Monday, July 6, 2015

Anniversaries and Butterflies

Today would have been our 2nd wedding anniversary.  This is my 2nd wedding anniversary without Mark; last year, we were having a memorial service/celebration of life service for him on what would have been our first wedding anniversary.  That was a hard day.  They say the first year is the hardest.  I would have to agree, yet I have no other years to compare it to.  I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for being there for my family over this past year, for being there for me. Your kind words, your cards, your Facebook posts, your memories shared with me make me feel like I'm not alone.  Thank you.

Here is the letter that I wrote to Mark last year.  It was read at the memorial service by Pastor Tim. I still miss him.  I'm still so thankful.  And I still cherish the love that we had for each other.  And, most importantly, I still believe that God is good.  

Dear Mark,

I miss you.
I miss getting up late and making you crepes for breakfast.
I miss our short walk around the block.
I miss seeing you in your Ecuadorian hat.
I miss listening to you sing “eensy, weensy spider” to Moses.
I miss seeing your smile when Noah walks into the room.
I miss your wisdom and insight.
I miss hearing you say “I love you SOOOOO much”
I miss you, my best friend.

Thank you for holding on to life, even when it hurt.
Thank you for giving me one more birthday.
One more thanksgiving.
One more Christmas.
One more year to enjoy this new life together and make the best memories.
Thank you for being so strong.

I love you.
I love your smile.
I love your witty and dry sense of humor.
I love how you love your boys, and Becca and Moses.
I love how you love me.

I’m grateful that God gave us the gift of redemption.
I’m grateful that today we would be celebrating our first anniversary.

I’m hopeful that others will see God’s goodness.
I’m hopeful that God will continue to use our story.
I’m hopeful that I will see you again and it will be just as sweet and genuine as it was the day we were married.

I miss you.
I love you.
I can’t wait to see you again.

Love, Kelley

A letter to Mark, on our 2nd anniversary:

Dear Mark,

I got the day off work today.  I slept in late, just like old times.  I made crepes for breakfast and remembered how much we loved eating breakfast together.  Crepes with berries and lemon curd, our new favorite.  I will get together with the kids today.  Becca made a cake and we are going to celebrate together; you always loved Becca's desserts--who doesn't?  Noah will join us.  He is working today, at his new job.  You'd be so proud of him.  As you know, he's been right by my side this year, always checking in on me, making sure I'm okay.  We think of you often.  I think the thing the kids miss most is your wisdom and insight; Keenan mentioned a few weeks ago how he misses your ability to look at a situation and parcel out the important things with your thoughtfulness. We all miss your smile, your hugs, the way you loved us with a whole heart.  

I miss sharing life with you.  I'm so grateful that we got that last year to fill with memories.  I'm reminded of you each time I see a yellow butterfly. Erin, our grief counselor, pointed out a yellow butterfly in our backyard on the day that you passed away.  She said maybe that was God's way of letting me know that you're still near.  I took that to heart.  I now have a tattoo of a butterfly with roses on my forearm to remind me of you everyday.  The whole family notices yellow butterflies now, even Moses.  I think he knows the sign for butterfly.  Wow, he's the best. . . you would have the best time hanging out with him.  And guess what? He loves basketball!  I bought him a little hoop just yesterday.  That's all he wants to do when he visits.  He is truly our grandson, through and through!  

Life continues to move forward.  Noah & I will be moving out of the family house this summer.  I know you'd love our new place.  We're going to Sunriver in a week or so and will ride the trail that you loved so much.  Taylor is going to ride it with us this year, too; Tyler has helped get her all the gear she needs.  We're all looking forward to being together; we will think of you and do what we can to include you in our trip--mountain biking of course will be the priority, just like you'd want.  

I miss you.  I love you.  I can't wait to see you again.

Love, Kelley

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Miracle on S.W. 3rd Street

The following story is one that Mark and I wrote back in the year 2000.  It is the story of how we came to own the house on 3rd Street.  I found it tucked away in a drawer; it reminds me of God's goodness, faithfulness and blessing on our family.  As we prepare to move, my hope is that the family that takes ownership of this house will come to know "how wide and long and high and deep is the love of God",  just as we have come to know and experience that here. Despite the pain and loss, there has also been much joy; I know that Mark would agree.

Miracle on S.W. 3rd Street. 
May 2000

All older homes have a history, a list of previous owners, all with their individual tragedies and triumphs that come with life and are a part of living in any home. We will add ours to the life of the is house.  But before we do, we want to tell the story of how this home came to belong to the Reckers, a long string of miracles that provided us not only at the home of our dreams, but also a testimony to the faithfulness and goodness of God.

Before this house came on the horizon, there were miracles that positioned us in time, place and resources to make it possible.  Mark got a job in Canby, and after a couple years, we sold an older home in Oregon City for a good profit so we could move to Canby.  We purchased a comfortable, newer home in a quiet neighborhood where we fully intended to live at least until the kids were gone.  We had recently done some remodeling to give the house more character.

Since moving to Canby, we had always kept our eyes open for cute older homes, and there weren't that many.  The house at 285 S.W. 3rd was always our favorite, and occasionally we would say something like, "if that house ever comes up for sale we're going to buy it." Of course, we had no idea what the asking price would be, an important consideration given the fact that we have limited resources, and we had no way of knowing if we could be the first one to show up with an acceptable offer. This was not something we counted on for our future.  For years we went through stages of looking at other houses.  Everything we thought we wanted seemed just out of reach.  Time and again we settled back into making the house in Cedar Ridge more a home.

Then Mark began attending a bible study with Gary, the son of the owner of the home on 3rd St.  This was the first of many miracles.  Mark and another member of the study told him that if his father ever wanted to sell, they were interested. Gary, the son, laughed and said, "Yeah, you and a hundred others." Early in September 1999, Gary came up to Mark in the greeting time before the sermon at church and said, "My dad said that the first decent offer on his doorstep gets the house".  Mark couldn't concentrate very well on the sermon, wondering if he should disturb Kelley with the news, how we were going to be first, how we were going to come up with the money, how we were going to sell our home in a very slow market. After the service Mark told Kelley and made an appointment with Gary to see the the house.  We both fell in love with it, but the best commitment we could get out of Bob, the owner, was "I'll tell you when I'm ready".  He didn't say he wouldn't tell anyone else, but we felt good about our meeting with him.  We immediately put a For Sale by Owner sign on our house that very afternoon.  We thought we had plenty of time to sell and we wanted to save the realtor commission (this would allow for some extra cash or allow us to sell at a lower price and secure a buyer).  

The miracles continued.

The other man in the bible study who we thought was just as interested as we were, wasn't interested anymore.  No one in Bob's family was interested. Bob chose us, and stuck to the original price, against the advice of many who thought he could make more by putting it on the market.  God provided a buyer for our home out of the blue, who wasn't too concerned about the LP siding (a problem we knew had to be fixed), and who made an acceptable offer. God turned away as a buyer another family who really liked our old house but couldn't quite afford it.  We were ready to take a significantly lower amount than what we got.

Then Bob changed his mind.  First, he wasn't in a hurry. Then he found a place and needed to sell quick.  Then he wasn't in a hurry.  Then he found another place.  At one point, his realtor was on her way to make an offer on a place for him.  The end was in sight and we might be in by Christmas!  On her way she got a call from Bob telling her he had changed his mind and was going to wait until spring.  

We had a buyer for our home who wanted it now.  We agonized over whether to get out of our deal and hope that someone would come along at the right time in the spring.  We were going to have to wait until spring.  Kelley did not want to move twice.  She was willing to call off the deal with our buyers and try to sell again in the spring. We were already past the time when we should have called our buyers to tell them the deal was off and intended to call them the next day.  Mark went to a conference in Eugene, and on the return trip shared our situation with his coworkers. Both advised that we should go for it, that they had taken chances in their lives and never regretted it.  What was the worse that could happen?  Mark arrived home almost sick.  He did not want to bring up the topic again.  But he didn't have to.  During a day of prayer and talking to friends, God had changed Kelley's mind.  We would sell the house, move into temporary housing and pray that everything would work out.  We had a great sense of peace with our decision. We felt that regardless of what happened with the house, God was going to take care of us.

Now we needed a place to live.  At exactly the right time, God provided a cute, clean, roomy, older duplex for rent with a garage for storage.

Bob left for Palm Springs for the winter after signing a sales agreement with us.  We moved into the duplex to wait, knowing that nothing was certain until we moved in.

At one point, we were contacted by a friend who advised us to get a buyers agent. No reasons were given, but we believed that if this was not to be our house, then God must have something better for us.  We continued to wait, but a little more nervously.

The end came in a whirlwind, a little sooner than we expected it. Bob found a house and the owner was in a hurry to move. From the time we heard Bob had found a house to the date we actually moved in was only about 6 weeks!

In spite of increasing interest rates, we found a loan with a manageable payment schedule.  We had an easy move because of great friends and the fact that much of our stuff was already packed. We got the keys to the house and went to work. We pulled up the old carpeting right away, to discover beautiful hardwood floors.  And God provided some furnishings at just the right time, for less money than we expected to pay. Gary even left behind a basketball hoop for the boys.

The string of circumstances and events is too long and complicated to have been orchestrated by us.  We fully acknowledge God's hand in providing for us our dream house.  We dedicate this house, and everything that happens here, to Him.  Let the tragedies and triumphs that occur during our residence here give testimony to the greatness of God.

I know that was a very lengthy post.  Thank you for reading to the end, because I believe that's the best part.  God is great, God is good.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Missing you

Missing Mark/Dad:
There is not a day that goes by that we don't think about Mark and how we miss him.  Today, I found a handwritten note in the pocket of a jacket that I hadn't worn for many months.  It brought back a memory that made me laugh and made me cry.  Last week, the family all went to a farmer's market; we ordered gelato and Taylor asked me "What flavor do you think Mark would have ordered"?  "Strawberry" I replied, without a doubt.  Tyler asked me a few weeks ago "Mom, was Dad good at creating spreadsheets? Because that's something I do really well--I think I got that from him".  I completely agreed with him--he certainly didn't get that skill from me!  Keenan and Becca are researching buying a house; Becca commented that Mark's insight and wisdom would be so helpful to them right now as they plan, dream and make decisions about their future.  Noah turned 18 the end of July; it was our first big family event since Mark's passing.  Noah really wanted to get a tattoo for his birthday. . . so, on July 31 he had Mark's birthdate and date of his passing tattooed on his forearm.  He is reminded everyday that he had a Dad who loved him.  He is keenly aware of that. He is grateful for that time with him, but misses him deeply.  We celebrated Noah's birthday dinner at Brazil Grill, a place we had gone with Mark just once before.  Mark would have ordered a Brazilian cocktail, eaten too much and laughed with us as we enjoyed a great meal and conversation together.

On the day of the memorial service, many of you brought roses for me.  I know that there were a few people responsible for organizing that (Celina & Anna--thank you).  For those of you who don't know, I will explain.  When Mark and I were remarried last summer, July 6, 2013, Mark purchased about 6 or 7 dozen roses.  As friends and family arrived for the ceremony, Mark appointed someone to hand out roses to the crowd.  One to keep and one to give to me after the ceremony was over.  I was not aware of this until the end of the ceremony when I was swarmed with hugs and roses.  I ended up with 2 beautiful bouquets.  It was a heart felt gesture from Mark and one of my favorite memories of that day.  Fast forward to July 6, 2014, the day of the memorial service, exactly one year later.  Word was put out via Facebook, email, text, etc that "Mark would want Kelley to have  roses today".  Many of you got wind of this plan and brought me roses.  It was so beautiful.  I was completely surprised and overwhelmed.  Thank you for loving me and knowing how much that would mean to me.
Moses, 11 months

The future:
As a family, we try to see each other on a regular weekly basis.  Keenan, Becca & Moses continue to  rent the basement as they figure out what the next step for them may be.  They are hoping to rent property on a farm and begin a micro-dairy this fall.  Finding the right place has been a bit of a challenge, but they are persistent and optimistic--the right place will come along. Moses will celebrate his first birthday next month!  He's taking his first steps and keeping us smiling--such a joy!  Tyler and Taylor are preparing for a potential move out of the Portland Metro area; details are still pending but it involves a job promotion and added responsibility.  It will be a good move but we will certainly miss being so close to them.  Noah will finish his summer job the end of September. He plans to attend community college beginning Winter term.  I am back to work at Providence.  I have a great schedule and enjoy my job.  All things considered, it has been good to be back in a routine.

Thank you:
We continue to experience the love and kindness of friends and family.  Your prayers, cards, emails, phone calls all mean so much to us.  It reminds me that Mark is not forgotten; that you are still thinking of him, missing him---just as we are.  It makes me feel that we are not alone and that is of great comfort.  Thank you for sharing your love for Mark with us.  We appreciate you!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Celebration of Life Service

Celebration of Life Service

Silverton High School Auditorium
1456 Pine St (use Kromminga Drive off Pine Street)
Silverton, OR 97381

Sunday, July 6 at 6 pm

Please join us as we celebrate the life of Mark Dennis Recker: son, brother, husband, father, friend.

In honor of Mark, if possible, please wear your Recker's Runners t-shirt, Recker's Reader's t-shirt or any school-related t-shirts (Silver Crest or Pratum).

An ice-cream feed will be served following the service in the Silverton High School Commons.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Saying Goodbye

Dear Friends and Family,

We are deeply saddened to tell you that Mark passed away this morning after facing cancer for over a year.  Mark was surrounded by his family for the past week and at the time of his death.  We have been anticipating the end since last Wednesday, but Mark is not a quitter, and just kept on fighting.  We've spent many hours together surrounding Mark's bed, looking at pictures, remembering special times and letting Mark know how deeply we love him.  We will miss him terribly.

We are planning a Celebration of Life service for Sunday, July 6th at 6pm at Silverton High School.  Details will follow.

Thank you all for your support, love, cards, meals, yard work, emails and other acts of love for Mark and for our family.


The Recker Family

Saturday, June 7, 2014

June 2014

Dear Friends & Family,

Recker Family July 2013
I wanted to follow up the last blog post with some answers, as I mentioned that there was an MRI and additional treatments that would be coming up in the weeks following.  The results of Mark's most recent MRI showed the tumor had not grown and in fact the area of concern had been reduced significantly.  This was perplexing because Mark's symptoms were not consistent with those results and his condition was worsening.  As I've mentioned before, we have tried not to live and die by MRI reports; what really matters is how Mark is doing, how he's feeling and how he's managing his symptoms.  After several calls to the oncologist, and describing how Mark was doing, it was clear to the Dr. that further treatment (ie infusions) would have to be on hold for now.  He needed to be stronger to tolerate the side effects.  Over the past week, his condition has showed steady decline.  We made the decision to put Mark on hospice care this week.  He will get personalized treatment of his symptoms (we are hoping for better pain control) and we will have access to a nurse 24/7 as well as a social worker (she's a counselor we've been working with for the past year so she already knows our family) and a chaplain.  We've had visits with each of them this week.  We feel very supported and cared for by the hospice team.

This is certainly not the blog update that I ever wanted to write.  All along we've been hoping for a miracle and Mark has had periods of feeling good enough to get out for a walk or a ride on his recumbent bike.  Recently, I looked into some clinical trials that showed some promise for treatment of brain cancer like Mark's.  I spoke several times with a Dr from Duke University who is using the polio virus for treatment of brain cancer; unfortunately Mark did not qualify because (ironically), his last MRI scan did not show tumor growth.  There is another study at the Mayo Clinic that is using the measles virus for treatment; I spoke to them this week also.  Mark would potentially be eligible for that study, but not until the first part of August.

Everyone wants to know "how long"?  We don't know, of course, but we do know that he is fading.  I have been hoping that we would be able to celebrate our "first" anniversary in July.  I am still hoping for that.  Please pray for comfort for Mark.  He can be restless at times and when he is feeling nausea, headache and fatigue all at the same time, he gets overwhelmed.  We want to keep him comfortable and decrease the amount of episodes where he is feeling those overwhelming waves of symptoms.  We are working closely with our hospice nurse to address those issues.

We have felt love and support from family and friends like never before in this past year.  Please continue to keep us in your prayers.

The Recker Family

Monday, May 26, 2014

Recker Family News May 2014

Just wanted to give you all an update on Mark's health.  I apologize for the lapse in blog updates.  It is hard to put in writing the changes we are seeing and I just haven't been able to share information that is not necessarily positive.  It's so much easier when there is good news to report.

Mark is spending progressively more time in bed or on the couch sleeping.  I would say he sleeps 18-20+ hours a day.  He has received 2 infusions of a drug that is supposed to inhibit tumor growth by blocking blood supply to the tumor.  His first infusion went well; his second infusion seemed to go well until the following morning when he woke up early with nausea, vomitting and severe headache.  I could not get his symptoms under control and ended up taking him to the ER.  The Dr. debated about whether or not to keep him overnight and left it up to me.  I wanted to make sure he was comfortable and didn't want to have to come back if things went south, so we stayed overnight to get him re-hydrated and get his pain & nausea under control.  He came home the next morning, Mother's day. 

Since then, he has not fully recovered as far as his energy level.  His headache pain seems to be slightly better.  We saw his oncologist last Friday.  He's ordered an MRI for sometime in the coming weeks to see how his brain looks, checking for tumor growth or change. 

He doesn't go out much as he just doesn't have the energy.  I would like to believe that he's just having a temporary set-back, but my training and intuition tell me otherwise.  These setbacks have been rough.  This is especially hard on the family; the boys see their Dad everyday and see the subtle changes and the big changes too.  We still tentatively hope for a miracle, however sometimes always hoping that tomorrow will be better is exhausting and disappointing.  This is just hard, and we are weary. 

Thanks to the many folks whose efforts to see that the  Silver Crest sign was completed. Mark had all of his extended family members go up to see it about a week ago. That meant a lot to Mark to be able to show them that.  He is a humble man, but I know he was so proud to be able to show his family the legacy he has left in the Silver Crest and also the Pratum communities.  The sign dedication ceremony at Silver Crest was also very much appreciated.  It was so nice for Mark to see his vision had finally come to fruition.  It was so great to have the students, parents and staff there to celebrate with us.
Mark at the Silver Crest Sign Dedication May 2014
We have hired a caregiver that will be here for Mark's care on days when I work.  As Mark's condition changes, we wanted to have someone in place who knew him and knew our family and I did not want to have to scramble for help when we really needed it.  Even though the boys would never say it, I believe the responsibility of caring for their dad while dealing with the grief and anticipating the loss, was too much to put on them. This will allow them time to just "be" with him.  This was a hard step for us to make, but feel it will be best for all of us.
We are by no means giving up. We continue to see his oncologist & neuro-surgeon and pursue treatment.  The MRI will give us a clearer picture of what is going on and what our next steps will be.  
It is possible that Mark will have an upswing and be able to spend more time awake and engaged.  If you would like to come for a visit, please let me know.  I try to pace his activity and visitors so that he doesn't get too overwhelmed and exhausted.  I will do my best to accomodate.  Please email me if you'd like to set something up.   Also, if you would like to respond to this blog, it is best to send an email rather than write comments here as we check our email daily and don't check the blog regularly.
Other news: Noah will graduate from Canby High School in June.  We are very proud of him and look forward to celebrating this milestone! His is working in a program through Clackamas County called Green Corps Fresh.  He works every Saturday at the Oregon City Farmer's Market selling espresso, smoothies and will eventually sell organic, locally grown produce.  It is a great program and he is learning a lot.  As one of the group's leaders, Noah is well-respected for his work ethic and commitment to making the program a success.  We are so happy to see him learning and excelling.  Way to go Noah!
Noah Thomas Recker

Thank you all for your love, prayers and support.  Continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers.