09.07.06

News from the homefront

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Reflections, Updates at 10:39 pm by Libbie

It’s been a while since we posted anything, so let me catch you up to date on happenings around the Groves household, medical and otherwise. Some of this is just newsy stuff about the household, but I’ll mark the paragraphs about Al’s medical condition with *** so that if you only have time or inclination to read those you can find them easily.

Early last week, when Al was back in the hospital downtown (8/28-29), I discovered that I had reached some kind of emotional limit. I was beat from too many short nights and early mornings, but I was also emotionally frazzled. Even relatively small monkey wrenches thrown into the schedule discombobulated me, and if those monkey wrenches involved my having to make decisions about things (even dumb things like whether one of the kids’ friends could spend the night at the last minute…), I felt unable to sort out factors, and my nerves jangled. Whereas Sunday (8/27) I had felt that things were manageable and told the meals coordinator at our church that I thought we were fine taking care of meals on our own, Tuesday I called and told her I had hit the wall and would love to receive help with meals.

But once Al was back home and we all caught up on some sleep, things began to get better. People have brought us food, done laundry for us, and held us up in prayer, and we are feeling much better. Just being based at home rather than out of a hospital in the city makes such a difference. We’re very thankful for that.

Then the middle of last week Eowyn’s wisdom tooth socket got infected, so we saw the oral surgeon, but then the next day she woke up violently, writhingly ill, along with the terrible pain in her mouth. I took her to the doctor (thankfully we didn’t need to go to the ER this time!) to rule out appendicitis or an allergic reaction. In retrospect, it was probably due to my foolishness in giving her the prescribed pain medication on an empty stomach in the middle of the night, combined with a few other factors. By the next day, when the antibiotics kicked in, she began to feel much better.

Al’s youngest brother, Bryan, and his two children came to visit us last weekend from Florida, and that was great. Unfortunately it rained most of the time they were here, so the fun things we had planned to do with them had to be shelved, and Eowyn’s sickness and doctor’s visit happened the first day they were here, but they were good sports and content to just hang around the house and create their own fun. Our older kids each had out-of-town company over the weekend too, so Sunday we had 15 for dinner after church. It was wonderful to have all those smiling faces around the table.

Plus, Bryan is an incredibly handy guy, so he fixed all kinds of things around here that have been needing to be done forever. Doors now have handles, one door can now close and latch for the first time in 18 years (happens to be the door of Alden’s bedroom, so he is thrilled), the toilet flushes better, there is a light on the landing of the basement stairs, a blind on the kitchen window, and new fluorescent bulbs in the kitchen, the kitchen sink has full water pressure again instead of just a dribble…it’s amazing! And, not only did Bryan fix a badly leaking faucet in the basement so that we don’t have to turn it on and then off every time we want to use the outside spicket, he also taught me how to cut pipes, install a new faucet, and solder the connections! Wow! What a gift and a blessing. Bryan and the kids left on Monday.

***The blood clot in Al’s right leg became steadily worse as last week progressed, which was not unexpected, since he had been off the blood thinners and on some coagulants for the surgery, and at some point he developed one in his left leg to go with it. The clots have proven to be more limiting and life-affecting than the surgery by a long shot. Before they developed he was walking around just fine, even three days after the brain surgery, but now It’s painful for him to walk at all, and at one point in the middle of last week he was reduced to crawling from the couch to the bathroom and back, as he was last March. But he started the blood thinners as scheduled last Friday and has also started wearing compression stockings on both legs 24/7, and yesterday we began to see a little improvement. As of today he is still using a cane (and a wheelchair to go out) but getting around with something less like a hobble and more like a walk.

Monday, after watching Al make his way agonizingly up the stairs for a rest in the afternoon, Eowyn and I looked at each other and had the same thought: to set up a bed for him on the first floor. So we took apart the back room off the kitchen, cleared it out, hauled and rearranged furniture from there and all over the house, and had a grand time doing it. The result was satisfying—a cozy bedroom for Al so he can stay on the first floor and still rest whenever he needs to without being in the middle of phones ringing and traffic in the living room. He was surprised, and he’s slept down there ever since.

***Tuesday was a pretty tough day for Al. He was feeling rotten all over—head, legs, chest, stomach—as if he had the flu or something, and he was fatigued and a bit listless. It lookedas if he was heading in a downward direction, and the trajectory looked grim. I started thinking in terms of time moving fast.

***But yesterday (Wednesday) he woke up feeling much better and with more energy. The trajectory was in a different and positive direction, and that was so encouraging. We had an appointment with the neurosurgeon downtown, and Al was worn out by the end of it, but he was still much better than the day before. (At the appointment, the place was packed with patients waiting to see the doctor, who was running behind schedule, probably through no fault of his own. Al and I were both sleepy, so as we were waiting in the large consultation room with a soft carpet we were tempted to lie down on the floor and catch a nap until the doctor came in. And when I say we were tempted, I’m not being metaphorical—we actually were in the process of getting up and figuring out if we could do that when we realized that it would take Al ages to get back up once the doctor came in, so it wasn’t worth the experiment. It would have been awkward, but amusing…)

***Today Al felt better still. He even felt energetic enough to attend convocation at Westminster, and that was a blessing to his (and my) soul. It was such a joy to him to see friends, students, and colleagues of all kinds, and the ceremony itself was an encouragement and inspiration, especially the address by Professor Elliott Greene. As he talked about God–who he is, what he’s done–it was like waves of refreshing water washing over our souls.

I can’t possibly tell about all the things Eliott reminded us of about how incredibly glorious Jesus is and what an unspeakable privilege it is to belong to him and be part of his kingdom, but I’ll pick this one image he painted for us. He reminded us that Jesus’ death on the cross was not a passive thing that he simply endured, but rather a ferocious attack on the enemy—sin and death—in which that enemy was defeated and destroyed by Jesus’ obedience to the Father that flowed from his passionate love for Him. Elliott said he pictures it like shark hunting in which Jesus gets ready to jump into the water to take on the shark. Jesus explains to his disciples that his plan is to get swallowed by the shark, rip out the shark’s insides, and then jump back into the boat. When the skeptical disciples ask, “Don’t you think that will smart a bit, mate?” he says, “Yes. But the shark will be dead.” Jesus took on human flesh, immersed himself in this messed-up world and chose to undergo a horrific execution in order to take on sin and death and rip out their guts. Crucifixion smarted plenty, but it worked. His resurrection—his startling jump back into the boat—destroyed the enemy. Hallelujah! That was a great reminder, both of what it cost Jesus to redeem us and of the triumph of his resurrection that broke the power of death over him and also over us as we are united to him.

Eowyn started school yesterday, and Alden today. They (especially Eowyn) feel short on the oomph and enthusiasm needed to jump into the challenges and demands of a new school year, being sort of emotionally drained, but the Lord has been helping them.

Tomorrow Al has a CT scan, and I suppose we’ll hear the results Tuesday at our appointment with our oncologist at Penn.

The Lord continues to hold us up, surround us with the love of people, and remind us of his tender love. We feel very much cared for and held close to his heart.

***I’ll leave you with two “snapshots” of Al from yesterday’s appointment, one serious and one humorous. The serious one came from the neurosurgeon, whose care and compassion have been outstanding. We think we may have sensed behind his professional and sensitive comments that he doesn’t necessarily expect or hope to see Al again at the next scheduled appointment in three months, though perhaps we misread him. But he said some wonderful things about Al, including that he has been struck by how magnanimous he (Al) is, and he said simply and honestly that Al is the kind of person he would like to be when he grows older. He is a professional at the top of his game, so to speak, but it was a rare moment of honest personal connection, and we were touched by his candor and sincerity. Throughout this process I have watched person after person notice that there is something unusual about Al. He is genuinely interested in people, he appreciates whatever large or small thing it is that they do for him and makes sure to tell them so, he puts himself in their shoes and sees things from their perspective, and he goes out of his way to encourage them. I know it’s the Lord in him. The character of God worked into Al’s heart is noticeable and attractive. It’s a living-out of the verse I learned as a kid, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

The second “snapshot” came after the appointment. Al waited on the sidewalk outside the doctor’s office in the wheelchair while I got the car. After I crossed the street and before I disappeared around a wall, I looked back at Al, and I wished I had the camera. He was wearing his doo-rag and sunglasses, with a bit of his black eye and bruised face showing, sitting in the wheelchair and playing with his cane, looking unintentionally as tough and macho as could be. When I told him so after I picked him up he told me that I must not have been alone in that impression because all of the passers-by and the people waiting in front of the building avoided making eye contact with him. But then a tough-looking guy dressed all in black, with enormous black boots and a punk hairstyle came right up to him and asked him if he knew where the liquor store was! Must have thought they were kindred spirits, I guess. We had a good laugh over that.

I’ve gone on long enough and then some, so I’ll close. Thank you for your camaraderie and your prayers. We are deeply grateful for both.

Blessings,

Libbie

9 Comments »

  1. Amy Givler said,

    September 7, 2006 at 11:41 pm

    Thanks for these beautiful snapshots. I love the image of the tough-guy Al frightening the passers-by, especially since I know the real Al is the man the neurosurgeon recognized.

    I pray for you guys regularly. Thanks for the tips on how to pray specifically.

    “The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)

    With love,
    Amy Givler

  2. Allie S said,

    September 8, 2006 at 8:56 am

    I know God is glorified through these your good works, Al and Libbie. Jesus the shark hunter, what an image! This morning we pray. We love you.

  3. Rich Ransom said,

    September 8, 2006 at 10:17 am

    Al, Libbie, and Groves Family,

    I check your blog almost every day and I am always more astonished by what I read. Your family’s example of faith and hope in the promises of our Lord is a blessing to us all. Of all the things your family has taught me, I believe the one thing that has impacted me the most is to live in the knowlegde that each day is a gift from the Lord and I am to live it to the fullest for His glory. Thank you all for sharing your joys and sorrows with us.

    Praying for you daily,

    Rich

  4. Stan Gale said,

    September 8, 2006 at 10:37 am

    Libbie,
    Thanks for taking the time to draw those who are praying for all of you into what you’re going through. Your comments prompt heartache with a smile. Praise God for His life and hope that transforms situations.
    Stan

  5. Gerard Norton said,

    September 9, 2006 at 5:32 am

    Thank you Libbie.

    That must have been difficult to write. There are big shadows in it, despite the sunlight. But you are kind to all of us who care about Al and you, and all your family. Thank you again,

    Gerard Norton (a friend of Al’s from the Bible project)

  6. Fred said,

    September 10, 2006 at 8:29 am

    Hi, Al & Libbie–what a great newsletter. Almost like being a bird in the tree outside your home, watching things get fixed (well, that part was a little too convicting–perhaps you’d loan Bryan out next time he comes!), the room transformed, and then fluttering around at the doctor’s. It sounds like a shower of angels–Bryan, Elliott, and the blessing of hearing your doctor’s response.

    Well, I’ve felt that way about you for many years, Al. I hope that the Lord will make me more like you throughout my days.

    May this great God, who sheds his grace with such abandon and blessing, continue to strengthen you all whether the waters are up to your necks or you the desert stretches far and wide.

    All blessings in Christ.

    Fred

  7. John said,

    September 11, 2006 at 5:32 am

    Al and Libbie:
    Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. The Lord has indeed been kind to the both of you, not to mention us who are following your trail.

    Al, thank you for the example you are setting for us “young bucks” who are beginning our journey. I, too, especially enjoyed the part in Libbie’s post about Jesus the shark hunter – the slayer. It remined me of Asland in Narnia. I will pray that God’s ever present grace will be your strength today.

    The grace of the Lord Jesus be with your spirits today.

    Johnny O

  8. Nick Clark said,

    September 12, 2006 at 11:56 pm

    Libbie, thank you for all you write; espically the way in which you write it!

    Al, press on and glorify the Father more and more each day! For it is clear to me and just stunningly beautiful to hear your wife or family talk about how the Lord is using you!

    I want to thank you for living your life as open as you have. It has been espically helpful for me, a true encouragment in times when I wasn’t even looking for it, but in much need of it.

    As often as I think about your family I will be lifting you up in prayer before our Father, may He be blessed ever more and more.

    Grace and Peace
    -Nick

    FYI I was a student at WTS 2003-2005 in the MA in Counseling.

  9. JJ Miller said,

    September 29, 2006 at 11:45 pm

    Praying for Al and Libbie and the family. From a friend of a friend.
    God richly bless.
    JJ

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