Thursday, September 24, 2015

Celebration of a Life Well Lived

We had Les' celebration of life service last Saturday.  Les planned this service over the past several months with his friend Pastor Ben.  When our kids and I met with the funeral home, we were so thankful that Les had prepared so many things ahead of time for us.  His doing so certainly made our first several days much easier than they could have been.

Saturday was a rainy, dark day.  After a couple of weeks of beautiful sunshine, the rain was welcome, but it did make for a dreary service.  The Friday night before we had a short viewing, mainly for our brothers and sisters.  A few close friends had expressed a desire to say goodbye, so they were also present.  We had the burial before the service on Saturday morning, and we kept that private also.  The graveside service was tough for me.  I guess it's the finality of it all.  A friend had suggested we drop our red "Team Kooistra ALS" bracelets (that we all have been wearing) on the casket, so we did that.  Some had faded to white.  A very memorable moment.  My grandson dropped mine for me.

Our church was full when we arrived.  What an overwhelming sight!  Several UPS supporters were there in their brown uniforms (on a Saturday!!!) and a UPS truck was at the entrance of the church.  What a great support.  As I mentioned, Les planned the service, so we can blame him for the length :)

Our kids and I would like to thank everyone who made this day so special.  Pastors Clay and Mike who prayed and read scripture.  Jami Jo who did such a great job singing; Mitch & Rochelle whose song was beautiful.  The men's praise team who were so energetic and the songs were so uplifting.  Ranae, whose prayer/song was perfect.   Dallas who was on the piano - amazing!!  Brothers Howard & Gawin who did a great job with the Psalm 103 reading.  And Pastor Ben whose message was exactly what Les wanted - a message about salvation and hope in Jesus Christ.  (We do have copies of the service if anyone would like one - just let one of us know.)

Niece Emily worked so hard on the programs and the music CD of Les' favorite songs that Les wanted to hand out at the service.  (FYI we are making more CD's - let one of us know if you would like one).  Cousins Tim and Tammy put together the picture video after Leslie and Hannah spent hours sorting through pictures. 

Les' sister Linda and others put up the picture display in the foyer of the church.  Les' dear friend Rose from the cafe where he and Ben had coffee every Friday morning made the sandwiches and fruit.  The women of our church provided the cookies.  Our friends and family helped with cleanup.

 Our daughter Leslie's mother-in-law Lori provided a ham dinner at our house after the viewing on Friday night.  About 40 people ate that yummy dinner!  My friend Barb brought dinner on Saturday night for our family - about 50 people were here for that.   All the cards and flowers/plants/trees we have received - again we are overwhelmed!  All the messages on my phone and the messages on Facebook - I cannot return them all!  But I have read them all and so appreciate your reaching out to me and my family.

God is still good.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

I am a Widow

Shortly after Les was diagnosed with ALS, a friend took me out for dinner.  She cried with me and said "You are too young to be a widow!"  I kinda forgot about that comment, but recently  remembered this conversation.  Maybe because I AM a widow now.  And she is so right, I AM too young to be a widow!!

Les passed away peacefully early morning September 9.  He had a difficult weekend before and Labor Day night was really tough.  He couldn't sleep and had a "panic" attack at 2 in the morning - was breathing really heavy.  I contacted Hospice and they approved a morphine boost, and a double dose of his "calming" medicine.  Les still couldn't sleep so I got him transferred to his wheelchair and brought him to our bedroom so I could at least lay in bed and try to rest.  He just couldn't get comfortable.  The next morning nurse Carren called and said she would be coming to insert a morphine pump.  Les wanted friend pastor Ben to stop in.  Ben stopped in, but Les was not able to type any words.  So frustrating!  He was really struggling with the motion of his arm/fingers.  Carren came while Ben was still here.  She got the pump inserted and Les immediately calmed down.  We got him tucked in and wheeled him into the living room, where he liked to sit and look out the front windows.  He fell asleep quite soon - no doubt since he was exhausted!  He slept all afternoon, even with people coming and going.

Friend Rick came to put Les to bed Tuesday evening and we could not get Les to wake up - he was snoozing away.  We finally decided to get him back into our bedroom so I could go to bed;  I would be right there if Les woke up in the night.  The strange thing about this is that he has not slept in our bedroom for months.  And all of a sudden it was two nights in a row!  I slept fitfully and would check him often.  He was still sleeping soundly and not moving at all.  I woke up at 6:30, checked his arm which was cold, so I got another blanket to cover him.  I then caressed his face and realized it too was cold, and then I realized he was not breathing anymore.

Even though I have known for two years that Les was going to die, that actual moment is still a shock.  I thought he would be around for a couple of weeks.  I still wanted talk with him and kiss his face.  Yes, we had said our goodbyes, and I had told him several times over the past few weeks that I was okay - he could go meet Jesus.  But when he was actually gone, I was so sad.  The sound of "keening"?  I now know what that is.  I am glad I had a few minutes alone with him before our kids got here.

Our kids came and got to be with their dad a few final minutes.  We did not know Les was going so soon, or they would have been here with me.  But it all worked out, and looking back, it was all good.  Pastor Ben came shortly after and blessed us with some scripture and some memories of Les.

A couple things helped Les get through these past few months.  The first was music and scripture.  He spent his time listening to praise music.  The second was a reminder that we are all going to die - not just Les!  He would feel sad sometimes and we would talk about the fact that he's not the only one that's going to die!  This helped him with that struggle.  The third was a quote from Dr. Suess "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened"  We tried to focus on that.  Les lived a good life and we had 33 amazing years together.  We are thankful for that.

If you are able, please join us next Saturday morning at 11:00.  We will be celebrating a life well lived.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


I need to send out some shout outs.  I've said this before and I'll say it again, we could not travel this journey alone!!!  We are so thankful for the people who are helping us.  They have been the hands and feet of Jesus.

Back when he was getting very weak with walking, Les asked several of his friends to help him transfer  (in the morning from the recliner to the wheelchair, to the toilet, and back to the recliner.  At night from the wheelchair to the toilet, back to the wheelchair, and then to the recliner for bed).  Several others offered to help, but Les wanted to keep this private matter to a minimum.  It should be noted that when these transfers first started, Les was standing on his own and able to push off on his own.  This wasn't too bad of a job when these guys signed up!  Before we began using the lift, Les had no strength left in his legs so they would just dangle and get in the way when transferring.  These guys were at that point lifting ALL of Les' weight.  Les was then no longer able to stand by the bathroom window for a few minutes, stretch, and check out neighbor Dan's yard.  This began to be a very tough job.

Friend Pastor Ben.  Who knew a pastor could be so strong? He is our "emergency" guy and our Tuesday morning guy.  He also still has "coffee" with Les every Friday morning, as they have been doing for close to 20 years.  He is also a spiritual mentor for Les at this point, which is a huge blessing.  Our friend Rick continues to amaze us.  He is our regular Sunday morning and Monday bedtime guy.  He's also a go-to guy because he lives in town.  Rick often stops in on his coffee break or lunch hour just to check in.  He spent lots of time in the lift sling making sure what position was the most comfortable before he put Les in the sling.

Friend Steve travels all week yet gives up his Friday night and Sunday night to put his long time friend to bed.  These two go WAY back, and I know this is a very difficult thing for Steve to do.  Les and Steve would rather be duck hunting on the weekends and solving the world's problems.    We also have Dr. Steve - he has been Les' doctor for over 20 years.  When he volunteered, Les figured why not, since Dr. Steve has seen it all already anyway!  Dr. Steve also lets us go over medical issues with him while he is here.  Such a gift.

Our friend Brian also travels all week long yet comes every Saturday night.  Often him and his wife Lonnie would come early and we would watch TV or a movie together.  Brian has been blessing us with his prayers every week before he leaves.  Friend Dale is a dairy farmer and doesn't get much sleep, but he gave us his only morning off.  With aide Kelli coming mornings, we now have Dale on a night duty.  He is willing to do whatever we need. 

Friend Pastor Mike is our surprise.  When Mike offered to help,  I asked Les, assuming he would say no.  We didn't know Pastor Mike THAT well.  Les surprised me and said yes. What a great decision.  Mike has become a very dear friend through our "bathroom dances".  He is very strong, encouraging and fun, and he blesses us with his prayers when he leaves.  LOVE this man and his family.  (His wife Bethany is my boot camp instructor - my "therapy")

Our friend Dan could have been a nurse.  He loves to be very hands on and wants to help with every detail.  His downfall is he makes Les laugh and then Les can't concentrate!!  He has been a dear friend for a very long time.

Our son Kris is our young strong guy.  He has been giving us his Saturday mornings (we are giving him a break since baby Dallas was born!).  We also call on him during the day sometimes since he has been working so near (kind of a God-thing, I think), and he fills in whenever we are stuck.  Not something any son should be doing with his father, but Kris does it without hesitation.  Les always gets a smile when he realizes it's Kris "turn".  Son-in-law Brett fills in every now and then.

These girls help me get through each day (missing a few!!!!).  They keep me fed.  They clean our house.  They get me out of the house (or just to the patio) for "fun" outings.  They make me laugh and they make me cry.  They pray for me and they love me.

 Neighbor nurse Kay.  She has recently left town for a few months and we are really going to miss her.  She sat with Les for me if I needed to go out and about.  She is a dear.
Les has been struggling a bit to get his breathing regulated.  He has been on morphine for awhile now - it opens up his lungs - but we are getting an automatic pump inserted so it will be more automatic and a steadier dose.  We pray that it helps with his comfort.  Please continue to pray for comfort and peace for Les.  And sleep for both of us!!!!