“A little too fast, and in the wrong direction…”

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Updates at 3:48 pm by Libbie

(That’s a quote from a version of the Pinnochio story that my older sister Louise and I grew up on. She and I used to quote it a lot, and I still think of it often, although I never say it because no one else remembers it–which makes me miss her. Anyway, it seemed a propos for this situation.)

Al is feeling distinctly less well than he was a week ago. He is experiencing extreme fatigue, significantly compromised coordination and balance, and a great deal of abdominal pain. Whether or not his fall (see 1/18/07) directly contributed to the latter is unclear, but he is very uncomfortable.

It’s amazing what difference a week can make. Every Tuesday Al goes to the local hospital for a routine blood test. For most of the fall I drove him there, but for several weeks leading up to last week he drove himself. Last Tuesday he did so, dropping Alden off at school on the way, parking a couple of blocks from the hospital, walking in, getting the test, walking back to the car, and then driving home. In contrast, today I drove him right up to the front door and procured one of the available wheel chairs to wheel him the 100 yards or so to the blood drawing station. It was a major undertaking and output of energy for Al to slowly walk 20 or 30 feet from the car to the place where we met as I came back with the wheel chair, and after we got home from the test he slept for three hours.

Some of this may be a result of the slightly lower steroid dose, and we’ve been talking with the team at Penn about how best to adjust that, but it seems likely that at least part of it represents a marked downturn in Al’s general condition. Maybe bringing the dose of steroids back up a bit will make all the difference, but we are not necessarily counting on that.

Also, Al continues to have more and more difficulty typing and having the words make sense. (If you’ve received an email from him that seems confused, bear with him—we now have an explanatory note that will appear on all his emails.) Most of that is from the brains tumors, although it is not helped by the fact that he doesn’t have a lot of sensation in his right hand, so he can’t feel where his fingers are on the keys. Now he is having a little trouble speaking as well. He sometimes has to back up and try again several times to get words to come out right, and his speech is sometimes a bit slurred too. Thankfully, so far all the thoughts are fine in his head; they just don’t come out smoothly.

On the bright side, we had a nice visit with Al’s parents from Florida and one of our nephews from California over the weekend. We hung out at home, talking, playing pinochle, keeping things low-key, and (for the tropical members among us) trying not to freeze. It was wonderful to see them and have some time together.

So, on we go. The hope of heaven is increasingly precious. Some time I’ll write more about what that means to us, but right now I have to go take Alden to the doctor. (He spiked a high fever on Sunday that has gone up and down repeatedly and should be looked into…)

For the present, at least, Al is not up to having visitors. But we do welcome and appreciate your prayers! Thanks for standing with us.



  1. dan cason said,

    January 23, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    thank you for the update.
    please know that we continue to pray for you guys

  2. Mariana said,

    January 23, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    Thanks for letting us know how to support you. We are praying for all of you.

  3. barbarafinlay said,

    January 23, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    Dear Al and Libbie,

    Just to let you know that the women’s prayer groups continue to be much in prayer for you both. Thank you both for your love for the Lord and being such an encouragement to us in the midst of your suffering. Praying that God will envelop you in His heavenly peace and pour out His blessing upon you.

    love Barbara

  4. Bo Ljungberg said,

    January 23, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    Dear Friends,

    Standing with you before God, not knowing what words to use, but trusting Him Who knows and reads our hearts (Ps 10:17).

    Bosse (Sweden)

  5. Diana Fraizer said,

    January 23, 2007 at 11:43 pm

    We continue to pray for God’s grace and mercy to you. Thank you for your transparency before us. Our good God is encouraging us in the gospel through your journey. May you be encouraged as well.

    Much love,

    Diana and Jeff

  6. Mabel & Phillip Hui said,

    January 24, 2007 at 1:30 am

    We are praying for your family!
    May God grant you all the strength to walk the path He has set before you!

    Praying for you!
    Phillip & Mabel

  7. The Hackenberger Family said,

    January 24, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    The Hackenberger Family continues to stand with you: with love, with prayers, with hope.
    May God’s grace continue to sustain you each step along the way. May His unfailing faithfulness surround you with peace. May His precious promises fill you with hope.
    May you find comfort in the Hand that counts your tears, that remembers your frames, that has a plan not to harm or destroy you but to give you hope and a future.

    Praying with and for you with all our love,
    The Hacks

  8. Jeff and Nina McRobbie said,

    January 24, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    Thanks so much for the update.
    We are standing with you, though continents away.
    Much love in Jesus,
    Jeff, Nina and Jonas

  9. Ryan and Rachel Sutherland said,

    January 24, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    We think of your family and pray for you often. Bridger still holds fond memories of Eowyn and we talk of her and your family a lot. Thank you for your blog, it helps us know what to pray and helps us feel connected.

    Much Love,
    The Sutherlands

  10. Mark Howe said,

    April 4, 2007 at 11:40 am

    Hi, Libbie.
    I just heard about Al’s death, and then Googled him and
    found the blog and read and cried and wanted to be in touch. He died
    nine days before my father, and it was because your parents wrote that
    I learned that Al had died. So, perhaps they’re getting to know each
    other and talking Old Testament exegesis…

    I am so sorry that you all live with the pain of separation from each
    other. I find it hard to imagine my wife Sarah dying, but I know that
    some day one or the other of us will feel the bruise of that “narrow
    stream of death.” And for your children to miss their father, to reckon
    with an earth upon which he doesn’t walk anymore (I am learning), is a
    strange and uncomfortable thing.

    And still. Still, there’s joy, because Al is enfolded in the warmth and
    love of God, and lives without pain. And still, I know, there’s deep
    connection: “E’en now by faith we join our hands / with those that went
    before, / and greet the ever-living bands / on the eternal shore,” as
    Charles Wesley chose to put it.

    I was especially touched by your description of being at worship and
    knowing Al’s presence there, singing the same songs of praise, around
    the same heavenly throne, having had a similar experience. A couple of
    Sundays after my father’s death, I was receiving the bread and cup in
    the Eucharist, and I felt his presence keenly, at the same table. “Ah!
    This must be a part of what that phrase, ‘The communion of saints’ must
    be,” I thought, and I felt immense gratitude to God for the gift of
    eating and drinking together with him.

    Anyway, I hope this is the right way to find you, and I hope you all
    are doing OK in this mix of grief and grace.


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