Where Are You Christmas?

 Dear Friends & Family,

As the song “Where Are You Christmas”, made popular by Faith Hill for the movie How The Grinch Stole Christmas, plays on the radio, I rephrase the words in my head to “Where Are You Curtis?” Curt and Christmas melt together in one big package. He was the elf of our family. He hung the Christmas lights and did most of the shopping and decorating each year. He was the first one up Christmas morning, with a fire in the fireplace and music on the stereo and full of excitement like a little boy.

"Where Are You Christmas"

Where are you Christmas
Why can't I find you
Why have you gone away
Where is the laughter
You used to bring me
Why can't I hear music play

My world is changing
I'm rearranging
Does that mean Christmas changes too?

Sadly, our house is not decorated, our lights are not hung and shopping is not on the to-do list (outside of the kids). I hear music playing in the stores, but it stirs nothing inside me. I see decorated houses and Christmas trees and still nothing. Curt is Christmas: He was the light of our family, our protector and inspiration. I know in time, things will get easier, but for now, this is where we are.

That may help answer the question many of you have been asking me: “How are you doing?” My first response is that there is a big hole in our lives. Curt was our everything. Now, everywhere we look, he is there, but not. If that makes sense. During his illness we learned to keep busy and suppress that knot in our stomachs. Nothing has changed in that sense. The knot is still there, along with an emptiness and quietness. It used to be hard for me to sleep because of the sounds he made and the machines that he needed; now the quietness keeps me awake. I find myself thinking about him all night long--sleep just doesn’t come easily.

The kids are amazing. They are hurting and sad, yet finding ways to keep occupied. Clarissa does best when she is busy. She just planned an awesome trip to Lake Nacimiento including all the meals, all the shopping, organized games, a gift exchange and an ugly sweater night. Cayden misses all the man talk he had with Curt; stereos, horsepower, motorcycles, I just can’t help in those departments. He used to take care of Curt everyday after school and now that leaves a hole in his day. Corbin has found an escape through reading. He read 8 books last week. He says the only time he doesn’t think about Daddy is when he is playing video games or reading. Some days it is hard to resume normal activities; we have taken some time off from school and work to just be together as a family. We are staying close, having dinner together each night, but also keeping busy with friends and activities. Just like when Curt was here, we find it best to keep busy.

We are thankful for the cards, emails, texts and prayers. It really helps to know that people are thinking about our family. We appreciate you all! Below is a big glimpse of what’s been happening since Curt passed away on November 23rd.

Cindy, Clarissa, Cayden & Corbin

Curt always took the kids to K1 Speed Go Kart Racing.
They didn't waste any time showing me the ropes.
As we raced around the indoor track, I felt Curt was with us.

The Melansons' hosted dinner at their restaurant La Tavolata. It was a couple days after Curt passed and Carolyn thought ahead to have the men and women sit separately to protect my feelings of not having Curt by my side.  

Planning Curt's Memorial Service
Happy Birthday Mom!
Ruth's Chris Steakhouse
Mike & Melissa came from Texas for the Memorial service.
We took them to our favorite Mexican Restaurant - El Burrito in Seal Beach.

The employees at American City Pest & Termite are like family to me.
It helps that they loved Curt so much.
 It was so cool to see just about all of our 40 employees at the service to honor Curt.
You guys are the best and the 10-8 card you made was super special and touching.

Cayden and Corbin surprised me at work one day, ready to work!

Lulu's in Palm Springs with Mike, Alyssa & Andi

Vicky's of Santa Fe in Palm Springs with Mom & Dad

Sunday Funday with Mark, Kelli, Larry & Debbie

Family snuggle time!

Happy Birthday Margie!

Thanks for a yummy lunch and party Jaime!

Gingerbread house competition at The Lake House

Ugly Sweater Night

Great Kids! 

Our Last Days with Curt

Dear Friends & Family,

Since the day Curt was diagnosed, one of my biggest questions was, “How will he die?” I asked doctors, nurses and people who have watched their loved ones die what the final days are like. The only thing I learned from everyone, it that each person is different and there is no way to predict how the end would be. My biggest concern was that he wouldn’t suffer or struggle, I prayed his passing would be gentle. I pictured in my head, and prayed often that Curt would die peacefully, with the kids and me by his side.

Knowing his last days would become a blur, I kept a journal for what would be the last 8 days of his life (and the week after). Curt always wanted this blog to be honest, open and helpful to anyone who may be going through a journey like ours. Therefore, I know I would have his blessing on sharing this.

Thursday, November 15th
3:00 Nurse Yeon called me at Curt’s request to have me come home. He was crying and emotional and neither she nor his mom could figure out what he needed. I raced home and was able to decipher his needs and calm him. This was the day I decided no more work, no more leaving his side. He needs me and I want him to feel cared for and secure. So here I will stay until the end.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Curt slept a lot, he was emotional when he was awake, a few visitors came by, but mostly we just hung out together, him in bed and me beside him.

Monday, November 19th
Curt woke up crying. He said he felt like he was dying. He couldn't get enough air. I asked if he wanted the kids home and he said yes. Clarissa was just leaving for school, she stayed, Corbin had spent night at Mom and Dad’s so Mom raced him home from Torrance, I called Cayden and he left school. We all gathered around crying. We told Curt we love him and although we want him here, he can go. We all cried, he cried. Hardest thing to see kids telling their father goodbye. Pastor Brent came at 2:00. He told Curt about the handicap lift we bought for the church; that it was now installed and people used it Sunday! Curt had questions about the power of the lift and if it locked automatically. Brent prayed and gave Curt permission to go, gently and lovingly.

Tuesday, November 20th
If there was one day, actually one hour in our three year journey that I could take back,  it would be this morning from 9:30-10:30 am. Lack of sleep and the emotions of everything hit me hard and I had a bad attitude toward Curt. Curt had awakened both 5:30 am and 6:30 am with anxiety; I gave him meds to calm him. At 9:30 he said “I want to get up now!” I was tired and not rested from a long night. I got him up quickly without love. I took him to the kitchen counter where he was falling asleep drinking his water. Then suddenly he demanded to use the toilet. I put him on the toilet by myself (no one was around to help me), which is a struggle. I could not get him positioned correctly by myself. He was crying, I was upset, I just couldn’t get him comfortable. Then my Dad came to pick up Corbin for breakfast. He helped me get Curt off the toilet and back to bed. Curt fell asleep. I realized after the fact, his demands and attitude were from the extra medication I had given him that am. I should have talked to him and had him rest longer, knowing he normally doesn’t get up until after 12:00. He was pretty much out of it all day, but I laid beside him and let him know how much I loved him and tried to keep him as comfortable as I could. He drank some Ensure in the am and ate some Key Lime Pie in the afternoon. This would be the last time he ate. This was the last time he was out of bed. Curt smiled a bit today, but not much. 

Wednesday, November 21st
Curt was in distress beginning at midnight. I called Hospice and the nurse came at 3 am. She received Doctor's orders to give him Morphine and Ativan every 1 hour and increasing dosage. He is moaning with each breath. She calmed him by 4:30 am. She sent me and my mom (she came at 1:00 am to help me) to the living room to sleep, knowing we had been up all night. We slept for 1 hour until she had to leave at 5:30 am. Curt rested for a few hours and then the anxiety and moaning began again. I called Hospice to send a nurse again. Meanwhile the kids and I gathered around him, loving on him; he cried but was pretty much out of it. Nurse Kahn came and helped calm him. He increased dosage of Morphine and Ativan again. He had a fever which we were controlling with Tylenol. Curt was finally able to calm down and relax, we kept quiet most of the day, not wanting him to wake and go into distress again. Ilfida, the bath aide, came and bathed him and he was completely relaxed. She knows exactly how to talk to him and gave us a lot of information on how to help him and talk to him at this point. He is unresponsive since the nurse left. Even while being bathed, he didn’t open his eyes or make a sound. The kids and I are exhausted and emotional, crying often. We have been by his side since Monday. I am tired from getting only one hour of sleep last night. My mom has helped so much with preparing food and making sure we all eat. I feel bad for her, she looks so tired and worried for us as well as Curt.

Since Monday the nurses have told us he could live anywhere from 24 hours to 4 days. Nurse Kahn said that today also. We don’t want to leave his side, so the bedroom has become our family room. We talk to Curt, read, listen to music and watch a bit of tv. At 5:00, I completely broke down sobbing uncontrollably as I am watching my husband die. My body was shaking as I cried for hours. Clarissa, Cayden and Corbin took turns trying to comfort me. Finally I took an anti-anxiety pill and it helped me calm down. Corbin offered to take a 4 hour shift of giving Curt his hourly meds so I could sleep. Clarissa and Cayden had friends over, but checked on Curt constantly. When I woke up at 11:30 pm, the house was quiet, Corbin relinquished medication duty to me and the kids all went to bed.

Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 22nd
Curt has been sleeping peacefully since 1:30 last night. No meds since then. He was no longer able to swallow them, and was peaceful so Nurse said just give meds as needed. He has been totally unresponsive since yesterday at 3:00. Kids and I got up around 11:00 today and I showered, dressed, put on makeup and all. If he wakes up, I want him to see me pretty, wearing the jewelry he bought me. We all hung out with Daddy, listening to music, windows open, fresh air, light mood. He looks so handsome and peaceful. His color is good, his skin is soft, and his body is no longer rigid but flexible like he is getting ready to walk again. His breathing has progressively slowed down. Mom and Dad brought Jack in the Box around 1:00. We were all starving. Nurse Marisol came at 2:00. She said he is shutting down, 24 hrs to a few days. I have been on the window seat all day staring at my handsome hubby, no more meds, potty, etc. I am once again a wife instead of a nurse. The exhaustion is leaving my body and the memories of our past is flooding my mind. Today, I do not read or watch tv, I watch Curt all day. I reminice about our 30 years together. I hug my kids and we all snuggle together with Curt. We share stories. We laugh, we cry a bit, we give thanks for the most awesome Dad and husband ever. The kids and Mom and Dad BBQ ribs, salad, fried potatoes, bread and pie for our Thanksgiving dinner. My mom sits with Curt, so I can eat in the dining room with the kids. It has been days since I have left our bedroom for more than a couple of minutes. I have been home 8 days, not leaving the house at all. I thank God for giving me contentment to remain close to Curt in his final days.

At midnight, his breathing became agitated. The kids were in the room, we all gathered around and tried to talk to him. His eyes were 1/2 open but looking into space or rolling back in his head. Scary and hard to watch him struggle. He turned blue, I called hospice and then canceled as we got him settled down with morphine, Ativan and congestion drops. We all went to sleep at 1:30. It was a quiet night.

Friday, November 23rd
We all woke up at 11:00. Cayden had spent the night on the window seat, Corbin slept in bed with me and Clarissa went to her room sometime in the middle of the night. Curt has a fever of 102, more Tylenol. He is resting peacefully though. I showered and got pretty in case he wakes up. Kids are stir crazy, Cayden went for drive to the beach, Corbin went to Mark and Kelli's and movies with Mark. Clarissa is just hanging out with me on the window seat all day. Fresh air, music, texting, listening to Curt breathe. Barbara, Bill and Beverly came for a visit. Clarissa and I left the room as they reminisced with Curt as he rested peacefully. They left and then Ilfida came and bathed Curt. He was relaxed through it all. She left around 5:00. Clarissa had some friends over and they were all loving and talking to Curt (he was still unresponsive), I was sad that they are all losing such a fun-loving Dad. At 7:00 his breathing became labored, quick in and long out. Around 8:00 he began turning blue beginning with his hands and feet. At 8:45 I called the kids in. His breathing had slowed down. Then it really slowed and then stopped. A minute later a little breath then some gurgling. He never woke or opened his eyes. Time of death 9:00 pm. It was just me and the kids. We cried. Corbin wanted some time alone, so Clarissa and Cayden left the room, I stayed as Corbin held his Dad and wailed like I have never heard before. We all gathered again and cried.

I called hospice, his mom and the mortuary. Pastor Brent came over immediately and Jim Beedy. We stood around Curt’s bed, held hands and prayed. Curt was so white by the time the mortuary got here at 10:00. They took him out on a stretcher, and loaded him in a white minivan, a Honda Odyssey. I felt I should have arranged for nicer transportation for him, his last ride, his last time on wheels. Crazy thoughts. Pastor Brent had kept us informed and calm as they were taking Curt away. Cayden’s friends had gathered in the garage to comfort him. Jim and Larry offered to take the hospital bed out of our bedroom, which I thought was a good idea. It would have been hard to see an empty bed. Jim stayed late, we talked (and cried) for hours. He lost a great friend. Clarissa and Cayden had friends here to comfort them. Corbin remained close to me. We all went to bed around 3:00 am. Sleep would not come. There is a huge emptiness. The hardest part of this entire journey was watching the kids watch their Father die. That was absolute torture, and I'm sure something that will haunt me for a long time. 

Our hero and protector
September 2004

One month before his ALS diagnosis
October 2009


Dear Family & Friends,

Wow! Borrowing that word from Pastor Brent, it pretty much sums up the past 11 days since Curt passed away. Curt is gone, wow, even though it was expected, it is still a shock. Over 600 friends and family gathered to honor Curt at his memorial service, wow. Today, I picked up his remains from the mortuary, whoa.

As soon as this roller coaster slows down, I plan to share a bit more. So many memories are flooding my mind, it is overwhelming.

Meanwhile, here are a few photos (more to come) and a big thank you from the kids and me, for your support and prayers.


Curt Ziemke

Dear Friends and Family,

Curt passed away peacefully at 9:00pm on November 23, 2012. The kids and I were at his side. He fought a tough battle over the past 3 years, and especially hard over the past 5 days. We are relieved that he is no longer suffering. We are sad that he is gone. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to our family these last few days. We love you all.

Memorial Service
Saturday, December 1, 2012
First Baptist Church of Lakewood
5336 Arbor Road
Long Beach, CA 90808
For travel arrangements call:
Dignity Memorial Bereavement Travel Program
(800) 224-4177
Open 7 days 8:00 am - 10:00 pm central time, our ref #4912

In Lieu of Flowers
Please give in Memory of Curt Ziemke to one of the following:

To help with ALS research and ALS families:

Muscular Dystrophy Association

To help keep our deserts open to off road motorcycling (Curt’s passion):

American Motorcycle Association
                                                                            Go to:   
                                                        1. About
                                                        2. Support the AMA
                                                        3. Donations (designate Government Relations Fund)

To directly help others diagnosed with ALS by providing support with equipment,
household needs and cash:

CZ Cares
c/o: Cindy Ziemke
3182 Woodstock Road
Rossmoor, CA 90720
Cindy, Clarissa, Cayden & Corbin
Our last photo together. 
November 23, 2012



Dear Friends & Family,

The tiniest plant is capable of pushing itself through asphalt or even concrete. With the most amazing display of determination and patience, a skinny, weak looking plant can emerge through something that usually requires a jackhammer to shift it. Being expected to be equally strong and patient in our world is required of us now. Please pray for Curt's comfort and for each of the kids and me as exhaustion is wearing on our emotions.

Cindy, Curt, Clarissa, Cayden & Corbin
Date night at Ruth's Chris Restaurant with Clarissa & Corbin
Corbin picked out our clothes, opened our doors and was the perfect gentleman!
Thanks Chuck and Katrina for "Curt sitting"! He had fun hanging out with you guys.

Melissa came from Texas for a spontaneous weekend visit! Love you girl!
 Curt enjoyed a quick dinner out at our favorite little mexican restaurant. He was a trooper!

Curt and Melissa have a sweet bond!
They shared some tender moments and she even fed him his late night request of key lime pie and ice cream.

Even Now

Dear Friends & Family,

Even now, Curt's face lights up when the kids or I walk in the room.
Even now, Curt laughs more than he cries.
Even now, Curt is the most handsome man I know.
Even now, Curt is strong, courageous and brave.
Even now, Curt likes to tease and laugh.
Even now, Curt thanks God for his life and all he has.
Even now, Curt is always thinking of others' needs.

Even now, I would choose Curt.
Even now, I would not change a thing about our life together.
Even now, my love for him continues to grow each day.
Even now, he is an awesome Dad.
Even now, we can communicate without speaking.
Even now, we love watching the sunset.
Even now, we choose to laugh.

The last 6 weeks have been an extreme roller coaster. Curt gets very sick and we think "this is it," then he pulls through and peps up. He was feeling great this weekend so we surrounded ourselves with friends and even took him out for a ride. He has not been feeling well this week and even though he had a really hard day, he toughed it out for Corbin's football game today. Please continue to pray for him as he endures what this disease is doing to his body.

Cindy, Curt, Clarissa, Cayden & Corbin

Corbin's football game (a few weeks ago)

Cayden, Clarissa and Corbin spent this past weekend at Lake Nacimiento with my parents.

A Saturday afternoon drive to El Taco with Mark & Kelli

Saturday evening happy hour with Lisa, Lori, Lisa, Mike & Paul

Lisa Strong has become a great new friend! Her husband passed away from ALS one year ago.
 She is an amazing person and a huge support for me. Thank you Katrina for connecting us!

Saturday Night bedroom party and dressing up Curt.
Mark, Kelli (back), Larry, Debbie & Mike

Sunday Funday!

Clarissa's first time voting!

Corbin's football game today.

Challenge or Test?

Dear Friends & Family,

Newly married, lying in bed in our cozy camper, in Northern California, with heavy rain pouring on the aluminum roof, Curt and I talked about our future. We talked about not wanting to get old and stuffy and lose our sense of fun. We agreed even when we get old, we want to be fun and spontaneous people. We talked about the importance of having lots of friends and always living life to the fullest. Right then we decided to hop out of bed, go outside and run around the camper three times in the rain, just to prove our spontaneity. Laughing the entire time, we did it!

Since then we have continued to have fun and be spontaneous. Even though life does not pause when someone is sick, we have to find ways to make the most of our days. We still have to go to work, school, deal with flat tires, traffic, bills, medical decisions, all while being sleep deprived, and somehow, we can still find reasons to laugh.

Sometimes I think I am being tested. Can I get it all done and keep a good attitude? Other times I look at it as a challenge. “I CAN do this,” I repeat over and over. Either way, my faith, patience, dedication and will are tested each moment.

I have heard people say, “If anyone can do this, you can.” Truth is, I could never do it alone. Without God, Curt’s support, our children, friends and family, I would not be able to make it through the day. As they say, “It takes a village.” More than anything, it takes a good attitude. I can’t imagine taking care of Curt with a bitter heart. Curt and I can honestly say, we have made the most out of our lives together, we have passed the test and risen to the challenge with winning attitudes, keeping it fun as much as we possibly can. In a sense, we are still playing in the rain.

Please continue to pray for Curt’s comfort. He is struggling so much with swallowing, choking and now bed sores. This journey is really wearing on the kids, they are very emotional and tired. Thank you for continuing to pray for our family.

Cindy, Curt, Clarissa, Cayden & Corbin

Curt and The Dunnigan Sisters grew up as next door neighbors. 
Kellee, Jacki, Debbie, Sharon & Vicki came over to pray The Rosary with Curt.

Cayden and Mackenzie off to a Halloween Party!

Corbin with the Schultzes; Kelsey, Landon and Delaney at the pumpkin patch!

Clarissa and Chelsea ready for Halloween!

Steve from Oregon, Mom & Dad, and the Kudo Family visiting on Sunday.

No Words

Dear Friends & Family,

Sometimes there are just no words. What more can I say about Curt's battle with ALS? What more can I say about what it is doing to our family? How can I describe how many people have been affected by Curt's strength?

All I can say is, we are doing our best to make the most of each day and support Curt and his needs while trying to maintain somewhat of a normal family life. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

Cindy, Curt, Clarissa, Cayden & Corbin

My cousin Alyson, Jeanno, Dominic & Ethan came for a visit!

Curt's brother Bill's coworkers dedicated their MS Ride to Curt. They rode 150 miles in his honor!

Paul and his family supporting Curt!

Paige, Zach, Clarissa and Danielle on their way to see Brad Paisley!
Did I mention Clarissa saw Taylor Swift perform at the Ellen show taping two days ago?
So lucky!

Sunday Funday in honor of Kelli's Birthday!

Hanging out with Daddy!