Thursday, March 23, 2017

Shane's Homage to His Father

Shane has found a unique way to pay homage to his father--through a craft that Chris taught him. He has chosen to start a business as a tribute to his father's legacy through quality, hand-made leather goods.

To read the story about how he decided to turn his father's hobby into a business, visit:

https://www.homageleatherworks.com/thestory

Visit his website home page below:

https://www.homageleatherworks.com/

If you are interested in having custom design work, visit this link:

https://www.homageleatherworks.com/news/

                                                                                                      ~ DeLayne

The Cancer Filter

Our younger son, Shane, wrote a blog last October regarding his last moments with his dad, which he said I could share. Warning--tissues may be needed:


Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Cancer Filter

I ended the phone call with as emphatic of an "I love you" as I could manage, with my voice broken by sobs.  The voice on the other side, I had never heard before, but I knew it belonged to what I could only venture to guess was my father, heavily influenced by high doses of morphine to manage his pain.  I had tried to say everything I could think of, everything I might have left unsaid over the years, yet the doubt in my mind lingered that he wasn't "there" enough to understand.  That was the last time I spoke to my dad.  He was in Dallas, lying on his death bead, and where was I?  I was stuck in a traffic jam in El Paso, TX trying to get back in time to see him again.  I was only half way home from Tijuana, with ten more hours of driving ahead of me. I could only hear now, the haunting echos of his distorted voice, and my mom's suggestion to prepare for the possibility that "he might not be here, when you arrive."

My heart broke, and my head began to spiral with self-critical thoughts.

"Why did you have to stop and sleep last night? Were you really so tired?  Those four hours of sleep could be the difference."

"Why did you wait so long to leave Tijuana?  Were all those friends you wanted to say goodbye to worth not being able to say goodbye to your dad?"

"Why didn't you go home when things started going south?  You could have been there a week ago."

"How will you live with this?"

The traffic jam broke.  The speed limit lifted to 80mph and my truck moved as fast as I thought I could get away with, yet the road stretched on and on, and the hours dripped on like molasses through an hour glass. Fortunately, I was not tired anymore.  I could not afford to be tired.

Body shaking, and head in a scatter-brained daze, I made it to the hospital in time, but it did not feel like I did.  I arrived to a scene I will never forget, though I'd soon like to.  My father, unconscious as he had been roughly since that phone call, lay in bed gasping for air merely four times a minute.  With each breath, a sound I did not recognize, but will always remember, reminded us that the time was drawing near.  In a time alone with him, I poured out my heart, not knowing if he could hear me.

I had arrived shortly before 11pm, after a 25 hour road trip. I was exhausted, having only achieved 9 hours of sleep in the last three days, but I had no intention of sleeping now.  I stayed at his bedside, holding his unresponsive hand which was growing colder as his bodily functions continued to slow, but eventually I fell asleep.

I awoke to a sound, or more accurately, an absence of sound.  His irregular breathing was no longer marked by the hideous gasping noise, but was a less forced, almost resigned short inhale and exhale.  It was almost time.

"Why did I sleep?"

Eventually his breaths, consistently getting more and more shallow, ceased.

After six years, that was how I saw my dad's battle with cancer come to an end.

That was the hole I found myself in, not even a day after returning home.  It was deep, dark, and in all honesty, I still haven't been able to climb all the way out.  Despite the myriad of family and friends around me, and the multitude of people that would pass through in the coming days, loneliness and confusion dominated my mind.  The following week, with the ensuing chaos of people dropping off meals, the funeral and all it entailed, reality lost it's tangibility.  Around the house, things seemed almost too normal, and my mind was taken back to my childhood when daddy would go on work trips across the world and bring back a cool model car.  His absence, heavy, but there remained an unshakable feeling of expectancy.  I noticed the patio cover needed to be re-stained in spots, I saw the leather working supplies I had bought for him--unopened, and the world came crashing down.  There would be no triumphant return.

Each day was/is marked by small moments.  Like waves, the forgetfulness allows normalcy to return just enough to think about texting him for advice, or a stupid joke.  In a moment just long enough for my stomach to drop, remembrance returns.

I wish I could say I've been able to focus on the good times, but what sticks with me are the moments that broke me years ago.  There are memories we all have that will forever remain clear as day.  These are mine, which I've previously refrained from speaking out for the sake of my dad as he continued to fight.  I share these simply out of a spirit of honesty, hoping to be understood.

I think, when cancer first reaches into your closest circle, there is a level of naivety that exists. Looking back I have realized that I spent the first year or so of my dad's cancer battle in limbo between ignorance and a blind assuredness that it would be resolved in short order.  I remember with painful clarity the day that idea came crashing down.  As my brother and I visited my dad at MD Anderson, his routine visit turned into the type of feverish weekend stay to which we would grow accustomed. As we sat with him, he-- hooked into an IV--tried to assemble the hamburger he didn't want into something he could force down.  (I'll never forget the passion with which he hated whole grain buns, always on the "diet plan" doctors assigned to him).  With his dominant hand tethered to a bag of fluids, he was struggling something fierce, and eventually we had to step in and help.  As we all three realized simultaneously what this meant, my dad broke down for the first time in front of us.  It was then and there that I realized that this fight was not going to be the easy fix I expected, and that the man I always saw as unbreakable, indeed had a Kryptonite, and I would have to be a helper to him from that point forward.

Later that same night, as we watched The Sandlot together-- a movie that could bring us a smile if ever there was one-- close friends dropped by to take Chad and me out for a bit.  With our mom resting at the hotel, our dad would be alone for a bit. I was second to say goodbye, and could see that he was just barely holding it together. With everything in me crying to stay at his side, I asked if he would be alright.  He nodded because words would clearly break the dam, and Chad and I left.  Now I can only summon regret for not staying.

I remember how gaunt he became as he went through his rounds of radiation.  My dad, always an imposing man at 6' 3" as I grew up, now weighed less than me.  He had radiation to his lungs, and even his brain-- a procedure that made me shudder, simply seeing the steel contraption bolted into his forehead.  It was sometime around then that the following two incidents occurred.

One evening, Chad and I worked hard in the kitchen to prepare a nice meal for our parents who were returning from another round of treatment in Houston. We started early and were on track to get the meal on the table about the time they would be coming through the door.  As we dined, I noticed a lethargy in my dad as he poked around at the food.  It was something I would eventually learn not to interpret as an insult to my cooking.  His treatments made him desperately nauseated at times,  Before long he rushed away from the table and to the nearest bathroom.  Eventually he returned, shaking his head and apologizing.  He really did want to eat the dinner, he said, but simply could not.  Of his struggles, this one plagued me most throughout his fight with cancer.  Each meal I made I would try to come up with a combination of healthy food to get nutrition in, and enough junk to please his tastes and increase the calorie count-- assured that THIS time, he would enjoy food again. In 6 years, I can only remember one time he went back for more. (Coincidentally, it was a sandwich that he coined the name of that night. I thought it was dumb, but they'll always be "It's a Bob" sandwiches from now on).  Of the joys that cancer robs, I feel like this is one of the most cruel.

Growing accustomed to the bustle of hospital visits, my dad finally decided to cave in and buy a pair of Crocs to shuffle around. Chad and I went out to shop with him and provide moral support for this ego-breaking task.  As we scanned one store, my dad found a pair he was interested in.  The boxes were down near the floor so he dropped into a catcher's squat to look for his size.  As he grabbed the box and went to stand up, he lost his balance and began to fall backwards before Chad and I braced him and restored his balance.  That moment he broke once more, I believe the second time I'd ever seen it happen, as he fought the realization that the simple act of bending down and standing up was no longer so simple.  He had grown so weak.  From that day forward it became my habit to position myself behind him, just in case.  Each time, a painful reminder.

In the time I spent at home in his last couple years, I realized that it was way easier to live a normal life from a distance. Despite the numerous times I had come face to face with the reality of the situation, I found it was easy to pretend all was normal when I was away from home.  Inside the house I had to confront the truth.  I became accustomed to waking up to use the restroom in the night, and seeing the dim glow from the lamps turned on in the living room downstairs.  He was not having a good night.  I hoped he was at least having a comforting time with God, reading the Bible or praying.  I never went down to see.  Even when I heard him having the most painful coughing fits imaginable for hours on end, I stayed up in my room, praying for it to stop.  It's perhaps the most troubling thing for me, looking back, to see the cowardice with which I isolated myself from the truth, and the opportunities I lost to comfort my dad when he needed it most.

What hurts me most, is that this is how I remember my dad.  It's these awful memories that stick with me.  The last few nights, I've tried to remember the better times, but I can't. The memories are all foggy and disjointed.  I remember breaking into tears as it registered in my mind that it was my dad standing next to me-- he and my mom surprised me by coming to a collegiate race. I remember snippets of the moment he taught me a lesson that I have taken to heart. I vaguely remember the time we spent practicing baseball together, but it all seems to blur together.

It's honestly been deeply frustrating to me, the timing with which I returned from Mexico. So many people tell me they're happy I made it in time to say goodbye, and that I was with him when he passed.  But all I have are the awful memories of that hospital room.  I'm told he had moments during the day, though much of it spent in pain, where he was joking around.  He was himself again, if only for a few seconds at a time.  But I missed all of that.  I had to say goodbye over the phone.  And I'm stuck with only clear memories of the bad stuff.

I guess that's what cancer really does. It doesn't just rob of health, it reaches into all aspects of life.  It changes what you remember and how you remember it.  It casts a shadow over the good, and magnifies the bad.

I confess, that's where I still am most days.  It's not where I want to be, but progress is slow.

I'll close this random collection of sadness with the best memory I have.  Years ago, my mom reached out to friends and family for us to write letters of appreciation to my dad for the impact he had in our lives.  I had this memory, clear as day, that I decided to write about.  It's the kind of memory I imagined myself recalling one day in the far distant future for his eulogy.  Incidentally, it was read as part of his eulogy just a few months ago.

Sidebar: In the letter I vaguely mention foot pain.  I didn't explain because it was a letter to my dad, and he would remember well the situation.  But for other readers in the dark: as I hit my last growth spurt going into high school I suffered from a condition where the bones in my feet grew faster than the muscles and tendons.  The strain had me in constant pain just walking around.  Couple that with the transition to metal spikes for baseball and I was in a bad spot.  Most cleats have a 6-8 spike pattern so the pressure is high in a small number of points.  I wasn't just complaining about aching feet, I was in serious pain...just to squash any doubt.


Pappy, baseball will forever hold a place in my heart.  There is little comparable to playing a game under the lights on a weeknight.  Even though school always seemed to come a little earlier the next morning, nothing could take away the game, the competition, the suspension of all responsibilities for even just a couple of hours.  There's nothing quite like a game of baseball.  
 
But despite the thrill of the game, when I look back on all the years of baseball I played, the games were just a bonus.  What I loved more than anything was practicing with my dad. 
 
Baseball brought us closer than anything else could.  More than anything, I've gained such a respect for you out of your dedication to me and my growth in the sport.  While I may not have realized it at the time, you gave me my first lessons in selflessness through baseball and have given me memories I will never forget. 
 
I remember in middle school, when I decided to take off-campus P.E. to satisfy the gym credit I needed.  I didn't realize that my decision had a greater impact on you than me.  It's hard to practice baseball by yourself.  You need someone to throw the ball with, to hit ground balls to you, or my favorite--throw balls at your feet in the dirt.  I still can't grasp how you had the energy to do anything after a long day of work, but you never failed.  Every day, shortly after you got home we'd play catch in the side yard-- always between the fence and the shed (That DARN side arm).  You always gave of yourself to make sure I was the best I could be.  It was that attitude that set in stone your position as the person I admired, appreciated, and respected the most out of anyone, even though I may not have shown it.  In all my baseball memories, one always stands head and shoulders above the rest, and I think it embodies that sentiment the best. 
 
It comes from just about the time we started wearing spikes.  I remember the aching pain in my heels, the discomfort with every step, and the shooting pain anytime I ran.  Especially when I ran.  I remember our combined efforts to relieve the pain and our very limited success.  I also remember the motivation to push through the pain and do my part for the team, a value I got from a pretty great man.  It was the last game of a weekend tournament.  After multiple games, my feet were killing me, and I felt on the verge of tears with every step.  I don't remember the score, the inning, or the number of outs.  I do remember walking up to bat and wanting nothing but to strike out so I could sit down and not hurt so badly anymore.  Just my luck, a nice meaty fastball came right down the pipe, and I couldn't resist.  I let 'er rip, and drove the ball right into the gap in left center, and it was headed for the fence.  Extra bases--my worst nightmare.  So I took off down the first baseline, feeling a wave of pain with every step.  I couldn't help but limp as I swung out of the baseline to round first.  I kept pushing though, and took a peak at the third base coach to find out that second base was the finish line.  I dug as deep as I could and made it to second standing, wincing from the pain and holding back tears.  But the moment I'll never forget happened as I stood on the bag, hands over head, gasping for air.  I looked toward first base, seeing the same coach as always, looking right back at me.  In slow motion his right hand went to his cap and grabbed the bill.  As time slowed even further, the hat lifted from his head and lowered to his waist, upside down before returning to his head.  The tipping of the hat may well have just been a gesture from a proud coach to a player, but it carried more weight than I could ever really convey.  In that moment, my dad, the man I looked up to most in the world, was proud of me.  And for once, there was crying in baseball.  Few people get the chance to receive the approval of their hero, but on that day, I did.   
 
Since then, my respect for you has only grown stronger.  When my time with baseball drew to an end, you were incredibly supportive despite the time and effort (and money) you had dedicated.  And then I got to witness you continue to pour yourself into my passions as you drove me to bike races each weekend and stood for hours on the side of the road just to see me come by for a few seconds and hand me a water bottle, only to turn around and drive the long hours back home.  Even on your days off from work, you refused to relax because you wanted to be my support.  If there is anything I've learned from all the time we spent together going to those high school races, it's that cycling is a sport that will test how much someone really cares about you.   
 
And wow, you must really love me. 
 
I'll never forget the day our lives all changed.  I still remember sitting upstairs on the couch when you broke the news that you had tumors in your lung.  And I'll never forget standing outside my truck in Austin, talking on the phone with you as you confirmed it was cancer.  No one could predict at that time where our lives would be headed in the next few years, but I think we've been through it all now.  I've seen you push through far greater pain than I could ever imagine.  I've seen the pain and suffering in your eyes as you struggled to force down the food you so desperately needed.  I've seen the frustration with plaguing illnesses, side effects, and I.V. bruises from incompetent attendants.  I've seen you grow in your faith, and I've seen you get stronger and tougher as a man.  But most of all, I've seen you change, in me.  Because of you, my faith has grown.  My relationship with God has grown.  I now understand hardship, perseverance, and love.  Because of you, I am better.  And as tough as it has been in these past few years, you have been used to accomplish so much good.  I respect you now more than ever, as my father, role model, a cancer survivor, and still my hero.  And I tip my hat to you. 
 
I Love you so much,


 Shane




http://babyhaga.blogspot.com/2016/10/the-cancer-filter.html

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Videos of Chris' Testimony

I wanted to share 3 videos of Chris giving his testimony of how God was with us during his cancer journey.  This video took place 3 years after his original symptoms began.
Part 1:  (30 minutes)  Chris gives his testimony at a home Bible fellowship group in April 2013 regarding his July 2010 diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFqzD2dpSEo&feature=em-upload_owner#action=share

Part 2: (27 minutes) Chris talks about how his prayers continued to be answered for the right person to be in the right place at the right time.  The Hand of God was also apparent in selecting which clinical trials to participate in.  Due to their rapid successful treatment, the first two clinical trial drugs were FDA approved while Chris was still in the trials.  Chris answers questions from friends.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrDsTybsO_o&feature=em-upload_owner#action=share

Part 3: (4 minutes)  Chris concludes his testimony of his faith and trust in God and his hope for healing from Stage IV lung cancer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VPxFlWlPTE&feature=em-upload_owner#action=share

I hope you will be blessed by watching these.

DeLayne

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Art of Taking a Pitch

Chris taught our son Shane not only the art of taking a pitch but also the art of seeing allegories for a blog.  His legacy lives on. . . .

The Art of Taking a Pitch

It was the only thing I insisted go on display at the memorial, knowing that its significance would largely go overlooked.  The leather is worn from years of use, even cracked in many places. The lacing stands out drastically in comparison to the rest of the leather; nearly all of the original lacing was replaced long ago.  The palm is dark with patina from countless catches, the webbing deep and relaxed from repeated battering by baseballs.  It was his glove.





As people passed by they were reminded of his love of baseball, his years playing, and as many years coaching.  But all they saw was a glove. Me? I saw my childhood and adolescence, the love and passions of a father passed down. I saw countless work nights spent practicing until we couldn't see the ball anymore.  But mostly I saw an allegory for his life.

I used to hate that glove.  Every time we went out to play catch, he would pick it up and slide it over his hand, and I would burn up a little bit inside.  A new glove will let you know when you're putting some heat on the ball.  The webbing is tight, and when it catches a hard thrown ball it will sound out with a loud "pop"-- a cry of pain that assures the thrower.  Not this glove.  Its years of experience were never impressed by my arm.  Try as I might, I could never get that satisfactory pop. From a mere sixty feet away, I would let it fly with all that I had, nearly throwing my arm out I'm sure, trying to get it to cry out in surrender.  All that I got on the other side was a soft reception, barely even acknowledging that I had thrown the ball at all. I wanted so badly to get the 'pop', I remember on occasion trying to catch my dad off guard with a throw at the belt, getting him to turn the glove over and catch it in the palm.  I don't think he cared for that too much.


This is the last time we got to play catch.


I remember shortly after starting select team baseball, when young kids finally replaced dads and machines as the pitchers, my dad taught me something most coaches ignore.  He took me to the batting cage at the church, where he always threw batting practice for me, but this time he did something different.  We didn't work on hitting the ball to the opposite field, or anything like that. The throw came tight and inside, really inside, and I jumped out of the way.  And that's when he stopped and taught me something I'll never forget. He walked over to me and showed me how to stand my ground, turn on my front foot, and get hit right in the back.  Then and there, he had me practice getting hit! He moved close and underhand lobbed the ball so I could get used to seeing the ball come in and react in time. He taught me that by recognizing the inevitable and turning, I could protect my vulnerable ribs and knees, and catch the ball in the back, or butt if if I was lucky, where the muscle would soften the blow.

As a left-handed hitter going up against a lot of young pitchers, I could expect a lot of wild throws. Being in the minority, most pitchers were unused to throwing to a batter on the left side of the plate.  The strike zone was the same, but visually I really threw them off.  Because of that, I got hit...a lot.  Enough to earn the nickname "Magnet," and have a running bet with the coach of $1 per hit-by-pitch walk, to be paid at the end of the season. Thanks to my dad, I got a lot of free bases with little more than a sore spot, maybe a bruise a few days later. I remember so many times seeing the pitch coming in tight and simply turning, taking it, and jogging right down the line to first base where my dad was waiting to give me a proud little pat on the rear. The umpires always wanted to give me some time to walk it off, but I never needed it.  Never even reacted.  It was my way of telling the pitcher he was nothing to be afraid of anyways.

Shortly before coming home from Mexico, as my dad's fight with cancer came to an end, these memories came back to me. I remember the painful, emotional vision I had of these being replayed in my mind, only this time my dad was in the batter's box, and his life was the glove. I remember this picture of him standing by the plate, getting hit by fastball after fastball, never flinching and never complaining.  Life hit him hard with cancer, over and over again, but like his glove catching one of my throws, he just let it happen never giving it the satisfaction of a cry of pain.  Radiation, extreme weight loss, side effects, loss of livelihood-- they all showed themselves by the obvious wear and tear on his body.  But he kept being himself, as best he could.

After watching my dad fight cancer for six years, I've now seen these baseball lessons come to life.  The glove that was his earthly body, showed the abuse he took from years of treatment. His chest, a new permanently flushed red from the radiation. His walk, marked by a lilt in the right shoulder, having sunken lower because of his collapsed lung. His cough, a constant reminder of the battle within.  Yet he lived on to keep playing.  Even when things got too tough, and the lacing broke, he let God come and fix his brokenness with new, stronger lacing to hold him together.  He endured enough hit-by-pitches to round the bases, and eventually make it home, where his Father was waiting with a congratulatory "well-done" pat.

Such is life.  Things happen that can catch us off guard.  They can leave us in pain, bruised and battered, but if we're willing to endure suffering for the moment, there is a reward waiting for us.

In May of 2012, my dad wrote this blog, and it wasn't until I held his hand as he laid on his deathbed that I realized I was one of the ones watching.  It pains me to think that I might have been one of the reasons he had to endure so much suffering, but because of his example I have come to learn so much about faith, suffering, and endurance.  I've learned about sacrificial love, and trust in God.  My dad was a true example of Jesus to me-- Jesus who endured suffering beyond my imagination, bearing my sins and shame on his shoulders, hanging on a tree until his life left him, never raising his voice until justice was established.

Sometimes in life, you have to take one square in the back.  Sometimes you will have so much thrown at you that you break. But when you surrender to God, He can put you back together, make you stronger than before, and useful for your purpose once more.  The hardships of life can leave us bruised and beaten, but as surely as getting hit by a pitch leads to a walk, enduring in this life leads to the realization of God's promises and eternal rewards.

To many, it was just a glove on a table, but to me it was the representation of a life well lived.  It was encouragement and hope.  Lately I have felt like I'm going through the re-lacing process, but I'm doing my best to trust God that eventually, I'll be ready to play again.

                                              
                                                                    ~ Shane Haga

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Tributes to a Legacy and Miracles in a Mudslide



As a way to remember and honor the legacy of their father, Chad and Shane reserved Chris' regular seat in church at his funeral.  They also opened the hymnal to His Eye is On the Sparrow, which Chris requested be played at his funeral.
Reserving their dad's regular spot in church

His Eye is on the Sparrow
They wanted to pay a special final tribute to their dad and his fight of "cancer on two wheels."  As Chris fought over the years, his body was less able to handle riding his bike, even though he desperately wanted to continue.  Eventually, his bike stood in the garage, unused.  Their desire was that their dad, though absent in body, would be able to roll out with them for one last ride.  So exactly one week after he passed, down to the minute (Saturday at 7 a.m. and his usual ride time), Chad and Shane rolled for a lap around the neighborhood with his bike, each carrying one of his favorite jerseys.  


  
Shane then had the honor of taking Chris’ bike on a proper ride to Lake Lavon, a common route for the three of them.  They recognized that though cancer took his body, their dad lives on in spirit and in the legacy he passed on to them.  Chris would have really enjoyed the beautiful morning ride with his boys.

Shane is on Chris' bike
Shane finished his front pocket wallet/money clip project that I mentioned previously in the “Do Not Worry” blog.  He totally scrapped his original design planned.  The front has Shane's own initials "CSH."  He said, “This was not only a chance for me to try something new, but also a chance to remember my dad.  This was the first piece of leather I've tooled since he passed away last month.  My dad was the one who got me started with leather work years ago and taught me as much as he could.  Over this last year as I began to develop my abilities more and sell work, I always went to him to get his opinion.  It will be very difficult moving forward not being able to do that anymore.  The design on the front is my homage to the traditional western style he always used.  The flower in the bottom right is a small part of the design on last wallet he started, which remains unfinished.  The reverse is completely dedicated to his memory, including his favorite passage from the Bible, and his signature.  Photo credit goes to Chad Haga, who is now learning my dad's other passion for photography.”





Shane and I drove to Colorado last week to visit with Chad and his fiancĂ©e Kate before Chad heads back to Europe for the last 3 months of his race season.  Since our favorite family vacation spot was just an hour away, we drove to the Christian family dude ranch in Estes Park, called Wind River Ranch.  We visited there 3 different summers when the boys were younger.  The boys had rated it a perfect “10” while they rated Disney World only a “7.”  We all found this to be a place to seek and find God and enjoy family time in a relaxed Christian atmosphere.

Wind River Ranch, A Christian Family Guest Ranch

"Be Still and Know That I Am God"   Psalm 46:10
View during daily Bible study



After visiting with the Director and long-time friend Don McIntyre and his wife over a delicious lunch of grilled hamburgers and all the fixin’s, Don took us on a tour of the ranch to see all the changes and improvements that had taken place since the last time we were there 11 years ago.  


Shane, Don, and Chad - 2001

Chad, Don, and Shane - 2016

Chad, DeLayne, Shane
In 2013, there was a big mudslide that hit the area.  This was during the time of massive rainfall, and apparently the ground couldn’t handle all the rain, and a natural underground water geyser formed and sent a 22-foot wall of water and mud down the mountain, directly toward the Wind River Ranch cabins, where many church pastors and their wives were staying for a conference.  Don pointed out where Gorilla Rock diverted the mudslide around most of the camp on either side, as well as where all the limbs on the trees were broken off up to 22-feet high.  The fact that no one was injured at WRR is a miracle in itself.  He said that a Taoist Temple had been planned to be built on the other side of the mountain, but that area was destroyed by the mudslide and the temple has never been built.  (God meant what He said in the Ten Commandments.) 
Exodus 20:3  “You shall have no other gods before me.”

Gorilla Rock
The natural disaster changed the landscape and has helped to provide a natural fire break due to the mudslide.  They will now be able to have tiered ponds with the new natural reservoirs formed that will provide additional fire breaks in the event of forest fires.  God works His miracles in mysterious ways.

Ranch Foreman Nick Herold took his gun and thought he would have to put down all 54 horses in the corral due to injuries from the mudslide, but when he arrived to the area, every single one was safe, even though many were up to their withers in water.  The brand new fence that had been built had been strong enough to stop the debris from inundating the corral.  Don explained that they had built a trench for the zip line and the displaced dirt formed a blockade and an island for the horses to stand on until they could be rescued. 

After our tour, we had a chance to ride horses, including one very special horse named “Haga,” which was named in honor of Chris in 2010 after his lung cancer diagnosis.  Yes, "Haga" survived the mudslide!  Shane is pictured riding “Haga” (the black horse).


 
Then we took a hike to explore the area, and Chad got to experiment with his dad’s camera, taking photos that Chris would have taken, including close-up photos of bear claw marks on the trees and pretty flowers.




bear claw marks




To read more about the mudslide and its impact on the Wind River Ranch ministry, go to:




If You Could See Me Now



Chris knew that this was his temporary home.  We can’t celebrate his life without talking about what was most important to him, and that was his faith.  When Chris was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in July 2010, no one understood why he would have gotten that particular type of cancer since he had never smoked in his entire life.  He could only come up with one reason:  He accepted the diagnosis as part of God’s plan to use him to reach others as he witnessed for Christ.  Chris also helped pave the way for successful treatments to be used on other lung cancer patients.  He took part in 4 clinical trials, 2 of which were FDA approved while he was in the trials due to the success the treatments were achieving. Chris said he was willing to be a Guinea pig if it helped someone else beat lung cancer.  As rare as his “ALK positive” cancer mutation was, he actually met someone at church with his same mutation who was taking the first clinical trial drug that Chris helped to become FDA approved.  He was pleased to be able to meet a beneficiary of his trial.

I think you will agree that Chris used his illness to show others how to face trials with faith and grace by fully relying on God.  As many of you have followed his Cancer on 2 Wheels blogs, you know what an inspiration he was to others in his walk of faith in the face of adversity time after time.  Chris asked God that some good would come out of this cancer journey.  Each time he posted a blog, he prayed that God would use the blog to touch someone in a special way.  He enjoyed when people left comments or sent him e-mails because that meant his prayers were being answered.

Chris also wanted to bring attention to the public that lung cancer is not a disease limited to smokers.  Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer Newspapers wrote articles about his cancer journey, and his testimony was published on an international cancer encouragement website.  He was known to leave his “calling card” with the restaurant bill to share his testimony while bringing awareness that 10%-20% of lung cancer patients never smoked, also providing a list of common symptoms of lung cancer.

Chris’ symptoms started with a little cough that would not go away, rapid weight loss, extreme fatigue, and recurring pneumonia.  He was riding his bike approximately 80 miles a week when he was diagnosed.  He was misdiagnosed for 3 months because 2 different doctors didn’t suspect lung cancer in a never-smoker, and 3 sets of x-rays only showed pneumonia.  Similar stories were heard time and time again.  By the time Chris was diagnosed from a CT scan, the cancer was stage 4 and inoperable.  It had metastasized to his lymph nodes in his chest and abdomen and to his brain.  He endured Gamma Knife radiation to the brain, massive radiation to his lung, 3 standard chemo drugs, 6 targeted therapy drugs, and countless other medications to counteract the side effects.  Although these drugs helped him to live 5-1/2 years longer than expected, they damaged his kidneys, and he was unable to continue chemo.  He officially achieved “No Evidence of Disease” twice, and possibly 4 times.  But lung cancer is unlike other cancers—it almost always comes back.  More people die each year from lung cancer than colon, breast, and prostate cancer combined.  More women die of lung cancer than of breast cancer.  People in their 20’s who have never smoked are now being diagnosed with lung cancer.  Chris was known to urge anyone with a recurring cough to get a CT scan, in hopes that if they had lung cancer, they could catch it at an early stage.

On numerous occasions he had friends call him and ask him to talk with their friends or family members who had been recently diagnosed with lung cancer to give them hope.  Of course, he was always willing to talk with them and even developed lasting friendships with some of them.  He was a member of the Cancer Encouragement Group at our local church and was told on countless occasions what an inspiration he was to others in their cancer journey.

Here are some excerpts from a blog that Chris wrote on June 16, 2011, titled, “Things Cancer Has Taught Me”: “I remember thinking when I was first diagnosed that I should not have lung cancer.  Even one of the doctors said, ‘You should not have this, but you do.’  I have the memory of praying that God would use this as an opportunity for us to teach others about lung cancer and present us with those openings.  If I could have lung cancer, then anyone could develop lung cancer.  Little did I know at the time what cancer would teach me.

One thing that I have learned is to laugh every day, and when you think you are tired of laughing, laugh some more.  There have been times that if I had not laughed, I would have cried.   
I have learned to cherish every moment of every day. Take time to enjoy where you are and who you are with.  You will never have that moment in time again.

I have always believed in the Bible, but this experience has taught me that the Bible is more than just words on paper.  The Bible is the very living, breathing Word of God.  I have seen the scriptures come alive daily.  One thing that has surprised me is the realization that everyone has a "cancer" in their life.  Mine was physical, but others may be dealing with porn, gambling, alcohol, issues at work, financial issues, problems with a child or spouse.  Everybody has something that, given time, will grow, and if left untreated, like cancer, will take your life.  The great thing is that we have One who sits at the right hand of God ready to help us.  I am thankful that He is there.”

On March 20, 2011, Chris wrote a blog titled, “A Life Sentence.”  In that blog, he said, “The one thing that has helped me the most is that I do not see cancer as being a death sentence.  I see cancer as being a life sentence.  I firmly believe that God's will is for me to be completely healed from cancer and that it will never return.  When that happens, I will live each day thankful for that day, loving my family and enjoying the days with them, and I will worship Jesus.

I know that there are some people that will ask, ‘What if God's will is for you not to be healed?’  If the time should come that cancer takes my earthly body, then I know that because of my belief in Jesus Christ, when I take my last breath on earth, I will take my first breath in heaven.  I will have two good lungs and there will be no more pain.  I will see family and friends that have gone before me, and I will worship Jesus.

Either way, I still live!”

The last month of Chris’ life was very humbling for a man who had always been strong and took good care of his family.  (In return, it was my privilege and honor to be his caregiver and be by his side throughout this 6-year journey.)  He was in almost constant back pain because of the changes in his torso due to a collapsed lung and 5 fractured vertebrae that had been repaired.  He walked lopsided with one shoulder noticeably lower than the other due to his collapsed lung.  He also lost 2 inches in height.  If you could see him now, he’s walking streets of gold.  He’s standing tall and whole!

Chris knew that his final day on earth would eventually come and had been praying for the best but preparing for the worst.  Chris helped plan his funeral service.  He was an amazing photographer, and his favorite things to photograph were God’s creations.  Click on the link below to see a collection of his favorite photographs, set to music, that he asked to be shown at his funeral.  Imagine him singing, "If You Could See Me Now."                                          
                                                       ~ DeLayne Haga

If You Could See Me Now


The following are excerpts from Chris’ graveside service that brought great comfort to me:

Chris didn’t lose his battle with cancer.  Cancer lost its battle with Chris!  Because, when the cancer conquered his body, the cancer stopped living. It died…forever.  But Chris lives!!!!  Chris lives because Jesus conquered sin and death for us.

Psalm 118:17 reads, “I will not die, but live, and tell of the works of the LORD.”
2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

If Chris could speak to each of us today, he would simply say, “Trust Christ, ask God to forgive you of your sins, and He will, and begin to ride the Christian race by faith, full of purpose, unconditional love, and a lasting legacy to those you touch.”

We celebrate the race Chris cycled here on this earth. We look forward with hope and expectancy to one day seeing Chris again, yet even more, being with our Savior Jesus Christ for eternity.