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Liz’s Story

Welcome to Liz's CaringBridge site. We've created it to keep everyone updated during Liz's surgery and recovery. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement for Liz as she goes through this journey.   

When Liz was 9 years old she developed a disease called Takayasu’s Arteritis which caused her arteries to narrow in various spots throughout her body.  As a result of serious narrowing of her aorta, Liz had a synthetic aortic bypass placed from her heart to above her kidneys when she was 12 years old.  A few years later they revised her bypass from above her kidneys to below her kidneys to help improve blood flow through her body.  The disease is no longer active in Liz’s body, but her arteries have remained permanently narrowed causing her to have high blood pressure and some areas of compromised blood flow.  Over the last 18 years Liz has remained relatively healthy, but in May doctors found that Liz’s aortic bypass has an aneurysm in it.  As a result of the aneurysm, the doctors have decided to replace the bypass with a new synthetic bypass from near her heart to below her kidneys.  The old bypass will be tied off and left in her body since it will be too difficult to remove after being in her body for so many years.  The new bypass will be placed down the center of her chest.  With this procedure doctors hope to improve Liz’s shortness of breath, fatigue, and blood flow to her organs.  Liz has been seeing Dr. McPhail, a vascular physician at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, over the last 8 years.   He has referred her to surgeons and other specialists at Mayo, who as a team, will be involved with her care.  Thanks to everyone for your prayers and support as our family goes through this process.

Latest Journal Update

2 Years

Super Bowl Sunday is an early reminder for our family that another year has passed without Liz.  2 years ago on February 3rd (Super Bowl Sunday) Liz passed away.  It doesn't feel like it should be 2 years already, but it also feels like way more than 2 years since I enjoyed Liz's company.  2 years is a very long time when you think about the fact that in a few months we can say that Liz has been in Heaven for over half of Leah's life time (our 4 year old daughter).  Honestly that right there just causes me to shake my head and start to weep.  I guess it just boggles my mind to think about it from that direction.

If you asked me for an honest answer on how year two went without Liz, I would have to say it had moments that were just as hard as or maybe slightly harder than year one in some ways. Year one was spent getting through all of the “firsts”.  At the end of the first year I felt some relief that I made it through all of the “firsts”. That relief was short lived when I realized that year two felt just as hard as year one on all of those milestone dates, but I no longer had that mental push of “let's get through this first” like I did the first year.  Reality set in that nothing really changed after year one and this continues to hurt just like it did the year before.  We did take steps in the right direction with our grieving.  Some people have noticed healing in our lives, but I honestly feel more lonely and tired now than I did last year.  It was hard enough going a year without Liz, but that accumulation of days without her continues to add up and causes me to miss her even more.  That right there is the sting of reality that she's never coming back. 

The girls are doing well, but they never stop thinking about Liz.  Lily is now 7 and Leah is 4.  You can tell they have a void in their life, but I'm not sure if they can remember what it felt like to live life without that void.  I think all I can really say is they miss their Mommy.

No matter how hard some moments will be going forward, I do look forward to what life has to offer.  We'll continue to try and enjoy life's moments even if we have to pause to grieve every so often.  The girls and I did enjoy life this last year, so please don't hear me saying that year two was completely horrible….it just had some very real and sometimes painful moments.  I know that God will provide many great moments going forward for our family to enjoy, and I look forward to each one that comes our way.

Please keep our family in your prayers this coming week as we reflect and grieve.  We appreciate all of the prayers and support that you've provided over the last year.  If you're ever curious on how I'm doing, please set up a lunch with me so we can talk.  I have no issues talking about the Liz's hospital stay, Liz passing away, or life without Liz, but it obviously requires more time than the quick “how are you doing” when we're crossing paths.  Thanks again for all of your support over the last two years, and we look forward to what God has to offer in year three.  


30 people hearted this



Dianne Hagena
By Dianne Hagena
LeAnn Kuper
By Jody Kuper
TJ, Joel sent me a text message on Sunday afternoon and mentioned that it had been a tough day for you guys. I can't even imagine how difficult it must be for you and Joel and Vicki's family. I really enjoyed your tribute to Liz. It is good to express your emotions and concerns. Our men's bible study at church this morning read a devotional entitled Habits of a Healthy Mind. The final summary of the devotion was this: Lord, we can't manufacture hope, and even if we tried it wouldn't be real. Help us to find hope in You because of what Jesus has done for us. We know you are walking beside us. When there's bad news, our hope is the Good News of Jesus.---- I know your faith is strong TJ. You are a remarkable young man in so many ways. Cling to the Good News of Jesus. You and your extended family are in our prayers.
Brian Helmbrecht
By Brian Helmbrecht
TJ, What and amazing tribute to your wife,you are truly amazing father .I know your love and dedication to your wife and children is just that LOVE and its truly amazing !!! " I know that God will provide many great moments going forward for our family to enjoy, and I look forward to each one that comes our way" This part above cannot be more true with God all will be good..Take care God Bless you and your girls
1 person hearted this
Nancy Weber
By Nancy Weber
I think of you and the girls often. Prayers continue, TJ.
1 person hearted this
Sheila Dailie
By Sheila Dailie
"that accumulation of days without her continues to add up and causes me to miss her even more."

What an elegant way to help us understand that you still grieve your wife and mother of your daughters. Prayers from those who are acquainted with you and your family will continue giving you strength.
2 people hearted this
Kate Oritz
By Kate Ortiz
Thank you for posting this and for your honesty. Nobody but you can know how you feel, but each of us can continue to care about you, your girls, and all who love and miss your Liz. Sending love and light as you continue to learn life without her.
1 person hearted this
Laurie Giff
By Norma, Laurie, and Larry
TJ, you are an incredible dad. We love visiting Lily, Leah, and you. We can't begin to understand your lonliness. We miss Liz, and we feel that it is joy to have known her. Christ is your strength, and he has given you family and friends who support and comfort you. Give Lily and Leah a huge hug from each of us.
darwin wiebesiek
By Susan Wiebesiek
Hugs & prayers are sent to you TJ. The journey you travel is so very hard, with those grieving moments as you said, and also the joyous moments as you move forward. May the love and promise of Christ bring peace to your heart and hope to your days.
Diane Yerdon
By Diane Yerdon
I was sure thinking of Liz last night and missing her as we were watching the girls running circles around us with their giggling & smiles....wishing she was with us to enjoy it as well. She is, and always will be our special Angel..... Hugs, prayers, and love to you and the girls.
4 people hearted this
John Eschenbaum
By John M. Eschenbaum
I did not have the privilege of knowing 'your' Liz nor your family. I knew of you, TJ as a kid but miles kept frequency of visits very sparse. However, I do empathize in your loss having some myself in my age. Sadly it is a part of life. Who would have guessed that someone so young, so full of life and joy would be taken so early? I can feel the grief in having lost my own mother so young and a person very important to me by tragedy. As others have written, there is no magic potion or pill to take that pain away. It will always be a part of who you are and who you are forced to become. It took me years to think of my mother without tears. I am working on the other. The pain will become less, the tears will turn into fond memories and they will become smiles. The wound will remain but the scar of the loss will remind you of what once was and you will feel lucky. As long as you remember, Liz will be alive in your thoughts, soul and being. That you can be sure. My prayers for you and your girls. Cousin, John Melvin
1 person hearted this