Welcome to A Gravel Road Journey!

NOT SO LONG AGO, Dad RE-named his art studio, "A Gravel Road Studio", and so this seemed an appropiate title for his blog.

Why 'Gravel Road'? As Dad explains, "Gravel roads take us off life's busy highway and force us to slow down. When we slow down we have time - time to notice the things around us; the things that matter the most; life and breath, the flowers and the trees. Gravel roads allow us to taste the dust of our travel and give us time to breathe."

Since his studio is a place of quiet reflection and contemplation, we wanted to create a space for family and friends to do the same as we journey together down this new and unknown path. We also wish to keep family and friends updated on his diagnoses and treatment, so please check in often for updates and new information.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Few More Articles

Hi Everyone,

Thank you all so much for your wonderful comments! It is a great comfort to know that so many people are surrounding us in prayer at this time. Just wanted to share with you a few more links for articles that have been written about Dad in the last few days. The first was written by Morley Walker, who wrote a few articles over the past few months for the Winnipeg Free Press. The second was written by Jamie Howison, priest at St. Benedict's table, and one of the people officiating at the memorial service on Saturday.


http://stbenedictstable.ca/ - scroll about half way down the page, and the article is entitled, "Praying the Offices with a Dying Friend"

Mom also sent me one of the pictures that will be in the paper today with the obituary, so I updated that in the previous post.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Obituary

For those who aren't in Winnipeg and won't see this in the paper, we wanted to share this with you here. It will be run in the Winnipeg Free Press on Wednesday, June 3rd. The picture in the paper will be a different one, but I only have the Word document copy, so it won't let me post that here (it's the wrong format).

It is with great sadness that the family announces the passing of Gerald Folkerts at Riverview Health Center on May 30th, 2009, at the age of 51.

Left to mourn his passing are his wife, Arlis, and their children, Jared (Dana, grandchildren, Xavier and Shaela), Janis, Jesse, and Brendan. Also left to remember him are his mother, Anna Folkerts, and parents-in-law, Arend and Rosella Wassink. He will be missed by family members Harry (MaryAnne), John (Wendy), Ken (Alice), Rudy (Shirley), Liz (Melvin), Hans, Janice (Roger), Hilaine (Roger), Cornie (Deb), Gloria (Ken), as well as many nieces, nephews, and friends.

Gerald was predeceased by his father, Andy Folkerts, nephew, David Folkerts, and infant nephews, Travis VanWhye, Matthew Alons, and Seth Folkerts.

Gerald was a loving husband, and a wonderful father and grandfather. His great love besides his family was his art. Gerald was an artist who worked at home out of his third-floor "gravel road" studio. He was devoted to painting art that invited viewers to reflect upon, and sometimes wrestle with, allusive, suggestion-rich and deeply relevant images. Gerald was dedicated to living out his Christian beliefs and loved the less fortunate. He will be deeply missed by his family and friends. There are too many experiences that we still crave, but we're blessed by the memories we have.

Thank you to the staff at Riverview, CancerCare, and the Palliative Community Team. In lieu of flowers, a trust fund has been set up for Gerald's children. Donations may be dropped off at Crosstown Civic Credit Union (1200 Henderson Highway, Winnipeg) or Covenant Christian Reformed Church (653 Knowles Ave., Winnipeg). Donations may be mailed to: P.O. Box #28080, 1795 Henderson Hwy, Winnipeg, MB, R2G 4E9.

A memorial service will be held at Covenant Christian Reformed Church, 653 Knowles Ave., on June 6th, 2009 at 11:00 a.m.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

One Final Day

Family and Friends,

It is with a heavy heart that I write to you this evening. Dad developed pneumonia starting Friday afternoon, and suffered a seizure this morning. His lungs started filling up with fluid this afternoon, so Mom called and we all came to the hospital - got there around 4:45 pm. By that point, Dad was pretty much in a constant state of seizuring. About 5:30 pm, the nurses gave him some medication to help relax him, along with some more morphine to help with any pain and make him more comfortable. He was, and at 6:50 pm, surrounded by family, Dad very peacefully took his last breaths of life. We were able to stay with him in the room for a while afterwards, to say our final goodbyes and decide when the funeral will be held.

Because we have so many family members who live out of town, we have decided to leave it until next Saturday. It will be at 11 am on June 6th at Covenant Christian Reformed Church. We welcome all of you to attend and share with us in a celebration of Dad's life.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Another Day

Went to visit Dad again this evening after a day of our 'normal' routines. It was nice to have a bit of a break from sitting around the hospital all day, but at the same time, we feel badly for not being able to be there the entire time. Mom was at the hospital for most of the day, though, and when she couldn't be there, a few friends stopped by to sit with Dad.

A few updates as far as medications go. They have decided to stop the antibiotics since they know now that it's not a chest infection. Not much point in keeping Dad on them when they aren't doing anything. They have also started him on a saline solution through the sub-cue lines rather than through IV. With an IV there is concern that the fluid will just go to Dad's lungs. But with the sub-cue lines, he stays hydrated without the concern of the excess fluids. He was sleeping pretty deeply the whole time we were there this evening, but Mom said he was awake/aware earlier in the day. His speech is becoming quite slurred, though, and very hard to understand. It's another one of the signs that the cancer is continuing to take over.

So, as always, we ask for your continued thoughts and prayers. It means so much to read the comments left and know that we are not journeying alone.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Journey Continues

Just got home from another long day at Riverview. Dad was in a lot of pain this morning and was asking for all of the family to come to the hospital. After sitting there for the majority of the day, everyone but Mom went home for a bit of rest and so the kids (Xavier and Shaela) could nap. We're planning on going back this evening, and we're not quite sure what will happen, but I think Dad was feeling this morning like the end was definitely near. The nurses said sometimes patient's know, but sometimes they are wrong and it still takes a few days or weeks before they pass away. It's the not knowing exactly when that makes it so hard. You want to stay there and be with Dad when it happens, but at the same time, you need to break. Especially for Xavier and Shaela - it's hard on them being couped up at the hospital all day.

Anyway...just wanted to let everyone know what was going on, and to ask for more prayers. Please pray for peace and strength for the family, and for peace about everything for Dad. I'll keep everyone updated if there are any more changes in his condition.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Roller Coaster Ride

Well, the birthday pictures should be working now - the hospital computer wouldn't let me download them from my email to post on here....

Anyway....just wanted to post an update to let everyone know how the weekend has been unfolding. Jared and I, along with the rest of the family, were at the hospital till about 9:30 last night. A few friends dropped in to say hi, but for the most part, the day was spent talking in Dad's room, watching TV in the family room down the hall and taking Xavier and Shaela outside to the little park that is at Riverview. Dad slept the whole time, and while it was a very deep sleep, his breathing was very laboured, and he was very clammy most of the day. The nurses started him on a low dose of morphine, since he is now feeling some pain in his chest, and they are continuing the antibiotics in case of any infections (like pneumonia).

Today we were all back at the hospital again and Dad was doing much better today than he was yesterday. He was awake a little bit this morning and we were actually able to talk to him for a short while. He slept for the majority of the day, but he would occasionally open an eye for a moment, and if we talked to him, he would respond quietly under his breath with a groan or a small smile. So that was encouraging to see.

He is, however, still in a state of decline. He hasn't eaten at all for the last two days, and there are a few other signs that his body is starting to shut down. But, that doesn't necessarily mean this is the end. I think the entire family is no longer feeling like we're journeying down a gravel road - we've now boarded a roller coaster and are on a constant wave of ups and downs. It was like this way back in December when they told us they didn't think Dad would make it until Christmas. We all thought for sure the doctors and nurses were right, because he kept getting worse and worse. And now, here it is, almost 6 months later, and Dad is still with us! We're so grateful for the extra time with him, but it's emotionally exhausting. It becomes really hard to balance living the rest of our lives and wanting to spend every last minute we have with Dad. I think for the most part, we are all finding that balance and handling things as best as we can. But we continually need to be lifted up in prayer. This is definitely not an easy journey, and we couldn't survive it without the support of friends and family. Thank you to all of you who have followed along with us through this blog, praying for us, bringing meals. It's been such a huge blessing, and we hope that you will continue to be there with us no matter what the future holds.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Please Pray!

Hello again,

As you can assume from the title, I do not have good news to share this afternoon. Dad took a turn for the worst this morning and he is currently surrounded by friends and family in his room at Riverview. It started last night while Mom and Janis were here visiting. Dad's breathing was really rapid and not like it normally is. By this morning, the doctors and nurses thought maybe he was developing a chest infection. However, after more blood tests and a thorough check by the doctor, it was determined that Dad has a blood clot, most likely in his lungs. This is a very serious condition, for which there really is no treatment. He's been put on blood thinners so that things can still flow around the clot, but aside from that, there isn't much they can do. Thankfully, Dad doesn't seem to be in any pain right now and seems to be sleeping pretty comfortably.

However, the family is in definite need of prayer right now. As we've said many times, we have no idea how much longer we have with Dad, and that's still the case today. Only God knows the answer and the only thing we can do is surround ourselves with family and friends and rest in the assurance that God loves us and has a plan for all of us in this. That can be a lot easier said than done, though. Please pray for peace, comfort, and strength for all of us right now. We'll keep you updated with any changes as often as we can......