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Tonight we put up our Christmas tree, the first Ravella/Gilbert tree. Actually we have two trees. One is artificial. It is perfect. It has p...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year...

This is my first blog entry for 2008. The New Year entered quietly, with thoughts of Andrea. Actually when midnight came I was on the phone with a nurse from the ICU who cared for Andrea with a love that can only be explained as angelic. She is and will be my friend. We talked about Andrea and the impact she has had on our lives. It was the perfect way to link the past with a new beginning. I listened to her recount a story that only confirmed what I knew; Andrea lived serving God and He used her for His glory. When ever you read what I write, know that I end my day or my grief with the thought that Andrea served God in death as much as life and I have no regret. Nor do I struggle with why, for God has allowed me to see the answer to the question "Why." I wish all of you could see the letters and emails I receive where people recount Andrea's impact on their life. If you did you would be as lifted up as I am, even when you look back at what was lost because His blessings point to a greatness yet to be understood.

It reminds me of a comment Anthony made before Christmas. Four guys from my office had blessed us by putting Christmas lights on our house. It was so nice for the boys to see a little of Christmas during all the hospital visits. The roof and the bushes close to the house were lined with lights, but they also put lights around the truck of a tree in our front yard about 25 feet from the house. As we drove away one night Anthony said, "How are those lights on the tree truck getting power?" I said, "An extension cord." Anthony said, "I didn't see one." I said, "It does not matter if you see it or not the fact that the lights are on tells you there is an extension cord reaching those lights, they can't get power without one." I has to be there, the light you see is all the proof you need that there is a cord from the house to those lights. You don't have to see the cord; you only have to see the lights shinning in the dark to know somewhere there is a cord connecting the two.

You all are my extension cord. Sometimes unseen but the results are clear for others to see. Your words are my extension cord to the Hope I have in Christ. A confirmation that if there is light there must be a power source. This is the hope I saw Andrea live while facing death for four years and four months. Though I cannot understand how she did it, her faith and peace confirmed by your words are proof of the connection to Christ and that His words are true. All of them, even the ones that promise us a future. Maybe you all don't get to see all the accounts people share with me, but my hope is that you know that God used Andrea's life for His glory, and in doing so I hope you find meaning in her suffering and sacrifice. So that when you feel grief over loosing Andrea or for any reason for that matter that the evidence you have seen of Christ's love will take the edge off your pain. I pray the confidence you feel in knowing God's words are true, evidenced by Andrea's faithfulness, will remain with you when life inevitable challenges come your way.

For me personally the first day of 2008 was a day to think and reflect. I realized today, a day to celebrate the future was a day of mixed emotions. Joy, happiness, sadness, and grief all coexisted in me today. Today I stood with one foot in my past and one foot in my future. I stood knowing forward is the only way I can go. I stood looking into the future finding myself longing to have the joy it offers yet missing what I'm leaving behind.

I feel like I'm in a crowded street being forced to move in a direction I don't want to go. I look back and I see Andrea on the side walk the crowd blocking her from reaching me. We are separated and the distance grows. I'm unable to get back to her; the force of the crowd will not allow me to move in any other direction but forward. I try to jump hoping to catch a glance of Andrea hoping to fix in my mind where she is in relation to me so I can work my way back to her. But the crowd pushes me further away, and soon she fades, I have lost her in the crowd. Her face lost in the sea of people. Saddened, unable to reconcile what is happening I lower my head and accept the direction the crowd takes me.

Yet amongst this feeling of separation I find myself looking forward to the life that lies ahead. My slate is clean my plans my hopes my dreams have been erased. There is hope in a future that holds a happiness that seems impossible. I think back to Andrea in my mind and remember the last time I saw her on the crowded street as I was pulled away from her, she was waving goodbye, smiling, blowing me a kiss hollering, "Be strong, enjoy your life, I will see you soon." Do you know how hard it was to hear her tell me she wanted me to live a happy life if she died? For her to tell the boys and me that I should remarry? That the boys needed a mother? For Nic to live his life and continue chase his dreams and go abroad for school despite her illness? That her prayer for Anthony that he would know she loved him and she was sorry he had to loose his mom, again? She spoke all these words to us boys. She was always more concerned about others then herself. Her life and faith are my inspiration to get up every day. I am a blessed man to have been her husband. That is a truth through which I filter my pain. And that is a pretty fine filter it stops a lot of the grief that would otherwise crush me.

So it is with mixed emotions that I close this first day of 2008. It is with great sorrow and great hope that I move on. For I know God will do mighty things in my life and there will be joy and happiness in the days of 2008. The force that pushes me onward will lead me to blessings unknown right now. God's words are true. He is faithful, He does love us, He will never leave us, He feels our pain and understands, He has defeated death and tells us when we grieve, to grieve with hope.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

To grieve with hope. I have thought about that many a day and night. I have read or thought about this somewhat common verse of scripture many times. I have used those words as an encouragement to me at others who have lost someone. It is the promise that while I may be standing with one foot is the pain of the past and one foot in the hope of the future, God is still there. And He will give me the strength to walk forward into the future.

I just keep remembering this pain can not be erased in a moment. I must live in it and through it knowing He promises us a hope that will surpass our understanding. I want that. I want to move ahead with the crowd, yet I don't. I not ready to pick up my foot from the past and place both feet into the future. I guess when I allow myself to move with the crowd I will know I have reached a certain level of healing. I want that despite what it means. I need that despite the guilt I feel in willingly walking away from Andrea. She loved me unconditionally for almost 28years. And now life is asking me to walk away. I know I won't forget her but I have to move away from her. Little by little my home will loose the signs of Andrea's existence. Like the sanitation of the bathroom this week, my home and my life will have Andrea's fingerprints removed. Only memories will remain. And those memories like water in the hands of a man lost in the desert can not hold what I need. God will have to provide the answer to me. And I know He will help me for His words are true. They are the firm foundation which I stand on. Without them I would experience grief without hope, and that would be scary!

Well it is nearly 3am and once again I'm falling asleep as I type. I had in fact fallen asleep at 9:30 watching TV with the boys. It was the first time I had even felt sleepy before 1am. I took that as a sign of healing. A small one but I will take it. Unfortunately when I got up to go to bed I woke up and here I lay. Little steps right?

Job 5: 10-11
He bestows rain on the earth; he sends water upon the countryside. The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.

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