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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sleepless in San Antonio

Galatians 5:6
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

It is 1145; I'm making my first attempt at being in our room alone. It will be a long night, the first of many.

"Our Journey to Healing" was started as a record of life as we battle cancer and awaited Andrea physical healing. But it was not long when I realized that this journey we were on was not just ours and healing was far deeper then the physical. Although this blog draws to an end I will update it throughout this week, maybe longer if for no other reason then I need a place to come and think about life.

Of course this was not how I hoped my final entries would be written. As I said earlier today, God must have really needed Andrea because He overruled so many prayers to take her.

I have thought about this moment many times but my first observation is that I was not prepared for how I would feel. I had placed myself at this point many times but I guess your mind can not truly grasp this moment unless you are in it. Knowing Andrea was sick and that medically she was dying did not prepare me for what happened today, or what is happening tonight. The finality of it all was missing. The idea that I will not drive to the hospital to see her, nor will she come home is sinking in. I hated that hospital, but my love was there, so I went. I hated going in that room, seeing her in that bed, unable to get up or speak, but was love was there so I went. Now I would do anything to go back to that hospital and walk in that room. But my love is not there. We had to go back today to pick up a cross I left in her bed. The room was being cleaned. My love was gone, there was no trace of her, nor the fight fought with such faith. My love is gone. She will not return to my bed, call to me from the other room, or calm me with a smile. My love is gone. She will not tell me about her day. I will not hear her prayers at night. Come home and find her studying her Bible. My love is gone.

Psalm 116:15
Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His saints.


I miss you "little bit." I miss you so very much it hurts me. I can not allow myself to even think about it for more then a couple of minutes for fear I won't be able to get out of the pit. I wish I could see you once more. Just to hold you in my arms and feel your head on my shoulder. But I'm left with only memories, pictures and a few home movies. None of which I can touch, or kiss. They just trigger my mind to much happier times, to memories that walk a fine line between a smile and gut wrenching pain wrapped in tears.

I ache, my head hurts and I want this to all go away. But I think of Andrea suffering for over four years yet never giving up, only giving more. How can I do anything less?

Acts 20:24
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.

God gave us so many blessings. So many of Andrea's friends were able to visit her. Her family was able to come and visit her. Her Mom her Sister and her Dad all were able to make the trip to San Antonio. Had we been in North Carolina I'm not sure if they could have done that. They were all able to see Andrea on her best days in the hospital. Most of all I'm thankful her boys were here. Nic has been away for three of the four years Andrea has been sick, yet God allowed him to be home now. God gave us the blessing of the four of us being together at the end, just Andrea and her boys. I was never more proud of my sons has they cared for their mother these past three weeks. Having just lost my Mom I can not imagine what they were going through, having to watch Mom fight her final battle at such a young age. My solace was my mother lived till 87 and saw me grow into a man, marry and have children. My boys are not so lucky. Grandma will be a story, a picture on a shelf, a smile their kids do not understand.

I'm thankful I have no regrets, no unspoken words. That I was not trying to tell her how much I loved her as time slipped away in a futile attempt to make up for poor priorities in life. I'm thankful she knew how much I loved her and I knew how much she loved me. I'm thankful I was able to pray with her with our boys in her final moments. I can think of nothing she would desire more then to see us joined together in prayer as she parted. I'm thankful to a Doctor who took a chance so I was able to kiss her lips one last time. I'm thankful to a nurse who cared for my wife with dignity. For the care she gave Andrea when her life ended. For the touch of perfume put behind Andrea's ears. I'm thankful we met.

I could write for weeks about my 27 years 7 months and 18 days of memories I have with Andrea. Maybe someday, but not tonight. Tonight I will tell you one story that sums up my wife.

It was Sunday three weeks ago. The Sunday after Thanksgiving. Nic returned to college on Saturday and we have finished an incredibly busy month involving my Mom passing away. We go to bed Saturday and Andrea is feeling a little short of breath, more then she has in a few weeks but not alarming. I get her oxygen and we go to bed. It turns out to be a sleepless night with Andrea awaking very short of breath. She has trouble catching her breath after getting up. She is beginning to gasp for air so I go turn up the oxygen from her normal two liters to four. This goes on most of the night and I finally have the oxygen at its maximum output and Andrea is still having trouble breathing. She asks me to call 911, but I can not. I'm scared, and I don't want what is happening to happen. I help her get dressed for the trip then I leave the room trying to gather my strength and thoughts. Andrea waits sitting on the bed. I walk back and agree but ask if I can drive her there myself. I ask her, "Are you sure you want to go to the hospital?" I tell her, "Andrea if I take you to the hospital I don't think you will come back soon." I first say "You won’t come back home," but I catch myself and say "Come back home soon." I just want to take care of her myself but it is evident she needs more then I can offer. As I put her in a wheelchair and we are about to enter the doors of the ER I ask her again, "Are you sure you need to go in." Inside I'm pleading please don't let this happen.

Andrea tells me she has to go in. So I reluctantly push her in, the doors open and I look for someone to help us. As I wait for the nurse, I tell Andrea I don't think we will be going home anytime soon. It is then that Andrea speaks her last audible words to me. "Jim you have to be strong now."

I have thought about those words many times over the past three weeks. In those words are the faith of a Godly woman, and the encouraging love of an unselfish wife. She knew I was scared, yet she sat patiently on the bed as I tried to come to terms with her request to go to the hospital. She had to tell me to take her in the ER knowing what lay ahead, yet she did not run she nor was she afraid. She was facing the challenge yet she was telling me to be strong. I know in my heart she was not asking me to be strong to walk into the ER, she was asking me to be strong for the weeks that lay ahead, to be strong for today and tomorrow. I think we both knew this is what she meant. I just think we did not want to think about it.

That was Andrea. Always encouraging, always patient. Always full of faith. Facing things we can only imagine yet faithful.

As I try to adjust to being alone, I am easily overcome by sadness. Everything I see and hear reminds me of her. I can not escape her memory, nor do I want to. I have found I have cried all the tears I have, now it just hurts in my stomach. My head is numb as my body goes into self defense mode. But then I stop and think about a woman I was blessed to call my wife. I think of the years of absolute happiness I had. Then I think about the pain of cancer. When Andrea's hips hurt so bad I had to pick her up. The countless times I held her as she vomited. Watching her hurt so bad from the chemo she could not move. I think of the endless tests, CT scans, Xray, and blood draws. I think about a woman having to have her head shaved four times. I think of the absolute ugliness of cancer. And then I think of Andrea right now. On her 12th hour of eternity. I think of the utter joy she is experiencing. I think of her with her Lord. I see the smile on her face as He tells her, "Well done my good and faithful servant, receive your crown of glory." I think of the happiness she is having seeing her Pa Paw again. I try to imagine what she is seeing right now. I hear her voice as she praises her God in His presence. I see her with long beautiful hair. And I smile. My only wish is I could be there with her. But as she taught me I must be faithful to path God has laid out for me, patiently awaiting my reward and our reunion.

I have to remember to be strong.

I close tonight and I pray for all of you. I pray you know God did not abandon Andrea. Nor did he forsake her because she died. I know this outcome was not our prayer request, and Satan will use this time to steal away the seeds of faith Andrea has planted in you. Guard them, they are life to you. Yes it is true God did not give us the desire of our heart, but He did give us His son. And in doing so He gave us eternity with him. And that is what Andrea has right now.

Well I must close it is 2am and exhaustion is taking it toll and I hope to let it take me away from all my thoughts. It is time to face my new life.

I forgot to tell you a little blessing Andrea left us. About an hour ago Nic was checking his phone messages and sometime today he was offered a paid (that is a key) internship for next semester. This is at the one place he hoped to work (name withheld for now). The message came sometime today and I know Andrea is smiling now as she left us with a small parting gift.

Tomorrow we will decide on the funeral location, either here in San Antonio or in Wichita Falls. Either way it will be on Friday or Saturday. I will send an email and update the blog when we get the details worked out. I hope to have this decided by tomorrow afternoon. I would ask for your prayers that this decision would be clear.

I love you all. Words cannot express my thanks for each of you.

Your brother in Christ,
Jim

26 comments:

  1. Peace to you and your family HD! We live on in the inspiration of Andrea and you. I have never met more faithful servants and our prayer for you is comfort now and in the future.

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  2. Jim, Nic and Anthony,

    We are praying for you all.

    Thank you for your faithful testimony. Andrea will be missed by many and will continue to be a testimony to God even in her passing.

    Knowing that she is in heaven is such a blessing.

    The Browne Family

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  3. Sleepless in Las Vegas

    Dear Jim

    I went to bed trying to remember everything Andrea ever said to me. She was always giving me such godly wisdom. It was usually about parenting and sometimes about marriage but always delivered in humor. I did finally fall asleep and woke up thinking of Andrea. I got up in hopes you had written your next blog. You have been such a pure blessing throughout all of this. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Numbers 6:24-26

    The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

    Love,
    Nicole

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  4. Jim,

    Hannah woke up in the night crying-she was heartbroken about Andrea and about things she'd wished she'd said or done for her... I told her that all of us feel that way because we all want one more moment (and then one more and one more) to do and say things with people we love who have gone ahead of us-that's the beauty of love. But most of all, we must be comforted when we know that a faithful soul has gone to God-Miss Andrea is rejoicing in perfection now and knows that though her absence on earth will be so hard for her family and friends, she wants us to keep running this race to eternity as she did. It hit me that when God says to His faithful all through scripture that He will guard us from our enemies, from harm, keep us in the shadow of His wings and guard our lives; He speaks of our eternal life-protecting us from things that will try to destroy our faith and cut us off in our race towards Him and eternal life. Cancer lost that battle and Andrea never had to fight it alone-she made it look easy because her Lord (and ours, praise God) was her sword and shield and protected her in the shadow of His wings. I love knowing that Andrea is going to be a touchstone in the foundation of the faith of my children throughout their lives-and I'm sure in the lives of so many other's children. My heart goes out to you, Jim; not one of us can miss her more than you-your love for each other is a witness to all married couples. God bless you and keep you in the shadow of His hand.

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  5. Dear Jim, Nic, and Anthony,
    I can hear applause in heaven as the multitudes before the throne of God celebrate the victory of Andrea's triumphant life. It is in our realm that the celebration is also mixed with the pain of loss. It is my prayer that you three will be constantly be bathed in the presence of the Holy Spirit who is our Comforter. Our lives are deeply touched by the witness you all live for us. Thank you, with love,
    Jennifer

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  6. Hi Drag,

    Know that you, Nic, Anthony and especially Andrea are in mine and Suzette's thoughts and prayers. We have gained so much from the strength you and Andrea have shown us. Andrea can now be at peace with God and we hope you gain some peace for yourself as well.

    I will never forget you and I talking about dealing with everything in your life. Your strength makes all of my life's little problems seem insignificant. You have both been an inspiration for us all.
    Again, be at peace knowing Andrea now walks with God. Heaven is an even better place today.
    I don't have the words.

    Hud

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  7. Jim, Nic and Anthony,

    As I read this entry my heart is full of sorrow and full of joy. Our prayers go out to you for peace and comfort, and we rejoice for Andrea. That she is with our Lord and basking in his glory. I look back on the times we spent together at Luke and Elmendorf, and I just smile. What an incredible family you are - what an honor it has been to have you in our family - what an amazing women Andrea has been. We love you! We miss you!
    The Lange’s

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  8. Jim, Nic and Anthony,

    As I read this entry my heart is full of sorrow and full of joy. Our prayers go out to you for peace and comfort, and we rejoice for Andrea. That she is with our Lord and basking in his glory. I look back on the times we spent together at Luke and Elmendorf, and I just smile. What an incredible family you are - what an honor it has been to have you in our family - what an amazing women Andrea has been. We love you! We miss you!
    The Lange’s

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  9. Jim,

    It was so wonderful to spend last night in a room with women who love you and Andrea. The "Chemo Girls" welcomed me in with open arms. The gift I have is one they don't have. My last visual memory of Andrea is her laughing in her garden on Beck Street. She was healthy and strong. As much as I wish I could have been with her physically over the last seven years, I treasure the gift of that memory. I can't even begin to tell you how much Andrea has taught me. Both you and Andrea have been an inspiration to Jim and myself over the years we have known you. I will always think of Andrea with a smile on her face and I know thanks to her more often than not, I will have one on mine.
    We Love you all.
    Liz, Jim,Sarah,Maggie,Grace and Jane Bessel

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  10. Jim, Nic and Anthony,
    Andrea was a beautiful woman who won't be forgotten by those whose lives she touched. We'll never understand why God chose to take her, but it is certain that when He looked down on the life she lived here he thought, it is good. We pray for peace and comfort for you in the days ahead.
    Love, Monica and Larry

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  11. Jim,

    When your family was getting ready to leave Alaska I remember Andrea telling me that the way she's able to say goodbye to people over the years is to claim the verse "To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven." I have remembered that conversation many many times over the last few years ... and this day I am truly thankful that the Lucia family was able to share in the season of life that God gave to Andrea and that her purpose under heaven has touched our family in a way that will never be forgotten.

    Love always
    Laurie and Corky Lucia

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  12. Chris Rice - Untitled Hymn (Come To Jesus) Lyrics

    Weak and wounded sinner
    Lost and left to die
    O, raise your head, for love is passing by
    Come to Jesus
    Come to Jesus
    Come to Jesus and live!

    Now your burden's lifted
    And carried far away
    And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
    Sing to Jesus
    Sing to Jesus
    Sing to Jesus and live!

    And like a newborn baby
    Don't be afraid to crawl
    And remember when you walk
    Sometimes we fall...so
    Fall on Jesus
    Fall on Jesus
    Fall on Jesus and live!

    Sometimes the way is lonely
    And steep and filled with pain
    So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
    Cry to Jesus
    Cry to Jesus
    Cry to Jesus and live!

    O, and when the love spills over
    And music fills the night
    And when you can't contain your joy inside, then
    Dance for Jesus
    Dance for Jesus
    Dance for Jesus and live!

    And with your final heartbeat
    Kiss the world goodbye
    Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side, and
    Fly to Jesus
    Fly to Jesus
    Fly to Jesus and live!

    Dear Jim, Nic and Anthony,
    We are so sorry for the loss of Andrea. This song reminds me of what Andrea did so well, she always came to Jesus and now she is in his presence forever.
    With love and continued prayer,
    Bruce and Linda Booher

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  13. Ashley (Rossi) LovellDecember 18, 2007 at 12:51 PM

    Dear Jim, Nic, Anthony, Aunt June, Uncle Doyle, and Angela,

    I am so very sorry for the terrible emptiness, the breath-taking finality, and the shattering blow you are experiencing with the crossing over of your lovely, brilliant wife, mom, daughter, and sister. My heart aches for you - for all the steady blows that you are feeling and will feel every time you turn around and see something or remember something she made, said, or did. I pray for some kind of peace in this surreal haze, this nightmare you can't escape from. Please, God, grant them one full breath, and then another, and a calm, peaceful thought in the sea of sadness and despair. I hope Andrea will send those peaceful thoughts to you. I am sorry for your immense sadness. I think of you all very often - you are constantly on my mind. I am very, very sad. Please know that even if the world seems to move forward, and it is baffling and unimaginable that it does, there are many, many people thinking of you, praying for you, and loving you. I am so thankful my mom and I saw Andrea a few years ago and got to see the superb, bright, special, one-of-a-kind woman that she was. After I heard that she had passed away, I found a radio clip from a show she and Jim were on (Eileen's radio show) on the web. I wanted to be as close to her as possible, and hearing her voice was so touching. It seemed cruel to listen to such hope only to know the ending, but her little voice, her spunk, her brightness, remains in my mind now. I read your entire blog, Jim, and I was able to know her better because of it. Thank you for sharing her illness and your family's fight with us. It has taught me many lessons. May God and Jokie bring you peace during these seemingly impossible weeks and months ahead.

    With the deepest of sympathy,
    Ashley, Jokie's cousin

    P.S. I love you ALL!

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  14. Jim, Nic, and Anthony,

    We will continue to lift you and your family up in our prayers, knowing that this will be a time when you will need the Lord's Peace...a peace that surpasses understanding. Please know that it has been a privilege to witness your journey, and to pray with you and Andrea through this struggle. Our family has been so inspired...our understanding of Christ and his love for us has grown so much, thanks to you. Our God has used you in mighty ways to touch so many lives. I'm sorry that she had to suffer, and I'm so very sorry for the loss you are feeling now, but I hope you can rest in the knowledge that it has all been for His glory! We love you guys. Andrea will be deeply missed. Thank you for changing our lives!

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  15. When one part of the body suffers... we all suffer. I will continue to pray for your family throughout this time. I have never met your wife yet, she has inspired me. May the Lord God keep you in perfect peace, quiet the storms on the inside, hold you close and be a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path. Amen

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  16. Jim, Nic and Anthony,

    You are all in our prayers.

    Thank you for sharing your faith, your love and your struggles in this very trying time. Your strength and love for each other is truly an inspiration. God Bless you and keep you.

    Eric & Ailish Waddell

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  17. "You always said how lucky you were that we were all friends, but it was us who were the lucky ones."

    All of our love,
    The Kennedy Family

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  18. Jim, Nic & Anthony,

    We were saddened to hear of Andrea's passing but rejoice in knowing she is dancing in the Lord's presence.
    Brian and I were so happy to see Andrea's beautiful smile in those hospital pictures after her surgery. She always had an infectious way of getting others to smile and not worry about the small stuff.
    We will continue to pray for you and the boys as you begin the healing process. Thank you for letting us be a part of your journey. Your strength in and devotion to God's plan is a shining example to follow.

    The Montgomery Family

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  19. Jim,
    I wish I had caught you at home. I didn't know of this blog until today actually when one of your folks passed me the sad news, but as I prayed for you all these last weeks, though we have not talked I had a sense, that something more had happened since we talked in your office. I am not shocked but I am sad for you all. Perhaps we could have talked more about some things, but it wasn't the time to talk of those things. I have now read much of your writing and I don't know that I can be of any help to you. Your blog looks much like my own journal so we're either both basket cases or we're both normal. I choose to believe we are normal. If I can be of help to you, please let me know and in the meantime your family remains in my prayers and I know that as we experience our first Christmas without our precious wives, we'll be crushed with sadness and anquish and that's not a bad thing. We talked about this I am sure, but while we have Christmas here, what a joy it will be for Andrea and Mary Ann to spend their first Christmas in Heaven in the very presence of our Lord. I take comfort from that and hope you can also. Let me know if I can help, it would be helpful to me as well.
    J.D.

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  20. Good night Col. Ravella:
    I'm Aixa Perez (or dr. Perez) First, I'm really sorry for your lost. She was a very special patient to me. I can't explain how I feel, all I can say is that I really wanted her to be in her house, on her bed...instead of surrounded by tubes, monitors and machines. The night before I left the Unit, I showed her a picture of my kids, and I told her it was a pleasure meeting her. She said thanks, but as you during all these days, I just read her lips. I have no idea how her voice sound, and I will never know. And this is the worst part of it. I'm really sorry for your lost, and I can assure you I'm not the only one in the unit that feel this way. God bless you and give you strength.

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  21. Jim, Nic and Anthony,
    We are praying for you and are thankful to have known such a wonderful person and her courageous, inspiring family. The lessons and perspective your friends have been given will last forever. Thank you for sharing this courage and allowing Andrea to bring such peace to all of us.
    God Bless you.
    The Hobbins

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  22. Neil & Debbe JoDecember 18, 2007 at 9:56 PM

    Jim

    Even in sorrow, your faith shines through and inspires us all. Heaven's gain is our loss. God bless you and Andrea.

    The Allen Family

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  23. Jim, Anthony & Nic
    May God comfort you with peace, strength, and understanding. I can only say it is an honor to share in the blessing that Andrea brought to you and all those around you. The honor you have bestowed upon God first and Andrea second in sharing your testimony has been a blessing and witness to us all that will never be forgotten. Despite the ugliness that cancer can be, your family's testimony transformed the situation into a blessing for others that has touched more lives than you may ever know. We rejoice for Andrea's peace, glory and renewal while lifting up you and the boys until you are all together again!
    All our love and prayers,
    Chuck & Joni

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  24. Col Ravella, Nic & Anthony,
    I don't even know where to start! You and Andrea were and continue to be such a blessing in our lives and the lives of so many others! Thank you so much for being such obedient ambassadors of Christ no matter what was going on in your own lives. You and Andrea both are a constant encouragement to us in our own walks with the Lord. We are so joyful that Andrea and Jesus are praising our Heavenly Father together right now, in His Holy presence. Our heart breaks for you, the boys, and all of us left here on earth feeling a little more empty without Andrea here. Please know that you are being prayed for around the world! May the Great Comforter Himself hold you in His arms tightly and lift you up.
    "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ."
    2 Cor. 1:3-5

    Ryan & Emily Watson

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  25. Godspeed to Andrea on her way to God's open arms.

    God's Peace to you, Nic, and Anthony.

    "Yea, the darkness is no darkness with thee, but the night is as clear as day; the darkness and light to thee are both alike."

    The Drichta Family

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  26. I read Andrea's obit in the Goldsboro News Argus today. I must admit I was shaken. You see, I have that fear of losing my wife to cancer. Paraphrasing here, but God said to Moses, "I will heal whom I will heal and show mercy upon whom I will show mercy. I will not be moved." I know He hears my prayers for my wife's continued healing. God will do what He will do. But like David, I will continue to beg for His mercy.

    I met you and Andrea at the Wayne County Relay-for-Life Survivors' Banquet the year before last. My wife and I sat near the front and listened intently to your story. You and Andrea were inspirational. (Also, my wife would see Andrea every once in a while at SMOC, so she knew Andrea by face.)

    My wife was the guest speaker for this past year's Survivors' Banquet. My wife was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2005. She is currently cancer free.

    Jim, I can only imagine your loss. I truly feel for you and your children. I will say a prayer for you all tonight.

    Tom

    Peace be unto you

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