“Surrounded by her closest family, she stayed so strong, as I crumbled on her lap. The broken father being held together by the dying daughter. I was so proud of her and felt so much love from her.” Inspiring Women: Life with Gayle Katzenback.
The world was given a precious gift when Gayle was born. She would have a profound impact on our family, even though I had only spoken to her twice.
Gayle eventually became a close friend to my daughter-in-law Jazmin, as they went through cancer treatment together in Arizona. Jazmin and my son Eythan can testify that Gayle was one of the most loyal, sweet, and kind people they would have the blessing of knowing.
Thank you, Gayle, for being YOU! Your love is still with the people you touched with your generous spirit and gracious heart.
Life With Gayle Katzenback
March 15th 2018 was the day our barely 21yr old daughter Gayle left her earthly body and gained her heavenly wings. A rare childhood cancer known as Ewing’s-like-Sarcoma CIC-DUX4 took her from us.
The following is compilation of stories from Gayle’s family and how love and faith carried her through a 2.5 year long battle with cancer at a time when she wanted nothing more than to be “normal”.
Gayle’s father Jason recalls many years ago:
When Gayle’s kindergarten teacher came up to him in church one Sunday and had to share how at school last week, she saw Gayle at the table with her head down, and she was all alone. Being concerned, she asked if she was OK, Gayle lifted her head, gave a big smile and said yes, she was praying.
“When Gayle was younger, she loved church activities, whether it be Sparks, TNT or Camp ABK. She would ask me questions and we had many great conversations about faith, Christ and the church. As she grew up, however, and hit 14, Gayle’s drive for socializing and friends took priority, and she would choose to forego church activities, and prefer to hang with friends.
Once Gayle was diagnosed with cancer, unsurprising to many I am sure, her priorities instantly changed. What was incredible to see, however, was how the seeds of faith that had been planted in her at a young age quickly became a steady anchor for her. Gayle was confident from the get-go that the Lord would take care of her and no matter what happened, it was not in her control, but His and she would be “fine.”
It wasn’t a belief in a miraculous healing, although she did pray for that, but one of true acceptance that her Father in heaven will do what is best and promised her that He would take care of her.
Gayle was fully accepting that ‘best for her’, could very well mean dying at a young age to be with Jesus.
Over the 2.5 years that Gayle fought cancer, there was never a shortage of witnessing an utterly fearless believer.
I am by no means saying she always made the best choices, but she was never negative, ever graceful, full of joy and a complete pleasure to be around. Even at her sickest, she refused to complain and be negative but instead wanted to focus on happiness and love.
There were so many times when Gayle was the strongest of us all and helped us get through the toughest times. I recall the moment I had to tell her that the there was nothing more that could be done, the treatments stopped working, the cancer was spreading too quickly and it was time to go home.
Surrounded by her closest family, she stayed so strong, as I crumbled on her lap. The broken father being held together by the dying daughter. I was so proud of her and felt so much love from her.
Admittedly there was one thing that I struggled with about Gayle, and ironically it turned out to be something I became even more proud of her for. As a modern young woman, she was always on her phone and as her father, and I know I am not alone here, I thought I knew best and felt it was not healthy for her mind to always be on her phone. After Gayle passed, however, I heard so many stories from so many people, about how Gayle made such a massive impact on their lives.
Helping prevent suicide, poor self-belief, health issues and so much more, all of them saying the same thing. Gayle just wanted to listen and love them truly.
She would rarely talk about herself, but instead, she always wanted to listen and get to know them better and help them… all through her phone!
So many of those times that I assumed Gayle was wasting time on her phone, she was actually being a shining light of God’s love, by engaging with others and helping them through tough times. I’m not saying she was never wasting time, I don’t think anyone young or old could deny the time-wasting power today’s smartphones have, but I am saying that it was amazing to see how God can use the most unexpected things to work through us. She indeed was a beacon of light in this world who loved her family, her friends and her Father in Heaven.
I miss you, my sweet girl, I know where you are, and I look forward to seeing you again.”
Gayle’s mum Audrey reflects on her beautiful Eyes:
Proverbs 4:25 “ Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead.”
“Gayle once had a portrait of Audrey Hepburn hanging in her bedroom. A quote that the glamorous film star once made, describes Gayle so well;
It’s one of the first things one noticed about Gayle. Her eyes – that summer sky shade of blue and how big they were. They not only looked beautiful, they saw the beautiful.
Gayle’s eyes saw the good in everyone. She looked for and sought out friendships from a very young age. She had a talent for finding the unique in things others may have passed over whether it be sweaters, music, artwork but more importantly – people.
She took the time to really see them and let them know she cared about them. She saw them the way the Heavenly Father saw them, and they knew they were important to her.
Her gaze was firmly focused on Jesus. She enjoyed sharing the comfort He was providing her.
Always giving of herself, it was no surprise to learn that she had signed the organ donor section of her license and how fitting that it was the gift of her stunning blue eyes.
Gayle saw the good in others, she always spoke kindly and she walked her life knowing she was in the Father’s Hands – never alone. What a precious legacy!”
Gayle and her Poppa Ken had a very special and unique bond:
He and Grama Gaele shared how difficult it is to reflect back on those days when Gayle was going through some very deep valleys. “We can’t even imagine what that was for her, but we get glimpses from some things she wrote in texts and journaling that are so comforting, even today. Gayle taught us a lot about being selfless and caring for others. She demonstrated a steadfast, one foot in front of the other strength, when her body was so weak, that was driven by the love she had for others. We are still amazed by what she endured, not for herself only, but for family and friends.
Her response, to queries about her
wellbeing werenearly always, “I’m fine”. She later confided that she was fine only about 50% of the time.”
Poppa Ken said that “some of her journal entries give me some perspective that is so important, and often, our perspective can dramatically change the way we view situations and respond to situations. I was given Gayle’s bible, which I treasure and also received some of Gayle’s journal entries that put things into perspective:
John 19:11 you would have no authority over me, unless it had been given to you from above.
When we trust and obey God, only things that are part of God’s will happen to us. His will is the most hopeful, pleasant, and glorious thing in the world.
We need to be surrendered and believing for His will to be done.
Our lives should never cease with thanksgiving.
Even if it seems to come from Satan, by the time it reaches us, it is God’s will. (Gayle inserted a smiley face) – so encouraging.”
Other things that were shared, back and forth, in those times, from Luke 1, Ephesians 3, and Psalm 23:
Come to me with all your weaknesses: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Rest in the comfort of My Presence, remembering that nothing is impossible with Me.
Pry your mind away from your problems so you can focus your attention on Me. Recall that I am able to do immeasurably more than you ask or imagine. Instead of trying to direct Me to do this and that, seek to attune yourself to what I am already doing.
When anxiety attempts to wedge its way into your thoughts, remind yourself that I am your Shepherd.”
When we reflect on the above, the perspective is corrected and so we can move on, in faith, knowing Gayle is with her Savior, and that this life will be blessed with
But, the best is yet to come, eternity in God’s presence. As the hymn says “Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Him”.
Poppa Ken continues, “a poem that Gayle shared with me in a text has meant so much, and more, each day, to keep things in perspective. The title is “Sweet Brier Rose” written by Gertrude Woodcock Siebert in 1909. Not by coincidence, we have a brier rose bush just outside our cottage. Gayle’s mother, Audrey, did this poem, in calligraphy, and framed it for a Christmas gift.”
When Gayle’s Auntie Jane was asked to share her thoughts on Gayle’s faith she used one word…..
Grace – “the Love and Mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not necessarily because of anything we have done to earn it.”
“Gayle was full of Grace in my eyes. I was always conscious of this especially when I was spending time with her and even more so after her diagnosis. It astounded me, that she was not full of anger, sadness, despair but was compassionate, caring and always worried about her family and friends. This is not to say that she didn’t experience dark times, but she chose to be graceful. As Gayle said, “Cancer happened to me, I am not cancer! I want people to understand that regardless of the situation that has been placed in your life, your ultimate choice is how you react.”
Thoughts from Gayle’s sister, Jillian:
When Gayle was nearly three years old, she told her parents she wanted a baby sister for her birthday and so on her birthday that is exactly what she got! Exactly 3 years apart, on March 5th, Jillian was born.
“My sister was one of the fiercest people I’ve ever met, we were each other’s #1 person. Whether it was before she was diagnosed, or when she was in the hospital, she never stopped being positive. She never stopped cracking jokes or trying to make us laugh. However, she did have her moments, when you’d catch her staring off in the distance.
I remember one day, we were bringing her home from chemo, and just waiting outside for my dad to pull up our car, and Gayle was just very silent, sick and exhausted from the previous five days of chemo. She sat in a wheelchair and felt the breeze on her skin for the first time in days, and just kept looking past us, past the trees, buildings, and cars. It wasn’t easy seeing someone like that, let alone your big sister, and often at times I got angry with God, asking “Why her, why us?”
But Gayle had more positive moments than negative ones; she wanted to make sure we were going to be okay straight through until the very end. That’s what gets me every time, she worried more about me than about herself in the last months of her life.
One of the days I realized this when we were at the Mayo Clinic hospital in Arizona, we told Gayle the heartbreaking news, and I was sitting next to her bed while my family stood around her.
I couldn’t bring myself to stand up, only until she started looking around at everyone and then I realized she was looking for me. Immediately I stood up and held her, crying and telling her how proud I am of her and how much I love her.
In the moment of hearing the most terrifying news anyone can hear, she was still looking for me, to make sure I was okay.
It blows my mind. I think that is because she knew where she was going. She knew God was preparing a home for her and that she was going to be in the safest, happiest place ever created. She knew where she was going.
Her faith blossomed more than ever during her fight, she really leaned on God, and God may not have healed her, but he healed and calmed her spirit.
I believe that God designed Gayle and our family for this fight, to help others, to grow, and in other ways that we might never understand.
But I’m so thankful God blessed me with the most amazing sister, supporter, and role model, even if it was for a short 18-years. I’m so grateful for her.”
Gayle’s ‘other’ mom Charlene reflected:
“It sounds too cliche to say that Gayle fought cancer with bravery, but she was truly courageous, graceful and faithful through it all. I managed her care and yes it was stressful and absolutely heartbreaking to watch her suffer at times, I hated to see her in pain or crying as it made me feel helpless and anxious, but Gayle, she remained steadfast.” Not surprisingly, Gayle had written out the bible verses James 1:3-5 and highlighted 2 Peter 1:5-7;
…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with LOVE.
She would have her moment and then decidedly move on.
“It was bittersweet to read her journals after she passed, there were several endearing entries asking for peace for me. It’s a true testimony to everything her family has shared, she cared deeply for others and her primary concern throughout her illness was not for herself, but for her family and friends.
She taught me much about forgiveness, not in her words so much as in her actions. Gayle did not want to hold grudges, bitterness or resentment toward anyone; she wanted everyone to simply “be.” Be LOVE. On the day we received the news that she had only 6 months to live she ended an Instagram post with:
This highlights her quietude and wise passivity.”
Throughout her illness, it was Him that she relied on completely. I would like to share a bible verse and poem of the same sentiment that really resonated with her understanding and acceptance of His path for her. She wrote them both out in her journals.
“If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on earth. She noted, “the darker the cloud, the more plentiful the shower. Our troubles ALWAYS bring blessings. The clouds of heaven are much larger than the dark clouds.” Ecclesiastes 11:3
In celebration of Gayle’s life, the Katzenback family is having a Tshirt fundraiser.
If that’s not enough reason to get your newly designed Tshirt or hoodie, you should know that ALL proceeds are going directly to Gayle’s 6yr old cousin, Kayge Fowler, who is currently battling a brain tumour, known as DIPG. He was diagnosed only 2 months after Gayle’s passing 🙁
A few of the favourite organizations for cancer awareness that the Katzenback family recommends:
They do SO much for Ewings patients and research.
A lovely poem was written about Gayle: Flight of a Songbird
Please visit Jazmin’s blog and read the heartfelt tribute she wrote about Gayle and their journey together as they battled cancer and put their trust in God: It’s Fine, She’s Fine
I hope you were inspired by Gayle’s beautiful life, and love for God. If you are not sure where you stand with God right now; pray and ask Him to show you The Truth, The Life and The Way... I promise you, He will. You can also download the Holy Bible App right to your phone and read about God and his precious Son Jesus; Holy Bible APP.
Every second week I write beautiful letters about God’s love and faithfulness. I hope you will leave your name below so you can learn more about this amazing God both Gayle, her family, and I, love deeply.