A thousand good-byes

Grief is a winding path. It is not just one good-bye but rather a thousand good-byes. That first crashing wave just keeps lapping against the sand.

It’s not just good-bye to breath, good-bye to warmth. It’s good-bye to all the would-have-beens. Good-bye to morning greetings and good-night hugs. Good-bye to shopping trips and coffee dates. Good-bye to wedding plans and babies and laughing together. Good-bye to birthdays and conversations and long walks. Good-bye to living and loving and sharing.

Good-bye to her smile, her zeal, her joy. Her friendship. Her love. Her presence.

Grief is a thousand good-byes.

I keep remembering the hellos. Oh, the joy of saying hello to her.

Hello, heartbeat. Hello, miracle. Hello, curly-headed sunshine.

Hello, exuberant child. Hello, funny and energetic teenager. Hello, beautiful and gifted woman.

Hello, warrior. Hello, lover of God. Hello, faith hero.

Grief is the ending of hellos. That is what takes your breath away, and that is what hurts your heart.

So many good-byes. No more hellos.

Our family is reading a book about heaven together. It is like a whole new realm that I have never really thought about. It is comforting in ways I cannot tell. There is a fullness added to life, and the circle comes together finally. The journey’s end–how I begin to long for it. How I begin to joyfully consider what is ours in Christ.

How I long to know the tender heart of the One who loves so well and prepares such a place. The One who gave His life so that we could go there and be with Him forever.

The One who is our eternal refuge. The One who holds Marissa safe.

Safe in the place where all our good-byes will someday be turned back to hello.

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Hebrews 13:14

And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2












Back to the little things

I went running this morning, and it has been awhile. Awhile since I could leave the house, awhile since I could justify the heavy breath of exertion when my sweet girl was struggling with her shallow breaths.

It has been awhile since normal.

My children are going back to work, back to school, and I am going back to laundry and meal plans and catching up. Catching up with this new normal that we never wanted and don’t want now.

I am completely amazed at the grace that has abounded. Grace for choosing burial clothes and a final resting place.  Grace for seeing pieces of Marissa’s life all around. Grace for getting up and moving through each day.

Grace for walking the path of last things.

And now grace for stepping into new.

I would be so lost if I were not already found. I would be so lost without Jesus.

Early in our journey, our pastor encouraged us to think of this road as our assignment from God. There were so many times I remembered that when I felt I could not do the new thing ahead.

If God gives me something to do, He does enable. If He sends me down a difficult path, He does strengthen.

He will most assuredly see me through.

Marissa finished her assignment well because He saw her through.

We are encouraging our children to be brave in this new assignment. To allow sadness and heartache to do its work, but to keep walking in this appointed path.

This appointed path of small things.

The walk of faith is mostly small steps. It’s mostly mundane. It’s getting up each day and choosing to walk the pilgrim way. We can’t see too far ahead, and we’re not supposed to.

Our steps would falter if we saw the miles ahead, the sometimes weary road. Our steps would falter if we saw the mountains we would climb or the valleys we would walk through.

We might shrink back from leaping over chasms deep.

But we can take the small steps of today. We can walk by faith today. We can do our assignment for today–the grieving, the loving, the every-day living.

All the little things that make up a life, that lead us on to glory.

We can be faithful to God in all the little things of today.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8























The battle won

And so it was that at 9:55 p.m. on March 6, 2017, Marissa Alice Bundy, brave warrior princess, put down her sword and crossed over into glory to meet her Savior face to face.

I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to forget the battle or the bravery or the ending. I want to remember every part of the story–from first to final breath.

Marissa’s pain had increased day by day, and her knees began to buckle when she walked. We were supposed to head to Duke for scans on Tuesday and a visit with the oncologist on Wednesday. But when I explained her new symptoms, her doctor admitted her directly to the hospital to determine the cause of her loss of mobility. By the time we got there, she could barely walk even with assistance.

They thought perhaps a tumor was pressing on her spine, so they did a few tests. One painful test, a lumbar puncture, was done to test the fluid in the spine. On Wednesday she had been scheduled to see her doctor and begin a new immunotherapy drug. But instead we waited in the hospital for test results. Her pain increased and she lost more of her mobility while we waited.

On Thursday morning, her oncologist came into her room with the results. She’s brilliant and she’s tough, but she cried when she told us that the cancer was in her spinal fluid, the most difficult cancer to treat. Since Marissa’s cancer was in so many other places, we were out of options.

Marissa asked the doctor how long she would have and the answer was weeks at best. I watched her face. I expected sadness and even despair, but what I saw was relief. She told me later her first emotion was peace, and I could see a determination to finish her fight well. She spoke with joy of heaven. We talked about the most important things she wanted to do before she took that journey.

She wanted to marry Daniel. She wanted to see her Grandma. She wanted to sort through all of her things and give them away to people she loved. She wanted to say good-bye.

The rest of the day was spent trying to get her pain managed for going home. They contacted hospice to meet us there, and we headed out. By the time we got home, she was sleeping almost all the time. She could respond to some questions, but not really talk.

She was surrounded by love. I will never forget the tenderness of her brothers helping her into her hospital bed or her sisters giving her sips of water. Or of Daniel, faithful and sweet, continually encouraging her.

She rallied some for some family visitors on Sunday, but mostly she was fading away. On Sunday night, Daniel placed a beautiful ring on her left hand.

Through the night she had some agitation, and the nurse came early Monday morning to increase her pain pump. On the day of her home-going, we gathered around her. We sang to her. We prayed for her. We told stories. We read God’s words to her. Over and over, we called out: “We love you, Rissa! We are so proud of you! You have finished your race!” We talked of heaven and her Savior. We told her it was okay to stop fighting, to let go.

As her breathing became more labored, we increased our encouragements. We took turns expressing our love and thankfulness for her. We urged her on.

I felt the intensity of God’s reality and the secure hope of His salvation.

Eventually her breath became more shallow and we gathered closer. Daniel moved to the head of the bed and kissed her head. And finally she relaxed.

Finally, she was free.

And grief was there. It gripped us all. Father, mother, sister, brother, beloved one–we sobbed. We wept. We sorrowed deep.

Oh, the pain of missing her. Oh, the ache that fills our hearts.

But there is joy. There is goodness. There is light.

There is even beauty in this darkest night.

Because of the Lamb! The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world! She is with Him now in glory, forever with her Lord. She fell asleep in pain and woke in glory!

Her battle is won!

She’s safely home in the arms of Jesus.






Gentle Shepherd

Dear Shepherd, lead us.

This is a path we do not know.

And we can feel ourselves falling, stumbling, reeling, letting go.

Walking over shards of glass that cut more deeply as we slow.

Dear Shepherd, lead us.

We cannot see the light.

And fear surrounds this secret place of dark. This blackest night.

Dear Shepherd, lead us.

This path is Yours. Don’t let us lose the way.

The storm is fierce and we are bowed so low beneath its battering sway.

And would you carry the little ones?

The weak ones and the ones who fall?

The saddest hearts and those whose pain has crippled them?

The weary, worn? The small?

Dear Shepherd, lead us.

Lead us on.

On to peace and the arms of God.

On to light and green pastures and forever rest.

Lead us to morning. Lead us to joy.

Heal our hearts and hold them fast.

Be our God. Be our Shepherd. Be our Savior.

Gently lead us. Lead us home.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:11

He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. Daniel 2:22