Friday, 26 October 2018

Our Dad (The Daughters' Eulogy)

By now, everyone in this room will be well aware that our Dad was a teacher. In light of this, we thought it fitting for us to recount some of the many lessons that we learned from our Dad over the years. 

Lesson #1: Exceed expectations. When my Dad was first diagnosed, we always talked about Dougler the Outlier. We knew that my Dad had the greatest chance at beating the odds because he didn’t fit into the mold. There are all those people that make up the average, and then there was my Dad, way out there, because he was so far from the norm. In almost everything that he did, he went above and beyond what was expected of him. He excelled at so many things because he tried to use his gifts to glorify God in all areas of his life.   

Lesson #2: Be generous with your time and talents. Our Dad was always so willing to help paint a home, shingle a house, or lay some sod. He was so good at these types of things and he was such a hard worker. He also helped to make these types of tasks so much fun. I spent a week painting the entire interior of my condo with my Dad and, despite the whole painting thing, I have such fond memories of that time. 

Lesson #3: Love your partner, love your kids and love your grandkids. Our Dad loved our Mom so much. He was her biggest fan, and that’s saying something, because she has a lot of fans. It was so incredible to see them together. They were such a united team. My Dad never spoke negatively about our Mom to us and vise versa. It was actually kind of annoying because we could never use them against each other. Our Dad also loved us, his kids, so unconditionally and so deeply. 

Lesson #4: Babes marry babes. This little nugget of wisdom came from my Dad on Sunday night while he was lying in the ER. His eyes were closed and he appeared to be sleeping but he overheard Leanne commenting about the beautiful colour of his eyes and telling my Mom that she married a babe. To that, my Dad murmured “Babes marry babes”. Seems reasonable.

Lesson #5: When you make a presentation, or any time you really need to get a point across, talk with your hands. 

Lesson #6: Be slow to speak and use your words cautiously. My Dad would typically hold off on offering his opinion or analysis on something until everyone else finished offering their opinion or analysis first. It always appeared as though he wouldn’t offer his opinion until he had a chance to hear and consider everyone else’s opinion and point of view. When he did offer his opinion, the opinion would always be so full of insight and wisdom. Everyone always says “think before you speak”, but this is something that my Dad truly did and it was so obvious

Lesson #7: Be thankful in all circumstances.  Throughout the past couple of years, my Dad thanked God for all of the blessings that God continued to put in our lives. My Dad had so many opportunities to be angry with God. The cancer, two surgeries, an inability to do the job that he was so gifted at – the beast was so much greater than the illness. But my Dad remained thankful throughout and his prayers were filled with praise and thanksgiving.

Lesson #8: If you say something somewhat plausible with a reasonable amount of conviction, there’s a good chance that others will believe you when you say it. To this day, I don’t know if half of the things my Dad told me were true or not. 

Lesson#9: If there’s a joke to make, make it. Don’t ever let the extreme corniness of the joke stop you and don’t be limited by what is apparently “appropriate”. 

Lesson #10: Don’t speak negatively about people.  When there are four females in your family, there is a lot of gossip and catty-talk going on. And my Dad never participated in that. He refused to join in on our gossip-sessions and he was a silent reminder that we should close our mouths and quit saying negative things about others.

Lesson #11: Always look for the best in people. When I was in High School, my Dad was the vice principal. In this capacity, he got to know quite a few of my classmates and in particular, the ones that I might describe as “troublemakers”. However, whenever these classmates came up, my Dad would always say something like “Oh so-and-so, he’s a super nice kid” or “he’s got a great sense of humour”. My Dad challenged me to see certain classmates as more than just “troublemakers” or “bad kids”. He made the effort to find the best in everyone and then chose to focus on the good instead of the bad. 

Lesson #12: Everything you have is from God. Through conversations and debates, my Dad taught me that everything I have is from God and should be used to glorify Him. I remember one time in particular when our family had a discussion about tithing. My Dad gently reminded me that God had given me the skills, gifts, and talents that allowed me to work and therefore all of my earnings were a direct result of God and through no work of my own.

Lesson #13: Don’t worry about what other people think. My Dad was so comfortable in his own skin. He didn’t worry about trying to impress others and he never apologized for who he was. At the same time, he was one of the most humble and gracious people I have ever known.  He had an easy and understated way of just being himself. Our friends remember coming to my parents’ house and seeing my Dad ironing clothes while watching TV or watching him brush Erin’s hair into a ponytail. While those things maybe aren’t so uncommon now, it was pretty uncommon to see a Dad doing those types of things around the house back then. Our Dad would put his best effort forth and didn’t care about the limits that others would put on him. 

Lesson #14: If in junior high, you regularly go to the high school gym to practice something called a “hook shoot”, you might go on to become the star of a college basketball team. Or a mediocre high school athlete as the case may be. But still. 

Lesson #15: In life, you may eventually find yourself on the shore of cold and dark waters. When this time comes, do not look for a way around the water. Instead, take off all of your clothes, stripping down until only your Costco gonch remain, and then hold your clothes high above your head and walk right through the water.  Meet your future sons-in-law, who simply walked around the cold and dark waters, on the other side.

Lesson #16: Death is nothing to fear. My Dad also taught us this on Sunday evening. He was so ready to meet his Maker. He spent so much of Sunday night murmuring “Time to go. Time to go. Time to go.” I think he may have been a little bit disappointed whenever he opened his eyes and saw seven of us staring back at him, instead of being greeted by God’s face. It got to the point that he prayed “Dear God, I know this is a bit pushy but I am ready.” Watching my Dad pass away was so hard but also so beautiful – it was comforting to see how ready he was for heaven and I couldn’t help but be excited for him to be healed and be in the presence of the Lord.

Lesson #17: Say yes. If someone asks you to go out for dinner or on a trip or for a hike, a bike ride or a game of golf, accept the invitation. My Dad was always game for anything and this resulted in him coming along on a lot of dates with Ben and me, or perhaps more accurately, on me going along on a lot of dates with Ben and my Dad. 

Lesson #18: The best way to embarrass your high-school aged child is to sing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” over the intercom system during morning announcements.

Lesson #19: Learn from others. Occasionally, our Sunday family dinners would get a bit heated. There was never a full-out brawl but we would be arguing back and forth across the table. My Dad was usually silent during these disagreements. Once, after a particularly divisive conversation between us girls, we left my parents’ house feeling a bit upset and angry. And then we got a text from my Dad. He told us that he loved that we could have these types of conversations as a family, and that it is so neat that we are all trying to learn from each other instead of trying to “win” the debate. I don’t think any of us were trying to “learn” that evening but my Dad was so good at reminding us about how we should be behaving instead of admonishing us outright.

Lesson #20: Live your life in such a way that, by the time you die, your girls can be ready for you to go, in the sense that you’ve taught them all of these lessons and more. At the same time, however, be so awesome that even though your girls may be ready for you to go, they can’t stand for you to go because they will miss you so, so, so much.

It’s impossible to sum up who my Dad was, or what he meant to us. He was truly an incredible man and the kind and heartfelt words that many of you have extended to us over the past week have reinforced this. He was by no means perfect. Just ask my Mom. He could never remember that the dishtowel was supposed to be folded in quarters and the hand towel was supposed to be folded in thirds. However, while not a perfect man, he was the perfect Dad for us. 

He was a wonderful reflection of God’s light. He was fun, he was wise, he was insightful, he was kind, he was steady, he was dependable, he was loving, he was good. He filled our lives with all of these things and, through the lessons that he taught us, he will continue to spread his light. 

So what a life to celebrate! Thank you so much for joining us here today to celebrate our Dad. Thank you also for all of your kind words, thoughtful prayers and big hugs. We so appreciate your support. We love him so much and we want to thank every single person here today for loving him, too.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Doug Monsma

Monsma, Douglas Kurt
March 2, 1961 - October 2, 2018

On Tuesday, October 2, 2018, Doug went home to his heavenly Father. 

He will be so deeply missed and lovingly remembered by his wife, Loretta (Prins), and his children: Tara and Derek Boonstra (Kase and Arie); Leanne Monsma and Ben Lindemulder; and Erin and Matthew Hollingsworth (Henrietta). 

Doug will also be remembered by his father, Bud (Claudia) Monsma; his mother, Rita Vandenberg; his brother, Greg (Joy) Monsma; his sister, Gayle Monsma; his in-laws: Corinne (Joe) Baier;  Wayne (Leah) Prins;  Joan (Jason) VanDoesburg; Darrell Prins; Arlene (Randy) Kuzyk; Philip (Ingrid) Prins; Charles Prins; and Catharine (Mike) Rozendaal; numerous nieces, nephews and other family members; and friends. 

Doug loved Jesus and reflected God’s unrelenting love on all those around him. He was wise, humble, kind, and witty. Doug’s desire in life was to help others develop a sincere and meaningful relationship with God and he did great work furthering God’s kingdom on earth.  

A visitation will be held at the family home on Friday, October 5, 2018 from 6:30 to 8:30 in the evening. 

A memorial service to celebrate Doug’s life will be held on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 1:00 in the afternoon at West End Christian Reformed Church (10015 149 Street). 

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Edmonton Society for Christian Education.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

September Update

It has been quite awhile since the last update and we have had a number of people asking about how my Dad is doing, so we thought it was about time to share how the last month or so has been.  Since my parents returned from Mexico in July, things have been getting more difficult. Both of my parents are emotionally exhausted from this battle against the beast. My Dad has had less energy, more headaches, and he has been more forgetful.  So when we met with the oncologist at the beginning of September to review an MRI that was done at the end of August, I think we were all more worried than usual about the results. The MRI showed that the tumour had grown slightly but overall, it was a very minimal change again.  That was amazing news that we were so excited to hear. But since that time, things have continued to get worse. My Dad doesn’t have much of an appetite so getting food into him has been challenging. He has significantly less energy and spends a lot of time resting and napping. It has been so hard for us to watch his body struggle to fight the cancer and to see the way that the swelling in his brain is affecting him.  We have been trying everything we can think of to help him conquer the beast and we don’t know where to go from here. We have always known that beating the beast was going to take a miracle, so we continue to beg God for a miracle as this war against the cancer is getting more difficult each day. We don’t know what is causing these drastic changes we’ve been seeing, so we are trying to get another MRI scheduled for as soon as possible.

We ask that you continue to pray for a miracle - that God takes the cancer away and allows my Dad’s brain to bounce back.

We also ask that you pray for peace as we make some decisions about what treatments to continue with and which treatments to stop.

And I ask that you pray for my Dad and my Mom, that they would feel God’s presence and comfort and guidance as they navigate through this battle.

- Tara

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Mexico Update - Trip 2

We have been home now for about two weeks and again the trip beat us both up, but Loretta far worse than me.  The treatments did a bit of a number on me and we are finally recovering.

The Oasis doctors were super excited and amazed by the latest MRI.  We got hugs and handshakes! We even got an “amazing” from the head doctor!  And now we begin to prepare for a return trip in September!

I have been on a brief reprieve from chemo for the first time in 6 months and also free from the daily pill regiment of 60 pills - it has been a pleasant time but the pills start soon.  I was reminded by my Edmonton oncologist that my support team, headed up by Loretta, is one in a thousand. I have heard this from many in the treatment medical world. Please pray for Loretta and the kids daily for strength and patience as I say and do lots of dumbass things!

We have a few weeks now before the next MRI, which we pray will be as positive as the last image which showed that tumour growth was very minimal (just 2 nose hairs of change - see the last blog for a great picture).  We hope to spend a bit more time at the cabin now that Mexico is done, as Loretta really needs some “chill-time” - her tax season was a beast and post-Mexico has been a beast as well. Now we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a slightly overdue grandkid and a return to better health and attitude.

Next up is the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.  We have a small team of riders again. Please pray for safety for the riders.  If you are interested in making a donation, you can click here to be directed to our team, Doug’s Storm.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

June 28 Update

He leads me by still waters. At our weekly prayer meeting on Monday night, my sister-in-law Catharine shared her morning devotion with us. She reminded us to stay focused on Jesus, especially because we had our MRI meeting the next afternoon.

I had been feeling quite poorly, with regular headaches, for about 2 weeks. We were quite worried that tumour growth was the likely cause of these things. I expected that this worry would lead us to a night of high anxiety and an evening of poor sleep. We prayed that Christ would knock back the fear that is the work of Satan and instead bring hope and trust. He calmed the water for the evening and the next day and walked closely with us until our MRI meeting check-in at 2:00.

“STAY CALMLY conscious of Me today, no matter what. Remember that I go before you as well as with you into the day. Nothing takes Me by surprise. I will not let circumstances overwhelm you, so long as you look to Me. I will help you cope with whatever the moment presents. Collaborating with Me brings blessings that far outweigh all your troubles.  Awareness of My presence contains Joy that can endure all eventualities.”

Psalm 23:1-4:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-17:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving of us an eternal glory that far outweighs all.”

We lived Psalm 23 on Tuesday - what a gift. While we feel like we are living in the valley of death, or at least can see it from where we are, we did feel green pastures and still water on MRI day.  Thank you, Jesus, for your fulfilled promises.

It had been almost 7 weeks since the previous MRI. This is nearly twice the usual amount of time between MRIs, and also twice the usual amount of time for the beast to be growing. By now, we’ve had enough meetings with the oncologist, Dr. Easaw, to be able to read him when he comes into the room. All four of us sensed good news on Tuesday. Dr. Easaw reported very minimal change of about just 1-2 mm. So how much is that? About 3 of my nose hairs!  Check it out the next time you see me - not very big at all.

“Europeans consider hair with a diameter of 0.04 to 0.06 mm as thin, hair with a diameter between 0.06 and 0.08 mm as normal, and hair with a diameter between 0.08 and 0.1 mm as thick. By comparison with European hair, Asian hair is significantly thicker. The average diameter of Asian hair is 0.08 to 0.12 mm.”
Dr. Easaw is very pleased, as he says that is such a minimal change at the MRI level. We are full speed ahead with existing treatments, as they seem to be working very well. He suggested to stay the course as there is nothing to worry about - hard for me to feel that way with the beast in my brain - but I should trust him as he is the expert. He said from his point of view the cancer is controlled. Very promising news! So we now are free to begin planning our Mexico vacation Part 2. Please pray that our plans for this may fall into place quickly, likely for mid-July.

Thanks again for your ongoing prayer and care.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Heaven's Ninjas

We met with Dr. Easaw, our main oncologist, last week Thursday morning. He relayed that the radiologist said there was a “minimal change” in the MRI from the March scan.  So he was pleased, although no change is still what we long for and pray for. But he is very happy with how “remarkably well” the brain is healing and that there are few side effects. Dr. Easaw had sent the scans to the surgeon, Dr. Mehta, to see what his opinion was. Dr. Easaw thought that surgery was unlikely but a change of chemo was possible. We met with Dr. Mehta yesterday morning and he agreed that the change is minimal so we are officially out of the surgery lane and going to try a switch up with the chemo!
Prayer requests:
  • That our planning around Mexico Part 2 becomes clear to us and that planning all those details works out!
  • The extended Monsma family from the Edmonton area is participating in the Edmonton Brain Tumour Walk on May 26.  If you would like to support us (or better yet, join us!), click on the link below and put your dollars on Heaven's Ninjas. Thanks!

Friday, 27 April 2018

Hope Springs Eternal Every Spring - Right?

Spring feels different this year.  Loretta described it as feeling tainted.  As I ran errands today, I noticed a lot of folks out and about in shorts.  Wearing shorts is still a real danger for me and the folks in my general vicinity as the waist sizes for most of my shorts haven't been upgraded yet to reflect my loss of 25 pounds.  What could go wrong you might ask? While washing a car a few weeks ago, my pants slowly began to slide down my butt. Then they proceeded to do a super slow slide down my legs, before finally stopping at my knees.  If you shake your head vigorously you might knock that nasty image out! Thankfully there were only about 5 other washbays occupied at the time, but I still did get one slightly sarcastic whistle. This was all still a tad embarrassing, especially with my now scrawny legs and bony butt. At least I was wearing my new superhero undies!
An hour long church service now officially requires a pillow for my aforementioned bony butt!  My old butt used to take about 5 minutes to follow me around a corner. Plus it provided the added security of my pants staying up at my waist while doing physical activities.  I’m now fearful of walking down the aisle at church and having my new superhero undies suddenly exposed like at the car wash!

The beast continues to be a fearsome opponent and taxes our reserves, which are drawing lower and lower daily (I needed at least one tax season pun, especially for Loretta as she also fights the tax season beast with its deadlines and 70 hour work weeks, all the while trying to find a way to co-exist with her suddenly more eccentric spouse. Although I will point out that the possibility of a brief superhero undie sighting is certainly a fringe benefit!)

While we have been back from our Mexico treatment trip for weeks, we are still trying to fully recover from the treatment onslaught and food poisoning that we picked up on the way back. My ongoing daily treatment regimen is also rigorous, involving up to 60 nutriceuticals each day. Add this to the ongoing chemo, and this spring does certainly feel tainted and a bit bleak.  It is also now time for us to imagine our next round in Mexico, perhaps in early June.

We are also gearing up for our next round of hide and seek with the cancer with another MRI this week, and results next week. We will pray that the results deliver the answer to our prayers for a complete healing miracle - surprise, no more tumor. Go ninjas!

Prayer requests for the week ahead:
  • That the time between the MRI and the results meeting will pass quickly and peacefully.
  • That the Mexico treatments flourish - go ninjas again!
  • That our plans for a couple of small spring getaways for the two of us come together nicely. Some time away from the intensity of daily life, which is exhausting, would be a real gift for both both of us, but especially Loretta.

We are blessed on a daily basis to celebrate  and laugh along with the hijinks of our grandsons and the light-hearted nature of their parents, which is such a blessing to the kids and our family.