At church yesterday, the last song we sang at church was about heaven. I pictured Andrew in heaven singing something akin to what we were singing. This made me weep. My sister tapped me on the back after the song ended and introduced me to Noel Piper. John and Noel Piper happened to be visiting our church for the first time, since Dr. Piper is on writing leave from his church and Minneapolis is only a half-hour from us. I did not know at all that they were at the church and was very shocked to be meeting her. All I could do was blubber. The Pipers had eaten dinner with my sister and brother-in-law for the first time at our house while we were in California back in November, because my sister's kitchen was being remodeled. Noel thanked me for that and said that at least in that small way they had a connection to Andrew. I simply wept and blubbered, "No, thank you for eating in my house."
A few minutes later, after I had composed myself, I shook hands with John Piper for the first time. I told him how during Andrew's last months we had listened to his sermons on Job and suffering repeatedly and how it had greatly helped and ministered to us. I said how Andrew would have considered it a great honor to meet him right then because of how Piper had impacted his life, since Andrew had a collection of his sermons that he had listened to over the years.
Later, when I told my brother-in-law about my encounter with Piper, I said, "I'm not going to feel bad, though, that Andrew missed out on that, because he's meeting with Someone way better right now."
The first week without him
Andrew was right in the letter I last posted ("Day 1") that God would give me strength I never dreamed of when he left us. I never knew it was possible to truly rejoice that your beloved was in the presence of Jesus, while mourning at the same time, for even that rejoicing to supercede your mourning.
Even though I fought his death tooth and nail, when we were finally in the hospital, the truth that the number of his days had been written before time was so real to me and such a comfort to me. I know that all the peace and thankfulness for the time I had had with Andrew was totally supernatural and not of myself.
In the following days, I was surrounded by Andrew's family as well as mine and all our relatives. I'm so thankful to all our relatives who came out to be with us during that time. It was such a comfort to me to see everyone.
Andrew's brother and sister and parents were staying in our house. As we stayed up late working on Andrew's slideshow and putting together collages of his pictures, it felt so good to look at hundreds of pictures of Andrew when he was still healthy and cancer had not yet invaded our lives. It was so fun to be able to say whatever flew into my head at the moment, while I still was processing my feelings. I'd exclaim, "I love Andrew so much!" and have someone to hear me say it. Or I'd say, "Andrew is so handsome!" and Andrew's sister's husband would say, "Yeah, he's a stud."
We still talked so much about Andrew and in the present tense, his pictures so clear and vivid, it felt like he had never left and that maybe he was just resting in his room, as he always was in recent months.
On the Wednesday evening of Andrew's memorial service as all our relatives were at our house for dinner, I began to feel anxious about what I was going to do after the mass exodus of all our relatives that evening. It was Day 5, so I read his letter for that day:
Don't fear the future. Just take it one day at a time. One foot in front of the other. Keep the big picture of God's glory in mind. Continue to serve Him by being faithful in the little things. Faithful with your time and energy. Smile at the future, the best is yet to come!
"Prov 31:25 Strength and dignity are her clothing And she smiles at the future."
Let me pray with you...Dear Lord, I thank you so much for Grace and the kids. Thank you that we got to have each other for as long we we did. Thank you for your hand which has upheld our family through thick and thin. Thank you that you will never leave us or forsake us. Thank you that you love us so much and want us to know Christ so intimately that you would take me home a little sooner than others. We beg of you to take care of this family and be a father and a husband to them. I pray that they would know your closeness in times of loneliness, and that they would run to you for their satisfaction rather than other people, movies, Internet or other things. Please help Grace to be able to handle leading this home without me. Help her to learn and do the jobs that I used to do. Please make it easy and fun for her. Please bring joy and laughter into this home, and turn their mourning to dancing. Amen.
Week two without him
Andrew's mom and my mom are still here. As everyone else has left, each day has felt a little lonelier. Last night I dreamed about Andrew for the first time. He was dressed up a little bit wearing a blue button-down shirt of his that I liked and black pants. He was standing up tall and straight, his old weight, not skinny, like he used to in his healthy pictures. We were in Target together shopping for new bedsheets, but they told us they didn't sell them. I wondered around the store feeling so confused, swearing that they always had sold them in the past. I hugged him and told him I missed him. I thought someone else had died, then realized that he had never been healed of cancer, so he would have to die anyway. The new bedsheets were to replace the ones that had been stained and destroyed when he had his first bleed.
I woke up having to reassure myself that the last six years was not a dream and that what we had was real. A.J. woke up next to me screaming. I comforted him and said, uncertain why he was even crying, "You know that Papa loves you so much, right?"
He said, "No."
I said, "Yes, he does."
He said, "No, but I don't know that he does."
I continued to reassure him. Somehow A.J. often seems to say out loud what I'm thinking too. I had to whisper to myself that indeed Andrew did love me, even though I wasn't feeling like it.
I went to small group last night and was reminded again how Andrew's suffering and death truly has affected people, which emphasizes for me that this had been the Lord's plan all along and brings me joy. As the days go on and I forget how much Andrew suffered and instead stare at pictures of when he was perfect and healthy, it begins to hurt more that he is gone and the relief that he is no longer in pain is lost. When the reality of how much his suffering and death has impacted people does not confront me as loudly, my joy also dissipates and grief replaces it.
I think it was Jonathan Edwards who described his marriage with Sarah as an "uncommon union." Even though our marriage was far from perfect (mostly because of me) that's what I think of what Andrew and I had (mostly because of him). I felt so accepted and cherished by Andrew.
When I met him in the fall of 2001, seeing him felt like coming home for the first time (even though I didn't even know him and he was completely unaware of it). When I consider living in our home without the very one who made it home, I am perplexed. But then I remember what he said, "Just take it one day at a time." And I remember how God sustained me that first week and continues to shield me from overwhelming grief. That it hasn't been nearly as bad as I had imagined it would be. And as Piper always says, if God has always proven faithful, then we can be reassured that He will continue to be faithful.