Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Veil is Thin

I'm finding it challenging to know where to start, what to write, what exactly it is I want to say today.  So much has happened and, in true Libra fashion, I fluctuate between wanting to write it all down so I don't forget a moment of this strange state of being I find myself in, and wanting to just let it be ~ to continue as I've done over the last few days and lose touch with the passage of time and let it ride.  

I'm laying on the bed in the back room with my sister Anita, and she is helping me sort out what is important for you to know about Phil and our family time. Hospice is in place, which means he sleeps a bit more comfortably in a hospital bed in our room, and I feel supported by an amazing team of caregivers. Every twelve hours is a new place in this journey. Phil is comfortable, not in pain, able to smile and comprehend the nuances of conversation, but is slow to respond and fading quietly. 

Our living room is Ground Zero for us most of the day, with visitors and family coming in and out. I am trying to balance Phil's needs and my own, with those of my children and his loved ones who need to see and be with him. It is exhausting and we haven't quite gotten it right every day. I don't know how long we will be in this disrupted space but I do feel that God is holding us. I don't understand how people do this without Him.  New mercies are needed every morning.

Last night I was reading about what it means to "die a good death." Throughout this illness, Phil has never complained, railed against God, or asked "why me?" How many of us could say that? I want to do whatever it takes to accompany him to his good death. Please pray that I can be faithful in the middle of the night when he needs me. And when I need patience and grace to lovingly sort out the kids' grief and emotional pain. 

This is a sacred privilege for me to honor my husband as he leads us all to the Cross. We are catching glimpses of Jesus in these precarious days of uncertainty but we know for certain that all shall be well.  Phil is surely dying but we know that this is ultimately his resurrection story.



  1. Sally, as I read this I realize that you and your family are closer to God than you have ever been before. Phil is helping you all along in his non-complaining, smiling existence. Could he be a messenger from God for us all to see how better to live in this life of ours? I'm not sure, but it is something to think about.

    You write, "... pray that I can be faithful in the middle of the night when he needs me. And when I need patience and grace to lovingly sort out the kids' grief and emotional pain." I have confidence that you will be just right in every situation that comes before you as you have grown throughout this experience. I read in your words a wonderful human who has seen life at its best and at its worst. You are going to do just fine, Sally. Have faith.

    Love, Lisa Christen

  2. Sally, both you and Phil have been such a testimony to faith and love. My thoughts are never far from you all. I pray that you continue to feel God's arms around you and that His strength will carry you through the journey ahead.

    Cori Berg

  3. Sally,
    We're praying for you, Phil and the kids here. We love you all and want you to know that. Please pass this along to Phil and the kids.
    -Dave, Alison & Ezra

  4. Sally,

    Truly, you and Phil have been living embodiments of love and commitment.

    Not a day has passed without our family remembering, thinking, wondering, praying, and holding you all in our hearts.

    I have every faith that you will continue to be the best friend and life partner for Phil you have always been - from the very earliest days of your finding each other to the many years since. You have always been there for Phil.

    It grieves me to hear of Phil's time with us in this life coming to a close yet I am filled with thankfulness that he is at home, surrounded by his loved ones, and peaceful.

    If there is an opportunity, please let Phil know that I love him dearly and will always count him as one of the best friends and best people I have ever been privileged to know.

    Phil's easy smile, his sense of humor, his kindness, utter decency, courage, and faith will always stay with me and inspire me to be a better person the rest of my days.

    We love you all and are very much with you in spirit.

    David, Heather, Zoe, and Gretchen.

  5. Sally,
    I was a PA student with Phil at Duke -- please let him know how much he was admired for his amazing smarts (he taught an anatomy/physiology class to us), and for his incredible athleticism on the running paths, or any field of sports he was on. I met you very briefly while playing a game of Ultimate Frisbee, and you were quite the athlete yourself also!

    I've always remembered Phil, and appreciate greatly his assistance in our Internal Medicine rotation together. Thank you, Sally, and Phil, and your children so much for sharing your journey here, and please give Phil a hug from me.
    Angela Talley

  6. It has been a long time since I have seen or talked to you both, Sally and Phil. I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated your presence in my life when you were up in Poulsbo, WA. I remember the two of you in the small group with my parents and loved the interest the two of you showed in me, though I was young. I always thought of Phil as someone I wanted to be like. He looked so physically strong and his character was as solid. Though his physical body is weak now, it is obvious that his character and faith are still unwaivering. Thanks for the testimony and positive influence you have had on my life. I will be praying for the whole Conrad family.

    Jonathan Dyk

  7. Wish I could hug you right now Sally , thinking of you often and praying even more for the time to come... you are truly loved and securely held by the hands that made you ><>

  8. Jon and Marianne DykNovember 12, 2011 at 10:56 PM

    Phil and Sally, you both are so amazing! We cherish the time that we spent with you in Silverdale. We honor your faith and strength in God! We continue to declare hope and life over you! The grace with which you both are living your life is so awesome.

    We love you and are praying for you!
    Jon & Marianne Dyk

  9. Sally,

    You are a loving, gracious and humble soulmate and partner with Phil, and I KNOW that you will continue to serve the needs of the moment. May the Lord continue to provide you with strength and resolve and the right words to say, as well as the grace to just "be" with Bennett and Olivia and Phil, when words are just not necessary. And may God's grace give you space and time and the right shoulders to cry on and let go, when you need that too.....

    You are loved, and we continue to pray and hold you, Phil and the kids close to our hearts and in front of the throne of God, moment by moment.

    May the peace of the Lord be always with you,

    Dave Ritter

  10. Mrs Conrad we are only 2 of the fans of your brother in law David Conrad about your husband Phil illness on yourconrad family chronicle one here in the USA and one in Spain our thoughts and prayers are with you and the whole Conrad Family and I believe that when your husband room is ready with God he will call him home and you will have the strenght and the help with God you will get thru this. We have mailed you a prayer card from my parish and we will continue to pray for you and the conrad family

  11. To the Conrad family, I too am a fan of David's and I want to express my thoughts and prayers to you at this difficult time. Reading your last blog you speak about dying a good death. When I was younger my mom always spoke about a beautiful death. I never understood that until my father died. He went in his sleep with his family around him and it truly was beautiful. I only ask God to do the same for your husband. Please know that I add you to my prayers everyday and when I receive Communion every Sunday. God Bless each of you.

  12. We've never met. My daughter is a friend of Jefferson's and it is her house where he stays when he comes to visit you. I believe David is there as well right now. I've been reading the Conrad Chronicles for awhile now. I am so amazed by your strength, courage and faith through all this. I pray for you, Phil and your children as you go through what is probably the most difficult part of this journey. You said that you want to do whatever you can to accompany Phil to his good death. I think you are doing just that--and he knows it. My continued prayers are with you all.

  13. Dear Sally - my thoughts and prayers go out to you, Phil and your children. I've followed your blog postings along with my husband George, who was a roommate of Phil's in college. Your strength and grace have been an inspiration and I trust will carry you through these difficult times.
    Susan Coan

  14. Ah, sweet Sally - such beautiful, courageous words. Thank you for each one. As always, Anita is a kind, observant and wise advisor. My internet connection has been down while we've been traveling around southern CA, caring for my mom a bit and babysitting a couple of grandboys. Tomorrow I leave early a.m. to drive north for a 24 hour spiritual director's retreat and will carry you all with me as I go.

    Your heart is exactly where it needs to be. Your body will follow as long as you need it to. As Anita so well knows, these next days/weeks will be times of sadness/shock (despite this long good-bye - there will be some of that, too)/exhaustion and adrenaline. God will carry you - and the people of God will help a lot in that carrying.

    May your brave man be carried by the angels of our God directly to the throne room and may you be carried by these angels here below who love you so. I am praying for strength, patience, wise words and wiser silence. You are exactly right - this is a privilege and you are all walking on sacred ground these sad and glorious days. I pray these words, along with Jude whose only purpose in this life may well have been to write them down for us to breathe in at times such as these:

    "To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy - to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, no and forevermore! Amen."

    So much love to you - tears and prayers, too.

  15. Grace!!!

    Sally, thank you soooo very much for allowing us to enter into this sacred time and place with you...I will never be the same!!!


  16. Hi Sally,

    I've followed your blog and have received updates through my sister, Heather (we met once at her house).

    My prayer for you...

    Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow, the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day.
    Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
    Be at peace then.
    Put aside anxious thoughts and imaginations and say continually,
    "The Lord is my strength and my shield. My heart has trusted in Him and I am helped. He is not only with me, but in my, and I in Him."

    Matthew 6:25-34
    Psalm 28:7

    You are in our thoughts and prayers daily.

    Malia & Bob Millard

  17. Sally,
    As a loyal "Team Conrad" member, and very old freind of Phil's, I feel that this experience that you so graciuosly allowed us to share with you has changed my life forever. I went to school with Phil and David at Edgewood many years ago, but still remember them both very well. I got to see David at the fundraiser we had in July, and it brought back so many memores. There were more of Phil (with our mutual frien Steve Cashmer) that have continued to pop into my head, and in every one of them, I see Phil laughing. Not just smiling....laughing.
    Since losing touch after all these years, I am so proud to hear of the man that he's become. So brave, gracious, caring, loving, and strong. Especially in his faith. I am also so very happy that he found you to share his life with. You are like an angel that was sent to him to walk the path that was chosen for him. There is NO doubt in my mind that you will do the exact thing that your family needs cause you all have god in your heart, and he will never fail you! I feel so many emotions at this time, for all of you, but the strongest one is love! I hope that you know that the "Pittsburgh" friends are a very tight and loyal group, and we will always be there for all of you. As long as you need us, and even if you feel you don't, we will still be there, sending our love, hugs and prayers to all of you. I have one particular story about Phil that makes me laugh to this day, and it's so silly and Phil-like, that one day, when you feel up to it, I'd love to share it with you. I also hope one day we can meet in person, so I can give you that hug I so deperately would like to give you! Please give Phil a kiss from me, although his memory might be fuzzy, I'd like to send him love anyway. And my love continues for you, Olivia, and Bennett. May your light shine on forever. God is there with you, and I do feel a lot of comfort knowing that!
    In the very sad days ahead, just be yourself. That is ALL you need to do, to do the right thing!
    Love to you all,
    Leslie Rush Cuda