Friday was a beautiful snowy day in Andover — and in much of the state. Alfred University and State both called snow days and area schools were closed.
But in Manhattan, Bud was scurrying down to get a report on the MRI and CT scan that he had scheduled the day before. We had decided that this time, I would stay in Andover and “tend to business.” I know that many of you know just how fidgety you can get in the days leading up to progress scans and reports. Though we were not expecting bad news, we also don’t want to presume upon God. We ask Him, in faith, to heal completely and, in the absence of that, to work effectively through the medication.
Part way through the morning I got the text “Everything looks good.” There were good friends here when I got the text and we rejoiced together. Later, when I had a minute, I put the news on our prayer chain and more of you rejoiced with us.
Bud arrived home later in the evening and gave me the more complete report — but the end result is still the same — “Everything looks good.” Thank you for your prayers — there is nothing more meaningful to us than to know that our friends and loved ones are praying on Bud’s behalf.
Likewise, we continue to pray for those of you who are also walking through difficult medical situations. We may not have the same diagnosis or the same disease, but we are learning, just as you are, what it is like to live under a cloud. We want for each one to remember that the sun is still shining further above the thunderhead that you’re facing.
For us this is a beautiful reminder that no matter what the trials are that beleaguer us below, God is still at work in ways that we cannot see or imagine. He is good all the time, friend. You can trust that He loves you.
Recently a lovely lady approached us during calling hours to ask about the flowers she ordered. She indicated that she had purchased them from our website and the order said that the flowers would be delivered in time for the visitation. Her flowers were not on display and she was dismayed that we would make a promise like this and then not fulfill.
As I began to talk with her, I realized that it would be better to ask her to show me how she had ordered the flowers. We went to the office and I showed her our website. I took her to the obituary and I clicked on the “Send Flowers” link. This link is shown on every current obituary page. The link takes you to a page that shows some local florists from whom flowers may be ordered. But there is no order form, simply phone numbers and names.
She said this is not where she got the flowers; in fact, the page she used had flowers shown and choices to make and could be ordered directly from that page.
I then did a search on the obituary, which brought up the Legacy.com version as the top option in the search. I clicked on the obituary and she was very excited to see the exact page she had seen earlier.
But this page has nothing to do with us. We do not support it, nor do we benefit from it. In fact, we usually are harmed by it–as are our local florists. What we would like for each person to understand is that Legacy.com is big business.
“Legacy.com is a website founded in 1998, the world’s largest commercial provider of online memorials. The Web site hosts obituaries and memorials for more than 70 percent of all U.S. deaths. Legacy.com hosts obituaries for more than three-quarters of the 100 largest newspapers in the U.S., by circulation. The site attracts more than 30 million unique visitors per month and is among the top 40 trafficked websites in the world.
Legacy.com is a privately held company based in Evanston, Illinois, with more than 1500 newspaper affiliates in North America, Europe and Australia . . . .”
As you can see, newspapers are primarily responsible for the success of Legacy.com. Our local papers jumped onto this platform many years ago because it took away the need for them to support websites to hold myriad obituaries for their local community. They found a way to allow someone else to carry the cost of perpetual maintenance of the life stories of the people in your hometown. And that was just fine with Legacy.com because they had a larger vision.
Now you can search for an obituary from your community and land on a national clearing house that looks like it could be a page from the funeral home down the street. And on that page, they will be offering to sell you flowers, candy, balloons, chocolates, and various other comfort items.
But they are not us. They are not even the local florist. They are not even in our state. And Legacy.com makes promises that cannot be kept because they do not understand the economic and customer service dynamics of our region.
And if they cannot deliver, as was the case in my opening story, they don’t care. The lady of the story did not receive any kind of customer service call telling her there would be no flowers. She just arrived and was totally disappointed.
So, why do we allow this to happen? Shouldn’t we be the top response when someone searches for an obituary. We learned a long time ago that Legacy.com has resources that we cannot match–literally, a business has to “buy” the opportunity to be at the top of the results when a search is performed.
So “Caveat emptor” — that web site that you’re clicking on might not have anything to do with a local business. When searching obituaries, you can be sure that Legacy.com is not a “local” company and they do not support local businesses.
If you must search for a place to purchase flowers — start on the website of the funeral home handling the services. Some of those do, in fact, have ordering platforms from which you can order flowers. In these situations, the florist is not getting the full cost of the arrangement as the funeral home receives a commission.
On our site, you will find referrals to our local florists. These establishments are in the business of flowers and provide wonderful services directly to you. They answer to you and you can bring your concerns and questions directly to them. And from them, you can expect and receive excellent service on the arrangements you need for funerals in our area.
(And please, read the other postings about bloomstoday.com, flowers.com, and other flower gathering services….)
(Just for fun – I looked up the ranking for our website. In the United States, there are 1,727,216 sites that get more traffic than does ours!)
Bud went to Memorial Sloan Kettering last week for scans and reports.
We are grateful to report to you the following:
From the oncologist – everything looks good and and we will keep the three-month check up cycle. Continue with the targeted therapy medicine–no changes at this time.
From the radiation oncologist – things look really good; even evidence of the bone in the spine regrowing. They gave him an osteoporosis shot to help boost that activity of growth. No need to go back to this doctor for six months.
How great to display for you the works of God! We are thankful for the great report and we are humbly thankful for each one of you who is praying for Bud’s health. Whenever you share that you’ve been praying, we are reminded of the wonderful love that God shares with us through His dear children.
So, many of you know that I have been pursuing getting my funeral director’s license. At the end of the course, in order to be eligible to graduate, a student must pass the Comprehensive Exams. I have been studying diligently for this; yet in the two weeks prior to the test, I had very little time to actually concentrate on those studies.
But on Sunday night, I drove down to Pittsburgh to take the exam on Monday. The process is that the test is divided into two sections with six tests making up each section. The test taker has to pass all the tests with a score of at least 80%. If all the tests are passed on Monday, then the tester is done. If they are not all passed on Monday, the tester returns on Wednesday to retake those not passed at the stated percentage. On Friday, the tester has opportunity to take the test once again to finish the week by taking any remaining parts that were not previously passed.
Each half of the test runs in the neighborhood of 200 questions with a two-hour window to take the test.
So on Monday, I took the test. There were several “administrative” bumps that caused me angst in the way the test was proctored; but that was manageable. All the same, when the test was over, I would have to describe myself in a state of test-shock. I considered staying in Pittsburgh just a bit to get something to eat. However, given the time of day and the fact that I needed to get some media prepared for a funeral service the next day, I was not comfortable with remaining.
And then I remembered! Chik-fil-A, in Erie, is half-way home. So, off I went — happy to be getting out of the city before traffic would be any sort of an issue! It was only two hours to Erie, yet my stomach was not happy with this decision. So I kept myself going with the thought of a chocolate milkshake and chicken tenders and a chocolate milkshake. Did I mention that chocolate milkshake?
The stress of that test had really taken its toll and I was so looking forward to a nice meal, oh, and a chocolate milkshake–LARGE. Just a little further–almost there!
As I pulled into the parking lot, there was a huge sign–CLOSED FOR CONSTRUCTION. WHAT?!?!?! How could they do this to me? And the letdown was almost too much…yes, really, I almost cried.
But then I pulled myself together by reminding myself that it’s not Chik-fil-A, or their chocolate milkshake, that sustains me. God is bigger than a fast food chain and He’s bigger than a Comprehensive Exam. He reminded me that He is Enough, no matter what.
For the record — I passed seven of the twelve parts that day and on Wednesday, I passed the remaining five.
They’re popping up all over the village, town, county….those reminders of an upcoming election! The “Vote For . . . ” signs are also a reminder to us to say . . .
You have elected Bud for three terms as County Coroner! He is on the ballot once again this year and we are thankful for those who choose to vote for him. He appears under his “stodgy name” — Maynard Baker.
Every county needs coroners; it is a vital function that serves the people of our county on a very personal level. In case you didn’t know, our county has four coroner positions.
So thank you again …
And from Bud — It is always an honor to serve the people of our county. I am thankful for all who fill in the “Maynard Baker” circle when they cast their votes!
We learned on June 7, that there is a bit of new cancer growth on Bud’s spine. The Rochester doctor gave us her plan. Friday, we went to NYC, Memorial Sloan Kettering, for their opinion and plan.
Yes, there is a little bit of new growth, which the radiation oncologist wants to radiate. (Correction: a previous site — the spine — shows additional growth. This is not a “new site.” Sites radiated with “curative doses” of radiation rarely have additional growth. Bud’s original dose was a palliative dose, to alleviate his severe back pain.) He is confident that it can be eradicated without a great deal of risk to the spine, even though that location has been radiated once before. So we will proceed with making plans for a biopsy of that growth and radiating it at the curative dose level.
Earlier in the month, there was some evidence of something unusual happening in the brain. The Rochester doctor believes it is radiation effect and not new cancer. The NYC radiation oncologist also thinks this may be the case. There is a specialized MRI that can tell him for sure. Bud will be having that done on July 2. Given the level of confidence that both doctors have that this is not new cancer, and given how the symptoms have subsided after initiating steroids, we are believing this too unless the coming scan shows otherwise.
And likely, we will stay on the current medication for some time longer. It has a typical “shelf life” of 12 months. It has worked for Bud for about 20 months. (The NYC doctor feels that the new cancer growth is a result of radiation failure, not med failure.) Even if it was med failure, once the location is radiated, then there is no rush to change meds if the activity in his brain is not cancer.
As long as the current medication is working, we are advised to stay with it. Another consideration is that each med has a “shelf life” and we don’t want to start the clock on a new one prematurely.
In this cancer journey, we can see God writing a story and molding lives. Along the way, we think of so many things for which to be thankful. One of the foundational things is advice from a family member early in the process. She encouraged us to go to the best hospital in our region for a second opinion. It was excellent advice two years ago; and it proved to be excellent advice at this crossroad as well.
Originally, Bud thought that we would just go with the advice of our nearby doctors and not incur the expense for second opinions. But it is amazing what different doctors will see, know, and suggest. This was well worth the effort and money involved.
The second opinion infused new hope into our journey, as I’m sure some of you can understand. If you don’t already know, “hope” is a powerful word.
I am currently on “break” from school. My courses run in eight-week sessions with a two week break between. I had grandiose plans of getting so much done, but today is the last “official” day. And nothing is done.
No laundry, no changing my textbook/study center, no closet cleaning, no swapping out winter clothes, no basement hoeing, no plant planting. No “thing” is done. I didn’t actually hope to accomplish all of that, but I thought I would get to one or two things on the list.
Even though I sound discouraged, because I do like a tidy home and a lovely yard, I am not. All these things will get done when they are supposed to, if they are supposed to. You might be walking up my porch steps as I put away the last pair of underwear or wash that last pan, but “just in time” works. If November comes and I pull a sweater out of the dresser in my bedroom, where it has been for the entire summer and fall, then I’d say I’m ahead of the game.
So if I accomplished none of these “things” — where did my break go?
Two events come to mind. One event was a “must do.” Our lives are made up of those. Not because others dictate to us, but because we understand the importance for ourselves of doing them. This “must do” was attending my uncle’s funeral. Nearly all of us understand the “must do” component — while you want to support your family and be there for the event, the “must” part comes because no one likes facing death. But it is part of our lives and it is a fact of our history.
The other event was only a “must do” in that it was time for us to get away. But this was mostly spontaneous, especially in that we didn’t actually plan where we were going and just decided along the way. We didn’t actually book hotel rooms, either. Well, I guess that’s not so unusual for us. We just “hope” it works out and we might find a deal. My poor kids can tell you how this usually worked when traveling long distances!
So we ended up enjoying four nights and five days of spontaneity. Each night, the hotel room hunt was successful. The capstone night was finding the Common Man Hotel and Restaurant in Claremont, New Hampshire. What a lovely place. And we were offered a discounted rate, besides!
We didn’t have any particular agenda; no schedule to keep; no people to meet. So we drove, relaxed and rested.
But always present was one extra visitor that we didn’t invite. It was “that guy,” Cancer. He’s always with us these days. Though the doctors have indicated he is not active, neither do they say he is gone. And sometimes, we are reminded that he invaded our lives because of treatment side effects.
So in our wanderings, he was there. But because we were able to cut out other stresses, the time together was refreshing and brought us closer together. I recently heard a friend say that she is “living” with cancer — we are still learning how to do that. It is a challenge to teach yourself to live in the moment; knowing that cancer wants to limit the moments. Our journey has been somewhat calm, so far, compared to others we have known. We are thankful for that and it reminds us to pray for those who face very hard treatments and prognosis. Our long weekend resulted in some much needed rest, introspection, conversation and rejuvenation.
So those things that I thought I’d get done during break don’t matter. Life isn’t about “things” — it is about moments. Our wonderful, happy, spontaneous moments this past week — that was living.
Here’s what we got to do!
Friday morning – rescheduled MRI in Rochester;
Friday night – Syracuse (NY) Mets ball game – Tim Tebow at bat x3 ; https://www.milb.com/syracuse
From here I thought we were going to Boston, but the traffic dissuaded us.
Saturday afternoon – stopped in to see Bud’s Dad;
Saturday night – Dinner at Lizzie Keays (Bud’s sister’s restaurant in Warrensburg, NY) http://www.lizziekeays.com/
Visit with friends in Thurman, NY;
Sunday morning – church at New Hope Church – Queensbury, NY; http://www.sharingnewhope.org/ — excellent place to worship!
Sunday – Lunch with Bud’s Dad – Bud’s locally famous spaghetti;
Sunday afternoon – Andover, VT;
Sunday night — The Common Man Inn and Restaurant in New Hampshire https://thecmaninn.com/ – a must do for you!;
Earlier this month, Bud and I were asked to share some of our experiences at the annual Sweetheart Dinner. The idea that the organizers wanted to convey is that marriage is not about living a fairy tale. It is the concept of two broken people living this relationship together and desiring to do it God’s way. I have attached a recording of the talk. I apologize for the “tin” sound you hear occasionally as the lectern I was using was wobbly. I didn’t realize it would make such an awful sound in the recording. After our talk, we showed a video (using photos from our church family) that highlighted the song “Broken Together.”
In the talk, Bud emphasizes how prevalent divorce is in our families. However, there are those marriages who have stood the test of time. I am not going to our “cousin” level as I am looking primarily at those relationships that affected either Bud or me. The last eight couples on the list were distant relatives either in geography or in actuality. Some of those listed here have, indeed, reached their 50th anniversary! So as you see the list, marriage has survived in our families, as the names listed are those relationships that did not end in divorce. In my case, I did not get the benefit of observing a lasting marriage on display as we lived a good distance from most of those who were “making it.”
Bud’s Grandpa and Grandma Baker – Grandpa died when Bud was very young
Uncle Gary and Linda Rounds
Aunt Cynthia and Tom Needham
Uncle Eddie and Herma Baker
Uncle Jim and Barb Baker
Linda’s Grandpa and Grandma Ousley – Grandpa died when Linda was in elementary school
Grandpa and Grandma Miller
Uncle Fred and Sharon Miller
Uncle Dan and Marilyn Miller
Aunt Judy and Elwin Potter
Aunt Rita and Tim Silvey
Aunt Fran and Jim Fear
Uncle Holly and Geri Ousley
Aunt Lois and Emmet Trump
Two of our siblings have weathered the storms of their original marriage: Bud’s sister — Amber and Tom Grace and Linda’s brother — Keith and Cristina Ousley.
This year just needs to be simpler. So I only decorated a short little Big-tree-wanna-be. But the beauty still touches my heart. I placed on an ornament that commemorates our first date, one that is from our wedding, and mainly dough ornaments I made for our first Christmas tree. That first tree also had some tulle from the material for my wedding veil — I have echoed the idea once again in this tree. Our handcrafted (from a dear friend) angel was too weighty for the tree itself, but she’s there at the base.
With no adornment at the top, the tree seemed pretty empty. So I made a simple reminder. It isn’t a star, reminiscent of the Star of Bethlehem. It isn’t an angel to remind me of the account of the angel encouraging the shepherds to “Fear Not.” It is a simple shiny red ribbon, surrounded by a lovely white bow.
” . . . Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; . . . “
And the tree, itself, is a reminder that though Jesus came as a sweet little baby, His destiny was the cross–the tree of Golgotha. It was this tremendous act of love that made possible the transformation of my sin, and yours, from scarlet to white.
Bud and I send Christmas greetings to one and all and we pray that your celebrations will remind you of God’s great love for you. He gave you the greatest gift of all, His Son.