I am very glad that Elizabeth Groves and her children chose to share this story, "Grief Undone: A Journey with God and Cancer."
Those words are so like the words of my Grammy, who died one year ago at the end of May 2014. She consistently referred to the whole process of life with sarcoma as "My God journey" and "My cancer journey." In an odd way, it makes me smile to think about that, and hear her voice saying it in my memory. She would not- could not- see her life outside of God, and she did not separate God from her cancer.
Just as Nancy Guthrie explains in her endorsement that is quoted on the back cover, Elizabeth Groves is both honest and insightful.
Through her words, she shows us the heart of her husband, Al Groves. He was a man who knew that he lived and moved and had his being in God, even as his living turned to dying. Amidst his physical discomfort and waning health, he tried to take every potential fear or trouble captive to his Lord.
He preached redemption-in-suffering to everyone, beginning with himself. He focused on Christ, sought to imitate Christ, and fell on the love of Christ in broken dependence.
He had spent years studying and teaching all of the grand truths about God's compassion, mercy, comforts, provision, hope, peace, and everlasting life.
We somehow think those are very abstract, ethereal things, that float above our world. They aren't. God's gifts take root and grow in one place- reality. That means the cancer ward, the hospital bed, the hospice room. The Groves experienced this.
During this journey, God trained them to spot His gifts. He called their names over and over with perfect-for-the-moment, particular-to-them kindness. One beautiful example was a football game that Al got to experience with his boys. The kind detail was a wall, just right for a footrest, that happened to be in front of their seats. Al was in a great deal of pain from blood clots at the time, and elevating his legs gave him a measure of relief. The presence of that wall reminded Elizabeth that God knew, and cared.
As they recognized the gifts given in this hard season, the Groves gave a "sacrifice of praise." Elizabeth includes a piece that Al wrote for his blog, about flossing his teeth. When you have terminal cancer, he wryly observed, you may as well quit flossing- especially if you've always disliked the task. Yet he chose not to, because something as pedestrian as tooth flossing was an act of hope when he viewed it rightly.
I think people will find themselves understanding the Groves' experiences if they've walked a loved one towards death- the focus on Heaven, the step by step trust in God, the blessings dispensed at just the exact moment. Elizabeth's experience of grief will also resonate with readers. Absence permeates everything- the "important" and the "ordinary." Al would not be their for the college graduations, the weddings, or the grandbabies. He also would not be there to eat mushroom's off the kid's pizza anymore, or to pray them through a rough patch.
Near the end of this book, Elizabeth describes prayer and worship- those moments when we come before the Throne of God, together with all of His saints.
She writes, "In those moments in my imagination I feel as if.... I might glimpse Al's face in the crowd. It's almost like being together in the same place at the same time, since we are both before God's throne- he in actuality, I by faith. Someday we will be there together. And in the meantime it is a privilege, a joy, and a sweet refreshment to stand in faith in the radiance of God's presence, to close my eyes and feel the light of his glory on my face."
I thank New Growth press for publishing this true story, and for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest opinion.