My God will meet all your needs. He will meet them in keeping with his wonderful riches that come to you because you belong to Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19


A New Journey

On February 8, 2010 Suzy was diagnosed with a brain tumor. On September 17, 2013 God called Suzy home, granting her complete healing from the tumor. As believers in Christ we are confident that God uses everything - even challenging and difficult things - for the purposes of advancing His Kingdom.
I continue this blog with reflections and thoughts on Suzy's life, on the journey of grief, and on God's faithfulness in our lives through all of this. You are free to leave comments as well. Thank you for joining us in praying that God will use every aspect of this experience for His glory!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Farewell 2013

I continue to receive notices on Facebook that state, “2013: See Your Year in Review!” You would likely be astounded at the speed with which I am able to hit the delete button. I do NOT want to see any part of my year in review.  Many people do. Folks often enjoy reviewing the pictures, posts, notes and highlights of the year. There is, however, no part of 2013 that I want to see again. It cannot leave quickly enough.

In early January 2013, after we returned from the US, I began to notice Suzy increasingly struggle with words. Some words just would not come to her. She substituted words at times, words that started with the same sound for example. Then she lost peripheral vision in her right eye in late January. It soon became apparent that her tumor was back. An MRI in early February confirmed what we already knew. We then entered the palliative care phase of Suzy’s journey. 2013 became a long, slow, excruciating journey as she slowly yet steadily lost physical function and cognitive ability. She changed before our eyes as the tumor assaulted her brain. She bravely and courageously accepted the losses and changes until she could fight no longer. On September 17 at 8:45 am Jesus called to Suzy, “Come home, my precious daughter” and she flew in to his arms and went home!

2013 will always be for me a year of painful, hellish waiting, longing and loss. 2013 was a year of tears upon tears upon tears. A year of deep loneliness. A year of agony. And the numbers ‘2-0-1-3’ will always remind me of the year that Suzy, the sweet, sweet love of my life, breathed her last. We said ‘goodbye’ to the most vibrant, loving, vivacious person I have ever known. We buried her cremains. I closed accounts and started to adapt and adjust to life as a widower. 2013 – be gone! Please!

Yet there were definitely some parts of 2013 that were good, even wonderful. We were loved beyond measure by our church family and by friends all over the world. We experienced God’s grace in the hardest, most challenging circumstances. Even at my lowest points, I still felt held. Always. God showed up in ways I never before imagined. And although I never want to walk through anything like 2013 again, I can say that I know and have experienced God’s love in deeper and more profound ways than I ever dreamed could exist. And of greatest joy to me is the truth that in 2013 Suzy was fully healed and made whole, no longer suffering and no longer in pain. She is in the arms of her truest and deepest love, worshiping and adoring the Savior that she spent a lifetime telling others about. 2013 will always be the year of Suzy’s full and final redemption, receiving the reward of eternity and the privilege to dance arm-in-arm with Jesus. I am confident that she is radiating joy and that her huge, infectious smile is lighting up every corner of heaven. 2013 was Suzy’s year for completing her faith and finishing her race.

But oh! How I miss her!

So ‘no thank you’ Facebook. I do not want to see 2013 in review. I will remember my sweet love without your help. I will honor her memory and do my best to pursue her passions in a way that fits my personality and gifts. I will continue to see Suzy in the faces and in the personalities of my sons, the courageous and mature-beyond-years young men that God has entrusted me to continue walking with on this journey of life. I will not look for you in review, 2013. But I will look at you and remember. Forever remember. My Suzy, my love. Your life was and always will be my life’s best part.

*******

This end-of-the-year 2013 post also marks my final entry on this blog. There is still more to say. By no means is my journey over. I am still in early stages of grief and the feelings are still sometimes as raw as the day she died. Yet it is time for me to close this chapter. You have lovingly encouraged me as I wrote. You have supported and prayed for Zachary, Micah and me. The blog took on a life of its own, and I was privileged and deeply humbled to watch God speak through the words that flowed from a weak, struggling, broken man using a simple computer keyboard. I will write more, of that I am sure. But it will now be in a different setting or medium. And maybe, just maybe, depending on God’s will and leading, maybe you’ll see a book with my by-line on it. Some day.

I love receiving your cards and letters. Please don’t stop sending them.
I love talking with you on email, facebook or on the phone. Please don’t stop messaging or calling me.
I love taking a walk, getting a pint or sharing a meal with you. Please don’t stop inviting me.
And I love, love, love to talk about Suzy. So please let me.
And keep asking – about what I remember, what I need and how I’m doing. I need you to keep doing that for a long, long time.

***********

2013 is ending. 2014 will prayerfully bring new and different things, even growth and maturity; a fresh breath of God’s Spirit flowing in and through me. Farewell 2013. I will never miss you. But Suzy, my love. I will always, always, always miss you. I love you. Forever.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

My Grief


“My tears are the words with which I tell God of my pain.”
Adolfo Quezada

*If tears are in fact my words, then God is hearing from me a great deal. Every day. Over time there are thousands upon thousands of ‘words’ to tell Him of my pain.

*I never knew that grief would hurt. Physically hurt. You can’t take pain relief medicine to alleviate or lessen this pain.

*The idea that after 3 months one should be ‘moving on’ or ‘getting better’ is a horrible myth. It is not true. And those that perpetuate it actually make my grief worse.

*I miss Suzy today more than yesterday. Oh, my sweet, sweet love! How I long to hold your hand once more!

*You might expect that, over time, you would slowly feel better. Not all at once, but perhaps a general trajectory towards improvement. But feelings rise and fall, get better, get worse, and move all over the place. All the time.

*I know that Suzy is healed. I know that she is face-to-face with Jesus. I know that she is happy. My faith promises me that she is fully alive. But there is a huge gap between my faith and my feelings.

*Some days I can focus, at least for a while. Some days I am all over the place. Even simple tasks sometimes become overwhelmingly difficult because my mind just won’t let me think clearly.

*I know it won’t be like this forever. But right now it’s just a little difficult to feel much hope.

*I talk to Suzy quite a bit. You might think I am crazy. But it makes me feel better.

*There are friends who ‘get’ this grief thing. Thank God for their patience with me. Thank God for those who love me so well.  Really.

*I picture Suzy talking to God, and I see Him laughing and smiling. He must be so pleased to have her home. My life hurts like hell. But I am pleased she is home as well.

*These tears. Oh my, these tears! So much on my mind and in my heart to express to you God.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

When I Fall in Love ...


... it will be forever ...

I'm missing Suzy enormously today. So I'm playing this song for her. As you listen, you can celebrate Suzy with me. Or cry tears of grief with me. Or both. I am.


Forever indeed, my sweet, sweet love!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Living In An Upside-Down World

On Sunday, I preached for the first time in nearly 8 months. It was hard. God's grace was sufficient. I was blessed to be surrounded by our congregation and many, many dear friends.

I knew that I needed to share about our journey with Suzy's brain tumor and my thoughts about God's love and goodness in the midst of our pain and loss. I feel that God gave me the words to say so that I could convey truth about His character. It was healing for me to be able to say it. I hope it was helpful to those who heard it.

If you would like to listen as well I will be humbly honored and grateful. On ICC's website (link below), you can click on 'Listen to Sermon' under the tab 'Sunday Worship.' The message is titled 'Living in an Upside-Down World' from 17th November 2013. It is 40 minutes long so download it for another time or sit back with a cup of tea to listen.

Life continues to be upside-down for me. Thank God that his mercies are new every morning. Minute-by-minute, day-by-day I trudge on through the mountain of grief.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Saturday Morning at the Bakery

I sat in a little bakery in Dusseldorf, Germany. It was filled with countless varieties of breads, rolls, sweet rolls, sandwiches and more. There were 3 'older' women behind the counter and a very long queue of customers out the door. It was bustling and busy, but they were abundantly cheerful, pleasant and friendly to each customer. When it was my turn as the next customer, I asked, "May I have a large coffee please?" and everything stopped. All 3 women stopped and looked at me. The entire queue stopped their conversations and turned to stare at me, this stranger who dared to speak English. For just a brief half-minute ... and then all went on as before.

That half-minute is what grief feels like. I don't fit in. I'm an outsider. I'm awkward. I make people uncomfortable ('some day I may have to be where he is now'). Its all confusing and disorienting.

Nevertheless, I sat enjoying my coffee and my apfel kuchen, seeing other parallels to grief. I was in a place that was completely unfamiliar. I could not read any of the signs or the labels on the rolls behind the counter. I could not understand a word being spoken. I thought, 'I can never fit in and be one of them.' Yet they went on with their lives, oblivious to me. They go on in spite of me. Life indeed goes on all around me even if I don't understand it and don't fit in and nothing makes sense.

I feel that in some ways my life as an ex-patriate perhaps helps me in my grief. I've learned before how to live in a new place and culture. I listened to the ladies behind the counter and learned their words of greeting to each customer, 'bitte schoen.'  I began to appreciate the differences. I actually enjoyed my Saturday morning at the bakery. I have the skills to watch, observe, learn, absorb and adjust. It takes an enormous amount of time and energy. But the reward is well worth the effort.

But the difference for me, and where the parallel stops, is in my utter sadness. I can listen and observe and learn, eventually, what this new 'culture' of life without Suzy looks like and feels like. But I can never, ever enjoy it. One day I know I will enjoy life again, but I will never be able to enjoy the place where I am now like I enjoyed my morning at the bakery in Dusseldorf. It just hurts too damn much. I'm learning, I'm adjusting. I am very slowly beginning to get on with my life. But not for one single second am I enjoying it.

*  *  *  *  *

By the way, the reason I was in Dusseldorf was to attend the International Schools Sports Tournament (ISST) and cheer for Micah's volleyball team. They brought home the silver medal! And Micah was named to the All-Tournament Team! I was indeed a very proud Dad. Suzy, too, would have been so pleased and proud, and probably would have summed it all up saying something like, "Isn't God just amazing?" She certainly always saw the best in every situation and found reasons for joy in the middle of life!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Remembering

Most of each day feels heavy - mundane, unimaginative, valueless. I am going on with life, returning to work, seeing friends. I am learning to walk again. But there is this heaviness and confusion surrounding most of it. There is also pain, and believe me, it hurts like hell. It consumes much of my thinking. So I try to turn my thinking to remembering. Although remembering doesn't take it all away, it does give me, for ever so brief a moment, a respite. A time to catch my breath and see, even faintly, that there is still hope in the world.

Many of you have helped me with remembering. You have reminded me of conversations and events long forgotten. (This is the real peril of aging!). Your words have taken my mind to remembering the days of joy, the moments of laughter, the times of fullness. You help me to remember Suzy's vivacious spirit and rock-solid faith. Your words remind me how gifted Suzy was and how God used her to shape and mold the lives she encountered.

So for today's post, I am sharing from cards, emails and conversations, some or your words of remembering:


*"Suzy was such a beautiful person and touched so many people in such a special way. I wish I would have spent more time with her."

*"She left a huge legacy."

*A former student wrote, "I will never forget how much she loved us, and how she lived that love for us every day."

*"She was such a beautiful example of living life to the fullest."

*Another brain tumor patient wrote, "I have been able to lose any fear of how the tumor grows and the future in front of me now."

*"Suzy had an ability to get you to do get you do something and make you feel like it was your idea."

*"She made you feel like the most important person in the world. When I was with her I felt like I was her favorite."

*"Sometimes when I encounter someone I have to ask, 'Have I met you before?' because I'm not sure if I know them. No one ever had to ask that question to Suzy, because if you met her, you knew it!"


The books and articles on grief tell me that remembering is good. It is healthy. It is part of the healing process. The flood of tears still flows, sometimes more heavily when I remember. But with the tears there is also a faint smile. And a barely audible whisper escapes my lips, "Thank you God. Thank you for Suzy."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Suzy's Life Celebrated in Pictures

At Suzy's memorial services we showed pictures in celebration of her life. My desire was to honor and praise God for Suzy's life, her gifts and her love. I ask that you join me in a prayer of thanks and praise to God for Suzy as you enjoy the pictures as well. Please click on the link below.