Counsel and bring people to Me, to freedom. I know that you are shattered. I know that you are feeling pain deeper than anything you’ve ever felt before. I’ve also allowed the pain to go deeper these past few weeks because if you didn’t feel it with your level of high tuned conscience you would then beat yourself up for it. And now, live. I am so proud of you My daughter. Choose joy again and again. Glen is working here to help you with your calling. Well done my good and faithful servants. I am making you even stronger My princess. My warrior. Keep fighting. I am healing you.”
It is here that I pause. Healing me. He heals the wounds of every shattered heart. I know how extremely sensitive I am. Healing me doesn’t necessarily mean that I will be miraculously cured of Lyme Disease and the massive physical pain it puts me through – though I will continue to contend for that and claim it every day of my life before the high courts of heaven. Perhaps God will answer that prayer if I’m tenacious enough? Or maybe He’ll heal me of Lyme because He loves me deeply. Healing my shattered heart. I believe He will. I believe I will always miss Glen. I know it. I also know I will always love Glen. I don’t forget. I am loyal to a fault. It is my weakness and my strength of personality to be loyal and loving and forgiving.
I forgive you Glen. I forgive you for going first and leaving me to pick up the pieces. I know it was not your choosing. I know you fought hard to stay for me. So hard that you were literally a skeleton when God took you home so very quickly. I forgive you my beloved and I can’t wait to see you again when God wills it. I will choose joy everyday my beloved. Joy that will honor you and joy that will honor our Father God. I will choose to keep helping people even in the midst of my pain. I will choose to live in the bittersweet with the knowledge that the bittersweet will one day become more sweet than bitter again. Though it’s hard to imagine that. Though the pain ball has been ridiculously large the past two weeks, I choose the joy of the Lord as my strength. I choose to go on. To build that ranch the Lord is telling me to build (with help from others of course!) I choose to continue writing the books and when I’m strong enough to preach, speak and teach again. I will let the tears flow as they need to in order to become strong again. I choose to let You Lord, carry me. Even when I think I feel strong. I know You won’t let go of my hand. I choose to accept your answers for the plan even though I miss my Glen, and your Glen, desperately. I choose to embrace my reality and take life as a dare! One big beautiful dare!
I choose to learn how to hook up, back up and set up the RV. I choose to get better. I choose to continue on this earthly marathon at a pace that I can do, the pace that is right for me. I choose to accept Your Words as truth Lord Jesus. That You will heal every shattered heart – including mine. So on this day, I choose life again. Not just life, but a joy filled deliberate life as I did when I realized I was living in chronic pain. I glorify You God. I choose.
February 28, 2019
Healing Time in Nuevo, Mexico…
There is much to be said on grieving, yet not much at all. One goes in a circular motion of missing the beloved taken from this earth who is just beyond reach and being in the depths of despair, to feeling alive again, if just for a small bit…though the missing him never goes away. But for the grace, comfort and healing of God in my life I doubt I would be further along in the process for it is easy to get stuck and stay in a pit. I don’t let myself, but it is very easy to go into that pit. All it takes to cry is looking at Glen’s picture, viewing the pictures from the Celebration of Glen’s Life, viewing the video that my friend made up of the burial service where I literally am feeling and looking…broken.
I can get empathetic feelings for the woman in the pictures bent over her beloved’s coffin ready to be placed in the ground…wondering what she is feeling is really quite evident by the posture… A posture of grief and alone, of feeling robbed of life. Yet in that grief there are pictures of others standing with her. Her Dad is there who came to comfort her and place his arm around her whilst all others stood by unsure what to do. How grateful she must have felt at his presence! The picture of Pastor Dave Schaeffer who came from Texas to do the service for a dear friend who had passed away to the next realm who stood by the grieving woman at the coffin a second time… the widow who just didn’t or perhaps in that moment couldn’t let go… Again, the gratefulness of this woman must have been intense. Pastor Dave asked the woman, “What is Jesus telling you right now?” The woman answered without hesitation through the tears that ran without stopping down her sad face, “He is showing me that Glen is crying too and Jesus is wiping away his tears. He misses me too.” And then I know, of course I know all along, that this woman who is bereft of her soul-mate, her partner in life, her beloved, the woman is me and was me all along.
Life is beyond surreal. When I look at Glen’s picture, it feels like he should just be around a corner. Surely he will walk in at any moment and life will go on as I believe that it should! But he doesn’t walk in. No one wakes me from this new reality, which is either an ongoing nightmare, or one big opportunity for new adventures in learning how to live life with a completely new norm. I choose to see it as such yet that is not without great effort on my part. Over many decades I have always chosen to choose positive, to choose hope, to choose life and joy in HIM. It is a brain habit that was well worth developing and to see me now I think I do look joyful and indeed do feel joyful most of the time. Yet I know well from many years of counselling and dealing with my own grief that one can indeed feel joy and deep sorrow at the same time. One can smile and still be missing someone deeply. One can even be happy and excited, yet still be in deep mourning and loss. It is a journey of the “bittersweet”. In psychology we call it “didactic”. I am acceptant of the bittersweet and know I can dwell in both at the same time.
I am here in Nuevo, Mexico out of the goodness of a few amazing friends hearts and their own nudging from the Holy Spirit that we, me and my boys, needed a place of warmth, sun and ocean breezes to heal…and they were absolutely right. This is such a place. It’s all bittersweet yet I still find myself reveling in the new adventure of it all. It’s a new adventure of discovering that I am ok, even if the “ok” has a new meaning, a new definition.
I have been reading CS Lewis book, “Observing Grief” (I think that’s what it’s called). I relate to most of it and I think it’s because Lewis never intended to publish it. It was his writings that came deep from an anguished soul after losing his wife to cancer. I feel deeply with him. His hearts cry is vulnerable and reaches the depths of my own grief. He puts it all into words and echoes my journals that are also never meant to be published. I’m not sure what CS Lewis thinks of his journal on grief that was published after his death, but I am sure that I am thankful it was published so that I could read it and know that I am not alone in my grief. Even his expressing that his sons don’t seem to grieve their mother as deeply as he is grieving her hits a note with me. My boys are grieving to be absolutely sure, but it is coming out more in their absolute exhaustion and lack of motivation. We talk, yet the talk is becoming less and less and it seems to me, though I don’t know this, that they don’t want to talk about it as much anymore… Yet that is boys, as Lewis says. At the same time my boys are being absolute rocks for me. I was happy to be able to tell them, when they do break down, that I am also there for them. We all grieve differently and as one is down the others can help and walk alongside.
A paragraph that stood out to me from C.S Lewis says this:
“Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process. It needs not a map but history, and if I don’t stop writing that history at some quite arbitrary point, there’s no reason why I should ever stop. There is something new to be chronicled every day. Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape. As I’ve already noted, not every bend does. Sometimes the surprise is the opposite one; you are presented with exactly the same sort of country you thought you had left behind miles ago. That is when you wonder whether the valley isn’t a circular trench. But it isn’t. There are partial recurrences, but the sequence doesn’t repeat.”
Today someone also sent me a link to a Facebook post on grief that went viral. I shared it on my Laurel Hildebrandt Facebook page. It compares grief to a very large ball that is inside a square. The square has a “pain” button and because the ball of grief is SO large the pain button is constantly being hit – which is exactly how it feels. In the first month or so EVERYTHING is concentrated on the missing beloved. Their face, their voice, their being is missed so very much that everything hurts beyond what one thinks that can be born. The losses are tremendous when you lose a spouse. You lose your spouse. You lose your soul mate. You lose your best friend. You lose someone to bounce ideas off of. You lose someone at the end of the day to debrief your day with. All those wonderful kinds of things that a spouse is, you lose. Your kids lose their Dad, which means that I am now their “everything” and they are my everything (of course God is in there but I am talking about the physical world for a bit where it feels like ALL is lost when you lose your spouse). Then there are the very practical losses of which you don’t even recognize until they hit you. You lose the person who, in my case, did most of the handy work and heavy lifting – because I don’t have the strength or know how. You lose the person who knows how to change the furnace filter and cells and clean them (which I know now!!), the person who is strong enough and knows how to change the whole house water filter (which I now know but am not strong enough to accomplish…). You lose an entire income and suddenly become a single parent. You even lose, and in my case had to repay the disability cheque because they literally cut it off the exact day the person passes away. I kid you not! I received a letter in the mail informing me of their condolences and if I could kindly repay them for that month…yes there is something really wrong with that picture. You lose the person who you go travelling with, camping with…and oh don’t even get me started on camping! I don’t know how to hook up and pull an RV let alone back one expertly into a camping spot without wrecking many things, nor how to make sure everything is working with it! Yes, I do have a plan to learn but at the moment I may as well have a plan to fly to the moon because it feels overwhelming and extremely daunting. I have lost the one who made me brave…
On feeling brave. I always thought I was so brave. Now I’m not so sure. I have relied on Glen probably too much for this bravery. I think in my pre-Glen days (were there really any of those? We’ve been together and known each other so long that I barely remember those days!)… But in my pre-Glen days, because there certainly were some, I would go out and shingle the barn roof with my Dad. I would help him pound fence posts into the ground (well…in all honesty my “help” was standing on the pounder to give it extra weight!). I would drive our acreage tractor, even with the trailer hooked up to it (but I don’t actually remember backing it? Maybe I backed it?). I had no qualms about driving our big van filled with youth kids to the ski hill in Saskatchewan that was two hours away in the snow when I was only 16 years old. I travelled to New Zealand and Australia with a friend when I was 19 years old. I travelled to Europe and did a short missions trip to Norway when I was 21 years old (again with a friend)…So do I have some bravery left? I must. It must be in there somewhere because this is still me even though I do feel that I lost a large part of me…
On that loss… My last blog post I told you about the vision of Glen and I looking like one lion. We were one. And Glen was physically ripped from me. Wrenched from me unwillingly on both our parts. John and Christy, and Danny and Sonja were over for supper the other day and I asked John to bring his guitar so we could worship together. We were singing the “Lion and the Lamb” song and I got a good vision of Jesus making me as a Lion whole again because Jesus was filling in the gaps. You see Jesus was always the whole Lion. Glen and I were just a part of the Lion making it one whole. Glen was physically wrenched from me but he is still a part of me, my heart will always hold him dearly to me and that makes him a part of me. My spirit and Glen’s spirit are still connected. Jesus continues to heal me, to heal my broken heart, to heal and regrow my missing leg, missing arm, missing half because He fills in the gap with HIMSELF. I do hope that makes sense! So, Jesus is the One who makes me brave… He always has been. It’s just that Glen was the human who made me brave and now it will take many humans to make me brave and walk alongside me, and I alongside them, as we lean on Jesus for bravery together.
Today, March 3, 2019, as I finish writing this, was a good day. The boys and I are in Nuevo, Mexico and we have met new friends whom I already love. They drove us around (thus helping us step past our un-brave comfort zones) and showed us some of the countryside. They encouraged us to surf or paddleboard. We rented paddleboards for the first time, which for me doesn’t constitute bravery because I love that sort of thing but for some going on the ocean is being brave. We ate Mexican food together with them and conversed on the way home about my dreams of a counselling and healing ranch that still seems beyond reach but perhaps with the wise counsel of others who are better at business than I am…perhaps this dream that I do feel God keeps pushing me towards even without my Glen…perhaps it could be a reality. Only God knows. I know that I can take one step at a time and face each hour with bravery from friends supporting my boys and me physically, and God supporting us constantly.
And so the grief ball gradually gets smaller. When it hits the pain button it hurts just as much and the pain is just as deep but because the ball is smaller it won’t hit it as much so one is not constantly in active grieving pain. Today the ball was smaller…
February 5, 2019
This is what I wrote on December 13, 2018
“I can’t imagine life without him. I know that people say, “You’ll be all right.” I’m not so sure. I’ve been through a lot of loss in my life. I guess we need to define “all right” then. I would function. I would choose joy. I would “go on.” But my heart would forever (on this earth) be separated from the love of my life, my soul mate, my lover, my best friend. I don’t forget. I am sensitive and would mourn him a long time if not the rest of my life here on earth. I would never stop missing him. I mourn those whom I have lost still so the thought of losing someone most dear to me breaks me. It makes me feel like I am dying on the inside yet am forced to go on. Go on, I would – because I would choose it. It would be the most difficult choice I would be making each and every day to go on with joy without my man. “God please!” I beg and I claim and I pray a million moments a day, “Please heal my man!” That others love my man and are broken by this illness I completely understand. Because I love him more. We are one and that will be forever.”
I stand by those words. Am I ok? Not really. Am I functioning with it being not even a month since I’ve had to let go of Glen? Yes. The first day I was forced out of bed in the afternoon because I had to go to the funeral home and make decisions already. Iona and my boys stayed the night with me. I didn’t sleep much. Eating was almost non-existent for a few weeks. I tried. I knew I was hungry but I couldn’t swallow past the lump in my throat. I was losing weight and didn’t care. I knew it would come back eventually. I’ve been down the path of grief before quite a few times but this…this was worse. I’ve lost me. I woke up a few days into the grief and looked at my suddenly too long fingernails and the thought that came to me was quick and involuntary. “How can fingernails grow when I’m dead?”
Yes, it sounds ridiculous but I was feeling that I had died. Glen died physically and is very much alive. I just died. I was numb with deadness and felt I must be dead. That was my spirit that was completely devastated. I don’t feel dead much anymore…but sometimes it creeps back up. I have begun choosing joy again on a daily basis, which doesn’t mean I’m healed and ok. It means the years of habit are a good thing and I am choosing to think right. I know that the Lord is shielding me from even bigger pain than I am even feeling. He has told me this. He has told me that this loss for me is even bigger and more devastating than I know and that He is shielding me. I would hate to feel if He were not shielding me as this is bad enough.
At the burial I knelt beside Glen’s coffin with my hands on it, my head in my hands and wept bitterly. What I saw very clearly was Glen weeping too and Jesus wiping away his tears as it says in Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:4. Glen also mourns me and our boys. Somehow that brings comfort…
A friend sent me these words recently as she is sending me a word every day that she hears from the Lord for me…
“VIOLENCE. Lamentations 3. I see you were as a Lion with Glen. Two people but your appearance was a Lion. You were like one being. You were violently attacked and Glen ripped from your body. It’s like I watched a kill. You are now feeling left with half of your body. As though Glen being ripped from you in such a terrible way, has left you with one arm, one leg, one eye. You have been violently robbed from a tremendous tearing away of your body.
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”
“I want to say to you Laurel to rest to heal but what I’m seeing is not that right now. I see you rising up in a VIOLENT way, like taking the kingdom, your kingdom, your body…by force. Your energy is way better spent by fighting for yourself to be healed and restored, rather than expend energy in asking why, what if, what should I have done, what’s going to happen to me…etc.
Take back what’s yours in a VIOLENT way. That might be as simple as managing your own thoughts. God is still your Defender and yes JESUS has already fought and won the victory for you. But in your present reality you have to also fight for yourself. Be your own best friend and slam the door on the enemy’s face. You can hurt him by resisting.
You will one day feel whole again, it will come. The bleeding won’t last forever, your bones will function. We don’t like to talk about that side of God but He is a violent God. For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. Lamentations 3:22
And another word for you…KIND. Please be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break, lavish yourself with love. Nurse your shredded body and VIOLENTLY take back what is yours to own. Your own self. You are worth fighting for. And you are not alone. Many of us are standing with you, even when it doesn’t feel like it and you don’t see it. Angels also are standing with you and fighting for you. Your fight is in the resistance of your thoughts.” S
That is exactly how it feels. Glen and I had a rare love story, though I do know there are others out there too. I think we had an argument or two but it wasn’t about anything more than me having low blood sugar or me worrying about him when he had long trucking days and we didn’t have cell phones…that hardly counts! We were in unison with each other. We could stare at each other across a crowded room and “know” where the other was at. We knew each other intimately and passionately in every way. Our love grew for each other daily. Perhaps I am romanticizing it more now as I remember but I don’t think so for I remember feeling and thinking it then too. In fact I wrote in my journal about our love and our story. We have had numerous people comment on our incredible love, our incredible story. I am so very thankful for the love we had and will continue to have one day in heaven, whatever that looks like.
I do still feel one in spirit with Glen and of course with Jesus, but that the robbery of Glen from me was absolutely violently ripping him from my very body leaving me bleeding and in massive shock is absolutely true. I will heal and am healing but it takes time. What God has joined together let no man tear asunder…I think I hear God saying that we are still partners, still one with much to do. We are working on the same thing though. I’m working here on earth and Glen is working in heaven. Then finally, we will be together again, working together as one. It just looks different now. It’s very hard to accept that reality… I still don’t like the plan. I still choose the joy of the Lord as my strength. I choose to glorify God and be thankful.
January 9, 2019
At home… Pain filled days…
It has been a particularly difficult last four days. Again they are blurring together as one long nightmare with bits and pieces of sunshine breaking through. The pain that Glen is experiencing because of the bowel obstruction is beyond measure – though when we do measure it at its worst it rings in at a 10 out of 10. Sunday night was particularly painful in many ways. I woke up with a terrifying nightmare of a demon standing in our bedroom and screamed so loud and long that Glen was surprised the police didn’t show up. Then I couldn’t stop crying. When one has the active imagination that I do and is in a sleep state everything is very real and getting control of one’s emotions, especially when your loved one seems to be dying right before your eyes no matter what you do, is crazy difficult. I was crying because Glen is the human who makes me strong. Glen is the one who for all our married years has calmed me when me dreams get out of control. Glen is the person who is always there for me, who understands me extremely well (not perfectly but close!). Glen literally has caught me mid-air in the past when my dreams are especially out of control as I bounce out of bed in the wee hours of the morning from some sort of strange dream. Glen is the one who holds me when the world is spinning. Glen is the one who I have fun with, dream the most with, stand with and for. Glen is my man. Glen is my soul-mate and we were perfectly matched to be put together by God’s design. Glen is the one who held me while I wept over my mother’s death, my Dad re-marrying someone I didn’t know within three months of dating her (he knew her from his younger years – we didn’t of course but we do now and it’s all good). Glen is the one who brings stability – yet now I am the one. I am the one who has to make sure he takes his meds. I am the one who is responsible for many decisions. I am the one who over the years of relying on Glen know little about the operation of car maintenance, or how to change the house water filter…I sprained my wrist this past week trying that one. The reality is that I’m just not physically strong enough to do some of these tasks even if I knew how. My friend commented that most men like the helpless female. That’s all good and fine except for two things – I hate being a “helpless female” on things I know very little to nothing about and don’t have the strength for, and when one is in that position and her man is more helpless than her it sucks. So that night when I was still not fully awake I was terrified of losing Glen, my “one.” Glen couldn’t even get out of bed to comfort me. All he could do was try to muster up a weak voice to calm me down. I did calm down, prayed and asked for more angels and protection around us. I hopped into Glen’s hospital bed with him for a bit so he could hold me… Then two hours later Glen was awake and in pain so I got up and gave him a dose of the hydromorphone. Another two hours later (by this time 6AM) he was in massive pain measuring in at 10/10. I gave him another dose of hydromorphone and changed his fentanyl patch early. I didn’t know what else to do… I gave him NAET treatments and held his hand for an hour until he fell into a restless sleep.
By 8AM I had to wake up to give Glen the octreotide injection. He looked stable so I headed to the barn for chores and back home again to see five clients that day. At some point I had to return to work and it’s very difficult to decide when is a “good” time. Right now there is no good time. I am conflicted because of course Glen is priority yet I also know people are coming for counselling for a reason – they need the help. Fortunately Val and Jocelyn, my contract counsellor’s who work for me, were able to help out. The day went fine in spite of the lack of sleep. God must have carried me – in fact I’m quite sure that He did!
Brian has been coming to give him natural bioenergetics treatments and Linda has been working on Glen from afar. I don’t completely understand all of that except that it is quantum physics and is quite helpful. Both are also strong God-fearing people whom I respect and trust because we wouldn’t let just anyone into that personal space.
Today has been another very difficult day. Two of my clients cancelled, which though sad for them ended up being a God-send. I saw a person at 10am, then when I came upstairs Glen was again in terrible pain. The mistake I made was suggesting that he try eating an egg on his sourdough toast. The obstruction is too bad and he couldn’t handle it so the pain has been excruciating all day long. I spent time on the phone with the home health care nurse, the pharmacist (I doubled the fentanyl patch because the doctor had doubled the strength) and gave him extra hydromorphone; Brian came for the scheduled appointment to treat Glen and still he is in excruciating pain. I saw another client at 3pm while Brian was still here with Glen and then Donovan took over sitting on our bed watching Glen. I can’t imagine what Donovan is going through with seeing his strong Dad go through all this pain, confusion and weakness. When I walked in from my counselling session I needed to give Glen his octreotide injection, more pain killers and the enzymes that he’s supposed to be taking in high doses to eat the cancer. Glen was so loaded up with pain and pain killer that he asked me three times what I was doing and why I was interrupting his rest. Poor Donovan just sat on the bed observing. No tears except the silent ones. Last night we got the chi machine for Glen and Donovan and I had to help Glen lie on the floor, and then we literally had to get him up by lifting him together because Glen couldn’t get off the floor. To see your Dad in such a state of weakness has got to be traumatic and I can only hope that he is talking to others more than he is to me. I know that he doesn’t want to trouble me more. I know he sees my tears as I sat on the floor with Glen because they were streaming down my face. Glen didn’t see those one’s because his eyes were closed and that’s ok. He was actually joking around about how silly weak he is… Silent tears are ok because we need to let out the sad emotions. We would not be human if this didn’t make us beyond sad.
Glen is a good man. Glen is a man of greatness. Glen is called by God to do more than he has already done. Glen is learning to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and is becoming more intimate with the Trinity. Relationship is what it’s all about. God is not religious. Man is. God is about relationship. That’s why He created us to begin with – because He wants relationship with us. God is enthralled with us! Just read the Song of Solomon – God is literally quite taken with us! Crazy, but true. Glen is learning even more to be a little crazy too – about God. Learning to let go of human logic and reasoning in order to embrace the crazy and “reckless love” of our Lord and Savior (this is a good love by the way lest anyone take offense of that term!) It’s just hard when pain is taking all your energy and you can’t eat. Really hard.
So again, we are trusting. We are trying to shove enzymes down Glen’s throat so that they can act like little diggers from the inside clearing away the cancer that obstructs everything – obstructs life. We are trusting the treatments that Glen is receiving. And most of all we are trusting in God to heal Glen and restore him to even stronger and more purposeful than he was before. So in the midst of this hurricane gale of a storm against us, in the midst of the spiritual battle, in the midst of the physical battle, we raise our voices to praise God. No matter what we feel we will praise and give God the glory. This story is not over just yet. And no matter how this particular chapter ends we choose to trust God and give Him glory.
An hour after writing this in the presence of Glen while he rested he then woke up. I read it to him and I’m not sure how much he heard. He nodded and gave me a little smile. He then said, “Honey, I know you don’t want to hear this, but I’m not sure I can keep fighting. The pain is intense.”
Linda had been messaging me that I needed to let him go. My heart sunk when Glen said those words. My mind screamed and endless “NO!” I looked at my now literally skeleton man. His full lips were gone not even able to wrap around his teeth. His head looked like a literal skull. He was at the most 130 pounds if not less than that. He was tough but who could endure like that? Brian and I helped him to the bathroom so yes, he’s still mobile but the cost is huge. He didn’t have the energy to wipe or walk back so Brian and I helped him back to bed – and he was able to walk back with help. He must be incredibly stubborn. The tears started streaming down my face. I knew I had to release my beloved into the arms of God but oh my God!!! Why?! How?! God save him…
“Mon Cherie… with all my heart I want you to keep on fighting…” I stammered out between tears… the rest was much more difficult to say and it came out as a whimper and a whisper… “But I understand.”
I climbed into the little hospital bed with my beloved man. My partner in life and in literally everything. I hugged him as best I could trying not to hurt him. He was in so much pain.
“I think it’s time for palliative,” Glen managed.
“Ok,” I responded and grabbed my phone and hopped back into bed with him. I called the nurses and left a message because they never actually answer.
By this time Glen’s breathing was in short breaths.
“I love you Glen. Always and forever,” I said gazing into his pained but beautifully deep blue depths of his eyes.
“I love you Laurel,” Glen responded looking deeply into my eyes. “Always and forever. To eternity and beyond.” He looked deep into my eyes and held my hands tight. “There really are no other words.”
I burst into tears and hugged him. We lay like that as long as we could but his pain was too great. His breaths were coming in short gasps. I called Linda to see if she had any advice. I knew that he was beyond fragile and would not be able to handle going in ambulance to emergency. He would surely be ok until I got him into palliative care, wouldn’t he?
As I was sitting on his bed talking to Linda, holding his hand, he looked up into the corner of the room. I gasped and ended my conversation with Linda. I waved my hand in front of his eyes but they didn’t move. His breaths were coming less and less frequently. I full on panicked… I screamed his name over and over. I shook my Glen and pounded on his chest to bring him back. I screamed over and over, “Don’t leave me!” through a flood of tears that would not end. I screamed to God to save him. I dialed 911 within thirty seconds and they instructed me, still flooding tears, in CPR. I continued CPR for 10-15 minutes until the ambulance attendants pulled me off my beloved… “Sweetie…let us take over…” and they tried to lead me into the living room to sit down. I just kept popping up out of the chair they were trying so hard to put me in…
“What do you want us to do?” was the question…
“Save him!” I managed.
“We are already starting and trying. Does he have a DNR?”
“No…they talked about it at the hospital but didn’t give us anything to sign…”
“So nothing in place?”
“No,” I sobbed, “he just didn’t want his ribs broken…” I managed.
I wandered back into the bedroom unable to keep myself from seeing my Glen. He had tubes and such and they were charging the machine to shock him.
The attendant led me out again.
“When did I call 911?” I asked through the tears that would not stop.
“6:45pm,” came the answer.
“What time is it?” I asked not wanting to hear the answer.
“7:15pm,” came the answer.
I put it together rapidly and began to sob even more. “He’s been gone for half an hour…if you can bring him back what are the chances of brain damage?”
“Your husband was very sick,” he answered gently. Such a young man trying so hard… “There is a 1% chance of bringing him back and very little chance that there won’t be brain damage.”
“He’s been gone half an hour,” I said again… “I don’t want him to suffer…” I mustered.
“The doctor just called it,” the young man informed me.
I all but ran back into the room.
All eight of them looked at me. All I could see was my Glen, lifeless on the floor with his eyes still focused on that corner…Glen…my Glen…how could this be when we trusted and hoped and prayed and did everything in our power to heal him here on earth? Glen…
They covered him and removed the tubes. I sank down to the floor in utter shock and disbelief beside him. I held his hand to my face and caressed his face with my other hand.
“Have you got family here? Have you got someone you can call?” one of the ladies was asking me.
I was numb. Did I have family? I don’t know. “I have two sons,” I answered without taking my eyes off of Glen. The tears were still unending and my mouth was incredibly dry.
Someone handed me my phone and I dialed Joshua’s number because I knew Donovan was in class. No answer. I dialed Donovan’s number. He picked up right away which brought another fresh flow of sobs. “Donovan,” I mustered.
“He’s gone. Get hold of Josh and come home.”
“We’ll be right there,” said a weak voice back.
“Please, drive carefully,” I managed as I couldn’t bear the thought of more trauma that night.
My Dad was in Winnipeg. I called my friend Iona.
“Well hello!” said the upbeat voice of my friend.
“Iona…” I sobbed again. “He’s gone.”
I could hear the intake of breath. I could feel the shock my words were imparting. Silence. Then, “We’ll be right over.”
I nodded and hung up. I’m not even sure if I said goodbye. The ambulance lady stayed in the room with me.
“Did you want victim services to call you?” she asked.
I shook my head no. What were they going to say that I didn’t already know… these were my irrational thoughts. “I’m a counsellor,” I ventured. “So was he,” I said softly still holding Glen’s hand and gazing at him. It didn’t look like him as he was so skinny.
She smiled. “Sometimes, as you know, it’s good to talk to someone else…” it was a nice try but wrong timing… I just nodded. Maybe. Nothing and no one could ever make things right again.
“This wasn’t the plan,” I mumbled to her and to Glen. “He broke the contract. He was supposed to get better.”
It was nonsense and most of me knew it but I still believed every word I was saying. I wasn’t angry. Not in that moment. I was in shock and I knew I was in shock. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t making sense and the counsellor part of me was somehow guiding me through by self observation.
“God,” I prayed silently. “You can still bring him back.”
“To that body?” came to my mind whether it was God or me I do not know.
“So heal the body!!!” I screamed to God in my mind. “I know you can!”
Silence. Then, “I took him home to me and healed him more completely than you can understand right now my child.”
Fine. Then know that I am ticked with this plan right now God, and perhaps will be for quite awhile…
Donovan and Joshua walked in and knelt beside me and Glen on the floor, holding me and crying with me. The police were there now. The ambulances were being moved out of my driveway to make room for others to come in. I remember thinking how kind they were. The police said something about not touching or moving anything. I wasn’t even allowed to wipe the blood stains from my beloved’s face. His beautifully handsome face that I would never be able to gaze upon again in my life on earth save for photo’s. The tears just kept coming. I had a pile of Kleenex beside me that I also wasn’t able to move according to the police. I ventured some humour as I pointed to the pile and said, “That’s all from me,” but it wasn’t really funny at all…
Iona and Rob came in, followed later by their two sons Eli and Sasha. We have been friends since we were both pregnant with our oldest boys and now all our boys are the best of friends too. Finally the police came and told me that the coroner didn’t actually have to come because it was obvious how sick Glen was and why he passed away. Usually when someone dies at home there is an automatic investigation. I didn’t care.
Then the policeman told me that the Abbotsford and Mission morgues were full so they have to take him to Vancouver. A fresh flood of tears began rolling down my face and all I could manage to do was shake my head no with vehemence.
“Do you have a plan in place?” he asked kindly.
“Yes,” I said. “The plan was for him to get better.”
He smiled. I was serious.
“Do you know a funeral home?” he asked again but with equal kindness as before.
“I’ll call my Dad,” I said. “I liked the one that took care of my Mom when she passed away.”
I dialed the number and when he answered I again burst into sobs. “He’s gone Dad,” I said.
He’s a bit deaf so he said, “What?” I’m sure it was also disbelief.
“Glen. Dad, he’s gone,” I sobbed. I’m sure my words were barely understandable.
Again, disbelief and shock on the other end.
“I’ll book a flight home tomorrow,” he said.
“Ok,” I sobbed. “Who did Mom’s funeral?” I managed. It seemed like a weird thing to ask at this time yet necessity was driving the question.
“Wiebe and Jeske,” he replied.
“Ok. Thanks.” I was short on words.
“See you tomorrow,” he said.
I nodded. Hopefully I said something…
Iona took over and dialed Wiebe and Jeske. I’m not sure how she got hold of anyone but that’s her part of the story. They were behind tonight because it was a busy night – sounds awful – so it would be a three hour wait before they picked up my Glen. Good. I would have fought anyone off if they had tried to come sooner.
I lay down beside Glen on the floor and cuddled up as close as I could get, knowing that finally he wasn’t hurting when I touched his body. It would be the last time we would have to be close and I didn’t care who was watching. I knew that his body would begin to stiffen soon enough but right now he was still warm and I needed that feeling once more… We had been robbed. Months, years of robbery where Glen was tied to the bathroom; where we couldn’t be as physically close because he was hurting or had to run to the bathroom – plain and simple we had been robbed…and now we had the ultimate in robbery…the life of my man… My mind couldn’t make sense of it just yet. I was reeling. All the Snair’s, my boys and me were in my bedroom surrounding Glen and remembering the many wonderful memories of Glen. Eight of us together for the last time with Glen. Seven of us remembering the wonders of Glen. I couldn’t help but flash back to sitting around my cousin’s dog Fergus who died the night before my Dad’s wedding to Margaret after my Mom passed away. He also lay on the floor and I made tea for us. Me, Glen, Lori and Uncle Menno sat in her bedroom where Fergus died and talked about Fergus. I remember thinking what a funny flashback that was, yet it was there. It was my experience with someone dying in a bedroom. Grief is strange. I alternated between sitting up and holding Glen’s hand close to me and lying on my side beside him for a few hours while we waited for them to come and pick him up. I barely got up to go to the bathroom. I couldn’t leave his side.
Eventually the inevitable happened. The people arrived. I asked for a moment. The Snair’s vacated the bedroom and my boys and I were left behind with Glen. They surrounded me and I began to sob again. “I’m so sorry!” I cried out.
Donovan and Josh were confused. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t see it! I don’t know why I didn’t call the ambulance sooner! I’m so sorry!”
Donovan rebuked me at once. “This is not your fault Mom! That is a lie from the pit of hell and we send it to the pit of hell and rebuke that in Jesus’ Christ Name! This is not your fault! Don’t believe that Mom! Ever!”
Josh also joined in speaking truth over me but my irrational mind was blaming me. As I write this it is not quite a month since my Glen has passed from one realm to another. In conversations with the Holy Spirit, and with Donovan, we have come to understand that the Lord blinded us all to the seriousness of that day. Even Brian who had been there hours before didn’t see that Glen would be leaving us that day. I believe the Lord is saying, “I blinded you all so that I could take Glen that day and end his suffering. The enemy had more torture in mind for my servant, my child Glen. I couldn’t allow that so I took him home and healed him here. He has much to do in preparation for when you arrive as I have much for you to do together. You are one. You are still partners. You are called together. I know this hurts you child and I cry for you. Glen cries with missing you and I wipe away his tears. Work on what you have to do on earth. Glen will work on it from here. And one day again, you will be working together.”
Does it help? I guess so. Some. I am honest with the Lord. I don’t like this separation plan at all. I probably never will. He’s ok with that. He knows it hurts me and God doesn’t like to hurt His children. There is a bigger plan in place than what I can see. I still have times of thinking it’s my fault and I remember my son rebuking me for that. I’m so proud of him for that! My boys have held me tight and are walking with me.
… Finally, I had to let him go. Physically at least. I looked at him and lay beside him again wrapping my arm around him as best I could. I knew he wasn’t really there. “I love you Glen. Always and forever. I’ll see you soon, k?”
The boys said goodbye. Eli, Sasha, Rob and Iona said goodbye. Strangers wrapped him up in shrouded cloth, lifted him onto a gurney, and wheeled him away. I collapsed then into Iona’s arms. I cried again for a long while whilst everyone stood around not knowing what to do. My grief was intense and all encompassing. My legs were giving way so I headed for the couch and asked my boys to sit beside me. We all sat in the living room and prayed.
Glen and I were told that this illness was for God’s glory. Though I’m not sure how yet I know we don’t have the full story nor the full picture. I give God glory for healing Glen, not as we would have liked, but healing him. Glen is more alive than any of us. He is running around with a bigger and better body. He is singing praises to God. He is singing destiny over me, Donovan and Joshua. He is interceding for us before God physically. There is much work to be done here on earth. And apparently in heaven. From the glimpses and few words I’m getting from the Lord, Glen is learning more and becoming so intimate with the Lord. Glen is working hard at whatever it is that he was called ahead of me so very early, too early, to prepare…so that when I get there I can join in the labor and the fun of something well established that has a lot to do with something I am doing here. I don’t get it. I don’t claim to get it. I promised though and with all my being I give God glory. I trust the plan because I trust God. I am learning to accept that plan. It doesn’t mean that I like the plan. God tells me that it’s ok to not like the plan yet. Eventually, when I’m there and see the full picture, I’ll like the plan and it’s ok if I don’t like the plan of being here without Glen for the remainder of the time I’m left here on earth. Good. Because I don’t like the plan!
The reality is that Glen’s story is far from over. I can’t wait to join him and hear all about what he’s been doing in that realm that is right there but just beyond my reach… Did I mention I still don’t like this plan?
Glen was not only a good man. Glen was a great man born to humble greatness. Glen was welcomed with great anticipation and excitement to Abraham and Alma Hildebrandt on August 23, 1968. He has an older sister Donna and older brother Brian. Glen was born in Didsbury, Alberta and grew up on his parent’s farm. He had a good life and many good memories there.
His pastor’s son Lewis Froese was born the day before Glen and they shared a bassinet one time. They were best friends and had many adventures together building in the sandbox, playing lego, playing in the barn and much more. Glen was very happy to re-connect with Lewis these past few years. Glen also has many happy memories of dirt biking, three wheeling and biking with friends from church or by himself. Apparently he was the best driver of the three- wheeler! Glen was always happy to be with people and happy to be by himself to spend time in reflection, in meditation and with God.
Some stories from his childhood…
When Glen was about nine years old he scared Mom by driving up beside her in the field wanting her to unload the grain from the combine. Mom made him stop and after they loaded the truck Glen took off with the grain in the big grain truck all by himself driving through the fields and off to the granary. This was typical Glen. He was pretty invincible and incredibly capable. If there wasn’t a normal way to get something done Glen would simply find a way. He was born to drive and loved to drive anything. Glen and Laurel spent many happy hours driving around the country side either in their vehicle or by motorbike, another passion of Glen’s. He also enjoyed taking things apart and most of the time he was able to put them back together.
Glen and Lewis apparently were caught throwing stuffed animals at some girls staying at the Hildebrandt house when his older sister Donna got married. Donna has some “good” memories of Glen as a baby and a little boy. He adored her and showed it by waking up his teenage sister in the morning by jumping on her.
Donna did a lot with little Glen. He was able to repay the favor when he would spend summers with Donna and her husband Danny on their dairy farm in Rosthern, Saskatchewan where he was able to spend time with his nieces Lynette and Melanie. Glen also worked for Donna and Danny during those summers and for his first year after graduating grade twelve in 1986. There are a few stories from those days like when Glen hit the side of the barn with the front-end loader. Glen always respected Danny who he described as incredibly patient with him and teaching him well. Glen’s soft heart was seen very clearly as he would take a long time to do the milking because he would spend more time playing with the cats than milking!
Danny called Glen their “rhinoceros” because he would make the bales really tight (as requested by Danny) and check how tight they were by throwing them, then make them heavier and tighter. He would end up making the bales 120 pounds so no one but Glen could lift them thinking that it was “light”. Glen was always a gentle giant and a cuddly teddy bear. He knew somewhere in his mind how strong he was, but probably didn’t realize how weak the rest of us are!
Glen also got in trouble with his gentle natured parents because at one point him and some friends decided it would be a good idea to start a bale on fire in the middle of the road. In his words, “What could go wrong?” and “We were clearly not thinking…”
Glen was very musical. That’s probably an understatement. His voice was like an angel and was always very soothing. He could sing in any range from bass (his preference) to tenor with ease. Not many people knew that he was also very talented on the piano. He only had grade two or three piano – which was as far as his parents could bribe him into practicing for – but he had the capacity to be a concert pianist with his musical talent and long agile fingers. His hands were twice the size of most men (or at least very large!). Glen picked up playing the guitar during his days at Columbia Bible College and went from that to playing the bass guitar in the last ten years. He loved being part of any worship team with his bass guitar – though his voice was underused because of his fun with the bass guitar! He truly enjoyed any jamming session and found it especially touching when he could play along with our son Joshua who is also very musically gifted. Glen sang in the chorale while in Rosthern Junior College for high school, sang in the chorale with Laurel at Columbia Bible College; sang in a male quartet with his CBC friends; and together with Laurel sang in the Valley Festival Singers. When time was too short to sing in choirs Glen and Laurel enjoyed singing together on worship teams in church. Getting together with his good friend Ray Rempel was always made even more fun because the two of them could burst into harmony and remember words of songs to sing them in entirety at any second.
Glen’s sense of humour was the absolute best. It was a wry sense of humour with a touch of sarcasm but always with kindness and love. Even throughout the difficult journey of cancer Glen would find a way to joke about things and lighten the mood. In his last hours he was even cracking jokes – while in mass amounts of pain. He would look in the mirror and see that his body and even face had become skeletal and joke about how his lips didn’t fit him anymore. Because it was rectal cancer that stole Glen’s life from us we had many running “rectum” jokes in order to make it through life and lighten a really tough situation…. Glen would say, “My rectum rectumed me”… you get the idea. He was the king of one-liners and if you weren’t listening you may have missed it. Laurel found out early in their dating years and especially marriage what a goof he was. They enjoyed such times as sliding back and forth on the floor in their basement suite to see who could slide the farthest and other such fun memories.
Glen went to high school for grade 11 and 12 at Rosthern Junior College, a Mennonite boarding school in Rosthern. This meant he had to leave his Alberta school after being there his entire life. He was surprised when his classmates threw him a going away party. That was Glen. He was so humble and never thought anyone noticed him. He never realized how loved he was nor how much his gentle, loving and kind nature stood out to people. He always thought he could just be in the background blending in. Glen was a big amazing man – he couldn’t blend in and not be noticed even though he thought he could.
RJC was known for sports and musicals. Glen wanted to be a part of the musical “Finnian’s Rainbow” in high school thinking he would work behind the scenes. Glen was cast as the main part of Finnian and wowed everyone with his amazing singing voice and accomplished Irish accent for the part. Glen also played volleyball, basketball and badminton both at RJC as well as CBC. He was very athletic. He had thought that he might play football at RJC but decided against it when he got there. Glen and Laurel enjoyed playing slow pitch together in a church league for a few years (until Laurel got hit in the head fracturing her zygomat bone and decided not to play anymore!) and then Glen enjoyed playing with a fine group of men in the “beer league”. There he got teased for being the only one wearing a helmut but he wore it in honor of Laurel’s hit on the head and said he didn’t care if he stood out.
The first year after RJC he got baptized (1986) and worked that year for his sister Donna and Danny Zacharias. He lived in an old schoolhouse on an amazing property in the middle of nowhere in Saskatchewan and loved every minute of it. He would tell stories of having to catch mice for quite a while before it was clear of mice (if it ever was!). He was also able to host some fun parties there (Godly one’s) because the roof was so high they could play sports in there. At one point they ran out of fuel for the furnace so he found a way to take care of it. One always felt safe, secure, strong, and cared for in the presence of Glen…He was confident and competent at everything he put his hand to. He had a calming presence on everyone that was deeply valued.
In 1987 Glen went to CBC (Columbia Bible College) in Abbotsford, BC. It was here that he met the love of his life, Laurel Friesen. God had already been working at getting the two of them together. Laurel remembers Glen in his role of Finnian and from playing sports against RJC. Glen had seen Laurel riding her horse in the ditches near Osler, Sask where Laurel lived. Glen heard God tell him way back then (around the age of 12) that Laurel was the woman he was going to marry when he saw her as a young girl riding her horse in the ditch. Laurel also had significant “God” moments where God told her on a number of occasions after Glen and Laurel had met, that Glen was the one for her. Glen and Laurel were divinely appointed to be together, serving God together and living in unity, functioning as one, ministering as one. Both had prophetic callings in many ways and used those gifting’s gently in helping others come closer to Christ.
Glen’s whole purpose in life was to be a helper and speak Godly truth into people’s lives. He always looked for ways to serve and help others. CBC was a place of grounding and learning more about God as well as falling in love for Glen and Laurel. Both were always very busy at CBC and on through the rest of life but spending time together was always a priority. Often in their married life they would be awake extra late because they would lie in bed talking.
Glen and Laurel graduated together from CBC in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in Church Ministry. From there Glen and Laurel moved back to Saskatchewan for a couple of years. Glen was happy to go straight into directing the Rosthern Youth Farm Bible Camp the summer of 1990 while Laurel did a Missions internship in Europe for the summer. Though the summer was individually fulfilling it was very difficult to be apart for those two months.
January 1, 1991 Glen and Laurel got engaged. Glen borrowed a friend’s 4X4 truck while visiting Laurel’s parents in Abbotsford and off they went to enjoy the day. Glen drove to the monastery in Mission, a special place for both, got down on one knee and declared his undying love to Laurel, asking her to marry him. She scared him a bit by bursting into tears and laughter, then finally saying yes – she was just too excited to talk! They entered into marriage on July 20, 1991 officiated by Dad Friesen (Laurel’s Dad) at the West Abbotsford Mennonite Church where he was pastoring at the time. It was a beautiful day and the two of them couldn’t keep their eyes off each other – something that never changed in their amazing 27 years of marriage. Marriage was never difficult for Glen and Laurel. They were almost always in sync with each other and always had each other’s backs. Their prayer almost every day of their lives together was that God would let them fall more and more in love with each other and with God each day, with God as their center and God protecting their marriage. That was a good prayer as their love matured and grew each and every day. They never lost the butterflies when they saw each other and if one observed they could be caught staring into each other’s eyes with love, oblivious to the world around them. Being in each other’s arms was the best place to be – always.
Glen and Laurel had a lot of fun together and with their amazing boys, Donovan Glen, born August 15, 1997 and Joshua David, born June 22, 1999. They enjoyed a lot of camping together and with friends, boating, snowmobiling (when they got to snow in Alberta or Rose Lake), building snow forts, ice skating, down hill skiing, playing games, golfing, dirt biking (more of a Glen specialty!), and on occasion a horse back ride (more of a Laurel specialty). Highlights were house-sitting for the Giesbrecht’s on their twenty acres where they did a lot of swimming, walking in the forest, playing with the chickens and cows, dog, cats and horse. They also enjoyed outings to Rose Lake very much as a family during the summer or winter months where they stayed at a very generous colleague and good friends “extra” house at the time on an acreage on the lake (Don and Marie Fritz). An impromptu family trip to Los Angeles to enjoy Disneyland for the first time and a family trip to Las Vegas where they saw the Grand Canyon were also highlights. Of course there were at least two trips a year driving through the mountains to visit the Hildebrandt family in Alberta where Mom and Dad, as well as his very beloved brother Brian and Dianne and kids live. Glen always made golfing with Brian and whoever else wanted to come a priority and treasured the friendship he had with brother Brian very much. Visiting Donna and Danny at their Besnard Lake Lodge Fishing resort a few times were memories to treasure. Both of his siblings, nieces and nephews, and in-laws are extremely important to Glen and Laurel and will always be loved very much – on both sides of the family.
Trips to the Island and hanging out with Laurel’s brother Jonathon were always fun, as well as visiting Ray and Deanna (like a brother to him) along the way. This past summer Jonathon blessed Glen and Laurel by bringing his new to him sea-doo over to the mainland for them to try. It was truly a beautiful last memory of being on the water with Glen. Seeing him smile as he roared through the water enjoying driving the sea-doo was an absolute blast.
Glen and Laurel thoroughly enjoyed all ministry together including the privilege of youth pastoring together for a few years at Wellspring Christian Fellowship Church. The youth there were and continue to be very special to both Glen and Laurel holding an immense part of their hearts. They were on fire for God, inspiring to be with and a great deal of fun for two young people to lead and disciple. Going to the Giesbrecht’s property at Canum Lake for youth retreats was always a highlight where they all got to enjoy Vic and Christa’s generosity in sharing their place on the lake, boating and cooking for our group.
Glen got dragged to more than his share of weddings of people he didn’t know as he came to be a support for Laurel officiating and her “driver”. Glen loved to drive and never seemed to get lost no matter where he went. He supported Laurel through the Masters of Theological Studies: Counselling program by driving truck and working many long hours. Laurel will be quite lost, literally and otherwise, as she tries to navigate on her own… Glen was always happy to be plugged into weddings video taping or otherwise helping out at the weddings.
Glen had a few different jobs throughout his too short life and impacted many. After his summer job of directing at the Youth Farm Bible Camp he went on to be a Dean of Men at Rosthern Junior College for two years from 1990-1992. He enjoyed this job very much. When Glen and Laurel moved to Abbotsford from Rosthern he enjoyed local truck driving for a few years. His dream job was being the BC Conference Youth Pastor for the General Conference of Mennonites BC (now the Canadian Mennonite Conference). He did that for three years. Within that time and as a part of his role he also led the YES program which was a Missions discipleship program where he helped organize and train young people and sent them out to different countries for mission work. It was during this time that he got to visit Germany and Puerto Rico.
Glen received his Master of Counselling degree in 2002 and went on to work with Dr. Don Fritz specializing in concurrent disorders. He then got on with Fraser Health and in the last few years he worked as the Coordinator of a mental health team. Glen has many beloved colleagues and clients who will miss him from Mission, Abbotsford and Chilliwack Mental health. The one dream of running a counselling ranch together with Laurel didn’t happen for them together and he was very sorry to not realize that dream.
Glen was an amazing Dad as well. Glen and Laurel were beyond excited to welcome Donovan and Joshua into the world and walk through life with these amazing boys. He loved to hang out with them, loving on them and trying to teach them how to be good men. He gave them an amazing example of what it means to not be religious, rather to have a deep and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. He was saddened to have to fight the disease of cancer and though he had faith and hope right to the end that he would be healed here on earth, he was resting assured that he had done what he could to that point to raise two amazing men of God. He is confident in our sons to follow in his footsteps of service to God through serving others and even go beyond what Glen did here on earth. Glen and Laurel are very proud of their sons. Glen will be loving them and Laurel as a part of that great cloud of witnesses and cheering us, and you on.
Glen and Laurel did everything earthly possible and much prayer and spiritual warfare to fight for him to keep living on this earth longer. We never gave up hope and always wanted to be sure that no one else did either. Glen didn’t lose the battle. We just don’t understand the battle and see only a very small piece of the story that Glen’s thread has been woven through. We know that though Glen is no longer on earth with us he will always be in our hearts and more alive than the rest of us here on earth as he lives eternally with Christ in heaven. His story continues to influence and impact people and as a family we choose to glorify God even in the midst of our intense grief and loss. Glen was a man of greatness in everything he was and everything he did. His stature was, and continues to be one of regal bearing as he led the way in showing us what it means to be a child of God, a prince of the Most High – Glen knew his identity and who his heavenly Father was and he walked in that to the best of his ability and by the grace of God all the days of his life. Glen will never stop being missed and loved by us. His memory will live on and we look forward to being reunited one day. Until that time we choose to keep glorifying God and our wish, Glen and Laurel’s wish, Donovan and Joshua’s wish, is that no one would lose their faith in God over his earthly death. Glen’s spirit simply moved from this realm to the next and we can’t see the big picture. May Glen’s life move you closer to a living and vibrant relationship with the God who cares and loves us more than we can comprehend.
We value your prayers and support now and throughout the coming days and yes, even years. We love you. May the God of peace and comfort always walk with you and bless you even through the grief that we are sharing. Thank you.
Laurel, Donovan and Joshua Hildebrandt
Day 33, 34, 35 & 36
December 6, 7, 8 & 9th, 2018
Last Day in Santa Barbara
Travel Days & Home
Thursday, December 6, 2018…
Glen was exhausted. The night was the same as usual – brutal. We wanted to make it to the comic book store together so Glen gathered all his strength (and I truly do mean all his strength) and together we drove to the comic book store. We browsed a bit but Glen was almost falling over so the browsing was limited. We picked out a whole lot of “Marvel” comics and while I went to pay Glen went back into the Santa Fe to rest. I then went to the “Youth Initiatives” store where youth make paintings, jewelry, leather goods – all kinds of crafty things – and sell them. It is an initiative to get youth at risk off the streets and doing something good and productive. It’s an initiative I don’t mind supporting when buying gifts for the friends who have helped me out so much. It’s too bad money is tight because I couldn’t buy the things I wanted – but I settled on a nice pottery piece for my “personal assistant extraordinaire” Rowena and a silver shell necklace for her daughter and my friend Genya who has also been so helpful and generous with her time! They even set up the Christmas tree downstairs in my client waiting area. Above and beyond the call of duty are friends like that! We made another stop at the pharmacy to pick up some pharmaceuticals for Glen. This took longer than anticipated because they weren’t allowed to give it out until December 11 – could we wait until then? Well… no actually! We are leaving tomorrow… The pharmacist made a call to Dr. Kim and then thankfully over rode the State law!
We drove back to the Casita where I made a quick lunch and then ran out the door again. I had to go to “Ross Dress for Less” and buy another suitcase for the extra gifts, extra supplements and a few border worthy food items we were taking home – yes, an entire suitcase for that! Walking in there were hordes of people and I remembered that people were actually doing Christmas shopping! Imagine that! It’s almost Christmas and it feels nothing like Christmas to me with the warmer Santa Barbara weather and the pain of seeing Glen so very ill and near death… I don’t much feel like celebrating a “season” – yet I am still so very thankful that Jesus came! It’s a weird mix of feelings for sure.
I grabbed a suitcase as fast as I could, then ran to another pharmacy to pick up items Glen needed for the trip that the other pharmacy was out of stock for. I hopped back into the Santa Fe and found myself speeding for a few seconds and thinking “Wow! I must be feeling at home here in Santa Barbara!” and promptly slowed down. It wouldn’t be wise to get a speeding ticket nor into an accident because I was rushing around! I made a quick stop at Whole Foods Market and bought a few grocery items (one of which we forgot in our Casita when we left – the Glenn flour sour dough bread! ☹). I also said goodbye to the young man I saw most of the times I went into the store. He was always very friendly and asked how Glen was doing. Saying goodbye to people is actually really hard because for the most part we know we won’t see them again.
I made a beeline then for the Issels Clinic to pick up more of Glen’s supplements and bring back our Kangen water bottles. Doris could tell I was rushing and feeling stressed. Saying goodbye to her was hard too… I drove back to the Casita and hurriedly unpacked the groceries and then was out the door again to my appointment with Katya with the magic wand (lymphatic wand) treatment. Ah! An hour and a half to relax before I packed everything up and tried to figure out which suitcase to put what! Walking out of Katya’s there was still some light left so I took another drive to Trader Joe’s to pick up a bouquet of flowers for Jan and Joanna.
I arrived back to the Casita and got the flowers ready. Joanna wasn’t feeling very well but was ok for me to stop in quick. I wanted to say an in person goodbye and thank you. Delivering the flowers and a thank you note I was met by Shelby, their golden retriever dog who is only 9 or so months old. She is the sweetest dog and immediately stuck her head into me for a good pet and began licking my fingers. I love animals and golden retrievers are definitely up there on the list! We said our goodbye’s making sure that they knew that they have a home with us in Canada if they ever come for a visit. They are very sweet people and we are absolutely blessed to have met them and been allowed to stay with them on their property for close to four weeks. I know that everyone we met, including Jan and Joanna, were preordained by God. It was a huge gift from God to stay in such a place of peace and solitude.
I went back to the Casita, made supper, and spent the rest of the evening packing. Glen was not well…hopefully he would be okay for the trip tomorrow. His stomach was now hurting and this was something new. “It’s just the treatments,” I kept telling myself. “This will get better. In Jesus Great Name, this will get better! Glen will get better!” I will strike the ground for Glen a million times in prayer because I know a God who heals!
Friday, December 7, 2018
We awoke to a sunny morning in Santa Barbara. This makes it all the more difficult to leave because we know that it’s raining at home in Abbotsford! I hauled the four suitcases to the car and we both did a last minute check. Glen ate a very sparse breakfast because he was worried about his bowels – I don’t blame him!
We made it to the airport with no problems and after standing in line at Enterprise handed back the keys and got the bill – yikes! I was taken in by the “extra insurance” that I’m sure, in hindsight, I didn’t need. Glen told me I didn’t need it but the guy convinced me that my credit card insurance would not be enough. Live and learn – to listen to Glen!
Next we stood in line to check in. Glen managed to stand there because it was reasonably quick in the small Santa Barbara airport. It reminded me of Abbotsford airport. Santa Barbara is actually only 88,000 people (I think that’s right) so definitely not as big as I thought it might be. We waited for our plane and then boarded with a request for a wheelchair when we got to San Francisco. I’ve never been to any of these places but the quick change from plane to plane in San Francisco doesn’t really count! It was another half hour before we boarded the second plane. Glen was doing decent but was definitely tired and still a bit feverish. As always, I was concerned. I gleaned the window seat on all the flights because the planes were very small and Glen still needed frequent trips to the small little bathroom on the little plane. There were only four seats across on all our flights with the aisle separating those four seats down the middle so it was a tight flight. I watched the scenery change from blue skies and sunny beaches to colder weather and then to snow topped mountain peaks and rooftops as we landed in Calgary.
By the time we got to Calgary it was dark and local time was 5pm ish. I was beyond exhausted and Glen looked about ready to pass out. Though we both just wanted to keep flying home we were thankful that we just had to make it to the airport Marriot hotel for the night. I hijacked a wheelchair for Glen because they forgot even though all along everyone said they would have one for him. I then pushed him to customs where I filled out the forms making it through the customs with no problems. I think it helps when we both look so utterly helpless though that’s certainly not how we were trying to appear!
I gathered all four of our suitcases and loaded them on a cart while Glen sat in the wheelchair – helping where he could of course. Then the daunting task of pushing all the luggage AND Glen. Oh boy! Sadly, though we asked directions to the airport hotel people were more than willing to direct but no one offered to help me push the heavy load. Glen was too weak to push himself in the chair so he held onto the luggage airport cart and I pushed all of it all the way to our hotel room. This was no small task as the hotel hallway turned into rug and was extremely difficult to push around 350 pounds all the way there. We walked in and I collapsed on the bed exhausted and thankful to make it that far. Glen collapsed in the bathroom and shower also completely exhausted. The pain level in his stomach was getting worse and worse in awful cramping waves.
I ordered supper and then welcomed Glen’s parents and sister in law Dianne in for a little visit to our room. Glen is originally from Alberta so that was part of the reason for staying in Calgary a night as well. The visit was good, just heart breaking because we are all so concerned about Glen. I am holding to the hope that the treatments in Tijuana and Santa Barbara will actually work and that Dr. Kim is right – that the cancer spiking will then decrease just as rapidly. It is difficult to hold onto hope when what you see with the naked eye is really bad. This is nightmare material. We are literally warring in the spiritual realm and physical realm for Glen to not only pull through but to be completely restored to better than before health, strength and wellness physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Our precious family left and we were left alone with our thoughts and words. We talk a fair bit but at that point our words were not much. Glen fell asleep on top of the covers of the bed so I got ready for bed. I tried waking him but it was an hour after I climbed into bed that he roused himself and crawled under the covers. I lay awake a few more hours until sleep finally had mercy on my brain.
Saturday December 8, 2018
We both awoke around 8:30am after a few times of being awake during the night. I called the number we were given for breakfast, a direct line to the kitchen. It appears it is no longer possible to get a simple breakfast, as everything is so gourmet. We would love gourmet but just can’t do it so I was able to order a breakfast of just plain eggs and plain toast…it’s the best they could do and we were thankful for it. I did however send the man back for jam – I’m plain but still need jam! ☺ He was gracious in running back and forth and making that delivery.
We packed up quickly because we had not unpacked much and headed downstairs. I had already checked out so we just needed directions to the West Jet departures. The concierge looked at the heavy load I was again pushing. “Do you need help Ma’am?”
Why yes I certainly do please! He pushed the luggage cart and I pushed Glen all the way to West Jet which was a huge blessing in many ways as then I didn’t have to figure out where to go as well! We checked in for our flight while having a conversation with the check in lady about her elderly mother who has cancer. She took a fall and looking at the picture it didn’t look pretty. Everyone has a story. I love hearing people’s stories even though it is heartbreaking I am glad to be able to listen with a caring heart and hopefully give encouragement.
The flight was again on a small turbo prop jet plane. Apparently it’s more economical. We were sitting right by the propeller so it was a loud flight. I was thankful for a short flight. Our son Donovan met us at the airport and I was again thankful that he is a strong man. He hefted the suitcases into his vehicle and off we went. Home. Home is a wonderful thing when you are sick and haven’t been home for awhile. We walked in and took in our surroundings. We have a beautiful home and the best part was that both Donovan and Joshua were there with us. Josh had come home from CBC and was waiting to see us. That blessed my heart more than anything ever could in this world.
I spread out lunch, which consisted of a cooked chicken I had picked up on the way home from Save-On-Foods knowing I, if no one else, would be hungry. We visited and I ate, Glen ate some, and the boys had already had leftover pizza. Glen retired to the easy chair for the next twelve hours collapsing into sleep except when he had to run to the bathroom. Other than that he was out. I changed into my barn clothes and drove to see my horse. Other than my boys my horse was deeply missed by me! I was met at the barn by Lauren who enveloped me in a big, long hug. It was wonderful and made me feel very loved. I then walked into the field to see DeOrro (after saying hi to Zoe who came running to stick her head into the aisle when she heard my voice – the rest of the horses were outside). DeOrro looked up as I walked purposefully towards him. I think I may have even broken into a jog a bit and then remembered he’s still a horse and they don’t like to be run to. He looked for a bit as I came towards him and then he walked quickly to me and nuzzled my hand, then nuzzled into my neck a bit. That was all I needed. The smile was huge as I hugged my buddy and communicated to him how much I missed him. We “talked” a bit and then I walked around the pasture with DeOrro freely walking beside me and following my every move. I love it when he “joins up” with me and follows without a halter. Some days I have to work harder for that to happen but not this day. He missed me too, which warmed my heart to swelling. I put his halter on after a bit and lunged him, then walked into the barn to grab his bridle and my helmet (safety first!). I couldn’t resist a ride. I hopped on and felt his body energy swell and said a prayer for safety. I don’t have time to be injured. The other horses by now had heard my voice and come running so DeOrro’s energy was up more as well. I chose to just ride in the pasture. I had already brought Shorty in, the little cute as a button pony that is also at the barn. Because we all help each other out in our awesome self board barn Shorty and all the horses are deeply loved by all of us. He also seemed happy to see me and was following me around. This is unusual for Shorty because he gets less pasture time (ponies tend to gain weight quickly which is detrimental to their health) when he is outside he generally just eats and does not pay attention to anyone else. This time I was honored that he was indeed happy to see me.
As I rode it was clear that DeOrro had a lot of energy. He wanted to run but I know that he has a fair bit of pain from navicular (his navicular bone under his hoof is degenerated which is very painful) so he tends to buck when we go into a canter. I took the advice of my very good friend who also is a horse trainer and sold me DeOrro and asked for a canter riding in a small circle. It’s harder for a horse to buck going in a circle and I was riding bareback. Sure enough he gave me a few little bucks so I slowed him down right away. I knew I would be stiff just from having not ridden in five weeks and now holding on tighter. I hopped off after twenty or so minutes with a smile on my face and walked along beside him for a bit. He was anxious to be beside me so I brought him into his stall. It was close to supper anyway so I brought him his food and then cleaned out Kenny and Shorty’s stall. It was cold and dark by now so all the horses wanted in. Lauren had already done my stall. I love all my friends at the barn! So supportive! I then let them all back into their stalls and they all gave me snuggles (except Kenny – he can be a bit stand off-ish sometimes especially when he is mad at you and sometimes horses get a bit miffed when you haven’t been around for awhile – he’ll warm up again, the silly boy!). Chilco, who just had to have his eye taken out, came and greeted me too. He doesn’t see very well with the other eye either but he is such a beautiful and gentle big boy. Elizabeth was there before I left and I got and gave another hug. She informed me that Zoe was sold and leaving tomorrow or the next day. She was heartbroken and I was feeling her pain and loss right with her. Saying goodbye to our beautiful animals is always difficult even if the reasoning is logical. I mourn Zoe with her.
I headed to the other barn to give Susanne a hug and was again enveloped in a bear hug. I feel loved and supported by this barn family. I am very blessed to have so many people in my court.
Sunday, December 9, 2018
I awoke after a restless sleep. Glen was still in bed so I simply assumed he was not well enough to go to church with me. He had passed out into a sleep on his favorite chair half an hour after we got home only to be awakened by his bowel and the pain. There was no way I was going to wake him up. I headed to church feeling uneasy about leaving Glen and the week of work that was planned for me. He was not well. Glen was in a lot of pain and not eating unless I brought him food and drink. How was I going to care for him while working and seeing clients? Arriving in church a few minutes late I looked for a place to sit. Donovan was by himself to the side, probably waiting for me as his friends were sitting farther down. I plopped down beside him, grateful for his presence. Half way through the service Josh came in on my other side. Better late than never and I was feeling surrounded by my boys, now young men who felt protective and loving over me. My friend Iona was speaking on this advent Sunday about hope. It was a good sermon that I enjoyed because hope is what I have right now. Hope is the thing keeping me going. Hope that God will do a miracle for my beloved man who I can’t bear to even think about being without.
The service ended I chatted with people trying to give a positive update but the reality is still that Glen’s cancer numbers are up and now he is even more weak and in pain. We are still holding onto the hope that Dr. Kim said – that the numbers will start to go rapidly down. And that God will intervene. I made my way down to Iona and as with any good friend who loves you I felt safe so the tears began to flow and flow hard. The entire church I’m sure witnessed me breaking down. I sobbed on my friend’s shoulder and the worries for the week and care-taking Glen all came out. She cried with me. She empathized with me. She put to words some of what I was feeling – utterly and completely alone and helpless. We feel God and then we’re numb at times. That’s ok. I know He is holding us.
I went home to find Glen somewhat conscious. I went out to do chores and enjoyed my time at the barn. Dad and my step Mom Margaret came over for a bit when I got home to see us after our time away. I thought of going to see Aunt Melinda who lives in a nursing home and I am her POA (Power of Attorney) so I take care of her. I was too exhausted. Tomorrow would be a busy day with chores, a doctor’s appointment for me (the dermatologist checks me every year for cancer spots because my Mom died of melanoma in 2010), and then six scheduled clients. I tried unpacking and making sure things were somewhat in order for the next day but the house still looked in disarray when I collapsed in bed with a still very tired and in pain Glen. Lord, hold us please! Heal my man! We petition before the throne and the courts of heaven, heal my man and extend the boundaries of Glen’s life to a healthy old age!