Life without a mom…By Mckenzie Nov 16 11:00

Life without a mom: basically the only word i can think of is: HORRIBLE

although i still have my wonderful dad and all my family members and friends to take care of me i still wish she was here to help me out with problems and such.

i got a letter in the mail today from my dear aunt peggy she wrote in it: ” When ever you have a problem just think ‘WHAT WOULD MOM DO’.” wow that totally helps actually. i think i need a new braclet that says WWMD instead of WWJD.

it been a rough few days but me and dad are doing AY-OK together. I’m excited to get out of arizona and be in michigan with all my family. my homework status is through the roof. :( its gonna take a lotta time! but im glad teachers are being understanding. I still feel like my mom is here with us. like im just waiting for her to come home from shopping or go upstairs and see her putting on her makeup or doing her hair or go downstairs and see her laying on the couch watching her favorite tv shows. Life deffinitly is going to be different now im gonna have to start being more responsible instead of relying on her so much. Sophie (the dog) is gonna be bored all day while im at school and dads at work, (BTW our poor dog whose curled up on my lap right now has been in a state of depression for the past week :( pray for her too!)

mean while we have some good things to be happy about:

-My dad is finally considering buying a vehical for me.

-Shopping has become my new form of therapy (and might i add, is helping) *wink wink* just kidding           p.s dad is also going to have to learn to be more appreciative of the latest fashions and be willing to see all my new clothes i buy and at least pretend he knows weather or not something is really cute! ha ha

-Gods provided me and dad with lots of really great friends!

anyways its late now so i better get some sleep!

i thank you all for continuing to be supportive and praying for us! it meens alot!

peace and love : mckenzie

Nov. 16, 2009 – Letter from Melanie Swisher

Dearest Juno & McKenzie,

Sometimes we find ourselves without the words to express how we feel. I’ve never been one to be lost for words, much like you Juno – always able to fill in the silence of the moment or to ease the tension in a room.

But not so long ago, I met a beautiful and proud woman named Bonnie Smalley. Yes, I knew she was Juno’s wife, but only a little bit of how they met, fell in love and began their lives together. But sharing time at one Board and Staff dinner didn’t begin to demonstrate the dynamics or strength of this couple’s journey together—their precious love for their child McKenzie, nor the difficult days that were looming ahead for their family and the church family.

But what was looming ahead for them that would cause heavy hearts and tears, would ironically no doubt be singing and great celebration by our Heavenly Father with His Angels joyfully rejoicing that another precious soul was coming home to join Their Family.

Bonnie touched my soul at the Staff Retreat. Not having known her all that well, I sat there in amazement, when she asked for our prayers for Juno and McKenzie to have strength to see her through her health challenges. And I felt in my soul, what she didn’t say, was for them to survive the time that I believe she knew may be close, when they would need our church family to gather around them, when it was time for her to go home.

When I lost my mother six years ago, at her celebration of life I read the words of Rick Warren from “The Purpose Driven Life”: When we leave this world, we are not leaving home, we are going Home—Hallelujah!
The Celebration of Life for Bonnie on November 12, 2009 was absolutely beautiful. She had to be rejoicing and finally out of pain, free and peaceful in Christ.

McKenzie, your words and sharing were so precious for your mother. What a beautiful soul your parents have molded, along with our Savior. Your mother was a woman that leaves footprints on the hearts of those who were privileged enough to know her – even if only briefly.

All of us have been richly blessed and touched by our brief time of knowing Bonnie. And now that she’s moved on to what she worked all her life to achieve—we rejoice that she’s walking with her Savior, standing in the glow of His Light and knowing she’ll be waiting for you to join her one of these days. After all, she’s only a heartbeat away.

Melanie Swisher

NOVEMBER 14th, 2009

The service for remembering Bonnie brought honor to her life and Hope to our hearts.  A DVD will soon be available…needless to say it was an incredible time to remember a person so highly loved while focusing our HOPE on what matters most in life.

One of the advantages of waiting several days until we corporately gathered together to celebrate Bonnie’s life is that, for me the wait created, “space”…

       • space to begin to process what life without Bonnie would mean

       • space to “Be Still and know that He is God”

       • space to continue the grieving process

       • space to talk with friends and family

       • space for God

Family has arrived and most have left, friends are here surrounding us with love, and cards of prayers and encouragement continue to be daily reminders of God’s faithfulness.  What more can be said about a soft spoken, gracious, loving wife, mom, & friend who made herself available for God to use in some powerful ways (and it’s an incredible reminder that God also uses the introverts to impact the kingdom).

As a reminder, here are the details for the Memorial Service in Michigan.
Center Point Church (formally Third Reformed Church):                                                
2345 10th N 10th St
Kalamazoo, MI 49009

Visitation: Saturday, November 21st (12:30 PM)
Memorial Service celebrating Bonnie’s life:
          Saturday, November 21st @ 2:00 PM
Click here for map

IMPORTANT REQUEST – If you would like to write down a memory or story about how Bonnie has impact your life with the potential of it being shared at the service please email it to me at  Having it by Thursday AM will be helpful.

Also, if anyone has a car that we can borrow while in MI (preferably on the Detroit side) please let me know.  We’ll be there from the 19th to the 28th.
Don’t forget, you can leave your memories of Bonnie on  Click here for the website.

Living in the HOPE we find in Jesus…

Juno and McKenzie

The last day i had with my mom (by: McKenzie)

All day my mom was sleeping. she was peaceful all day so that was good. she had really hard breathing. the night before she passed i spent the night with her. im glad i had that last night with her.

All day i had spent the day at hospice with her till Tyler (boyfriend) came to pick me up so i could just get out for a little bit. one of my best friends melissa came over around 7 30 to see my mom, it really broke her heart to see my mom in that condition which i totally understand. well i was over at Tyler’s house spending time with him and his family. We were watching a movie when i got a call from my dad. I didn’t really expect what he was about to say. Then he said ” McKenzie mom’s passed away.” i totally just shut down i couldn’t even cry right away because i didn’t know what to think of what my dad just said. then i got up and told tyler we had to leave. (where i really just stated to cry) Karen, Tyler’s mom i think could tell what just happened and then Tyler’s dad Lucas drove us to hospice. It was the LONGEST car ride of my life i felt. when we got to hospice i ran in the building and to my moms room. i knew this was gonna be the hardest thing ever seeing her but i walked in and saw her laying there, where i broke down and cried. i hugged her and told her how much i loved her and hugged my dad. i don’t think i have ever cried so hard. but apart of me was relieved because i know my mom is in such a better place and she is so happy right now in heaven with God watching over me and my dad.

My mom was the most important person in my life. we were closer then ever. towards the end of  her life it really hurt me to have to be the one taking care of her instead of her taking care of me like she has for 16 years of my life. i’d give anything to have her around just a little bit longer but even a life time wouldnt be long enough with her.

i do plan on saying a few words at her funeral. its going to be hard but i know my mom would be so proud of me for getting up in front of everyone to talk.

it still has not sunk in yet that she is gone forever and it probably wont for a while. i’ve NEVER missed anyone as much as i miss her. its crazy how much i miss her. and i want her here so badly. i feel that as a teenage girl i need a mother figure in my life more than anything. The hardest days of the year is gonna be christmas birthdays and mothers day especially. i still don’t know why God had to take her from me but i think He has a great plan for me.

One thing i want to leave everyone with is… Never take your mom. (or dad) for granted, always, always show your appreciation to them because once they are gone its completely different without them.

Jeremiah 29:11

peace and love

mckenzie :)

NOVEMBER 4, 2009 – Bonnie travels home to the Lord

As some of you already know, Bonnie went to be with the Lord on Wednesday (the 4th) about 9:30 PM.

For most of the day Bonnie was sleeping.  She would open her eyes occasionally and would appear to recognize visitors coming into the room.  Also, click here if you want to read what McKenzie shared with people at the benefit concert in which she honored Bonnie.

Along with other signs that her body was shutting down, Bonnie’s breathing throughout the day was getting more difficult.  In the evening, the nurses had given her some medication to make her a little more comfortable.  Some friends were visiting and I just felt I wanted a few moments with Bonnie by myself so I asked to be alone with her.

I had brought Bonnie’s Bible with me today so I just opened it and read some passages.  One passage was from Proverbs 31 (this was also a song at our wedding) where the chapter’s focus is on being a Nobel women.  Well verse 15 says, “You get up while it is still dark, to serve everyone.”  I said “not you babe!”. If you knew Bonnie you would know that being a morning person was not how God wired her.  Nonetheless she was a women filled with love and Grace.

I read more from the Bible to Bonnie.  Prayed again the passages…

Have you not know, have you not heard….

Be anxious for nothing ….  and asked her not to be anxious for McKenzie or me.  That God would take care of us.  I reminded her of the many many peoples lives she impacted and just began naming people who have emailed or written.

I sang to her How Great thou Art and the song I sang to her at our wedding (WOW I still remembered the words).  Believe it or not, in the middle of our wedding song she passed away.  As I was singing I could see her slipping away.  I’m thinking (as I’m singing) I can’t believe she’s passing away while I sing…I hope my singing didn’t push her into eternity :)).  Through my tears I could tell she had gone to be with Jesus, but I finished the song and then sang another one of her favorite hymns that reminder her of God’s faithfulness…click here for a version of that classic hymn of the faith.

So many of our friends from out of state are at a loss for what to do. I know you want to help you want to be here yet realistically its out of the question.  May you also be comforted knowing that God has provided an incredible faith family and some wonderful friends who are indeed being the body of Christ to us during this difficult time.  Despite the loss we are experiencing, I feel loved and cared for and beyond expectations…

May you experience God’s faithfulness in a deep personal way today,


Juno, McKenzie and in honor of Bonnie.  An incredible wife, mom, friend and follower of JesusPS:  I will let you know ASAP about arrangements for the memorial services.  Currently we plan on having two.  One at Mountain Park Community Church and the other at Third Reformed Church in Kalamazoo (yes there is a Kalamazoo) MI.
Even as I write this McKenzie just came outside with me [it’s 1 am] and we just sat on the love seat, cried a little more, and talked about some of the memories of mom.

McKenzie Sharing at the Benefit Concert

Here’s what McKenzie shared at the concert in Sept 2009:

Hey everybody my name is McKenzie! I am Bonnie’s daughter! I want to start off by saying thank you for coming!!! It means a lot to us.

My mom is probably the most amazing, beautiful, courageous person I know! She is my Best friend and more importantly the best mom! I am so thankful to God for putting her in my life!

There are so many things I love about my mom like her sense of humor, her caring heart, and her amazing fashion sense. I think we can all agree she looks really pretty tonight!

But my mom has always been so glamorous. One memory I have of her is when I was really little and she would take me shopping I would sometimes get lost in the big department stores and being so small I couldn’t see over the clothes racks and I always would just look for her big blonde puffy hair.

My mom always knows how to make me feel so special! I love when she takes me to fancy restaurants for lunch and to Scottsdale to go shopping. But I guess that’s one of the perks of being an only child J she always makes me feel like a princess.

But my favorite memory I have with her is last summer when we went shopping then to see the movie Mamma Mia! We both had such a good time! I’ll probably never forget that day.

Not only is mom beautiful on the outside she is a beautiful person on the inside as well. She is always bringing smiles to others faces and sharing her love for Christ to others that’s one thing I look up to her for.

She is such a strong person too! I never have once seen my mom cry she has gone through more struggles than I could imagine and still she keeps her head up high and continues to love God.

And she is always there for me when I need help whether it’s with drama at school, boy problems or even what outfit I should wear! She has better advice than any of my friends could give me.

All these memories I have with her are only the first chapter of the book of memories yet to come. I love you so much mom you’re the best mom I could ever ask for and I’m so proud of you with all that you have gone through with being sick and still being able to take care of me and dad. I know you can fight this because I’ve seen you do it before. Thank you so much for all that you do it really means so much to me!!

I love you mom.

Thank you.

McKenzie’s View: November 4, 2009

Well yesterday was a really long sad day for me…during my second hour i got called to the office..i was kinda nervous about what cuz i couldn’t think of anything i had done that was bad so the whole way down to the office i was making sure i was in dress code trying to remember if i had cheated on anything and got caught or anything like that (not that i would cheat :) ). well i was walking down and noticed my dads car was here automatically i knew something was up with my mom so i started praying like crazy “please God let everything be ok with her”. I walked into the office and noticed my dad crying.  I automatically just broke down I expected the worst. my dad reassured me that she was still alive and that she was just not doing very good.  I was still really upset the office called down my boyfriend and then a few of the staff prayed with us all.  Then we left to see mom…

It was really sad all day being with her but she recognized me right when i walked in which was good i held her hand and talked a little to her.

Later in the evening Tyler my boyfriend came to visit and we talked where for the first time i saw him cry which really broke my heart! but I’m glad to know he cares so much. ( a lot of people have been so nice and caring to us)

At night time me and my best friend Katherine were going to spend the night and so Katherine’s mom and brother came over to bring us food.

Ryan, Katherine’s younger brother, came in and got real close to my mom and said hi to her where for the first time that whole day my mom opened her eyes wide and smiled big and said “I love you Ryan it will all be ok” that was sooo sweet! Ryan really took that to heart i could tell. he told her he loved her as well.

She later lifted her fragile little arm up and held my face with her hand..i could have cried easily but i was so out of tears from the morning and afternoon.

The night was good no problems at all…just really uncomfortable beds and loud nurses.

Today she hasn’t said a word and continues to sleep.

lots of friends have been here to comfort me and my mom which is always nice,

Well I’ll continue to write thank you for all the support :)

love: McKenzie

a special thanks to:

Susan Turner: thank you so much for being there for me and letting me drive your car :) your the best!

Jill Balok: thanks for taking care of me and treating me like a daughter.

Katherine Balok: thanks for staying with me all day long! and keeping my mind of things your the best friend I could ever ask for

I love you all!

NOVEMBER 3, 2009

It’s been a long day…a day of tears….a day of lots of time spent at Bonnie’s bedside, a day of conversations with nurses explaining what’s happening to Bonnie’s body as it slowly shuts down, a day with friends, a day of prayers still asking God for a miracle, and a day of whispering words of affirmations into Bonnie’s ears of the wonderful mom and loving wife she is.

At about 8 this morning I received a call informing me that:

1)  The nutrition being given to Bonnie via a feeding tube was not being absorbed into her body.  Therefore we stopped the feeding tube.

2)  Her vitals are decreasing each from day to day.  Today her heart has an irregular heart beat.

3)  She has been unresponsive to the nurses or any of her care team.

After I made a visit to the Dobson house about 8:20, I decided (after talking to a few friends) that it would be best for McKenzie to spend the day with Mom.  So I went and picked her up at school and brought her to Bonnie.  I fought the tears all the way as I drove to the school.  When I walked into the office I could barley speak.  I assured them that Bonnie had not passed away, but that it was time for McKenzie to be with her.  I composed myself, yet when McKenzie came into the office, we all cried, had a prayer and then McKenzie and me returned to Hospice.

Bonnie acknowledged us several times and continues to drink water.  She’s rather weak and very frail so we are now holding the glass for her.  She remains pretty adamant that I can still get a new flat screen TV for the room she was going to be in once she returned home (OK so maybe she wasn’t that clear after all).

Most of the day we had some instrumental music by one of our friends on a CD playing.  McKenzie talked with mom, brushed her hair, held her hand and was simply giving the gift and the blessing of being by her side.   McKenzie and her friend Katherine are spending the night (Tuesday) with Bonnie at Hospice…sort of a girls night out!

Please focus your prayers for continued wisdom and discernment in the process so that we can be sure Bonnie is comfortable and not in any pain.  And for a peace in all of our hearts – for Bonnie that she will know without a doubt that McKenzie will be cared for, loved and nurtured to be all that God created her to be.  And for McKenzie and me, as well as the many family and friends who have already started the grieving process of saying ‘see you later’ to this incredible child of God.

Tonight I verbally affirmed to Bonnie her spectacular motherhood to McKenzie and loving graciousness (ok and patience) as the love of my life.  It’s hard to picture what my life was like 21 years ago (OK so some of you remember clearly) or what it will be with out her.  Before I left I shared these words from the NT….

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.   And the peace of God which transcends all understanding with guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6). I kissed her on the forehead and said, see you later (Good-bye is too definite and contrary to what we believe the Bible teaches us….for we know that we will indeed see each other once again.

Wednesday will be a new day.  No doubt with new challenges and new paths to walk.  Some of those paths will feel like a whirlwind, yet I remain confident in the love of God which is the foundation of our faith.  I remain confident in God’s  promises never to leave or forsake us, and I remain blessed beyond human reasoning by God’s love shown to us by so many of you.

May we all know the reality that the peace that passes all understanding is found in the person of Jesus….

Joining you on the journey not to be anxious.


Juno, Bonnie and McKenzie

May this song be kept in your heart and mind as you go through the day….click here

NOVEMBER 2, 2009

Nov. 2, 10:00 PM.

This has nothing to do with Bonnie, but I think I just found a new song to play on Mother’s Day in church.  Click here (Thanks Patty – former WMU colleague).  On second thought maybe it should be performed on Father’s Day?  Guys its sort of common sense….

I must share that it’s an absolutely beautiful night here in AZ.  It’s extremely comfortable as I sit outside and reflect on the day.  I was side tracked for a moment as I caught another scorpion (those black lights are wonderful).  McKenzie was in bed by 9:30 – the field trip in the caves must have worn her out.

So I digressed….sorry, Anyway, as many of you know, dealing with the ups and downs of roller coasters are more fun at Cedar Point or Disney Land (although we prefer Disney World), verses dealing with the health of a loved one.  Here are today’s highlights….


Monday – November 2nd
Bonnie has slept most of the day – again!  Her sleeping is a lot more restless than I’ve seen before (maybe she just misses me by her :).  She’s been drinking a lot these days (not alcohol – water and juices).   Today her confusion has increased and alertness had diminished a little more (I think I can talk her into a new TV now).  She’s rather weak and almost missed the bed after just taking one step.   It was obvious from the weekend and today that Bonnie won’t be returning to our home in the near future.  Her level for the need of care has increased over the past 48 hours. I’m thankful to our friend Nancy (a retired Hospice nurse) who has volunteered to spend the night with Bonnie if needed.  She provides loving care with dignity and gentleness – no doubt a gift to Bonnie and our family.Tonight they started using a feeding tube to see if that will provide some nutrition for Bonnie.   This afternoon, I discovered they were still giving her some narcotics for pain (even though she rarely has any…).  They will now call me before the administer any pain meds beyond Tylenol.  This could have added to her confusion.  I’m fully aware that realistically the disease could be creating more difficulties.

Please focus your prayers for continued wisdom and discernment in the process so that we figure out if the confusion and weakness are from the medication, lack of food, or the disease (probably a little of everything and if you noticed I’ve again made no reference to the color of her hair).  Having an accurate assessment of her condition will help us as we move forward in providing care the best care for Bonnie.

On my run this morning,  two songs kept coming to mind.  Click here for the one that was Bonnie’s favorite, and click here for another song that speaks to the imagery of God lifting us up on Eagles Wings…

Juno, Bonnie and McKenzie

Meals: For those who would like to sign up for meals  – click here. Numerous people have asked if a gift certificate to a restaurant would be appropriate instead of a meal.  We just want to let you know that would also be helpful and kind (especially since we’ve been on the run more).

Cleaning: Mom is doing a great job helping keep things clean and orderly!  She is also spending more time at Hospice so we could use some help once in a while.

Flights: While I don’t feel I need to be the one to arrange flights for family and friends I do know that as we approach the holidays flights will become considerably more expensive and stand by tickets more difficult to use.  That being said, if anyone has any frequent flier miles about to expire that you don’t mind letting someone use let me know (I’ll find someone to run point on this for me :).

The message from this past week, I Will Rise, is now on on web site.  Click  here to listen to it.


NOVEMBER 1, 2009

I’m sitting here at Hospice (The Dobson House) less than 15 minutes from our home.  I keep forgetting they have wireless internet access here…but am glad I just remembered so I can send off on update to you.  Here are the highlights….

Friday (October 30th)
I drove Bonnie the three miles, from Hospice (The Dobson House) to the hospital.  Besides trying to find a wheel chair at the hospital (go figure) the check-in went well.

The procedure also went well, without any surprises – we are thankful for that.  They drained 2.5 litters of fluid from Bonnie’s abdomen, and by 12:30 we were back to The Dobson House.  We also visited with the doctor here (Dobson House) who remains confident that Bonnie will probably be able to go soon.  They suggested Sat, I countered with Monday after a reassessment to see what was best for Bonnie.   Monday we will evaluate the situation better.  Bonnie rested (slept) the remainder of the day.

We made preliminary arrangements for the hospital bed, wheel chair, walker etc., to be delivered on Monday.  I’m not sure why I get “The look” when I asked for a 32in flat screen TV set too?

Saturday (October 31)
Bonnie rested most of the day. Still slightly confused and having difficulty with details.  She is not in pain and not on any narcotics.  She needs to eat more.  Her diet is soft food and nutritional drinks, but for sveral days has had nothing.  So pray she’s able to consume more.

Sunday (November 1, 2009)
Another difficult day and a sad day.  It’s one of those  – one step forward, four steps back, or maybe 5 steps back.  I seriously doubt Bonnie will be coming home tomorrow.   Hey I’ve been wrong before…21 years ago I wanted to date just a brunette.  But then again that was 21 years ago :).  Bonnie is awake for just a few moments and then falls back to sleep, somewhat confused – but she still loves me so I know she is still thinking clearly :).  Besides removing the fluid from her abdomen, it’s been a challenging 5 days.

On the bright side, what a wonderful time of celebration at church this morning (aka church service).  A great reminder when faith intersects death.  Three of our members are in Hospice (maybe its something in the communion cup)…. Allan, senior pastor,  mentioned the three people, one obviously being Bonnie, and the entire message was anchored from the meaning of this song and the profound promises found in the Bible.   Click here to listen.  To listen to the message, click on our website (bottom right of this email).

McKenzie is off on an field trip overnight so before she left this morning Grandma brought her over to see Bonnie about 8:30 this morning.  McKenzie drove…she says she gets there faster verses grandma driving!

Thankful that the sacrifice of Jesus has beaten death and has provided victory over the grave.

Juno, Bonnie and McKenzie