Update 10.3.06

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Updates at 9:25 pm by Libbie

Forgive me for not writing anything here since last week.

Al’s energy held up for the two teaching sessions and speaking in chapel. He was pretty beat afterward, but not completely, so we’re very thankful. And surprisingly, he was not overcome with emotion during the chapel talk. As he had prepared for it, emotion overwhelmed again and again. Perhaps by the time he came to the talk he was drained of emotion. The bottom-line is that it was an answer to prayer, however God chose to do it. God’s help was especially clear: During the days leading up to the talk, when he had planned to finalize how to express his thoughts, all his available time disappeared due to unexpected things, and so it was Wednesday morning before we had a chance to finish the work on how to present the things that had been on his mind. In any case, it went fine. And it was a great blessing to Al to be back on campus and to see his colleagues—faculty and staff—and many students. Even some dear friends of ours from California and Harrisburg happened to be in the area and came. It was a joy-filled time.

Thursday we saw the pulmonary specialist about the bleeding in Al’s lungs, which has actually been markedly better over the past week. There are a few different treatment options, each with up and down sides, that might or might not be something to consider now or down the road. At the moment the tricky balance has to do with the blood thinners. They are needed to help with the clots in Al’s legs, one of which is still very painful unless his leg is elevated, but they also contribute to the pulmonary bleeding. Modifying the dose in either direction is problematic. Later this week we’ll check in with the pulmonologist after he’s talked with the radio-oncologist and see what their assessment is.

Al’s last whole-brain radiation treatment was yesterday, and he got all the way through the session before his hair started falling out. Right now he still has hair, but it is falling, like a gentle snowfall, and even a light wind blows some of it off his head.

The hardest thing for Al to deal with at this point is his stomach, which feels awful all the time. The only thing that relieves it is complete fasting, but there is no long-term future in that. The one bright side is that he is starting to eat things now that he didn’t for years because they bothered his stomach. He figures that if he feels lousy anyway, why not enjoy them?

Over the weekend we drove up to visit my parents in Vermont. Al and the kids had not seen them for a long time, other than for a few hours in June around Becky’s graduation, and we had planned to make the trip in August, but that got torpedoed by Al’s unexpected brain surgery. So we had been hoping that maybe the weekend of Yom Kippur, when the kids had a three-day weekend and Alden had no soccer game, we could go—if Al felt up to it. Thursday he decided that he felt strong enough to give it a try, so we did, leaving Friday after school/work/radiation and coming back Monday. It was so nice to have the time together with my parents, and we even got to see one of my sisters, who drove six hours each way from Maine to spend two hours with us, and one of my brothers-in-law, who lives in Michigan but was in Vermont on business and drove over from across the state. Lots of laughter, reminiscences and fun times that we will treasure. Al didn’t actually sleep in the car, but he kept his foot up on the dashboard for the whole trip and managed to come home not too exhausted.

At the last minute Rebeckah was able to come with us to Vermont because she was between jobs. The woman she was replacing at Kelly Services is coming back from maternity leave, but the company offered Becky a full-time job, starting today (Tuesday). She will be administering one of the on-site offices for Kelly’s largest national account, so she’ll have lots of responsibility, but she’ll also have a good salary and benefits, and she’s up for the challenge, even if it will be a bit overwhelming for a while. It’s certainly a vote of confidence from her employers!

There are little things happening that are sobering, too. One of Alasdair and Lauren’s new kittens died on Saturday, which was so sad. Al’s cherry tree, which he planted the spring Becky was born and whose cherries have brought him so much joy over the years, has been slowly dying for a year or two now and is being gradually cut down by one of our kind neighbors who will use the wood to heat his house. Several of our friends are struggling with serious and perhaps fatal illnesses. And today Alasdair and I started the task of talking to funeral homes to sort our way through the requirements and options of that process. So there are lots of reminders of the fleeting nature of life on this earth, but all in the context of the overpowering, rock-solid hope of the resurrection. I ache for people who have to deal with these things without that hope. I don’t know how they do it.

I’d better post this, or another day will go by without my doing so. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers; they mean so much to us!



  1. John Stokesbury said,

    October 3, 2006 at 10:03 pm

    Libbie, Al and all,

    I pray you have peace —

    with heartfelt prayers

  2. Thomas Mak said,

    October 3, 2006 at 10:39 pm

    I was glad to see Al on last Wednesday chapel. It was rightly that he turned the focus on God’s word than on himself. Our classmates were appreciated that you have served God with whatever you have, and not withdrawing. You and your family have set a good examples for us. I also E-mailed your last blog to two of my churches (PCA churches) in New York City to pray for you and your family. They are encouraged by your sharing too. May the Lord hold you and keep you in His arms and give you strength.

  3. Becky Wilson said,

    October 4, 2006 at 12:22 am

    Cross Movement has a song called “Cry No More”, which I heard again tonight. I love that song. There will be a time when we “cry no more”, when God has wiped every tear from our eyes and we are with Him forever and ever. That hope is solid, even as we live in this hurting, hurting world. May God give you a sure and steady knowledge of His presence in the midst of all you experience. May He meet you in the middle of the night, when you are wide awake, looking at the ceiling, hanging onto each minute of life together now, and thinking ahead to a future temporarily apart, until one day you are joined once again, in that beautiful HOME where Christ is.

  4. Craig Combs said,

    October 4, 2006 at 11:10 am

    Oh, thank you for the update, Libby. I am so happy you got to go to Vermont and see family. If you ever trave, anywhere near Burlington, I would be honored to see you or serve you (I live in Essex Junction).

    Al, I surely wish I could have come to Philadelphia for that chapel service. I am very glad the Lord showed such kindness by giving you strength to speak.

    I am still praying for you, and am sharing bits of your experience with the family of God here. The Lord is stirring me up in a good way through your ministry to me.

    This Sunday I am launching a mini-series into the Psalms, and am trying to help our people learn how to see Jesus there.

    I will come to rest on Psalm 126 for part of that sermon.
    In view of my own tears lately, and in the knowledge of all the Groves family tears, I am deeply encouraged to be reminded that “those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting” and to know that, in the final analysis, this is true because Jesus is the one who went “…to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed…” and that Jesus “…shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him…”

    He is the sower and the hope of the harvest, and our joy of restoration all rests in Him.

    May you rest in Him, and know his joy, now and forever.

    Yours for Jesus’ sake,

  5. Anne Cormier said,

    October 4, 2006 at 11:39 am

    Al and Libby,

    You and your family are every day in our prayers, and in those of our home fellowship. Your faithfulness and dignity in the face of so much physical pain and sadness, inspires. May God continue to hold you close, sustaining you.

    In Christ,
    Anne Cormier and Kim Coffman

  6. Gerard said,

    October 4, 2006 at 5:44 pm

    Oh Al, Libbie,

    What courage it all took . . . and how relieved you must feel now that you have done it! I would love to see the text of your sermon, Al, if you felt up to posting it.

    You promised prayers Al for a very difficult thing in my life on Saturday last, and the knowledge that you were praying gave me great strength in an impossible situation. Thank you.

    I went bald by choice for a few years when medication misbehaved and the sporadic rainfall of hair was nasty. People stared, but I ‘owned’ the look. I have been thinking of going bald again in solidarity with you. A constant prayer reminder. I’ll let you know when it happens.

    You are doing really well, and are a constant call to courage.

    Thank you both,


  7. Tom Kulp said,

    October 4, 2006 at 10:46 pm

    “A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner.” (I love that quote, even if I get seasick!) I was praying that you’d have the energy to make it through your speaking engagements this week. Hope you have some fun this week!

  8. The Hackenberger Family said,

    October 5, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    We continue our heart-felt prayers for you all. Thank you for your updates, they provide direction for our prayers, and occasions to rejoice with you in the midst of the tears.

    Much love,
    Martha and Greg for all the Hacks

  9. Laurie Hartman said,

    October 6, 2006 at 6:17 pm

    Dear Precious Groves….
    Boy, that is sooooo tempting to comment on…. have you taken a poll about whether orange or walnut tops the list?
    I am actually commenting on Libbie’s musings of the last blog…. That what Al is going through is so simple…. Jesus’ resurrection assures Al of the path ahead.
    Last week, I was sitting in a chair on a glorious morning watching a soccer game. The mother next to me told me that her son was hoping to attend West Point – and her other son is planning on a military career. I said, “How is that for you – being their mother?” And she assured me that both have said that their knowledge in their eternal destiny makes the possibility of a “quicker end” to be not worth thinking about.
    OK – now my tangential brain is kicking in – I am corresponding with a new believer who is also struggling with the sequelae of years of physical and sexual abuse. She was writing about the desire to just give up – to escape – to throw in the towel – perhaps even to take her own life. And, I was drawn to Hebrews 11 & 12 – particularly the fact that Jesus scorned the shame of the cross. And, it made such a picture for me…. All the we struggle with…crowding around us…..taunting us to hang our heads or cower….. And I thought of Jesus, who said to the shame pf the cross – “I WILL NOT crouch before you”….
    Anyway, dear ones…. I picture you, bloody but unbowed. May you know the stubborn endurance of Jesus – who has run the race ahead of you. (And in this football season – one thinks of the blocker – opening up the hole for the running back to sprint through)
    OK – enough. I love you all! Many prayers and blessings to you – Laurie

  10. woodyboyd said,

    October 6, 2006 at 9:23 pm

    Hello Al, I was just thinking about you and checked your website. You are an inspiration to all. Keep STRONG and I will keep you in our thoughts and prayers. Your friend. Don “Woody” Boyd and family.

  11. Barb Doerfel Lindenmuth said,

    October 7, 2006 at 2:15 pm

    Dear Al & Libbie,

    I am Martha Hackenberger’s sister – we used to be members at New Life – and now live in Lancaster. Hackenberger’s just moved out here as well. Our 30 year old daughter Sarah (who is very sick with CFIDS) started seeing a new osteopath locally, and we just found out he is Hannah and Esther Hackenberger’s Sunday School teacher – how cool is that?! – a real hug from God!

    I wanted to let you know about two prominant doctors treating cancer patients with mangosteen with much sucess. Dr’s Tootla and Dr. Edwards have both mentioned patients having been given only two weeks to live – that are alive three years later after taking the Xango 21 Day cancer challenge. Joe and I would love to make available enough Xango for Al to take if he’d like to try this. We take Xango ourselves and have found it great in treating pain, depression, anything related to inflamation (as it is an outstanding anti inflammatory), as well as lots of preventative uses. I know it sounds like a “snake oil”, but this is legit! We became distributors under Dr. John Marshall (formerly of WTS & now adjunct at Eastern U). Please let us know if you’d like to give this a try – at no cost to you – as the Lord has made it possible for us to pay for your treatment. One of Marshall’s sponsors is in remission from leukemia – she is eager to share how Xango made a huge difference in her life, and she’d be glad to answer questions you may have regarding the use of Xango in addition to chemo. She is a very active church member in Escondido, CA!! Let us know if you’d like to talk to Norma Rose. Here are two links with links regarding Xango and the clips explaining Xango’s 21 Day Cancer Challange. http://www.goxanthones.com/normar


    Thank you so much for your ministry to others, and for your time.

    For His Glory! Barb Lindenmuth

  12. Fred said,

    October 7, 2006 at 8:19 pm

    Hi, Libbie & Al.

    It was great to see you last week, and seeing you in chapel on Wednesay was a special treat, Al. I noticed that Alasdair’s hair grew drastically shorter–nearly disappeared–between Friday and Wednesday; a great son keep his dad company!

    I’m preaching tomorrow on the poem in Qo 1.1-11, wondering aloud just why he doesn’t answer his question about the profit of our toil (1.3), but suggesting that perhaps he wants us to recognize that this world is the way that it is, and that we are in it so that we can live in a real place.

    God loves us far too much to let us run away into our own hearts and live there.

    May he continue to give you great grace to live before him, to walk this path with him and among us, and to continue to be such light and salt. And may this blessing be on us all.

    In the peace and hope of Christ.


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