Bruce Conley's Journal
Written Sep 14, 2010 7:51pm
I only wish that Dad’s words greeted you on this update of his journal. Mom will try to post one later as well but I wanted to share some of my feelings to all of you who have faithfully supported him through prayer and posts, so here goes.
Words can’t express what all of your prayers, words of comfort and encouragement have meant to my family. Dad was released from his earthly home and claimed the promise of his Savior, Saturday, September 11th, 2010. As I write this, I am reminded of a quote that hangs on the wall near the entrance to the funeral home. I see it so often that sometimes it disappears from my sight, but never has it rang true like it has today. “Death is not the extinguishing of a light, only turning down the lamp because dawn has come.” Saturday, the lamp was turned down because dawn had broken in Heaven. I can’t help but think that he is still writing, still singing, still smiling; only now he is able to share his gifts in the presence of his Father in Heaven.
Growing up in the church I attended as a boy, my Grandpa Lloyd spoke often of being a “good steward”. The talents we have been given are gifts from God and should be shared, and in that sharing they soon multiply. How true that has been for Dad all his life, but never so clearly seen than through his journals on Caring Bridge during his “walk” with cancer. I say walk because we always think of it as a “battle”. How often I have written that phrase for grief stricken families touched by this or any other disease, but in Dad’s case it is different. Yes he may have done all he could to battle the effects, but he knew in his heart he didn’t have to fight it alone or even at all, believing instead that when God is for us, who can be against us? Dad did walk and talk with his Savior and in the end he was carried to his Heavenly Home like the “footprints in the sand”. Thousands of people prayed for a miracle but Dad understood that even if there wasn’t to be a miracle here on earth, he hoped all of you would understand that the true miracle would be his salvation and the gift of eternal life.
So as darkness falls on the hearts of many this day, imagine him being bathed in a glorious celestial warmth of the tender embrace of our God, as the Son rises to greet Dad on his greatest day. This, if nothing else, gives me comfort and I pray that as our journey with him has come to an end, it comforts you as well, in a way that nothing else can. Thank you, and God bless.
P.S. In case you haven’t received news of his services, visitation will be Thursday, September 16, from 2-8 p.m. at the Orchard Community Church, 101 S. Barnes Rd. (on the corner of Barnes and Galena Blvd.) in Aurora. As always 8 p.m. is mostly a suggestion, anyone who arrives at the church will be able to see our family and say goodbye to dad no matter how late or long the line may be. His funeral will be the following day at 10 a.m., also at the church, with an hour of visitation prior to the service for those unable to attend the previous evening. Burial will follow at Blackberry Township Cemetery. His life story is available on our website, www.conleycare.com. We will also be taping the service. The video webcast will be available live via the same web address five minutes prior to the service or in an on-demand form 48 hours later. Please call us if you have any other questions at 630-365-6414.
Written Aug 30, 2010 4:46pm
August 14, 2010 – “Adventures in Publishing”
After my last journal entry, I’m sure you wondered, as did I, where is this next “mission with meaning” coming from? Well, in part, it’s one that has been on the “back burner” for a few years but time never permitted me to pursue it. Now, time seems to be calling me to it. As I began to compose this one, a number of additional things were added to the “stew pot”. The result should be very interesting! Let me begin with the “publishing part” Yup, I’m going to get my Caring Bridge Journal published but there are a couple of priority items that relate to the holidays, and present the most urgent call to print.
For reasons too complex to explain, Conley Publications, the arm of Conley Care that has been responsible for our pamphlets and booklets for many years, not only needed a new path to publishing but revised materials as well. Ironically, a couple of those publications were about the holidays and time was (and is!) of the essence. So, I dug in.
In 1979, I wrote the first Handling the Holidays booklet. Based on real- life stories from the journeys of grief support group members; I distilled the principles that characterized those who seemed to cope best with the holidays. Over the ensuing years to 2007 my sister, Karen, and I published several revised editions which were purchased by clients that ranged from St. Jude’s Hospitals, hospices, churches and funeral homes to not-for-profit groups of every size and description.
Looking ahead now, in our lives and our work, we realized that we needed a path that didn’t depend on either of us to continue what once took both of us operate. In recent weeks, I found a Print-On-Demand company, Outskirts Press, of Colorado, that could provide nearly everything we needed. It has seemed like the perfect “mission” for me and, fortunately, I found it shortly before my health went “ker-whammy” and had me wondering if I could ever do any of it! This is where I want to lift up God’s perfect timing once again. He set before me that goal, that calling which has been my “light house” in recent weeks and helped me stay focused through the “night times”. In the process something else new opened my eyes to the way God leads me.
If you’ve ever paid attention to the way a lighthouse works, you know that it releases a powerful beam of light through the windows on one side of its tower, while the other side “falls dark” behind the lens and reflector. That sudden and complete darkness, experienced on the heels of brilliant light, can leave you seeing spots! For me, this is where God brings to light the “lamp unto my feet” scripture. (Psalm 119:105). A lamp in front of your feet doesn’t provide much “down the road” direction, just enough to see and take the next step. This is NOT what I am looking for BUT important discipline for a visionary-type who wants to see the whole interstate at a glance!
So often, I’ve been wrong. Yet, ever so patiently, God has taught me time and again, when I’m stuck; when I’m depressed, just sit back and ask Him, “What have you prepared for me? What does the light of just that “lamp unto my feet” reveal? Inevitably, the path becomes clear and I wonder how I ever missed it!
So it is that, as my health has begun to come around, I am ready to begin, Holiday Grief, “Gifts Left under the Tree”. It is brief, but holds the advice of hundreds of people who have survived the holidays. It also unwraps several gifts always left under the tree; several timeless “gifts” that, I believe, perhaps only the grieving have eyes to see.
The Gift of Remembrance. It has been said that when someone dies, “that someone”, becomes a memory, and “that memory” becomes a treasure. What hasn’t been said is exactly how this all happens. Speaking now, as one hoping to help my own family claim this “gift of remembrance” when the time comes for me, I realize there are no “short cuts”, it’s all in the un-wrapping. Like the tiny chicks who must peck their way out of their own shell in order to have the strength to survive, each of us must un-wrap our own gifts, in order for mourning to turn those memories into treasures.
In the scriptures, speaking of the Last Supper, Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me”. When we do, we unwrap one of the most powerful human gifts of ritual and ceremony – The Gift of Remembrance. Remembering often hurts but with the hurt comes healing; with the hurt comes the realization that you alone have the memories that are wrapped inside this gift. When you choose to celebrate those memories you celebrate the life of your loved one as no one else can – and that, is the “Gift of Remembrance“.
As I began writing this update our world seemed to go out of control with a series of events that put me back in the hospital. Suffice it to say the a new wave of pain required a new level of care and control in recent weeks. We have gradually brought the two together with new help from DeKalb County Hospice and I am feeling better. To those friends who equate the term “Hospice” with “giving up” I want to re-frame your perspective with the word “Hope”.
I have been a hospice advocate for over 35 years, including leading the National Hospice Organization and National Funeral Directors Association in their first joint conclave in 1995. For 25 years, I have taught the funeral home component for Direct Care Volunteers for DeKalb Hospice and was one of the founders of Fox Valley Hospice. All of this I share with you to assure you that my move to hospice care was a move made to give me access to the experts in pain control and so much more.
I still have significant plans and goals to accomplish and see my admission to hospice care as giving me better access to the tools and treatment I need to make the most of every day I am given. Please join me in praying for my hospice team and for all of us together, in the service and ministry to which God has called us.
This week-end, I was physically unable to go to Mayo for our last appointment but Kris continued with help from her sister Karen and I stayed home with hospice care. I’ll keep you posted on changes but essentially I’m just waiting for the proverbial “dust to settle” so I can get down to my writing and publishing venture. Kris is looking forward to just peace and quiet at home and the coming of autumn colors.
Thank you for all of your support and prayers.
Bruce and Kris
Written Jul 7, 2010 10:53pm
CALLING, MISSION, MEANING
Since Kris and I returned home from our wonderful trip, life has been very good. With the exception of some physical pain and odds and ends that just happen for no apparent reason, I count them as nothing compared to the chemo and definitely nothing compared to the quality of life I enjoy every day! I have a hospital bed now but only because I’m not strong enough to sit myself up in bed. Once I’m upright however, I can get dressed and into my scooter and I’m good to go! Kris is a great chauffer and we go just about anywhere we want and do just about anything we want. I have some fluid build-up around my lungs that’s making me short of breath sometimes, but they are going to tap that off this week some time so watch out, I may be talking more! (is that even possible? – Kris doesn’t think so!) Regardless, on a daily basis I’m up most mornings about 5am. I can make coffee and get cereal all from the scooter and then I park myself by a window and enjoy the sunrise (or what’s left of it!) Every day, it is a time I give thanks, pray for my friends and look forward to whatever the day may bring. That thought brings me to the heart of this update and some things I was thinking about this morning.
I’ve written before about how I notice God’s strength, really flows from my experience of “weakness” in myself – less of me means more of Him. The less I can do for myself, the more I realize how many ways God has and is providing for me. As much as that is true in a physical sense, it is, of course, true in a personal, spiritual sense. For me, that truth comes to light when I think of the difference between a “career” and a “calling”; between a “job” and a “mission”.
I am thankful that my parents raised me to understand our profession and what we do personally as a “calling” – not just a career. Nothing wrong with pursuing a “career” in any field of endeavor, but it strikes me how different it is when we regard that career as a “calling” from God. Careers come and go at the hands of others but a “calling” from God comes with His “life-time guarantee”. My “career” in funeral service has been over for at least a year, yet I have discovered that God’s calling over my life continues to bring meaning and purpose to my everyday experience. He has made new paths, streams in the desert that encourage me and make me want to listen each day for that still, small, but ever so positive voice that affirms not only my calling but His love for me and his willingness to continue to equip me for the “mission” of each new day.
If “calling” describes a broad sense of God-given purpose, “mission” describes, in my vocabulary, a job with meaning; something I can do that makes a difference. Once, I would have described my “mission” in outline form with a declination of a dozen or so sub-sets of tasks. Today, I find God helping me discover the mission of each new day in perhaps a single task; just one thing I might do today that makes life worthwhile, one “mission motivated task” with as much meaning as a whole page of goals. Thinking of such things, I can hear my father’s voice reciting a portion of an old poem. He re-played this one a number of times for me but most especially when I was struggling to choose a “career” – and it wasn’t always in funeral service. The poem, as I recall it now, went something like this: “Where shall I work today”, I asked, and my heart flowed warm and free. And He pointed out a tiny spot and said, “there, tend that for me”. Disappointed at my assignment, I said “please no, not that tiny place for me! Why, no matter how well my job is done, no one will ever see!” “Ah” He said, “search that heart of thine”, as he spoke to me tenderly, Nazareth was a “tiny place” and so was Galilee.” How wonderful it is to serve a Living God who created me with a life-long calling and sends me each day on a “mission” that makes my life worth living.
It has been many years ago now that it seemed to me God often called me to a “mission”, a goal that was compelling to me up to a point. Then, frequently at a time when it seemed I was on the brink of failure, he opened my eyes to the reason he had challenged me with that mission. It was not what I thought at all. It was as though God would say, “I brought you to this place not for the sake of what you could accomplish but for the change it would make in you; a change that allows me now to reveal more of myself to you.” In retrospect, it was rather like climbing a mountain to reach a summit and discovering that reaching the summit was not the point. It was the perspective I gained, the wisdom God imparted through the climb that not only made it all worthwhile but made it possible for me to see, from this summit, the next valley, the next mountain top and be excited to begin my journey there .
So it is and has been through this last year and a half. I realize it now more than ever, and I covet the things He has yet to reveal, the missions that are still mine to pursue, the meaning He has yet to bring to all that I am experiencing. These things give me cause to be encouraged each morning and grateful every evening. I believe that God is eternally progressive in all that He is and does and that no hardship is ever wasted. Truly, all things DO work together for our good and His eternal purpose. I don’t know how many sunrises are yet mine to enjoy, but I plan every day to stop, look, listen and believe in the mission they bring, in the calling they confirm. Lord let me pursue each day with purpose and passion so that when “sunset” comes I will not have missed anything you wanted me to know; anything you wanted me to see.