The World Loses Another Hero

Without this man, I have no idea what kind of person I would be today. What I do know is that I would not be anywhere near as successful in life, anywhere near as loving or accepting of love, or anywhere near as happy. -Andru Edwards

I was moved this morning when I heard (through Bryan) of the passing of Andru Edwards’ father, George Budabin, for I know what it is like to lose someone who changed my life so dramatically just by loving me – my step-father, Gordy, married my mom the summer before I turned nine, and he loved me like his own daughter. His love grounded me during a time when I was confused and angry about who I could trust.

Gordy died from cancer three years ago this January.

Life seems unfair at times, especially when I see good, kind-hearted, and sacrificial people struggle and pass on. I pray for Andru and his family, for the peace of God during this difficult time.

Coming in for a Landing

Zoe was born on Sunday, a day earlier than expected. This brought the drama of a little panic and rushing, but in some ways I think this was better than the anxiety of waiting. She came into this world as healthy and as strong as our wishes and prayers had hoped for, needing no assistance to breathe or keep her heart beating.

I spent most of the day, and all night Sunday in the hospital with Jen as she recovered from her C-Section, because her husband went to a different hospital with the baby, and her mom took her older son home.

Spending the night on the post-partum floor of a hospital without a baby in the room was very surreal. It felt very cruel, in fact. Grief is a giant shadow looming over you in the wee hours of the night when babies in other rooms are crying.

My neighbors probably think I’m a little wacko with the eclectic musical selections I play. Our houses are close together and my windows are always open and I usually blare my music at top volume. So when they hear anything from Michael Jackson, to Beck, to Gnarls Barkley, to Vinyard Worship music they probably don’t know what to think of me.

This morning as I decompress from the last few emotional days I’m sobbing and singing as I listen to worship music, hoping the words I’m singing will make some sense to my broken heart and confused mind. I need to be reminded that none of this is about me, and it’s not even really about Zoe, but it’s about acknowledging the sovereignty of God when life doesn’t seem fair. For me, fear sets in when I forget that God is in control. This morning, music has been the healing salve that calms my heart.

That, and a little rum and a hot bath.

Things That Keep Me Awake.

It’s after 1am and I can’t sleep. I have too many pictures swirling in my mind. Too many worries.

Aspartame in my diet soda. Hormones in my milk. The way my daughter’s face looks when she’s crying. The last sentence of a medical update letter my friend wrote: “We are nearing the beginning.”

I feel an overwhelming desperation for time to stop.

Tomorrow someone might get cancer. Or lose her temper. Or get betrayed by someone she depends on. Or go into labor.

Trains on a track that are not slowing down.

My kids have a Thomas the Train book called, “Stop! Train, Stop!” in which Thomas decides he’s going to plow through the whole route without stopping once. The cows don’t get to moo, the boy doesn’t get to wave, and the people can’t get on or off. He just whizzes by, leaving their hair to churn in his wake.

This is what keeps me awake tonight.

Knowing that I am powerless to control ________ .

Practicing the Art of Being

This morning my mom left Minnesota for a month in sunny Arizona (oh, to be retired), and I called her last night to see how the packing was going.

After chatting for awhile I said, “Well, I should let you get back to your packing.”

But as usual, the conversation continued for another ten minutes. We talked about nothing, really. She mostly seemed to be talking to herself as she packed her make-up, lotions, and shampoos into a small carry-on. As I listened, I remembered a conversation we had last week about how tired she is of being alone all the time since Gordy died, that she misses having someone to talk to.

So I asked her, “You just like having me on the phone, don’t you?”

“Yes,” she said. “I kind of do.” So I decided that while she packed, I would make an egg bake dish to refrigerate for breakfast in the morning.

We stayed on the phone together for a long time, chatting about nothing as if she were sitting on the stool in my kitchen. It felt nice to be doing ordinary things while talking about nothing in particular. I’ve never lived near my mom since I’ve been an adult, and this experience made me think about what I’ve been missing being so far from her.

It also made me think about grieving and the many nuances of working through it. Sometimes I think it’s easy to miss the most important way we can support someone who is grieving: just being there. I often default to Helping others in need by bringing meals, or cleaning a house, or caring for small children, when sometimes just being on the other end of the phone is all that is needed.

A friend of mine once spoke about grieving in terms of the book of Job in the Bible:

2:11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

Before Job’s friends went all conspiracy theory on him, their first response was to just sit quietly and grieve with him. Those of us who are fixers and problem solvers have trouble with this. We feel it is not enough to just be present; we need to be DOING something. Sitting on the phone with my mom last night, I learned the value in just being with her. It is exactly what she needed.

They Say It’s the Little Things That Hurt the Most

I just finished addressing all my Christmas cards. This year I went low maintenance and BOUGHT cards, rather than made them. Life is too short to be Martha Stewart.

It was sad coming to mom’s card, after having addressed envelopes to The Smith Family, or Mr. & Mrs. Smith. I didn’t know how to address hers. It just seemed foreign to say ‘Marge Pearson’ on the envelope of her Christmas card, yet ‘Pearson Family’ sounded awkward, as did ‘The Pearsons.’ Maybe I should have written ‘Mrs. Gordon Pearson.’

I don’t know.

Seems like any which way I write it he’s still not REALLY on the envelope.

Another Goodbye

Last year around this time I experienced the loss of a loved one after his battle with cancer. I had time to prepare for this loss, to say my goodbyes.

This weekend my family experienced another loss. This time there was no warning, and I am reminded of how quickly everything about this life can change, and how little control I have over anything.

My cousin’s daughters were in a car accident on Friday night. Hannah, age 14, died, and her sister Bethany, age 16, is traumatically injured. Bethany’s eye socket is smashed, she has several skull fractures, her jaw is broken, and she suffered a deep gash that severed facial nerves. She has already undergone 14 hours of surgery to repair the damage.

As my sister, Jody, and I talked last night when she called to tell me the news, we lamented at the reality of grieving the loss of one while holding onto the hope of another. How do you make such critical medical decisions, how do you interpret all the information being given to you, how do you let go of one while at the same time fighting to save another? How does one grieve when still faced with so many uncertainties?

I often have nightmares of losing my children – mostly of losing my Ruthie. I wake up with a feeling of dread, horrified for a moment that it may have actually happened. Even after I’m fully awake I still fixate on the possibility of losing her, and the fear of such a loss knocks the wind out of me.

Please pray for my cousin, Bruce, his wife, Sharon, their daughter in recovery, Bethany, and their son, Ben, as Bethany recovers and as they mourn the loss of Hannah.

The Day My Source of Heat Died

At precisely 5:30pm on Thursday afternoon, on the eve of a three-day holiday weekend in which all things were closed the next day, our furnace began making a screeching grinding sound that echoed in the vents throughout the house.

As Bryan and I stood in the kitchen assessing the nature of the sound, we both had That Look on our face. It is That Look that recognized the time of day on that particular holiday weekend, during that particular week where temperatures were at a record low for the Puget Sound Area. It was That Look that recognized how OBVIOUS it would be that a furnace would begin making such grinding noises at this particular moment in time.

A few minutes later the grinding stopped, and we went about our business of the evening.

Off and on all weekend we stopped and held our breath as the grinding came and went. We waited. We hoped. We crossed our fingers. We prayed the furnace would last through the weekend.

On Saturday afternoon – New Year’s Day – I got a call from my sister, Jody, who reported that Gordy seemed to be slipping away, letting go. She said I should think about coming home soon, and that his daughter, Pam, was already on an airplane.

Even though Gordy had been diagnosed eight months ago, this plunge still took me by surprise. Just a week earlier at Christmastime he was up and about, visiting family and eating lutefisk. It seemed we might get another month with him at least.

Upon hearing this news I did what I always to do cope… I started doing things. I cleaned, I packed, I researched airline ticket prices, I rearranged plans, I organized the kitchen cabinets. I kept moving.

Meanwhile, the grinding furnace got so bad that on Sunday afternoon we shut it down from the circuit breaker.

It was cold that weekend. Seattle was experiencing record-breaking low temperatures.
We borrowed space heaters from friends and shuffled them around the house with us. We slept in ski hats and wools socks.

Monday morning, January 3rd, was a regular morning. I woke up, I took a shower, I fed Ruthie breakfast, I called someone to fix the furnace. Around 11am the phone rang.

I recently read an excerpt of Carole Radziwill’s memoir, “What Remains,” in which she describes what happens between the moment an event happens and when you find out about it, how she was sipping a glass of wine and reading Pride and Prejudice as her friend’s airplane spiraled downward into the ocean.

I was sleeping when Gordy died. While he drifted off into the peacefulness of the early dawn in his own bedroom, I was completely unaware that something significant was transpiring in my life, that I was losing the man who had anchored me throughout the confusing years of my childhood.

In the morning when I awoke, when I fed Ruthie breakfast and called the furnace repair guy, I had no idea that I had just experienced a loss.

At 11:00 a.m. when I picked up the phone, my mom was crying on the other end. Through her sobs I heard her say, “Gordy is walking the streets of gold.”

I was standing in the laundry room where I had been loading the washing machine. I was crying, and the doorbell rang.

Almost every significant event throughout Gordy’s illness is somehow tied to a major home maintenance project. When I first received the news that Gordy had cancer, Bryan and I were meeting with contractors who were bidding out the remodel of our basement. And now, as the news of his passing was still sinking in I walked a sales representative through my house pointing out air vents and faulty duct work.

People die. Life goes on.

Never before in my life – and probably never again – will that fact be made more clear to me.

Yesterday we finally turned on our new furnace for the winter season. It purred ever so quietly, and the air blew through the vents with a force of confidence.

I felt warm, and I remembered.


I am not well, yet today may be the most restful day I’ve had in a long time.

I am without children.

Thomas is asleep and Bryan took Ruthie to church, so here I sit, in bed, in my pajamas, and it’s nearly 11am. I haven’t done this since Ruthie was an immobile baby.

I feel decadent.

I finally turned on the news yesterday to watch the coverage of the New Orleans tragedy. I have to admit I was keeping my distance all week. I followed the newspaper headlines, but that’s about it. After obsessively watching the news coverage of the Tsunami disaster earlier in the year, I wasn’t sure I could handle the same thing again.

What strikes me the most is the thousands of people being evacuated to far away cities. These are people who began with very little, and will likely have nothing when this is over. Their homes are destroyed, some are separated from their families, and now they are in a strange city. Statistics say refugees rarely return to the areas they have fled, so these generous cities have just welcomed thousands of people into their population.

I cannot even fathom an entire city destroyed.

I cannot even fathom the impact of thousands of impoverished refugees upon the cities who have taken them in.

The emotional and sociological toll this will take on our nation is yet to be seen. There is talk of racism. There is talk of classism. There will be post-traumatic stress and economic impact.

Yet I can’t help but think we will all somehow forget once the news cycles away from this. I pray I am wrong.

Peaches on Top

The other night as I sat eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream with fresh peaches on top from the local farmer’s market, I was reminiscing of Gordy. He loved summer fruit, and he loved peaches with ice cream. I think blueberries were his favorite cereal topping, but for some reason as I sat there eating peaches with my ice cream, it had GORDY written all over it.

God, I miss him.

He had a way of getting excited over simple pleasures, like summer fruit and corn on the cob. I have memories of him marching into the kitchen with frisky determination, rubbing his hands together as he planned his attack on the fruit of the day.

Some days it was strawberry-rhubarb. He would cook batches of it on the stove: fresh rhubarb from the garden, strawberries, a little sugar to mellow it out. I couldn’t WAIT for strawberry-rhubarb season. I would spread it on my Wheaties, we’d have it on pancakes, and it was just the right amount of tart to put on vanilla ice cream.

Gordy knew how to savor.

Writer’s Block

I’ll be honest: resolution gives me writer’s block.

As an introvert, I write to process through the fog in my mind. Once the wave has swelled and spilled over onto the beach I can think of nothing else to say. To recap how high the wave became, what kind of splash it produced, and how far it creeped onto the beach is to report – and I am not a reporter.

Gordy has died.

Despite his having cancer, his death still came as a surprise to me. Not in the sense that I was denying the seriousness of his illness, but in the sense that just one week prior to his death he had been visiting relatives and eating lutefisk.

There was a funeral; there was family drama; and there were unspoken territories marked. But to recap that today seems like reporting.

And I am not a reporter.

Perhaps someday I will process through what all this has meant. Maybe I will even explore why it seems my grieving has died with Gordy.

But for now it is all behind me, and as much as I try to poetically script my thoughts into poignant essays, it all comes out as mere recorded events.

And I am not a reporter.

So I will quit trying, and let the grief catch up to me again.

All My Tears

Just today I received word that the cancer in Gordy’s lung has continued to grow. It has taken over half the lung, his lymph nodes, and possibly spread into his liver. He is very weak, and according to my mom, Gordy says he feels like he’s dying.

The doctors have narrowed his time with us down to weeks… maybe a couple months.

Ironically… or perhaps not… I was listening to Emmylou Harris this morning in the quiet before my daughter awoke, and the lyrics to one of her songs caught my ear. I’ve listened to her music over and over, and this song is not new to me. However, it usually remains in the meditative backround as I write or work.

This morning, before I knew of the saddening news of my beloved, God called my attention to the loving grace of knowing him and trusting him to receive our loved ones in death.

All My Tears
by Julie Miller

When I go don’t cry for me
In my father’s arms I’ll be
The wounds this world left on my soul
Will all be healed and I’ll be whole

Sun and moon will be replaced
With the light of Jesus’ face
And I will not be ashamed
For my savior knows my name

It don’t matter where you bury me
I’ll be home and I’ll be free
It don’t matter where I lay
All my tears be washed away

Gold and silver blind the eye
Temporary riches lie
Come and eat from heaven’s store
Come and drink and thirst no more

So weep not for me my friend
When my time below does end
For my life belongs to him
Who will raise the dead again

It don’t matter where you bury me
I’ll be home and I’ll be free
It don’t matter where I lay
All my tears be washed away


Have you ever felt like a sermon preached by a pastor was aimed right at you?

That he spent all week thinking about you, your life, your issues, then said to himself, “I’m going to preach a sermon for her?”

This morning’s sermon – preached by Pastor Mike — seemed particularly powerful to me. Again, there’s a lot of hormones running through my pregnant body these days which tends to cause crying over just about anything, but he really seemed to hit on some things I’ve been pondering.

From the time Gordy’s cancer went really downhill – when the tumors were found in his brain and the reality check in my head said this was the beginning of the end – I began to feel numb.

At least what I thought I felt was numbness, but the more I began to think about the Christian’s role in death the more I realized that what I felt was peace.

In Philippians 1:20-21 Paul says, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Pastor Mike punctuated that passage by saying that in life we live FOR Christ, and in death we live WITH Christ.

Do we as believers value that Biblical Truth? Do I value that Truth?

Of course I don’t want Gordy to die. I want him to live so my children can grow up and know what a kind, gentle, and giving man he is. I want my children to know the man God used to restore me from a bitter and confused childhood. I want more time with him, to be teased by him, to be irritated by him at times for still seeing me as the teenager I was when I left home, to show him what kind of mom I’ve become because he loved me so unconditionally.

I grieve everything I will lose in his death.

But in death, he will gain so much.

And that is what I believe has given me peace.

When Simeon saw the baby Jesus at the temple on the day of his dedication, just eight days old, he said, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

Simeon was an old man who had waited his entire life for God’s promise of a savior to come, and when he saw the Christ child he knew the fulfillment of this Promise had been delivered, and he could die in peace.

How much more should we be at peace with death, since we know the end of the story? We know that Christ conquered death so we would not be mastered by it.

God is not like the plumber who was scheduled to work on my house, who postponed twice, then on the third appointment he never came and never called. He overbooked, or lost his calendar, or forgot to pencil me in, or misplaced my phone number, or whatever his excuse. I don’t know, because he never said. To this day he remains unseen and unheard. Needless to say, he will never work on my plumbing because I will now find a new plumber.

God shows up. God is with us. God is comforting me in my grief, and he is comforting Gordy as he travels on.


Before we decided to not hire a contractor to remodel our basement, we actually did hire the tall and loud contractor team that was in our home the night I found out Gordy had cancer. He was supposed to draw up the plans, submit them to the city for permitting, and get started on the project within a few weeks.

What I learned, and what I’m sure everyone who has undertaken a remodeling project has learned, is that these things never go as planned.

I bought a plane ticket on a Friday to leave for Minnesota that Sunday afternoon in May – Mother’s Day 2004. I took Ruthie with me but didn’t get her a seat, hoping she would sleep in my arms, which she did – for about half an hour.

I think that was the longest flight in my life for more than one reason.

Gordy was in round two of his six rounds of chemotherapy. My visit coincided with the “good” week of the three-week cycle. Since his cancer treatment began, the concept of a “good” week or a “good” day has taken on a new meaning for me.

Gordy’s hair began to fall out while I was there. Not that any of us are insensitive enough to care that he is bald, but the hair loss is a visual reminder of the illness. Once you see his bare head you know, you are reminded — even if he is having a “good” strong day where he seems to be his old self – the illness can’t be ignored.

I was very grateful for that visit, for that window into the early days of his fight against the imperfection and unfairness of our corrupt life on Earth. It made me think a lot about Adam and Eve and the blissful life they led, naked in the garden. How nice that would be today.

Back then, in May 2004, my mom was very optimistic about the future. I wanted to be optimistic, but something inside me left me heavy and foreboding. I hated the waiting, the wondering, the questions left unanswered. It drove me crazy that The Doctors didn’t give percentages or prognoses, that they didn’t say, “If you do X, the outcome will be Y.

I felt like that’s all we did that summer – waited. Six times, over the course of four and a half months, for three days in a row each time, nurses would inject powerful chemicals into Gordy’s veins.

And we would wait.

And we waited all summer, wondering what would happen.

I called home several times during that visit. The contractors were supposed to start their work while I was away, but we had heard nothing from them in over a week. I began to worry that he was flaking on us, and was grateful we hadn’t given him any money yet. Bryan sent a terse email requesting that he update us on the project, and he finally responded. He was waiting on word from the city regarding the permits, and would get started as soon as those came in.

So we waited for that as well.

The words of Psalm 40 came to mind: “I waited patiently for the Lord, he turned to me and heard my cry.” I wondered what it looked like to wait patiently, and what it looked like for God to hear my cry. Would the bad things go away? Or would I just feel comforted in the midst of the bad things? And was I wrong to feel that being comforted was worse than being delivered?

I was not afraid to ask these questions of God. But like The Doctors, God does not always give percentages or if/then statements.

I felt comforted then, and continue to feel comforted. And now it seems that deliverance by my definition is not to come. But I do not feel wronged by God, only that I am to continue to wait, and that he continues to hear my cry.

Although I’m still not sure what that looks like.