Monday, February 07, 2011

The Two Year Anniversary of Andrew's Death

Today is the two year anniversary of Andrew' death.

As soon as it has felt for all of you to watch our wedding video and then a few weeks later to watch the video to his memorial service below is kind of how our 5 year marriage felt - a flash. Before we knew it, our time together was up.

You may notice some parallels between the wedding video and the memorial video, despite how our wedding took place in New Jersey and his memorial service took place in Minnesota. The officiant is the same as my wedding, my brother-in-law, Bob Glenn. The worship leader is the same as well, David Ward. Our family relatives on both sides are there in the first few pews.  The flowers that I chose are the same colors as our wedding flowers, red and yellow. I chose that flower arrangement for his memorial service, because the colors reminded me of our love, deep and passionate.

Andrew and I loved each other very much. But we loved Christ and His glory even more. So even though I was grieving the loss of Andrew, I honestly felt joy that superceded my grieving that Andrew was enjoying the greatest longing of his heart, of both our hearts - Jesus Himself! On our wedding day, I walked down the aisle to Andrew. He lifted my veil and kissed me. On the day of his death, Jesus lifted the veil and welcomed his son home!

The message my brother-in-law preached on our wedding day was about the "mystery" of marriage. "Mystery" in the context of the Bible does not connote the same thing that it does in the English language. It refers to how the ultimate reality of something is not originally revealed. The "mystery" of marriage was that originally it was not known what ultimate reality it pointed to. But when Christ came to the earth, the mystery was revealed - God invented the institution of marriage to point to the greater reality of the relationship between Christ and the Church. Marriage is a shadow of what is to come, a dim picture of the future reality. That is what the purpose of marriage is - to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church. Just as a man is ravished by love for his bride, infinitely more does God exult in His love towards His bride, the Church ("The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy," Zephaniah 3:17).  Andrew was experiencing the fulfilment of that reality.

Honestly, amidst my grief, I felt more joyous during his memorial service than I did on our wedding day, because I believe Christ received more glory on that day. The wedding day was kind of about the bride, as much as we did want God’s glory on that day as well. But Andrew’s memorial service, while it was a tribute to Andrew, well, I believe the Lord’s grace in his life as well as in his death put Christ more clearly on display than our wedding did.

For his memorial service, I chose songs that I hoped would encourage all of us who were grieving.  And I tried to choose the songs that I knew Andrew loved - There is a Fountain and My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness.

I believe these lyrics were most meaningful from There Is a Fountain to Andrew as he struggled with tongue cancer:

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I'll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Lies silent in the grave, lies silent in the grave;
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

His tongue cancer was over, and he was singing in a nobler sweeter song than he ever had before tongue cancer.

I remembered there was another song that Andrew and I had heard a few years earlier visiting our old Bible study at UCLA that the both of us really liked. I especially liked the chorus, because it made me think of what it will be like in eternity as we all sing together worshiping God. I couldn't remember how it went, what it was called, or who had written it. I called a bunch of friends and they even looked up the schedule from the past dates that we had visited UCLA. But I still couldn't find the song. And then I thought, if the Lord wants me to use that song in the memorial service, He will provide it somehow. That night I got into the car of a new friend who was reaching out to me, my neighbor, Melissa. And in her car was playing a CD she had just gotten. The song came on: How Great Is Our God.

At the end of the memorial service, standing in front of Andrew's portrait singing How Great Is Our God, it was as if the lyris of the song were what Andrew was saying to me in wonder and awe, smiling, his eyes bulging, mouth agape, standing before Christ in eternity:

"The splendor of the King,
clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice,
all the earth rejoice

He wraps himself in light,
and darkness tries to hide
it trembles at his voice,
trembles at his voice."

It was as if I could see Andrew standing before the throne of God and he was saying, "Oh Grace, if only you could see what I'm seeing now," shaking his head in amazement.

One of the things Andrew had always talked about since I met him was wanting to see the Grand Canyon. Neither of us had seen it before. So we stopped at the Grand Canyon on our way driving to California, where we were going to say goodbye to all of his friends and go to the nutritional treatment center the last months of his life. As he stood before the massive canyon, he had said, "If I had known, Grace, oh my goodness, Grace, I would have come here sooo much sooner."

And as I stood before his portrait from our wedding day, as we sang How Great Is Our God, it was as if I could hear Andrew saying, "Oh my gosh, Grace, if I had known that this is what it would be like before the throne of God, oh my gosh, I could never imagine this! 

I remember the moment of AJ's birth and how Andrew's arm was raised like UCLA had just won three football games simultaneously, his eyes wide open, smiling, as he discovered that "it was a boy," and Andrew looked as if he was restraining himself from jumping up and down, so as not to outright say, "I told you so," and I thought of Andrew standing before Christ on the throne and him wanting to jump up and down...times infinity.

And age to age He stands
and time is in His Hands
Beginning and the End,
Beginning and the End

The Godhead, three in one
Father, Spirit, Son
the Lion and the Lamb,
the Lion and the Lamb

Name above all names
you are worthy of all praise
and my heart will sing
how great is our God

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

How Great is Our God, Christ Tomlin

Andrew's Memorial Service, part 1 from grace uriarte on Vimeo.

Andrew's Memorial Service, part 2 from grace uriarte on Vimeo.

Slideshow from memorial service:


  1. *hugs* one more time. Much love to you, Grace. I look fwd to the day we meet. :)

  2. Dear Grace,
    God has given you incredible strength. Your post honors and brings glory to Him. I am very encouraged by it. My husband and I will have been married for 5 yrs. this coming April and it just reminds me to treasure every moment and take nothing for granted. May our loving Lord Jesus continue to carry you through. Thank you for your faithful testimony.
    In Christ, Liesy Turnbull

  3. Grace - You teach us so much...continual, gentle reminders that are very much appreciated. Thank you for sharing your heart and your love - you will and definitely are receiving it one hundred billion fold from all who know you and all who meet you :o) aloha, tara :o)