Keith Olsen - Letter from Caregivers - 2012

February 14,2012

Dear Workers & Friends,

When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure.

Our thoughts today are of overwhelming gratitude for all your prayers, visits, emails, Skype messages, cards, letters, calls, flowers, meals and kindnesses shown to us as we cared for Keith.

Keith described it best when he said we have experienced a tsunami of love!

We are most grateful for the privilege of sharing Keith’s illness and last days.

He was a prince of a man, a Godly, diligent disciple, a patient teacher, a kind shepherd, a loving, caring brother, a dignified and humble servant, a most co-operative and uncomplaining patient and a trusted friend.

For those of you who did not have the privilege of visiting Keith in these last few weeks, we would like to share a little of that experience with you.

Any that did, will well remember Keith’s smile, his ability to engage you in personal, meaningful, spiritual conversations, his stoic, but gentle, demeanor when sitting in his chair to visit, having fellowship meeting or listening to hymns sung around the piano.

He considered each one to be a helper of his joy.

You will recall too, the many stories (daily for us) about Pakistan and his love for the people there. The early morning calls from there were greatly anticipated and brought him much joy. We often joked that he could have a very private conversation with us present, as he loved to chat in Urdu.

He spent a part of each morning and evening on his computer, enjoying the many emails. He read all his letters, and answered many, up to 6 days before he passed away. He then just became too weak to manage the necessary energy required.

Our morning studies were precious and took us through various books and topics as well as following the study in Pakistan and our mid-week study chapters. We read in Genesis and Psalms in the last few weeks.

We looked for the treasure in each day.

We visited about time and eternity, living and dying, relationships and righteousness. We often sat in comfortable silence.

His mother, Dora, has been with us on 3 separate occasions. First for a month in October, then two more times of 3 weeks each, returning home January 15th. They enjoyed precious visits and sweet fellowship. At 90, she was our example of faith and trust in God and His plan. We were thankful that she could be here when he was well enough to enjoy her.

He loved and appreciated our young folks here in Saskatoon and those feelings were mutual. Many would just drop in for a quick hello, a singsong or a little visit. He thoroughly enjoyed the gathering here of about 40 young folks on January 20, 2012. They each shared their thought from special meetings that they could apply to their life.

He sat in his favorite blue chair, visiting until the last ones had left!

That was so “Keith”…he shared of himself beyond his strength, he loved beyond reason.

By the weekend of February 3-5,he was becoming significantly weaker. He really had no appetite and, although very jaundiced, denied any significant pain. He began sitting with his eyes closed and preferred to be in bed. His brother, Victor, and Lenore came Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning he was determined to sit up in our little meeting. There were only 9 of us as our regular meeting went to the union Sunday home. Mike took the meeting and Keith sat with eyes closed but prayed, spoke helpfully from Psalm 99…the righteous judgment of God and prayed for the emblems.

He listened to the gospel meeting from his bed. (He has been getting all the gospel meetings over Rebecca’s cell phone). Mike and Dustin’s messages would get an “Isn’t that amazing!” comment from him each Sunday.

His contact with us became mostly limited to single words of yes, no, please, or thank you. He never once complained or murmured but remained gracious and thankful and extremely peaceful.

As had been their habit, Rebecca asked him every morning about his “hymn of the day”…and she would play and sing it for him before she left for work. On Wednesday, she asked him, “Uncle Keith, do you have a favorite?”  “Yes,” came the weak reply. “Just tell me a word or 2 and I will figure out the hymn. Do you know which one?”  He softly whispered to her, "I do but you won’t.”  At that time she didn’t understand…. but now she realizes that the hymn he had written, “ Just once more,” was being fulfilled!

From Sunday on, we took turns sitting with Keith continually. Mike and Dustin were here as well as my cousin, Minnie Lou Howden, who is a nurse. She did the midnight to dawn shifts, which was tremendous help.

One of the young brother workers had made a compilation of hymns…(piano, violin, and vocal), which we played softly at various times. We held his hand, spoke softly to him, or just sat quietly near, providing him with his precious “alone time” with God.

Mike kept in frequent contact with Dora and the family. We are extremely grateful for our brother workers in our field, Mike Hassett and Dustin Collins. …Companions for Keith and an immeasurable help to us.

Just an hour before Keith passed away, Mike had called Dora to tell her that Jarvis Olsen (Keith’s nephew) had stopped by for lunch and Keith’s condition was really no different than the past few days. He remained at rest, sleeping peacefully.

Then at 2:31 pm on Friday February 10th..there was a next breath that didn’t come. Mike, Minnie Lou, and Lois were with him. He was never restless or anxious or fearful. He did not suffer but just slipped peacefully away from us.

It was 8 months to the day since he came to our home. Precious and special days, all!

So many things could be said about Keith, but he did ask that all the glory go to God.

 

 

We do feel the peace he left in our home, the reassurance that the soul of this just man is now perfected, that there has not failed one word of all God promised. God was true and faithful to Keith in this experience and walked with him until he could hang his shield of faith in victory.

In his last weeks, he talked not of what he was leaving behind, but what he was going to, and with awe and wonderment, spoke of seeing the windows of heaven open and anticipating seeing God face to face. He spoke of going ‘home.’

Dick penned it so beautifully yesterday when he replied to a note from an older sister worker.

He wrote this:

It is a great element to our joy, thinking of you faithfully walking and sowing as you go.

We need not be thanked but rejoice together for the great example, the fellowship, the faith and the courage that was here with us.

He was a disciple, a worker, a teacher, an empathizer and in his last days epitomized the lamb before death going softly quietly and without a whimper.

Thanks be to God for the wonder of his works in friends and workers.  

We will each have a turn.

Love in Christ.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We bow our heads & hearts in grateful praise to our God who does all things well.

We have been witness to God’s perfect plan: His mercy, His faithfulness, and, above all, His love.

May the spirit of Christ, so manifested in Keith’s living and dying, continue to inspire each one that has been touched by Keith’s life.

Greetings from grateful hearts and may all be well with you,

Dick, Lois, and Rebecca Stewart

 

 PS : one of the thoughts we shared with Keith to encourage him on:


 

Think of: 

Stepping on shore, and find it Heaven

Of taking hold of a hand, and finding it's God’s hand

Of breathing a new air and finding its celestial air.

Of feeling invigorated and finding it immortality.

Of passing from storm and tempest to an unbroken calm.

Of waking up and finding it HOME



…….a hymn we often sang….

 

Almost Home--A few more wild waves roar

Beyond the trackless waste, and then the homeland shore

Almost Home--A night or two at sea.

And then the lights that wait to welcome me 

 

Almost Home. The storm tossed journey past

And then the love lit fires, dispelling every blast

Almost Home and sunrise on the shore

A Welcome warm and then, a love wide open door


CHORUS:

Home, Sweet Home, Home beyond the tide

Home, Sweet Home, I shall be satisfied..

 

 

This was sent to us and was surely our prayer for Keith in his last days:

 

I will take your name before the Father as I seek His face

And ask Him to enfold you in His arms of warm embrace

There’s no one who can comfort you quite like the Father can

And surely carry you across this dark and frightening span

Although I dearly care for you and want to help so much,

I know that what you really need is in the Father's touch

So, I will take you to the throne and leave you in His care

I know He will deliver, when I speak your name in prayer.

 

 

 

For Saturday and for Pakistan……

THE HARVEST (an old poem forwarded to us today)

 

They come from farm and farmland, from vale and distant hill

From busy halls of commerce. and from the forest mill.

And when I saw them coming, that flock of grieving sheep  

I marveled at the harvest a shepherd’s hand can reap. 

 

Yes--as I saw them coming:  the sorrowful, the old

The babe with gentle mother, the sheep outside the fold

The brave, old, honest toilers, the children young and fair.

I marveled at the harvest one grain of wheat can bear. 

 

And from the distant mainland,across the rolling seas,

There came a lonely grieving, that stirred the silent trees

And as I heard that echo, from absent mourning sheep

I marveled at the harvest, a gentle hand can reap 

 

And now that hand is resting, that shepherd’s heart is still

No more the grim dark valley, no more the winter chill

No more the long night vigil, on yonder mountain steep

His rod and staff beside him, the shepherd lies asleep.