March 31, 2005

A new way to read the blog

Just a technical note here--I know that many of you check the blog multiple times during the day. If you're interested, we publish a RSS feed from the main page. For those that don't know, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. There are many programs out there that will check the website for you during the day, and then tell you when it's updated--much like when an email program tells you when you have new email.

For more, you can check this great Lockergnome article. The address to our feed is published in the lefthand column, but if you want to copy and paste into a newsreader, here it is:


The only drawback is that it won't notify you when there are new comments, but some of you might find it handy nonetheless. Personally, I use NetNewsWire on my Mac, and love it.

Posted by Martin at 09:21 PM | Comments (3)

The Gifts of Each Day

After discovering my diagnosis last Monday of limited months to live, I have felt better and better each day. Although I don't have unlimited energy — by a long shot — I am getting out of the house for appointments or dining. My appetite seems to be back and I can't tell you how much I welcome that. The sense of a timeline brings surprising relief to me. It now becomes easier to consider the remaining tasks before us. With that come a sense of peace.


I had a surprise on Easter Sunday. I attended services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday but was just too tired to make the Easter Vigil and Confirmation on Saturday. Sunday morning I found five long strings of origami cranes and realized that the confirmation class had been folding them for me hoping to make 1000. The congregation joined in after the service taking paper and instructions. I was deeply moved by the wonderful gift dedicated to peace and my healing. It occurs to me that death is an entry to a realm of peace and I will be prepared to go buoyed by prayers and paper cranes.


Each day brings thoughtful and beautiful gifts. Cards, visits from friends old and new, notes on the blog from adults I knew as youth, an unexpected book from Amazon, a gift of a glass pyramid with the essence of the sea in it: sand, starfish, snails and shells, a wonderful Easter card from one of the children in the church.

The gifts are symbols of love and support beyond my wildest dreams. What a joy to be surrounded by such a company! I give thanks to God for each day's discovery of the Spirit's bounty, all expressed by you precious friends.

How can I keep from singing?

Posted by Donel at 06:55 PM | Comments (2)

A Small Bit of Business

First of all, let me say for the entire family how much love & support we feel as we read all the comments from friends far and wide! If you have been reading and haven't posted, don't be shy, you need not say anything earth shattering, a simple "hello" lets us know you are there and we appreciate your presence.

A quick note to those who are recently joining us and reading the blog from the beginning: Unfortunately due the nature of the software we are using, comments made to earlier entries are attached to that message and only the person who wrote the original entry is notified. Therefore the comment is not seen by most readers (because people who have kept up with the blog from early on, don't know to go back and look for new comments.) I am attaching a few recent postings made to previous entries, so that all can see. (Click "Continue Reading 'A Small Bit of Business'" link below.)

If you are a new reader and wish to post a comment, we ask that you post to the latest entry (feel free to reference earlier entries) so that all can see the latest activity on the blog!



Posted to "In the Beginning there was the Blog"

Dear Don and Marilyn: We have thought about you today and hope the meeting with the oncologist went well. It is our continuing prayer that your "dance", no matter how long or short, will continue to be a good one. As we have said so often, you are a real inspiration to so many. Thank you both for the good, open, sharing people that you are. Much Love, Bob and Dova Thirsk
From Bob & Dova Thirsk

Dear Donel: Thinking of you and your family at this difficult time. Your attitude is marvelous and it will help all of us prepare our hearts for the end, and the beginning of your next adventure. You have shown such grace and enthusiasm as you lived your life, and no less at now. I remember the movie, "The Doctor" with William Heard and Elzabeth Perkins. They were out in the desert dancing as she was dying of brain cancer, but she didn't pity herself, or give up and just "let it happen" she celebrated the life she had, as are you. Thanks for showing us the way! God bless!
From Sandi Bride

Donel: How it i that Life happenes when you're making other plans. When I turned to the Church's web page to check out email addresses for you and Cynthia, I found your blog and the latest developments.

Maybe I can do for you as you so generously did for me and my sister, Karen, -- son and daughter of Margaret & Oliver Johnson; extending to you my loving kindness and join the circle of abiding comfort and support. In our last time together I taught you and Cynthia a song that we sing at Judson Memorial Church in NY. The words are by Gertrude Stein and come from her work, "In Circles" the music was written by Al Carmines. It goes,

I leave you there.
Do not, do not despair.
Remain in a Circle and do not despair.

I wanted to let you know that friends and I will be passing through Bellingham in mid June and we hope to attend church on the 19th. You will remain in my prayers until we meet again. Love and a reminder, Life Is Good Dave Johnson
Dave Johnson

Posted to "Every Journey Begins with a Single Step":
I am so proud of you Donel!

You are now experiencing 'the gift of death' - a very dear time. There is time to recognize one's life achievements [yours are many!], settle most accounts, and prepare one's self for the journey. I appreciate the burden that has been lifted from you.

I have been by the side of many souls who have made this journey over my 20 years of nursing service. It is amongst the most impressive of life's gifts.

I am thankful and happy for you at this time.

With love,

your neighbor, Lisa Wallis
From Lisa Wallis

From "Saying Goodbye"
Pastor McClellan,

I just got done reading a portion of your 'blog' and it touched me deeply. My father was diagnosed with lung cancer a little over a year ago. He went through radiation and chemotherapy, and it seemed to go into remission. However, last month, the doctors found another spot on his lung as well as a tumor in his brain. At the end of February, two of my siblings and I flew to Yuma to see him. It was difficult at best to visit him, knowing what the impending results are going to be. Without treatment, he would have about one month; with treatment, he could have as many as 6 months. Knowing that my father is dying is a difficult thing to deal with. But reading your entries helps a lot. Thank you for your courage. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as you 'dance' this dance.
From Cynthia

Posted by Jeni at 05:35 PM | Comments (3)

March 29, 2005

The Truth Shall Set You Free

Monday morning Marilyn and I drove to the Eastlake center in Seattle for my appointments at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.. My morning was spent getting injections for the scans and lying on my back while various hi-tech machines looked into my body. At noon we drove over to Martin and Christine's apartment and had some lunch and rested until our appointment with Dr. Tia Higano to review the tests.

At 2:30 Martin drove us back to the SCCA and Jeni met us. We first met with Hanne Peterson, Dr. Higano's nurse, who has been wonderfully supportive throughout my treatment. She suggested that my digestion problems were probably caused by liver damage and that I continue to be anemic.

Then Dr. Higano came in, as gracious as always, and gently reported on the scan results. There is some fluid on my lung (right side) and in my abdomen. The pain left sacroiliac joint is doubtless due to a new tumor. In general the results suggest that we move to a focus on pain control since the primary sites of the new tumors will probably not respond to treatment without causing more side effects than they will remove. Dr. Higano suggested that I might get some relief from several medications but should not expect to regain much energy in the future.

When pressed with the inevitable question: "How long, doctor?" she responded that no one can measure that but she would give a ballpark of two to four months. I can't tell you how much I appreciate her gentle honesty. I had been anticipating such news because of my awareness of changes in my body. In a sense it is liberating to know that my focus can change from getting stronger to making the most of each precious day given me.

Martin drove us home to Bellingham where he will stay for a few days. After calling Dani in Singapore to fill her in, we had dinner, watched some TV and went to bed … allowing further processing of the news to wait until morning when we would all be more rested.

This morning Marilyn, Martin and I had a conversation about some of the things that now become high on the agenda. There were tears and laughter and a courageous willingness of the family to adjust to the new situation.

I must sense that I have a sense of relief to know that pushing myself to eat when my stomach is in rebellion and to exercise each day in order to get stronger are unlikely to counter the effects of the cancer. My dance now becomes more passive, more responsive to the lead of my body.

And where is God in all of this? I sense that the Spirit is dancing with me and that I am always upheld by the Everlasting Arms. God is good and each day is a blessing!

Posted by Donel at 11:51 AM | Comments (33)

March 27, 2005

Easter Morning

It is early Easter morning, before church. The day is a bit overcast and I doubt that anyone saw the sun at sunrise services.

Our paper, the Bellingham Herald came early and included a front page Easter story about my illness, the amazing support given through the blog and so many friends. The article with pictures is here:

Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen indeed!

March 25, 2005

Good Friday Reflections

I have been following the news of Pope John Paul II whose illness has seemed to worsen over the past weeks. Now Holy (or Passion) Week seems to be his time of relinquishment to the will of God. The Pope is demonstrating to the world the faithful way to die. I watch and learn from him.

On the other hand, Terri Schiavo, has been waiting unconscious for fifteen years for an opportunity to move through death to something better than palliative care. The Pope and Terri are in my prayers. May they see God face to face when death does come.

It won't surprise you that I have experienced Holy Week from a different perspective this year. As one who faces a serious illness, the texts of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday take on new depth and the experience accorded to Jesus by the Gospels becomes more poignant. For the time being, with the Marys and the disciples I am content to wait in the hushed darkness, not yet ready for Easter, still remembering Passion Week. It is this anxious waiting that will, I hope, prepare me for the unexpected good news of Easter morning.

Posted by Donel at 04:57 PM | Comments (2)

March 23, 2005

A Belated Tale of the Lost Week

A week ago on Monday I had my first appointment with a hematologist here in Bellingham. The nurse took several vials of blood for analysis and the doctor explained the possible causes of anemia.

Tuesday a nurse from the hematologist's office called to see if I had any objection to blood transfusions. I said, "No" and at 11:00 am we (Marilyn and I) were at St. Joseph's hospital getting the paperwork done. A room was prepared and I took off my shirt, put on a hospital gown and the nurse tried to find a good vein. Since I had already used the only good one for a blood test the day before, she managed to find a space above it. They tested my blood for type and some other factors and in about an hour the first of two units of blood arrived in the room. In the meantime I had a very nice hospital lunch, mac and cheese and broccoli. I enjoyed that and relaxed. It takes about 20 minutes to give a unit of blood but 2 to 2.5 hours to receive one. That afternoon I received two units and looked forward to some new energy. Here is a picture from my telephone taken during the long afternoon.


Tuesday through Friday: Tuesday morning my stomach was churning and for the next three days I was able to eat almost nothing. I kept a few fluids going but my digestive system pretty well shut down on strike. Each day I could feel myself having less and less energy. I suppose I caught some sort of flu bug.

Saturday I began eating a little bit and more on Sunday. I wasn't able to attend church because I didn't want to expose others or be exposed to anything new and, I still had an elevated temperature.

This week things are going better and I'm eating more normally. Started walks a couple days ago beginning with a block and back, then two blocks, and today around our block. It is good to feel some energy returning.

Sorry to have been so absent from the blog. My head has been in books and I've read about one a day since I had to lie in bed or in the recliner for most of a week. It is wonderful to go on a fictional journey when one doesn't have the energy to get about physically.

Posted by Donel at 05:35 PM | Comments (11)

March 14, 2005

Installation and my family

Yesterday we gathered at FCCB (First Congregational Church of Bellevue — not to be confused with Bellingham) to install Tara Barber as our new minister focusing on family ministries. I met Tara in high school at Pilgrim Firs, so it was a great joy to be a part of the search committee that called Tara to our church. But I was amazed at the number of ways the installation felt like a homecoming for me.

As we sang the opening song, Jim Manley's Part of the Family, I looked up and saw Cindy Bauleke and Bobbi Virta walking up the aisle to join in the celebration and uphold Tara as a colleague as she begins her journey as our pastor. I was immediately struck by the web of family that extends out through the United Church of Christ and was brought to tears. Not only was I surrounded by my Bellevue church family who has grown very dear to me over the last 11 years, but I also felt suddenly connected to the rest of my UCC family, both present and far away. Beginning with my early memories of Pilgrim Pines with my Woodland Hills family and learning some of my still favorite songs from Jim Manley himself, to the overwhelming love and feeling of home that enveloped me seeing Cindy & Bobbi, to the comfort and pleasure of raising my voice in singing with my church family at Bellevue as we celebrated such a joyous occasion. I felt a mix of great joy and pride to be part of such an amazing extended family. There were other family members of course: I can't possibly see Dee Eisenhauer without thinking of wonderful times at N-Sid-Sen and Family Camp; Gail and Ed Crouch hold a special place in my heart with our mutual love of Yosemite, connection with Dad and the conference and now the more recent time spent (after Gail's first retirement) here in Bellevue with Gail serving as our Minister. I saw many of the conference ministers whom I've met over the years at Annual Conference, sometimes at my father's side as his daughter and sometimes representing Bellevue as a delegate, often both.

As a kid, I was always so proud to be Don McClellan's daughter. Wherever there was hearty laughter or deep fascinating conversation, there was Dad, in the middle. If there was a table having fun despite a boring meeting, or the loudest laughter during a break, joyful singing or stirring and thought provoking services — that was where I knew I'd find my father. And not only that, but I knew that everyone else knew it too. Dad has developed a wonderful reputation as a joyful person to be around, a challenging and through provoking preacher and yes, sometimes the person who will stir the pot when everyone else preferred to let things sit quietly. Who doesn't know to watch out for the very worst puns when sitting in his presence? How can a kid not be proud to follow in such footsteps? At church camp, I longed to be old enough to join the adults playing music and singing during happy hour. Dad joined along on his homemade gut bucket or earlier the autoharp, both instruments that required more enthusiasm than years of training and always allowed him to take part in the joy and celebration of the moment.

It's amazing the number of thoughts that can dance through your head during a song and the memories and connections that a single service can bring to the surface.

During the prayer, someone raised Dad's name and our family in prayer. I didn't recognize the voice and don't even know if it was someone that I know, but I certainly felt in God's care. In every way I felt part of a huge family and realized yet again how much love and support is out there as we are all dancing with Dad.

So to each and every one of you — my family: those who I've known as long as I remember being a part of church family and those of you who I've met only in the last few years, I thank you for your love and support: your support of me, of Ron & the girls and of Dad and Mom is so very valuable to me. I cherish it and I am honored to be a part of your family and look forward to all the dancing yet to come!

Posted by Jeni at 06:43 AM | Comments (4)

March 11, 2005

Saying Goodby

This afternoon Marilyn and I attended the memorial service for Laurence Brewster. Laurence was chair of the pulpit committee that called me to the First Congregational UCC in Bellingham in 1981. On our first visit to Bellingham, Marilyn and I stayed at Laurence and Margaret's home. It was like being with family.

Over the years I have come to love Laurence and Margaret and their family. When I arrived in the church I found a box of pictures of each member family with their names—a gift from Laurence. As a retired professor of speech and drama Laurence was always supportive and complementary. He was generous with praise and willing to share excerpts from his vast reading which might be of use to his pastor.

The service was beautifully designed and moving to me. It paid tribute to one whom Cindy Bauleke identified as a “saint”, whose life touched and continues to guide many others. I realized that the ritual of saying "goodby" to someone you love and respect is very healing. And it suggests that there may well be a time when we say "hello" again.

These days a line in a prayer, or a phrase in a hymn, can trigger my emotion with its immediate transfer from my normal voice to a sqeaky and strange adolescent voice. I am moved easily and often and it's no secret to those around me.

On the one hand, I know that this reaction is partially due to my medication and relative lack of energy. On the other hand I welcome it because it breaks through that emotional shield that I developed in order to manage painful and difficult pastoral occasions. In retirement, I do not need that shield any longer, and although my emotional moments often bring laughter to family and friends, I think they know that I am easily touched and enormously grateful for those words and cards which elicit them.

I am frustrated by the small amount of energy I have following radiation, and yet I can see small increments week by week and am pleased for that. I have an appointment with yet another Dr. next Monday, this time an oncologist, who may be able to prescribe something to address my anemia. I look forward to gaining a bit in that area and eliminating the breathlessness climbing stairs and the occasional dizziness when standing up after sitting for a time.

On March 28th I will go to Seattle for a new set of scans and an appointment with my primary oncologist, Dr. Higano. After that I'll know more about what is happening in my body and hopefully will have a clearer picture of what lies ahead.

In the meantime, which is the only real time, I am grateful for the beauty of each day, for the new buds and flowers on our daily walks, for a vast circle of loving friends and family and for the creative presence of he Holy Spirit at the center of it all. Life, each moment of it is a blessing.

Posted by Donel at 08:41 PM | Comments (6)

March 06, 2005

Sailing from Amsterdam

When dad was a young man and halfway through college, he took a year off to travel through Europe. He bought a Lambretta motor scooter, toured from Italy north, and then sailed back to New York on a steamer, and afterward scooted across America back to California.

Tonight, Mom and Dad hosted the Young But Not Youth Group from Church--a gathering of college age and older, but still relatively young, church members. It was crashed by four young ladies from the Netherlands who are studying to be English teachers. Dad approached them and proclaimed "I have a question that I've been wanting to ask a Dutch person for 50 years!" They said they would do their best to answer it, and dad said "When I was young I sailed from Amsterdam to New York on a ship called the Johan Van Oldenbarneveldt. My question is: who is Johan Van Oldenbarneveldt?"

The young ladies sadly shook their heads in bewilderment. None of them had ever heard of Van Oldenbarneveldt. One of them did have this marvelous suggestion, though: "Why don't you Google it?"

So we did. and we found out who Johan Van Oldenbarneveldt was (and if you're curious, you can click on his name to find out). We also encountered some pictures of the ship itself, which was lost to fire in 1963.

Posted by Martin at 10:03 PM | Comments (6)

March 03, 2005

More Photos Posted

I finally had a chance to download the photos from my camera of the last few weeks.

Here is my favorite from Dad's retirement party:
Margie Kimberley & Dad

You can find the rest on our Flickr page

Posted by Jeni at 05:06 PM

Today the sun is shining!

Just got off the phone with Dad and was pleasantly surprised to hear such a bright and chipper voice! Radiation is officially over, the sun is shining and life is good!

Family friends Ralph & Patti Rea arrive some time today so the weekend promises to be filled with fun, friends and most definitely laughter (and I'm strongly considering driving up on Saturday or Sunday to see if I can convince Ralph to make his famous Huevos Rancheros!!!)

Dad had just finished having one visitor and was expecting another shortly, so his social calendar seems to be full! Thank you to friends that are tending to him and keeping him surrounded with love and prayers of healing!

On a personal note - the Craswell family is looking foward to our first ever Basketball Championships on Saturday. Allie is playing and it promises to be a great day!

Posted by Jeni at 02:56 PM

March 02, 2005

Foreign Correspondent Update

Hello everyone. We wanted to provide another update for those of you who are regularly checking the blog. I am serving today as foreign correspondent since I am not physically in Washington at the moment, but have been doing regular interviews with the principals involved.

Dad is in the final stretch of radiation on the prostate this week and is finding that his energy level is quite low, a wholly expected result of the cumulative effects of radiation. In addition, he has developed anemia, which is probably another side effect of the radiation and is most certainly contributing to his lack of energy.

Although this has slowed him down quite a bit, he is still teaching his Wednesday night lent-series class at the church called "Living with Cancer." He also continues to take his daily walks when he feels up to it. I know that he and Martin, who is in Bellingham this week, took a long walk yesterday around Western Washington University.

There have been a number of visitors to Bellingham as well. Dad's sister Pat and niece Patty were in town for a wonderful visit last weekend, and mom and dad will see old friends Ralph and Patti Rea this weekend.

We will continue to keep you posted.

Posted by Dani at 07:20 PM | Comments (1)