Saturday, July 15, 2017

In a world full of struggles, the days of pure joy are God telling us to hang in there...for joy can be just around the corner

Dear family and friends,

Since I last wrote, I have experienced a tremendous amount of joy.  Overwhelming joy.  Like the joy one gets when standing on the top of Mt. Rainier after a long, arduous climb.  Or the joy of holding a newborn baby after months of discomfort and hours of hard labor.  Forget that I’ve remained in chemo.  Forget the upset stomach, shots in the belly, constipation, and fatigue.  All I will remember from the past month is the pure JOY of life and love.

The first joyous experience was a weeklong trip to Cannon Beach with Steve, Renee, and Daniel.  We have been taking the kids to Cannon Beach most every summer since they were babies.  But this trip was especially poignant, as it was our last trip as a family of four—taken just one week before Renee’s wedding!  I love the ocean, for it speaks to me of God’s power, presence, grandeur, and peace, and reminds me that like the continuous waves, one after another, His love for us endures forever.

We walked and napped on the beach, hiked forested trails with peek-a-boo ocean views, ate cheese, ice cream, and fudge in Tillamook, visited the Jacobsen Salt Company in Netarts Bay for sea salt caramels, ate the best oysters of our lives at Pacific Oyster in Bay City, discovered empty beaches full of sand dollars, starfish, and anemone-filled tide pools, and we ate ocean fresh halibut and chips and our weight in pepperoni slices from Pizza a Feta.  At night, we played mini golf, basketball, carpet ball, and our favorite new board game, Ticket to Ride.  I thanked God often during this week for the gift of our loving and close family.  Steve, Renee, and Daniel—your love is a priceless gift that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. 

Rested and refreshed from our time at the beach, we took deep breaths and entered the wild ride of wedding week!  We hosted the rehearsal dinner in our backyard, and a great time was had by all.  Then on Saturday, we laughed, cried, and smiled until we thought our cheeks would break as we watched the two most beautiful brides—Renee and Riley—commit their lives and love to one another for as long as they both shall live.  I was honored to read the Scripture at the wedding—words that were all about love in 1 John 4:7-12.  The wedding was beautiful, meaningful, and worshipful.  And then the party began at the Edmonds Yacht Club!  We ate delicious Mediterranean food, wrote “candy bar stories” about the girls in our table groups, listened to four of the most heartfelt toasts, ate three kinds of Simply Desserts cake, put temporary tattoos on our arms, and danced the night away, with a sparkler send-off for the brides.  Oh, and I guess I should mention that Daniel and I surprised the girls with our choreographed dance to the song, “Say a Little Prayer for You,” which received a standing ovation!  Steve and I remarked to one another a few days later, as we visited Mt. Rainier for a relaxing day in nature, that the wedding was one of the top five happiest days of our lives.  One we will never forget—and neither, of course, will Renee and Riley!

Before and after the wedding, I have been giving a lot of thought to what it means to love your spouse ‘til death do you part.  At Cannon Beach I finished a book called “When Breath Becomes Air,” by Paul Kalanithi.  He was a neurosurgery chief resident who got lung cancer in his sixth year of residency and died just months after his first child was born.  In the book he included a quote from C.S. Lewis’ book, “A Grief Observed,” written after Lewis’ own wife died of cancer.  Here is the quote:  Bereavement is not the truncation of married love but one of its regular phases—like the honeymoon. What we want is to live our marriage well and faithfully through that phase too. If it hurts (and it certainly will) we accept the pains as a necessary part of this phase.”

Living with cancer, I think often about how married love for Steve and me (and for all of you reading this who plan to stay married for life) will one day mean entering the phase of bereavement.  Lewis accepted the tremendous pain of bereavement as the toll, or “tax” one has to pay for loving one’s spouse so well.  If you choose to skip the joy of loving your spouse so long and so well, you could avoid the tremendous pain that bereavement will one day bring.  But think what you would have missed along life’s way.  So much love.  So much joy.  Faithful friendship, romance, companionship, adventure.  The pain of bereavement will be terrible indeed, but Steve and I agree that it is definitely a price worth paying.

And while going through the years of grief and bereavement, how does one “live our marriage well and faithfully?”  How do we honor the relationship, the loss of which we now mourn?  I have been thinking about that and believe that we honor it best by first letting ourselves feel the pain deeply, to the very core of our being.  We must cry all those tears, feel the pit in one’s stomach, ache with loneliness as we recognize, like Lewis did, that “her absence is like the sky—it covers everything,” and that grief is like an amputation—you may learn to get around one day on crutches, or with a prosthetic leg, but you never again forget that you are no longer a biped.  But also, while feeling and expressing that sadness to the fullest, you pay your spouse the highest compliment--honoring the marriage the two of you had--by continuing on with the parts of life you enjoyed most together.  Head to the mountains and hike!  Jump in a lake on a hot day!  Travel!  Snorkel!  Explore tidepools!  Eat amazing food!  Try your hardest to beat everybody on game night!  Crack up at Frasier re-runs!  Go boating!  Pick blackberries and bake a pie!  Surround yourself with family and friends to celebrate life’s many milestone moments!  And never forget that you were one of the most blessed people on earth—to have loved, and been loved, so very deeply. 

In conclusion, please pray for us as we approach my PET scan on July 20.  We won’t get the results until July 24th, and will update you in our August blog post.  And please enjoy some joy and love-filled photos below!

Love,

Gabrielle

Daniel and me on Oregon Coast!

Two dwarf bunnies we fell in love with and adopted in Seaside, Oregon!

Kids and me about to hike at Ecola State Park!

Jericho enjoying Edmonds Water Park!

Rehearsal Dinner in our backyard!

Steve and Renee practicing their walk down the aisle!

My new daughter-in-law--Riley Dudley!

Rehearsing at Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church!

Steve and me hiking at Mt. Rainier!
Renee and Riley at sunset in Edmonds!
Daniel and his girlfriend, Adrienne, at wedding reception!
The Dudleys!
Beautiful brides!
Brides and Jericho, the ring bearer--wearing his more comfy shirt and sandals after the wedding is over!

Daniel and me enjoying Yayoi Kusama exhibit at Seattle Art Museum!







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