Lynn R. McKenzie by Jo Joslin
My sister Lynn was a force of nature. And when I think of her, even more “F” words come to mind.
Family … Friends … Faith … and … Fighter
There was also that “T” word … Teacher and the other one “Talker” and then the “K” word: “Kindness incarnate”. And she was all of those things. But no one, even Lynn, does it all alone. So I wanted to acknowledge some people in this room who supported and loved her as much as I do.
“F” word # 1: Family. When you are in your 20’s or 30’s, standing at the altar reciting those vows “in sickness and in health”, you really don’t think it will ever happen. But it does! And Lynn’s husband honored those vows to the very last breath of her life. He was there for every chemo-session, every doctor’s appointment, and every surgery. And despite losing his own father just last month, he administered Lynn’s medications every 3 hours for the last few weeks without missing a beat. He is not my brother in-law, he is my brother. Here’s to you, M. Jon McKenzie.
And then there are those two kids Lynn and Jon brought into this world. Michelle, you’ve got your Mom’s hustle, drive and faith. Matt, you’ve got her sensitivity and night-owl gene. You were and are the greatest joy in your Mother’s life.
OK, “F” word # 2: Friends. This room is full of them but I need to mention a certain group in particular. I’m going to call out your names and ask you to stand so we can embarrass you publicly. Carole, Michelle, Candace, Lynne, Sharon, Kathy, Claudia, Molly, Marilyn, and Debbie - These ladies are known as the “Girl Friends”. They have been meeting once a year for well over a decade. And their bond lasts throughout the rest of the year because they communicate constantly. Lynn was able to relax and let loose and laugh. And these are the people that made that possible. Thanks Ladies!
And that brings me to “F” word # 3: Faith. Lynn’s oncologist, Dr. Kaplan has it. And even though I’ve only met a handful of the people from this congregation, I know this room is overflowing with many others who shared and appreciated the strength of my sister’s faith. So to Pastor Ann and Pastor Charlie and all of you who bent the rules a bit and prayed that Lynn would be set free rather than linger any longer in pain, thank you. Because, it appears those prayers have been answered.
And now for “F” word # 4: Fighter. Some fighters go one round. Some go five. The odds of surviving stage 4 colon cancer don’t go much beyond that. But cancer picked the wrong person when it took on my sister. She went 15 rounds. 15 years beyond statistics, beyond all odds, because Lynn loved life and nothing was going to stop her from living it.
All cancer did was allow Lynn to show others what they could do, not what they couldn’t do. All cancer did was bring her family and friends even closer together. All cancer did was strengthen her faith even more.
Life isn’t defined by a disease. Or how much time you are allotted. Life is what you choose to do with what you are given. Life is about the way you treat others. Life is about how much love you give. So guess who won?
I’ll give you a hint … it’s an “L” word. My fabulous sister, Lynn.
I want to ask all of you a favor. And yes, it will involve audience participation …
For the past 10 years, Lynn hosted an annual Christmas party. And she made everything. And just before the doorbell rang and the first guest arrived, she would survey the kitchen - A kitchen where every conceivable counter top was laden with food. Appetizers, fruit platters, entrees, more appetizers, salads, veggies, sandwiches and her world famous cookies and she would turn to me and say, “Do you think I made enough?”
And I would reply, “Well, if the entire continent of South America has confirmed they’re coming, then, yes … I think you’re good.”
We called it the Dom DeLouise syndrome. And it became a tradition.
So as a final tribute, I’m going to tweak the words a little and ask you all to join me.
The words are: “Lynn, do you think you made enough friends?”
So please assume the position, hands on face, eyes skyward. And on the count of three … please say it loud enough so that she can hear you.
1 … 2 … 3 …
MOM (Lynn Renee McKenzie)
Michelle S. (McKenzie) Ruther
My Mom was a great mom, a great teacher, a great person, and a great friend. She has had a substantial impact on those around her from the kids she taught to the people she has helped to our family and friends. I will miss calling her up to talk, helping her with craft projects for Community Kitchen, or her Sunday School Class, I will miss her support and encouragement, getting gardening or cooking instructions, tea parties, her unending optimism, giving her a simple hug and a kiss on the cheek, to name a few.
I know that I am not the only one that will miss her terribly. There are many of you here that feel the same loss that I do. So for you, I wanted to share with you a couple things she has taught me that may be of comfort. One is to say thank you to others when you appreciate them, so thank you to the church congregation for being there for my family and for my Mom. We and she really appreciate the support and she loved and enjoyed being a part of this church. Thank you to our family and friends who have been helping put together the service and helping us with the day to day things we were not able to think about as Mom became more ill. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for my Mom and my family. Thank you to Dr. Kaplan and God for helping my Mom enjoy fourteen extra years with us. My Mom lived her life to the fullest and appreciated each extra day.
The second thing that my Mom taught me was how to always look at the bright side. “Things can always be worse” she would say. There are many things to be thankful for like the things she was able to do with the extra time she had. She took trips with my Dad, went on a hot air balloon ride with Matt and me and was there for 14 extra years of birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgivings, Easters, Valentines Days and Anniversaries. She was there to see Matt and I graduate from high school and then from college. She was able to be at my wedding for which we are so grateful for. She was able to say good bye and to let us know that she loves us. So when you are sad, please remember that Mom lived each day to the fullest and we should follow her example.
I met Lynn when she first started at Sunnyside, she was my sons kindergarten teacher then later his third grade teacher. She was a dedicated teacher who had a true passion for the job. My son enjoyed having her as his teacher and I enjoyed having her teach my son. I am glad I saw her a few months before her passing as she was a true inspiration to all who knew her. My heart is with her family during this most difficult time.
" Lynn Renee McKenzie showed me the greatness of my teachings back during my third grade year she was my third grade teacher in Sunnyside I was pretty glad I met her and saw her still around when I went into 4th grade and into 5th grade those came my best years I got to say that was fun seeing her around but then I left elementary June 2005 to go to middle school which then I'll miss everyone especially my third grade teacher but it was a good elementary time".
" I remember in 3rd grade Mrs. McKenzie she would give me work to do but then there were some challenges I didnt how to do since it was hard so then my classmates helped me which then made me feel good about it. I would do the math easily since im good in math but reading gave me struggles since I wasnt that good but then she boost me a bit for that I really appreciate it".
" Mrs. McKenzie please never forgive me and watch over me on something I need to do and to accomplish. I was glad I had you for my teacher in third grade".
"May God with you and God Bless"
Lynn gave a few speeches about her life with cancer. Here is a copy of that speech:
A Journey With Cancer
My Name is Lynn McKenzie. I am with the
First Presbyterian Church of Snohomish. I’m going to tell you a little bit about my cancer journey with our Lord and how he has taught me about humbleness, trust, faith, prayer, patience and fear.
Well, my husband Jon and I got married at thirty years of age .We had both gotten our education, traveled, and we were ready to settle down. We vowed that when we had children we would bring them up in the Christian faith as both Jon and I had been reared. After searching for many months, we found a warm welcome and sense of family (God’s family) at the First Presbyterian church of Snohomish. We soon became active in the church. Jon eventually became a deacon, and I was an elder, Sunday school teacher, and Girl Scout leader at the church. Our children attended a Christian school. We attended church regularly, participated in bible classes, and helped other people.
Then when I was forty-seven, I was diagnosed with stage 1 colon cancer. We went to the only surgeon we knew who had operated on Jon before. He removed the cancerous portion of the colon, but the oncologist we were referred to failed to prescribe chemo therapy (which we know now was a huge mistake) and within one year the cancer reoccurred and had metastasized to a stage 3 ( meaning that it went through the colon and was spreading to other organs). I was in real trouble!
Yet, what an eye opener this experience was in so many ways! I professed to be a Christian and live the Lord’s way, but there is a whole lot more to it than that. Here is where I met the Lord face to face and heart to heart.
I reacted like most people with WHY ME LORD? Then after the disbelief that this could be happening, the anger, and yes, a little “pity party” for myself, I began to get a new prospective on my life. Cancer is an evil disease. Even with modern research, technology, and new treatments coming out regularly, from 2007 to this year, deaths from cancer have doubled. You have the choice to let this burden roll over you and take you down, or you can fight it. One of my dad’s more memorable mottos was, “Get in there and fight, fight, fight.” That is what I decided to do. Don’t give up and keep moving until you can’t anymore. My children were only in junior high school. I needed to be there for my family.
I’ve always been a “take charge” person. I read the book Let Go, Let God, but still had a problem letting go. Now there was no choice anymore. I had to humbly let go and have faith in and trust the Lord completely to guide me. He did just that. First, through a co-worker, he led me to the best oncologist available. I was given a 20-40% chance of making it through this second colon surgery within a year. Yet, the Lord and I broke previous records and I made it. That was followed by many, many radiation and chemo therapy treatments. Through all that my trust and faith in the Lord became stronger and closer. My prayers became more specific and I talked directly to my Lord.
I went into remission for four years and ten months before the cancer returned in my diaphragm muscle and is gradually spreading to other organs. It certainly wasn’t what you wanted to hear. Yet, this time with having been rather humbled by the Lord and having established a closer trust and faith in him, I found myself asking, “Well, what do we do now Lord?”He responded by having one miracle after another happen to me on this journey of life. I was in on the cutting edge for many new drugs and cancer fighting techniques which have given me fourteen more years to my life. I not only got to see my children graduate from high school, but from college as well. This past October I even made it to my daughter’s wedding. My son and daughter both have their own homes now and Matthew, my son (who claims that he may stay a bachelor), has been dating a young lady for some time now.
I have met many people going through this same burden of cancer. I’ve made many friends as we relate what each of us has been through. If you get low in spirit, the Lord introduces you to witness someone who has had it much worse than you have. For example, one day I was drawn to sit next to a lovely woman named Christine who didn’t look like one of the patients at all. She engaged me in conversation about her bouts with this disease and it came out that she was facing something like her 30th operation. I was coming close to my 8th at that time, again how humbling.
Most of the people who seem to be coping the best with this disease are those who have the Lord in their lives. I have been so blessed to have the Lord in my life, a warm and loving family, and a very supportive church family who have prayed for me so diligently that I can actually see and feel what the power of prayer can do.
I still wonder sometimes ”Why me Lord?”, yet not in reference to having cancer, but why did my journey of life take me down this path? What is it in your plan for me that I should be doing for you? I think it might be to show others that you are not going through this alone, put your trust and faith in the Lord your God. He is with you every step of the way if you really get to know Him. Also, faith shown through you can be giving hope to others. When friends and other patients I have met hear how long I have been fighting this disease they compare their situation with mine and take on a more positive attitude that they can fight it and extend their life time too. I also feel that in my life’s journey I have not spoken out openly for the Lord and what he can do in your life. This is my chance to do that.
Besides teaching me to be humble, pray directly from your heat to the Lord, and have complete trust and faith in Him to guide my life, I am learning to have patience. Except for when I was a teacher, Lynn and patience in the same sentence is like an oxymoron. Waiting in lines, waiting rooms and traffic is not my thing. I get frustrated with Tupperware cartons, and medicine bottles I can’t open and if something doesn’t work, I just throw it out. Well, with cancer you are constantly waiting in waiting rooms, or adapting and making changes in your life to accommodate the effects of the latest medications you are on, or a new apparatus you have to wear. I’m slowing down gradually, and can’t do many of the things I used to like to do. I’m learning to accept it and have patience to invent new ways to do variations of things I used to do, or just do what I can and be thankful for the help I have been given by others.
Finally, the issue of fear arises. People have asked me if I am afraid to die. I’d have to say, “No.” I see fear of death as a lack of trust in the Lord. He has been with me through this whole journey and I feel that he will be with me to the end just like the supportive, loving husband and family that He provided me with. I am more concerned with how I will go. It has been explained to me in two ways, neither of which is very pleasant. That is the hardest part especially for those who love you the most and will have to see you go this way. As for when you will die, the Lord is the only one who really knows. Yet, remember I have already had a miraculous extra fourteen years of life. So I think the best thing you can do is make each day count and be thankful for that precious time. When our children were younger they would delight in picking up a “lucky penny.” It was almost as exciting as an Easter egg hunt. Now in our retired years (and not because of the economy) Jon and I have been picking up “lucky pennies” and other coins. Every time we pick one up, I see is as a sign or a “penny from Heaven” for one more lucky day that I’m still on my life’s journey here. And guess what, last week I found two dimes.
In Memory of Lynn R. McKenzie