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May 8, 2020

Today marks 6 months since Jack's death.  I wanted to give you an update on what has happened since then.  The first weekend in December I took Jack's ashes up to Iowa.  My family and several relatives gathered at my home church for a little service.  Jack and I had both known the pastor there for many years and he did a nice job with the inurnment.  Our nephew, Micah, sang and it was beautiful.  My brother, David and his family did so much to make the service so special.  They prepared a hole in the ground in our cemetery plot for the box with Jack's ashes.  They bought beautiful red roses that each of us could take an place around the hole.  David spoke and shared such wonderful memories of Jack.  They planned the luncheon.  My sister, Darla and brother Mark were also there and really helped with everything.  I was still so immobile from missing Jack that I really couldn't do anything.  I felt so encouraged, supported and loved to have so many family and relatives with me that day.  It was really a very special day for me and I had a certain sense of peace to have Jack's ashes in the cemetery at my home church.  My sister and I had mowed that cemetery many many times when we were growing up.  I knew so many of the people who were buried there.  Jack knew a lot of people who were buried there.  Our plot is next to where my parents will be buried.  But it was a difficult weekend too.  I hadn't thought much about the drive up.  I'd done it many times before by myself, but this time was different.  I didn't have anyone calling me to make sure I got there okay.  I didn't have anyone waiting for me when I got home.  Twelve hours in the car to think about Jack and my life without him was completely overwhelming.

I have ordered a gravestone for us.  It will be installed this Spring.  The woman I worked with at Forest City Granite Works has been so wonderful and so helpful.  It's amazing how much the kindness of people during times of grief, stress or difficulty can make such a difference. 

My life has been completely different since Jack died.  I am told that it will get easier.  I have not experienced that yet.  These first 6 months have been filled with incredible loneliness and being completely overwhelmed by the decisions, the work, and just living each day without my husband, the man who I love, had lived with, and planned my future with.  

So, I went through Thanksgiving without Jack.  We usually go down to Winnsboro, Texas for a family reunion on Jack's mom's side, but there was no way I could drive down there so soon after Jack was gone.  A co-worker invited me to her home and that worked out just fine.  I was only there for a few hours and then I was back home again.  Then came my trip up to Iowa and the burial of Jack's ashes.  I pretty much tried to ignore most of the Christmas season.  It was just too hard.  I went to our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at church and cried through most of it.  I had a very nice Christmas dinner and time of visiting at our good friends Bruce and Laura's.  I missed Jack, but it was good to be with caring and loving friends.  I drove back up to Iowa for my family's Christmas and for the Gangestad Christmas on my mom's side.  Both gatherings were a lot more difficult for me than I anticipated.  It was very lonely for me to be there without Jack.  I was glad to get back home again.  But when I returned, I found our little Annie (the cat that loved Jack so much) in distress.  A trip to the vet confirmed that I needed to let her go too.  She slipped away peacefully in my arms at the vet's office.  I cried through New Year's Eve.  

Then came 2020.  It's been more than I thought I could handle, but so far, I'm still standing.  I weathered our wedding anniversary in January.  Our dear friend Dean passed away the end of January.  He was in our CORE Group--our Bible Study Group at church.  I rode down to Tyler, Texas with Jack's brother Tod and his wife Kay in February to see Jack's mom.  Her health had been failing and she had not made it up to Kansas for Jack's service, so I wanted to give her a chance to ask me any questions or talk about Jack.  It was hard to see her struggling with her health and her grief.  It was really hard for me to be away from home and I was very glad to get back home.  Then Valentine's Day came and went.  Then my uncle passed away and I drove up to Iowa alone for his funeral.  

By then the country was talking about the Coronavirus and the precautions we all needed to take to keep ourselves healthy.  We were issued stay-at-home orders in March.  You may be experiencing or can imagine the incredible loneliness of being at home and not seeing anyone or going anywhere for weeks.  I have made a trip to the store every other week.  Jack and I would have been working on tons of projects, but I have absolutely no motivation or energy.  It is a big accomplishment for me if I get one thing on my list taken care of.  Abbie (our skittish cat) and I continue to make progress in our relationship.  She is very strong and determined.  It was always a two-person job to deal with her, but she and I are learning to work together.  She has been a source of comfort for me these last several months.  Then on March 27th, Jack's mom passed away.  She was a wonderful Christian woman and I really loved her and enjoyed spending time with her.  I will miss her and I'll miss spending time with her.

One bright spot during my time at home has been that my sister Darla and her husband, Woodie, come down and spent a few days with me and helped me get going on some outside projects.  We rented a stump grinder one day and Woodie really ground out a lot of stumps for me.  They did so many projects and I was so grateful for the help and the company.  They came at a time that I was really struggling.

So, I've had some challenges these past 6 months.  I know we all have--especially as our lives have been so disrupted by this Coronavirus.  But I've also been so encouraged, and felt so loved through your cards, notes, e-mails, texts, phone calls, invitations and visits.  I have wonderful friends who have come over to help me with various projects and the things that Jack used to do.  Friends have been so wonderful to spend time with me and invite me to their homes or out to eat.  It really means a lot to me.  I am so thankful for our Church family, our CORE Group Bible Study, for our friends and family and for my counselor who has been a huge source of encouragement to me.  As I thank God for you, I am also praying that He will see you through this unprecedented time in our world.  It's a time of uncertainty, finding "new normals", isolation, job loss, health risks, deaths and so much more.  And it affects every one of us.  I am so thankful for God's promises and for His presence in my life.  Even on my darkest days, I know that He is with me and that I am really not alone, even when I feel like I am.  I thank God for all of you and I am praying for better days ahead--for all of us. 

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November 25, 2019

[Marit]  I want to thank you all for your expressions of love, friendship and honor for Jack and me the past few weeks as he struggled with his failing liver, as he passed from this life, and as we planned and held his Visitation and Memorial Service.  I am in awe and humbled by the way you've reached out, helped, prayed and stood with me through the worst time in my life.  His Memorial Service was beautiful.  He would have been so honored.  Thank you all for your prayers.  I know that my tough times are just beginning.  I miss him so much and I miss us so much.  We did so much together.  Your prayers are helping me deal with this difficult transition--one day at a time.  Words cannot convey the gratitude and love I feel for you.  'Thank You' seems so inadequate, but there are no other words. 


November 12, 2019

Marit posted this on Jack's Facebook page today and we just wanted to make sure it was on Caring Bridge as well. Thank you all for your prayers and outpouring of support for Marit, Jack's girls and their families, and Jack's mom & brothers.  

Visitation for Jack will be 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 15th at Harvest Ridge Covenant Church, 22015 Midland Dr, Shawnee, KS 66226.

The Memorial Service will be held at 1:00  p.m. on Saturday the 16th, also at Harvest Ridge.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to Harvest Ridge Covenant Church or the University of Kansas Cancer Center.

November 10, 2019

[Marit]  I want to thank you all for coming along with us, supporting us, encouraging us, loving us and praying for us on this 9 1/2 month journey with cancer, Chemo and Dr. visits.  I know that so many of you had planned to see him, to talk to him, to touch him, to express your love for him one last time before he went.  And I am so sorry that there just wasn't time.  I want you to know that he was extremely tired and confused this last week.  He could not even talk on the phone.  He spoke briefly with Jennifer and Jamie one day when he had a few moments of more clarity.  I sat by his bed and read him every text, every e-mail, every card and letter.  We told him of our phone conversations with you, but he was not in any condition to respond back to you.  He loved you all and I don't think that he had left anything unsaid to anyone.  Of course, he did think that he'd see you all again, but the important things were said.  You each had a special place in his heart and life.  Jack had some very good weeks and we are so grateful for that time.   

This last week was not good.  Last Sunday night (November 3rd) our CORE Group (Bible Study) was together at our house and we gathered around Jack and prayed.  Our CORE Group is very close and I am so grateful for all the love, help, prayers and support they have provided.  Even though Jack wasn't feeling the best, he hung in there with us and I am thankful that he had that last night with our group.

Monday night, he became incredibly confused and unsteady on his feet.  I was quite terrified and I knew I couldn't get him to the ER by myself.  I called our next-door neighbor Mike and he came over and helped me get him dressed and into the car.  We went to the KU ER and he was admitted immediately.  They ran tests and tended to him over the next several hours.  I was so torn about what to do.  I wanted to stay with him, but I was emotionally and physically exhausted.  I knew I needed to try and get some rest to deal with the very long days ahead.  But, I knew he was confused and probably just as scared as I was, so I didn't want to leave him.  But at 2:00 am they gave him something to help him sleep and Mike and I left.  I cancelled his appointment with Dr. Sun Tuesday morning.  He was not in any condition to leave the hospital. 

Over the next 4 days Mike and I spent a lot of time in the hospital.  I am so grateful to Mike for coming in every day, meeting with the doctors and care providers with me, and asking questions and getting information when my mind was in shock and I couldn't think.  On Wednesday, the oncology team at the hospital gave us the terrible news that they could no longer treat Jack's cancer.  It had completely filled his liver.  Any further treatment would just make things worse.  They started the process of Palliative Care and getting us set up for Hospice.  Jack understood what the doctors told us and we cried together.  He wanted to go home more than anything.  He wanted to see his kitties, Annie and Abbie, and lay in bed and hold me.

A special moment for both of us was Thursday when Dr. Sun and Nurse Practitioner Erin made the trip to the hospital to see Jack.  We were really touched that they would do this for us.  They hugged us and cried with us and told us that they too were surprised at how quickly his cancer had consumed his liver and that they were so sorry.  They answered our questions and told Jack how much they enjoyed knowing him and having him as their patient.  It was an important time for Jack because he needed to tell Dr. Sun and Nurse Practitioner Erin what they meant to him.  I'm so glad he was able to do that.

He wanted to feel better so he could savor his last few days with us.  We had hoped Jack could go home on Thursday, but they needed to do a procedure that would allow us to drain off fluid that builds up in Jack's abdomen.  He had that procedure early Friday morning and we were finally released on Friday at noon.  A group of Jack's co-workers came over and walked beside his wheelchair as we made our way out to the car.  It was a beautiful moment for him. 

Our car ride home was not good.  He got sick and he was very groggy and confused.  We got home and got Jack into our new hospital bed that had been set up in the living room.  My brother David, his wife Melanne and their oldest son Micah arrived from Iowa.  (God was so good to me.  I needed them--someone from my family that could hold me up and who would handle everything that was happening.)  The hospice admit nurse came and went through all the hospice services with us. Jack slept on and off as we tried to get him to eat and drink just enough to keep his strength up, but each time he had to get up was more taxing than the last until finally he couldn’t bear weight on his own and we needed to keep him in bed. As the afternoon progressed, his confusion increased and he was very agitated.  His daughter Jamie and her two girls arrived from Jacksonville, Florida and thankfully Jack had some good moments with them. His restlessness was constant and he continued to try and get up and out of bed until finally on the last trip he and Mike took to the bathroom, he became so exhausted that it took additional help to get him back to bed. That’s when we noticed some bleeding at his new port site and decided to call the on-call hospice nurse. None of us wanted him back in the hospital, especially him, and we were really worried that was a possibility. All he wanted to be was home. Micah had brought his guitar and I asked him to play. He played the guitar softly and so beautifully for him. (Most of you know that Jack LOVED music.) After a while we gathered around his bed and David prayed for Jack's comfort and peace. Melanne read from Psalm 55. The hospice nurse arrived and immediately recognized that he was "transitioning" and was not so much concerned for the surgical site, but for making him comfortable. Jack’s daughter Jennifer had yet to get here with her son, but finally they arrived and Jack was able to see and talk to them. He knew his girls and grandkids were there and he had waited for them all to get there. The medications finally arrived about an hour and a half late so the nurse’s goal was to get him comfortable so he could rest. She explained what was happening with him and continued to monitor him, adding additional doses of meds and oxygen as necessary. She finally requested that it was time to dim the lights and decided that he wasn't able to rest because he felt he needed to be there for everyone. We dimmed the lights and everyone said goodnight and left except the nurse, Mike, Melanne and me. About 11:30 I crawled into the hospital bed with him and held him. He was calmer, his breathing was getting more shallow and his heart rate was slowing. I told him I loved him and that the last 22 years had been the best of my life.  I told him that I would miss him, but if Jesus was calling him he should go.  He slipped away peacefully in my arms at 11:45 pm Nov. 8th. Our beloved cat, Annie, came and sat on his bed as I held him for a while longer.  The nurse called the funeral home and got Jack ready as we made the difficult call to Jack's daughters to let them know that he was gone. His daughters and their children, David and Micah came back and we hugged Jack and said our final goodbyes.  He looked so very peaceful.  Annie laid on him until they took him at about 3 a.m. We all tried to process what had just happened. It was a heartbreaking yet beautiful time that we had the privilege to share together.  I love him and I will miss him more than I can imagine right now.  He was a wonderful husband and I am so grateful to God for the blessing of being his wife.


November 9, 2019

11:45 pm November 8th, 2019- From Marit:  "Jack went to be with Jesus. I was laying in bed holding him. The on-call nurse was here and told me he was going. He had struggled so much this week. I miss him so much."


November 2, 2019

[Marit]  Jack had been hoping to update you himself, but he has not felt up to it.  We drove to Indiana to spend last weekend with our wonderful friends and Bridge partners Scott and Becky.  The pressure in Jack's abdomen turned to pain and he was very tired.  We did get in quite a bit of Bridge.  We spent a lot of time talking and praying.  We had some wonderful meals.  Jack got a lot of rest and it was a very welcome weekend of respite for us. 

On Tuesday, we met with Dr. Sun and NP Erin.  Jack had had a scan on the 18th of October.  Based on that data the liver cancer lesion has enlarged and compressed his bile duct--impeding his liver functions. They scheduled him to have a stent inserted in his liver on Thursday to open up that area so it could work properly.  He could not have Chemo on Tuesday as they needed the stent to be in place and see the new lab work before they decided what the new Chemo concoction would be.  Thursday's procedure was a little frustrating and confusing for us.  The GI doctor said that he couldn’t find a compression although Jack did think that it was nice to be knocked out for a while.  We contacted Dr. Sun and NP Erin.  They examined the GI doctor's report and told us that the report said that they cleaned out some "sludge" and that the stent had been inserted.  So our next step is to see what the lab work says on Tuesday and go from there. 

Meanwhile, Jack is experiencing some intense pain.  He has become an Oxycodone user (which he hates, but it's necessary).  It helps with the pain in his abdomen, but he's also experiencing muscle pain--especially in his back.  I've been spending some time rubbing his back, legs, feet, shoulders and arms.  Annie (cat) tries to help, but her little paws kneading him don't make much of an impact.  He is also very tired.  He has a hard time getting comfortable.  He is rather unstable on his feet.  He has lost his appetite and has a hard time keeping hydrated.  I woke up this morning and found a bunch of drinks on the counter that he apparently was taste-testing in the middle of the night to find one that tasted good--or at least didn't make him nauseated.  He decided Gatorade was the best one.  So, we're trying to get fluids in him.  He has also been slightly confused--which is probably caused by the pain, the tiredness and the dehydration.  He is also burping and hiccupping quit a bit.  His voice is very weak.  And for the first time, he has also experienced some constipation. 

Jack did not go to work last week and we do not anticipate that he'll feel up to going in this coming week.  We are thankful that his boss and KU have been very flexible and understanding of what he's going through.

So, we are asking for your continued prayers--especially for the next 3 days as we wait to see Dr. Sun.  Not only are his physical conditions difficult to deal with, but it is mentally and emotionally taxing.  Even though we know that God is with us and that He knows everything we're going through, we feel like we're in limbo, and not knowing exactly what we can expect is very stressful.  

Thank you family and friends for being there with us on this journey.  It can be uncertain and scary at times and it helps to know that we have you hanging in there with us.



October 22, 2019

Being on just maintenance chemo the last couple of months has been great but we knew it wouldn't last forever.  The last 2 weeks I've begun to feel a "pressure" in my abdomen that has since escalated to discomfort and occasionally pain.  This tells me that the chemo lite is losing it's effectiveness against the cancer and I'll have to go back to a more potent treatment.  My recent bloodwork backs this up.  I had a CT scan last Friday and while I won't get the results until next week I'm sure it will indicate the same.  In the meantime I'm resting more than usual and eating jello with bananas and whipped cream every day.

Thursday we'll drive to N Indiana to see our dear friends Scott and Becky (Im guessing Marit will do most of the driving).  We'll play a lot of Bridge and eat some good cooking.  We'll do a lot of visiting and they'll help distract me from the pain and discomfort.

Thank you, as always, for your love and support.  This would be more difficult without you.


October 7, 2019

I could almost just say to read  my last entry and you'll be up to date.  Still on chemo lite.  Still have the tingling in my hands and feet.  Still feeling pretty good most of the time.

We did go on our Tahoe trip and had a wonderful time.  Did some hiking, exploring the area, relaxing in the hot tub and best of all hanging out with our friends.  The weather was perfect and the lake was gorgeous.  Just what the doctor ordered.  Thank you Charlie, Val, Bruce and Laura.  You made this a memorable week!

This last weekend my brother Tod and I drove down to Tyler, TX to see my mom, my daughter Jen, and my grandson Zach.  One of my high school friends, Carl, was able to drive up from Houston and that made the weekend even better.  We got a few chores done for my mom and spent some quality time just hanging out. Times with friends and family are precious.

I'm still trying to work on the exterior of our house, but the weather has turned cold, daylight ends around 7:00 now and it's been rainy, so the progress is slow.  So, Marit and I have a little longer evening to enjoy our kitties and address some inside things that need attention.  Everything just seems to take a little longer for me now that my energy level isn't as high as it once was.

I really appreciate your thoughts, prayers, concern, comments, e-mails, texts, cards, letters and phone calls. I'm definitely a blessed guy to have you all in my life.