Posted in From Al & Libbie, Reflections, Updates at 6:17 pm by Libbie

Hello again after a few days.

The kids are feeling much better and are back in school now after both of them being home sick on Friday and then lying low over the weekend. Alasdair’s bronchitis, which was, as usual, pretty bad, is on the mend in time for the start of the semester on Thursday. And so far neither Al nor I have caught any of the above. Thank the Lord for that! Becky has had more car troubles, but our mechanic has again gone above and beyond the call of duty to help us out and keep her on the road. If anybody in the Philly area needs a mechanic, call us for his name–he’s amazing!

Al has continued to feel lots of pain in his abdomen and extreme weakness all over. He’s very unsteady on his feet and gets winded just picking up a glass of water, never mind walking from one room to another. So yesterday we asked our doctor to contact hospice for us, and by last evening we were registered and ready to roll.

For many people, maybe even for most people, the decision to start hospice care is huge, because it represents an admission that there is nothing further medicine can do and that the end is inevitable and probably near. If patients (and their families) have had to ride the painful emotional roller coaster of hoping that they might get better, wondering with each new test or symptom what the outcome will be, and fighting hard to try to beat the cancer or other illness they have, the commencement of hospice care can feel like giving up–like defeat. In conversation, the word “hospice” often has the same effect as a death knell.

But we have been mercifully spared that roller coaster. From the first diagnosis, when we learned that Al’s melanoma had metastasized, we knew that there was no medical cure for it, that (barring a miracle) it would eventually end his life, and that the only uncertainty was how much time there would be before that happened. Because of that, our road has been more straightforward and much, much easier to walk than that of many others. We have not had to vascillate between the hope of being cured and the acceptance of terminal illness.

So in our case, starting hospice is actually something of a relief. Al has been so uncomfortable that the idea of good pain management keeping him more comfortable and helping him get good sleep is like water on dry ground. The services and help that the hospice staff offers will be a great help not only to Al but to all of us. Last night Al got a better sleep than he had in a long time with the help of the medicines that hospice recommended. We are encouraged. I think our kids are working on being encouraged by this too.

One thing that has been hard is that Al can no longer type, or if he does it takes him 15 minutes to write a sentence that has so many mistakes in it that it’s hard to decipher. This means that he can’t communicate with people at will. He can still read things people send him, but he can’t really write back. You know how Al loves people, and how important being in communication with them–with you–is to him. So this is a hard milestone to reach. The rest of us can type for him, of course, but that still leaves his communication limited. Pray for grace for Al to live with this. In some ways his exhaustion softens this hardship.

Recently I was struck by a verse in psalm 89 (verse 48). It says, “What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?” Death is a part of what happens to people in this world. It is not “natural,” because it was not part of God’s original creation; it came into the world as a result of our sin. But it is “natural” in that it eventually happens to every single person.

Yet in our society we tend to try to keep it at arm’s length. We shield ourselves and our children as much as possible from any contact with death. Lots of people manage to reach adulthood without ever having been to a funeral. I can understand this. If this life is all there is and you don’t know what (if anything) comes after it, death is scary. Who wants to expose their children unnecessarily to that frightening eventuality? It is easier to live in denial of the constant possibility of death and pretend that it can be put off or ignored, if not actually avoided.

However, in other times and in other parts of the world, such a stance is not practicable. A child in Africa who has lost both of her parents to AIDS comes face to face with mortality all the time. For her, death is a cold, hard reality of everyday life. She knows the answer to the question “What man can live and never see death?” No one.

I have often thought that people who live with a constant awareness that they and their loved ones could easily die tomorrow have an advantage over us. As I read the thoughts of the pilgrims and other people of faith who lived with that awareness, I see that it put their earthly lives in perspective and set them in the context of eternity in a way that was helpful and healthy and affected their prioirities.

The second question of Psalm 89:48 (Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?), when it was originally written, was probably simply another way of stating the first question, just in slightly stronger terms. That is common in Hebrew poetry. The answer to both questions is simple: no one can escape death.

But since Jesus, there is a different and surprising answer to the second question. For those who trust in Jesus’ triumph over death in his resurrection and in his promise that his followers will also live after death–with him in a place that is beyond our most fantastic imaginations–there actually is someone who can deliver their souls from the power of Sheol. That is radical and mold-shattering.

Because of that, we have always encouraged our kids to come along with us to funerals of people we know who belonged to Jesus. In the midst of the deep and real grief, there is also such triumphant joy. For me, that’s where the rubber of Christianity really hits the road.

One of our kids was commenting recently that death has taken 7 or 8 of our family’s friends in the last year and a half, which has been hard. And yet it helps us realize that none of us is immune to death; we will each face it when the appointed time comes for us to die. Realizing that rather than running from it makes the promise of heaven concrete, and precious, and important in the right-here-and-now, even for teenagers.

So, we just wanted to catch you up and let you know that the Lord is holding us up in the midst of everything. His love is amazing.

Thanks for caring about us–we value your friendship!



  1. Ceily B. said,

    January 30, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    I love you all and am praying for God’s grace to you in this time.

  2. JOHN GROVES said,

    January 30, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    Dear Al, and family, I didn’t get to meet all of you when Al came to the reunion, but in reading the blog I feel I have known you all forever. I took a few pictures of the Groves men and would be glad to send the copies to you. Our prayers are with you all and so is our love and yes , the Lord is sooo… amazing.

  3. Cheryl said,

    January 30, 2007 at 7:50 pm

    Your words Libbie are, as ever, a true source of hope and an amazing picture of Christ’s love. We are praying for you all and will remember you tomorrow at Women’s Bible Study. Love from all the girls there. xx

  4. Judy Parnell said,

    January 30, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    Our dear Libbie, You have written these words so beautifully and as I’m trying to respond, I just can’t make the words come out! So I’m just going to say that we love you all so much and you are certainly in our thoughts and prayers. Please give Al a big hug and tell him that it is from the Parnells!

    Ray & Judy

  5. Jeff Singletary said,

    January 30, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    Tears well up while reading your post. Such bitter-sweetness. Full of grace. Al’s and your small acts of kindness while I was in seminary meant a lot to me.


  6. Keallie Wozny said,

    January 30, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    We’re so glad to hear that Al is able to get some sleep and to be more comfortable. God is so faithful! He’s chosen for each of us how and when He’ll bring us home, and He gives us grace to handle the circumstances He gives us. We can choose gloom, or we can choose joy. You’ve chosen joy, and I’m sure God will use your family journey through illness to minister to others in similar situations.

    You’ve certainly, also, treasured many little moments and made room for many more as you’ve faced being separated sooner rather than later. Isn’t that how we should all be living, anyway: enjoying, encouraging, and loving each other as best we can today? We’ve learned much from the Groves family!

    We continue to pray for you all. May you sing in the shadow of His wings today.

    Much love,
    Steve and Keallie

  7. Elsie Viehman said,

    January 30, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    Dear Al and Libbie,

    I was thinking of you today as I prepared for my WBS talk tomorrow, and remembering how you talked me through my ideas at the Christmas party at the Traylors. Comfort comes in many ways, and you have described so many comforts to hang on to during this past year, both for yourselves and others. I add this to your list, that your words and work have not be in vain, but rather in service of God’s kingdom which continues throughout all generations of believers. Thanks again for your help and prayers as I take my turn tomorrow.

    Hoping you have another peaceful night. Love from us both, Elsie and Dave

  8. Steve Vanderhill said,

    January 30, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    Dear Al, Libbie and family,

    “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

  9. Diane for the Marsh family said,

    January 31, 2007 at 1:52 am

    Dear Groves,

    We are amazed at your willingness to share your intimate thoughts along this road. God offers us such an intimate relationship and you have chosen, as wonderful faithful servants, to share this intimacy with all those who will listen. You have opened yourselves up to us and we have taken you in. We have been listening and participating with you as are so many around the world. Prayers for Al and for all of you are common occurrences in our home. It is Christ’s love abiding in us that enables us to be part of such a sad, heart wrenching and yet ultimately astoundingly beautiful progression.

    As I was listening to some music on Colton’s ipod this morning the following words made me think of you all…

    Hallelujah, hallelujah
    Whatever’s in front of me
    Help me to sing hallelujah
    Hallelujah, hallelujah
    Whatever’s in front of me
    I’ll choose to sing hallelujah
    (from Bethany Dillon)

    –>Thank you for teaching us these truth’s.

    I know of a man who lives on the other side
    On the other side of this mountain
    They say he’s calling the weary home

    I’ve been told of a man who lives on the other side
    On the other side of this mountain
    With a heart full of stories of hope

    So run like a vagabond, carry the flame
    Run for the children and run for the slaves
    Hold it up high with a message of faith
    Don’t ever stop moving on
    Just run like a vagabond
    (from Bethany Dillon)

    –> Thank you for carrying the flame and for carrying it high as a message of faith. I looked up vagabond in the dictionary and it refers to someone without a home who goes from place to place and it made me think of Al as he has run this race as though his home were not here but rather in the promise of heaven.

    Our love in Christ to you,
    Diane for Chuck, Diane, Colton, Brianna, Hudson, Schyler and Haley

  10. Larry Knowles said,

    January 31, 2007 at 10:09 am


    Such wonderful meditations from a woman whose love for God surpasses even her love for a cherished husband. Thank you…

    I remain in continued prayer for you, long-removed friends…

    L –

  11. Kiki Zivkovic said,

    January 31, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Dear Prof. Groves,
    I just want to thank you for being with me in times of my struggles, both academically and privately. Your wisdom helped me to cope also with matters that exceed far more the teacher-student relationship. It may sound strange, but even your health struggles, and the way you are dealing with it, has been a great source of inspiration for me. Your strength in weaknesses gives me strength in my weaknessess. I am honoured to be your friend. I am just sorry that I had not used the opportunity express that more often.
    W will keep praying for you and your familly.

    in Christ love,

  12. Jan said,

    January 31, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    Dearest Al and Libbie,

    I feel privileged to have travelled this journey thus far with you, albeit quietly and passively; as you have struggled honestly, and seen victory in every step. Now it seems you’re on a kind of final stretch, of this part of the ride, and again you give marvellous testimony to our Lord’s grace and compassion. I’m not sure I will ever be able to convey how meaningful and encouraging it has been to see and hear your testimony. I just want to say thank you. Your attitudes and approaches, with intentional Godliness, is a wonderful challenge and example. I aspire to follow your lead in suffering and to see the glory of Jesus in the midst!

    In my prayers as ever, Much love – Jan.

  13. Jessie Bible said,

    January 31, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    Al, Libbie, Alasdiar, Becky, Eowyn, and Alden,

    My thoughts & prayers are with you all.

    God is holding you in the palm of his hand.


    Jessie Bible

  14. Allie Stryd said,

    January 31, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    Like all the others before, thank you for demonstrating “living in a world with windows”. Upward facing. We love you and your family. I am praying too for good rest and another peaceful night tonight.
    Todd and Allie

  15. Craig Combs said,

    January 31, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    Dear Al and Libby,
    Thank you for the very good word from Psalm 89.
    You are so right about the perspective on death we need, and so right about Jesus!

    I am glad, for my part, to know about the initiation of hopsice care. I agree with you that there is often something of an air of defeat for many people when they call in hospice. But I know from personal experience what a blessing hospice care can be, with its better pain management and (often) some respite for the weary who serve the one they love.

    I rest secure to know that the number of days ordained for you, Al, has not changed since before the foundation of the world (same as for me!)

    I am encouraged to find you spending (what appears to be) the last of those days closer to Jesus than when you first knew him. May the Lord grant it to be the same for the rest of us, whether we see those final days coming or not.

    Thank you for all you are doing to minister to me, and to many.
    For Jesus’ sake,

  16. The Goods said,

    January 31, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    Al & Libby,
    I am am glad that relief seems to be in the picture for you now. I’ll be praying for caring nurses for you as these people come in to your home to help you through this time. Our family is praying for you. On Sunday singing the hymn was bittersweet. As Alden was in front of us I found myself praying for you all. The song was hard to sing but for knowing it is the truth and that it is a comfort to you. You are gracious for sharing this time of the Lord’s work in your lives…
    You are much loved.

  17. Susan Michaelson said,

    January 31, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    Dear Libbie and Al:

    We rejoice with you that you are able to sleep, Al. Please know that your astonishing testimony of God’s grace through this valley of deep darkness continues to teach, and is contributing to the changing heart of one beloved to me.

    May the peace of Christ ever sustain you both, along with Alisdair, Becky, Eowyn, Alden and Lauren.

    With love,


  18. Ben Flack said,

    February 1, 2007 at 12:19 am

    if you happen to remember me, i was at your house about a year and a half ago, visiting with steve and christy sandvig. i want you all to know that you made a distinct and lasting impression on me in many ways, both in the time i was there and in reading this blog. it’s very encouraging to see that God is providing so much comfort and perspective for you.

    i guess i don’t really have much else to say, but know that you’re in my prayers. i love the fact that we’re part of a kingdom where we can have real hope in the middle of mourning.

    in Christ
    -Ben Flack

  19. Dukjoon Park said,

    February 1, 2007 at 12:44 am

    Prof. Groves,

    I don’t know how I can express my thanks to you. You have been guiding my long academic journey at WTS. Though I can’t share the burden of your struggles, I will pray for you and with you.

    Love in Christ,


  20. Donna Carter said,

    February 2, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    Dear Al and Libby
    Just want you to know that I’m thinking of you and praying for you. I love you all and miss you I wish I could be there in person but I can’t right now. I hope I can see you again on this earth but I don’t know if that will happen. But please know I love you and appreciate you. Al you mean the world to me. Thank you for all you’ve said to me. All you’ve done. For all the times at mini-church. For pastoring me. For loving me. I will miss you greatly.
    Love Donna

  21. Fred said,

    February 4, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    Dear Libby & Al:

    Your note reminded me of a book review that I read a number of years ago. The book transcribed many years of letters between two relatives (sisters?) in the late 19th century, one in New England and the other in Ohio(?). [It was quite some time ago.] The reviewer said that the most striking aspect of the book was that every single letter mentioned someone’s death, either due to age, accident, or (quite often) illnesses that we no longer even think about. I have not remembered many book reivews from 20-odd years ago, but I have often wondered about what we have lost by pushing death into the wings. As Qohelet says, if you get invited to a funeral and a party, choose the funeral every time!

    Thanks for writing so that we who cannot physically walk beside you can walk with you in our hearts.



  22. Home School said,

    February 11, 2007 at 5:12 am

    Dear Libby, Al

    I pray for you…

  23. Car Donation said,

    February 11, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    We all are praying for you….

  24. Michael Coates said,

    November 25, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Your wisdom helped me to cope also with matters that exceed far more the teacher-student relationship. My prayers are always with you.

Leave a Comment