Another year has come and gone–four now, since Al left us. In some ways it’s hard to believe it’s been that long, and in others it seems forever.
We had a wonderful day yesterday observing the date. Becky came home from Maryland for the day, and Eowyn surprised us and came home from Ohio for the weekend. Alden and I were astonished to see her walk in the front door Friday night! It was nice to have the four of us together. Plus, a tradition has developed that a few of Al’s close friends get together for lunch on Feb 5th. Nothing fancy or formal, but a time to reflect. Since the anniversary was a Saturday this year, their wives were able to join us too, which was great. We all shared memories of Al and appreciation of the blessing he was in our lives, and then they asked us, as they always do, how each of us is doing, another year down the road. Their love for Al and their interest in us continue to make us feel wrapped in God’s intimate care.
I’ll share with you some of the things I shared with them when it was my turn.
There are so many things I am thankful for from 2010. I love my job. What percentage of people on the planet can say that? It is a rare blessing to wake up each morning looking forward to the work you’ll be doing all day. That alone is wonderful, but I have also been realizing what a mercy it is to me to have something so engaging occupying so much of my attention at this particular point in my life. If I had lots of free time on my hands and not much to do with it, I think dealing with the grief would be much harder. It makes me think about the challenge several of my widow friends have faced.
I am thankful to see the kids moving on with their lives. It has been an indescribable blessing to me to have them nearby for most of the past four years. I can’t tell you how wonderful that has been and how much it has eased the pain for me–probably for all of us–to be together. But now they are picking up and moving forward.
Alasdair and Lauren moved to New Hampshire last June to start a Christian counseling center there affiliated with the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation here in Philly where Alasdair trained. They love being back in New England, and the center seems to be getting off the ground and growing. (See their website at www.ccef.org/new-england-affiliate-office or under www.ccef.org Right now Alasdair is featured on the “ask the counselor” section of the CCEF home page.)
Becky moved to Maryland in August to be a (jolly good) Fellow at the Trinity Forum Academy. She is over-the-moon in love with the place and growing in so many ways as well as having the time of her life. Reportedly, she is the life of the party, which doesn’t surprise us a bit. (See her blog at bgrovesfellowship.wordpress.com)
Eowyn moved to Ohio in August of 2009 to start college at the College of Wooster. She loves it there. She has made lots of new friends and is involved as a volunteer leader in Young Life, mentoring high school girls. She likes Wooster so much that she didn’t even come home last summer but stayed there and worked for the college.
Alden is enjoying senior year of high school MUCH better than junior year, has applied to a slate of colleges and is looking forward to making the final decision about where he will be next year. He joined the swim team last year on a bit of a lark, and now he is co-captain. In an amusing turn of affairs, he was voted “most outgoing” by his senior class of six hundred-some kids. It’s been really nice for me to have this time with him at home alone.
None of us will ever stop missing Al, and both his legacy and the pain of his absence will always be a shaping factor in our lives, but it gladdens me to see that they have healed enough to move forward into the future of their lives. God is faithful, and he is good.
I anticipate that the “empty nest” will feel very empty next year. I am someone who isn’t bothered by being along, but I will miss having someone to share dinner with and to talk over our days together. This too makes me aware of the hardship some of my widow friends have faced who lost their husbands after their kids were grown and who faced the silence and solitude of the empty nest immediately. It’s has been wonderful to have the kids around these past years. I will miss the kids, and the solitude will make me miss Al in yet a new way, but I have to admit that I will NOT miss cooking!
Of course one of the most wonderful things for all of us continues to be Alasdair and Lauren’s daughter Emily. She is the best! She is a year and a half old, which I think is one of the most fun ages, and she is all about non-stop action, new discoveries every day, learning, learning, learning, talking up a storm, being ridiculously cute, and spilling personality all over the place. What more could anyone possibly want? If you think I’m exaggerating, check out her blog at babyeclaire.blogspot.com.
Most of the time I live in the present of Emily’s existence. But every now and then something brings to the fore the painful reminder that Al is not here to know and enjoy her. That sadness, when I entertain it, is like a stab in my heart.
About a month before Al died we stopped on the way home from a medical appointment downtown to visit friends who had just had a new baby. The father took a picture of Al holding the baby, and I remember thinking even in that moment that that tiny, bundled little guy was unknowingly standing in for any future grandchildren we might someday have.
Last week I was corresponding with those same friends, who now live overseas and whose son just turned four last month, and I mentioned that I’d been remembering that day that we saw them in the hospital. The next day they sent me a copy of the picture of Al holding their son. I already knew what the picture would look like, so I didn’t anticipate it having quite the impact that it did, and I made the mistake of opening it before class. Oh boy. It’s the look of excitement and joy in Al’s eyes that undid me. He loved babies, and he loved these friends, and on top of that they had suffered several miscarriages before this son was born, so his delight at the safe arrival of this little tyke knew no bounds.
Looking at the picture and seeing Al so obviously thrilled with that little child made it as painful as a lance through the chest that he will never know our any of our grandchildren. He would be out-of-control, over-the-top excited about Emily and would probably drive all of his friends and colleagues nuts talking about her all the time. I can see it in his eyes in that picture. It grieves me beyond words that he doesn’t have that chance.
And the flip side of it is that Emily will never have the chance–in this life–to know him. She likes to look at pictures, and sometimes when we look at photos, Al is in them. And I realized that he doesn’t have a name. Would he have wanted to be Grandpa (the name he called his grandfathers and that our kids called his dad)? Or Poppy (what our kids called my father)? Or something else? He and I had never talked about what we wanted grandchildren to call us, so I don’t know if he had ever thought about it or what he would have chosen. I only ever knew one of my grandparents. Of the other three, two lived long enough that my older cousins got to know them and had a name for them, so we knew of them by those names. To us, the third was simply “Mommie’s mother.” It makes me sad to think of Al being relegated to that status. Ironically, when Alasdair called yesterday it came out, before I even brought up the topic, that he had been thinking exactly the same thing and had decided that he would refer to Al as “Grandpa.” So for Emily at least, that is settled and Al now has a name. I’m glad.
It is wonderful to think that in heaven Emily will meet her Grandpa, and he will meet her, and the two of them will have a lovely time getting to know each other, comparing notes about how God was faithful in their lives, ways that they grew to know him, and any number of other things. (Whether any of us will care in that place about lesser things that happened in this life or not I don’t know– maybe they’ll talk about those things too–but aspects of their relationships with God and how those grew in this world where they walked by faith and not yet by sight will matter.) How nice that will be! It’s just one more reason that I look forward to being there someday. Won’t it be fun for my mom to meet Emily too! She was excitedly looking forward to her first great-grandchild, but she died a month before Emily was born. Mmmm, the anticipation of heaven is delicious to savor.
One more thing that I am thankful for of late is that the computer center Al founded–formerly known as “The Westminster Hebrew Institute,” but renamed in 2006 ¬†“The J. Alan Groves Center for Advance Biblical Research”–FINALLY received non-profit status a few weeks ago. Hurray! Now at last we can begin fund-raising for the center and hopefully move forward toward further stages of the vision that Al had of using the computer in the study of the ancient Hebrew text. While he was alive the center made great strides and accomplished a great deal that underlies most of the Bible software available today, and he left it in the capable hands of Kirk Lowery, who has done a wonderful job carrying forward that plan. But there is still much more to do that Al envisioned, and at last we can forge ahead on it. Maybe some time later I will post something about what the center is up to and its vision for the near and distant future. In the meantime, if you are interested in that sort of thing, check out the website at www.grovescenter.org.
And so, on we go. I assured Al before he died that the Lord would take exquisite care of us, and he certainly has done that and continues to do so. I could not possibly begin to list all our blessings here–not even by category! The Lord has been SO faithful, and tender, and intimately involved in our lives and in caring for our needs of body and soul. Much of that care has come through people who have loved us lavishly as well. We feel surrounded, and supported, and carried.
I could write so many stories of ways that the Lord has been here and has helped me take care of things that I would never have believed I could do as a single woman homeowner–buying a used car, replacing the furnace when it broke, switching electric suppliers, and getting the house insulated, to name just a few. In each case he took care of things in such a way that I never felt that angst, or panic, or alone-ness of being a single woman without a clue. Which is not to deny that I am a single woman without a clue about those sorts of things! But that is precisely the point. Even as such, I have not once felt alone. The Lord has been right here with me, and together we have handled those things. Or more accurately in many cases, he has handled them and I have simply watched. It has truly been amazing.
Well, this update has become very long. Sorry about that. I’ll stop now and pray that wherever you are and whatever path you are walking, the Lord will walk it with you, and you will be aware of his presence alongside you. May you have eyes to see his majesty and may it take your breath away, and may his tender mercy give you strength for the journey.
All praise to his glorious name,