Roger Slideshow

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Here is a quick picture of all the Thankyou cards people have sent Mom. It an amazing outpouring of love and support. We are all so thankful for the people who have taken the time to let us know how much Dad meant to them.

The cards fell over, just as this picture was being taken!!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

From the Memorial Service

(For the many of you who wanted to be there but couldn't make it. Above is the slideshow that my mom's bro-in-law BG made for the service. Thanks to him for many hours spent scanning, photo-shopping and choreographing many old pics. By the way, you can enlarge the video by clicking on the four diverging arrows that appear at the bottom right corner of the screen.)

What remains when a Christian dies?

Whenever my mother talks about who my father is, and was, the phrase that always seems to emerge is “a man of integrity.” What surer mark of integrity than to have your spouse—the person who knows you at your best and worst—attest to it? It was an expression used again last weekend, as the family was in the hospital room celebrating Mom and Dad’s 25th anniversary, and a testimony others in recent days have echoed. “Your father was a man of deep integrity.” I’ve been pondering this phrase. It doesn’t mean “Your father was a man of moral rectitude,” nor “He was a righteous man.” Dad was that, by God’s grace, yet his integrity wasn’t a matter of morality, but one of authenticity. Dad was almost completely free of hypocrisy, and always so quick to repent when confronted with any kind of conflict between what he said and what he did. Certainly he had his private fears and failings like the rest of us, but when it comes to the person he was, to the question of character, the man inside was the same as the man on the outside. What a simple, extraordinary achievement! Our father was a man with nothing phony or forced about him, nothing in his speech or manner that suggested self-conscious calculation or manipulation. Frank and pragmatic as Dad was, there was also a certain innocence of heart there—not naiveté or ignorance, but a kind of spiritual health that made him all but immune to these sorts of petty vices. Small- or narrow-minded, mean-spirited or conniving my Dad was not, ever. Now that I’ve said it in the wordiest way possible, I’ll share with you what my Dad always used to say to my Mom about himself, though more as a defense than as a boast: “What you see is what you get.”

My Dad was not an intellectual, not, as he used to say, a deep thinker, but he had a careful and wonderful way of thinking, straightforward and cool. The fact that he taught mathematics to thousands of students on two continents over the course of 40 years makes a lot of sense, when you consider Dad’s knack for seeing the simplest and therefore most elegant solution to any problem. This gift was brought to bear on any number of problems, financial, personal, parental, pastoral, theological or automotive. A few of the New Life elders at Dad’s bedside the other day were recalling how, during the inevitable disagreements and negotiations in session meetings, Dad would not be on anyone’s “side.” Rather, he was on the side of unity and harmony. This sounds trite--unless you knew my Dad. He was remarkably apolitical—not because he was apathetic or because he presumed superiority--but because he didn’t care a whit for self-advancement, because when he was most himself he had no agenda other than the truth, the unity of the body, and the good of his friends. He was able to minister to others so directly because he was all but free of self-regard and self-importance. He never pretended to be something more or less than who he was, never fawned and never patronized, and this made everyone he knew feel safe and loved around him, like they could relax and be themselves too. That was the environment in which real discipleship and communion could happen. Less subject than most to the blinding effects of those selfish social vices, Dad was able to cut to the heart of the issue: he could see the truth, articulate the facts of the matter, and identify the surest path to reconciliation or resolution in such a way that that solution was suddenly “obvious” to the rest of us as well.

That uncanny flair for dis-covering the obviousness of the truth is of course a defining mark of a great teacher. But Dad’s gift for teaching had as much to do with his heart for his students as it did with any pedagogical skill set. As one of Dad’s students from his days in Congo told us, “he was not a teacher who was far, but one who was close.” When it came to parental instruction, once we children reached a certain age, he never told us what to do--he either showed us, or he gently spoke the truth, and left it to us to work out the simple equation. Dad had little patience for abstract speculation, but where ideas touched life he was as sensitive and as sharp as St. Augustine. Not a teacher who was far--above you, lecturing you, lording it over you--but a teacher who was close-- alongside you, instructing by example.

The wife of that former student of Dad’s told me, “Your father wasn’t like other missionaries. They wanted us to come to them; he came to us.” She said that whenever a student didn’t show up to school, Dad would go out in search of him. Her husband remembers dad, walking through the winding paths of the villages with a pot of warm tea in his hands, seeking out the home of a sick student. This was a common theme in the reminiscences of Dad’s friends during that last hospitalization, recalling his heart for the ailing and suffering. As Angelo said, during many years of shared ministry with Dad he got very used to hearing, in the church office, “We’ve just found out that ‘blank’ is sick, but don’t worry, Roger Clark has already been to visit him.” It has been such a gift to the family, over the past week or so, to hear many stories about Dad, personal testimonies to the way he was used by God in the lives of so many others. Being someone’s son or daughter, or even wife, it’s all too easy to take him for granted on account of your proximity to him and your immersion in the routine of family. Even knowing him more intimately than most, you often don’t see the forest for the trees. I remember, when I was a teenager, waking up at 10 or 11 on Saturday mornings, and my Dad would be there, mowing the lawn, or doing his exercises—pushups and sit-ups—on the living room floor. Shirtless, of course. (I can’t help but share here an old, running joke among my friends, who thought that my parents' answering machine message should have been, “Hello, this is Roger Clark. I’m not wearing a shirt right now, but if you’ll leave a message at the beep we’ll get back to you.”) Anyway, on those mornings, it was easy to miss or forget the fact that he had been up at six and had already been out to his weekly prayer breakfast with his good friend, and made the rounds of the hospitals and the homes of the sick—all before I even woke up. There are so many stories, stories that each of you cherish, that exist because Dad was the kind of man he was, but that we would never have heard from him...because he was the kind of man he was. The wonderful thing, though, is that it was the same man. Just like our Dad was the same inside and outside, he was, finally, the same man inside the home and outside it. His private and public faces were different, of course, but also unmistakably the same.

“Free” is a word that I find myself using a lot right now, as I think and talk about my father. If he was nearly free of selfish ambition and vain conceit, he was also, more and more through the course of his life, free of legalism and dogmatism. One of the greatest gifts he gave me, personally, was his, again, simultaneously simple and subtle grasp of the spirit of the gospel. Speaking as someone who can get caught up in the letter, tangled in words, Dad always brought me back from the edge of absurdity with the deep and basic truths of the gospel. It was he who best taught me the difference between knowledge and wisdom. He never let himself get paralyzed by grey theory or remain stuck on the horns of a dilemma, doctrinal or personal, but always brought things back to the promise of God’s love and forgiveness, and the reminder that if tongues will be stilled, and knowledge pass away, it is love that will remain.

My Dad was free because he knew “the secret of being content in any and every situation”; he knew what it was to have plenty and to be in need, to be in community and to be alone, to succeed and to fail, to have hair and not to have hair. His secret was his confidence in Christ: I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Indeed, Dad was familiar with suffering and acquainted with grief. I often think of him in what was probably the low point of his life, returning from the mission field after his marriage had failed, with two young daughters in tow, and having had to leave his two other beloved girls behind. He was living with his parents, and, as he told me, in something close to despair. When my Dad’s brother Wayne shared some thoughts after the burial service yesterday, he recalled the same time, when, he said, Dad was broken, and angry with God, but he never turned away from Him. Given the circumstances, Dad had feared returning to Bethel Chapel, his home church, but he told me he remembered the command of Scripture not to forsake the assembly of believers. When he did return, he was overwhelmed and humbled by the instant love and acceptance he found there. This experience, I think, was one reason that our Dad so treasured the unity of the body.

When my Dad met my Mom, Karen, it quickly became clear that the Lord had prepared them for each other, and that, through deep adversity and heartache in both of their lives, he had instilled in them a hard-won maturity and a determination to do things right and in a way that would please the Lord. So I still remember, back when New Life was in the gym at Abington Friends, how, as an illustration of parenting strategies, the whole family recreated the Clark breakfast table onstage during Sunday worship, all of us polite and well-mannered, with every conflict resolved, with recitations of repentance and forgiveness, all capped of course with a slightly too-long prayer from Mom. I know that over the past 25 years the Clarks may have been regarded by the community as the model Christian family—at times, undoubtedly, annoyingly so--but it is a powerful thing to remember that both of my parents have been around the block more than once, and whatever success they have had in their marriage was due to God’s gracious and redeeming love.

Up until his literal death--and his death was no figure of speech--it was real, and painful, it was shocking and it was tragic, even as it was a beautiful going home--up until that death, Dad’s life was a process, deeper and deeper, of dying to self. The secret to Dad’s joy, even amidst suffering, was twofold. There’s a philosopher in Chicago who describes a key component of living a good life as “stepping outside the shadow of the self.” Dad was very much in his element outside that shadow. The second part of this “open secret” of Dad’s life was the step into the arms of God, into the clothing of Christ, as Galatians says, into the Rock of Ages. Dad’s life embodied John the Baptist’s words, “he must become greater, I must become less.”

The other part of the phrase, “man of integrity,” is of course “man,” and my father taught me what it was to be a man. My Dad was a man in the fullest sense of the word, a real human being. While he could be as tough and as courageous as anyone, he also had a wonderfully tender heart, and it was always a source of some amusement for us kids to hear the sniffling behind us during a family movie time, whether the fare was Oscar-worthy drama or Disney schlock. Dad was never afraid to kiss and flirt with Mom in front of us kids (much to our exaggerated chagrin and secret delight), or to sing old-time love songs and hymns with gusto, or to let his love for us kids break out in a spontaneous, loud, goofy burst of sing-songy tribute or teasing that would always make us laugh. He called Christine “La Grande Dame,” he would sing to Cara “young lady,” and I’ll never forget the mornings he would greet me with “Androso my son!!” Dad could startle you with his idiosyncratic expressions of tender affection. But being a man, a father and husband, to him meant being a provider, and he was often working two or three teaching positions plus one other job all at once, still with energy—what energy!—to serve as an elder, church greeter, visitor of the sick, home demolisher and renovator, encourager, and counselor.

Dad was also a servant, in attitude and deed. We kids were just recalling how the chore my Dad most unfailingly carried out, once a week, was the washing of the kitchen floor. There is no better symbol of my Dad’s way of loving and of embodying Christ to us, and the sudsy water he used to scrub that worn linoleum was as sacred as that in any baptismal font.

Considering Dad’s humanity, and his servant heart, the Bible passage that kept coming to mind for me this week was Philippians 2, where it speaks of the attitude of Christ,

Who, being in very nature God,
made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Obedient to death”—Could this be God’s most profound identification with us human beings, for him to experience human suffering so fully as to die—painfully, publicly, and not without wrestling with his fate, not without something approaching despair. I was moved, even inspired, by Dad’s honesty with me about his fear of dying. He was always clear that he knew where he was going, but up until the end he struggled with having to leave this life and those he loved. Dad wrestled with the Lord, he sought and interrogated the Lord’s will. He felt and faced squarely the challenge of trying to achieve the acceptance that overcomes stubborn, futile defiance, but that also isn't merely a passive admission of defeat. An eyes-wide-open reconciliation to life and death, which overcomes not only rage but also all the ways we human beings have found of "giving up" on real life. During that time, Dad sought, grappled with, and fell into the arms of a risen Savior, who sustained him all the way to his last breath.

Dad’s death was the completion of a lifetime’s work of becoming one with Christ. Because surely if Jesus identifies with us in dying, then we also finally become like him in death. My Dad’s final test was in his last few days, when the cancer had made him so weak that he could barely walk, then barely move his body in bed, then barely see, or speak, or even groan. The real test of strength is when every bit of physical, mental and psychological strength is stripped away, and one is left, naked, like Christ on the cross. What remains? To see such a strong and capable man so weak, so small in that hospital bed, was to witness Dad’s final passage through the refining fire that made his identification with Jesus complete. To be obedient to death. What remains, for Dad, and for us? What did he leave behind, and where did he go?

We buried Dad yesterday. As Marc Davis reminded us then, we were planting a seed in the ground. Jesus said, “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Paul, echoing these words, said, “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” Like God himself had to die to attain life for us, my Dad had to die to make his unity with Jesus complete, and to enter into that life that is the fruit of the planted seed, of which the resurrected Christ, the Bible says, was the firstfruit.

What remains? This is 1 Corinthians again: “But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Monday, May 4, 2009

For tonight:

Just a few logistical points. We hope to start promptly at 6:30 this evening, and to keep the service itself to 1 hour. There will be a receiving line, but our hope is that folks will move quickly through it, greeting the family but not lingering too long, because there will be several opportunities to share your memories of Dad. Our plan, after most people have had a chance to get something to eat and the receiving line ends, is to open up a microphone for those who are so inclined to share publicly their thoughts and memories of Dad and how God used Dad in their lives. There will also be notecards available for the meeker among you, or those who need more time to collect their words; these can be left in a basket there or mailed to the Clark home. And there is of course this forum as well, where you can continue to leave comments after Joe's posting. Thanks, and we look forward to seeing everyone tonight. There is much to celebrate.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Share Your Stories About Roger

Our family is so thankful for the outpouring of loving support as we continue to both mourn the loss of and celebrate the enduring legacy of Roger's life. To that end, we'd like to invite you to share any memories you have of Roger here on this blog. We hope this will be a fitting way to publicly testify to how he exemplified God's love through all of his various roles (husband, father, church elder, teacher, missionary, neighbor, etc.), as well as enable those who cannot join us for the memorial service on Monday evening to participate in this remembering process.

To post your story:
1. Click on the comments link below this paragraph
2. Type your message in the Leave Your Comment box in the right column
3. Click on the orange Publish Your Comment below the box.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The service is set for 6:30 PM on Monday at New Life Presbyterian Church in Dresher (2015 Limekiln Pike). There will be some dinner-ish and desserty food at the reception, so plan accordingly.

Several folks have asked about donations in Dad's honor. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Deacons' Fund at New Life Glenside (467 N Easton Rd, Glenside, PA, 19038).

For those who are traveling by air and need the information for the "bereavement fare," things are being handled by Joe Schlupp at the Baron Rowland Funeral Home in Abington, phone 215.887.7375.

Feel free to contact me with any other questions about travel or logistics. My number is 773.682.8725.

Funeral Plans for Dad

Our just-about-final plan at this point is for the family to bury Dad on Sunday, and then to hold a memorial service on Monday evening (May 4th), open to all who would like to attend. It will be held at New Life Dresher, which is at Limekiln and Susquehanna. Details and directions will be posted/linked here. The exact time is still TBD, but will be decided today.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

After the many family and friends had gradually and reluctantly left Dad's side last night, Nana, Dad's mom, was one of the last to leave. After a long day of expecting that the end could come at any moment, we were all starting to wonder if Dad might be sticking around with us for a while longer. Nana had been sitting in a chair by Dad's side, holding his hand, never moving for the entire day. At about ten o'clock she was waiting to board the elevator to go home with Sandy and Joe to get a few hours sleep. I said to her, "I'll see you tomorrow, we may have him for another day." She looked at me and said "No. I don't want him to be here tomorrow, it's too much. I told him my last good bye. It's time for him to go home."

In the end it was Cara, Katherine, Mom and I settling in for the night with Dad. The three of us kids had been making calls and plans and arrangements, and we came in to the room to find Mom in her pajamas lying next to Dad in the bed, talking to him. She said that this was her last chance to feel him next to her, "in this body that I have loved." Of course she was sort of squinched in between him and the railing, so we eased him over and made room for her. It was like he was home in bed with her, in the bed where he jokingly pointed and told Cara last week "Right there. I'm dying right there, next to your mother." We were talking about Dad, and the day, and the way things were, while Katherine got comfy and squeaked around in her sleeping bag on the air mattress, and Cara got ready for bed. Mom was describing something a friend had been thinking about, how in heaven there will be no more faith, because we'll have "sight," and no more need for hope, because we'll have the Object of our longing. How the one that will finally "remain," of that trinity of spiritual gifts, will be love.

For a while I had been thinking about the meaning behind Dad's many exhalations and vocalizations, as we listened for days to his murmurs and groans, and later to his labored breathing, as he tried to speak, or else to express something deeper than speech. I remembered Romans 8, and the idea of "groaning" there. Like all creation groans to be set free from "bondage to decay," like a mother groans in childbirth--the pain that is necessary, always, to give birth to great joy--like we groan for "the redemption of our bodies," and even the Spirit of God himself intercedes for us with "groans that words cannot express." Amazing that groans can be more expressive than words, and that words can fail to articulate the longing that a groan embodies. Groans "too deep for words." I think it was these deep longings that Dad's groans expressed--the longing to remain with his wife and his children and mother, along with the longing to be finished, home, to be free of his ruined body--the longing to be done with suffering and to see it turned to joy--the deep longing for resurrection and to see the face of his Savior.

We talked about all of this, and then started talking and laughing quietly about Dad, while still shedding tears, like we had done many times over the past few days with Sandy, Christine and Daisy--and with Julie over the phone as she drove the 1800 miles to get here. We were talking about who he was, what was so wonderful about him and why we liked him, and the things people had said about him that day, the hymns we'd sung--"When peace like a river," "My Jesus, I love thee," "My hope is built on nothing less," "On Jordan's Stormy Banks," "In Christ alone my hope is found." We were marveling at Dad's ability to cut to the heart of the matter, how he was capable of seeing the truth so clearly in situations where others got hung up on details and overwrought scenarios and pride and politics. How Dad was actually apolitical, because when he was most himself he had no agenda other than the truth, and the unity of the body of believers, and the good of his friends. He was so able to minister to others because he was all but free of self-regard and self-importance. There was no pretense whatsoever about him: he never pretended to be something more or less than who he was, never fawned and never patronized, and this made everyone he knew feel safe and loved around him, like they could relax and be themselves too. That was the environment in which real discipleship and communion could happen.

So we all unwound a bit after the big groups and the intensity of the day, and I think Dad sensed that, and as we relaxed he relaxed too. I was saying to Mom that Dad seemed to be lingering on even though we had started to pray that God would take him once Julie, Rob and the kids had arrived and spent time with him--but that it was nice. We were just spending time together and reflecting, and a burden was beginning to be lifted. At that point we said to each other that as long as Dad wanted to linger, to tarry with us there on the shore, we would linger with him, because we were still reluctant to let him go, even though we were praying for an end for him. Cara was saying what would turn out to be a last, tearful good bye, and she was by the bed sharing some time with him and Mom. Katherine was remembering the waterskiing incident of many years ago when she (claims she) almost drowned, and how Dad jumped in to save her, but right after that, being Dad, told her to get right back up on those skis. We were talking too about how the next moment for Dad, the next time he opened his eyes, all the pain would be finished, and he would be with Jesus, "face to face."

And moments later when the end came it was very swift and almost miraculously peaceful. Shortly before midnight there was a pause in Dad's breathing, and then he started breathing again, smaller and smaller, with spaces in between, but quieter and quieter. It felt different, and we knew he was very close. We called Kate over from her bed where she had been lying as we chatted, and we all held on to Dad as he breathed his last breaths and the pulse in his neck slowed and then stilled. It was perhaps 45 seconds from when we first noticed the change in his breathing. Immediately after, it was like a huge burden had been lifted off of all of us, and it was eerily quiet. Dad's breathing had created a rhythm of life, however fragile and tenuous, in the room, but that breathing was also the voice of pain, and it was the groanings of a longing deeper than words. So to hear it stilled was both a relief from suffering and a symbol of loss, but the silence signified joy for Dad--to die is gain--and the fulfillment of his deepest, life's desire.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone reading this for all the love you've shown Dad and us over the past decades, months and days. We are so grateful to be in the midst of such an amazing community. More from us later, as there is much to do. We will be posting more info here about funeral arrangements and the memorial service this weekend. Peace.

A friend's perspective

Andrew asked me to share my perspective on Roger's last day here on earth. Here are a few of my thoughts:

I will never forget yesterday. For 10 hours I hung out in Roger's room as we walked my dear brother most of the last mile in his six year fight with the Unwanted Visitor that ended my wife Nancy's life last year.

It was agonizing. Once more I heard the labored, crackling noises that a person utters in their last hours of breathing. I remembered our nine month battle with cancer. I remembered the many miles we have walked with Roger and Karen since they welcomed us home from Ireland in 1992. I ached for the hours of grieving Karen was to face. And once more my soul raged against the insult of death.

It was glorious. I saw the fruit of this humble, loving man as friends, relatives and even a former student from Africa came to say farewell. The day was thus filled with stories, songs, scriptures and sobs. Roger was dying surrounded by those he had loved and served. God led me to share many scriptures during that watch, including passages from Psalm 48 and 142 that had been impressed upon me during the passing of others whom I deeply loved. Such a departure affirms the truth of the gospel. It also contrasted vividly with the other death occurring on the ward yesterday. We were walking Roger toward the Light, the other family was shrouded in dark gloom.

I left the hospice at 9:30. Karen wanted quiet time with her best friend by then. That was only fitting. So, I left her there with Roger and three of the kids. Yet, I am thankful that he let me help Roger take the final steps. You see, when Jesus came for Roger just a couple of hours later, a friend and I were praying for the race to end.

Again, that was fitting, we can walk one another to the Door, but in the end HE opens it for the fortunate one who is taken Home. Well done, good and faithful servant. You ran a good race. As my daughter KJ said, "he is with my mommy." --and many others who loved him. Most importantly Roger sees the face of the One who loved him best of all. Roger, thanks for helping blaze the trail for us to follow in His good time.

Dan Macha
Neighbor, Fellow New Life Elder, and Brother in Christ

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday Afternoon

Last night Sandy and Cara stayed with Mom and Dad in the room. It was a long night as they slept fitfully and listened to Dad's breathing change to a rattling sound. Since then his breathing has become more labored, and the rattling sound fills the room. It is hard to watch him as his body slowly shuts down, to remember the man he once was and to see him lying in bed, so near to death.
We don't know when the end will come, but we are so encouraged by your comments, and the prayers we know you are praying.
Andrew, Daisy, Katherine, and Nana joined them at various points through the morning. It has been a long day with many visitors (Ellie, Ed, Aunt Florence, Sue, Glen, Bill, the Hollands, the Julianis, Karen Keller, Marlene Hammerschmidt, Terry Traylor, Jim Spaulding, Joe, Diane and Chuck Marsh). Dan Macha has been here through the day, faithfully praying and encouraging Dad in "finishing the race". Nana has been sitting by Dad's side holding his hand, quietly letting him know that she is there. We are singing hymns and other songs, reading scripture and telling Dad that we are there for him. There have been many moments of tears, but also moments of praise as we recall God's promises, and are reminded of the hope of heaven.

The facilities here are really quite nice, and it enables us to step out of the room and gather on the couches in the family room to decompress, and then step back in to be with Dad again. We have just received dinner, and are looking forward to a warm meal after a day of eating snack foods- it is such a blessing.

We feel that the end is near, but that Dad is holding on, waiting for Julie to arrive. She has been driving since Saturday from Texas with her family of 8. They are due to arrive anytime now.

We will keep you updated if his status changes.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I just wanted to say thanks to Becky Wilson for her encouraging comment last night about Dad's likely ability to hear us and to sense our presence, even when he is unable to speak or even to respond clearly. We had a powerful confirmation of this this morning when, after we had heard the bad news, Dad had a period of about two hours of relative alertness and responsiveness. It started about when Dr. Stadtmauer came in and was able to rouse Dad right away by saying once, directly, "Roger." The other three of us were completely surprised, because the doctor yesterday was unable to get Dad to come around, even by speaking much louder and applying several firm pats and shakes to Dad's body. But right away Dad opened his eyes and looked directly and for about a minute at Dr. Stadtmauer, squeezed his hand, and murmured, as if to acknowledge and thank him for everything they've shared over the past 6 years.

Shortly after Dr. Stadtmauer said good-bye to Dad, Dad was looking at us in a way he hadn't in days--his eyes still foggy and not quite focused, yet actually seeing--looking at us--and his murmurs and groans were expressive, and not merely the monotone, seemingly unconscious sounds of pain, discomfort or confusion that we'd become accustomed to hearing from him. We raised the bed to a sitting position, and Christine and I were able to talk to him on our own, and he was reaching out to us, and hearing and watching us, and murmuring in response. It was difficult to see him trying to talk and incapable of finding speech, but at the same time we were talking to him, telling him we loved him and knew that he loved us, and that we knew what he wanted to say--and hoping that we did. And Mom came around the bed, and he perked up still more, and tried feebly to reach out, so she hugged him and I put his reaching arm around her and held it there. And he tried to speak, and she kissed him, and held his head, and prayed with him and cried and told her she loved him, and that it would all be alright, that Jesus was near, and he was crying too, crying sounds but no tears. It was all a terrible, beautiful moment of shared pain, and love, and mutual comfort.
The decision was made, this morning, after consulting with Dr. Stadtmauer and our attending physician, to move Dad into hospice care. Though the CTscan of Dad's head came in negative last night, and Dad was looking livelier this morning, it quickly became clear that in fact Dad's condition had only deteriorated further.

The new attending, Dr. Nair, took the situation in hand immediately on seeing Dad and looking at his charts. She examined him carefully and explained his status to us, frankly and clearly, including many details that the doctors over the weekend had neglected to share with us. The long and short of it was that, while Dad's brain did appear to be clear of any bleeding or tumors, an older MRI indicated that there was cancerous growth within the actual bones of his skull. In addition, he has apparently been in acute renal failure, and his liver also is failing, in both cases due to the plasmacytoma discovered last week. In short, the doctor said, Dad's body is in a self-induced coma, and is essentially in the process of shutting itself down. The cancer, Stadtmauer said, is now moving throughout his body, and its effects are at this point non-reversible, including its effects on his mental state.

We questioned him carefully on what measures might be available to Dad now, and he said that the few things they could do could not save Dad, and would be so invasive and cause so much discomfort and additional suffering--with only a slim chance of success--that he could not really recommend them. We had to agree, especially given that these procedures, even if they "worked," could offer no promise of any real increase in his quality of life for however much longer he might survive. Add to that the fact that Dad, in his living will and in conversation with Mom and us kids, had indicated that he did not want his life prolonged merely for prolongation's sake, i.e. with no real hope of recovery. Dr. Stadtmauer said that what Dad is going through now is the "natural" way the body brings things to a close in this situation. In the end, we felt that the decision to move Dad to hospice and halt any further medical interventions in the course of the myeloma was the merciful and loving choice, and the choice Dad himself would make.

Christine had spent the night with Dad, and Mom and I arrived this morning at around 7:30; by about 9:30 the call had been made. Katherine, Daisy, Sandy and Cara have joined us here, along with Dappie (Mom's Dad), Uncle Chuck (Mom's brother), Aunt Diane and Colton. Dad's brother Bill is arriving from France in about an hour, and Nana, Uncle Wayne and Aunt Sue (Dad's bro and sis) will be coming in this evening. Marc Davis came to encourage and pray with Dad this morning, and stayed with Dad while Christine, Mom and I grabbed some lunch and spoke with the folks from hospice. John Yenchko and Mom and Dad's friend John Freeman also came to pray with Dad and say good-bye to him.

Dad will be transferred to Penn's brand new Rittenhouse hospice unit this evening. He will have a large private room, one of just 12 in the facility, which has large common areas, a kitchen and a dining room where the family can gather and be near him during this time. Please pray for Dad, for courage and confidence, and peace and relief from any suffering, that the Lord would make his presence felt to him. Pray for us as we seek to love and bless him in these final moments--however long they may turn out to be.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Afternoon

Dad's condition remains serious and the exact causes of his symptoms uncertain. He has now been basically unconscious for about 24 hours; he has moments where he opens his eyes, but rarely with anything like "seeing" going on; he has been reduced mostly to non-verbal vocalizations, and when he did speak to Mom last night it was nothing coherent. This morning he was aware enough to respond "hospital" and "HUP" when the doctor asked him where he was, but he then went on to answer "hospital" to all her other questions. Over the past four or five days there has been a gradual, but, when seen altogether, dramatic decline in Dad's overall mental and physical state.

The doctor and his team came by this afternoon, and Mom and I got a chance to hear his assessment and ask direct questions. He was unable to rouse Dad at all, and thought that his sluggishness might be caused by the medication, specifically the Oxycontin and the Ativan, so he prescribed Narcan, which would reverse the narcotic effects of these drugs. He said it may also be caused by blood viscosity, itself a result of calcium being shed from the bones into the bloodstream, as well as the increased protein numbers, both the result of myeloma activity. On the other hand, other tests seem to point away from significantly increased blood viscosity, and the specific lab result for that won't be available for a while. It's also possible that there's some bleeding in Dad's brain resulting from the lowered blood counts, but again, the doctors say that the platelets are not all that low--though he's just received a transfusion to replenish them--suggesting that the root cause is still likeliest to be plasmacytoma--myeloma tumors--in the brain or upper spinal column. The doctors are contemplating a spinal tap to analyze his spinal fluid for signs of the myeloma, but in the meantime expect that the CTscan will show any hemorrhaging or cancerous growth.

As it turns out, the Narcan didn't enable Dad to be much more responsive--he woke up, but was mostly just agitated, without very much ability to interact intelligibly. This seems to suggest that his problem is, as the doctor said, "organic" rather than narcotic. We should know more after the scan results are analyzed.

Sandy, Christine and Erin were in this morning, and Daisy, Ed, Cara and Katherine will be arriving soon via train. Erin and I are supposed to fly out in the morning, but we will still keep all of you updated. Thank you as always for your prayers and many kind calls, emails, comments and other gestures of sympathy and solidarity. Please continue to pray for all of the same things--insight and imagination for the doctors, stamina, encouragement and faith for Mom and Dad, and, still, for some measure of healing for Dad. Pray that he would not be in distress, physical or emotional, and that he would be able to have some mental clarity, some ability to interact with Mom and the rest of us, that he would know that we are with him in this, and that he is loved.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Newer News

The attending doctor from oncology has come by to see Dad, and he believes that Dad's symptoms are a result of the increased activity of the myeloma, and probably not specifically linked to any tumor growth farther up his spine. His protein levels have risen further, and because he hasn't been drinking fluids, his blood is actually thicker, making the effective level of proteins in his blood still higher, only aggravating his symptoms. The hope is that as they rehydrate him via IV, his sluggishness and discomfort will abate somewhat. In the meantime, they have begun administering a new round of steroids to reduce the tumor growth that is presumably behind all of this.

Thankfully, Dad has been transferred to a private room. The doctors no longer think that an MRI is necessary, but the ear, nose and throat specialist is checking him out now.

More soon. Please continue to pray for Dad's strength and spirits, as this is discouraging news for a very tired man. We'll keep you updated.

Saturday Morning

They were able to fit Dad in for a CT scan last night, and it didn't show anything out of the ordinary, but the MRI, scheduled for today, should tell them more. They also expect a specialist to come look at his throat. Mom ended up coming home at about 1:30 last night because Dad was placed in a very small double room and there was no way she could sleep there. She's back at the hospital now; the rest of us will be visiting later in the day.

Friday, April 24, 2009

E and I are just back from Penn. After a long sit in the ER waiting room, we were finally seen by an ER physician, who ordered some tests and conferred with the folks in oncology. They took blood for labs and tested Dad's coordination. They hope to get Dad in for an MRI tomorrow, to look for signs of the myeloma further up his spine and in his brain. For the past couple of days Dad has been exhibiting symptoms suggesting that the myeloma is advancing--extreme fatigue, disorientation, slurred speech, and trembling hands, as well as lack of appetite, gagging and difficulty swallowing.

When we left Dad was about to be placed in a room, though not in the oncology ward as we had hoped. Please pray that he will be transferred there, where "his" doctors and nurses are, as soon as possible, and that he would get a room where Mom can stay with him comfortably. She is spending the night with him tonight...accommodations dubious. Pray for her as well, as she assumes the bulk of the burden of caring for Dad and sees to it that he gets the treatment he needs and that he doesn't get lost in the swamp of red tape that is the hospital system.

The kids are having breakfast together tomorrow, and may all go see him later in the day. Pray that we would have wisdom and sensitivity as we try to minister to both of our parents, and that we would find a way to bless and encourage them as we remember these past 25 years together.

Down to HUP again

My dad is currently in the ER at HUP, waiting to get admitted. Early this afternoon my dad was having difficulty swallowing, and he started to choke and gag. In addition, he was experiencing some slight tremors. After my mom spoke with the nurse practitioner, it was decided that my dad needed to come to the ER at HUP to get admitted so that they can figure out what is causing this choking and gagging. The nurse practitioner told my mom that it is possible that the cancer is now affecting my dad's spine or spinal fluid, and nervous system. To determine if and what is affecting my dad's spine, they need to do an MRI and some other tests. The nurse practioner told my mom that this is not uncommon and that if the tests confirm that the cancer is affecting my dad's spine, they are able to treat the spot on the spine directly with chemo. In addition to the choking, gagging, and tremors, my dad has had some periods of disorientation as well.

Please pray that my dad would get admitted to a room soon, and that the doctors would be able to run these tests and be able to determine, with real clarity, what is causing the choking and gagging for my dad, and, how to to treat it. Please also pray for stamina and strength for my dad as he undergoes these various tests, and for faith for him and my mom, and our entire family, as we walk through this valley.

We also received the news on the biopsy of my dad's liver today. The results came back positive for cancer in my dad's liver. While this is hard news to hear, we are thankful that the test results are clear and we can go in a new direction to fight this cancer. Hopefully, my dad will qualify for a clinical trial of a new chemo, since the chemo he is on is no longer working against the cancer.

More later, as we receive news. Thanks for praying!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Still waiting...

...for biopsy results. Today Dad went to the hospital to get his blood checked, and again his levels were high enough that he didn't need a transfusion, so that is something to be thankful for.

Dad continues to be very weak and deeply fatigued. Please pray that he would be able to eat and sleep, and that he would have energy to spend time with the family this weekend. Christine, Erin and I are in town to visit (Katherine and Rusty come Saturday), and we'll be celebrating Mom and Dad's 25th anniversary.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wednesday April 15

Today Dad got a transfusion because his red blood count went below a certain level.  Also, the doctor feels that his fatigue, fever, and weakness are being caused by the cancer since his protein levels have risen.  This means that the current chemo is no longer working.  He will have a biopsy of his liver either tomorrow or Friday to determine the nature of the questionable spots.   Mom is staying in the room on a cot and going back to the house when she can, to do laundry, shop for supplies and bring in the mail.  

Please continue to uphold both Mom and Dad in your prayers.


The news as of yesterday afternoon was that Dr. Stadtmauer wanted the radiologist at Penn to look more closely at Dad's MRI results before scheduling any biopsy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Down to HUP

Just wanted to dash off an update this AM. Mom and Dad were transferred down to the hospital at Penn last night via ambulance. The decision was made to postpone any biopsy until Dr. Stadtmauer and his team had a look at all the test results and could compare them to past tests. Mom was hoping to be able to spend the night there with Dad to be able to be there to talk with the doctors first thing in the morning. Dad is extremely fatigued and seems to have just a raft of aches, pains, symptoms and side effects. Please pray for relief and healing for him, and for strength and courage for both of them. They have had some visitors, which has been a blessing, and Nana (Dad's mom) has been faithfully visiting during this and Dad's other hospitalizations. Today is Mom's birthday, by the way. Please continue to pray for insight for the doctors. More later.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Dad spent the weekend at Abington hospital, where the doctors have been trying to figure out the source and type of this latest infection. There's been a lot of testing and waiting for results. Still no word on Dad's protein levels from a couple of weeks ago; he's had blood transfusions as well as blood taken to do cultures to identify the nature of the infection. MRI, X-ray, ultrasound, PETscan. The doctors are still uncertain of what has been causing the fevers, sweats and fatigue, as well as the acute pain in his jaw and ear.

The most urgent issue at this point is the discovery via MRI of some lesions on Dad's liver and kidneys. There is a biopsy scheduled for 4 PM today. Mom says that there were some lesions in the area previously, and she has urged the doctors at Abington to get in touch with Stadtmauer down at Penn. She asks that we pray for this situation, that the chemo would continue to work, that advance of the myeloma would be stopped, and that these lesions, whatever they are, would be healed. She also asks that we pray that the communication between the doctors at Abington and those at Penn would be productive and unhampered by ego, and that their diagnosis and prescriptions would be accurate and effective.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A New Round

This is just a quick update before I head off to the hospital. Roger was hospitalized Thursday afternoon for what may be another infection. Please pray for the doctors as they work to determine the cause and find an effective treatment for whatever is going on. We'll send updates as they come. (There's still no report from the lab on Roger's protein level from the April 1st appointment.) Thanks so much for your prayers.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Waiting for the results

On April first Roger and I headed down to HUP for Roger's regularly scheduled monthly appointment with Dr. Stadtmauer. The antibiotic Roger had taken for the blood infection he caught two weeks prior had apparently worked, and he gave Roger a clean bill of health in that regard. Dr. Stadtmauer said he was "guardedly optimistic" about the efficacy of the new chemo regimen Roger has been on, but we would need to await the new protein level readings before he could be sure.
Well, as of this date, April eighth, the labs have still not sent their results to HUP, so we all continue to be in the dark as to what those levels are. The nurse practitioner who works with Dr. Stadtmauer has promised to call me as soon as they come in, and when I get the news I will be sure to post it.
This past week I landed a nasty four-day cold--but, thank the Lord, Roger amazingly did NOT catch it. However, yesterday Roger did spend the day at Abington Hospital getting transfused with two pints of blood. Not the best way to start a new April.
But as always we are encouraged when we see the little crocuses and daffodils with their cheery faces telling us Spring is really here. And this week, Holy Week, points our hearts to the true and eternal Spring, a new birth and new life through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God for His inestimable gift! He is our source of hope in every circumstance.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Day Seven

It's day seven on the new antibiotics that Roger was prescribed in the hospital, and we're so encouraged to report that he is not battling the fevers any more. We are very thankful that the meds have worked against the infection, but unfortunately it has had to come with a price: more stomach and fatigue issues on top of those he already has from the chemo meds.
So we're standin' in the need of prayer, as the old hymn puts it, and we have three main prayer requests: (1) that these side effects would dimish and be able to be controlled; (2) that Roger's body would begin producing enough red blood cells to eradicate the anemia that dogs him and deepens his fatigue; (3) and--BIG ONE--that our April 1st appointment with Dr. Stadtmauer would show that the chemo is making major inroads on the cancer and even eradicating it.
The Lord ministers to us daily through so many means: just the right Bible verse for a particular moment of struggle; the steaming dinner brought to our door; the loving acts of our brothers and sisters in Christ; the cards and visits/calls from family and friends. A challenge for us in all of this is that while we so miss interacting with you, our dear friends, the window of suffcient energy in any given day can be very small or even nonexistent at times. So please know that we love you and even when we don't see you, are blessed to pray for you even as you pray for us.
And we trust that the Lord will, in His good time, give us all a green, grassy meadow by the still waters on which we can lie on our backs, gaze up at the sky, chew a long stalk of grass, and talk and talk and laugh and talk till those cows come home. Till then, may our Lord our Shepherd help us walk by faith and not by sight.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Well, I'm sure most of you know this now, and I'm sorry for not posting sooner, but Dad came home from the hospital Thursday night, with a new antibiotic prescription. The lab results had come in, pinpointing the bacteria responsible for his infection and enabling the doctors to prescribe something specific. Last I heard, he was still feeling low, but glad to be home.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Update as of Wednesday Night

I'll have more for you tonight or tomorrow morning, but in the meantime, there's not a ton to report, just that Dad is still in the hospital, where they are keeping the fever down, administering antibiotics, and waiting for the labs that will help them pinpoint the infection. His red blood cell count was low yesterday, for which he received a transfusion. Mom said he just feels very tired. She spent the afternoon at the hospital with him yesterday, after getting home at 5 AM and sleeping just a few hours. She's been fighting some kind of bug herself. Please pray for both of them, body and spirit.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The return of the fevers

They're baaaack! Yes, this past weekend Roger's temperature began to rise bit by bit and by Monday morning we knew we had to call the doctor. Roger had had chills and sweats during the night and his temp was up to 101.9 in the morning. So we went down to HUP and blood samples and cultures were taken. His white blood count was high enough, however, that he did not need to be admitted. We were sent home with a strong antibiotic and told that when the cultures matured if there was any indication of a serious infection, they would contact us.
Well, the call came Tuesday evening when we found out that the cultures showed that Roger had a blood infection and needed to be admitted to the hospital immediately so they could begin an antibiotic drip. So we headed down to the ER, which is a story in itself, which I do not have the time to recount. But the basic situation now is that Roger will remain in the hospital on IV antibiotics for at least 3-4 days while the lab examines the cultures and waits for them to fully mature. Once they can zero in on the particular bacterium causing the problems, Dr. Stadtmauer can better prescribe the exact anitbiotic to deal with it. He is not sure what may have caused this problem--it's pretty hard to be exact on these things at times--but some suspicion is falling on the PICC line that has sat in Roger's arm for many months, through which he receives transfusions and chemo and has blood drawn. Although we and the visiting nurses take great care with it, all it takes is one stray little bug.
So we wait and take hope in the knowledge that our great and loving Lord is in this with us and is mighty to save. We are learning deeper and deeper lessons in that "walking by faith and not by sight" dynamic. With a condition so continually in your face as cancer, as a Christian you are thrust into a daily/hourly/minute-ly deeper learning of what "putting off" fear and "putting on" faith looks like in each particular moment, in each particular situation. And our good and faithful God, who is closer than a brother, is there with His arm around us pointing us to Jesus and to hope.
Thank you so much for prayerfully walking alongside us through this learning experience.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thanks for your prayers

God can answer prayers pretty smack-dab quickly when He chooses, and that that is just what happened yesterday. Instead of watching Roger's temperature rise steadily through the day, we first saw it stabilize and then actually fall in the evening hours, right at the time that it would have typically climbed! Thank you so much for praying.
Today Roger feels much better and we are convinced that he must have picked up one of the viruses floating around over the weekend. At times it is very difficult to distinguish the side effects of the chemo from the symptoms of a virus, but his chemo treatments do not usually cause fevers, so when he gets a temperature we know that something extra is happening.
As always, we are blessed to know how much you care and pray for us--we feel surrounded by a veritable army of angels. May the Lord watch over you today and encourage your hearts, as He has done for us through you.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Latest, with an immediate prayer request

Just got a call from Julie saying that Dad has a high fever. He's 1/10 of a degree away from the temperature at which the doctors say he needs to be admitted to the hospital (100.5). Please pray that the fever would abate and that his body would be able to fight off whatever likely infection he's picked up. (This sort of thing was anticipated by the doctors, given the effect of the chemo on one's immune system.)

Dad had an appointment at HUP last week. The good news was that there's been a slight drop in his protein levels, so the chemo has apparently begun to work. The bad news is that he was anemic and needed a blood transfusion, but again that was something the doctors anticipated, as a result of the chemo rather than of the cancer. In general, though, he's been feeling stronger and less worn out. This is most likely him coming out from under the radiation treatments, which were really wearing him down. Mom and Dad thank you all for holding them up in prayer. Please pray that the chemo would not only work but keep working against the myeloma. The tendency with the various chemotherapy concoctions is for them to work well for a while and eventually become ineffective. We're praying for as many months as we can get from this one!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Valentine's Day Pictures

I thought I would add some pictures of our special Valentine's Day celebrations...

(Sorry Dad! This is the only picture I got of you, and you were blinking!)

Little Adrian crawled around, happy to be in the mix

Noah and Ellie play with their newest cousin

Ellie is the only kid who helped Katherine finish the job of making a fruit bouquet. The boys each did one and said adios!
We had a craft for the kids- making heart bags to hold their valentines. Even Kaelin and Juliana enjoyed the coloring

Since getting the family together becomes harder and harder, we finally had a chance to celebrate Sandy's birthday- 5 weeks late!

After a busy day, Kaelin was ready for her nap!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mystery Sol-VED

[Thanks to Bob and Claire Matthews for uncovering Mom's missing post, languishing in a new blog she inadvertently created while trying to post to this one. It seems the title was an old username or something that got typed into the wrong box...Anyway, usfolks thank you for your patience...]

Heading in to Valentine's Day weekend

On this Valentine's Day weekend, we send our love and appreciation to all of you who have supported us in love and prayers for so long. We thank God for you every day, but on the day of hearts and flowers, we want you to know how much you have encouraged and blessed our hearts.
Last year at this time, Roger was desperately ill, lying in one of the outpatient chemo rooms at HUP, receiving one of many 6-hour infusions of an experimental drug. This drug failed; ten days later he was admitted to the hospital and remained 22 days. Those were scary days, indeed.
Today, thank the Lord, Roger is taking his chemo at home instead of through IV drips at the hospital. Last year we were not sure he would see another February. Yesterday Roger insisted that we get into the car to go buy Valentine's flowers for me. When we arrived at our destination, he had no strength to actually go in to buy the flowers, so I did the deed. But how wonderful that we are together and we can still celebrate our love for each other on this earth. God is teaching us how to be truly grateful for every small thing--which is actually a very large thing.
Roger continues to be unsteady on his feet and quite weak and fatigued. Each day is different, and each day presents its own physical, emotional or spiritual challenges. But we can sense God's leading us, teaching us, challenging us, encouraging us--loving us--every single day. And we know that there is a purpose in every hardship He brings our way.
On Wednesday we saw Dr. Pinover, the radiation therapist. He was pleased to see that Roger is out of pain now, and we are continuing to reduce the amount of pain medication he is taking--it has to be done gradually. It seems that the radiation has done good work--Hallelujah! On Monday the 16th we head down to HUP to see Dr. Stadtmauer, who will weigh in on how he feels the chemo is working on the cancer. We do expect that Roger will be needing one or more transfusions soon--low blood counts are a part of this chemo's side effects.
We as a family are celebrating this weekend--our daugheter Julie, who lives in Texas with her husband and six children, is coming up to spend the weekend with her new baby (Adrian, 7 months old)! We have not seen her since last year at this time, so it will be wonderful to be together again and to meet our youngest grandchild. Unfortunately, Roger has not been well enough for us to make the trip down to Texas. Katherine and her family will be coming up from Virginia, so we will have five of the seven Clark children and their families with us, and that will be a treat.
We pray that you also will have a wonderful weekend with your loved ones. May God bless you greatly. Thank you again for your faithful prayers for us and our family.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dad went to see Dr. Stadtmauer on Monday, two weeks after starting on the new chemo. He had blood tests, for which we're still waiting for the results. The good news is that Dad's back pain has subsided, which seems to indicate that the radiation has shrunk the tumors there. This means that he can be weaned off the steroids and the oxycontin now, itself a good thing because the doctors believe Dad has developed some steroid toxicity, the probable cause of his muscle weakness and some of his difficulty in climbing stairs and the like. Dad continues to have the weakness in his foot, though, and to use a cane to help him get around. Dr. Pinover, the radiologist, believes that this may be a permanent problem, a result of damage done either by the radiation or by the tumors themselves.

Thanks as always to everyone for your prayers and sympathy. I will update you with the blood test results when I hear them. Mom spent an hour and a half last week writing up a blog post, which subsequently went MIA in the internet ether. Discouraging, but she promises to try again when she gets a chance. Toodles.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The New Game Plan

Dr. Stadtmauer has started Dad on a new course of chemo. It's a combination of two new drugs, which, if they work, will start to show results in two or three months, and another, which Dad has taken before and which should start working sooner. The doctor chose this particular chemo cocktail from several options, any of which he feels has a 50-50 chance of being effective. At this stage, the options are fewer. There is still the possibility of a second stem-cell transplant; this would depend on whether or not the current chemo is effective, and whether Dad is healthy enough to withstand it.

There's been some further elevation in Dad's protein levels (.8), but still nowhere near the highly elevated numbers of last winter/spring, so it's not as bad as it's been before. One prominent side effect of this new chemo regimen is lowered blood counts, both red and white. This means that Dad will be weaker and subject to infection. Please pray that he will be protected from the many outside pathogens as these drugs fight the cancer. Please continue to pray that the radiation would show good results with the tumors in his back. Pray for Dad's energy and spirits, as he continues to deal with the weakness in his foot and and intense fatigue.

Both Mom and Dad are grateful for all your prayers and acts of kindness, even though they are unable to respond personally to every one of you, as they wish they could. Both say they feel upheld by the prayers of the saints, and that God has been close to them in yet a new and deeper way over the past couple of months. They continue to wrestle with the Lord to find and accept his will for them in this, and to find the right way to live through this passage, one way or another, honestly and faithfully.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mom and Dad meet with Dr. Stadtmauer today to determine what to do next. Tomorrow will be the last of the radiation treatments aimed at the large tumor around his spine. Dad is still dealing with pain, as well as the weakness/numbness in his foot. He's walking with the assistance of a cane, and basically just needs to be extra careful as he moves around. Our prayer now is that Stadtmauer and his team will have wisdom and insight in assessing Dad's situation and deciding on treatment. For the pray-ers among you, please pray too that the radiation would shrink the tumor, and that Dad would recover full functionality in his foot. Thanks to all of you for supporting Dad, Mom and the rest of us during this time.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A quick note: I didn't get a chance to add this yesterday, but Dad came home from the hospital yesterday morning. The doctors determined from the MRI that there seemed to be no growth in the tumor causing any spinal cord compression. They're not sure what would have cause the lack of feeling and weakness in Dad's leg, but it may be a side effect of the steroids.
Dad will continue with the radiation this week, and see Stadtmauer Thursday to decide on the next course of action.
Sorry so rushed--

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dad was admitted to HUP yesterday evening. He and Mom initially went in to Abington because he was experiencing weakness and loss of sensation in his leg. They took an emergency MRI at Abington before the decision was made to transfer him down to HUP via ambulance. It does appear that this is the result of the tumor's pressure on the spine, though it could well have to do with the radiation on that area itself. We can only pray that the tumor will begin to respond the radiation by shrinking, and that any nerve damage would be temporary. Thanks to everyone for persevering with Dad in this. More later.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dear All,
This is Karen signing in, with an update on the past few days. First, Roger and I want to thank every one of you for your prayers, blog comments, e-mails and hugs. You are a very real part of God's blessing toward us during this time.
These last several months have been challenging, and, yes, difficult, on many levels, both medical and spiritual; but there has been a true "good"-ness to this time. It is difficult but deeply good to experience God's soul-searching, wrenching, purifying work in our hearts. Step by halting step we ask Him to help us to trust Him as He roots our faith and hope more fully in Him alone. We are thankful that our Lord does not settle for superficial faith in those He loves, but instead--holding tightly every hand-- leads with such care along the path that is "further up and further in."
As Andrew reported last week, Roger began radiation therapy immediately upon being discharged from HUP. He has received five treatments thus far, and will be finished by next Wednesday. We are encouraged that the pain in his back is lessening, and so far, side effects from the radiation have not been extreme. Of course, we are only half-way through and side effects are cumulative, so please continue to pray that the radiation will not adversely affect the spinal cord and that Roger will continue to tolerate the radiation well.
Next week is our appointment with Dr. Stadtmauer to decide on the next phase of systemic treatment of the cancer. We thank the Lord for this dedicated oncologist who for the past 6 1/2 years has used his skill and expertise to fight Roger's myeloma. We pray often for him, not just in relation to Roger's treatment, but also that God would bless his life in every way. As a matter of fact, through our experience and that of many others, many health professionals are daily lifted before God's throne in prayer--who knows what the Lord will do in their lives as a result?
May the Lord bless you and those you love greatly today. Thank you again for your prayers for us.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dad was home from the hospital last night. The decision was made to send him back for another round of radiation with Dr. Pinover, 10 visits, aimed at the new tumor. Though this area was radiated awhile back, the doctors believe it can take more. It seems there's really no alternative, since they believe that--on account of previous radiation--the tissues in this area wouldn't be able to heal were they to perform surgery to remove the tumor. In the meantime, the fear is that Dad could sustain neurological damage on account of the tumor's location on Dad's spine. During the hospital stay, the doctors were frequently coming around to test Dad's reflexes from head to toe; the good news is that he's been spared any paralysis or other loss of function due to this growth thus far. And while further radiation carries a small risk, ironically, of nerve damage, the risk of leaving this tumor to grow unchecked is obviously far greater.

So: Dad starts radiation at Abington right away, today, and in two weeks will go back to Penn to see Stadtmauer, who has two different possible chemo regimens in mind for him. If the tumors respond to the radiation, the hope is that chemo can then once again slow or halt the attack of the myeloma.

Mom and Dad thank all of you for your prayers and encouragement, and are sorry not to be able to communicate with each of you individually. Dad said that during this hospital visit he felt sustained by the many prayers being sent up on his behalf. Please continue to pray that both he and Mom would have the physical and emotional resources to keep on keeping on through what has become a grueling phase in this battle. Pray that the one-two combination of radiation and chemo will knock the cancer back before it reaches that truly critical phase when the protein levels shoot up and the blood levels--hemoglobin, platelet, red and white blood cell counts--start to really drop. Pray that Dad would be clear-eyed and courageous, as well as sensitive and open to the good that God has for him in this.

I was thinking about all this this morning, and remembered this passage from Philippians. Paul's chains are not only literal: to live at all on earth is to be chained, to be manacled to a body that inevitably suffers and decays. To know Christ is to be subject to a complicated double longing: one is the desire to endure chains, to live, for the benefit of others and so that "in every way...Christ is preached"; the other is to have the chains loosed, to be free of the body and be with Jesus, which is "better by far."

"Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me."

I know that so much of what is keeping Dad here, enchained to a dying body, is his love for Mom, and his mother, brothers, sister, children and grandchildren. But of course the timing isn't his to determine, and our prayer is that he will be ready and joyful when the time comes, ready to relinquish the one love, and its labors, and to embrace the other, better by far.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

MRI results

Just wanted to let you all know that Dad got the MRI, and it revealed that there is a new, large tumor growing around his spine. This is more or less confirmation of what Dad and the doctors suspected, given the new and different pain he's been having. They meet with Stadtmauer today to decide on a course of action.

Dad has asked for prayer for faith in the face of this discouraging news, that he and Mom would be able to trust God and find his will in all of this. Please pray, too, for the continuing pain, which has been difficult for the doctors to control.

Sorry so little; you'll know more when I do.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Turns out they couldn't fit Dad in for an MRI last night, which means he may have to wait until tomorrow. He expects to spend at least another night in the hospital. Our prayer is that the MRI would provide the doctors with a clear indication of where this new pain is coming from, and of what the status of the old tumors is. It's apparently too soon to see the full effect of the radiation, which Dad completed last week, but hopefully the old tumors have begun to shrink. We still hope that the doctors will be able to formulate a new chemo strategy for Dad in light of the recent setbacks. On the upside, last week's blood tests indicated that Dad's white and red blood cell numbers are at good levels, so at least his body is still functioning there.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dad was admitted to HUP today. Last night he was up with intense pain in a new area of his back, and the doctors recommended he come in. They took an EKG, as well as a chest X-ray, to see if his heart and lungs have been affected. He's scheduled for an MRI. We'll know more tomorrow, but for now the pain is under control.

Dad is spending the night at the hospital. I will post more after I talk with my parents in the morning. Thanks for checking in.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Year News

Dad has his three final radiation treatments this week, and a new dose of steroids. He is still dealing with a lot of pain and discomfort in his trunk and lower back, and has been feeling increased fatigue. He's starting to have difficulty with the stairs in the house again, which means his blood counts may be dropping. Those numbers also come in this week. Mom and Dad will be meeting with Dr. Stadtmauer mid-January to assess his situation and to formulate a new treatment strategy. Thanks for checking in, and for praying. Please pray especially that the radiation will significantly reduce the size of the tumors, and that the doctors will be able to find the right combination of measures to beat back the cancer once again. Pray that Dad will be able to sleep regularly at night and have relief from the pain that he's been facing for over a month now. Pray that he would be encouraged and that both he and Mom would be able to experience joy in and through this suffering.

In fact, the Christmas holiday at the Clarks was one of much joy and general goofiness, with many little grandchildren keeping things lively, and Mom and Dad and Erin and their helpers cooking up numerous culinary storms. It was so great to be home, and Dad was very much present throughout the week, and was in fact able to participate in the family festivities far more than last year, when his situation was becoming so dire. After such a difficult and uncertain year for Dad, this Christmas was a precious gift to all of us.