Tuesday, March 8, 2016

We thought she had beaten her cancer. And yet, the unthinkable happened on February 6th, 2016 - Penny passed away in her sleep. =(

My wife passed away around 10:30 pm on Saturday - February 6th, 2016. The above is the last picture that I know of (that she would approve of) that was taken of her prior to her passing. I need to say the following to put perspective on what this all means.

The above picture was taken in 2012 (February 18th, 2012) when Penny was on Life support at Sherman ICU due to sepsis after the removal of the 4 lb tumor from her bladder (the first time I am posting this picture as how hard it was at the time, I just couldn't). We weren't sure she would make it out of the hospital then (and of course, she was a miracle - she woke up from her coma with her full brain activity intact and then some) and was talking/walking 10 days later. It was this hospitalization that weakened her substantially and she was never the same after that (she was always in much more pain). I went to Fox Valley Church the first service I could after that (and FVC became my home too). Penny prayed for me for 7 years to join her at her church and her wish came true. How awful of me to not get past my pain from a previous church and waste 7 years not joining my beautiful wife in worship at such a wonderful church.

The second picture was of a sunrise outside her window the day after her organs were failing. Her organs had stopped shutting down and were starting to recover so I was looking at the hands of God helping her to recover from the sepsis. The entire body of FVC came out in force (the ICU staff actually had a line of people to go into the room and they were so accommodating our need to lay hands on her for healing). They called her the ICU unit "Rock Star" given the amount of people coming to see her. She was also one of the few patients to actually walk out that unit (I heard more code blues than one dares to count). That was the moment when I decided I needed to be at my wife's side for all of her needs despite work, despite the many responsibilities pulling at me. I was a broken man by the time she was released, and she slowly helped build me back up over the next 4 years.
She kept that red rose also.......

So, onto February 5th, 2016.

We had just started to think long term again about our lives together (after her "clean bill of health" from CTCA last December - 3 months ago). I was finally approved for Social Security disability and VA disability last October and the benefits were starting to trickle in. We were about to bring our mortgage back up to date using the back benefits and we were planning on visiting the grandchildren in Phoenix in March. On February 5th, Penny started to get a severe migraine headache. It got so bad, that I interrupted a visit to H&R Block regarding our taxes in order to immediately take Penny to the Sherman Ambulatory Clinic in Algonquin. When we got there, they noted her blood pressure was high (161/112?), but they had no technician for their scanning services available, so I then brought her to Sherman Hospital's ER. Yes, THAT Sherman Hospital (where she had almost died four years before... within a week of February 17th.... in their ICU unit after they had taken out the original tumor and had sent her home instead of keeping her overnight.... only for her to suffer from sepsis and my having to bring her back to the Hospital with her surviving the experience). They tried to manage her symptoms by giving her morphine via IV and also Benadryl. I told the P.A. and the nurses what her family history was regarding her mother passing away from a Heart Attack and also that she was at the end of her fourth year fighting bladder cancer (with over 16 cystoscopies plus chemo and BCG treatments). I don't know what her Blood Pressure was when they released her, but her migraine was reduced to the point where she felt slightly better and could tolerate her symptoms. In retrospect, I should have demanded they give her an EKG and checked everything regarding her heart (but they are the experts, they should have known given her symptoms and her high blood pressure plus history).

I stayed up keeping an eye on her until 8:30 am February 6th (and then went to bed next to her). Around 3:00 pm or so, I woke up and went to the living room (Travis had been picked up by his girlfriend's parents so we could sleep). I went about my day and checked on Penny every hour or so (and then sat to watch the Republican Debates) and she went to the restroom a couple of times during that time. When done, I watched a little news, turned off the TV and went to bed. When I opened the door and walked in the room..... I heard..... nothing...... no breathing or snoring as she tended to do. I quickly turned on the light, and there she was...... motionless (the first time I had ever seen her as such). I checked her for a pulse and she was still very warm (but I felt no pulse). That is when I noticed her tongue was starting to turn another color. I immediately dialed 9/11 and was instructed to get her out of the bed (we have a Temperpedic Mattress). It took all of my strength and using the sheet to pull her off of the bed (I have a bad shoulder and I was in the process of a gout attack, making it a difficult effort). Once she was on the floor next to the bed (because our bedroom is tiny), I was throwing the mattress off to my side of the room so I could get the space to stand/kneel so I could start CPR. That is when the police and first responders showed up (it couldn't have taken more than 90 seconds from when I called 9/11 as we live 1 block from downtown Huntley). They then took over and kicked me out of the bedroom. I started to make calls to get Travis to come home (and to get a hold of a close friend). That took 10 minutes (while they were still working on her) and our friend Deb Wolf showed up which then started to calm me down (she had gotten a hold of our Church's Pastor who was on his way). The first responders worked on Penny for 30 minutes and tried everything to revive her.... to no avail.

Our pastor (Pastor Adam Miller) then arrived and proceeded to do everything he could to keep me sane during the entire process (without Deb and Pastor Adam, I haven't a clue how I would have survived the process I went through). Travis showed up right after that, and I had to let him know that his mother had just passed away. I then asked the Huntley police to contact my step-daughter in Janesville, WI. Then the assistant coroner came and after about 2 hours, we were allowed to spend a small bit of time with Penny before the Funeral Home came to pick her up (everything from 11:00 pm to 2:30 am is a complete blur in my mind now). Our Pastor did everything he could to be a buffer of care during the entire process, and I will be honest..... Pastors do not get paid enough for the experience they go through with their congregation (I know it wasn't easy dealing with me, I can't imagine how they can deal with someone who completely loses it).

So here we are. Penny had beaten cancer, and yet she is still gone.

This is not what we thought would happen, we thought that given how many times she was at death's door during her lifetime (over 5 times, including being shot at a Restaurant by a madman in 2001), that God would not come for her as she still had more miracle testimonies to give to people. She fought a valiant battle and the Cancer had gotten her anyways (I am positive that the treatment contributed to her heart's ultimate inability to keep her alive plus her sepsis episode surely had damaged her heart to some extent). It is what it is, and I can't change any of that now.

All I know, is that I am officially a Widower and I haven't the clue how to live life without my beautiful wife.

Fox Valley Church and Penny's friends rallied around us and we were able to work things out so Penny had a beautiful wake/service on February 12th and Funeral on February 13th. As she had changed her mind about being cremated last year, I honored her wish to be buried. The problem was that we had decided on a National Cemetery in Joliet, IL. (given my Veteran Status)... and as far as I was concerned, because she had died so young.... that it would be unfair for me to do so regarding her family and friends (who would have to drive over 150 miles to visit her). So we chose Dundee Township Cemetery (where her Uncle and Aunt and her first son are interred) so all of her family and friends would be able to visit her as it is close by all of them. I then picked out a 2nd grave for me at that site (so when I pass, I can be buried next to her).

There is so much more to say, but that will have to be for another day. It took me a month to get up the nerve to post the above.... as the pain is still pervasive. All I know, is I lost my beautiful wife of 24 years and she is now with our Lord (at his side). I know that God has a plan, and that it was Penny's time to leave this blue orb called Earth. I don't want to sound too eager to anyone, but the day I am also with God and seeing Penny again is the day I will be at peace. I loved her with all of my heart and all of my being. And not having her here to share our lives together is almost more than I can bear.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die."
John 11:25-26


The below 2 photographs are from her close friends who got together the day after Penny passed and they toasted to her memory. What a blessing it was for Penny to have friends like that.

I am not sure if I will "lock" this blog after this, or if I will continue to post. It was about both my wife's and my journey through the many blessings and hurdles that life was presenting to us. We shall see.


A final word (if I do lock the blog).
I spent 26 years with Penny (24 1/2 of them married). Knowing how I feel, I can see why when one passes in their 70's/80's.... the other loses hope and also passes.
The hard part are meals (getting together as a family), Church, going places where we both enjoyed going together, needing to be picked up or dropped off, watching TV/Movies, reading the Bible together, having people over, listening to music together, talking about the future and other stuff that interested us (especially memories of things we've done), the simple thing such as taking off her bra late at night because it drove her nuts and scratching her back until she felt better, just holding her hand (and her hand always gravitating towards mine).

I am convinced if we had another 25 years together and she had passed, I'd be gone within a week of her passing. Because I am barely hanging on now..... the pain is palpable and is all encompassing. I am trying to pray and take solace in her being with the Lord. I miss her incredibly so. Her singing: "Oh baby you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind, oh baby" (to the tune of "Oh Mickey")..... 2 or 3 times per day.... always... even when she was upset with me. And always pitchy / off key...... and she loved seeing my reaction (my perfect pitch hearing catching every "off" nuance). Our pet names for each other. Her making weird faces at weird times to see my reaction. Her incredible giving and forgiving heart and her love for our children.
Her incredible faith in my goodness (even when I wasn't good - especially after she was shot and our marriage suffered greatly).... and her trust in me to do the right thing by her no matter what we faced (and we always ultimately faced it together... no matter how upset we were with each other).
It was starting to really hurt for the first 3 weeks. No worries, I will survive. But I've never known such pain......
I speak about these things on the blog because it is hard to talk to people in any other way (its like having a journal). This is the only way people will remember Penny because I spent so much time with her and I want others to know that Penny as I knew her.... and the only way is unedited and raw (because any other way doesn't do her memory justice).
A month has passed since my soulmate took her seat in heaven. It took 3 weeks for the heaviness on my heart to slowly subside... (I literally can barely recall the first week / it is but a blur). The day after, I went to church and had never felt such heartache in my life. I got sick after that and Travis made sure I went for treatment at the VA when it seemed I was in bad shape. Once we were done with the services, it took over a week for me to recover from the cold. Since then, I've been concentrating on the finances and dealing with all of the creditors so that can all be resolved as soon as possible so Travis and I can then concentrate on the house (getting it straightened back out and can concentrate on our future).
Now it is time to contemplate life and see where my future lays. Alas, I still can't conceive of it without Penny...... but I really have no choice but to figure that out.

A month.... and it still feels like yesterday....
I saw the picture below and I think about the picture of Penny at Illinois State Beach..... and I dream of that day now occasionally. I think it is Penny whispering in my ear.
I wake up and the realization that she is gone is very hard still to handle. I pray that one day down the road when it is my time, I will wake up and will see her again (with the nightmare being over).


  1. That was emotioanl to read, especially the begining on how you found her....
    I miss my mom so much too. Everyday I look at her grandbaby thats about to be born im going to think of her. She was ecstatic about it! Its tough, but hang in there! I think the only thing that really helps me get through each day is the conversations mom had with me about if this ever happened.
    Still it is heartbreaking tho...

  2. It is important for you and for Penny's family/friends to know the details (given how many times we went through close calls, many were just gob-smacked that she passed in her sleep). I can't tell you how many expressed such a surprise to me. At this point, I am grateful that your mother didn't get worse and have to go through more treatment/pain/suffering and eventually end up in hospice (that is not how she wanted to live her life that was left and was not how she wanted to leave this world).

    Be thankful that in the end, she passed without being aware of it (it is what I pray happens to me when it is my time).


All comments are moderated due to the blog being Public.