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Our Dearest Family and Friends,

We’ve never written a letter to everyone before because we prefer writing when we can, but this year we thought it might make sense for a few reasons. First, there are a few thoughts we have to make sure we share with and about you, and two, there’s a right hand in the house that gets tired a little quicker than it used to.

You probably know this has been quite a year for our family. If it hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t believe it ourselves! Starting with the most wonderful puppy boys in the world, adorable Luke’s IBD flared up early in the year, but was, once again, tamed with new hypoallergenic food. He’s fine and only suffers from being the most adorable Yellow Lab on Earth. At the end of May, sweet Ernie had his second ACL surgery, this time on the right knee. This is a great surgery, but was extremely hard on Ernie because the recovery is so restrictive…on a leash with almost no lead, inside and outside the house, no jumping, quick starts or activity other than a slow walk inside the house, for about 3 months. He did great, though, and is back to playing and loving as hard as he can. Thank you Dr. Elkins! His only challenge is finding enough people to love, and faces to lick. They will both be 10 in February. We love them immensely!

What came next? Ahhh, yes, the night of June 29th, Nancy was finally out planting the flats of flowers she had bought up to a month earlier, when she walked in to the open back door. John was walking in to the family room with an arm that was uncontrollably shaking and moving around. With complete accuracy, he said, “Honey, I think something’s wrong.” He sat down on the couch while Nancy called 911. He was having a stroke, the origin of which is not very common. It was in a vein on the left side of his brain. Most occur in the artery, which leads blood to the brain, or because of an aneurysm. No reason has been found for the stroke, which is the case in about 60% of strokes.

You probably know the rest because Nancy proceeded to tell just about every detail of John’s private life via email during the next month. There were so many beautiful, loving emails, calls and inquiries that came in during those days that she found she had no choice but to begin to email updates using those email addresses she could gather quickly, so that all those who cared for and loved John would be in the loop, and could forward it to those who also knew John, or whose emails she couldn’t find right away. If she didn’t call or write back, please know it wasn’t personal.

John had a significant amount of impairment to his right side, but had an amazingly positive attitude, outlook and faith that carried him through the majority of his recovery. From the first night, he knew he was going to get better. He only lost speech for approximately 2 hours during that first night, but regained it quickly. To this day, we are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, support, love, food, love, flowers, love, visits to the hospital and home, love, yard planting, love, puppy-watching, love, hugs, love, trips to meals, therapy and other events, love, and other acts of kindness almost too numerous to mention. Did we mention love?! There was not any one gesture more significant than another because we know they were all born of an unbelievable kindness that all of you shared with us.

John spent about 9 days at Methodist, under the care of Dan Evans and Sam Odle, then transferred to RHI, the Rehab Hospital of Indiana, for another 9 days. He then spent about 45 days in outpatient rehab at the Neuro Rehab Center on the NW side of Indianapolis. Through all 3, he regained his ability to walk, to use his right hand and fingers, and to regain a good portion of the strength he lost that night in June. He was an A student, which he kept telling his therapists was his goal. I know you find that hard to believe. In each place, John was cared for by people who showed not only skill, brilliance and expertise, but in many cases, had hearts that touched us more than we could have ever imagined. They went above and beyond their jobs, and dedicated themselves to helping us heal. To them, we say thank you and we love you.

Life continued to be interesting when, a few days before John was released from the Rehab Hospital of Indiana, we found out Nancy’s mom, Ginny, from South Bend had been diagnosed with early stage lung cancer. Prior to having lung surgery, it was discovered she needed triple bypass surgery, so that took place first in mid-August. Nancy and her siblings moved in and out of their Mom’s home for the next 8 weeks, and spent many wonderful, love-filled hours with Ginny while she regained her strength. She then had lung surgery in early October, which was very difficult. Again, the Leyes siblings spent quality time with their mom up in South Bend. As Ginny says, and which Nancy and her siblings wholeheartedly agree with, what a Blessing it was for a mother and her children to be able to spend so much time together as adults. Nancy treasured her time with her mom, and is touched that she was given the gift of taking care of her, just as her mom has taken care of her for a lifetime. She adores her mother, as do her 3 brothers and sister, and their spouses.

We are happy to tell you that the girls brought Ginny here for Thanksgiving, then flew down to Florida with her, where she will spend the winter. They had a great time, and probably wore their mom out with all of the places they wanted to go! Nancy came home on December 9, so now Ginny can actually get some rest and finish her healing process! Please keep her in your prayers. She’s tough but prayers are always appreciated!

John is in his 3rd year of Ministry, after a 25-year career with the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, and has been back at work preaching and taking care of people for about 3 months. As you might imagine, there was no holding him back. He loves his life as Pastor at McCordsville United Methodist Church, and is very, very good at what he does. He is also very active as Chair of The Oaks Academy Board of Directors, and on the Blood Center board. He has spoken to a few groups about his stroke, and does a wonderful job, as one would expect!

Your prayers are still welcome as this is the challenging period of recovery we were told about, which is when healing has come to a halt, and will now come very slowly, if at all. His right hand, which we lovingly refer to as his “pesky right hand,” doesn’t do everything he needs it to do, and his leg continues to be heavier than it should be. You wouldn’t know these things by looking at him, or watching him, but they exist and are a bit frustrating. Nancy assures you we are not giving up hope for a complete recovery as it can go on for a year or two, or more in some cases. Dr. Pascuzzi is taking very good care of him. He’s very happy because he gets to go off his medications at the end of this month.

Although having to step back from client work for about 4 months while everyone healed, Nancy is trying to get back to business at her 7-year old company, Myrland Marketing, where she partners with clients around the country to help them figure out how to grow their businesses. She loves it, and enjoys the international relationships she has formed because of her interest in communicating via social media and networks, as well as her association work on the 2008 Chicago Legal Marketing Association board, Vice Chair of the Goodwill Commercial Services board, and what has now become 22 years of Chamber volunteer involvement, among other things.

Whether you were in touch with us at the time of John’s stroke, or not able to be in touch but kept us in your thoughts and prayers, or even just recently found out about this and have shared a kind thought, trust us, you are just as important to us as the person who was there from the first moment. We wish there was an adequate way to truly thank you for everything you have done for us.

To all of you we say thank you, and we love you more than you will ever know. We are sending you lots of love, and huge hugs that might hurt if they matched the depth and passion of our feelings, and our wishes for the most magical and Blessed Hanukkah, Christmas and 2009 you have ever experienced!

You, our family and friends, are among our greatest Blessings.

Philippians 1:3-4 – “I thank God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.”

With Love,

John, Nancy, Luke and Ernie