Friday, February 17, 2012

Running With The Angels

This is my father-in-law; & this lucky man is running with the angels.....

This post has taken me a long time to write. Not because I don't know what to say, but because I want to say it right. I haven't written about him yet, because we never truely knew the outcome, but now that we know he's one lucky goes........

Maury Vance was a great father, grandpa, brother, son, uncle, cousin, & husband; & then father-in-law in 2003. He was funny, serious, a great jokester, an incredibly hard worker, & a man of God. He would teach you everything you wanted to know about building things, fishing, hunting, heating & refrigeration, & ribs! Man could he cook great ribs!!

In 2010 he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth. He immediately had it biopsied & then had surgery in August. It was a very extensive, long surgery that left him looking slightly different than before. His jaw had to be wired shut & metal plates were put there to help him heal. The plan was to wait 6 weeks, un-wire his jaw, do radiation to the area, & that's it!

Well that was the plan anyways...

They misssed the 6 week window because his jaw wasn't put together properly; therefore, not healing properly. It ended up being about double the time before they were able to start radiation. They started the radiation, with him driving to Billings (2 hours away) once a week for quite a long time. After that was over they scanned him again, but it wasn't gone. They'd missed the window & the cancer had grown. So they tried chemo. They did that for a few infusions but it wasn't doing what they'd hoped.

The next step was a medication trial & a VERY difficult surgery in Denver (12 hours away). He was down there for weeks & weeks after his surgery. He ended up having a bilateral neck dissection. Look it's an amazing surgery. The trial didn't help as much as they'd have liked either. They finally told him a couple months ago that he could try another trial in Denver but that it wouldn't be doing him any would just be to help them for research purposes. He eventually decided that it would literally kill him to travel to Denver so much, so he declined.

His final glimmer of hope was a doctor who travelled here from Great Falls (1 1/2 hrs away) who wanted to try one last bout of chemo. He saw him Jan 10th & said that they'd start chemo in 2 weeks, at his next appt. In the mean time he was going to talk to his other Denver doctors & get everything in order. He saw him again Jan 24th & by now he had quite the wound on his neck. His cancer was eating from the inside out & had created a good-sized neck wound. Dr. Martin, unfortunately, told him that if he were to start chemo, he would be dead the next day. He told Maury he thought the cancer would get his carotid sometime within the next 2 weeks.

That was January 24th, a Tuesday.

Beginning that evening we all basically lived at their house. His face was growing in size & you could just tell that the end was nearing. He wasn't getting up anymore at all & was completely bed-bound. Dustin's older sister, Dawn, came to town & was there to help Dona take care of Maury. Marji, Dustin's younger sister, & us, were there from the moment we woke up in the morning until it was time to go to bed at night. We knew it would be any day.

After a few days he was admitted to Hospice so Dona could get more help. After a few more days, we all started taking time off work. We knew it'd be any minute so we all wanted to be prepared & spend every last minute with him that we could. We asked my mom to come stay with us so that if we got a call in the middle of the night we could just run down, instead of waking the girls up or waiting until my mom came to the house. We were convinced it'd be that weekend. But it wasn't. So every single time we left the house we'd wonder if that would be the last time we saw him alive. Then we were convinced it'd be that next Monday/Tuesday. But it wasn't. Instead, Monday night January 30th came along.

It was 9pm & Marji had just gone home. Dustin & I decided we needed to go home too. So we got up & were saying our goodbyes when Maury wrote on his board that he had a feeling he was going to die tonight. He asked for Jed (my dad, who he'd already asked to do his funeral service) & for his family. So we called Marji & my dad & we all stood around his bed while he wrote, & wrote, & wrote messages to us. He wrote for an hour and a half solid.

Amongst a lot of other things, he told us where he was going. He also wanted to make sure we were going there too. He wanted a verbal yes or no if we were going to see him again in heaven. He wanted to make it very clear that we all knew Jesus Christ. It was a very powerful hour and a half. Little did we know that that night was the last night he truely made sense & knew what he was talking about. It was the last night that we all had a full conversation with him. Because after that the medication made him a little confused, rightly so.

And that's when we started staying the night. Dawn was obviously there every night, Marji stayed almost every night, & Dustin & I stayed a couple times. Thank the Lord for my mom being able to watch our girls. We have no idea what we'd have done if it weren't for her.

We kept vigil at his bedside for the next week. Sometimes we'd bring our kids so they could see Grammy & Poppy, but most of the time they weren't there. People started bringing dinners to us too...which was an incredible burdon lifted off all our shoulders. Monday Feb 6 was 19 years to the day that Maury's mom died. We never once hoped that he would go, but how ironic would that be, that he'd die the same day his mom did.

With every day that passed we were getting that much closer to Dustin's birthday. He was born Feb 10th. He couldn't die on his birthday...he just couldn't. Everyday that got closer to his birthday I just wanted him to hang on just a little more so that it wouldn't happen on that day. We were all ready for him to go; we were ok with it; & we told him that it was ok to let go, but he had such a strong heart.

Wednesday, Feb 8th we woke up & walked up stairs, just to see that his neck wound had doubled in size. It had grown every single day, but literally overnight from the 7th to the 8th it doubled. It was quite an amazing wound. We just knew it was going to be that day. His color had changed, his breathing had changed, & we just knew it was imminent.

We were all sitting around the living room, like we normally did, watching TV. All of a sudden I had a kick on my leg from Marji, who was sitting right next to me. I knew what that kick was for. I immediately looked up, right at Maury's chest...a look that we'd all made thousands of times. But this time was different. He took a breath in, let it out, & it was at that exact moment that he met Jesus Christ. It was 8:20pm.

The next few hours are a blur. We cried, we hugged, we called family & friends, & we stood by him until they came & got him at 10pm. The next day they came & got his bed, which was another very hard thing to see. The next day after that was Dustin's birthday. It was definitely a crappy birthday but I'm so glad his dad didn't die on the exact day.

SO....after having a feeding tube for over a year, a trach for over a year, being unable to speak for about a was enough. I like to think that angels were watching over him, & us, & told Maury that Monday night Jan 30th that it was the last time that he'd have to tell us anything. That's why he wrote & wrote & wrote for a solid hour and a half. I also like to think that the day he saw 2 little boys out his window, when he was smiling at them, (2 little boys that we couldn't see) that they were 2 little angels who were preparing his way for him. I also know for 100% fact that the Lord stopped that cancer at the carotid. He didn't let it eat it away & He spared all of us what could have been a horrible site.

The service was nothing short of spectacular. I have always said... My dad does amazing church services, even better weddings, but simply spectacular funerals. And that he did. It was all about Maury. We laughed, we cried, & we remembered this father, grandpa, brother, son, uncle, cousin, husband, & father-in-law the way he should be remembered.

Maury was a great man who loved the Lord & wanted others to know Him too. He will NEVER be forgotten!

The table, right before the service started

Dustin & Mike (Marji's husband) folding his flag at the service. Not a bad job considering this former Marine & Army guy haven't folded a flag in many years!

His obituary:
Maurice Edward Vance, Jr, 54, went to be with his Lord on February 8, 2012 after a long, courageous, & brave battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his family & went peacefully.
Maury was  born in Kalispell, MT as the sixth child, & first son, to Maurice Vance, Sr & Beatrice Solberg Vance. The family moved to Circle in 1974, then Mollala in 1976, before finally settling in Lewistown in 1977. Throughout his childhood he was loved, adored, mothered, & protected by his five older sisters, who he appropriately nicknamed "The Smotherers".
In 1976 he became one of the Few & the Proud when he joined the Marine Corps as a Combat Photographer. He was stationed in San Diego, Virginia, Korea, & Okinawa, Japan during his six-year USMC career.
In 1980, while in the hospital for an illness, he "took a turn for the nurse" when he met what would become his future wife, Dona (whom he fondly called Dora Mae). They were married later that year at the Kendall town site. They had three children: Dawn, Dustin, & Marji.
Maury & Dona were baptized together in 1998; & he has continued to serve the Lord throughout his life. When his kids were young, Maury was involved with them in scouts, baseball/softball, church, hunting, fishing, golfing, archery, & camping. Seldom was there a weekend when they weren't busy. Amongst his hobbies, Maury also had a love for heating & refrigeration. He purchased RiteTemp Heating & Cooling in the mid-90's & ran it faithfully for over 15 years.
Beginning in 2003, Maury has been blessed with 6 grandchildren. Kobe, Nevaeh, Simon, Taylor, Cali, & Brooklyn were the light of his life. He enjoyed them tremendously. Some of his favorite activities were teaching them how to build with wood, ride the 4-wheelers, golf & fish. He loved & served the Lord. He wanted all his family & friends to experience His love & gratefulness. 
Maury is preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his wife, Dona, of 31 years; his children Dawn (Tom) Pegar of Billings, Dustin (Merilee) Vance, & Marji (Mike) Drysdale all of Lewistown; his grandchildren Kobe, Nevaeh, Simon, Taylor, Cali, & Brooklyn; his sisters Monte Jean (Dick) Wunderlich of Ronan, Sharlene (Dick) Lucas of Lewistown, Lynette Vance of Ronan, Wanda (Dave) Brock of Centennial, CO, & Linda (Kelly) Galloway of Kalispell; his second dad, Elliot Landheim of Lewistown; and numerous nieces, nephews, & friends.

Like I said...this lucky man is running with the angels.....