Thursday, March 12, 2009


After the whirlwind of Andrew's memorial service, I found that each day, I generally felt fine. During those times, I thought, this isn't so bad. If this is what it's like, then I don't see how we can't get through this. And then some time after dinner each night, I felt the complete opposite for an hour or two and wasn't sure if I would make it through the next minute. I was grateful, though, that at least there was relief each day for most of it. I had always expected my grief would be a suffocating dark cloud, relentless without any sunshine to pierce it. Yet, each day I could breathe. But when the misery took over after the kids were in bed, it was like trying to breathe through a contraction. Each day felt a little better, while the misery contractions at night felt a little worse.

One thing I was forced to learn from our battle with cancer, though, was that panic, or any strong emotion related to misery, was always passing and that one should never put any stock in it. Once the panic subsided, then one could evaluate the situation, see that it wasn't completely overwhelming, and that one could then take the next step, rather than collapse in frustration. So I would breathe and wait for the contraction to subside.

My mother stayed for an additional week after Andrew passed away and I would cry to her each night. She would reassure me that indeed God was in control and I could trust in Him and rub my back like I was a little girl again and I would feel better and fall asleep. It was strange, as if I had gone from being my mom's girl, while being Andrew's for a few years was a slight hiccup, and then went back to mom's girl.

Week 3 after Andrew's Homegoing

I had bought a bunkbed from Ikea with a full-size bed on the bottom. I thought I would sleep on the top bunk, while still have the option to cuddle with one of the kids on the bottom when I felt like it, while the other one slept on the toddler bed. In the end, the top bunk always seemed too lonely and the kids always insisted I stay on the bottom. Even though they took turns sleeping on the other toddler bed, by morning, all three of us usually ended up squished together in the bottom bunk.

I put the bunk bed in their room, so the room is not too big and real cozy. I retired to the room at the same time as the kids, so I didn't have to endure lonely nights by myself and no longer had the evening bouts of misery. Even though they were asleep, I still felt comforted by their presence at night. So I started to have my bouts of grief at unexpected times in the mid-morning or after lunch. I would burst out crying, missing Andrew. The kids would each run for the tissue box, insisting that I couldn't cry, bringing me wads of tissues, their offerings to me. I would have to suck it up and hold in my tears. Since I'm basically always with the kids, I really had no opportunity to cry.

I still had to have my daily cries, even if they were only allowed to last a minute or two a couple of times in the afternoon. The kids are used to it now and no longer demand an explanation. They don't even turn from their toys all the time to overload me with tissues.

After the kids were in bed, I read for awhile, and usually fell asleep by 10. Not wanting to wake them up, I set my alarm for the latest possible time the kids might still be sleeping, assuming that I went to bed so early that I would probably be waking up way before them on my own. Not so. Grief is quite exhausting, especially if you're not allowed to express it as much as you would like to. I always woke up at the same time as them.

When I am missing Andrew, it feels so unreal that he could actually be gone. Like I'll glance a picture of him, see his familiar face, and realize, I had looked at it thousands of times, the slope of his nose, the angles of his jaw, his wide, almond eyes, the width of his cheeks. I'll think, How could he not be here anymore? He was just here. Three weeks ago. He was just here and I could look at that face any time I wanted as much as I wanted, so much and for so long, over and over day in and day out, that face, and that I thought I would always look at it. It's like saying you will never see the blue sky again. Or ever see another tree for the rest of your life. Like the mountains have fallen into the sea.

Like when some people in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11th got stuck in the elevators, collapsed down to the bottom floor and survived, but when they climbed out of the elevators, they thought they had died because they recognized nothing. The lobby was gone, ash and rubble floated everywhere like a thick fog. On the street, nothing was the same, and how could they ever imagine Manhatten could ever be recovered, restored, or look like it did just earlier that morning ever again. At that moment, the world that they had always known, was just, gone.

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea.
- Psalm 46:1-2

When I am feeling okay, it's like standing behind the glass in an aquarium. It's really strange how it feels when I am doing okay. It is so opposite than when I'm sad. It feels very literally as if the Lord is shielding me from the onslaught of grief. When I remember the misery of the previous day, yet feel so perfectly calm and fine, it is like I am looking at that giant aquarium of water, watching the grey shark swim by, and wonder what was ever the danger of all that water to me when there is a glass wall between us.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
-Lamentations 3:22-23

I have been reading old journals of ours, trying to find some meaning, some bigger picture to the last six years. I find myself lost in Andrew's old journals that I had never read and in our old emails to each other. Reading his words make me feel like he's still human and just on the other side of a computer.

Through this trial, I have found that I don't always understand my feelings, but feel no obligation to have to be able to know what all of them are or have to explain or articulate them. But I have found that when I pray about my concerns, the Lord reveals to me what's on my heart. During small group one night when a few of us were praying together, I confessed to the Lord how I would rather read Andrew's journals than read the Bible. It suddenly came to mind then that the reason I hide myself in Andrew's journals are because I miss him so much. That may have seemed obvious but it wasn't to me until that moment. I had never known what it was to miss my husband for more than a week or to this degree. Tears gushed from my eyes.

Week 4

That rhythm of daily feeling fine with an afternoon interruption of weeping continued until last week when on a Monday I noticed from across the room some file folders in our bookshelves amidst all our books, rather than in our office. "Hm. I wonder what I'll discover there," I said. And then I found photos taken of us two days after our engagement when we had gone to Joshua Tree in California with a friend. I had seen these photos months ago, but they were the only ones I hadn't reviewed since Andrew passed away, because they weren't on our computer since someone else had taken them. Additionally, earlier that morning an old friend of Andrew's had posted a memory that he had with Andrew. I had heard the story a couple of times before, but this time he added a detail I had not heard. That memory along with our pictures, just brought those years of young, healthy Andrew so vividly to my mind. I missed Andrew's old goofiness that had faded in the months just before his cancer was discovered, when he first began to get increasingly tired and more pale.

I always wanted to know more of Andrew, hold his heart in my hand, be able to grasp his essence. I wanted to ask him questions. What was he thinking that hilarious day he carried that refrigerator up the stairs with his friend? Tell me more, tell me more, tell me more about you. I never could get enough of Andrew. I couldn't even get enough of his name or saying his name. I loved the feel of his name reverberating from my vocal chords. That's why we named A.J., Andrew Junior. I had always secretly hoped A.J. would want to use the name "Andrew" when he got a little older and his little friends could call him it. Now I'm so thankful we still have at least one Andrew here.

And so all last week, I kept playing music of Andrew's that he liked to listen to when we were first falling in love and then he began playing constantly again in the last weeks of his life. He used to listen to two Third Day CD's, Time and Come Together, over and over and over again during both those times in our lives. I never understood why he liked them so much. I liked how they sounded, but I never could follow all the lyrics, so I didn't always know what they were singing about, since either my mind would wonder or the words were slurred. I wanted to ask him what he liked so much about those songs. What resonated so much with him? Why didn't I ask him before? And yet, many times I did ask him questions like that. Often, he'd say he didn't know. And that's why I never could get enough of him. I read in one of his early journals when we were dating that he felt like I understood him often better than he understood himself. And still, it wasn't enough for me. I have always wanted to understand his heart and his mind more, even though he himself didn't know all the answers. I thought I would have the rest of our lives to discover him.

I would cry to the music as it played and I prepared breakfast for the kids or lunch or dinner. I wondered why I felt so compelled to stare at pictures of Andrew, play his music, and read beautiful journals about us falling in love if all it made me do was cry. And yet, as miserable as it was, I almost relished weeping for Andrew. I loved taking care of him when he was sick. It was hard, but the Lord gave me so much joy in it. I wanted to do anything for Andrew, and now if I can weep for him, then I am thankful to do that too.

When I was de-cluttering some piles of papers, I discovered a booklet from the funeral home about grief. It said that some people think that time heals a broken heart, but that it actually doesn't if you refuse to grieve. So it recommends looking at pictures of your loved one, playing music he liked, or writing your feelings about him. When I read that, I understood then what I had been doing all that week. It really helped to have that validation. My sister told me that in the Old Testament grieving was a form of worship to God. Along with weeping and tearing their clothes, at a funeral they would even hire professional wailers.

Week 5

This week, I still played music that reminded me of Andrew. Some healing must have taken place, though, because the past few days it hasn't made me cry anymore. I just like to hear it, think of him, and feel just fine.

I think about heaven all the time now, because that is where my love is, wondering what it is like there. Heaven is the intermediary state where we are spirit, awaiting Christ's return to earth when we shall all rise again with new bodies. I feel like I love Andrew even more now, because he is literally perfect now. He is literally without sin and that is how I think about him when I think about where he is now.

Having your marriage cut short so unexpectedly from what you had always assumed and witnessing your husband's life cut short forces you to see that there is only a veil between you and eternity. Life is so short, whether you die young or you have many more years. I will see Andrew soon. I know it. Maybe not Tuesday, but some Tuesday, some day after a breath of a life. And so it makes me return to my old feelings about life, before I had married and my devotion to the Lord was undivided ("But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband." - 1Cor. 7:34). That my hope cannot be in this world or this life or wasting it on a pursuit of comfort that always evades you anyway and never satisfies. Nothing is worth living for except for Christ. So if life is hard or painful, just submit to God, and let Him use those things to make you more like Him, because that is the only thing He is after - making you into His image for His own glory.

The significance of Andrew's life

Many of you have expressed how Andrew's life was inspirational. I imagine he would love for you to hear the 2nd message delivered eight days after his death and the dangers that come with finding Andrew's life inspirational:
Listen Online
Download (10.77MB)

Prayer Requests

- that I would live for Christ alone and allow Him to mold me into His image rather than resist even the everyday little trials
- that I would seek my satisfaction in Christ alone
- that I would be consistent with the children, firm, yet patient. God has called me to the impossible task of being a single mom to these children to teach them about Christ faithfully. But I think the fact that it is impossible is the point. Christ is always calling us to the impossible, which is why I cannot rely on myself but only on God with Whom nothing is impossible.


  1. Praying for you, A.J., and Gracie right now!

  2. thank you for sharing all of your feelings and thoughts. it really does change the way i see life, it reminds me what is important in life. we are praying for you.

  3. dear gracie: i am praying for you. your imagery of trying to breathe through a contraction was particularly moving to me as i just went through labor just than two weeks ago, and it was agony! and i know that this picture is probably a weak analogy to describe your pain. i'm with you, sister, in spirit, wishing i could be with you to give you a big hug and join your slumber party with a.j. and gracie to offer a shoulder to cry on (quietly, so the kids don't have to run for a tissue box in the middle of the night!).

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this, Grace. I was thinking about you last week about 8 I sat in my living room alone after the kids were in bed and Mark was at work. And I wondered what it would be like if I knew Mark was not coming how you were probably sitting in your living room that night. Thank you for the reminder to keep Christ first and foremost in my affections. You are on my mind daily and I pray for you often each day. It is so true there is only a veil between where we are now and where Andrew is. We will all be together with our Savior so soon! soon. I am so thankful for the hope of eternity. God is so good to us.


  5. Thank you SO much for taking the time to write this post. You teach me so much! I will keep praying and treasure every single day with my dear family. I will pray specifically for your prayer requests - thank you for sharing. Consistency is a constant struggle for all us parents...I know how to pray!

  6. God is gently leading you...Still praying...In His love~

  7. Still praying. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers often.

  8. Grace, I don't know you at all.

    I am a believer and I attend a bible church in Nashville. I have been reading your blog for the last 3 weeks.

    I am marveling at the Lord as I read and watch the videos on your blog. I think my heart is being renewed (literally) by reading your posts.

  9. Hi Grace,

    My name is Joseph and I'm a student at UC Berkeley. I've never met you, but I just wanted to say that your blog is inspiring to me and reminds of the fact that life is short and that I need to make the most of it. I'll pray for you, thank you, and keep on running the race!

    - Joseph

  10. Hi Grace, we don't know each other but know a lot of the same people. I just wanted to let you know that people you don't know have been praying for you and that you are not alone. I also want you to know (just to be practical) that what you are going through - the being ok then not being ok - is completely normal! After my mom died everyone in my family went through grief differently. It was a bit jarring - I thought we'd all go through it together. But I learned that everyone grieves differently and most importantly there is no right or wrong way - you just are where you are and there is nothing to do but go through it. So don't be too hard on yourself in the journey :) and thank you so much for keeping the blog up so we can journey with you! I LOVE that Andrew left you all these letters and journal entries. What a blessing! I am also very excited to see what God will do with and in your future. You are a very special woman!

  11. continue to press on! i can truly see gods leading in you! this time of mourning is a healthy one and i think bittersweet is probably the only word to describe it. rest in the peace knowing that god has full control of everything and has the power to do so!

  12. Grace, each of your entries reminds me to set my heart more on the things above. Thank you for so openly sharing and challenging ALL of our hearts to love Christ more. Truly, that is the only thing that matters in this life.

    Praying for you, dear sister!

  13. Well done darling. :)
    glad I visited your blog. Love you. mel

  14. Hi Grace,
    Thank you for continually sharing what you are thinking and going through. We are praying for you and the little ones. I was thinking about what you said about Andrew listening to Third Day and I too don't listen to it much since I can't sometimes understand what they are saying but my husband listens to it during his runs and it seems to really minister to his heart. Well I was up with sick kids in the early morning and couldn't get back to sleep so decided to go for a run and listen to Third Day on the iPod out of curiosity to try and listen to the words and I can see why they like it so much. Take It All from their album Revelation made me think of you and I was able to pray for you throughout my run. May the sweet memories of Andrew and His love for our Lord ease the pain and grief as you think of him now complete in GLORY. Please know you are upheld by the body of Christ each day. The Lord is near to those who call upon Him!

  15. Hi Gracie-

    So glad He is comforting you and carrying you. He always will. I can't wait for Heaven too!

    Love, Nancy

  16. Grace,
    I pray for you almost everyday. I have been watching to see if you have posted again.

    It is so true that all of our "jobs" are impossible for us to do, but it is only by God's Grace that we are able to recognize that fact and allow Him to take control.

    Keep looking ONLY to Christ.

  17. hello gracie...i know you read these comments. i am writing to tell you that i love you!

  18. Hello Grace..
    You don't know me but I have posted several times on here, relating to Andrew as he was going thru chronic pain. I, too, have suffered with chronic pain and many surgeries. I just wanted to let u know I am praying for you and your family. Thank you for sharing so eloquently your thoughts and grief. You are such an amazing woman with such a talent at writing! Continue to keep your eyes focused on Him! He will sustain you through all things!
    Keep the Faith,