Update and Reflections 2.19.07

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Reflections, Updates at 10:32 pm by Libbie

Hello. We had a great time away last week, Tuesday through Thursday, and now we are gearing up for the kids to go back to school tomorrow (Tuesday, Feb 20). Likely enough that will be a bumpy experience, and this whole week may be something to just get through with the Lordís help. They are not looking forward to it, but weíve talked about things to anticipate, possible ways to handle certain situations, and that the Lord will be with them. If you think of praying for them tomorrow and the rest of this week, I know they would appreciate it!

I started back to seminary classes today, and it was good to be back on campus and back in the classroom. As recently as yesterday I thought I was nowhere near ready to get my head back into that game again, but today I began to feel differently. It will take some mental and emotional readjustment, and as the weeks unfold Iíll have to assess whether taking classes is a good or bad idea. The kidsí needs, of course, will be the number one determiner, and other factors will come into play, but I think I have to find the best path by ďtrial and error.Ē Iíll move ahead as seems wisest, hold plans loosely, and continually readjust as necessary.

Often Alís absence still seems surreal. We find ourselves thinking that heís just resting, or just on the computer in the other room, or away on a trip. Other times his absence feels very real. When something happens that Al would be especially interested inóa note someone writes on a card that Al would be touched by, for instanceóI instinctively think, ďOh, thatís great, Iíll have to tell AlÖĒ and then I realize that I canít. Or it hits in the little, insignificant aspects of daily life. I was picking the raw onions off my whopper on our trip last week and realized that Al will no longer be here to eat my onions, or the mushrooms off the kidsí pizza or the other leftovers on our plates. Today I was in Alís old office at Westminster, looking through the shelves of books that were his love as well as his livelihood, and it made me ache for him to be here still, working with those books, preparing lectures and talking with students.

A year ago, on January 16, 2006, we found out that there was ďa spotĒ that had shown up on Alís routine chest X-ray. From the moment I heard Al say those chilling words, I had no doubt that the spot would turn out to be melanoma, and I knew what that meant: that it was terminal. Although Al hoped that it would turn out to be something benign, I didnít share his optimism. The next few days as I drove around town, I found myself crying a lot, imagining what it would be like to drive around in a world that Al was no longer a part of. In some ways, those first few days were among the hardest of this whole year. Now, as I drive around town, I find myself crying a lot, living in a world that Al is no longer a part of. The way I imagined it was pretty accurate.

So, the tears flow freely, and we talk about missing Al, and hug each other, and remember the wonderful life Al is enjoying in heaven, and we ache for his presence and look forward to seeing him again. Knowing that he is in heaven with the Lord whom he loves so dearly makes an enormous difference. It reminds me of when our first child went away to college. I had spent two years bracing myself for how much I was going to miss him and how sad I was going to be. But when we dropped him off at college and saw how happy he was there, and how well he fit, and how it seemed as if he was exactly where he should be and wanted to be, and where he would thrive, I couldnít really be sad. I missed him, but knowing how happy he was there made my heart glad rather than sad. Itís a bit that way with Al too. I miss him, but knowing the incredible joys he is experiencing (that heís been looking forward to for years and years), I am really happy for him, and I canít be just purely sad as I miss him.

The promise of the resurrections and the hope of heaven make all the difference. Some people have commented that our family is strong, or amazing, or inspiring. It may look like that from the outside, but let me assure you that we are not strong in ourselves; we simply have an amazing, strong God who has made amazing promises to us that we know he will keep.

Itís like this: Let me paint you three pictures.

First, picture a bitter cold scene, with wind blowing and snow falling. Picture a guy in shorts and a T-shirt standing in the midst of this scene. Now Iím not talking about the high school kids who walk to the bus stop in the cold without a coat because the dictates of coolness demand it. They are required to try to convince themselves and others that they are really not cold, because thatís manly, or cool, or whatever. Rather, Iím talking about someone like our friend Eric, who wears shorts and a T-shirt all winter because the cold genuinely doesnít bother him. I have no idea how he does it; I shiver in my long underwear and wool sweaters, but he simply doesnít feel the cold.

Eric is amazing. We are not like Eric. We are ordinary people who feel the cold of loss and sorrow like anyone else.

Next, picture our frigid cold house that has forced hot air heat that blows out of vents in the floor. Picture someone in shorts and a T-shirt, standing over the vent when the heat is on, feeling warm enough to be comfortable until the blower goes off. Someone looking in the window who couldnít see the vent might think that since the person was warm even in our cold house it was because they were like Eric. But we know that the only reason they are warm is because of the heater blowing hot air around them. Thatís what weíre like. Looking at us from the outside, you may or may not be able to perceive the ďheaterĒ of Godís steadfast, unfathomable love sustaining us, but we can assure you that that is the reason we are not undone by the cold of loss. As people have prayed for us, Godís love has surrounded us like the comforting hot air.

But as I thought more about it, I realized something particular about the way God has comforted us, or at least how he has comforted meóIíll speak for myself at this point. My particular grief and sorrow and the way God is comforting me is part of a much bigger picture of what God has done in human history. In dying and rising again 2000 years ago, Jesus broke the power of death and created a whole new reality for his people to live in. Itís a reality that includes eternity, in which our lives in this world, however long or short, are just a prelude to indescribable Life in heaven with him. Even 100 years of the happiest life here on earth are just the drip of a faucet compared to the ocean of eternal life that we will participate in. The joys of heaven are beyond the most wonderful things we can think or imagine (more on that in a future blog post). When you have that to look forward to, it changes everything. It changes life here. It changes the way you see death. Death becomes just the doorway into that new lifeósomething to be welcomed when the Lord brings it, not something to be feared.

This brought to mind the third picture: Imagine a beach in Hawaii, 75-80 degrees every day with full sunshine. Picture someone in shorts and a T-shirt, relaxed and comfortable in the balmy warmth. Life in Christ, including the time of our life on this earth, the transition of death, and then eternal life in heaven with Christ, is more like the beach in Hawaii. Itís a warm reality to inhabit.

I think that the way God has answered your prayers for me (Iíll speak for myself again) is that heís given me eyes to see what is already the case. In this present sadness, what I have needed most is simply a reminder and an awareness that that wonderful eternal life that Jesus bought with his own blood is mine, ours, Alís. When I remember that, my grief relaxes, my soul relaxes, and I find myself in the warmth and comfort of the sure hope of heaven. Itís like stepping out of the bitter cold winter and onto the sunny, Hawaiian beach. This is not to say that I donít feel grief; I surely do. But when I miss Al and feel the deep ache of loss, what soothes the hurt is the sure knowledge of heaven: that Al is there with Jesus in full health and joy and that we will see him again.

Anyway, we are just ordinary people. In answer to peopleís prayers, God has enabled us to be aware of the truth and reality of what Jesus made possible 2000 years ago, and to live in that reality. Godís awesome love has sustained us and continues to. Thank you for praying. And if you would remember to pray for Eowyn and Alden as they go back to school tomorrow (Tuesday) and the rest of this week, I would be very grateful.



  1. Becky Wilson said,

    February 20, 2007 at 12:23 am

    Dear Libbie,

    It will be our privilege to pray for your children. Let them know we stand with them as they open their eyes and just start.

    There’s a kids’ story about a family going on a bear hunt, in which they encounter obstacle after obstacle: tall, wavy grass, cold, wide rivers, deep, dark forests, and the like. And each time they realize: “We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh, no–we’ve got to go through it.”

    Tomorrow is another one of those occasions when there is nothing for it but to “go through it”. No shortcuts are available. But they do not go alone. Emmanuel – God with them – goes as well.

    So we will pray for them, as well as for you. So glad to hear you are giving yourself permission to make plans and tweak them as you put one foot in front of the other and just see how it goes.



  2. Jenny said,

    February 20, 2007 at 11:14 am


    A short story of my own…
    This past week it was the 2 yr. anniversary of my brother’s sudden death. I went to a David Bromberg concert a week before that anniversary. He and David were long time friends and played music together for years. I decided I was going to call David (never having done anything like this before) and see if we could get together when he was here at the Keswick since it was right in my back yard. Long story short, he put me and a friend on the guest list with back stage passes BUT the only thing I really wanted to do was to tell my brother that this was happening. The same thing happened as I saw old friends at his funeral. I really wanted to call Steve and tell him who I has seen that I hadn’t seen in years! That was so hard.

    I think this is the most difficult part of death. Suddenly we realize we can’t share the everyday little things with that person anymore. The onions on the whopper, the mushrooms on the pizza, the song that brings backa memory etc.

    I will pray for all of you as everyday life brings you an ache of wanting to share these things with Al. I will pray that the Lord will hold you tight in those moments (of which there will be many I am sure) and bring you a comfort that is beyond your expectations.

    We prayed for the kids yesterday in our staff meeting in anticipation of school today and will continue to do so. It is a long road ahead.

    May God be gracious to you and bless you and make His face to shine upon you. Jenny

  3. Natalie Carley said,

    February 20, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    Dear Libbie,
    Praise God I caught your first blog back (I’m in an airport about to be gone for 6 days).
    I appreciate the images you offered and the time invested in doing so. It helps me to have a more vivid percepcion of heaven. I bet your WTS papers will be gems!
    Elsy is there now and I wish it were me, so I could see you.
    Will continue to pray, specifically as you asked.
    Much love,

  4. Rick Hadley said,

    February 20, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    Hello Libby,

    Thank you for your thoughts. My wife, son Steven, and I were privileged to attend Al’s service. It was obvious that everyone who spoke, and sang, wanted to honor our Lord. God’s strength was evident.

    When I remember Al, I remember several things. I remember years ago, during or soon after my WTS days, talking with Al about his work with the Hebrew Old Testament and the computer. I thought that that was really cool, and enjoyed his excitement at his work.

    I also remember his asking how my wife, who has Fibromyalgia, was doing. He did that on several occasions, and was always obviously genuinely interested in her wellbeing. In fact, his greetings to me were always sincere and pastoral.

    I have been praying for you and your children and will continue to do so.

    One thing that the Lord has been showing me through the passing of Ben, Ron and Al is how precious other believers are. The body of Christ is so much more real and beautiful to me now. It is also true that the love of Christ is so much more real, as well.

    The older I get, the more precious the Lord is to me. And Al and your family have been a part of that. Thank you. ūüôā

  5. Gideon said,

    February 20, 2007 at 8:43 pm


    The house of heavenly grace (HHG) will keep remembering your family in our prayers.

    Keep looking at Jesus!

  6. Julie said,

    February 21, 2007 at 3:25 am

    I want to express my deep appreciation for what you and your family have done with this blog! I found it only a couple of weeks ago, but God has used you to work in my heart so very, very much. I was diagnosed with a very rare type of cancer some months ago, which was successfully removed, but now comes the waiting to see if it metastasizes, which would be invariably terminal, medically speaking. And sometimes that idea–the waiting–is horrifying, because I feel like I’m waiting for my “January 16th” day and I’m not sure how well I would handle it. Reading this blog has been so immeasurably helpful to me in that struggle, because God’s grace has been so evident in your lives–so evidently sufficient, and I know that His grace is all I need as well.

    So– thank you, very much, for blogging through this unfathomably difficult time. God is using your words in mighty ways! You and your family are in my prayers.

  7. Mary Ferris said,

    February 21, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    Dear Libby

    What a great message, it was so encouraging to me. I especially related to the whole paragraph about Al in heaven and how you were reminded of when Alasdair went off to college and what a comfort it was to know that he was where he belonged and enjoying it so much, it really relieved your pain of missing him. I had the same experience when Kate went off her first year, so now I will be able to remember that picture myself and be comforted too.

    As you said, I repeat;
    “The tears flow freely, we remember the wonderful life ‘Ben’ is enjoying in heaven, and we ache for his presence and look forward to seeing him again. Knowing that he is in heaven with the Lord whom he loves so dearly makes an enormous difference. I am really happy for him, and I canít be just purely sad as I miss him.”

    May peace and comfort continue to be bountifully supplied by God to you and the kids. Praying for all of you in your first “back to reality” week.


  8. Ellen Sutherland said,

    February 23, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    Libby – I have been so blessed by the open communication you all have provided the rest of us with these past months. Your desire to share the fullness of Christ with so many through your family’s toughest time has been an inspiration to many.

    I wept with sadness and joy when I read this post. I just spent a week in Hawaii with my two sisters last week. I could so fully appreciate your analogy of the cold of winter and the warmth of the beach. You know, while I was there, I heard a man on a cell phone (while I was sitting in a beachside restaurant enjoying the setting) say to someone “Yes, this is truly paradise…but you know what…even paradise isn’t paradise if it’s not where you want to be”. That comment has stayed with me…because when I think of paradise, I think of heaven….and I know for certain, as Al did, that it’s truly where I want to be. Please continue to share your pain and your joy with us all, and in doing so, maybe others will be convinced that it’s where they want to be as well. Bless you all,

    Ellen Sutherland

  9. Eric said,

    February 25, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    The picture of heaven in my mind’s eye has always been a snow-capped mountain and God’s grace a gust: a swirling a puff of snow.

    Happily, God stoops, speaking his grace to our hearts in just the way we need to hear it; I’m thankful to read about how he is doing that for you.

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