This is a day I have been bracing for since probably 2005 and we were told Andrea’s cancer had returned. I had hope Andrea would live till today, April 30 2008. Today along with May 11th. Mother’s Day and Nic college graduation are the two days I was praying Andrea would live until. But it was not to be. I guess if I was truthful it is not as if I would have been satisfied or content for Andrea to die tomorrow. Had Andrea made it till today I would have prayed for another date in the future. It is not as if had Andrea lived till May 12th I would have said I was okay with her dying. I learned that in the chemo room when we would see people who were all ages, yet there they were fighting to live. I thought to myself I guess no matter how old you are you still want to live. Be it a 25th wedding anniversary or a grandkids graduation there is still a date on the horizon you are trying to get to. I guess if there wasn’t you would just quit.
My pain began last night as I could not sleep and realized the clock had turned 12 and in fact our anniversary had begun. I thought how I would have wished Andrea a happy anniversary at midnight. Then the thought of turning out the light and going to sleep brought a fear to me. I just did not want to face the silence of the night and the emptiness of the bed. More than any other night I did not want to be alone last night and I found myself leaving the TV on until sleep overtook me.
Today I left for a TDY in fact I’m typing this on the C-12 as we fly to Alabama. Maybe it is good that I’m not at home tonight. Maybe it is a blessing to be away. But to remember my wife and our marriage I took my lunch break and went to the National Cemetery to sit with Andrea. I packed up Andrea’s journal, her prayer cards, her Bible, our wedding photos and my iPod and Bose player and went out for my beating. A beating I had to take for Andrea, a beating I could not ask God to take away, and one I really did not want to be taken away because to not suffer today would be to not care about the life I had with Andrea. So I sat down and cried, but then I thought of Andrea and her wonderful faith. Her faith in God that was as unwavering as I probably will ever see in my life. The best way I can describe Andrea’s faith was she just believed. She believed with such assuredly it was as if she had she had seen Jesus and you know I think she had. She was blessed with the faith of a child and it was a blessing to see. She did not doubt in God’s love for her, nor His ability to heal her, so if she was not healed it had to be God’s will. And so she waited for a healing that never came but she never doubted.
As I sat at her grave today I thought of our marriage, I thought she had the same faith in me. I know it may be hard for some of you to hear but I was not the perfect loving husband who has the faith you read in my words right now. Sadly I will admit to you until Andrea’s cancer I was not the spiritual leader of my house as I should have been nor was I living my life for the Lord as I should have. I’m sorry to say I was not the man or husband Andrea deserved. I’m sad in more ways than I can express that my wife had to suffer and die for me to become the husband she had dreamed of. But as I was talking to my friend Lori Jo today I’m thankful Andrea got to see me grow into the man she had prayed for all those years. I know it must have given her a peace to see and know our marriage had matured.
I thought of our marriage and how patiently Andrea waited for me. She never nagged me or told me she knew better, when in fact spiritually she was much more mature then I and had every right to. Instead she always allowed me to be the head of our marriage even when looking back I know she would have been the better candidate. But Andrea believed in God’s plan for a marriage and she had faith I would be the man God intended me to be. I know she prayed for me our whole marriage I have read it in her journals and her prayers for me. She waited patiently for me to mature in my faith just as she waited patiently for God to heal her. In both cases she trusted God and His plan.
As I sat at her grave I thought how perfect the words I had put on her tombstone, “Woman of Faith.” That really captures the uniqueness of Andrea, for it was through her faith that she believed without doubting and it was by her faith that she trusted God in her illness and in out marriage. Her faith was a witness to us all who were blessed to have known her. But she did not rely on her faith; her faith was not in her faith but in God. That may be hard to distinguish between but there is a significant difference in having faith in our faith, or ourselves, and having faith in God. Andrea could have easily had faith in herself and her success as a believer but she saw herself with such humility. I don’t think she ever realized how special she was and that just made her that much more special. She was the easiest woman to love, for she allowed me the room to grow, always offering me godly advice in the most gentleness of ways.
This past week I watched some of old home videos from around 1989. We were so young and both learning to be parents. I was your typical dad busy with work and being a new Instructor Pilot and maybe every once in while I would misplace my priorities in life and not spend as much time as I should with Nic. I remember how Andrea would remind me of my error in choice say to go play golf instead of play with Nic, she would start singing,
"And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon Little boy blue and the man on the moon. When you comin' home dad?I don't know when, but we'll get together then son. You know we'll have a good time then."
She knew what was important in life and she was right, but she did not become angry at me, or yell that I never spent time with her and Nic, no she just sang that song and looked at me with her beautiful smile and I knew she was right. I would put away my clubs and we would go in the front yard and play “Guess what animal I am.” It was a game Andrea made up where we would each take turns acting like an animal and the others would guess what we were. We used to call ourselves the “Weird Ravellas” for doing things like pretending to be animals in the front yard. I remember, and I bet Nic still does, Andrea’s impression of a cat. She was on all fours and hunching her back. Nic and I could not guess what she was and when she told us she just could not comprehend how we missed it. I think in her mid it was an Emmy winning performance. I still remember Nic and me rolling in the grass laughing. I have those memories because I had a wife who was wise enough to help me when I was making wrong choices.
Now do you see why I always say I am who I am because of her. It is the truth. She was an amazing woman and wife. She found pleasure in being my wife. She found fulfillment in her role as wife and mother and there was nothing she would not do for one of us boys. And there was nothing I would not do for her. Sadly she would be asked to die for us, for me to be the man I am today. To be the man I need to be for Ginger and the kids. The person I am is a result of the unselfish love of Andrea. She always told me it was worth all she was going through if it helped me, the boys or anyone grow in their walk with the Lord. I was a blessed man, and I still am, for having been chosen to be Andrea’s husband.
1 Corinthians 13:13
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Today as I stopped crying and thought of all God had given me in Andrea. Laid down on my back on Andrea’s grave, turned up my praise music on my Bose stereo and closed my eyes and sang. It was a beautiful sunny day. Every time I come to Andrea’s grave I would be crushed because I would think Andrea was down there. My mind could not comprehend the reality of the woman I loved being in the ground. It would brings waves of sadness and uncontrollable tears. It was too much for me. But today as I laid on my back looking up at the blue sky I thought this is a better way to look at this place, because Andrea in not in the ground she is alive and as I told Lori Jo today Andrea is with her first love, Jesus. She is not sad; she is living the completion of the faith she had on this earth. She is reaping the rewards of a life lived by faith. I thought the only thing in this grave is her cancer, and for the first time I smiled at the thought. I was glad the cancer was dead. It’s existence ended on Dec 17th but Andrea’s life had just begun.
As I lay on my back in my uniform, singing praise songs, I could not help but think we are still the weird Ravellas.
Happy 25th Jokie. Thank you for all you did for me.
I love you. Jim