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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My One Year Anniversary

Today was a significant day for me as you might guess, but in more ways than I ever thought. First let me say thank you to all of those who prayed for me and my boys on this day, it means so much to know you cared enough to pray for us and remember Andrea.

My plan for the day was to be at Andrea's grave at 1:07, the exact time she went to be with the Lord. It was the conclusion of reliving the past three weeks culminating in this day and that moment. To tell you the truth I was dreading going to the grave today. I go there about every three weeks and it was becoming easier with time but I guess the anniversary made it different. When I pulled up to section 110, grave 699 I saw flowers on Andrea's grave, and on top I found a card from Ginger. I brought my own flowers which I added to Ginger's I brought a picture of Andrea. I wanted anyone who saw her tombstone to see Andrea and not just her name. A National Cemetery in it's uniformity has it's own beauty but tends to lose the individuality.

As I watched the time tick closer and closer to 1:07 I remembered the events of Dec 17th 2007. Arriving and finding Andrea unresponsive, calling Nic and telling him to get Anthony out of school and come to the hospital. Calling family and friends while I waited for her oncologist to arrive and confirm what I knew I had to do. I remember it being just Andrea and her three boys with her, how we stood around her bed as the nurse brought in the morphine and hung it on the IV stand. I remember praying with Andrea as she slept and singing to her. And then I remember when she passed and the coolness of her lips, and then I looked at the clock, 1:07, and we were alone. It was just like you hear, in that instant her body changed to me, it was no longer her, she was gone. In that instant she was freed from her pain and suffering and she was with the Lord.

I stayed a while longer at the grave to talk to Andrea and I decided to call her Mom and Nic. I thought about my boys who lost their mom, their friend and amazing example of faith. I thought of all the others who were impacted by this day, Andrea's friends who may be hurting today but I found myself thinking a lot about her Mom, June. It is hard to imagine what it must be like to lose a child. It is as unnatural as losing your spouse at such a young age, it is just not supposed to happen. I could not imagine losing one of the kids. Then I thought about Andrea's sister and her niece having lost a sister and mentor. So many were affected by this one life that was cut way too short.

But as I looked at the photo I placed on her grave I saw Andrea with that beautiful smile and I thought that is how she is looking down today on us all, with a huge smile. She was an amazing woman to have known, and I was blessed to have been her husband. As I left I looked back and saw Andrea's picture, it felt different than any other time I left her grave, today was the end of a year of reflection, marking the first of everything without Andrea.

Afterwards I met Ginger. I had about 30 minutes before I had to be back at work so we decided to meet at a restaurant near the base. I had arrived first and sat facing the door. There was only two other people there and when I looked up I saw the door open, and in walked Ginger. At that moment I saw my wife in a new way. It is hard to describe but I saw not just my wife but my life. I saw her smile at me from across the room and I felt her love and excitement to see me. I told Ginger the other day, "Nothing about what happened to Andrea changed because of you, yet everything about my life since that day has changed because of having you in my life." I shudder to think of where I would be on this day without Ginger and her gentle and understanding support. She is my gift, and today I crossed a milestone that I don't think I totally understand. I saw Ginger and I saw my future and for the first time, I did not feel any guilt. Andrea and Troy await our arrival, and until that day comes we serve God with the life He has given us. I know Andrea and Troy are happy and this past year was nothing more than a blink in their eye. I'm happy when I think of Andrea in heaven vice me left on earth. She is where is always wanted to be. Like she wrote in her journal after a Chris Tomlin concert and hearing everyone singing together, she felt it was a little like being in heaven. She asked God can I go and God told her no, it was not time yet. It is the same for Ginger and I it is not our time and until it is our job is to serve God as Troy and Andrea demonstrated to us, with all our heart soul, and minds.


  1. Jim - I've posted before, but thank you again for sharing your journey -- your experiences and thoughts, your memories of Andrea, and your life moving forward with Ginger.

    We just passed the one year anniversary of my friend's passing from melanoma. We miss her every day. Reading your words always gives me more insight into what her husband and family might be experiencing...

    Again, thank you. Blessings to you and yours this Christmas.

  2. There is a lot to be said about reaching the one year mark after a death. In my experience with similar loss, the one-year anniversary is like a giant sigh of relief. The sadness never goes away, but at least you can say you survived the first year and life really does go on, and it gets easier. I'm glad you experienced something similar, too.