Graduation Day

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Updates at 9:46 pm by Libbie

Whew, what a day itís been! I anticipated all week that Westminsterís g””raduation would probably be pretty emotional for me this year, as it was last year, and that proved true.

This week one year ago was a humdinger. On the Friday before graduation last year Al ended up in the hospital with a blood clot in his leg, which was extremely painful. In the course of routine testing to make sure they could give him blood thinners, a scan showed up a mass in his brain that had not been there previously. The overwhelming likelihood was that it was melanoma that had metastasized to his brain (which turned out to be correct), and it was in a spot that had the distinct potential to affect Alís personalityósomething that was pretty scary to think about. He was released from the hospital in time to attend Ed Welchís daughterís wedding, in which Becky was a bridesmaid. That was an emotional time from every angleósharing the great joy of Ed and his daughter Lisa, watching them walk down the aisle and dance the father-daughter dance at the reception, seeing Becky come down the aisle looking beautiful, knowing that she and Al would not share those fatherdaughter wedding joys in the future.

Then there was also some doubt last year as to whether Al would be able to participate in graduation due to the incapacitating pain in his leg. But he went in a wheel chair, and as Academic Dean he had the privilege of reading the names of all the graduates as they received their diplomas, and then with his leg propped up on a high stool, he gave the charge to the graduating class. He was so thrilled to be there and to be able to be part of sending the class of 2006 off into kingdom service. I sat in the back and bawled, knowing, as we all did, that that would almost certainly be Alís last graduation. I thought of the time in a few years when, Lord willing, Alasdair and I (and perhaps Lauren) will cross the stage in cap and gown without Al there to see it. It was an emotional time.

Thrown into that week last year we also had a whirlwind visit from Becky, Aldenís long-standing soccer team suddenly folded, and Eowyn was caught in a friendís consuming teenage crisis.

Now, in 2007, this past week has brought the memories from last year sharply into focus and prompted a number of tears, so I knew today would be probably be draining. In the morning I attended a seminar at Westminster all about the Westminster Hebrew Institute, which was renamed for Al last fall (now “The J. Alan Groves Center for Advanced Biblical Research”). Kirk Lowery, the director, talked with obvious respect and appreciation for Alís vision and work in starting the center and then about the exciting places the center is heading in the present and the future. (If you are interested in the details, check the Westminster website: wts.edu.) I thought again what a gift Kirk and his co-worker Steve have been to Al and how wonderful it is to see the project that Al began now moving forward in such innovative and beneficial ways.

Also today the new Westminster Bulletin (a publication of the seminary) came out, and it is an edition honoring Al, including wonderful reflections written by former students. Many people find that one of the hardest parts of grieving is that they feel so isolated and alone. What a blessing it is to us to have so many people who remember Al and who walk through this time of mourning with us!

Graduation itself was moving, seeing the graduatesómy fellow classmates and friendsóreceive the degrees they have worked so hard for. Mike Kelly gave the charge to the graduates this year, and he built off of Alís charge from last year. It was excellent. At the end he closed with a blessing that Al prayed countless times around our dinner table as well as with many other peopleóthat [the graduates] would have eyes to see Jesus, ears to hear him speaking, and hearts to be filled with his spirit. At that point I broke down. But the whole thing was lovely, and I saw old friends who were back in town and met new ones, many of whom shared great stories of Al and how he impacted their lives. More tears, of course, but such a blessing.

What I didnít anticipate today was getting a phone call in the morning from Alasdairís summer boss saying that Alasdair had had a bike accident on the way to work and had broken his arm quite badly. I saw him and Lauren in the ER between the morning seminar and graduation, and the arm did indeed look pretty deformed. Sounds as if it will need surgery, but when that will happen hasnít been determined yet. This Sunday Laurenís brother is getting married in upstate NY, and Lauren and Alasdair are both in the wedding, which hopefully will work out okay. This broken arm also puts rather a crimp in Alasdairís summer job as a carpenter, which is a bummer on lots of levels. But the Lord will make the way clear.

Then this afternoon Becky told me that today she learned some unpleasant news relative to work. Her company used to have six on-site managers in this region, of which she was one. Two people left, so they consolidated the positions into four jobs. Since that time, the other three managers have left, so Becky has been covering one position, her boss has been covering one, and the others have been left empty. Needless to say this has caused plenty of stress at work. Today Becky learned that her boss is resigning! That leaves her alone with no fellow managers in the (originally) six slots and with no boss. Not a good situation.

Becky also talked about the wedding she attended last weekend, which was the first one sheís been to since Al died, and which also happened to take place on the one-year anniversary of Lisaís wedding that I mentioned above. She couldnít help shedding lots of tears, as you can imagine, trying to be inconspicuous in the process.

My eyes feel like sand pits from all the crying Iíve done today, but I also see the Lordís hand of blessing so clearly. For instance, I can say with enormous thanks that the scary prospect of Alís personality changing never materialized. He was completely himself, gracious, patient, loving, and enjoying people literally up to the point when he lost consciousness. Five days before he died he became spatially disoriented, so that after a trip to the bathroom he didnít know which room he was supposed to go back to or how to get there, and four days before he died, he was unable to get out of bed and didnít know how to find the cup of water at his bedside, but he still knew every person he saw just as sharply as he ever had, and he interacted with them with obvious delight. Even when he had little strength and talking was an effort, it was clear that he enjoyed seeing people as thoroughly as he always had. Forty-eight hours before he died we had a room full of a dozen recent college grads singing around his bed, and he wanted to be sure he knew or learned each one of their names. What a mercy from the Lord that Al was fully himself right up to the end!

Today he would have been a little embarrassed but also honored and pleased to have been remembered at graduation. And the surprising discovery that just by being himself and loving the Lord with his whole heart he had impacted so many students and others with Godís love and grace would have been (and in fact was) a crowning blessing in his life.

God is so good. Iíve seen and been amazed at his unbelievably personalized, tender care for us in other ways this past week too. In one case I was so blown away by the intimacy and magnitude of his care for us through his people that I bowed my head right there over the soapy dishes and simply sobbed in amazement at his love. It is breath-taking.

May you too be held in his tender arms. And congratulations to all you graduates!



  1. Donna said,

    May 24, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    Thanks Libbie. I love you. I will be praying for Becky. work stress is usually not worth it. I pray for God’s guidance for her- if she wants to look for a job in NC just let me know …. no hidden agenda here.

    Take care,

  2. Donna said,

    May 24, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    Thanks Libbie. I love you. I will be praying for Becky. work stress is usually not worth it. I pray for God’s guidance for her- if she wants to look for a job in NC just let me know …. no hidden agenda here ūüôā

    Take care,

  3. Kent Morton said,

    May 25, 2007 at 7:34 am

    Libbie —

    Thank you for always….ALWAYS… reminding us all of God’s goodness and care in such personal ways. So often we don’t have eyes to see it, and I’m grateful for the lens that you bring to it. May grace and peace be multiplied to you each and every day!


  4. Craig Higgins said,

    May 25, 2007 at 9:52 am

    Thanks for this update, Libbie. I wasn’t able to be there for graduation (had to race home for a high school concert as soon as the board meeting ended)–and I was very much hoping to see you while I was there. You guys remain in our daily prayers, and I am more and more thankful for the shaping that you & Al gave to my life.

    Your comments reminded me of something Eugene Peterson wrote, which I’ll put below (I don’t know anyone who has “prayed their tears” as well as your family), as well as the wonderful song, “Broken Things,” by Julie Miller. If you don’t have that song or can’t download it, let me know and I’ll send it to you immediately!

    Love to you all from Ann & me.


    “Tears are a biological gift of God. They are a physical means for expressing emotional and spiritual experience. But it is hard to know what to do with them. If we indulge our tears, we cultivate self-pity. If we suppress our tears, we lose touch with our feelings. But if we pray our tears we enter into sadnesses that integrate our sorrows with our Lordís sorrows and discover both the source of and the relief from our sadness.”
    ó Eugene H. Peterson, Psalms: Prayers of the Heart

  5. Meenu said,

    May 25, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    Regarding Becky’s work situation, my unsolicited advice is that she absolutely should not feel the burden of the entire department on her shoulders. She should see it as opportunity for her intellect, steadfastness, and genuiness to shine through. BUT, it is important to have boundaries in place as to what she can/will do in order to support the company. She can’t work 20 hour days because of the current situation. She can only do the best she can within the workday. Don’t bring the work stress home with you because it is easy to get consumed by it, and then corporate burn-out is not far away….

    Love and prayers,


  6. Becky Wilson said,

    May 28, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    Thank you, Libbie, for taking such evident care in providing this update. As usual, I have greedily consumed the whole and now want to go back and more leisurely consider every detail. Your reflections provide me insight on how to pray, and how to love your family, and others in grief. This blog has stirred in me the desire to live my life as Al did, loving Christ and loving the people in my life (when, at times, I don’t especially like them very much, as much as I hate to admit that). Thank you, thank you, for being willing to put down word upon word. God is using them to teach me more about Him. “Lord, teach me to know how short my life is, that I may become wise.”

  7. Liz said,

    May 29, 2007 at 10:32 pm

    Libbie –

    I’ve missed touching base over the past several weeks, but you and the children have been in my thoughts and prayers. Your reflections, your fortitute, AND your humanness touch me so implicitly. You are a witness to his everlasting and comforting love.

    In His name,

    Liz Evans

  8. Chris Fisher said,

    June 1, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    Dear Libbie, please tell Alasdair of my sorrow for his accident and pain… He’ll be in prayers for special healing and no complications. I’ll call next week to see if we can all have lunch here ?
    Love, prayers, and continued “blessings”,

  9. Fred said,

    June 19, 2007 at 8:47 am

    Dear Libbie,


    My wife is leading a women’s discussion group on “A Grief Observed” at our church–almost overwhelming for some of the widows.

    Grief is such a hole, isn’t it. No matter how it’s dug–slowly or quickly, carefully or at random–or who digs it, it’s a big, deep hole that is filled only gradually by dust drifting on the wind. May the Lord graciously turn this labour of grieving into a harvest that brings joy.

    Thinking of and praying for you all.



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