Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Dear, Beautiful Mama Bear | Post 18

"... the doors of welcome are wide open;
right now He is ready to welcome you.
Today He is ready to save you."
2 corinthians 6:2
"I'm standing on the seashore.  A ship at my side spread her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.  She's an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her until the sea and the sky come down to mingle with each other.  And then I hear someone at my side saying, 'There, she's gone.' Gone where? Gone my my sight, that is all.  See, just at the moment when someone at my side says, 'There, she's gone' there are other eyes watching her coming… and there are other voices taking up a glad shout, 'Look! Here she comes!'" henry van dyke

This morning we were holding her hand, singing, like we have been for most of the past couple of days.  The chorus began:

"And I will rise when He calls my name 
No more sorrow, no more pain 

I will rise on eagles' wings 
Before my God fall on my knees 
And riiiiise, I will rise"

Somewhere between those few lines He called her name.  She rose up and took her first breaths of heaven's air, in a beautiful new body.  I'm not sure how formal heaven's entry gates are, but I'm vividly imagining a welcome like the one in Luke 15.  A jumping, leaping, running Father meeting His child on the road.  Tears of joy!  Bear hugs!  Triumph!  Together, at home, forever and ever and even more.  We miss her.  We'll always miss her here.  But thank goodness even the missing will come to an end.  

The memorial will be this Saturday in Gaithersburg.  More details to come once arrangements are finalized.  Thank you, beloved people.  You have carried us through.  We are desperate for more of those life-giving prayers.  

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen!"

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mama Bear | Update 17

"You saw me before I was born 
and scheduled each day of my life 
before I began to breathe."
psalm 139:16
Sadly, these words I'm figuring out how to write down this very second have 'arrived' -- too too soon in my opinion.  Last night Mama Bear seemed to change in her demeanor, comfort and breathing ability.  This afternoon another "level" was taken.  She is peacefully sleeping right now, and we've had excellent hospice care so we know how to make sure she stays as cozy and comfy as she is this very moment.  God is not a God of hospice guesses, but if hospice were to make a guess they've said "not days or weeks, but hours or days."

At this point we're asking that no visitors come by.  If you're dropping off a meal, please come in through the garage, leave the meal, and promptly head out.  If you feel strongly about wanting to visit, you can text me or my dad and we'll let you know if it's a good time.  If we don't answer, it's not a good time ;) Feel free to e-mail or text anything you'd like us to read to her.  We're singing, talking, and reading to her much of the day and night.  We'd love to read her love from friends.  

Our home is a sacred, weighty, alive place right now.  It's holy ground, filled with the tears of grown men and little children.  We're in the parking lot of heaven, preparing to drop off our dear mother.  We're able to see some of it's light from here.  We wish we could see it all.  We wish she wasn't going without us.  We wish that maybe this is a dream and we'll wake up to her making coffee in the kitchen. However, the rays from Home are warm sun to our hearts.  We're not ready to lose her, but we're ready for her to dance on the clouds, run to her mother who she has deeply missed for over a decade now, and join her voice in the triumphant choir to the Father King.  Thank you for every single word or thought of care for us.  Every single "Dear Jesus." Every single offer to help.  Every single communication.  Every drop of love.  We're swimming in a deep, beautiful sea.  And our mama is sailing to the shore.

“... in this universe we are treated as strangers, 
the longing to be acknowledged, 
to be met with some response,
 to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality...
and surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, 
becomes highly relevant to our deep desire.
For glory means good report with God, 
acceptance by God, response, acknowledgment, 
and welcome into the heart of things. 

The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.” 
cs lewis | the weight of glory

(Updates can be found at Mama Bear on facebook.)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Latest on Mama Bear | Update 16

"... what if your healing comes through tears?"
laura story
I write today with heavy news.  The weight of glory appears to be upon my beautiful mother's back.  We received the results of her PET scan last week, and sadly the state of her body is not well.  To put it as my mom did: "...the good news is! I don't have to do chemo any more!". No more chemo.  No more treatments.  No more doctor's offices.  No more scans.  Home hospice arrangements are being made.  Heaven is closer than ever.  We are preparing to say goodbye in the way-too-near future.  (Of course, as my mom also said, "I'm still not opposed to miraculous healing!").

Please pray for us.  A few things that immediately come to mind:
- Pray that mom will be comfortable and pain-free as she finishes her days
- Pray for memories, time together, laughter, sacred hours as a family
- Pray for the hearts and minds of her little ones, especially.  (Lauren is still in elementary school, and Shannon and Dude are in middle school.) They are being so brave.  
- Pray for dad.  Lots of decisions. Lots of long nights. Lots of load ahead.
- Pray that somehow, though he is only seven months old, Rowdy will have supernatural and vivid memory of his grandma.
- This may seem silly, and I know each deep, labored breath is already numbered, but as we begin to face and imagine life without mom physically in it, we are broken knowing she won't be present for dozens and hundreds, if not thousands of 'big deals' for us.  The varsity boy's championship game is a big deal for our family. Dad, Tim, Caleb and I coach and Kevin is the senior starting point guard.  Assuming they make it through the play-offs, would you mind praying that mom will be there for the Championship?  Pray that Kevin could run to her at the end of the game, one last time?  The game is on Saturday, March 1 -- 45 days away.
- Pray for strong, real, nearly-touchable peace.

“The God who looked on you with joy when you were small and racing across His gift of green grass on His gift of feet beneath His gift of sky watched by His gift of a mother with His gift of love in His gift of her eyes, is the same God who will look on you as that race finally ends, delighted in every way.

Life is a story. Why do we die? Because we live. Why do we live? Because our Maker opened His mouth and began to tell a story.”
N.D. Wilson (Death by Living)

I wasn't there for the beginning of her story.  It turns out I wasn't even a part of *most* of her story.  But I will be there when our Maker says "It is finished, Suzanne." And while it may feel like the last chapters of her book are being written, we know better.  We know Chapter 2 is titled "Earth," and Chapter 3 is "Welcome Home." (Chapter 1 is "The Artist's Imagination" -- the part where He casts the roles, predestines the characters, ordains their plot line.) We know this story has no 'The End.'. We're crying and moaning over here in Chapter Two.  But someday, in Chapter 433,782, we'll only talk about the Times of Tears, for they will be no more. Forever, and ever, and ever, and on.

Thank you for the continued love, the constant support, the precious prayers.  It's a bit of heaven-on-earth to be the recipient of rallying care. Thank you. (And in mama bear's honor, go snuggle any one you love even if you have lots to get done today.)

Ps. Those interested in specific ways to help can contact Tracy: 301.418.2518 |

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mama Bear | Update 15

"The Lord did not have a tough week last week."
Matt Chandler

Since my last post in May we've had some news in our household!  Mama Bear is officially a Grandma Bear!  After a long labor, our little guy was born on June 14 and he has been the joy of summer.  Every single member of the family is smitten with him and he can makes us laugh no matter how sad, teary, tired or blank we are.  He's the best little bundle of boy and we are delighted by him.
I do wish that Rowdy's birth was the only "medical/hospital" news to report.  Unfortunately we have an update about mom and it's not particularly pleasant.  She has been doing chemo for about nine months -- actually she has done four or five different chemos over the last nine months.  None have them have been working and her cancer seems to be growing (the biggest area of concern is the growth in her liver.)  Her lungs have also continued to fill with fluid and she's continuing to have them drained so she can take mostly-full, deep breaths and not be winded and coughing constantly.  The latest chemo was probably the hardest on her physically (and her hair fell out again :( no fun) and we were really optimistic that it would be having the most effect.  

Since it too wasn't working (big bummer) her doctor ordered to end that treatment and start a new kind, which was supposed to start this week.  However, she was feeling light-headed and not quite right so she asked her doctor about it.  They ordered a brain scan and she received the results yesterday: there are three spots of cancer in her brain.  They are halting all chemo to do immediate brain radiation. She'll do ten treatments over two weeks' time and hopefully the brain spots will be GONE and they can continue working different chemos to find something that will really zap that cancer and teach it a lesson.
 "Every fear has no place at the sound of Your great name. The enemy, he has to leave, at the sound of Your great name."  Please pray for her and for us.  Full disclosure?  I hate this.  I've told a few people that for the first time I can remember I don't "look forward" to the future.  I'm happily married to my very best friend, with the sweetest son and I see my family every day.  Finances are stable, I enjoy work, I physically feel great and I just like life so much right now.  I don't want anything to change.  I don't want mom to get more sick.  I don't want it to get harder.  I don't want think about it.  It's hard to call God "My Healer" when I know that healing is a promise, but it may not happen until heaven. "Quit pretending like you're not scared. Be honest. Walk in the light."  (Matt Chandler)  I think I speak accurately for us all: we are scared.  It'd be fair to say that this hit us hard.  In some ways it feels like watching a tornado funnel head your way.  It's been stormy, but what is coming?  How bad is it going to be?  Maybe it will all just stop and the sun will shine and we'll marvel at the miracle?  We know and believe good things, but we are also feeling sad things.  One of the best lessons Rowdy has taught me is the lesson of crying and yelling when you're upset.  It doesn't cross his mind "What will mom think if I respond the wrong way to my practical need or fleshly desire?  What if I don't approach her with patience?  What if I ask too angrily? Or ask too much of her?"  He calls, and I come.  There are no rules to calling for mama -- if he feels like he needs me, he cries for me.  It's so simple.  And I'm so happy to be the one to answer his struggle.  To feed and hold and refresh and clean and talk to him.
 So I'd say we're calling and maybe even crying and yelling (sometimes literally and sometimes mentally and inwardly) and we're asking for miracles and mercies and strength.  Though He slay us, we praise Him - and news like yesterday's stings with its lash but news like yesterday's has purpose and didn't catch God off guard.

 "All the weak; find their strength; at the sound of Your great name 
Hungry souls; receive grace; at the sound of Your great name 
Sick are healed; and the dead are raised; at the sound of Your great name."

ps.  People have asked if there is any way they can help -- meals, helping with laundry + carpools/rides are the most practical needs.  Don't feel like you have to do anything!  But as people have asked, we wanted to let you know :) Tracy Branchaw has been the go-to for meals + you can get in touch with me if you'd like any other information (kristen leigh photography at gmail)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Mama Bear | Update 14

"Let us lift up endless praises,
Let us sing Him endless song."
It's been about 15 months since we discovered and announced that Mama Bear's breast cancer had returned.  The past year-and-then-some I've slacked a bit on updating this blog.

But here the scoop:

We found out at the end of the summer that her cancer appeared to be gone (at least her cancer number had gone from 54 to somewhere between 0 and 5.  Truly a miracle! And better than the doctors were expecting!)

Her chemo was done and they set to work on the condition of her lungs.  The surgery and recovery for that, in early fall, was rough but it appears to have been profitable.  Her x-ray this past was still very positive (the left lower lobe is still in bad shape, there is scarring, etc... but all in all everyone is pleased.)

Sadly, we found out a few months ago that her cancer that we had hoped was gone or at least dormant was growing/living again.  It had popped back up in her liver and bones.  Certainly disappointing news... especially so quickly :-/

Her wonderful wonderful doctor put her on a plan to have chemo just about every week for 12 treatments.  The chemo "recipe" was going to be a little different than her past ones.  It wouldn't cause her hair to fall out, and shouldn't make her feel sick.   Currently she's about 75% through that plan.  On Monday she had a PET scan to check the status and to see if the chemo was helping.

She got called in this morning, and she and my dad went to meet with the doctor and to hear the results (which we all assumed wasn't going to be 'happy news'...).  Dr. Raj let them know that the chemo wasn't working like they had hoped and the cancer seems to be growing still.

SO. She has a new plan, and will be visiting another more "specialized" doctor, and trying a new medicine (including oral chemo.)  They'll be stopping the 12-week-chemo-plan altogether since it's not working.

Thank you for praying for her and us, and thank you for asking about how she's doing!  We're currently keeping busy with lots of house projects and making room for Baby Boris Morris (just his nickname, don't worry ;).  Grandma Bear is as tough as ever, and never makes a "big deal" about any of this.  But she is tired and "feels weak."  Pray for strength and energy and lots and lots of joy.

And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mama Bear Update 13

Hello hello!  Time is moving and life is pressing on and mama is done with her 6th (and hopefullyhopefullyhopefully final!) chemo treatment!

- She has a PET scan on Monday and we'll have results on Thursday.  This scan is huge.  It's the big "What did the last five or so months of treatment do? Is there any cancer left?  What's the deal?" scan.  We're praying for nothin-notta-squat!

- They're coming back to Maryland next weekend!  Dad, Mama, Katie, Kevs, Dude, Shannon and Lou-Lee will be moving back into the house they left.  The truck and boys are arriving on June 30.

* If you are interested in helping un-load the truck, feel free to come!  My dad is trying to organize the troops, so you can email him at: a snyder at caci dot com.*

- My mom, myself and the rest of the girls will arrive within two days (we're bringing all the cars with us.  It's going to be an adventure.)

*If you are interested in helping my mom unpack the boxes starting July 2, you can e-mail Tracy at: t branchaw at gmail dot com*

- Mama is very worn out.  Moving is not usually one of these rejuvenating, restful activities.  Pray for her rest, energy and strength!


Monday, June 4, 2012

Mama Bear Update 12

Hello everyone!

It's been a little while - which is often good news in the medical world!  Here is the latest with sweet mama mom.

- A few weeks ago she attended "Relay for Life" with her sister Pam and a handful of kiddos (Kevin, Dude, Shannon, Lauren and family-friend Grace.)  She was the "survivor" and they were the "care-givers."   She said it was a lovely evening complete with nice dinner and a couple of laps around the Steinbrenner Field.

- Last Wednesday mom has her fifth chemotherapy (one more to go!)  Her wonderful and lively friend Sandy flew all the way from Arizona to go to chemo with here this week.  On good days they pack and work on wedding crafts! (Seriously, she's the best.)  I think the three women of the house (mom, Sandy and Pam) are going on a Segway Tour of Saint Petersburg Beach today.  That will be an absolute riot ;)  I wish I could be there!

- Five more days of school for the little kidlets! And Katie graduates highschool on Friday.  We are all so proud of her!  And I'm very excited to be able to go down and watch my first sister at her graduation and to see mom again.  But three cheers for mom and the kids getting through this school year in the middle of so much craziness!  They're just incredible.

- Mom's (hopefully!) last chemo is in about three weeks.  She is also moving back to Maryland that week.  Yes, that's right folks, the Snyder's are coming back north!  Hold onto your hats!  ;)  They will be here the last weekend in June, and will be moving back into the house they left.  Please pray that this move goes as joyfully and peacefully as possible.  Moving is always particularly tiring and hard.  But moving ten people? 18 hours away? In the middle of summer?  While on chemo?  We're all going to do our very best to get everything taken care of for mom (thank the Lord for Aunt Pam!  She's been a packing/helping hero! And for dad!  He's ever impressive and hard-working.)

- After the big move the next event is the wedding!  Just about two months away.  It's unreal how fast time flies.  Please pray for health for mom during all "this."  Pray that when she gets her pet scan in July they find NO cancer!  Pray she re-gains strength and energy!  Pray that she will sleep well and restfully when she sleeps!  We love mama so much!

Mama and her prayer warriors in Florida!  (These lady are from her bible study and have been the sweetest gift to mom.)