As many of you know, Bob Stromberg, husband of Joan, the publisher of Little Flowers, Blue Knights and my dear, dear friend, was diagnosed with Stage Four Colon-Rectal Cancer almost a year ago. Joan and her family said good-bye to him yesterday, Feb. 1, 2020. The story of his final days and passing are such a testimony to God’s grace and the family’s reliance and trust in God, His mercy, love and perfect plan despite what we see.
Here is her Caring Bridge entry from yesterday:
Bob passed away peacefully this afternoon at about 2:15 at home. We had three of his sisters, a nephew and niece in this weekend to join us, as well as the children. We had been running a 24-7 vigil with him for two or three days.
On Wednesday, Bob was able to receive the Anointing of the Sick from our pastor. He had found that the stairs were too difficult to navigate, so we rearranged the bedroom so he could lay or sit in a recliner. Later that day, a hospital bed was delivered to the house and we set it up in the living room. On Thursday, Bob had about twenty visitors from work, our IC family and Regnum Christi. Although he was declining quickly, he asked the group of 15 or so men to pray the Rosary with him. It was a very powerful moment to see all these men, most of them who had been mentored by Bob in some way or another, gather around the hospital bed to pray with and for him.
On Friday, Bob was about the same. The hospice nurses, who are amazing, came in and evaluated and adjusted Bob’s meds so he wouldn’t be in pain. Bob’s sister, Lisa, also came into town and his other sisters flew into Lousiville in the afternoon. The adult children had done an absolutely great job taking shifts in order to make sure Bob was never alone.
Saturday, Bob became pretty agitated and the pain meds were not working. We called hospice and they came out and adjusted his pain, sedation and other meds. The hospice worker stayed for several hours to make sure the new med combos worked. They seemed to be working, but Bob’s breathing was very shallow and labored. I had set my phone to play the Rosary and Marian hymns quietly in the background and our oldest son, Joe, prayed along with the Rosary and his wife, Elise, prayed with the Bible in the background. Bob started to settle his breathing and the hospice nurse said that we could give him more meds in a half hour and left. After a half-hour of praying the Rosary with him, I went to get the meds and noticed that Bob was still breathing, but his eyes were not responsive. We called everyone in to say goodbye and when the last one said goodbye, he stopped breathing.
What a wonderful blessing to have so much family around at such a difficult time. What a beautiful blessing to have him pass pain-free after a morning full of pain. How beautiful to have him home surrounded by a loving family to caress and love him.
Thank you all for your prayers and love during these months. Our mourning will continue and our sadness will continue, and our love will be forever. We do know that God’s Will is perfect, but we don’t know that God’s Will ultimately is. It is now known to Bob. We will forever hold him in our hearts and minds and will one day know why He took him so early.
In our family, we’ve frequently used the image of entering the afterlife as entering a filled stadium full of people you’ve helped bring into the Kingdom of Heaven. I’m sure Bob’s stadium is full and getting fuller. Several of the kids said, “I will be in Dad’s stadium when I die.” Thank you, dear, for being an awesome child of God, husband, father, and man of integrity. I will always love and miss you.
Simeon spoke of Mary’s heart being pierced with sadness; Joan knows some of that sadness now. During this feast day may we lift her and her children up in special way.