A season of many life events…

Posted in From Al & Libbie, General, Reflections, Updates at 9:38 pm by Libbie

So much to write…so little time…

Once again it has been a long time since I wrote anything here on the blog. There have been a number of times that I have wanted to write and various events that I wanted to write about, but the time has just been too ridiculously busy. So I am going to attempt to tackle them one at a time, and if I can’t get them all done today, hopefully I will get back to the keyboard in the days ahead. Let me tell you about (1) a presentation Eowyn did at school about her dad, (2) my mother’s death, (3) Alasdair’s and my graduation from Westminster, (4) changes in the Biblical Hebrew computing center Al founded, (5) my upcoming job, and (6) last but most certainly not least, the imminent arrival of my first grandchild. We’ll see how many of those six I can actually cover today.

[inserted note: I wrote that first paragraph and most of what is below on May 30, and now it is June 7! Hence, I think I will post what is here and then hope to write more in the days ahead. Ha! We’ll see if that happens…]

In Eowyn’s interdisciplinary class they were given an assignment to do some sort of presentation on stage with one other person about “a life changing event.” Or it might even have been “the event that most changed your life,” I don’t remember. It’s a no brainer what event has most changed Eowyn’s life. I knew she was working on this project, but I didn’t know the details. She invited me to come in to observe on the day she presented, and I did. Oh man.

One of Eowyn’s good friends played Al, and besides being a really good sport to be involved at all, he did a very good job playing the part. The fact that they have been friends since 7th grade made it more special, I thought.

Eowyn started out as a baby being rocked in Al’s arms. Then she was a toddler delightedly being chased around by him. Then he gave her a piggyback as a preschooler. Then he was teaching her how to ride a bike. (All this was effectively staged with minimal props and lots of imagination, and she kept adding, subtracting or tweaking parts of her costume to fit her aging self. There was music in the background, but no speaking.) Then, Al and Eowyn were dancing.

Then as her attention was diverted by some activity, he began to quietly and bravely show signs of pain and sickness and ended up lying on the floor. Eowyn wept over him as he died, but then he stood up again, climbed an eight or ten foot step ladder, and sat on top of it, looking down on the ensuing scenes. Eowyn showed grief, anger, depression, listless apathy, quiet sadness.

Life events continued. She showed the audience a learner’s permit with great excitement, and Al rang a little bell from atop the ladder, but she couldn’t hear it, and her excitement quickly faded to sadness. Then she stood on a chair in cap and gown and cheered as she graduated, and Al rang the little bell, but again her happiness faded very quickly to grief. Then she appeared with flowers and a veil and walked—alone—down the aisle for her wedding, with unheard bells ringing from heaven, but she burst into tears and hurried off stage.

Then she came back on stage as a mature adult and interacted comfortably, smilingly, with imaginary people. But even as she mimed conversation with them, she began donning a white blouse. Once she had it on, she happily gave them a casual wave good-bye, turned, went to the ladder and climbed it. There she was welcomed by Al, who hugged and held her and gave her the bell, which she rang with joy. Curtain.

I was a mess. I had bawled through the whole thing, and I continued to bawl all the way back to the seminary, just in time for a midterm exam. The presentation was simple and profound, and it laid open Eowyn’s heart, and all of ours, for the world to see—the wonderful father Al was, the longing for him, the sharp pain of his absence, the hope of heaven. It was simply, and vulnerably, and excruciatingly beautiful. I wish I had it on tape to show you.

Two days after that presentation came spring break. We flew to and from the wedding of a very dear friend who is practically family and then left immediately from the airport to drive to southern Florida to visit Al’s family. On the way I got a call that my mother had gone into the hospital and was in the ICU. As it became clearer that her condition was pretty serious, I booked a flight to Hartford, leaving just 26 hours after we had arrived at Mom and Dad Groves’s house. (Last year we completely missed our annual trip to their house because my dad died at just that time. This year at least Eowyn and Alden got to stay there for a few days, and then Eowyn drove herself and Alden home—a 24 hour trip!)

I was able to be with my mom from Wednesday to Sunday, and the time was so precious. She was very much herself most of the time, and yet changed too. For example, she had always been the sort of person who took other people’s burdens on her shoulders and who woke up at ~2:00 a.m. nearly every night of her adult life and lay awake trying to “solve the world’s problems,” as she always put it. Worry was an old friend. But that Wednesday that I arrived, she kept marveling and reminding herself over and over that she didn’t need to worry about anything. (At times it was almost comical as she told the nurses they didn’t need to worry about anything either, including whatever it was they were doing to care for her at that moment.) I was surprised when she said, “My dear Lord Jesus Christ will take care of everything.” Her sense of relief was palpable as the burdens rolled off her shoulders into God’s hands. What a gift.

One of my sisters and I were there together (the other two having been there earlier), and apart from one truly awful night, the time with Mom was wonderful. We reminisced, and talked, and helped the staff with her care as we were able. One night she and I sang some hymns, and I was surprised, given how weak she was, how much gusto she mustered to sing them. She talked eagerly about being in heaven soon and how good that would be, and she talked about seeing the Lord, and seeing various people who have died, including Al.

The whole thing was amazing. It seemed as if the Holy Spirit had instantaneously downloaded a deep, immediate, intimate grasp of God’s grace. I’m so thankful for those days I had with her. I had to leave Sunday, but two of my sisters were there on Tuesday, when she died. I miss her.

We split up the job of calling relatives and friends, and when I called our only relative in Pennsylvania, a cousin of my dad’s who has always been the coolest lady and whom I love to death, I learned that she had just been put on hospice with congestive heart failure. I drove out to Harrisburg to see her that Saturday, and the next Wednesday the kids and I were able to visit her for the last time. She was physically weak, but sharp as a tack and funny as ever with her delightful dry wit. She passed away exactly one month after my mom.

My heart felt awfully weary from missing people I love.

Death was not meant to be a part of this world the way God originally made it. It came in as part of an assault on his character and remains an affront to his nature as the Creator of Life. When Jesus was here he felt the anguish of death. He wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. It is at times like these that I am SO thankful that he came to fix the problem of Death! Because he experienced death himself and then rose from the dead, he has broken its power over himself and over his people. That makes all the difference!

Today, as I think of Al, and my mom, and Franny in heaven, free from pain, sin and sadness and enjoying LIFE to the fullest, I am comforted. I know that they are in God’s very presence, and God is present with us, so the divide between us seems minimal. Only a matter of a few years (however long we live here) separates us, and then we will be together again. We will move from life to LIFE, just as they have, all thanks to Jesus.

[so as not to delay another couple of weeks in posting this, I am going to stop here and hope to continue sometime soon. Blessings to one and all — Libbie]


  1. Karen Schoch said,

    June 9, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    I was hoping you would write about recent events in your life! I can see God at work in mighty ways. I am so proud of you for being a woman of God even in your grief. Much love my
    BFF as Ruth would say- Karen

  2. Judy Parnell said,

    June 11, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Dear Libbie, your words always touch my heart. My friend who has never met you is the one who tells me when you have added to your blog and how much your words have meant to her. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us.
    With love to you and the family.
    Judy Parnell

  3. Kristen (Wienken) Logan said,

    June 15, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Hi Libby – I am Jennifer White & Allie Stryd’s older sister. We have met a few times over the years. I have read this blog since Al became ill, but never left a comment although it has touched me and taught me much. Jen and Allie have always spoken about you, Al and your children with such love and admiration. I have kept up with “The Groves Family” since Jen and Allie met you many years ago – you cannot imagine how they have spoken and continue to speak about what a wonderful, Godly, loving, real, welcoming, fun, humble (I could go on!) family you are. I could only read #1 above about Eowyn’s mime performance about her and Al. It just brought me to tears for so many reasons. What a blessed family you are and you have touched so many people through your lives. I appreciate you sharing some of yourselves on this blog. God bless you all. Kristen

  4. Becky Wilson said,

    June 21, 2009 at 12:45 am

    Once again, I see how God is teaching all of us layer upon layer, depth upon depth, through the reflections you constantly, faithfully gift us with. Thank you so much.

    Once again, I declare my complete gratitude to you for what it took to recount what is happening in your lives and thinking. Thank you for these meaty paragraphs! I feel as if I am on holy ground, invited as we all are into “the rest… of the story”. Thank you for taking the TIME to catch us up.

    Now I want to reread everything carefully…. MANY THANKS for all you shared with us. Know this – you are prayed for and these updates help us know how better to pray for you.

    Blessings on you and your dear family.

  5. Pete Enns said,

    July 6, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Thank you for posting this, Libby. Will you get to #s 3-6? I’d love to hear about all that, too. I am very happy to see Eowyn express her sadness in such a positive way.

  6. Jennifer White said,

    August 21, 2009 at 9:29 am

    My dear friend, I agree with Becky’s sentiments whole-heartedly.
    As I read about Eowyn’s mime I could not help but think “she is her mother’s daughter” and remember you creating and performing the Esther play for the women’s retreat many years . A delight for the soul. It made me eager to watch Eowyn’s life unfold to see how God develops her giftings and all the creative ways in which to express them as modeled by you over the years.

    “My heart felt awfully weary from missing people I love.” As soon as I read that my heart lept as it describes the state of my heart so often after having moved around the country so much over the years. Where I am frequently most compelled by your writings and this blog, Pete Enns’ articulates, “I am very happy to see Eowyn express her sadness in such a positive way.” And now I take those those compelling thoughts with me to mull over for months to come…. What difference does the gospel make in the way I respond to suffering and saddness?

    I love you Libby. You are so dear to my heart. Jen
    Whenever I think of spending time with you, I envision us taking a long walk in the woods amongst the colorful fall leaves…aaaaahhhh. Can you smell that “fall air”?

  7. Thomas Mak said,

    September 30, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Even I have graduated from WTS, you guys life testimony are always encouragements to us, on how you face death and grieve with the hope of Christ. Thank you.

  8. Linda Foh said,

    October 20, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    In Job’s inspired words (revised), “The Lord took away and the Lord gave – blessed be the name of the Lord!” My sympathies on the home-going of your mom; I’m glad you had those days with her to share in God’s mercy to her. And congratulations on the birth of your granddaughter! You don’t look like a GM!! Look forward to reading parts 3-6 some day.

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