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

 

 

 

 

Living in the Shadow


"Funny" - Really?
Shadows of Evening

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…  (Psalm 23: 4)

Death is a scary thing isn’t it? I mean, we all know we are going to die someday right? Every human dies. Every living thing dies. Some die young and some live to a ripe old age, but death is no respecter of persons. There are no exceptions. When thoughts of death creep into our consciousness, we tend to push them aside as something to deal with later. We tell ourselves that death is in the far off future for us. We don’t need to think about it right now. But that isn’t always the case. This life we live here on earth can be over in an instant. We can be here one day and gone tomorrow. It is something we have no control over.

Our bodies are tough, but also fragile. We can be perfectly healthy and be killed in a car accident instantly. We can think we are healthy and strong only to find out that we have a hidden illness which has not yet manifested symptoms. These are constant reminders to believers and unbelievers alike that this physical life is temporary. It is only a baby step away from eternity.

  I think it safe to say that all of us have had the false misconception at times that tragic accidents which cause fatal injuries, and/or illnesses that cause death, happen to others not to us or to our family. As we travel through life we eventually learn that death touches every family sooner or later.

It has touched my own family in recent months. My husband passed away this past February after being ill for over 3 years. He was diagnosed with a terminal illness in October of 2012. At that time the doctors told us he had months, but God had a different plan. He lived for 3 ½ years after his diagnosis. During that time we always felt a shadow above our heads. It followed us everywhere.

At first I cried every day. But at some point I realized that I couldn’t live life that way. It wasn’t healthy for me or for the rest of the family and especially for my husband. So instead of crying I made up my mind to go on with life, keep it as normal as possible and enjoy our time together. I continued to work, and on my off days we did normal, and often fun things together as long as he was able. The last year of his life wasn’t so much fun, especially for him, but we made the best of it. We lived life.

My husband passed away February 2, 2016. As difficult as it was and still is, it was a relief that his suffering was over. In Jesus we have a living hope for eternity. He promises; I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11: 25, 26) I am sure that Bob is now experiencing the joys of heaven. I miss him terribly, but am confident that I will see him again when the Lord calls me home.

After his death my life settled back into a “new” normal…until April of 2016. God wasn’t done with us yet. The evening of April 9, 2016, I received a text from my 40-year-old son informing me that he was in the ER. It read; “I am in the ER, but don’t worry mom, I am okay.” That was it – that’s all it said. I immediately dialed his number. He answered and informed me that he had a severe headache and that they were giving him what is known as an IV cocktail for migraines, then he would hopefully be sent home. “ok”, I said; “just keep me posted”.

I hung up the phone and thought to myself; “That’s strange. He has never had a migraine before that I can remember.” I set that thought aside however and decided it best to just wait and see. I talked to him several times throughout the following week and he seemed to be doing somewhat better, but still had a headache. On Friday, although his head still hurt, he felt he should try going back to work.

Robert
Robert “Cruise”

That evening I called to see how his day had gone. He said; “My head is still hurting really bad and every time I move I get sick. I must have been sick at least six times at work today.” I replied; “Robert, something is seriously wrong. You need to go back and get checked out again. He replied; “I will if I’m not better tomorrow. The kids will be here soon for the weekend.” He hung up and when I tried to call him back, I got no answer. I texted Sean and informed him that his dad was feeling really bad and waiting for them to arrive. He texted back that he was waiting for his sisters to get their things together. They would be on their way soon.

When I called again later Sean and the kids were with him. His Dr. had prescribed him something for the upset stomach, so at least the vomiting had stopped. My granddaughter Toree said to me; “don’t worry grandma. We are taking good care of dad.  He isn’t throwing up anymore.” Bless her heart…I love her for being so brave.

They made it through Saturday, but on Sunday as soon as I got home from church. I texted Sean to find out how things were going. He replied; “We are in the ER again grandma. They are doing a CT scan of his head to see what is going on.” The next text read; “He has a mass.” I immediately called and asked; “do I need to come?” The answer of course was “yes”.

Milwaukee is a 6½ hour drive from Grand Blanc, MI and I had never done it alone before, but I had a good car. I called it my “smart” car because it had turn by turn navigation through OnStar. What a blessing! I packed my clothes, made arrangements for family members to care for my menagerie of pets and by 3:00 pm I was on the road.

I arrived at the hospital at 9:45 pm (10:45 Michigan time). At that time, he was finally resting comfortably in NICU (Neuro Intensive Care Unit). He had been given medication to relieve his pain and steroids to reduce the swelling in his brain.

We were told the next day that he would need surgery. He had 2 masses in his brain, both on the right side. One was on his right temporal lobe and was displacing his brain, which was what had been causing the excruciating pain. It would have to be removed. The other mass was deeper and a little more to the left, but still in the right lobe. They would not remove the second mass. Because of its location they would not touch it unless they absolutely had to, in order to prevent further injury to the brain.

In spite of the seriousness of it, we were told he was fortunate he hadn’t had a seizure – and also that it was a good thing the masses were on the right side of his brain. Had they been on his left side it would have been much more debilitating. His motor skills would have been affected. He may not have been able to walk or even stand.

In all of this, I was thinking to myself; “This can’t be real!” I just lost my husband, now my son too?” I asked the Dr.; “Is this cancer for sure? Could it possibly be benign tumors?” He said; “This is cancer. We just don’t know for sure what kind until the biopsy comes back.

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There is Hope

The cancer turned out to be Glioblastoma stage 4. It is the worst kind of brain cancer. It is fast growing, (which the Dr. said is good, in the sense that it will respond well to treatment), but it is terminal. We were told; it is not a matter of “if” but “when” it will return. Statistics give him 14 months to 5 years. It seems the “shadow” has returned.

We are encouraged because Robert has done very well since his surgery. He just finished his first round of treatment (Radiation and Chemo) on Friday July 1, 2016. He has a month off now to rest and regain his strength and then he will go on a maintenance dose of Chemotherapy for a year. He hopes to be able to go back to work during that time.

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Five good reasons

He has five good reasons to live. They are Sean (age 17), Kevin (age 15), Bailey and Caitlyn (twins age 13), and Toree (age 11). He loves them so much and they need their dad. At the same time, we must remember that God knows what is best and we must trust Him.

So the Pocza family is living in the “shadow” once again. But we all live in that shadow from the moment we are born and before. We hope to live a long life here on earth, but no matter how long we live, physical death will always be the end result. God did not create us to die, but because of sin it is certain.

Death is not something we should dwell on and be worried about every day. God gives life and it is a blessing. He wants us to serve Him joyfully each day and enjoy our life. But He also wants us to be prepared at all times for the day He will call us home to eternal life. Being prepared means loving Jesus and living to glorify Him. He died in our place and paid our debt to God for our sins. Through faith we are covered in robes of righteousness and are holy in God’s eyes and fit for heaven.

Without faith in Jesus, our physical death means we will live eternally separated from God. That is a big deal because eternity is forever. Here on earth believers and unbelievers alike receive blessings from God. Being completely separated from God means there will be no light, laughter and love. Without His presence there will only be darkness, pain and sadness for eternity.

God has perfect timing and we trust His timing knowing He loves His children with an unconditional and perfect love. He will always do what is best for us. Knowing that however, shouldn’t keep us from asking, even begging Him for a miracle. I pray each day, for God to heal Roberts brain and extend his life. But at the same time Robert, through faith in Jesus is sure of where he is going. He said to me one day shortly after his diagnosis; “Mom, I am not afraid to die”. My mother’s heart however does not want to let him go. May the LORD’S will be done.

Jesus promises to never leave us (And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20), and He promises to carry our burdens for us. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30) We must let go of the things in life which are out of our control and trust Him.

Robert feels it an honor to be disciplined by the Lord in this way. My son do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son (Hebrews 12:6). He is using his illness to reach out to those who don’t know the Lord and is setting an example of faith and trust in his God. His strong faith and love for the Lord are his strength.

So my new normal now is living in Oak Creek, WI with my son. I am happy to be here and we are enjoying this time together. I am enjoying seeing and spending time, with my 5 grandchildren who have always lived so far from me. I am learning to find my way around Milwaukee and the surrounding areas. I have connected with an old friend from my high school and college days. I am spending time with my dear cousin and her husband who have been wonderful support for not only myself, but for Robert also. My sister, who was alone in California has also come to live nearby which is a true blessing.

I was lonely in Michigan. I missed my husband so much and life was just not the same. I still miss him, but I have other things to think about and other people who need me. Although I wish I would have come here under happier circumstances, I feel blessed to be here. I would have never made the decision to come here on my own, but this is where God wants me and He knew how to get me here. He just keeps me moving and I am willing to go wherever He sends me. I don’t know what the future holds but God does, so there is no reason for me to worry about it. The shadow still follows us closely, but we are ignoring it and enjoying this time God has given us.  When/if tears and sadness come, the Lord will be right there by our side.

…for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me…surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:4, 6)

 

Gloria Dei!

by Christine

The Tunnel of Grief


Death brings sadness
Death brings sadness

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40: 31).

But there is hope in Jesus
But there is hope in Jesus

At some point in our lives we will all face the loss of someone dear to us – someone we love deeply. As Christians we are never without hope. We know that if our loved one was a follower of Jesus we will be reunited with him/her again when we ourselves are called home. This is true hope. This is a hope that no one can take away from us.

But we still grieve and grieving is not fun. We miss that person who God called home. He/she was a big part of our life here on earth. Now we must learn to go on without him/her, and remind ourselves that our work here on earth is not yet finished. God has a plan for our life and we must keep moving forward. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

Over the years I have experienced the deaths of several people who were very close to me and played an important part in my life. Now that I am in my mid sixties I am able to sort through the feelings of grief which I myself have experienced in the past, and hopefully be able to reach out and help others who are going through it.

While traveling through the Rocky mountains in the western U.S. with my family when I was younger, we drove through a tunnel which passed through the side of a mountain. The entrance to the tunnel was very dark and foreboding. The tunnel was long, and because it curved through the mountain pass, no light could be seen at the other end. It was a little unsettling. We almost felt like we were driving into oblivion, but my father turned on the headlights and moved forward. It seemed like forever, but we finally reached a point where we could see light shining at the opposite end. Before we knew it we were back out in the bright sunshine and all was well.

Everyone grieves differently, but grief is a healing process and it takes time. When I was grieving the death of my mother in 2007 it occurred to me that the grieving process is very similar to that dark tunnel which we traveled through in the mountain pass. It is a tunnel which we can’t avoid by moving around it or skipping over it. The only way to the other side is to face it head on and move through it.

The entrance to the tunnel of grief is dark and foreboding. We wish we could go around it or over the top of it and skip it all together, but we can’t. The only way to make it to the other side and back out into the sunlight is to travel through it. The road through the tunnel is dark and lonely, but Jesus has promised to be with us. Each new day is a step closer to the end of the tunnel and the welcoming light.

After the loss of a dear family member or friend we may feel sad and lonely and lost for awhile (some longer than others). It may seem like life is just a matter of going through the motions. But when we trust in Jesus, He will bring us back into the light of life here on earth. It may take some time, but we must be patient. Our life will never be the same, but the scar on our heart will heal and we will be able to sing again. We will be able to laugh and have fun and move forward serving our Lord in whatever capacity He sets before us.

If you are one of the unfortunate people moving through the tunnel of grief at this time, take courage. Jesus is right by your side. Pray to Him and ask Him to make you aware of His presence and to hold on to you as you move forward. Remember that each new day is a step toward the light, even though you may not be able to see it yet. Time is an important part of the healing process also. The days will turn into months and the months into years. Suddenly you will wake up one morning and be able to say to yourself, “life is good”. You will be able to smile again from the heart and know that you have finally reached the welcoming light at the end of the tunnel.

Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever (Psalm 30: 5, 11,12).

Gloria Dei!

by Christine