MEMORIES


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All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall [fade] because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall [fade], but the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40: 6-8)

Memories are a beautiful thing.

My father was called home to heaven when I was eight years old. After a few years I realized that I could no longer recall his face or remember the sound of his voice. I am thankful for pictures. The pictures refresh my memory of his face. There are no videos to help me recall the sound of his voice, but the pictures are a true blessing.

Memories are precious, but I know from my own experience that memories fade with time. In recent months/weeks I have been putting together memory books for my five grandchildren who lost their dad to brain cancer on April 6, 2017. All that remains for them now is “memories” of their dad.

When my son was getting close to the end of his life, his social worker suggested he make memory books for the children. She gave him five hard covered books which were a blank slate. She inked his hand and put his handprint on the front of each book. He wasn’t able to do them himself, so he dictated to his sister and I notes of memories that were precious to him and that he wanted the children to remember. I have been busy making a book of memories for each child. It includes his notes and many pictures of him with them while they were growing up.

As time passes I know their memories of him will fade, but the books will give each of them a reference. The pictures will preserve the memory of his face in their minds. In the pictures they will see his mannerisms and remember the way he played with them. The pictures reveal many of the fun things they did together i.e. fishing with the boys, carnival rides, birthdays, and Christmases. He loved his children. After God they were his top priority. Every life decision he made was made with their best interest in mind.

The verses above from the book of Isaiah remind us that this life is only temporary. Like the grass and flowers of the field, humans have a life cycle also. From the moment of our birth death is a shadow that hangs over each of us. Sickness, tragic accidents or old age will eventually touch each of us and our loved ones. But the last line states that though the grass withers and the flowers fall [fade], the word of our God stands forever.

This life is sometimes sad. People we love die. Death creates an emptiness in our hearts and lives. Thankfully the promises of God never change. Jesus promises to never leave us. He says, and surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). He is present in our lives watching over us and guiding us His children, along the road of life.

He promises that this life is not all there is. He tells us, do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14: 1-3)

All who believe in God through faith in Jesus His Son, will live forever with Him in heaven. Our heavenly home is ready and waiting for us. There will be no more death or sadness, no tears or pain. We will see Jesus face to face and we will see our loved ones who died in the faith also. What a beautiful thing to look forward to!

I pray that my grandchildren will retain their faith in Jesus and be reunited with their dad in heaven someday. I look forward to seeing him again also along with other loved ones who have gone before me in faith, where the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21: 3, 4).

This life on earth pales in comparison with what is to come. We live here by God’s grace. His deep love for sinners brought His only Son to the cross where He offered himself as a sacrifice for sin. What a wonderful gift! It offers hope to a dark world of sin, suffering and death.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2: 8, 9).

Gloria Dei!

By Christine
The memory books were put together with love and are meant to be a treasure to the children. They are a little piece of their dad – a reference. When they miss him or are feeling sad they can reach for the book and see him. It will reassure them of his love for them and be a little part of him to keep close to their hearts.
This life on earth is very fragile. We, or someone we love, can be here one minute and gone the next. Our minds have trouble grasping it. After we lose someone we love to death, it often feels like their life with us was just a dream. Time seems to stand still for us, but the rest of the world keeps moving forward. We see our friends and relatives continuing as normal and feel like we are left stuck in time. We wonder, was that person real – was he/she really part of my life? Does anyone remember or still think of him/her? Pictures are a reality – something we can see and touch. They are a comfort to the grieving.
As an adult I have made a memory book of my own father from the pictures I have. It would have been very precious to me as a child to have had a collection of picture memories of my life with him to go to when I was lonely. I pray that these books will promote healing of the heart for my grandchildren and be something they can share with their own children someday.

 

 

 

OUR STORY


The following poem, written to the meter of  ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, was written by my husband, Andrew R. Backus.

For those who do not know us, it is the story of our lives – the circumstances under which we met, fell in love, and were married. Some may think the timing, circumstances and place where we were married a little odd, but we believe that the hand of God was leading and guiding us and put each of us in the right place at the right time. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8: 28)

Robert Toree Mom - Copy
Robert before his illness

Important Facts:

  • Andy’s first wife Dee passed away on Aug. 25, 2013 of Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) Grade 4 Brain Cancer – a form of Brain Cancer that is always terminal.
  • My first husband Bob Pocza passed away on Feb. 2, 2016 of a blood disease called Myelodysplastic Syndrome after an almost 4 year illness. I was now a widow.
  • On April 18, 2016 My son Robert Pocza was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) Grade 4 brain cancer, the same type of cancer that Dee had. Being a new widow, I moved from my home in Michigan to Wisconsin to live with and help my son, who lived in the Milwaukee area. He passed away on April 6, 2017.
  • Our story is bittersweet, but in all circumstances we know that God is good and does what is best for his children.

Christmas 2017/Epiphany 2018

 

 Merry Christmas to one, Merry Christmas to all!

And this Christ is named Jesus, as you may recall.

He’s the One God had promised right after the Fall.

He came into our world as a baby so small.

God and man in one person, He paid for all sin,

And He opened up heaven so all may go in.

 

With this letter we greet you, this man and this wife,

As we share with you things going on in our life:

 

‘Twas about this time last year that something was brewing,

And in a few months there will be vows renewing!

For you see, there’s a God and He knows what He’s doing.

 

It was May 22nd of Twenty-Sixteen

That a man and his mother in my church I’d seen –

A new widow from Michigan here for her son

Who had a brain tumor, the same kind of one

That somehow had happened to Dee my late wife –

The kind that ends up with the ending of life.

 

I offered support to this mom and her son,

For we know that with Jesus all battles are won.

The time went by quickly as we grew together

And they worked through medicines, red tape and weather.

 

The cancer progressed with its ups and its downs,

While Chris and her son dealt with smiles and with frowns.

In the meantime, my role was to offer support

 As we helped her son Rob who was such a good sport.

 

But something was happening, to our surprise;

We began seeing love as we looked in our eyes.

 

Robert noticed it too and began to remind us

That perhaps we should leave being single behind us.

 

Well, believe it or not, that’s exactly the thing

That transpired, and suddenly Chris had a ring!

 

Robert tearfully told her it would make him smile

If he with his mother could walk down the aisle.

 

So we planned and we plotted as fast as we could,

But that doggoned old cancer was up to no good.

Robert moved to a place, Zilber Hospice by name,

Where my wife Dee had been; it was one and the same!

So with God’s guiding hand and beside her son’s bed,

Christine Pocza and Andrew R. Backus – were wed!

 

Now believe me, the story continues from here;

For the next day we saw Robert’s end drawing near –

The end that without faith in Christ some would fear.

Chris’ son now went home to his Savior so dear.

 

In church we our vows reaffirmed on May six,

With God’s Word, prayer and song a big part of the mix.

The service by Pastor B. Adams was led;

Robert’s memory made known by a rose that was red.

Sarah Kuerth played the organ, Don Buch us addressed;

With song “You Gift of God” by Chris D. we were blessed.

 

Since then Chris and I have begun married life

And are making a home as a husband and wife.

We live in the same place as I did before,

And Chris’ sister Barb’s at Clare Meadows next door.

I still do many things such as I used to do,

But a dog, fish and birds are some things that are new!

 

I would be remiss if I failed to mention –

And bragging and boasting are not my intention –

That my grandchildren now number twenty and eight! *

Steve and Heather bore Theo – last June was the date!

I baptized little Theo at Bash – I was blessed!

And our family still knows “Backus Bash” is the best!

(*Just in case you are wond’ring “What else will he say?”

I can tell you that there is one more on the way!)

 

We have seen some things change and some things stay the same,

Yet in all of life’s changes, sin’s shame is our claim.

That’s why God sent His Son who is Jesus by Name;

He redeemed us poor sinners, and that’s why He came.

Happy Epiphany from the Backuses!

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Andy & Chris, May 6, 2017

 

 

 

 

THAT H.O.G. MOMENT


And call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you will honor me.
(Psalm 50:15)

Have you ever heard of a “Hog” moment? I hadn’t until several months ago when it was explained to me that “H.O.G.” stands for Hand of God. “Oh, right”, I thought. “That makes perfect sense.” It is the moment/moments in one’s life when the light bulb comes on and the handiwork of God in a life situation, is clearly seen. I think it is something all Christians can relate to. In truth, nothing happens by chance in this life. Our God controls the lives of Christians and non-Christians alike.

The problem is that we sometimes become so focused on the divine that we fail to recognize His presence in the form of physical help. I would like to relay a story about this exact type of situation to you. It is a story you may have already heard from a pastor or Christian friend, but maybe some have not. It is an old Christian fable very similar to the type of stories Jesus told during His ministry. The man in this story was so focused on expecting a miracle from God, that he didn’t recognize the hand of God in the help that was being offered and he lost his life because of it. It goes as follows:

God Will Save Me
A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.
A faithful Christian man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”
The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”
As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”
The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”
The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop.
A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, “Grab my hand and I will pull you up!” But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”
Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned.
When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”
And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”

Can any of you relate to this? This story is rather extreme, but I believe there are times in each of our lives when God uses physical means to rescue us from difficult situations and we miss the help He is offering because we are only focused on the divine. We expect “all” from God or “nothing”. We fail to see His helping hand right before us because we are expecting Divine Intervention rather than trusting in His Divine Providence, and sometimes he allows the situation to require of us a little effort and common sense of our own.

Robert 2
Before illness

I have experienced this in my own life recently. My son who is 40 years old, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in April of 2016. At the time we were informed of the treatments offered. The first step was to remove the tumor as best they could. Following surgery he would undergo radiation for 6 weeks along with chemotherapy. That was Phase One. He would then get a 1-month break after which Phase Two would begin. Phase Two includes a maintenance dose of Chemotherapy for 1 year, and a treatment they call “Optune”.

Robert before surgery
Before Surgery

The Chemo is the easy part, or it seemed so at the time. Optune is a different story. It involves time, help from a caregiver, and finances. The following link is an explanation of Optune:

Robert after surgery
After Surgery

Optune

Basically Optune uses electricity to interrupt the growth of cancer cells in the brain. The patient must shave his/her head completely and wear a “cap”. The cap contains electrodes that direct electrical charges to the section/sections of the brain where the cancer is located and must be activated 18 hours per day in order to be effective. It is an optional treatment, but it is proven to be effective. It has improved the statistical survival rate of 2 years, by 50%. It is not a cure, but it offers hope and may buy time for patients until a cure can be found. The cost of Optune per patient is $21,000 per month, but financial assistance is offered and according to the above link, no patient is ever denied the treatment.

After bandage removal
After bandage removal

So what does this all have to do with a H.O.G. moment?

With Optune
With Optune

Well, overall the treatment sounds very overwhelming and difficult. When it was offered to my son right after his surgery, we both agreed fully that he should try it. When it was almost time to start it though, we dragged our feet a little. It sounded difficult to do, and the commitment of time, and care sounded huge. And would it even work? My question posed to the Oncologist was this; if this was you or one of your family members, would you recommend it? Without hesitation she answered; I would do it, hands down! That pretty much made the decision for us.

We had been praying for a miracle from God. We were hoping that God with His almighty power would heal Roberts brain of the cancer, and certainly He could, if it were His will to do so. But finally the light bulb switched on in my brain and I realized that maybe Optune is the “car”, the “canoe” the “motorboat” or the “helicopter” that God is sending to save Robert’s life. This could be the miracle we have been praying for and we almost missed it because our human minds were expecting/hoping for divine intervention. We almost turned away from the help offered because it was going to take a little effort on our part. God gives good gifts. His never ending grace is free and Jesus did the work, but He doesn’t always allow earthly gifts to just fall into our lap. God gives us choices and sometimes those choices require prayerfully considering the means He is setting before us.

Robert is now undergoing the Optune treatment along with Chemotherapy. He is doing well with it. He has not had any adverse reactions and it is not as difficult to use as it sounds. The “cap” stays on for three days. (I had pictured having to remove and replace it every 18 hours.) He carries a battery pack over his shoulder which he is getting used to. He can turn it off after 18 hours or leave it on continually. After 3 days I peel it off his head and he is able to wash his head and be without it for up to 6 hours. He then shaves his head and the “cap is replaced by a new one. He will never have hair again, but the “cap” generates heat so it will keep his head warm in the winter. And how important is hair in light of living or dying? I would encourage anyone in a similar situation to give Optune a try. Only time will tell if it is working for Robert, but in the meantime we are living life as normal as possible.

Miniature golf
Life as Normal

 

Optune is not a cure, but it is a treatment that will hopefully extend his life. We thank God for medical technology. We will accept whatever the future holds knowing that we have a powerful and almighty God who loves us and will never leave us to face these difficult times alone. For Robert it is a win win situation. If he lives he gets to stay here with us. If the Lord calls him home, he will be forever with God in the mansions prepared for him by Jesus.

Kevin Toree Caitlyn 2016
Three of his special people

In the end, I am beginning to see that Optune, rather than Chemo is the easy part. Chemotherapy is exhausting for the patient. Of the two, I think I would rather have to deal with Optune the rest of my life than Chemo.

The apostle Paul encourages us; Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is Gods will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Heavenly Father,
Remind us each day of your presence in our lives and help us to remember that nothing happens by chance. There are many situations in life which are completely out of our control. At these times, remind us that you ARE in control and that you always have a plan, in which all the pieces of the puzzle will fit together perfectly for the good of your children.
In Jesus name we pray,
Amen

To God be all glory!

by Christine