Update: January 4, 2016

Posted on: January 4th, 2016 by Christy Jansma

Dear Church,

On the brink of a new year and looking out to the horizon I have to wonder what the year ahead may hold. Our “year of tears” began last January when Connie stumbled on the basement steps. The resultant hairline fracture was the start of our challenges, and the rest is history. Recognizing that we live under the umbrella of God’s grace and mercy we choose to trust him day by day, not knowing what we may face next week. We have our dreams and plans, but they can change in a moment.

Our Christmas was a time of profound joy awash with tears, as this appeared to be Connie’s last one with us. Some of you know the details, but much has happened since my last update 3 weeks ago –
Dec 15 – Conscious of Connie’s weakening condition, I drove her to the hospital lab for a blood test. As I helped her into the lab, I was very aware of the three remaining appointments in the week and they seemed daunting.
Dec 16 – Unable to walk and needing a wheelchair to get to the oncology appointment, I knew she had reached a new low. Seeing her condition the oncologist had little choice but to postpone the immunotherapy scheduled for the next day.
Dec 23 – After conducting a blood test at home the oncologist offered a blood transfusion to boost her hemoglobin. He intended that the transfusion would provide added energy for our family Christmas.
Dec 24 – The ambulance arrived at 7 AM to transfer Connie to the hospital for the blood transfusion. While taking the transfusion her palliative doctor stopped by for the appointment we had missed the previous week. In her opinion Connie’s life expectancy is now measured in weeks, not months. It could be 2 weeks or 6 or 10. Again the precious words of Psalm 139:12 came to mind – “All the days (you) ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Following our services at church I came home to join the family in our traditional Christmas Eve of feasting. Our girls stepped into the gap admirably to continue the tradition, except that this year we had no guests beyond family. After the children were in bed our five kids came over to be with Connie and me, where we shared the day’s news. While it was not a shock to any of us, hearing the timeline was arresting. We wept together as the new reality swept over us and we concluded an emotional evening gathered around Connie’s bed in prayer. Christmas Day was also emotional as the whole family gathered, including our grandchildren. It was a followup from the previous evening, along with gift opening for the little ones. Their parents agreed not to sugar coat the truth of life and death in this broken world.

In my “message” to our family I assured them that we will get past this looming loss, and that life will at some point come to a new normal. However, a huge hole will exist in our family. I don’t know how to do “cousin camp” without Connie. My future alone seems bleak. I believe there are more chapters to be written in our family story, but they will be very different. What we’ve known and enjoyed can never be repeated, and that saddens us. Yes we are grieving, but not for Connie. We grief for ourselves and the anticipated absence of a wife, a mom and a grandma. How I wish I could trade places with Connie. It’s the maternal influence that forms the heart of any family. It seemed fitting to remind the family that each of us are coming right behind her as we head towards a forever eternity. Any one of us could be the next.

While Connie is disappointed to be leaving us so soon, she remains strong in faith and confident in Christ. Although we both shed many tears, I’m grateful she’s not afraid or angry or depressed. Her strength of spirit and emotional resolve makes it just a little easier to deal with this tragedy. I can’t imagine what it’s like for those who face such tragedies without Christ, or with a loved one who resists embracing their mortality. During these days Connie has held numerous sacred conversations with family and with friends.

We’ve tried to be candid (not sensational) with you through this journey. What began in April as a quick informational email, has become a kind of teaching platform. We don’t want to be seen as superstars, but rather to honestly live out our faith with you in community. Many of you have expressed the value you find in these “updates”. You can pray more intentionally when aware of our circumstances. I recall the teaching series on 1 Peter one year ago – “Shaped by Suffering”. In one message I encouraged you, when you find yourself facing death, to be courageous enough to admit it in open conversation with your pastor. At that time I had no idea that we would be living this out with you.

We called again for the elders to come and pray over us, as Connie did last April. They came yesterday and ministered deeply to both of us. We were reminded again of the rich spiritual heritage we share with our church family. Here are the specific requests we asked them to pray for, and so invite you too:
– That Connie will remain at peace and confident in faith to the end
– That she can fulfill the Holy Spirit’s assignments in her time remaining
– That she will experience a quiet and peaceful death at home
– That I, and our children, can face the future with courage
– That you, our faith community, would grow and and be changed through our journey
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6).

Grateful for your journeying with us,
Ian (on behalf of Connie)

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