Chris & Kellie.

 

Lots of times in life we don’t realize we’re living a “moment in time” until after we’ve lived it. And then – every once in a great while – there are days like today, when you are fully aware of the “moment” you’re living.

This was the opening line of my journal entry from last week. The day before, I had gotten the dreaded phone call from Kellie. The one that said, “The doctors have told me it’s time to call hospice.”

No. No. NO!

Our minds (or maybe more appropriately, our hearts) are very weird. Even when we know, short of a miracle, something is coming, it’s still so very hard to hear. Or accept.

Feeling helpless and not knowing what else to do, I flew to Atlanta.

When I got to the cancer center in Newnan last week, I wasn’t ready to see Chris’ physical appearance. The last time I saw him was in November. He was thinner, but he still looked like “Chris.” Now, he looks like he has cancer. He’s frail, and very very thin. Well, all except his belly. This iron man/tri-athlete who has never had anything less than a six pack, now has this protruding belly, one that we all tease – Chris included – makes him look like he’s about to deliver. Because humor gets us through, and because we are all pretty irreverent, I said to Chris: “Are we in a cancer hospital or the maternity ward?” Of course he laughed as best he could. It didn’t take long for him to shoot one back at me… “You know I’m going on ahead as a diplomat, right? To make sure you and Kellie get in.” lololol. Tears. Laughs. Tears.

If I had to name someone in which to compare Chris, I would tell you “think Tony Dungy.” Chris has that same quiet strength. He’s not loud or flashy. He’s a man of integrity and character. He’s silly. He’s an instigator! He’s a good listener. He’s not judgmental. He’s always, always positive. He’s a good friend. And a good man. His family is everything to him. Other than worrying about his girls (all 3 of them), he is ready. He loves and trusts God with a blind faith that leaves me wanting to sit at his bedside and ask him to speak wisdom into my life.

We sat for a bit and talked about what kind of service and music he wants. His words: “I want a party!” I told him we wouldn’t be much in the partying mood. He did tell me the songs he would want played. He even pulled up a YouTube video of one of ‘em on his phone to show me. He did have one mandate: “No sad songs!” I asked him if he was at peace. He said “yes, God’s been preparing me for this, for a while.”  I told him, “Chris, you are SO LOVED. I hope you know how much everybody loves you.” I think he does.

Pete flew up a day later and we were able to spend a few days together. It was a beautiful visit. We did such normal things. Pete & Chris watched the Gator basketball game in between naps (Pete napping too!). Kellie and I went for a walk. Pete treated me and Kel to pedis and manis. All so normal. Yet so abnormal. Chris is in his 40′s. It’s surreal knowing what you’re really doing is saying goodbye. On the positive side, we are so grateful for the gift of being able to leave nothing unsaid. Not everybody gets that. It’s a gift we are holding tightly.

My emotions are still all over the place. I’m tender. I’m raw. I’m disappointed. I’m sad. And I’m mad. All normal, I suppose. The scripture I keep repeating to myself…”even when we are faithless, You remain faithful.” Thank you, Lord; I’m clinging to this promise.

Kellie & Chris

Kellie & Chris…so beautiful! and so handsome!

Today is hard, too…today is Chris & Kellie’s 29th wedding anniversary.  I can’t stop thinking about them. It feels odd to call and say “Happy Anniversary!”  I know she is grateful for the 29 years God has given her with Chris. But I also know she would eagerly sign up for 29 more. I simply can’t imagine there being a time when there’s a Kellie “without a Chris.”  I think about the vows they took all those years ago. When you promise “in sickness and in health,” you really aren’t picturing this. But it’s life, and it’s what we enthusiastically promise. I can’t tell you what a wonderful caregiver she is being to her husband. She’s amazing. I know people go through this every day. And I know she isn’t exempt.  We, as believers, aren’t exempt. I know we aren’t immune to pain. And I know God said, “In this world you WILL have trouble; not IF you have trouble.”  I know God doesn’t owe us any explanations. I know His ways are higher. I know He loves us more than we can imagine. I know He has prepared a place for us. I know we are just passing through. I know this isn’t our home.  I know, I know, I know….

But still.

Spending these last few days with Chris have left me feeling really dwarfed by the magnitude of God; we truly operate in nothing more than an “illusion of control.” But even though I’ve felt really small, I’ve also felt His nearness. I know He sees us. I know He hears us. And I know He catches every single tear. I watched a sermon by Britt Merrick the other day called “When Sparrows Fall.” Britt is a pastor who recently lost his daughter to cancer. He said this: In times like these, we ask the wrong question. The question isn’t “Why?” But rather, “Who?”  It’s not, “God, why is this happening?” But rather, “Who will carry us through?”

I know God will carry Kellie, Hope, Caroline, Cynthia and the rest of Chris’ family through this. I also know their darkest days are still ahead of them. As family and friends, we’re transitioning from praying for a miracle to praying that he not suffer long. And of course, trying to figure out how to say goodbye.

 

29 Responses to “Chris & Kellie.”

  1. Amy March 16, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    So beautifully written, Carmen. Thank you for your heart-felt transparency and for sharing this journey with us. I am the children’s counselor for our local hospice in north central Florida. Your description of how Chris and Kellie (and you and all their loved ones) are navigating through all this, rings such truth, pain, love and grace in my ears (and heart!). Without God and His promises, we struggle and have no hope. With God and and His promises, we have EVERY hope we need…even through the sorrow and pain. I don’t like the phrase “terminal illness.” Instead, for believers, I see this as a “transitional illness.” Your dear friend (as well as all of you) are transitioning through this illness to the next promise God has for Chris and for you. I am holding Chris and Kellie and their precious girls in prayer, and trusting God will use every moment for His glory and for their healing. Blessings, love, hugs and prayers to and for you all.

  2. Karen McCullough March 16, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    My prayers is for Chris and his family. Seems like the Lord has already touched them in a magnitude of ways. 29 years of happiness! Congrats. As I continued to read with tears running down my face, I wanted to leave with…make sure we are in people’s lives that are hurting. That is what you exactly did Carmen, and those memories will hold Kelli. Time and memories are so important~the people that stood with us in times of hurts, pain, in passing. You will be one of their memories. The laughs you all had, walks, the basketball game watching~ reminds me how we may root for a special team, but God is always rooting for us! When we are in the goal it is He who say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” How much better of a score can a person have? God bless!

  3. Dona Pugh March 16, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    Words fail, as tears fall in empathy for this dear family. My girls and I were so blessed to have had Kellie for our wedding dress consultant in December. She was so sweet! ! So with this small connection, I am lifting up prayers for you all, with greater fervency, knowing that God is close to those who are crushed in spirit. Saying goodbye is excruciating. When my family suffered such a loss, I clung to the book called, ” Heaven” by Randy Alcorn. And believing it is so, I can smile thinking that Chris will be Jesus in this wonderful place He has prepared for those who love HIm.! Best wishes to Chris and Kellie as they celebrate 29 years of love for each other.

  4. Connie Hunt March 16, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

    Carmen – Iknow all too well the mixed feelings you are having right now. I remember all too well that same trip I took with my dear friend Nancy and her brother and sister-in-law just about 18 months ago. You have written a beautiful tribute to Chris and Kellie and their family as well as their relationship with God and with you.

    Know you are deeply loved by me (as well as a host of others) and we are all lifting you, your family, Chris and Kellie, their family and all their friends in prayer. Also, know that there are a host of people who will be there for you when you need us. Just reach out to us in any way you want.

    I leave you with one thought that helped me through a difficult transition….May the joy of Chris’s life provide comfort against the grief of your loss.

    In God’s Great Love,

    Connie

  5. Janice Lovering March 16, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    We have just finished reading about Chris and Kellie. Kellie’s mom is my cousin. Frances called me this past week and shared that they now have Hospice with Chris. He has really fought a good fight, been so brave and courageous. They are such a beautiful family and our hearts are breaking for them. So happy that all the family is together today for their anniversary.

    Our prayers are for Kellie, Hope, Kip, and Caroline, Chris’ sister and her family and Chris’ mom and dad, and also the other family members. It has been a hard year for all of them and we just pray for comfort and peace.

    Love and Prayers,

    Randall and Janice

  6. Judith Longinette March 16, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

    As usual, beautifully written Carmen. I lost my husband after 35 years of marriage,and it all happened in just 24 hours, just when we thought we would start having carefree fun again. Both of our daughters were pregnant for the first time with the first baby due in one month. It was so unexpected and so devestating to all of us and especially at this special time for the girls.

    My family always loves drama so my husband left us one month before Christmas ~ I am sure so we would always/always remember!

    I found it, at the time, easy to be strong. What I always had a problem with was not being strong and braking down. But, I did, and in my own way. After it was all over and the one set left to go back to Georgia and the other one had to settle down and begin to accept Dad was gone, I turned off the phone, went to bed, cried and cried and talked to God, Eddie, his pillow and myself.

    Eventually, my words turned into asking the Lord to give me some guidance and “messages” to help me begin to live in a way that would make both Him and the him I lost to always be proud of me.

    Eventually, it began to stink in that bed and I got hungry, so I dried my tears, took a bath, ate a baked potato and a can of green beans, pitiful isn’t that, and took the trash out.

    Well, two days after the burial we had a terrible snow and ice storm and when I went out to take the trash out I fell in the back yard and began to cry and wail and began to laugh because I realized little fatty had to get up, dust herself off and get on with it/cause there was no one here to feel sorry for me. First laugh, thanks Lord !!

    There are a lot of adjustments and so many things to handle now by ones self and then the strong kicks back in.

    I guess my message is ~ healing comes and although you think you will never go a day without remembering losing your loved one and your loss, you eventually do have one day when you realize they do not comsume every thought of every minute of every day. You start to remember funny things and are able to laugh and appreciate the time you did have. Now, all of us, are able to sit around and talk about Dad and tell all the funny stuff ~ especially the girls telling stories of what a hero dad was and how he always treated me like he had won the most special prize in the whole world.

    God Bless your friend, this will unfortunately be one of the hardest challenges she will have to endure~ I hope.

  7. Chelsea March 16, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    I have been praying for everyone in this situation since you first shared about Chris on the TMC a few months ago. Thank you for posting this and the sermon by Britt. That sermon was beautiful and very powerful. I am going through many difficulties myself and the way you have shared and continue to share the journey is helping me as well as many countless listeners. We may not know all of why everything happens, but we continue to have faith that He will get us through with His strength. I will continue to pray for Kellie, Chris and everyone else. God bless you! You are such a blessing.

  8. Linda March 16, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

    I know Chris and when I heard the news my heart was so sad. As a survivor I want to say, have hope and pray. My heart said rest my friend you have fought a courageous battle. God is smiling and with open arms waits your arrival. My family prays for Chris’s family that they have the knowledge He will be with God and we will all be together soon free of all hurts and sickness. May God’s peace and love cover you all.

  9. Whitney March 16, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    Carmen,

    So beautiful and terribly sad at the same time. It is never easy to lose people we love, especially someone so young and so close to us. I have been through many losses in my life, and although they never get easier, I feel I have learned and God is preparing me, for what I’m not sure yet. Make Go comfort all of you in this time. May He hold all of you tight and lift you up. I pray that Chris does not suffer long and goes peacefully.

    Continue everything you do, as it is His plan for you. Prayers for peace.

    Whitney

  10. Alice Hendrix March 16, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

    Thank you for your sweet words Carmen. I heard from Kellie today and my heart just hurts. What a legacy Chris will leave behind! So a true blessing and honor to know them both!
    Again, thank you for your sweet words. As I sit here responding to you and knowing I’m leaving tomorrow for a mission trip, my heart isn’t as focused on the trip, but Chris and Kellie. I know Chris would tell me to “go Alice, and do God’s work, He’s got it all under control.”
    So for God and for Chris, I will go and tell others about Jesus and think about this precious couple while doing it!

    In Christ,
    Alice Hendrx

  11. Cathy S. March 17, 2013 at 12:12 am #

    I am sorry. Praying for you and Chris and his family.

  12. Jim Nelson March 17, 2013 at 3:39 am #

    Thank you Carmine. I had the gift of praying with Chris alone last night at his bedside,but I was the one who was encouraged. He couldn’t speak, but as he grasped my hand and looked in my eyes, he spoke volumes. With his eyes, he told me he loved me and assured me “I” would be okay, lol, that’s Chris, loosing the battle to cancer and yet encouraging me. I felt like I was looking in the eyes of Christ as he hung on the Cross, and loved us with reckless abandon.

  13. Wendy Fitton March 17, 2013 at 3:43 am #

    Oh, how my heart HURTS for Kellie right now. Chris will go on to a true paradise but Kellie will remain for a while with the loss. I am takin RIGHT BACK to Nov. 1999, when Dr.’s told me and my husband “we recommend Hospice now”. WHAT??? I do NOT want to hear that! NO! Ken was 32! Our only child, a daughter, was 4 months old! AS the Dr.’s left the room I was visibly UPSET. My husband comforted ME, and reminded me it was recommended with “controlling his pain” in mind. I said “I just don’t want to hear the word HOSPICE!” Ken responded with “I don’t care if they call it ‘One Foot In The Ground’, as long as it will help. We both LAUGHED. I will never forget it. I said good-bye 2 1/2 months later. Our last conversation included me telling him, “I know where you’re going and it’s an AWESOME PLACE.” He saves a place for me. I HATE cancer, but I LOVE the Lord and trust Him.
    I am feeling for and PRAYING for Kellie and Chris. This hits home. May we ALL have loved ones surrounding us when we cross over… as those who pass will WELCOME us to heaven later! Love ya Carmen!

  14. Maureen Cross March 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    Twenty-nine years of a beautiful marriage. Wow, what a legacy to pass on to your children. Quite an accomplishment in this day and age, and an example of what many couples should live by today. Happy Anniversary Kellie and Chris.

  15. Debbie Cumpton March 18, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

    Although I’ve only known Chris for a short time and only met him twice….I must say his stength and character is one that you will feel immediately…he is an inspiration to ones own charcter and faith.

  16. Jackie Flinn March 19, 2013 at 1:45 am #

    Leaving nothing unsaid. … Chris – i admire the man ofGod that you are for your family and for all of us. Thank you for your leadership in many areas that you did not even realize you had impact on. Yours and Kellie’s faith and strength have lifted Johnny and I to a whole new level. God is always faithful. His ways are higher. STILL… We love you both and are praying for God’s peace for you.

  17. Sarah March 19, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    I am saddened to know that Chris is nearing the end of his earthly life but I am elated that he will be going home to be with The Lord in Heaven. Kellie and Chris were my Christian youth group leaders and had a hand in my salvation. I can’t thank them enough for that gift. I always admired their devotion to God and their passion for helping people, especially youth. They were athletic and fit and always looked so happy together. They are truly in love. My heart goes out to Kellie who will be losing her wonderful husband and the girls who will be losing their dad. I pray that God will blanket them in peace and love knowing that Chris made a difference in this world and will be waiting for them in Heaven.

  18. Harald Stone March 19, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    Carmen, I know of your radio skills but I was not aware that you are such a great writer. What a wonderful tribute to a great couple. My heart aches for them. Mitch and Jill Johnston gave us a memory rock when Deedee’s “Papa” died which says: “When a loved one becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.” Although I barely remember them from my times at St. James, Chris will obviously be a treasured memory to those who knew and loved him. Thanks for sharing your message of love.

  19. Carol Ann Ransone March 19, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    I delayed reading this because, selfishly, I knew it would be rip me apart; and it does. Knowing Kellie, Chris, Carmen and Pete and their families, I thank God that you had personal time together. I pray and rest on His promises that He will be with all who love Kellie and Chris. I ask for His continued compassion and strength for Kellie and Chris. The witness of this couple is extraordinary. The support of such friends as Carmen and Pete is exceptional. I am blessed by God to know all of you and suffer sadness in direct proportion to how much I love you all. In His love. Blessings.

  20. Diana March 20, 2013 at 11:21 pm #

    Carmen, I was looking for a way to contact you and thank you after you shared my story on the Joy FM during friend-raiser this evening and wouldn’t you know it, I came across your blog! I love how GOD sovereignly works things together, as the first story I came across was about your dear friends Chris and Kellie. I know the sting of loss all too well and having been widowed myself less than two years ago, my heart breaks every time I hear of someone joining the “sisterhood” of widows. I have attached my blog URL with the hopes that maybe it will give you something to encourage your friend with when the time comes. I wrote a post a couple of months ago titled, “For the Widowed and Their Friends” that may be able to help you as wonder about what to do in support of your friend during her most difficult days. I am sure she appreciates you just being there for her, and I trust that GOD has beautiful things to reveal to her on this journey. It makes such a difference when we know that the person we are saying goodbye to is a believer and we don’t have to “grieve as those who have no hope.” It IS possible to grieve with hope: hope of being reunited one day with your loved one, and most of all, hope of knowing that GOD, through His Holy Spirit, will be with you every step of the way, with “mercies new every morning,” giving grace and remaining “faithful,even when we are faithless.”
    I am so encouraged by your love for GOD and His people, and will be praying for these precious friends of yours. Grace and peace.

  21. Sandi Burke March 21, 2013 at 1:40 am #

    Dear Carmon, I wanted to thank you for sharing from your heart and being so real. One of the things that I have been praying is for the Lord to send a special close friend to Kellie,tobe there for her and lift her up with love and laughter. I can’t begin to tell you how important it is to have a close loving friend at a time like this. I am so glad that she has you.

    For me Chris and Jim Nelson were the answer to a grandmother’s prayer for my gandson Josh. I do feel that Chris came to mean so much to Josh and was such an amazing mentor who taught him what it means to be a man of integrity with laughter who loves the Lord. To me Chris would be the perfect example of what God calls us to be. I love how you clearly express what we all know and love about both Chris and Kellie. Your right as Christians we all know the truth but it still hurts deeply and our hearts grieve for them.

    I can’t help but think it is rather ironic that here Chris is preparing to go home and be with the Lord while Josh and Yolanda prepare to bring a new life into the world. A perfect analogy of the circle of life. My prayer is not just for Chris and Kellie but for everyone, their girls, their family, their special friends, and all of us who have come to know and love them too.I am sure that the Lord will wrap His big loving arms aroud everyone and fill us with His comfort.

    Your sister in Christ
    Sandi

  22. Kathy Gray March 21, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    Carmen, I know exactly how you are feeling!!! My first husband passed away from cancer in 2007, leavin behind our 20 year old son, Luke and I to question Why God!!! Steven had battled cancer for 7 years and had rededicated his life to the Lord. To watch him dwindle away form a strong, healthy 6’3″ fisherman, construction worker, to literally skin and bones, was the hardest thing in my life to handle!!! Luke and I were Steven’s caregiver. 25 hrs after Steven passed away, Satan tried to take my son away, as Luke asperated(Threw up in his sleep while lying on his back) and was dead when paramedics got there!!! They finaly resesitated him, and Luke was in ICU for 5 days following!!! My sisters and I never left hospital except to shower and go right back, and prayed over him, and laid hands on him the entire time!!! Thank God for prayer!!! Steven went on to be w/the Lord and Luke is 28 now and doing fine!!! My heart goes out to you and no words can express my feelings for you!!! I will stay in constant prayer for you and Chris and family!!! Much love!!!! One day we wil all be together in Heaven!!!

  23. David K. March 21, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    I was sad when Chris moved to Atlanta as riding, running and Starbucks conversations with him were a highpoint in my busy life. Now…now my heart is broken. Knowing Chris has made me a better man.

  24. Kelly March 21, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    Carmen…thank you for sharing so honestly this struggle that you’re in with the Lord and with your dear friends. I can identify with these feelings you’re having. Six months ago today, September 21st, I got “the call” I’d been dreading for years. I was at my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting that I coordinate in Newnan, GA and got a call from my younger sister in Ohio and our mom had taken a major turn for the worse and I needed to come home. Our mom had dealt with a very rare salivary gland cancer since 1999 and it metastisized to her left lung in 2008 but the end of the battle was now getting close as the cancer ultimately made its way to her brain. September 21st was also my oldest son’s 8th birthday, so I tried to enjoy his birthday celebration that evening and got on a flight first thing September 22nd. When I walked into my mom’s condo, I couldn’t fight back the tears as I saw her lying in the hospital bed that home-hospice had recently brought in for her. She was emaciated, even thinner than she’d looked less than three weeks prior on my previous visit to see her. Having worked as a nurse in oncology units, I knew the end was near and as much as I didn’t want to admit it, I wasn’t ready. However, over the course of the week and watching my mom struggle, I prayed for the Lord’s mercy on her life and for Him to welcome her into His mighty presence where she would no longer suffer! This prayer was SO HARD to utter, yet I knew she had suffered long enough and she was ready. Thankfully my two younger brothers and sister and I were all with our precious mom during her final days on this earth, and they were days none of us will ever forget. We cried and we laughed…we prayed and we talked deep. And when the time came for our mother, 63 years young, to take her last breath, the four of us were surrounding her and it was truly SACRED GROUND! My first thought was GOD IS SO GOOD! He allowed us to all be with her at this sacred moment; He has taken away her suffering; and He will carry us through the grief that we now have without her here on this earth. And as much as I’d like to say I have felt that way every day in the last 6 month, I can’t….however, I do know that GOD IS SO GOOD and He does have a greater purpose through all the tragedies we face in this life.

    Carmen, I know Kellie is blessed to have you in her life during this difficult time, and I pray that when the Lord is ready to welcome Chris into His arms, you will all experience a truly sacred moment!

    Thanks for your ministry…keep the faith!

  25. Debbi March 22, 2013 at 12:15 am #

    Carmen,
    I was listening on my way to work this morning and was so touched by you sharing this story and the recent events. My eyes filled with tears for the heavy hearts you and his whole family have now. The spirit the Chris has is worthy of sharing and hopefully through this sad event something good might happen. Listening to your story should make everyone realize that they do need to live each day to the fullest.
    God Bless!

  26. Debbie March 22, 2013 at 12:33 am #

    I actually left this message on The Morning Cruise Board, but did want you to see it. Thinking this one was the one you may look at more. I just read your wonderful blog Carmen and Chris and your thoughts of all that is happening. You wrote that so beautifully. I am sure it has minister to many of us who read it. It brought tears to my eyes when thinking of how we will miss such people as Chris that we love so dearly! Yet we need God to help us through it all! So hard, but like you say, or God says, life here on Earth will not be easy. Phil 1:29 “For all has be granted to you on behalf of Christ, NOT ONLY TO BELIEVE IN HIM, BUT TO SUFFER ON HIM . Thank you for sharing your big heart in this blog! I was so honored and learn from it! oxoxo My prayers continue for Chris, Kellie and their family and friends!!

  27. Jill March 22, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

    I can’t begin to tell you how my heart breaks but at the same time I know how near to God they are. It doesn’t take the pain away but somehow it soothes the soul. loving and missing being around.

  28. Cari Hotter March 26, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    I am saddened to hear the news. I am in the healthcare industry and hospice is a great
    group of care givers. I am not good at journaling or writing like Carmen. I just wanted to
    say; I remember following Chris & Kallie story and the first time we had heard about it was
    one dark morning in the fall Carmen had said that Chris was doing much better with his treatment but she still would like prays for him and his family. That dark early morning was the first morning my husband and I were going for his first cancer treatment. So every morning when my husband was going for treatment we looked forward to hear good news about Chris. Cancer is a troubling disease. Our prays are with everyone!

  29. May Klein Chadick April 2, 2013 at 2:19 am #

    Thank you for your beautiful words and your loving care of the Hughes.
    Though it’s been many years since I left FL, they’ve remained close to my heart and soul.
    One of the most amazing families and amazing people I’ve known. It was a pleasure to be a part of Caroline’s upbringing and a blessing to include the Hughes in my family.

    My heart hurts tonight at the thought of their pain, yet I know Heaven is a better place with Chris there.

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