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Perfect Imperfection

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...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

1 John 1:5
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light;
in him there is no darkness at all.

Today marks the second anniversary of Andrea's funeral.  Yes this is a great week in my life.  As many of you may know we lived in Alaska for six years.  We loved the summers there and we endured the winters.  Although I did enjoy the snow, the guaranteed white Christmas and snowboarding with my boys Andrea was not too much of a fan of the Alaska winters. The winter days can be cold and dark and it was the darkness that really bothered Andrea. 

As a pilot I remember we would fly in the winter and almost without a doubt we would climb though the clouds and eventually breakout and see the sun.  It felt so good to fell the sun shinning in your eyes.  I would tell Andrea even though it is cloudy and dark down here the sun is still shinning you just have to get through the clouds.  Sometimes when life is difficult we need to remember that the sun is still shines.

Andrea loved getting her daily dose of Vitamin D.  During Andrea’s treatment in Alaska if there was a sunny winter day I take Andrea for a drive and park the car facing south and let her feel the sun through the windshield.  In North Carolina she would go and sit in the “Brick Oven” which was the brick wall of our house that faced south.  She would take a blanket outside and sit against the brick wall and absorb the heat of the sun.  We had been known to sit out there and fall asleep. I sure the neighbors thought what are the Ravellas doing now!  But the rare sunny day in Alaska was little help to Andrea who did not have an F-15E she could jump in and get her daily fix of sunshine.  So to help her I bought her a special light to put in the house to trick her body think it was daytime.  In the winter she would set it up in the kitchen and when you walked it was so bright that if you ever turned it off even with the regular lights on it seemed dark.  Forget the fact that the label said only use it for 15 minutes at a time, Andrea would live it on for hours. 

Dec 21st is the winter solstice a day Andrea always looked forward to when we lived in Alaska because it signified the end of winter.  Well actually "winter" carried on until around April but Dec 21st was the shortest day of the year.  Starting on Dec 22 the days started getting longer and that always made Andrea happy because she knew it signified the beginning of the end of the dark days.

There are many symbolisms to me in Andrea's funeral being on 21 Dec. Not just because it is the shortest day of the year and as the shortest day of the year my suffering was limited. But because it was the day when the earth begins its shift back towards the sun.  In a way I feel a comfort that Andrea was laid to rest on the shortest day as if God gave me that little gift to say, “I was not going to change the day I took her but I will limit the time you will suffer, for tomorrow the light returns.”  The earth turning back towards the sun, as Andrea went to be with the Son.  Darkness starting giving way to light.  Life continued and a faithful God was with me, as sure as the sun will rise each day, He was still with me.

I will celebrate another anniversary this month,  Dec 25th the day Ginger and I met but I will save that for another blog.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Three Choices

I reality I began this blog last Sunday in Church. Okay maybe I was not paying attention to the sermon but I have learned when a blog comes to me I have to write it down or I will totally forget it. Anyway I brought it with me to work on Dec 17th thinking I would post it on on the anniversary but when I sat at my desk "I Remember" just came to me. So today I decided to post this blog.

I often thought about the reactions I have seen in peoples lives to the death of Andrea. I have thought even more about how to reconcile the outcome with the fervernt prayers of so many people.  How could this have been the outcome? How could such a Godly woman not be healed?  What did it mean to my faith when I saw Andrea who had so much more faith then I die?  I thought about it every time someone gave a testimony in church of an answered prayer.  There was an uneasyness listening to the happiness in their voice as they told of getting what they wanted while I sat with Andrea, wearing her scarfe.  We were praying so how hard and had been for years for Andrea to be healed but the cancer continued to progress.  Why?  What was happening?  How did this fit in with my faith in a loving God?  You hear this most often in the question, "How can a loving God allow this to happen to?" 

To me it came down to three choices.

1)  God does not exist and the Bible is just a bunch of stories or God lied
2) My faith was lacking, and God was punishing us
3) God was in control, this was in fact an answer to my prayers

Suffering seems to make the church uncomfortable because it does not fit in with the our modren definition of God.  Suffering comforts the unbeliever because it confirms in his mind that God does not exist.  But

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I Remember...

Two years, 730 days, 17, 520 hours, 1,051,200 seconds, a lifetime.  Today marks the two year anniversary of Andrea’s passing.  There are some events in your life that you will forever remember; of course Dec 17th is that day for me.  I can close my eyes right now and relive that day to the smallest of details.  I remember driving to the hospital that day, praying “God, I don’t want to ever have to make the decision to remove Andrea from the vent.”  I did not want to have to live with the thought that I gave up on her.  I remember walking in that morning and finding the doctors trying to wake Andrea up, pushing on her chest trying to get her to respond, as they tried to determine why she had taken such a turn for the worse.  I remember walking up to her bed, and calling her name, she opened her eyes just for a moment, and I knew she heard me.  I remember telling the doctor I needed our Oncologist to help me understand what to do.  I remember calling our Oncologist in North Carolina.  I remember him telling me what I had to do.  I remember calling family and friends.  I remember calling Nic telling him to get Anthony out of school and get up to the hospital, because “It looks like today is the day.” I remember the doctor explaining what was going to happen.  I remember Nic coming out of Andrea’s room with such a scared look on his face because Andrea was spitting up blood.  I remember rushing in and wiping her mouth.  I remember knowing it was time. 
I remember the nurse unhooking Andrea’s IVs.  I remember when the vent was removed and Andrea had to breathe on her own.  I remember they turned off all the monitors in the room.  I remember the room lost its sense of hope.  I remember it was 12:25.  I remember the nurse walking in with the Morphine.  I remember it being a glass IV jar.  I remember how free Andrea looked when all the wires were removed.  I remember the boys and me standing by her bed.  I remember praying in Andrea’s ear.  I remember singing to her.  I remember looking up as the doctors walked in and told me she had passed.  I remember it was 1:07. I remember her body no longer looked like her.  I remember the coolness of her lips when I kissed her.  I remember not knowing what to do.  I remember feeling lost and alone.  I remember feeling inadequate as a man, and a father.  I remember packing her clothes away.  I remember the depth of pain and grief as I packed away the nightgown she wore on our honeymoon. I remember that was the saddest I have ever been.  I remember how easy it was to slip into the pit of grief.  I remember feeling as if I had lost my identity our hopes and our dreams.  I remember how I regretted leaving the hospital her last night.  I hoped she did not wake up and need me.
That is what I remember about Dec 17th 2007.  But it is not all I remember about Andrea. 
I remember how wise she was.  I remember her praying in the night when she was hurting.  I remember waking up in the night seeing the closet light on and knowing she was in there praying.  I remember her always praying for others before she prayed for herself.  I remember her laying on my back trying to stop me from crying when the doctor told us her cancer was incurable.  I remember her hand rubbing my arm and her soft voice in my ear saying, “It’s going to be okay" over and over.  I remember her falling on the floor in tears thanking God when she was told she did not have a brain tumor.  I remember thinking she has not given up, she wants to live. I remember hearing Andrea vomiting in our bathroom. I remember thinking I needed to go hold her.  I remember walking in and seeing her sitting on the floor after she threw up and raise her hand and praise God for all He had done for her. I remember thinking I had never seen such faith as that. I remember how we laughed when she went to look at wigs and the salesman thought it was for me.  I remember how she hated that wig.  I remember all her scarves and how she always matched it with her outfit.  I remember how she was always so beautiful to me.  I remember how naive we were the first time in the chemo room.  I remember seeing the red  chemo drug flowing down the IV tube the first time.  I remember how final it seemed, that we could not turn back now.  I remember wanting to rip the IV out and run.  I remember staying because we had to.   I remember the “Chemo Girls” and all they did to lift Andrea’s spirits.  I remember watching them with Andrea and thinking how much they loved each other.  I remember how those women taught me to love someone. I remember a friend gave us a digital picture frame in the ICU that was loaded with pictures from our computer.  I remember lying on Andrea’s bed in the ICU and talking to her about each picture remembering our life together.  I remember laughing as we relived the moments, I remember crying as we relived the moments.  I remember her strength as she laid in the ICU for 23 days.  I remember her squeezing my hand when I asked her if she still wanted to fight. I remember the first time I visited her grave.  I remember wanting to dig and get her out.  I remember falling on my knees and sobbing.  I remember seeing her tombstone for the first time.  I remember running my finger across her name carved in marble.  I remember missing her.
I remember her smile that took away every worry I had.  I remember her touch that calmed me when I was unsure, scared or afraid.  I remember her faith that was a beacon to me as a young man.  I remember her last words to me as I took her into the ICU, “Jim you have to be strong now.”  I remember her when Nic was born, and when we adopted Anthony.  I remember seeing her for the very first time and knowing I loved her with all my heart.  I remember her beautiful blue eyes. I remember how she never looked small to me.  I remember folding her clothes and thinking how little her clothes looked.  I remember her walking in the house after working in the garden, her dirty hands, how she wiped the sweat off her brow.  I remember she was always happy working in her garden.  I remember her telling me she would go through all the chemo, all the horrible treatments, even die if it leads one person to Christ.  I remember she told me that after 2 years of treatment.  I remember her wish that her boys would have a relationship with Christ.   I remember so many friends helping us, praying for us. I remember the hope I still have in Christ.  I remember knowing He did not leave me. 
I remember so many things about Andrea but in the end I remember her telling me not to worry, I remember her faith, her unwavering trust in God, and I remember that she is with the Lord today.
I remember to Andrea my two years, 730 days, 17, 520 hours, 1,051,200 seconds is just a blink of an eye. 
I remember I will see her in a little bit.