Gloria’s day of gain has come.
August 23, 1976 – August 21, 2012.
Several folks have told me that they were not able to get through the CaringBridge website in order to read the article that Gloria’s husband Chad wrote. This was the “very genuine, truth-filled, forward-thinking, upward-focused, sacrificial, beautiful essay of [Chad’s] love for Gloria on August 19, 2012” which I referred to in my last post.
So, I cut and paste word-for-word Chad’s journal update here. I have not asked for formal permission to post this, but considering his update was meant for the public, I am safely assuming this is O.K.
Please note: The post may look long, but it is SO worth your read. Worth it in a way that you’ll want to read this one over and over again when things in life don’t make sense, don’t go your way, or are just plain crappy.
My Love for Glo
Written Aug 19, 2012 10:51pm by Chad Pirotte
I have a phone widget that displays a daily Bible verse on my home screen. I kid you not, today’s verse was Philippians 1:21. For those not familiar with Philippians 1:21, it says this: “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Just two verses later, Paul says this: “my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better [than staying on this earth].” Why is it then, if this is true, that so many Christians think that it would serve God better if Gloria lived? Furthermore, why, if God chooses not to heal Glo, is He somehow silent? We will leave those questions to linger for the moment.
Today was a long day. This week has been a long day. Hell, this year has been one long day. Let me begin by sharing with you what happened on Thursday. On Thursday, Glo’s immediate family and I had a conference with a team of doctors; in that meeting they informed us that they have exhausted their resources in trying to help Gloria, and at this point she is not able to be helped medically. Her lungs are too severely damaged, and she is simply not healthy enough to enter into surgery of any kind (i.e. lung transplant). Those were hard words for all of us to hear, but they were true. There is nothing that humanity can do to save Glo, it is out of their hands..now it is in God’s hands. In leaving us to talk about the future options, there was some tension (to put it mildly) with how to proceed. In skipping a lot of details regarding what went on, let me tell you where everything now stands as of today.
Barring a miracle, Gloria will be glorifying God in His very presence by this Thursday. Why Thursday? Well, that date was chosen because it is her birthday, and there is nothing that could be a better gift for her at this stage than to give her the chance to see God for the first time on her birthday. However, due to Glo’s lung condition, as well as her kidney condition, there is a good chance that she will not make it to Thursday. Ever since we have been married (thanks to Gloria), we have instituted a birthday “week” rather than a birthday “day,” whereas the whole week is one continuous celebration. Sounds fun doesn’t it? It is! So…if my beloved wife passes tomorrow, or Tuesday, or anytime before Thursday, then I hope she will know that one day sooner is just a great beginning to her birthday week which will last an eternity.
I know what some people are thinking, how can I treat such a morbid and devastating event so lightly? Well, it’s because I believe. I believe that Christ incarnated himself, died on the cross, and rose from the dead to redeem his people. In short, its because both Glo and myself believe the radically powerful Bible verse that popped up on my phone today: “To die is gain.”
Revelation 21:4 says “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Glo has experienced a lot of tears and pain from this past year. Believe me when I say this, no one knows the pain she has endured better than me. It has been a long, hard, year of suffering, and I have been there alongside her every step of the way. This week, all that pain will finally come to an end. Happy birthday Lover!
One of the challenges that I have faced recently, on top of the obvious, is that my love for Gloria was questioned twice this week (by two different people, of whose names I shall not mention). Both times, they essentially said, you do not love Gloria like Christ loved the Church? And my response was a resounding “yes I do!” This decision has not been an easy one, but the motive that has guided has been an easy one for me. You see, in making this decision, I wasn’t thinking about my own selfish desires, or what’s best for my children, or what’s best for others who will mourn her loss and her ministry. I’m not going to selfishly hold on to her with no goal in mind, only to let her suffer even longer on this earth, simply because I can’t let go. As her husband, one who loves her deeply, as-Christ-loved-the-church deep, I’m thinking about what’s best for Gloria. I’m looking out for her desires, I’m respecting her wishes, and I’m giving her what she has wanted for a long long time: to be worshiping the Lord in heaven.
Going back to the initial questions that were asked in the first paragraph. The reason that so many people are bothered by God when He doesn’t heal or respond the way we want him to respond is because many people don’t truly understand God. I have found that we put more hope in life on this earth than the life to come, which, ironically, is exactly what Jesus was preaching against in so many ways. As for me, I will not succumb to this utterly shitty theology, because that is exactly what it is, shitty theology (yes, I said it again). Its a theology that destroys true faith and maligns the word of God in both subtle and not so subtle ways.
So, what is good theology, then? This is: No matter what happens, I will love God with all of my heart, mind and soul. Whether Gloria is healed from her lung disease so that she can die later (that’s kind of twisted too), or whether she dies tomorrow, I will worship God. Why? Because no matter what, God will still be God, which means his righteousness and holiness and love and grace and sovereignty will still be worthy of my all-out adoration. Which God do you worship?
During these assumed final days for Gloria, her family and I would gladly welcome visitors, but please be sensitive to the family member’s time if we are at the hospital while you are there. This doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyway, Thursday is for family only.
Finally, please stay tuned for future updates regarding Gloria’s imminent funeral. It will, in all likelihood, be either this weekend or next.
One of my close college friends will die this week.
Gloria is 35. She has two daughters ages three-years-old and several-months. And her 36th birthday is this Thursday, the day she is scheduled to die from the progressive fibrosis of her lungs, if she makes it that long.
Her lungs and body condition are too damaged for her to undergo any kind of surgery, including lung transplant. Doctors have exhausted all resources and there is nothing more that can be done medically.
Her husband Chad wrote a summary of her health status and a very genuine, truth-filled, forward-thinking, upward-focused, sacrificial, beautiful essay of his love for Gloria on August 19, 2012 on their CaringBridge site.
You can choose not to read my entire post, but I encourage you to read his.
Although I do dread the pain leading up to death, I do not fear death itself only because of God’s message of grace and peace with Him through the person and work of Jesus. However, I have always had difficulty dealing with death because it is a rite of passage that I don’t always know how to rightly honor and celebrate and grieve all at the same time. I tear up recalling memories of the deceased person or when I see surviving family members mourn their own loss. I weep while using my hands to cover up my ugly, twisty-cry-face and occasional hanging booger. And then I get numb and robotic. And I NEVER know what to say; I have often put my foot in my mouth. I pray with no words, if that can be done, and I just thank God that the Holy Spirit can groan on my behalf.
Recently, with Gloria dying, with other friend’s children dying, with other friends’ and family members’ coming close enough to death, and with prolonged illnesses of others, I have been re-intrigued by the phrase, “‘Til death do us part.”
There is somehow BEAUTY in that wedding promise, isn’t there?
I had written an earlier post about the possibility of encountering beauty in cancer. Now WHY should we encounter beauty in DEATH? “‘Til death do us part.” What a morbid topic during one of the happiest, most celebratory, giddy days of many people’s lives!
Yet, there is ironically loveliness in the subject of eventual deceasing here. Perhaps because that portion of the marriage promise reflects something chivalrous, courageous, profound, and superhuman. Something sacred. Something surreal …almost untouchable …undoable. After all, at a wedding one is NOT making a covenant to their own happiness or even a promise to fulfill the happiness of the other. No! It is an oath to be faithful DESPITE the faithfulness of the other person; to love DESPITE the lovability of the other; to respect DESPITE the other’s respectability …’TIL DEATH. Wow. Who can do this perfectly in their own power?
So that vow is also tender, soft, and humble. It is an admission of weakness and dependency; a concession that no matter how heart-felt and sincere our devotion to the other person that it will only be by God’s grace that any marriage promise can be kept …’til death. And it is a public acknowledgement that two different lives that have begun as one will eventually part.
Yes, in death, lives will part.
But in death, lives will not end.
Death is only a physical “part.” A de-part-ure.
Yet, parting is not always loss.
It can be GAIN.
If I believe in who God says He is (and not who I think or imagine he is), then I can’t wait to be WITH Him. And in that sense, I can begin to understand how “to die is gain.” I will be with HIM face-to-face! That sounds like a gain to me!!! It’s the difference between a long-distance relationship vs. living together!
I just know I won’t be patting myself on the back for how good I was to get there but rather standing in awe and worship because of God’s faithfulness and love for me DESPITE my faithlessness, DESPITE my lovelessness, & DESPITE my disrespectability. I will be with Him! Loved not judged. Because the judge-part was already taken care of on the gruesome Cross! Debt paid! Counted as FREE and FORGIVEN and made incredibly and unexpectedly His child! I’ll be with him through nothing but the blood of Jesus. Through God’s unconditional love then, I can begin to see how earthly marriage is only but profoundly a hazy reflection of what is to come when the Bible talks about Christ the God-Man-King coming for his Bride the Church. Isn’t being with Someone like this totally GAIN??!!
Gloria will be gaining soon.
…Yes, departing from her dear husband Chad, departing from her sweet daughters Kelissa & Karinna, and departing from so many others that love her and whom she has influenced. But gaining face-to-face hug-time with God Himself.
She will be living a life that continues in full. When she passes through death into eternal life, there will be no more tears and no more pain and no more crying. No more gruesomeness of sin and illness and deception and heart-ache. God will make beauty from ashes.
And on that side of death, where death is no more, Gloria will never again have to say “’til death do us part.”
Some of you may know of Brennan’s two recent surgeries on June 5th & 19th to remove a thyroglossal duct cyst from his throat (same surgery unfortunately twice). And I am writing here to send an update on how he’s doing along with some pictures & video. Details below…
However, I write this post with a combination of timidity, soberness, and heartbreak as I know of several families whose children have been through painful chemotherapy, have had unsuccessful bone marrow transplants, and/or are in extremely critical care and may not survive the week. I can only imagine the great anguish their parents must be feeling either to wonder what would be the next steps to physically cure their child when you believe you’ve tried everything… or to let go of their child’s life on this side of heaven.
Oh GOD, have MERCY on these children and their families. Give them comfort and peace; please give them eyes to see You; and through this suffering, sorrow, and refinement, please grant them the best gift of knowing You more.
Brennan’s situation is NO WHERE NEAR critical.
I do not have life or death news to share or decisions to make.
He is not suffering.
Nor are we.
But I had still asked for prayer earlier from a smaller audience of family & friends… for safety, wisdom, healing, managing family logistics, gratefulness, etc. around Brennan’s surgery and recovery.
But oh boy… In light of others’ heart-wrenching circumstances, I feel silly perhaps to ask for prayer re: a tiny, non-cancerous cyst in the neck. But I believe that God in His goodness, greatness, and reign cares for the major and the minute, the remarkable and the unremarkable, the momentous and the mundane. And so I suppose if God says He cares, I should believe it rather than compare and wonder.
So, here is the latest news on Brennan …interview style so you can skip to the question(s) you would like answered.
Q: Can you tell me how this all started?
About a year or so ago, we noticed Brennan had a little “Adam’s apple.”
But through the recent attention of an alarmed preschool teacher and through confirmation from a long-distance pediatric doctor-friend, we realized Brennan’s “adam’s apple” (which was pink, tender, and enlarged after a cold/fever in April 2012) needed to be seen by a pediatric ENT.
Diagnosis: Thyroglossal Duct Cyst
Q: What is a thyroglossal duct cyst?
As a fetus, did you know your thyroid starts at the base of your tongue?! Well, as you grow, your thyroid descends taking a path right down the middle of your neck through your tongue, hyoid bone and neck muscles until it reaches its final destination. That “path,” or “tract” as is it often called, is the thyroglossal duct which usually atrophies and closes off before you’re even born. But if the tract does NOT disappear, then it remains as an open connection between your tongue and thyroid gland. If the duct fills with fluid, it becomes a fibrous cyst that looks kind of like an adam’s apple.
Q: So what did they find during the 1st surgery?
The 1st surgery could have been simple (30 minutes & outpatient recovery) or more complex (up to 4 hours with admission to the hospital for recovery). The surgery turned out to be more complex (3-4 hours) and required a longer hospital stay than anticipated (3 days/2 nights). They found lots of inflammation and fibroids during the surgery.
Q: How was Brennan feeling after the 1st surgery?
He was groggy and out of it the 1st day coming out of full anesthesia, but he took 1 Tylenol and didn’t need another the rest of the time. For both surgeries, in fact, he had no pain whatsoever and was very quickly back to his normal, happy, active, excited self. He was also such a trooper for not having eaten ANY breakfast or lunch (including water) on both surgery days. He was not whiny at all! (Hmmmm… perhaps I should starve him more often).
Q: Why the long hospital stay?
Brennan’s neck would not stop draining fluid. Typically, it stops after a day. They finally discharged us from the hospital and let us monitor him at home because he was STILL draining fluid after 3 days.
Q: Why did he have to go back for a 2nd surgery?
After the 1st surgery, he wore gauze tightly taped around his neck which was newly dressed every 12 hours for about 10 days. (Yes, it continued to drain for that long!) The pediatric ENT doc then decided to take him off the dressing and just let his neck “air out” for a few days despite continued drainage.
After 3 days of “open air,” however, we confirmed recovery was not typical. We found stringy pus and further signs of infection. We got a CAT scan done to confirm that surgery did not accidentally create an opening into the oral cavity (i.e. draining saliva) which it did not.
Doc said Brennan would have to go into surgery AGAIN to clean out the infection and find the source of the ongoing drainage.
Q: How were you as parents feeling?
This was NOT a life or death type of surgery, and Brennan was not experiencing any felt pain.
But he was and is still (in our hearts) our little 5-year-old boy.
Two surgeries in a month is not what we would wish for him, but we gratefully take from God what He chooses to give.
Q: How was the 2nd surgery?
It was 3 hours. And surgeons did not communicate any updates to us during that time. I had wondered if something was going awry in there. I did have a brief moment of dread imagining that something unexpected happened and that Brennan would not come out alive. But it turns out they were intentionally just being very careful & thorough.
+ They did a laryngoscopy to ensure that no auxiliary tracts were attached to the larynx. (none).
+ They took cultures of the fluid and pus to have the Infectious Disease Dept. look at them. (no organisms or infectious disease found).
+ Doc also did some further dissection to remove any other “irregular-looking” tissues.
+ Although they did the initial surgery correctly and confirmed there were no complications from it, the source of the fluid building-up/draining from his neck was still unknown.
+ Docs said if drainage continues as it did before, they MAY have to go in a 3rd time (!!!!!!) with a different surgeon for a fresh pair of eyes.
Brennan ended up staying 4 days/3 nights is in the hospital.
Q: How is Brennan now and what are your next steps?
Brennan is doing absolutely fine in regards to pain-level and him being his happy, active self.
But he is still draining about 1-2 teaspoons of fluid daily from that small hole in his neck, although it appears to slightly lessen each day. There is also no sign of infection. So, although they STILL don’t know WHY or from WHERE he is continuing to leak, his neck will still be dressed in gauze and tape until drainage either stops or “walls off.” Then, next steps can be determined. They said the drainage could potentially go on for 6 weeks or so. And we hope NOT for a 3rd surgery!!
Q: How did you handle family logistics?
1st surgery: Sangjin’s mom (who lives 1 hour away) amazingly and self-sacrificingly stayed with Brennan in the hospital most of the entire time. Sangjin had to work, and I was mainly with the other 3 kids, but we had some wonderful childcare help and were able to coordinate and tag-team visiting him in his hospital room.
2nd surgery: Sangjin’s work colleagues unexpectedly and very generously teamed up together to cover his work (clinics, procedures, meetings, etc.) for the ENTIRE week from the day of the Tuesday surgery so that he could be with Brennan almost 24/7.
Q: Do you have any FUN STORIES to share?
(1) Brennan leaping to go to the hospital.
30 minutes before we had to leave home, we asked Brennan what he wanted to pack into his hospital bag.
He excitedly packed all his things and activities and quickly put on his shoes.
Me: “Hey, Brennan. We’ve got about 30 minutes before we need to leave. You don’t have to put on your shoes yet.”
Brennan: “NO, I want to go now! Let’s hurry up! I want to sit in the car and wait.” (eager happy face)
Me: “Why?” (smiling with furrowed eyebrows)
Brennan: “Because I want them to hurry up and fix my neck!”
(So, he ended up, by choice, sitting in the car waiting for 30 minutes! (with all doors wide open in this hot weather)).
(2) Humor in the Operating Room
I had the honor this time of going with Brennan to the O.R. briefly as they “put him down.”
Nurse: “Brennan, would you please wiggle on over to the other bed?” (from gurney to operating table)
Brennan: “You mean like this?” (he then starts to wiggle his hindquarters like a fish out of water and makes all the staff laugh).
Brennan: “Hey, what’s this?” (pointing to a donut-shaped foam)
Nurse: “That’s the pillow you’re going to lay on.”
Brennan: “Neat-o!” (as he happily lays on the operating table donut-pillow and pulls his gauzy blue hair-piece over his face).
Brennan: “OOoooo… Are those cameras?!!” (pointing up to the humongous disc-shaped lights overhead)
“Are you going to take a picture of me???” (in a cheery, sing-songy voice)
Q: What was one of the first things Brennan did when he got home?
Both times he chose to play basketball down in the basement and then ride his bike up and down the driveway. After the 2nd surgery, he and his brothers had a little water fun with dad spraying the garden hose at their feet on the driveway. OH, and we went to Benihana’s for dinner the next day to celebrate Brennan’s safe return.
And here are some pictures from his time before, during, and after his surgeries.
Enjoying smoothies with his brothers the night before the 1st surgery.
Before stepping in to the Operating Room
Listening to his heartbeat with a nurse
At the Fish Tank.
Up and Down the Hospital Escalators
Our little Numbers Guy has to get some math in each day, by his own choice.
Brennan visiting dad’s office. (Notice how the faux-hawk top of his hair (formed by his double cowlick) matches the mountains in the background).
With mom at the hospital.
With mom at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation’s front entrance/fountain.
Biking up and down the driveway.
At Benihana’s to celebrate!
Our Brennan’s (5yo) recent quotes…
(1) Setting: After not liking a healthy quinoa side-dish I made for dinner, he gave his dad his leftovers.
BR: “Apa [dad], eat it all, ok? It’s good for you.”
(2) Setting: After helping to put the offering envelope in the basket at church.
BR: (talking loudly) “Uma [mom], where does it go?!”
ME: (whispering a quick answer and promising myself to talk more about this with him later) “It goes back to God.”
BR (almost screaming with excitement and fluttering his fingers towards the sky): “Does it fly up to heaven??!!”
Our Benjamin’s (3yo) recent quotes…
(1) Setting: On a fairly cold, chilly day.
BJ: “Uma [mom], take off your socks and your shoes. And you will turn into a penguin!”
(2) Setting: Upon looking at a crescent moon.
BJ: “HEY! That looks like a SANDWICH!”
ME: “A sandwich?”
BJ: “YEAH! Like a sandwich!” (as he holds an imaginary sandwich in his hand, bites into it, and holds it up to compare to the crescent moon).
“Children may be one of the best recorders of history but they
tend to be the worst interpreters of history.” ~Chuck Lynch
Lord, help me.
Brennan (5yo): “Umma [Mom], you’re my best friend.”
Me (snuggling up with him on the couch, giving him a kiss on the forehead, and speaking literally eye-to-eye): “Awwwww… I think that’s the 1st time I’ve ever heard you say that about anyone, and it’s me? I want to be an even better friend to you, Brennan. I love you.”
Br: “Eeeeewwww. Umma, your breath smells.”