Joy and Grief

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Reflections at 10:40 pm by Libbie

[The following reflections may be a bit hard to read without tears. I think it only fair to warn you of that ahead of time. This note is one that Al initially wrote last May, but we didn’t post it at the time for a number of reasons. Al thought of putting it on the blog in the late fall and so added a sentence of introduction at the beginning, but somehow we again hesitated. Maybe the emotions were too exposed, too tender, and we needed to check with the other people involved to see if they minded. I have done that now, and all have said that they are happy to have Al’s reflections shared. So here is a note that Al wrote about a very wonderful, very joyful and sad, and very special weekend last May.]

From Al:

Many ask how we are doing spiritually, in our hearts. This is a good question, perhaps the best question to ask us. To that end, here is something I wrote last spring but didn’t post at the time. It contains some reflections on the joys and griefs of a special weekend in May.

In May, Becky, my oldest daughter, came home for 36 hours in a weekend to be in the wedding of her dear friend, Lisa Welch. On the Friday before the wedding on Saturday I was admitted to the hospital with a very painful blood clot in my right leg. Because it would take at least three days in the hospital to be sure that the medication for thinning my blood was properly regulated, I would not be able to attend the wedding. Nor, as a result, would I see my daughter—I had been in either the emergency room or the hospital since she arrived and she had wedding related activities in the evening on Friday. She would have the wedding on Saturday and then catch a 7am flight Sunday. This was all disappointing to say the least.

Add to this that the father of the bride, Ed Welch, is one of my dearest friends. For years we have gone to the gym together twice a week. We may not exercise the major muscle groups, but we do give our jaw muscles a real workout. Ed also teaches at Westminster, and we attended the same church where we were elders together. So, not only was I going to miss seeing my daughter at the wedding, I was going to miss celebrating with Ed. The doctors were firm about my situation: my clots must be brought under control, and that would require constant supervision in the hospital for the next three days. No way was I going to get a furlough to attend this wedding, which was a crushing blow.

Saturday morning, the day of the wedding, who showed up at my bedside, but Ed, the father of the bride! With so many other things on the mind of the father of the bride and so many other things to be doing, there he was visiting me. I was deeply touched. We talked about all manner of things, especially the wedding and the joy this wedding was bringing to our church community—shown by how many had pitched in to help and had given of their time to make this a wonderful celebration. Apparently the church was swimming in flower arrangements prepared with love by a friend of the family. Everything was in place and ready to go. I was moved to tears for joy at such kindness and beauty, and I wept at the prospect of missing the event.

After Ed left, I received the surprising news that I could go home after all! (It was actually bad news that made it possible for me to escape—a tumor in my brain had been discovered, which meant that I could not receive blood-thinners and that the hospital therefore had no reason to keep me.) It was a gift in disguise that I could now attend the wedding to see my daughter and to celebrate with the Welches. Being released from the hospital had the downside that the excruciating pain caused by the clot was undiminished and untreated, but I was going to the wedding.

And the wedding was certainly one of the loveliest I have ever attended. The joy of seeing Ed and his daughter come down the aisle and to share in the joy of that moment was worth the pain of sitting in the pew (I was able to keep my foot elevated, so it was mostly manageable). And seeing my own beautiful daughter come down the aisle as a bridesmaid was like a little glimpse of a day in the future—Becky walking down an aisle as a bride.

We went for a bit of the reception, enough to see the father-of-the-bride dance with his daughter. It was at this point that Becky came over and put her arms on my shoulders and rested her chin on my head and we wept together. Joy and grief mixed together. Without having to speak, we knew that we were given the gift of enjoying vicariously through Ed and Lisa that which we were not likely to experience ourselves—father and daughter dancing at her wedding. We went outside and Libbie joined us. Weeping for joy at this day and grieving for the day that we would likely not have. All I could say was that we must trust and believe that God will be Becky’s father on that day and that we don’t know how that can be now, but that he is kind and gracious and will meet her.


It was a day of a gift from God—the joy of our dear friends spilled over on us to bless us; against hope I was able to be there; the future that my daughter and I will likely not share we nonetheless enjoyed for a moment through our friends. Even the grief was a gift, because we had it together and it rested in the love and blessing that we enjoy now.

I have another daughter, Éowyn. In February, two days after the tumors in my lungs were definitively diagnosed as melanoma tumors, she and I had gone out to dinner alone and wept over the same issue—she had said, “Dad, there are many hard things, but one of the hardest is that you might not be there for my wedding.” We both wept. For both of my daughters this had been very much in my mind. And it was very much in theirs as well.

And I have a son, Alden, for whom the same issue will arise. While he and I have not spoken about it (it tends to be more on the minds of fathers and daughters perhaps), it is still an issue of the heart.

God works in ways I don’t understand. We see his goodness. And sometimes we simply look and see him, without knowing anything more than that he is near and cares.

Blessings, Al

[Al did not mention our oldest son, Alasdair. He married Lauren in June of 2004, and Al had the privilege of performing the ceremony jointly with Lauren’s pastor. The picture of Al that was on the front of the memorial service program was taken at their wedding reception. The picture of Al’s exuberant gladness on that occasion will be an encouragement to our other children that he would, of course, have been equally delighted to be at their weddings.]


  1. Philip & Christine Fisher, Phoenix, Arizona said,

    February 25, 2007 at 8:25 am

    Dear Libby and family,
    Thank you for sharing this message as well as for your willingness to allow a wider circle of friends experience the power of the gospel as God works His sovereign plan in your lives. We have been so challenged, blessed, awed, and encouraged through what you and your family have shared through this blog site as well as the comments of the wider body of Christ. Over the past two weeks I have been struck by many things that God has revealed through the comments made and the lives of the people we know who shared those comments. Below is something that helps me better understand why this has been such a significant experience. The words and thoughts are directly from a book by Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp entitled “How People Change”. The numbers in parentheses are page numbers.
    Who of us will ever be the same? By God’s grace, none—and that is a good thing. And who of us will not rememer God’s grace expressed through your lives and Al’s whenever we say to each other, “Blessings”.
    To God alone belongs all the glory.
    Phil & Chris Fisher

    In Ephesians 3:14-21 Paul highlights God’s way of grounding an individual Christian’s growth within the body, the connection between an individual’s personal sanctification and the larger body of Christ. Paul applied the message of grace to individuals, but individuals who are in fellowship with one another. In his day there was a profound tension that existed between Jews and Gentiles (more so than any ethnic or racial division that exists in America today). Paul was vigilant to see Jew and Gentile living in community even though there could not have been a more radical idea than Jew and Gentile being on equal footing before God and with each other. The love of Christ is so infinite that we cannot see this love or experience it all by our finite selves. (84) When we are in meaningful relationships with one another, we each bring a unique perspective and experience to our knowledge of Christ’s love. When we share our stories, we see a different aspect of the diamond that is the love of Christ. Together, our understanding and experience of God’s infinite love becomes fuller, stronger, and deeper. Not only are we strengthened in our individual growth in grace, but the larger body is built up by a fuller sense of the power and hope of God’s grace. The Christian life is not less than individual, but it is so much more. As isolated individuals, we cannot reach the level of maturity God has designed for us. It only happens as we live in a loving, redemptive community where we celebrate the many facets of the gospel. (85)

    Our personal transformation must be worked out within the family of God. The gospel is not only more clearly perceived and experienced within community, it is the basis for the community. The things we do to enjoy deep fellowship with God and each other are the very things that make us less self-centered and more like Christ. It is the change God is after. (85) Through relationships in community we have the opportunity of seeing the grace of Christ in those around us. Friendships are clearly one of the primary ways God causes us to grow. (86)

  2. Charis Liang said,

    February 25, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Dear Libbie and all

    I am blessed and touched by every story you decide to share, either joy or grief. My heart is with you all.


  3. Allie Stryd said,

    February 25, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    Libbie, For some reason, for both Welch daughter weddings I sat behind you and Al. I remember watching you guys during both preludes, both processionals. I remember seeing great joy and pride on Al’s face, even in the midst of pain at Lisa’s wedding. We (todd and I) sat in awe at the fact that he was there and had come right from the hospital. What a father, what a friend. I have thought of these occasions frequently as I pray for in particular your daughters but really all of you. This is hard to read. But I am so glad to read of the deep, heavy reliance that Al confessed even in the midst of his grief.
    Libbie, Becky, Eowyn, Alden, Alasdair, Lauren–we are still praying.

  4. Linda Foh said,

    February 25, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    God promises to be a husband to the widow and a father to the orphan. I don’t yet know how that works, but many widows have assured me he is faithful to his word and blesses them in so many ways and gives exactly what they need. What a privilege for Al to have shared these thoughts with his children: joy and sorrow, vulnerability and victory. And they (and we) will be together at the marriage feast of the Lamb.

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