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What a terrible feeling this is.

It has only been 7 weeks since Marisa died and it seems like grieving is getting progressively more difficult.  I have so many large and important decisions that I need to make and I have to do them without Marisa.  This absolutely sucks.

I don’t know how good single parents do it.

The reality of losing Marisa is that during each and every decision, every transaction, every joke, every dinner, every night of bathing three kids, every morning waking up remembering Marisa is gone, every silent evening, every time Zion misses the school bus, every prayer, every grocery list, every time Jacoba calls her vagina “bagina”, every ride into church, every future plan, every radio song, every time I hear the word cancer, every time Zekijah calls me at 3 in the morning to put her soother back in her mouth, every time I get an e-mail from Marisa’s wonderful parents, every time all three kids need me at the same time, every time I tell my story and people have that look in their eye like I need sympathy, every yawn, every piece of junk mail with Marisa’s name on it, and every time I think of Marisa’s smile that lights up the room, I grieve.

I grieve.  Because our world has changed.

I hear it many times a day that Marisa is in heaven.  And each time I rejoice every time I hear it.

But sometimes it just sucks.

So I pray. 

I pray that I can have a life not about cancer, but in spite of cancer.



In our church the 3-7 year old children have a children’s message that is given during the service in the front of the sanctuary.  Yesterday Zion and Jacoba went up to listen to the message.

The message was well done.  It was about sleep and resting.  The speaker, Kim, brought a number of examples of activities that some of us do.  The children were asked to participate by indicating whether or not they did the activity.  Then Kim brought out a pillow.  She told the children that sleeping or resting is something that we ALL do.

Just before the message was over, Jacoba decided to give her imput.

Jacoba told Kim that not everything sleeps because “tongues don’t sleep”.

Kim did a good job redirecting and Jacoba felt affirmed that she spread her brilliance.

I wish you a good rest tonight.  Except your tongue.


The clothes have been decided upon.  We kept some stuff and will donate the rest.

It is hard to describe the feelings going through ones heart when you are dealing with the clothes of the dead.  I imagined many different things during the sorting. 

There was one sweatshirt that Marisa just loved and I wished she would get rid of.  We joked about that sweatshirt often.

There were her lululemon pants that we bought on our trip to Vancouver.  Good memories.

Looking at all her jeans I imagined again her great back side.

Her wedding dress.  Sheesh.

I’m glad that Marisa’s sister Christy and my sister Monique could take some of the clothes and shoes and still wear them.  I think that will be nice.

For now, there stands an empty dresser.  Empty.  Reminds me of something else empty.


Today is the day that I am going to tackle Marisa’s clothes.

It is well known that this is a difficult decision for people who have lost someone close to them.  The decision of what to do with the clothes.  I know people that have dealt with the clothes after two weeks of the loss of a loved one and I know someone who still four years later has his wife’s clothes in their closet.  Similiar to suffering, it is an individual road to travel.

So as for my road, I have asked Marisa’s sisters to help me with it.  They are more into women’s fashion than I and because Jacoba (3) and Zekijah (1) might want to wear some of them later on, I need to know which clothes to keep and which ones to donate.

Probably a tough and important day today.


For those that don’t know, when sweet Marisa was diagnosed with cancer, our daughter Zekijah was just 7 months old.

Then not only did we find out that Marisa had cancer, we quickly found out how severe and aggresive it was.  This made us wonder if Marisa had cancer while she was pregnant and if it would harm Zekijah in the short or long term.

I recently met with Marisa’s very first oncologist who has looked into it and told me that there is ZERO chance that Marisa passed anything to Zekijah.  I like the number 0. 

There are some forms of cancer that a woman can pass to her unborn child but Marisa’s type was not one of them. 

It is proven that breast cancer can be hereditary and I could get Jacoba and Zekijah tested for the onco gene but I think I will wait to talk to them until they are older. 

For now, I love the number zero.

Peace to you,


Your comments and the e-mails I’ve received have caused me to read over my last post (co-exist) a number of times.

The tone I wanted to portray was more of truth than torment.

It is just questions, facts, honesty and having nearly no filter between my brain and my mouth/fingers that create these posts.  I think these are things that I think most people would feel if they were near my situation and were honest about it. Sometimes these posts may surprise you with my honesty but as I’ve said before in my post, suffering shoves the truth in our face.  

And when the truth is shoved in our face, it is then that you find you can find your maker.

I still have much torment, but I also have much joy.  Just last night, our three year old daughter called for me in a frantic voice to her be at 3:38 A.M.  I came running.  She looked at me and said,

“Heit (dad), how does a fox get on a ship?”

I told her that I wasn’t sure how that stuff happens.  She accepted that answer and fell back asleep while I rubbed her arm.  I then sat there looking at our beautiful three year old daughter and thought of when I held Marisa while she took her last earthly breaths.  The moment was a marriage of joy and torment. 

It was pain and hope co-existing.

Thanks for sticking with me, 


Last night I had a couple of old friends over.  (old in terms of duration of friendship, not age)

We had a great time and it was very nice to have adult conversation.

When they left, I watched them walk to their car.  I was jealous that they will probably get to grow old together.

On the shelf in our bedroom there are three pictures of Marisa and I with each of our newborn children.  Those pictures are memories that remind me of the depth of our loss.  They remind me that Marisa won’t be here to see those kids grow up.  Those pictures are a past that included someone I didn’t want to give up and then I imagine a future that excludes someone that I want to keep.

How can the pain of the past co-exist with the hope of the future?


Zion and I had lunch together today.  Jacoba and Zekijah were upstairs sleeping.

Zion started telling me about a girl who isn’t nice.  He explained to me that she was bossy, didn’t tell the truth and that once she pushed someone else when they were standing in line.

He was intense when he spoke to me.  He was very concerned that someone could be like this.  He asked “how could she be super mean?”

So I asked him if he knew someone who was super nice.

He said “Mommy was the nicest.” 

I agreed.  Then we were both quiet for a few minutes.  I grieved in my heart.  I think he did too.

Then we continued throwing pieces of apples in eachothers mouths.


The four of us were driving home today when Zion decided to start quizzing Jacoba about a variety of topics.

First it was Batman.  Then it was chess.  After a few more subjects, he decided to see what Jacoba knew about heaven.

He first asked Jacoba who went to heaven. 

Jacoba answered “mommy”.  Zion said she was right. 

Then Zion asked Jacoba if God went to heaven.

Jacoba said “God never went to heaven, He was there already”

Zion then complimented his sister.  He said, “Jacoba, you are smart for a kid”.

Yes Zion.  Yes.


The kids went to a good friends house today.  They had a great day.

I did some errands.  I had a good day.

Then we came home.

Zion, Jacoba, Zekijah and I.

We came home to an empty house.  A house without Marisa.  Echoes of Marisa, but not Marisa.  Our children do not come home to their mother.

My children don’t come home to their mother.

Sorrow filled me.  And not because I think that reality has set in because I’m not sure that has happened yet.  But maybe because I’ve only been playing with change.


For the first time since Marisa died, I visited the cancer clinic.

For a place that has hundred of people go through there every day, people seemed to notice me.  The receptionist for the whole building, the social worker, the librarian, many of the blood work nurses, the ladies in the supportive care unit, the chemo nurses, the receptionists for a number of the different areas, the clinical trial nurses, many of the volunteers and even the parking guy.

They remembered my face because they all remembered Marisa.

That is because Marisa is a rock star.

I remember walking out of the hospital (the clinic and the hospital are two buildings joined together) after Marisa died thinking that it would be strange not going there on a regular basis anymore.  The cancer centre was a part of our regular schedule for more than 11 months.  And then one day you walk out and that is it.

So I went back to say thank you to many of the people that Marisa loved.  The head clinical trial nurse, Robin, said to me today that Marisa was so lovely to work with.  That Marisa was such a fighter and that she had beautiful grace.

Robin is right.  The private Marisa was the public Marisa.  What you saw and heard was Marisa herself.  Her creed was the same as her conduct.  Many people can not say that about others.  I can.

That is why is hurts so much that she is gone.

I miss my rock star.


Marisa’s obituary was published in the Christian Courier this week.

She was one of four people in the obituaries.  The ages of the other three were 75, 81 and 82.  One of them was married for 56 years.  FIFTY SIX.  I was jealous.

If you are coming to this blog either because of the obit and/or regarding the trust fund, here are the details again. 

You may send a cheque to Tallman Funeral Home in Vineland (905.562.5454) or at any Meridian Credit Union account number 6787600.

This money can be directed in any of these names:

Zion Hoekstra, Jacoba Hoekstra, Zekijah Hoekstra or Mendelt Hoekstra.

This money will go into one fund and that will help bless the kids down the road.

Thank you to all who have given the children money.  I am eternally thankful.



Many people have marvelled at the way Marisa and I have made our lives so open in this blog.  Many people have said that they would not have been able to invite ‘the world’ into their lives the way we did.

This is what I have experienced through suffering.

Suffering burns up bullshit.  It takes pride and cripples it.  It swallows people who are self centered.  It invites you to find your maker and make decisions.  Suffering forces perspective.  It shows you what things are worth.  It thrusts responsibility upon you.  Suffering causes nakedness.

But that is only if you listen to suffering.

I still have much to hear from suffering because I believe that my suffering is not going away.  I believe that my suffering is just going to have to live inside me, speak to me and become a part of me. 

And if I listen the correct way, I believe that I will honour two people, my Maker and my Marisa.

I wish you good ears.


I don’t know if it even matters.  And I realize that even before I wonder about it that it is flawed.

Because I don’t think there are clocks or time in heaven.

But…when I think about Marisa lately, I wonder what she is doing at the exact time that I’m thinking about her.

I wonder if she is singing.

I wonder if she is washing her robe.

I wonder if she is floating.

I wonder if she is eating a piece of fruit.

I wonder what she looks like.  Gorgeous for sure.

I asked Zion (5 years old) what he thinks mommy is doing in heaven and he thinks that she is reading a book and taking a rest.  If so, it is a well deserved rest. 

Then Zion told me he is the best burper ever.

Which might prove my first thought that I don’t know if it even matters.


As Zion and I watched the Raptors game (basketball) and had a slumber party to end 2007, my thoughts went to the past year.

I spent the year holding Marisa as she shone each and every day.  I held her as she shone and I held her as she died.  

Sorrow is deep.  So is the Father’s love.  Grief and pain are vast.  But love is beyond all measure.

I also spent time thankful for community.  For all of you.  Some who are still reading this and some who aren’t.  I am so thankful that we had such a strong community that rode the dragon with us.  I will forever be thankful.  Like I mentioned at Marisa’s service, there are many of you that I want to thank personally for being alongside Marisa but I also wanted to thank you all through this blog.

Those of you who have a community of believers, cherish it. 

Those of you who either don’t believe or don’t have a community of believers, I wish you community for 2008.

I am going to spend 2008 steering our children through grief, anger, sadness, joy, peace, laughter and thankfully, community.

Peace and love,


Shine On DVD

This DVD is of a concert put on by Marisa's family that raised funds for a yearly scholarship in Marisa's name.

Donate Now to receive a DVD