Thursday, October 13, 2016

The month of July couldn't be over soon enough, 2nd year burniversary;(

The Month of July couldn’t be over quickly enough:

It’s already the end of September and it took me this long to write another blog post.

July was one hectic month; Remmy’s follow up surgery on the expanders on his head, and a Holiday (4th of July) that is still branded in our brains as one of the most valuable memories we have of the boys and ofcourse the second “anniversary” date (July 15th) of our tragedy

Remmy’s surgery on his burns on his head went very well physically, but he didn’t respond well emotionally. The moment he woke up from his anesthesia he pulled out his woundvac that was attached and inserted under the skin of his head (imagine a six to eight-inch tube under the skin of your head pulled out, he pulled out his IV and all the wires attached to his body. Waking up the children on his wing of the Hospital every time a nurse came in checking on vitals or when doctor came in his room for two full days. After the 2nd day the Docs requested Noelle to take Remmy to the Ronald MacDonald House and bring him in once a day for checkup.  Understand that this was also the first time it wasn’t me (Feike) being with Remmy during the surgery and stay in SLC with Remmy was hard on Remmy but also for myself it felt strange and I felt like I abandoned him…. Instead, I had my hands full with our gallery, Able and Beanie at home with me and covering the Chaplain position at Frontier Home Health and Hospice. It was tough for me to be seperated from him and I’m assured for him it was exactly the same. After a week Remmy was fully discharged but the Docs also wanted Remmy to have a “break” by them not wanting to do any more surgeries until the beginning of next year. The doctors decided Remmy has had to much trauma and he needed the “break”. Remmy also has shown a delay in speech, motor skills and cognition compared to an average child his age, the doctors felt that he also needed time to develop these skills since the trauma and all the Hospital stays caused these delays as well. This half a year of a “break” has also been beneficial for us as parents and the rest of the family a lot. Remmy has been able to develop, play and grow this summer, now also going to pre-school 2.5 hrs 4 days a week being helped by Child development Services has been such a great and positive venue for him to develop.

4th of July.

Our 4th of July started great, early in the morning I got two kids (Able & Beanie) ready to be part of our “World” famous Lander parade. The fire trucks that are at the end of the parade caravan are packed with fire fighters and their children and when the 4th block in Lander is reached there is the big and famous “water fight”. Remmy loves the fire engines but not when the truck is driving and especially not when the sirens are going off, so Remmy stayed on the side of Main Street watching the parade with the rest of the family. Able and Beanie loved the parade, waving at people, throwing out candy to the children and snacking on candy themselves. Not until the fireworks started trauma triggers evolved into panic and anxiety, Remmy became restless after hearing and seeing fireworks. Able stayed cool until it got too close to him while Beanie enjoyed every loud bang and colorful skylines. Due to Remmy and Able’s behavior Noelle and I noticed their anxiety and panic hitting us while we were trying to calm the boys down. The smell and sight of fire and fireworks don’t trigger me anymore the way it used to (being part of the Fire Department helped) instead I became agitated and snappy especially when my thoughts brought me back to the wonderful but painful memory of the 4th of July 2 years prior when our family of 7 enjoyed the fireworks on our own property. Due to the State firework ban (Governor’s orders due to the dry summer in the State) Our County Commissioners over ruled the order, I felt the need to protect my property with a fire extinguisher in one hand ensuring my property didn’t catch on fire, since people in the county lines were igniting firework (Thank you commissioners!) Instead we picnicked on our property with a tent, small controlled camp fire, while storytelling and making s’mores. Memories came to surface where both the good and the bad connected and I was in a confusing state of grief at that specific time, I wanted to cry, yell but also smile. This by the way was the last photographic evidence of our two boys being with us. I keep the picture Able took of a smiling Zephy and Noah climbed on our backs close to my heart.

July 15th was our 2nd anniversary of the fire and that day generally stunk. Perhaps even tougher than the 1st anniversary. It seemed all our negative emotions were everywhere, anger, frustration, impatience, anxiety and more. Just like last year I went back to the property around 6:00 – 6:45pm and I cried and cried. Some days I feel like I’m healing and can envision the step/stage I am in my grief process. Other days I feel like I’m back to square one, trying to pinch myself making sure it wasn’t just a very, very bad dream. Needless to say neither Noelle or I were in the mood or thought about cooking until 7pm and I ordered Chinese, the moment I headed home, there it was a sign I’ve been asking for all day. A clear double rainbow was on the horizon. With tears in my eyes and the thought of the boys I drove home, while running into the house I called the kids ‘Able, Zephy, Noah’……..I mean Able, Beanie, Rem…..come outside, Able ran outside first…crying, jumping, screaming…..’Beanie, Remmy…that’s your brothers!’ Beanie and Remmy replied in awe ‘our brothers’?! I ran inside, trying to find Noelle….Noelle is bursting in tears sitting in a corner, I couldn’t do more then hold her and cry with her.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Anger, 1 of the 5 steps of grief.

As I am mentally preparing for the next run of surgeries (upcoming Friday, July 10th) on Remmy’s burn scars, I’m becoming emotional. Emotional because I cannot control or help him with his anxiety, his pain and his behavior regards his weekly visits to the doctors to inflate his expanders on his scalp. Every week I have to drive to the pediatrician, comfort him, pin him against my body so they can inject 20cc of saline into the expanders. It hurts me to see him in pain and while I look at the scars that cover 35% of his head they puncture a needle into his head and being his father I feel I should comfort him but instead I am the one pinning him against my chest so “they” can hurt him even more. Tears well up in his eyes, he screams the top of his little lungs, I feel his heart pounding against my chest and with all his force he tries to untangle my grip by kicking and pushing, his face turning red feeling helpless and I am the one letting it happen.

Luckily Remmy is quickly to forgive when the nurse gives him a lollipop (Pop) and a sticker (ticker), after we walk out of the clinic Remmy walks up to a small statue in the clinics yard and taps it with respect stating ‘Dada, that’s Cheesus and brobbers’ with a gentle and calm voice. My eyes start welling up every time he does that, not totally understanding how he knows I needed that event to happen at the time to help me with my own anxiety, feelings of anger and guilt.

The emotion of anger still continues to try to control many days the moment I wake up. After our tragedy I personally deal with two major factors that try to control my daily life first anger and then depression kicks in….. I never used to be an angry individual, I was mostly seen as a happy and laid back person by people around me. Lately I’ve been focusing a lot on my anger, even Noelle asks me often ‘Feike, did you take your meds today?’ and Able addresses it a little more different by saying ‘Daddy I’m sorry you have a rough day’.

My anger is deeply rooted into our tragedy that occurred, In the very early stages of my personal grief after the house fire I was angry at God, angry at myself, angry at the people that tried to help us when we tried to rescue our kids, angry at the first responders, angry at life flight and so on. My anger towards God letting this happen sometimes still keeps me busy and frustrated. It makes me remember a discussion I had shortly after our tragedy with someone on Facebook who first seemed to show empathy and compassion but shortly after that stated that my anger towards God was like I am rejecting God. I was called by him a traitor in God’s eye, someone who was putting himself above God, someone who lived a double life. I was negatively surprised by his remarks, trying to explain to him that the anger is a response due to my grief, due to my loss. I asked him if he ever experienced a tragedy or something hard in his life he couldn’t have control over and he said yes but he never “blamed” God for these things that happened to him. This individual just kept on going, attacking me with sharp and insensitive remarks that I felt the need to unfriend him on FB. Still nowadays I ask myself that if God is the creator of all things, why did this happen, why do I suffer, why does Remmy suffer, why does my whole family suffer? I never had the thought God made this fire happen, my thought instead has been that He did let this happen (He was for sure capable to not let it happen), but I’m still unclear why? Have I ever blamed God? No I have not, but instead I am wondering why it had to happen……. People have a hard time not saying ‘everything happens for a reason’ mostly because they do not know what else to say. I actually don’t believe in that phrase ‘everything happens for a reason’, instead I believe that finding a meaningful purpose that co-relates with your tragedy is a very relieving and healing response.

For Noelle it seems making art, visiting with her specialist and hanging out with some of her friends is a good outlet to deal with her anger. Noelle was part of an art show in Lander’s art center and especially one of her paintings reflected our tragedy, not only the theme but the shapes and even her way of carving with nails and tools into the canvas. (see picture). Becoming a part of the fire department, volunteer for organizations helping families in need and children’s hospitals, offering counseling and emergency response debriefing (ERD), chaplaincy for hospice are such outlets for me to cope with my loss and grief. They are in my eyes honoring and meaningful purposes where I am able to use my negative experience of the tragedy by turning it into a positive deed. Everyone has a different purpose and I would love to challenge anyone reading my blogs to look at their personal struggles and tragedies to find a purpose turning these experiences in a positive healing road to recovery.

While being a chaplain for hospice has been a very challenging job for me, dealing with death has been for me a more and more sacred and divine chapter in someone’s life. I’m mainly coping with elderly and chronically ill individuals that are very open sharing their life story with me. Having worked in nursing homes I already experienced death up close, the opportunity I have working for hospice now has given me the opportunity to be intimate with people in a more emotional and spiritual supporting role. Working for hospice gave me another perspective on my anger looking at the client’s or patients view of their “last breaths” in this world, their accomplishments throughout their lives, but also looking at the views of their loved ones they are leaving behind. Hospice gave me new home work to munch on and pretty often the word anger came to the surface, causing me to also do a small survey on Facebook asking my friends how they cope with anger see link under the text. 59 FB friends (different ages, cultures and religions) completed the survey having just one question, the surveys questions entails: When ANGER grows in your heart and mind, what do you do to prevent it’s growth and how do you manage it?

22% take a walk

15% go on the internet

14% meditates

12% Reads and 12% writes

56% had their own response
see link:

Under here I attached some notes I’ve been writing up as homework for myself regards grief and loss, hopefully it makes some sense:

5 stages of grief

1: Denial

2: Anger (often

3: Bargaining

4: Depression

5: Acceptance

Examples of emotional expressions while grieving

1: numbness

2: yearning

3: despair

4: recovery

Examples of loss adaptation

Acceptance, working, adjusting, moving forward

Grief often feel like a rollercoaster ride with it’s ups and downs, highs and lows, your life feels out of control and is very unpredictable. Often grieving can cause even physical and mental changes in an individual’s regular pattern of life. It can cause insomnia, fatigue or even over sleeping. Change in appetite by eating less or over eating. Exacerbation of an illness can occur as well as in hypertension, allergies, migraines, diabetes, digestive disorders. Emotions are often out of control and you’re going through circles in a rollercoaster ride meeting emotions like sadness, guilt, anger, worry, anxiety, fear, paranoia, hopelessness and helplessness. Behavioral manifestations of anxiety, tension irritability, aggression, withdrawal, introversion, extraversion or self-destructive behavior take control.

Self-destructive behaviors like alcohol or drug abuse, promiscuity and reckless behavior.

Or even hyper active behavior like hypervigilance, cleaning or shopping.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Interview for Dutch Magazine E.O Visie translated into English

This story is translated from an interview for a Dutch Christian Magazine called the E.O. Visie
written by journalist Gert-Jan Schaap......both Gert-Jan and the E.O. visie said it's alright to use
this article.
Please feel free to contact me if you have more questions or need more info.
Kindest regards,
Feike van Dijk.

19 March 2016 in the file of EO Visie

`Our boys are now in a place without any
By a fire Feike van Dijk lost 2 of his children.
On a summer day in 2014, Feike van Dijk lost not only his log home in
Lander (Wyoming, the US), but also 2 of his children. He and his American
wife Noelle did not succeed saving Zephy (4) and Noah (2) from the
sudden fire sea. Now Feike follows the training to become a fireman. ‘With
that I want honor my boys’.
I ran to our burning house while Noelle desperately tried to enter her way
inside but due to the extensive heat and black smoke after many attempts it
was impossible to find them. We’re standing beside each other and a wall of
heat pressed us back while we try to enter again. We shout their names.
“Zephy, Noah” and we were able to hear them both. They scream out to us,
and cough. If I once again try enter to try to find them, I hear a voice - of God,
an angel, or someone else? `The boys are there no longer; if you go inside,
you won’t be there also no longer. Do not go! Suddenly it is if everything is
silent, it became as if everything was standing still. Noelle and I looked at
each other, we are about three or 2 minutes into the moment we noticed the
fire. We didn’t hear the boys no longer, anymore. We realized: it is over, we
lost the fight, and we lost them.

If you want sleep
On the day of this interview it has been a year and some months that this
inconceivable tragedy took place, on 15 July 2014. Feike (1980) changed gear
unconsciously over to the present time of this memory. Then, he is hearing,
smelling, and seeing it all over again.
With his oldest son able (6) he is spending a couple of weeks in his place of
birth Almelo the Netherlands, because his older brother is getting married.
We are sitting at the white kitchen table in his mother’s house. Feike rubs his
large hands in an emotional way in his face. It is very difficult to get it from
your memory. The voices and the sounds of the boys, and sound of the fire.
Fire roars and makes a noise. The fragrances of the black smoke clouds,
which were everywhere. The images. He shakes his head. We get medication
to oppress it. But it remains heavy. You no longer want to think of what has
happened, but it is not possible to forget. Often at moments of rest, if you
want sleep, or as Noelle and I am together talking about the children, all
those things return in a heavy matter. It takes a lot of effort to sleep.
The many nightmares we have, especially in the beginning. It is all still quite
fresh. Each day we see their faces.

As proud as a peacock
On September 2006 Feike married with the American Noelle Weimann, for
which he immigrated to the United States. Both were then 25 years old.
Noelle’s first pregnancy led to a miscarriage, but afterwards five children
were born: Able, Zephy, Noah and the twins Remmy and Beanie. I was way
proud, such as a peacock, Feike said. It was always my dream to have a large
The young couple consciously established themselves in Lander, where
Noelle’s mother and brother also live. Superb surroundings: the Rocky
Mountains, lakes and forests, deserts and Native tribes. We wanted to live
this self-sustaining life as possible. Around our unwieldly home, a log home,
we had our own ducks, turkeys, chickens, dogs and a super-large vegetable
garden. I taught the oldest children to find their own food in the forest, such
as berries, vegetables, eggs, edible mushrooms.

Dark smoke clouds
On a hot but windy day, Tuesday 15 July 2014. Feike and Noelle were feeding
the then 9 month old twins (“mashed bananas”). The AC was buzzing. Able
was hanging out in the living room, while Noah and Zephy were else-were
playing in the house together. “Suddenly Able looks up and asked: ‘Daddy,
what is that?’ He pointed at the playground next to our house, dark clouds
were passing by. I thought first, that there was a heavy diesel truck that drove
by, but walking to the front door and looking through a glass opening, I saw
Rapidly Feike found the red fire extinguisher from the kitchen, kicked the
door open - and was immediately blown by smoke draft: fire, smoke and heat.
Burns on his head and hands developed quickly. `We must go! He shouted.
In an urge Feike grabbed twins from their baby chairs. Remmy screamed
because the heat of the fire had reached his head, arms and legs already.
Able ran by himself to the backdoor. Feike – with the twins under his arms
–Noelle followed, screamed for help. I thought that Noah and Zephy were
behind us. But outside Feike only saw Able and Noelle next to the twins
under his arms.

`Hair singed
After Feike turned around when running away from the house, he noticed
that the complete front of their house burned, like a torch. With tears in the
wells of the eyes, he continues: Noelle and I have tried several times to enter
the burning house, but it didn’t go very well. It wasn’t simple at all! We knew
the possible location of where the children were, and heard them still, but we
couldn’t find them: the house was fully in flames within two, three minutes
since we noticed it. Our hairs singed, our eyebrows, nose and ears had
burned, because we were that close to the fire. But we failed getting them
out of the house. He closes his eyes, and is silent for a long moment. Remmy
and Feike received first aid in the first ambulance. Whereas the firefighter
engines arrived on the property with howling sirens, as he is laying on the
ambulance stretcher in shock and with crying Remmy on lap, I heard an
enormous detonation as the metal roof of our house flew into the air, curled
by inconceivable heat. The ground trembled. With complete certainty I knew
that the children were gone- once and for all.

Plastic surgeons
As Feike recovered in the hospital physically surprisingly well of his third
degree burns, baby Remmy was in a bad shape. Apart from his torso the fire
had violated his complete body. head skin, arms and legs. Third and fourth
degrees burns. Fourth degree burns mean that the fire has even reached on
to the bone.
Remmy is treated in a specialized Burn Unit of the hospital in Utah, where
Feike frequently continuous taking him to for more procedures. But how
advanced the doctors and plastic surgeons are nowadays, the scars will
continue to be visible - and the memories to go with that terrible summer
day continuous directing its own life.
Without God… I do not think that Noelle and I would still be together, or will
be able to have survived this incredible suffering, says Feike. We are
continued to live in this nightmare.
You don’t want to think of what has happened no longer, but it is not possible
to stop thinking about it.

It is not our fault
The psychiatrists who accompanies them, told Feike and Noelle that over
ninety percent of the couples who experience such a traumatic experience,
With us the opposite has happened, Feike says, with amazement in his voice.
We have grown closer to each other. Without faith you have been probably
more rapidly tended to give up on each other, and start to blame each other.
Why did God let this terrible thing happen? We try to leave those question in
His hands. How difficult that sometimes happens to be.
Feike and Noelle must forgive themselves and each other daily, continue to
do so. That sounds perhaps bizarre. But we must say each day: it is not our
fault, we couldn’t do anything to have prevented this. We also believe it isn’t
God who caused it. There is nobody to blame. This question comes to him
more than once: `Did I do everything to save my children? I could not have
saved the boys, and if I (myself) did die in that fire to have saved the boys, I
really would have done it. Frequently these questions pop up: `If I had done
it differently, were the boys still okay?… But those are ideas and thought
processes to which I do not have to admit or give up to. Noelle and I have
had professional help and search for ways to come through. All honor to God
that we still have each other. And that we are still together, for ourselves and
for the children.

`I’ll see you soon
Initially Noelle wanted to leave the spot of the misfortune, she wanted to
leave Lander, Wyoming and leave the Country, this way she could be as far as
possible away and try to leave it all behind , by emigrating to the Netherlands
to try and make a new start there – as a defeated family -.
Feike wanted to remain in Lander. After many prayers and after many
conversations, Noelle decided that this indeed was the best thing to do. By
leaving behind everything? What would we solve with that? Feike spread out
his hands and said: ‘Nothing’. Moreover: in Lander we have this caring and
compassionate community they also have been hurt by our tragedy, they
have helped us enormously after the fire. Straight through the pain we have
to continue: that was according to him the fastest way (it will still be a long
and painful journey) to heal the deep wounds.
Meanwhile they have been able to purchase a new house. They lived
somewhat outside the village, but now in the middle of this small community.
Because the location of the burned house is on a main road, Feike has to
drive by it pretty frequently. He then frequently stares at the black spot
where the house once was, which opens many doors to the past in his
memory. And then he prays to his Heavenly Father. Childlike perhaps, but I
always hope that Noah and Zephy listen. And then I also talk to them: `Boys, I
love you so much. I’m in so much pain, I regret and I’m sorry that I wasn’t
capable to save you, but… I will see you again….soon. Something like that.

A personal demon
Continuing to live in the area where the tragedy happened, is one thing. But
Feike went a step further. On a day he shared with his family that he wants to
submit an application for the local fire department. Noelle and Able didn’t
understand why, (Able cried the first time that I went to a training), but my
decision was certain. As a fireman I can gain something where I couldn’t win
or defeat the fire that caused such a damage in my life: he explains fire, it is
personal demon for me. The most important thing for me is that, if there is
another tragic fire incident that I can stand in between the fire and the hurt
It were the men from his department - all fathers - who stood at the
smoldering remainders of his house on Lyons valley road (how the fire
exactly started, has never been clear). They had to find and see the boys, who
were under the ashes, them having these images of my lifeless, burned boys.
That is… incredibly difficult.
Such as in the American army chaplains (say mental and spiritual caretakers),
Feike hopes to become a chaplain within his Fire Department and First
Respond Teams in his community. To be able to assist people not only
practical, but also mental, emotional and spiritually is was I’m geared to do.
Not that I have all the answers. But my negative and painful experiences can
be used to help, to give it a positive turn somewhere and somehow, how
difficult that also can be. So many people who suffer tragedy experiences
themselves, question in a bitter way: `Why does this happen to me? There
are many that blame God – I also blamed God in the beginning. But others
continue to believe in spite of their unanswered questions: `God, you are
with me, above me and behind me. Noelle and I have learned to walk with
Him again and believe that God was there. We want to continue to serve
Him. To me, it also applies that I want to honor the boys this way. I
sometimes imagine that Noah and Zephy look down from the sky at me, they
put their thumbs up and say: `Papa, we are proud of you, you’re doing a
great job, when I am called to protect others being a fire fighter.
To fight or to flight is the response, to run away from the confrontation, is an
understandable, human response. But fire is not the boss over me, it won’t
control the rest of my life. He looks up indicating: One is the Boss concerning
To fight or flight, that is always the daily choice.

A double rainbow
Our hope is that we will be reunited with the boys one day, knowing the
answer without doubt what happens after life is what keeps us going.
In certainty knowing that they are in good hands, at a place without pain,
gives us often some much needed peace.
A family member of a friend of Feike and Noelle made a drawing that reflects
the same hope. You see Jesus, with a smiling Noah and Zephy on his lap.
Above them a double rainbow. It is incredible how many double rainbows
we’ve seen since the fire happened, Feike explains. For example I was just
discharged from the Burn Unit in Salt Lake City; the family including my Dutch
family was with me in Salt Lake City eating dinner. Suddenly it started to rain
heavily, out of nowhere. Able – then 5 years old - noticed a double a rainbow
in the sky. `Daddy, mummy, look! he said. `Zephy and Noah asked God if he
could make a sign to let you know that everything is well with them.
Feike grabbed for his phone and shows me a family picture, one where Noah
and Zephy are smiling into the camera. This was on the evening of the 4 th of
July, a large celebration and holiday in America. From our property you could
see the fire-works above Lander. We had built a small campfire, made
s’mores, and put a tent up. Able took this photograph. We didn’t know yet
that this would be their last photograph together. Eleven days later… Feike
swept his eyes dry, looking at Noah and Zephy in this picture, whispers
gently: ‘my handsome boys.’
Twitter: @FeikevanDijk

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Healing continues to be a long and tough process.

It's been over half a year that I posted a new article on this blog and so many amazing, wonderful, scary and emotional things happened, I've been quite overwhelmed with a large variety of different things that kept me busy over that half year but found out it's about time to write something again.
Being that the tragedy happened over a year and a half ago, I've heard some people say that they expect that most of my grieving and mourning process should be over. Well, I have to tell those individuals that it's not even close to being over. It seems to be a reality instead of a "dream" more & more and the wish that it all was a nightmare is present continuously.
Able, Beanie and Remmy are growing up way to fast and I see so many glimpses of Zephy and Noah in them. It's quite hard to see the twins interact with others, their facial expressions, sitting pose because of similarities.....Remmy makes cute noises when he wants to cuddle or needs attention which Noah used to do, Beanie is very sensitive and talks with a slight lisp like Zephy used to do.
Being reminded of the two boys that were taken away too early due to an event that is still imprinted in my mind and heart isn't always an easy thing, although sometimes being reminded by their specific habits and trades occasionally give me a feeling that the two boys are still with me in some sort of a way. It is hard to describe but sometimes it seems God is telling me something, why do these little but obvious things remind me of them so much.
An obvious sign of where I'm at with my healing process is when I see a young child (often blond and build like any of my two boys) playing with their father, doing something that I frequently use to do with the boys, first I become happy, then sad and then angry, many times asking God why, while tears roll over my face. I sometimes feel the courage to ask the father how old the child is and it gives me the opportunity to interact with the child and the father. Memories fly by, which make me smile in first instance and then miss them even more.
Another sign of where I'm at with my healing process indicates with one of my hobbies I used to have, I used to love going to movies, watch action movies and thrillers.
Now it makes me sick to my stomach how Hollywood can use death, tragedy, fire, loss of a child or loved one or even emotional or physical pain into something that gets great reviews. All these terrible things are seen by pain to many individuals while others are entertained by these visual images which can be realistic nightmares for others. Nowadays I don't have cable anymore and watch kids Netflix movie and shows with the kids since that won't trigger any bad emotions or bring pain to the surface, anyone ever heard of my kids favorite show Octonauts?

Seeing Remmy grow into a toddler is wonderful, but with that growth his burn scars are also developing. It appears he's having more pain then before also since his pain medication is scheduled at specific times, we can see it wearing off, he'll hit the burned side of his head hard while screaming.
Quite regularly he points at his legs and says mommy/daddy auwe, knowing that we will massage the scars on his legs often with lotion specially made for Remmy.
Due to Rem's quick development in growth the doctors scheduled surgeries on his burned head upcoming Monday February 29th 7:15AM,
The last time this same surgery was done on Remmy about half a year ago, we again experienced the fear of loosing him. He ended up with 2 infections under the burns and we had to leave his little body in Gods hands, it was so scary that Noelle said "goodbye" when Remmy and I left to SLC in urgency, a goodbye we've never been really able to say to Zephy and Noah,
Remmy showed signs and symptoms of an infection by becoming lethargic at moments, not wanting to eat or drink and high sky high fevers between 104 and 106 degrees. Noelle and I did everything to reduce the fevers and tried every way possible in the book to at least drink fluids. Both of us aren't individuals that go to doctors unless it's really necessary, the same with our kids, we've worked in healthcare for quite some years and would first do everything we can do ourselves to help our children until we have no idea, understanding or control over the issue.
So, we took him to the ER and somehow the specialists thought the pressure behind Remmy's ears was the right indication of him having a simple ear infection, we tried our very best to explain that we thought it was related to the expanders placed under his burn scar but instead we were send home with antibiotics for his ear-infection and a simple fever reducer.
No other medical issues or concerns were covered and not even blood work (CBC) got ordered or done.
Throughout the whole night Remmy was having spiked fevers that went up to 106 degrees, inflammation started to become visible and eventually his eyelids were shut due to the fluid build up.
Early in the morning, I got a hold of Remmy's pediatrician and asked if he could see Remmy immediately, thand begged Him to spare us from more pain and suffering and spare Remmy's fragile it's urgent and also explained to him what the hospital did since he already visited the ER. Finally there was an individual that listened and looked at all possibilities, he was baffled that the diagnosis was an ear infection since ever screaming and upset child will show an extensive amount of pressure behind the ears, he looked and saw nothing unusual, another thing the pediatrician was surprised about was that the ER Docs didn't rule anything else out by ordering a simple CBC (bloodwork) to make sure that they didn't miss anything and since Remmy's history is different they should have at least done a CBC.
Within an hour after the CBC came back with a sky-high amount of white blood counts, I received a phone call Remmy needed immediate care and surgery in SLC.
Driving my car for the next 5 hours with a dead-sick child I prayed to God to spare Rem from more pain and suffering and begged Him to heal his fragile body, but also to bring peace in my mind and heart. I cried for all the 5 hours on my way to the Hospital in SLC and asked God also when the aftermath of our house fire tragedy would finally stop. I questioned; will you take another child away from us? Why do we deserve this? A sudden peace came over me when we arrived at the hospital, remarkable it was. 3 days after surgery the cultures came back showing 2 infections MRSA and STAPH, I almost lost my child if it would have gotten septic, it was showing signs it was spreading quick with the inflammation in his body.
I'm thankful I still have Remmy in my life, but the fear to loose him is also present, since Monday he'll undergo the same procedure. That the surgery will be helping Remmy in the long run is the reason why this needs to happen. I would like to ask your help to pray for Remmy, the specialists and our family, that we will find peace again, and instead of fear that we will have faith that everything will go well.

Outside of the medical expenses, the cost of travel, lodging and meals will add up.
They are blessed to stay at the Ronald McDonald House which is a welcoming home for parents and family that have children either in critical conditions or are at the hospital for an extended time. The Ronald McDonald House only charges $20 a day for lodging and approximately one meal a day.
The  Gofundme campaign above was established  to help aid the financial burden on Remmy and his beautiful family. A separate Gofundme Campaign is also running  for the entire Van Dijk family to assist in getting back on their feet.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

July 15 our 1st "anniversary" date

  “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”Romans 8:18 

Verses like the ones mentioned above give me strength and the will to continue, to keep fighting the inner emotional battle I have to understand that one day I will not suffer anymore, one day I will be reunited with my kids and won't be sad, one day we will be together.

It's getting closer to the date when it all happened, July 15th is the day of the tragedy and I'm spending since June 30th my time again at the Ronald mc Donalds House in SLC.
It's been very hard emotionally and bitter sweet to spend the 4th of July and up till July 15th in SLC again just being reminded of the aftermath of the tragedy.
To be honest I have no clue how I would have dealt with spending the 4th in Lander this year, since I have very strong memories spending the time with the whole family and the joy we had that day.
It's been hard as I'm mentally counting off the days for the "burniversary" as burn survivors call it.
Luckily we planned a -2 week trip to Connecticut prior to our visit to SLC, to charge mentally and emotionally by visiting our long time friends and family in Nebraska, Chicago, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and even Massachusetts.

Both Noelle and I took the challenge to drive our Toyota Camry for 4300+ Miles with 21 month old twins, a 6 year old and a Pomeranian and build new amazing memories.
The kids had a blast outside of the long, looooooong car ride and were exposed to our family and friends that poured out love and prayer which gave us strength, they were exposed to the ocean, Dunkin Donuts, Baskin & Robbins, New Haven Pizza, Cannoli's, Sail boats and a lot more.
We felt refreshed, ready to fight the next chapter of our lives, up to SLC.
Arrived in Laramie after a 19hr drive Noelle and I separated ways, she and Beanie running the fort & Global Arts @ home in Lander, Wyoming and Remmy, Able & I heading to the Ronald mc Donald House and Hospital in SLC.

Back to SLC to work on Remmy's burns.
As most of you know Remmy suffered from 3rd and 4th degree burns on over 30 +% of his scalp and face. In burns of this degree as well as on grafted area's, the hair follicle will no longer be able to produce hair. Which will leave this precious boy with disfiguring scars. Remmy's medical team has approved him for Tissue Expansion Reconstruction of the Scalp.

A clear explanation about the specific procedure:
These series of surgeries will leave Remmy with a full head of hair and most important, minimize immensely the scars he bears.
At this point it is unclear if he will need double or triple expansions. Each expansion includes multiple surgeries.
Through the tissue expanders (saline bags which are placed under the skin) the skin with hair still attached will be stretched to cover the effected area. The residue burn scar skin will then be removed.
the surgeries will take place in several stages, each stage consisting of 2 week intervals.
There are several dangers affiliated with this surgery. These dangers include a possibility that the bags can leak or explode, infections can occur at the surgery site or worst case, the bags can cause too much pressure on the brain.

But on the brighter side of things, I am happy to take my 2 boys (Able & Remmy) to SLC so we can do fun things while Remmy has his Doctors visits and surgery scheduled in these 2 weeks. We went to the Minion Movie Red Carpet Premiere (sponsored by Universal Studio's, Hershey & Mc Donald's) we were able to watch the movie before it's even out in the Theatre's, also we were again blessed with a trip to see the Utah Jazz playing a game against the Spurs and Celtics vs 76'ers, even today a meet and greet with a famous Football player Zane Beadles (former Broncos now Jaguars offensive lineman).
The Ronald mc Donald House continues spoiling their residents again with great activities, like my dad says 'Their burgers and food are disgusting and a joke but their cause with these houses makes me look at a different perspective at their donation boxes in their fast-food joints'.
Personally for me it's therapeutic to spend as much time with Able & Remmy as possible to build new wonderful memories. Next to the amazing activities and meals made by the volunteers, the RMH gives parents a little break since they have all kinds of things to do for the kids in house. Also you are not alone as a parents since all the other parents go through similar things including hospitalized and loss of their children.
I talk often with Able about Zeph & Noah which helps me and hopefully him too to cope with our loss, it's noticeable that he misses his best friends he ever had. 
We talk about the fun times, the naughty times, the joy, the tears, the fights and memorable times.
I just want it to be that Zeph & Noah will never be forgotten and Rem & Beanie know that they had some amazing brother's, some times I wonder what they remember or if they were too young.
But then again often Beanie and Remmy point at pictures or point at someone who looks like one of their brothers and mentions their names.

It continues to be a battle to wake up and put that smile on your face looking forward for the day to come. But we are destined to continue to thrive and be there for our own kids, being amazing and loving parents.
I choose not to fill the gap, the sore spot, the empty hole with an addiction or negative source (like depression) but by the grace of God to fill it with His love for us and something I can reflect to my kids and the rest of the world.
I want to live my life fully, expanding horizons, love, endure, fight, finding meaningful reasons to use ALL of my life lessons into my life's purpose.
I want to reflect life, love, peace, joy, passion and more.
As Viktor Frankl says:
For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment.
Remmy's last appointment in these two weeks is July 14th and I plan to be back in Lander the 15th so I can be there physically, not that I really want to, but feel that I need to.
I know it's going to be a very hard day, but I believe if we are all together we can make it through by the Grace of God.

Although we are able to run our own business and were able to travel to the  East Coast (by car and staying with friends and family since that saved us quite some money instead hotels and air fairs).
We still have to deal with the many continues medical expenses of the aftermath of the tragedy which includes specialist visits, medication to deal with our trauma and more.
There is a Gofundme account set aside for us to get back on our feet again and was set up the night of the tragedy.
Also specially for Remmy's recovery on his burns dear friends of our set up a different Gofundme account that outside of the medical expenses, it will cover the cost of travel (up and down to SLC), lodging and meals which adds up pretty quickly.

If you have it on your heart we'd appreciate you donating to these accounts or contact Central Bank & Trust in Lander (307) 332-4730 so there won't be taken out a 5% fee as in Gofundme

Noelle summed up in a very beautiful way how thankful we as a family are to have you all in our lives....Over the last 3 months I have been experiencing true love in the deepest parts of my heart.....from our Creator but echoed to me through all of you. I am now ever aware that we are all connected, each one of us. And that when God allows us to live though a catastrophe and simultaneously allows others to die.... It truly becomes a daily question, why am I still here? What more am I to do according to His will? For the longest time it hurt that I couldn't people's questions about 'how we are doing' because the depth of that question is impossible at times. fact all the time. But today is good. And I have amazing choices to make this string of moments....I just want to say this also....I notice the beautiful and kind and selfless things YOU my beautiful friends and family are doing for our family and others. And if you ever doubt that others don't see .....Remember that God is always listening always watching and always smiling upon your good works, your beautiful heart, your loving prayers. You are beautiful all of you, and one day we will all see the beauty of the love we showed ourselves and others in this life. Cont the good fight friends as your love has preserved ME and countless others. We are often called strong but remember it was YOU who picked us up. YOU who fed us YOU who clothed us YOU who ushered Gods peace by prayer, a hug, a cup of coffee. I have more faith in humanity being made in the image of God than I ever have had in my life. I love you and I thank you for loving me and ours. And I encourage you to see the beautiful things you and others are doing every day for one day you will put on these blessings like robes and precious jewels as we go home to our maker ......the one we make smile

Monday, May 18, 2015

To flee or to fight!

It's been a while that I wrote a blog, next to procrastinating I've been quite busy with so many things, from figuring out how we as a family will visit our friends and family on the East Coast this summer to how we're going to manage to be at my brother's wedding in the Netherlands in October.
From running our new store to training to become a fire fighter.
I've had many moments of giving up, to disappear, to run, to hide, to move to a different State or even a different Country.
Facing my daily "demons" isn't an easy thing, but also to flee away from it isn't going to help anything either. It's hard not to be angry, hard not to be bitter and upset and I personally think it's fine......I'm at least communicating about it in physical, vocal and expressive matter.
I faced a wide variety of trials that led back to back flashes of what happened the night of July 15, it's been over 10 months ago and it still feels like it was just one month ago.

Conquering the force that caused the damage.
About 4 weeks ago I was in Cody to train at the fire school and it was tough, it was tough to be surrounded by fire fighters and not to think about my boys, I got reminded by so many sensory factors, I was most of the time in my bunkers, smelled smoke, heard sirens, saw fire fighters in action....I could only think .....If I could only, If I only knew what I know now.....I could have.....saved them. With tears in my eyes I called out their names many times during the training; Zephy, Noah ....I miss you, daddy is so sorry he couldn't save you.
I applied to become a fire fighter for many reasons, and one of them is that I don't want anyone in my community to experience what I do, I want to fight, I want to save, I want to help.....there where I couldn't before, I will hopefully now.
I really want to redeem myself, not only because I continue to feel guilty or feel like I failed.
It's easy for me to build a wall so my emotions cannot escape, I rather put all that energy in something good, something useful. I could easily choose an addiction or something that will fill that empty spot in my heart with something that temporarily heals. But eventually it will tear me a part.
This is one of the many daily choices I make because I want to live, I don't want to live a depressed and angry life.
One example of me choosing to overcome my daily struggle: I choose to face the killer of my children from a different angle, I choose to become one of the hero's that will be able to cuss to yell and to destroy this killer with physical, spiritual and mental labor, I choose to become a fire fighter.
The unpredictable force that destroyed my life almost (I said almost), I am hoping that I will become one of those heroes that will prevent the fire that could ruin the life's of my community, I'm not wanting to fight it for an adrenaline kick, I just don't want anyone else to experience what I have to experience.
I hope I could become that pillar people want to rest on, I want to be able to be someone who is of a source of wisdom physically, psychologically and spiritually...someone who can be of help to someone who is dealing with loss or grief, someone who had to deal with fire being the source of their loss.
I hope that I could be there for the many fire fighters who are fathers and mothers and who have to deal with PTSD because they had to fight against fire that has killed and has destroyed.
Many other reasons are relative why I want to become a fire fighter, I love my community and wish nobody not even my worst enemies that they will go through the same thing as I do.

How I try to cope
Talking about my loss and grief or using ways to express seem to be working.
A friend of mine who hadn't seen me since the tragedy said that my eyes were speaking more then ever, they spoke that I was hurt, sad and broken inside, my eyes were sharing a story.
Luckily I do have some positive outlets where I can put my time and energy in to deal with my loss and grief like spending quality time with my kids, music, fishing, cooking, being at our new store to just call a few.
Loss of a loved one continues to be agonizing but I can also find strength in it, it totally depends on how I choose to deal with it.
I've considered many times to sit in a corner and due to my depression grow anger and bitterness, but I choose to be the father, the husband, the friend and the neighbor that is involved, hoping that I can be full of life and hopefully a roll model. My former co-workers commented to me that I was so much more different than before the tragedy, that I looked and sounded angry, I found that kind of a normal thing, and such a weird thing for others to be pointing out, it's quite normal that the jolly and foolish old me is extremely hurt and looks at life from a different perspective now. They insisted that I should find professional help to deal with my PTSD, I had a hard time finding someone locally since I knew all professionals and worked with them over the past 6 years, I didn't think anyone was able to work with a case like mine, it took a while for me to really understand it was myself and not the specialist who has to make the ability to work on my PTSD.

To flee or to fight
I felt that I had to make a choice to face my "demons", my fear, my depression, my anger, my loss, my grief and my emotions.
I have the control over how I wanted to be seen by the publics eyes.
I want to be seen as the father that continues to spend quality time with what I still have left on this earth, I want to be happy again, I want to enjoy my life again, although there are large pieces torn out of my heart, I want to smile again, enjoy my family again, enjoy the community, enjoy life again. 
My confrontation with death, being in a blazing fire, my 3rd degree burns, the realization that I could die of my burns the night of July 15th, the loss of most of my belongings, my house, the loss of my dear sons, the severe burns on my 9 month old twin boy, it makes everything look so precious, so sacred, so beautiful that I feel more strongly than ever the impulse to love it, to embrace it, and to let myself be overwhelmed by it. Somehow death and its ever present possibility makes love, passionate love, more possible. I continue to long for the day I will leave this earth, I occasionally wish for that day that I will be without the mental & physical pain.........but I know that time isn't here yet, I have still so much to live for. I'm just blessed that I have that sacred understanding that one day I will be reunited with Zephy & Noah again, that that day will come that I will not feel the pain anymore, that the day will come I will no longer have that fear again and my memory will be washed away because of all the beautiful things that will surround me.
It's a daily struggle for me to choose life above depression since it is haunting me.

Global Arts 
learned that whatever struggle you have to go through in your life you can use it as a tool to help others, you can choose to use that experience to become the foundation of your calling, instead of it condemning you, you can use it to resurrect you.
I also know and feel that something larger and bigger then anything else is watching over me, giving me strength to continue and to go on, I don't feel alone in this, I feel like I'm carried in prayer.
Noelle and I are blessed that because of many people's prayers, financial, physical and material help we can continue and start over again, I finally have a job again (since October is a very long time)...being self employed owning Global arts (since May 1st) we can hopefully do something back for our community.
Since we opened GlobalArts I have been able to share to many visitors and customers at the gallery a story about a painting painted by Melissa Strickler, it's called shadowlands and it's a collage made out of photography, magazine/newspaper articles, wasp nest, church window glass, watercolor, oil paint and a lot more.
It is a very spiritual piece that the painter wants to share that there is always someone watching over you in the darkest moments of your life.
I noticed that this painting has spoken not only to me but also many other people coming in the gallery, feel free to look at it and share/comments how this painting speaks to you and what you see.
Noelle started picking up making art again and I'm amongst the community trying to make the customers and visitors happy, for both of us this has a very therapeutic effect.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Counting the blessings.....

For quite a while I've been angry, angry that I lost my sons, angry that this had to happen to my children, angry that this tragedy had to happen to my family, angry at myself that I could have been the cause of the tragedy, angry that I couldn't save all my children, angry that some people didn't care, some people were ruthless to say that they didn't care, it was pain that had to develop and is still developing.
Pain that is covering the surface of my emotional well being, people even said that I looked different then before the tragedy, acted different, but what would you expect?
Would you expect the jolly old me, just acting that this tragedy didn't hurt my inner core, my heart, my emotion, my spirit.
In the midst was a dear friend, who has been a mother to me for many years, she traveled all the way from the East Coast and stayed, helped out when help was definitely needed since both me and Noelle were acting like zombies from "the Walking Dead" TV show, she would say.... Feike, do you see there is so much favor?
I could see but I could not feel, they could say, but I could not hear....the tragedy had such an impact that I was blinded to see, the lack of sleep, the overwhelming amount of emotion, the pain, the anger, the lonesomeness, the depression, the medications, it all took the man out of me.
Slowly I am able to forgive myself, forgive the people that don't care, slowly I'm working on the ability to see, to hear and to feel again.
I know that there have been tons and tons of favor or as many other people say blessings, but actually, seeing, hearing, feeling and understanding was another step in my time of grief.

We are so extremely thankful for our community, friends, family, former students of mine, class mates, church family here in Lander Wy, on the East Coast, in the Netherlands and people we don't even know but heard our story and wanted to get involved,  and have helped us out to start all over again.
The monetary help, the prayers, the logistic help, the practical help, the medical help, the first responders on the scene, the Burn Unit in SLC, the Shoshone tribe, my co-workers and our ex co-workers and I can go on.
It's been incredible how people intensively have been there to help our family out with all these things and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
We had to start all over again and you all have been such an incredible help.
We were able to purchase a house which we can call our home and we will start new memories with the family here.
But we also were able to start our own business, May 1st we will be the brand spanking new owners of Global Arts in Lander,
It is such an interesting story to tell; Noelle has always wanted to do more with her art degrees and I love promoting, marketing and sales, both our parents have owned art/antique stores, so we kind of grew up with knowledge and understanding.
I lost my job last year and this is giving us a fresh outlook on things since we have lived off  my unemployment and Noelle and I can rotate schedules running the business and still spend a lot of time with our kids.
We are thankful that there is a possibility for us to look into our future with a smile on our face now.

People from all different corners are continuous helping us 8 months after the tragedy, with gift cards, dropping food off at our doorsteps, neighbors dropping cookies, books and clothes off etc.
Even last week, Remmy and I had to go through our regular amount of visits with medical specialists in SLC and upon arrival at the wonderful Ronald Mc Donald House there were Utah Jazz tickets with Parking, Dinner, half time food/drinks and meet & greet with Memo Okur all donated by the humble friendly giant Jazz basket player Derrick Favors (he's a RMcD Ambassador).
It was a great way to end our visit (which drains a lot of energy out of both of us) to SLC, Remmy was 1st scared of the loud noises but within minutes he was yelling and doing the wave himself.
Blessed beyond words since the RMcD House and Favs set this one up....they made all these energy sucking visits to the specialists this last week worthwhile.

Remmy is doing great, his face scarring will be reduced by a special mask designed for him, his arm and leg scars also will fade by wearing special compression garments.
Remmy is still taking medications for nerve pains and itchy-ness but has been off narcotics for a little while and he's been doing very well considering the burn injuries he's had.
He's is such a strong boy but at the same time full of life and joy, he loves to sing and be funny.
Remmy is going back into surgery in July and then in August, he has to get re-intubated and probably will receive narcotics.
We are not really looking forward to that process but think it will be better for him to get this all done now that later in his life.

Beanie is a great character, she's such a little princess, she's got little diva moments, but also loves to cuddle and wrestle. She is with most things a step ahead of Remmy, but what would you expect she is the 3 minute older twin sister and it's definitely visible.

Able is doing great at kindergarten, he gets along with his classmates, he's got a lot of  A's a couple B's......Loves Star Wars and Math is his favorite thing and he's really good at it, he's somewhat a geek which surprises Noelle and me not knowing where that comes from.
Able wants to become an Astronaut....

Noelle and I are looking forward to make new steps, since we have been grieving about our loss we've been growing closer to each other in many ways but also had tough moments.
We will be attending couples therapy in a different state soon since we have had to cancel it due to unexpected illnesses and circumstances (Noelle had Pneumonia while I was in SLC, but she is getting better by the day.) The Burn Unit in SLC also has special designed camps for different age groups to help individuals dealing with their loss and with their wounds.
Noelle and I have been invited to partake with professional staff and other burn victims in a camp rafting the Colorado River in September.
These camps are funded by an annual auction
I'll also partake in a spiritual journey climbing the Rockies and the Mount of the Holy Cross in Colorado this summer with climbers from Lander.

One huge thing that has happened is also that I applied for being a part of the Lander Volunteer Fire Squad, I will be as an intern training amongst local heroes fighting my own demons, but at the same time I'm hoping I'll be helping them in many ways.
Able 1st was afraid and angry when he heard about my plans becoming a fire fighter but after I explained to him why I wanted to do this he understood.
He even said a couple of weeks ago he wanted to become just like me......and also become a fire fighter.

There is so much ahead of us and we are thriving as a family and want to thank you for all of your help and prayers, we love ya'll...