Hello Again–

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Reflections, Updates at 5:53 pm by Libbie

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything here. I have wanted to again and again, but one day after another gets away from me.

It’s been more than five weeks now since Al died. We are taking one day at a time and finding the Lord faithful and with us. School has been hard for Eowyn and Alden, with the difficulties having different foci for each of them.

Eowyn has struggled with feeling overwhelmed and discouraged with all the schoolwork she has to make up. The week before Al died she was physically present in school but not able to concentrate much and definitely not working on long-term assignments. Then she missed two weeks completely, and the first two weeks she was back in school she had no oomph or emotional energy to dive into schoolwork. She made as much effort as she could to attempt some of the current assignments of those two weeks, but she kept falling farther and farther behind. So by the beginning of March she basically had a 5-week slide to try to reverse. That was so discouraging that it was disabling, and the more the work piled up the more discouraged she became. You know how those downward spirals go. Eowyn’s teachers have been understanding about giving her time to make things up, some of them have written off some of the assignments, and some of the them have been extremely supportive and encouraging, which we appreciate so much. But the volume of work, which includes two term papers (remember how mammoth those seemed in high school?), still seems daunting.

But we’ve tried to map out a plan to chip away at the pile in manageable, if not very fun, chunks, and in the past two or three weeks she has made progress in getting some assignments handed in, tests taken, etc. Every little bit helps. I think maybe that encourages me more than it encourages her, but she’s been a trooper. She’s plowing into her term papers, she’s trying to get on top of trig and chemistry concepts that she missed that affect what the class is learning now, and sooner or later it will all be behind her. She can’t wait. Last week she got her learner’s permit to drive, which she is enormously excited about, and the “upper” of that has come at a good time to offset some of the drudgery of work. Thank you, Lord!

For Alden, who didn’t have too much work to make up, the biggest challenge has been dealing with junior high life. It’s hard to know how to comfort a friend who is grieving at any age, and it would be unreasonable to expect junior high kids to figure that out at 13 or 14. No one has been intentionally mean at all, but they do sometimes say and do things that end up being unintentionally hurtful. Jokes that make fun of “your mom” or “your dad” are probably harmless enough, but when your dad’s just died, they’re not very funny. However, that may not occur to the eighth grader making the joke. Or there’s the girl who asks, “Who do you like? Who do you like? Who do you like? You have to like somebody; everybody likes somebody. So who do you like?” and keeps it up for 20 minutes without a break. Or if Alden has heavy things on his mind and therefore gets quiet and doesn’t join in whatever silly stuff happens to be going on, kids (probably meaning very well) ask him if he’s all right and keep asking him until he does join in just to get the spotlight off himself. So he feels as if all day at school he has to pretend that he is happily part of whatever inanity is going on and that everything is fine, nothing is wrong and nothing is on his mind. That is wearing. Plus, a teacher that Alden really, really likes was recently promoted to a new job (which he will excel at—he’s great), so today was his last day in class.

I dropped one of the two classes I was taking this spring, which I have no doubt was the right decision. I had figured I would just move ahead with both classes, see how that went, and adjust as necessary, trusting the Lord to make the way clear one way or the other, and he did. I am slowly learning this business of living life a day at a time and trusting the Lord to guide me when I don’t have all (or maybe even any of!) my ducks in a row. It became obvious that keeping up with other things in life right now was going to preclude being able to get to the reading for the one class, so the clear choice was to drop it. I had a midterm in the remaining class this week, and that course will keep me plenty busy.

Last Thursday I had minor outpatient surgery on my wrist (to remove a cyst—no big deal), and that is healing nicely as far as I can tell. Our church and some Westminster students are continuing to send meals while my hand is in a splint/cast for two weeks, and that is getting me out of washing dishes as well. I’m going to be completely spoiled…

On Tuesday I went through Al’s clothes in preparation for a clothing collection. I wasn’t sure how hard that was going to be, but it wasn’t too bad for the most part, and I came up with a neat idea for what to do with some of them. There were two hard parts, though. One was when I found something special Al had made for me that he had tucked away in one of his drawers so that I would find it whenever I eventually went through them. Thoughtful to the end. The other was a collection of photo album pages in his closet that held pictures from 30 years ago when we were dating and first married. Remembering those early years and seeing the pages of pictures of me that Al had amazingly cherished made me bawl. When I came through the living room Eowyn saw that I had been crying and asked why. When I told her, she settled herself in “the snuggle chair,” made me come sit in her lap, and put her arms around me and comforted me. I am so loved!

So we walk on, one step at a time. We miss Al terribly, but we are certainly glad that the Lord is here with us, and we’re glad for Al’s sake that he is in heaven. It’s sort of like getting to graduate early. High school and college can be fun, but if you know what you want to do with your life, then being allowed to leave school early to go do it is supremely exciting, even if you’ll miss your school buddies. It’s a bummer for them to be left behind, but it’s fantastic for the early graduate. That’s how I think of Al’s death in some ways. He would have chosen to stick around longer with us and with all his buddies here, but since he got tapped to jump ahead now and start on the real business of living Real Life, I wouldn’t want to wish him back here in training camp.

Last Sunday in church as we worshipped I felt intense emotions in three different directions at once, seemingly conflicting and yet all true. First, as I often do, I pictured all of us in the congregation standing before God’s throne, worshipping the king. I think that is really what’s happening when we worship. As I stood aware of that, I realized that Al is standing, worshipping before that same king, just more real-ly than we are. So it was almost as if I wanted to look around the throne room of heaven and see if I could pick him out in the multitude. Being part of the same throng praising God together—those on earth and those in heaven—I felt so close to Al.

Second, and at the very same time, I missed him so intensely that my eyes were like faucets.

And third, I realized how very much Al had longed all his life to be exactly where he is right now, and I was SO GLAD for him. Back when Al’s grandfather died in 1979 Al felt first sadness that he wasn’t going to be able to see him as planned (we were about to leave on a long trip to go visit him), then confident that he would in fact see him again in heaven, and then envious that his granddad was getting to do something that we would have to wait many years to experience—seeing Jesus face to face. Al was not surprised at the sadness or the hope, but he was surprised by the envy. I think it was the first time he became aware of what a longing he had to go home and be in God’s actual presence. Of course he enjoyed all the big and little things in life while he was here, people most of all, but that longing to be with Jesus was always there underneath. And now, there he is! He is lifting his hands and probably dancing with abandon before the Lord in freedom, health, Life, and triumphant joy, as his heart longed to do for so many years.

When Al and I were dating we liked to sing a song from Psalm 27. It’s the only song I remember him harmonizing to, and the harmony he sang was beautiful. The words are:

One thing have I desired of the Lord;
that will I seek after–
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life.
One thing have I desired of the Lord;
that will I seek after–
to behold the beauty of the Lord
and inquire in his temple.

That is where Al is now and what he is doing, and I can only imagine the joy he is experiencing in being there and doing it.

May we all look forward to joining him…