Monday, March 24, 2008


So, how am I doing? Better? Yes. And, No. Linda's absence is always present with me. I have heard several people say that they expect her to call, or they expect to see her. I don't. Nor, have I expected to see her again one single time. When Linda died, it was as if a door slammed shut, and it slammed with force. I can still hear that sound. Her absence is always present with me. Always. I am aware that our relationship will never be the same (Matthew 22:23-33). Whatever we experience will be grand beyond anything we could ever anticipate, but it will not be the same. Since I am in this temporal state, the loss is stunningly difficult to bear. "Empty" does not adequately describe the emotion. At the risk of repeating something I said earlier (I am not lazy, I just do not have the energy to go back through the last few posts), the words "vacant" or "hollow" would better describe what her absence means to me, but there is no way to adequately articulate this place in which I find myself.

Ah, self. It is when I get past myself and think about eternity that I do better. We are all designed for eternity to begin with, but that old temporal state is quite tangible and demands our attention. The entire fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians deals with our need to gain perspective that reaches beyond our senses. We are told (at the end of the chapter) to focus on eternal things, not temporal things. We are also told that our "light" affliction (from a man who had been stoned and left for dead, beaten several times for his faith - read more about Paul's difficulties in 2 Corinthians 11:16-29) serves a purpose to prepare us for glory. As C. S. Lewis said when his wife, Joy, had died, "The pain now is part of the joy then." I will say more about that quote later.

It is when I think of eternity that the Lord lifts me from the loneliness. Not that grieving is past - far from it, Linda's absence is always present with me no matter what I do or where I go. But, I smile when I think of her joy right now - she has seen Jesus! Her faith is reality! She is through with pain and suffering, with loss, with her own sinful self! If God allowed me the opportunity to bring her back, I could not do it - how selfish that would be.

But, God calls me not only to think of eternity for her, but for myself as well. He wants my focus to be on Him. If Jesus is the only one who can truly fulfill me (or any of us), I must look beyond my own grief and share in Christ's suffering. Not His sacrificial suffering, of course, but whenever we suffer, our great Friend is near. He is no stranger to loss and He communes with us at a deep level when we allow Him to be a part of our suffering. To connect with Jesus in that way is to look beyond this world and live with an eternal perspective.

But, I am still trying to figure it all out. If the last paragraph sounds like I am there, then I apologize for misleading you. It is just something that has helped a bit in these last days. It is, of course, biblical thinking, but when you have to apply it at this level, it seems brand new! The elders of our church have been gracious to me and almost insistent that I take time to deal with the loss. Part of me very much wants to get back to work, but your responses have helped me to conclude that this is, indeed, the work that God has for me right now - to experience this at a level most people cannot because of the business of life. If that sounds like an excuse to get out of work, please know that I would give anything for a normal life right now, but that door has been closed. As one friend (who knows) has told me, this is the new normal

So, I am better and I am not. That's the way of grief, I suppose. I recognize how very blessed I am to have so many people who care, and who are praying. My expressions of gratitude never seem to me to be enough - I wish I had a better way to thank you, but please know how very grateful I am!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Staying in Touch

One of the things about grief is that it is so personal. I do not mind sharing that portion of my heart and life. The part that makes it difficult is that my personal grief is so confusing, and while there are many aspects of what I am experiencing that have been experienced and shared before, it seems that everyone has a somewhat unique experience. That is probably not true, it just feels that way. It is not that none have experienced all these emotions before, but it seems the combination of emotions and thoughts are so different for each one in throes of sorrow and loss.

For instance, I have already experienced many of the same emotions that C. S. Lewis wrote about after the loss of his wife, Joy, in his book A Grief Observed. Some of his struggles, though, find no fertile ground in my heart. Some of my struggles, on the other hand, were apparently not things with which he wrestled. Not that I am comparing myself to Lewis - but, what a comfort to read his book! It is difficult reading it at this time, but, frankly, everything is difficult at this time, and, oddly enough, it is probably the perfect time to read the book - see what I mean about confusion?

I have questions, such as, "Since the pain is so intense at times, is it wise to protect myself (by, say, distraction) from the depths to which I am prone to go and in which I am prone to wallow, or should I allow my emotions to go where they lead me and get it all out?" Not that I will be done with grief if I allow myself to go, but might it not be best to not fight the inevitable? Even if you answer me, your experience may differ from mine, so I am not necessarily looking for answers. Oh, I am grateful for input, but I don't even know if I can process it appropriately right now, anyway. I have told you before, this is far more difficult than I expected, but I am OK with that - tonight. I have no idea how I will feel tomorrow. Thank you for indulging these self-focused ramblings.

I have heard from several of you who are currently battling cancer, and the prognosis is not good for some of you. If you find yourself in such a position, and you would like to correspond, I would count it an honor to walk through this with you by e-mail. Since I do not know how to respond to all who respond to this blog I would be happy to correspond with you if you will e-mail me at

I know it will take time to understand all that I am experiencing at present. Tonight, I just wanted to stay in touch with you - thank you for continuing to read! I know this is exactly the fear I expressed earlier - a self-absorbed rant. I promise that I will seek to articulate the spiritual lessons I am learning - and I am, indeed, learning more of God's grace every day! I am not angry with God. I understand this is the way of things. I just need time to deal with the pain. It is more than "empty" - perhaps, "vacant" or "hollow" would better describe the degree of loneliness I feel. But, I know my loving Father is there. It is just going to take time.

See, there I go again. I best stop lest I ramble off in another direction. God bless!

Monday, March 17, 2008

God's Favor

Back in late February, our good friends, George and Rebecca Womble, gave us a copy of "Daily LIght for Every Day," which provides Scripture (only), usually centered on a theme, both morning and night. This wonderful little book was first published in 1794 and continues to bless God's children to this day. For each page (representing a morning or evening of a particular day), somewhat lengthy passages will sometimes be included, but more often than not single verses will be listed, and more often than not, only portions of verses will be listed. (I am usually leery of publications or sermons that group Scripture together in such a way because of the temptation to make a point by taking Scripture out of context, but care was taken to avoid such a mistake in this book.) A verse, or a portion of a verse, that is listed at the top of each offering will give you an idea where the verses are going for that particular morning or evening. Many families use this little gem of a book to stay connected with one another, all reading the same Scripture though they are thousands of miles apart. Great idea!

As you know, Linda died exactly two weeks ago from today. My wonderful children have helped me get the house back into shape (as well as a few wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ!), and while I can usually put my hands on most things, I was unable to get to the copy of "Daily Light." Rebecca had sent a card saying that I should read the collection of Scripture for the evening of March 3, the day Linda went to be with the Lord. When I finally was able to read them last night, my heart was overwhelmed with a sense of God's favor, both for Linda and for me. I would like to share them with you, in the same format in which they are found.

The prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

You will have treasure in heaven; . . . come, follow Me. I am . . . your exceeding great reward.

Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord. They shall reign forever and ever.

You will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. The crown of life. The crown of righteousness. An imperishable crown.

Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me. We shall always be with the Lord.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

PHIL. 3:14; Matt. 19:21; Gen. 15:1; Matt. 25:21; Rev. 22:5; 1 Pet. 5:4; James 1:12; 2 Tim. 4:8; 1 Cor. 9:25; John 17:24; 1 Thess. 4:17; Rom. 8:18

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tougher Than I Expected

This is one of the reasons I avoided a blog in the past - it is easy to become self-focused, and I really want to be a part of a blog that is about God and His amazing Word, His amazing grace, and His amazing input and direction in our lives!

Of course, it has been my privilege to write about Linda this past year. I have to tell you, I am stunned at how many of you have told me about the ways she impacted your life that I never knew about! The reason I am stunned is because I knew her REALLY well, and I had no idea that her impact was as broad as God caused it to be. If you were at the visitation last Wednesday night, or the funeral on the following day, you saw pictures of Linda that would make you feel like you knew her, even if you had never met her. It was that infectious smile! It was as genuine as any smile has ever been, and it was always there, was it not? Oh, the depth of my loss!

In spite of my distaste for self-focus, I am going to engage in a little, anyway. If you will indulge me, keep reading. If not, I don't blame you! I mentioned before the time when Linda ended her good fight that I had not yet begun to calculate all that I would lose at her home-going. It was not that I was denying reality - indeed, most people had a sense that God was going to heal her, but I did not have such a sense. I was hopeful, though, because of the large number of people who felt such optimism, and anyway, I never trust my feelings - either way. We followed God's instructions (with elders, according to James 5) to the letter in praying for her healing - twice. It was not to be, however. Her days were written in God's book before she was ever born (Psalm 139:16). While Linda was alive, we concentrated on living. And we did! We laughed and cried (good tears, even when they were sad tears), we sat at the table in the mornings and lingered over coffee - well, she usually had hot tea - we went to restaurants and even movies! We really lived, although we suspected her time here was short. She is really living now! I, on the other hand, am trying to make sense of this life.

And, so, I grieve. I have no choice! A question will come to my mind and I want to ask her what to do - she always knew. Hey, I am pretty self-sufficient, but I cannot begin to tell you all the things she taught me, and helped me with, and did to make my life better. I see her pictures, and I see her touches all over the house, thanks to my wonderful daughters , Liz and Autumn, who got the house ready for me while Michael, Ben, and I went to the beach for a few days. Oh, I could go on and on, but you get the picture. I was told repeatedly that you may think you are ready for a loved one's passing, but you are not. Truer words were never spoken.

I probably should not write if I cannot adequately describe the pain, the loneliness, the hopelessness that visits me at various times of the day, but there is value in a bit of rambling, I suppose. I said earlier that the grief would come in spurts and be intense, but brief. Yesterday, it settled in and took up residence, though it is briefly out of the house tonight. I played golf with two close friends yesterday on a spectacularly beautiful golf course. Even though I played fairly well on the back nine and could have not asked for better company, the cloud of sorrow was descending on me even as we worked our way around the course. After golf, I had dinner with Autumn and Brian - I LOVE connecting with my kids - but, I just wanted to get home and be alone. Little sleep last night and more discouragement greeted me this morning. The Lord called me very specifically, though, to prayer. He used some of you, but He got my attention, and thus, showed me His love and care for me.

Ultimately, prayer is where I am heading in this post. I KNOW that many, many dear brothers and sisters in Christ are holding me up in prayer. I cannot imagine where I would be without those prayers! God does not let me remain with that hopeless state for long, and I have to think that His mercy partially comes in response to your prayers. Thank you! What a privilege to pray! What a blessing to be the object of the prayers of others! What a great design by our great God to help us understand Him more, and, thus, find comfort and help in our hour of need!

Well, I warned you! If I did not feel that God is somehow using the public nature of this entire trial to help others, I would not be so liberal in sharing personal sorrow and grief. I am grateful for your prayers, but it is difficult to share that which is so private. It is a good lesson for all of us, though. We do not have the luxury of living entirely to ourselves. I do not suspect the Lord will call you to share your grief as openly as He has called me to do, but there is most likely something in your life about which He desires more transparency from you. The world is watching us, and though we may want them to look away at times, the Christ-follower, the disciple of Jesus, is always on display. Just as many of you have been "Jesus" to our family this past year, you are "Jesus" to someone else, maybe some who do not know Jesus. What do they see?

When I have better perspective on this grief, I will share it with those who are interested. If you are still reading, thank you so much!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Checking In

I must confess that I am a bit taken aback that so many of you are still checking this site. I did promise more from Linda's heart and I will get to that, hopefully within a week. I do plan to continue writing - I will talk about that in the not too distant future, but I will tell you that I have thought (with strong encouragement from David Calvert) about writing with an emphasis toward college students. We have a number of students from Campbell University that attend Grace, and I dearly love interacting with students. I love all ages, but I think a blog would be particularly interesting to that group, if one has something worth saying, that is. We will have to see about that! There are a lot of things (and, I certainly hope they would be of interest to all ages) I often think about theologically and philosophically that would be difficult to address thoroughly on Sunday morning. It is not that these topics would be inappropriate on Sunday morning, but a blog would allow for more speculation, more "thinking out loud on paper," more direct interaction with contemporary worldviews. It may be worth checking out, no matter what your age, but I fully understand if you slip away. Well, I need to stop - I am, after all, just "checking in."

As always, I want to thank you so much for praying and encouraging our family (all of us, including Linda's parents and siblings) in the many ways you have. The responses to this blog, the cards, the e-mails, the notes, the hugs and words of encouragement - WOW! Since you have been so great, I would like to make a few specific requests. First, please continue to pray for all of us. I imagine there are many different ways that people grieve. While I have an over-all "sadness" that is always with me, I am able to laugh and engage other people and some ideas, even. On the other hand, certain items that I see, or certain thoughts that hit me out of the blue, create some world class emotional pain. In those moments, the grief is intense. Fortunately, those episodes are usually brief, but there are enough of them to know that I am very much in an early stage of grieving. I am not ready to leave it, though. As painful as it is, it keeps me very much connected to the love of my life! Don't make more out of that than I mean - I am still with you in the real world.

Also, pray for the kids. It is tough for all of them, though I do think they are handling it quite well. One special request - Brian (Autumn's husband) found out on Sunday night or Monday morning that his best friend from high school (though they have not kept in touch these last years) committed suicide. Brian was already grieving for the Dean family (Nancy, you will recall, died in February) and for Linda (he was very close with her) when he got the news. He is, as you would imagine, a bit overwhelmed. I could not have two better sons-in-law and a soon to be daughter-in-law. So, when I ask for prayer for the kids, I mean all six of them!

I took longer checking in than I planned, so I will say good night I love all of you!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Difficult Day, Good Day

Today was the day I did not want to experience for at least 30 more years. We buried dear sweet Linda today. I struggled emotionally at the funeral much, much more than I anticipated I would. So many friends from so many places eased our (children, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, extended family) struggle a bit. We miss her so, but we anticipate a glorious reunion. One of the great things about the much anticipated reunion is that we have no idea just how great it will be!

In the meantime, though, I - as I know all the aforementioned family are - am exhausted, physically and emotionally. Don't worry, I will retire the instant I send this to you. I just wanted you to know that I will continue writing. For starters, I want to share with you some thoughts from Linda that were never published. In fact, some of these thoughts were intended to be published as a sort of "Part 2" to the Valentine Letter she wrote me just over a year ago. That particular post is probably the most mentioned and most loved of all the posts over this past year. She had more to say, and I want you to hear it, though it may come in the form of a tribute to Linda because she lived what she wanted to share with wives.

I will also, eventually, use this space to share many thoughts about God, Scripture, and life, both from a theological and philosophical perspective. There are a lot of reasons I want to do that, but this is not the time to elaborate. Soon, perhaps. I may, as you would understand, take a bit of a break. I may just as well find writing to be cathartic and catch myself writing twice a day, though one of the reasons I have resisted "blogging" in the past is because of the temptation to ridiculously excessive self-focus. At any rate, I just wanted you to know I will continue to occupy this space.

And, I wanted you to know that you will never know (hmmm) how much I love and appreciate every one of you! How could I have made it through this day without you? It goes without saying that God's grace sustained us all, but He used you to be a part of His gracious plan for us. THANK YOU!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

You Were Holding Linda's Hand

Historians and sociologists tell us that the Internet is one of the 5 - 10 most important developments in the history of mankind! If you have never thought about that before, take a moment and you will understand. It was because of this radical new means of staying connected (which can be negative if it takes the place of face-to-face human interaction, but that is not the case here) that I think of you holding Linda's hand when she went to be with Jesus.

Sunday was an extremely difficult day at our house. A pall hung over us. Her breathing was labored, but we had all ideas that she would be with us another week or two. Because of her pitiful (humanly speaking) condition, I wanted to pray for the Lord to take her, but I could not even think about brining myself to do it! That is just one reason that we need each other so much in the body of Christ. Our family needed YOU to pray for God to end her suffering and bring her to Himself. We couldn't do it, so it was up to you. Several of you have told me that is how you prayed. Thank you. In some day yet to come, I may pray for God's mercy in that way for your loved one when you find it impossible.

So, Sunday was a tough day. Linda's parents decided to return home to take care of a few things that had to be attended to. We really had no idea that she would leave us so soon. I went to sleep Sunday night with a heavy heart. Oddly, I slept fairly well that night.

Monday morning, I awoke with God's mercy and peace flooding my soul. It did not make sense to me, and I certainly was not thinking He was preparing me for the events that lay within an hour of that moment. Linda's breathing was just the same as it had been the night before, but there was a difference in my heart. God was drawing me toward Himself. So, I got out the old laptop and sat on the bed, sharing the details of Linda's journey with you ("This Did Not Take God By Surprise") and the way God was dealing with us through her struggles. Just as I was finishing the post, I became aware (consciously or subconsciously, I cannot remember) that her breathing had slowed. It was not that unusual for her breathing to change, but as I hit "publish post," I became intensley aware that something was different. I ran to her side, where she was still breathing, but her breaths were very quiet and very shallow. I called Michael into the room immediately and we panicked a bit (not as good as we should be at calmly responding to the crisis at hand). We immediately called Hospice just as any discernible breathing ceased. Upon arriving, Jane O'Quin, our wonderful Hospice nurse (Oh, the great people who walked through this with us - we can never adequately thank them!), listened to her heart and detected a slight fluttering. A few minutes later, all connection with life ended.

NO, WAIT - LIFE WAS JUST BEGINNING FOR LINDA! And, through the wonder of Internet, you were holding her hand as she was welcomed into heaven by Jesus, my mother, her grandparents, aunts and uncles, and a host of our and your loved ones who are already there! She is there, but we are still here, missing quite a lady (if you knew her, you know that is inadequate, but what could one possibly say that would be adequate?) Thank you for being there for us, with us, surrounding us! Whenever I write, I know that so many of you are praying and caring ---- and, holding our hands. We will ever be indebted to you.

Our hearts are hurting. We are grieving, but Linda is worth every ounce of grief that is experienced! The fact that the greatest group of brothers and sisters in Christ that could be found (Grace Community Church and all of you!) are walking this painful path with us eases our burden. WE LOVE YOU!

Monday, March 3, 2008


Today has been a whirlwind, but we wanted to post a brief update with funeral plans:

A visitation will be held on Wednesday, March 5, 2008 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at Fuquay-Varina Baptist Church, 301 N. Woodrow Street, Fuquay-Varina, NC.

A funeral service will be held on Thursday, March 6, 2008 at 4:00 pm at Fuquay-Varina Baptist Church followed by a burial at Wake Chapel Church.

We cannot thank everyone enough for the tremendous outpouring of love and support. Dad will write more as soon as he is able. We love you all.
The Talley Family

With the Lord

At 9:35 this morning, Linda Faile Talley stood in the presence of her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We rejoice that she is no longer suffering in this shell of a body. Her passing was peaceful and quick. In fact, only minutes after Dad posted his blog this morning, her breathing became shallow. He and Michael were here, and they held her hands and comforted her as she slipped away from this world.

We will update the blog with plans for her service. We are so grateful for everyone's prayers and love.
- Autumn

"This Did Not Take God By Surprise!"

This morning, I awoke to the sound of Linda's labored breathing. I also woke with the hope of the resurrection encouraging my heart - thank You, Father! Oh, I am terribly sad, first about Linda's difficulty, then about our loss. It is so painful to see her struggling so with no way to absorb any of her pain. I do my best to comfort, but how much is meaningful, I am not sure. The first thing I said to her this morning was to remind her of the first thing she said when she got the news 13 months ago that she had a brain tumor: "This did not take God by surprise!" I also reminded her that God loves her very much - how can He, Who did not spare His own Son, not care when we belong to Him? (Romans 8:32-32) It is a love that is beyond measure that is not separated by ANYTHING! (The rest of Romans 8)

I have been thinking a good bit - let me say that I often get in trouble "thinking out loud" - and I would like to speculate in this space about some of my thoughts about prayer. Once again, going back to Romans 8, verses 26-28 in particular, we learn that the Holy Spirit assists us in our prayers. How? By translating our prayers according to God's will. So, if we pray with hearts that desire God and His will, we may pray as we like (praying biblically is assumed) - the Holy Spirit will make certain God's will is accomplished in response to our prayers. OF COURSE that does not mean everything we ask for is granted. Can you look back on your life and say, "I really wish God had answered every prayer of mine in the exact way I asked it to be answered?" I doubt you would say that!

So, is there sense that can be made of the thousands of prayers that have been offered on Linda's behalf every day (you cannot believe how many parents of young children tell me that without being reminded, their little ones pray for Linda every day!) through this past year? So very many of those prayers have begun as prayers for healing. Perhaps, by the time they got to the Father (according to Romans 8:26-28) they provoked a response that was somewhat like, "It is not my will to heal Linda, but I will make her passing easier. I will give her and her family a year blessed with life, laughter, the best friends imaginable, and so much more." Please do not think I am putting words in God's mouth (who would presume to do so?), I am just speculating - but, speculating on the basis of Scripture. That is the place, though, where many people get in trouble, so be careful what you take from this. At any rate, THANK YOU for every prayer - not a single one has been wasted!

If it appears as though I am chipper this morning, it is not so. I stopped in the middle of this writing to put some moisture in Linda's mouth - her teeth are almost always clenched so that you can only put moisture in front of her teeth. Every moment that I stand beside her, there is pain. But, as I said at the beginning, the hope of the resurrection has brightened my eyes. I would imagine your prayers since my last post, about 12 hours ago, have something to do wtih that. At this moment, death is mocking Linda, drawing her near through a rapidly deteriorating body. It will be Linda, though (according to 1 Corinthians 15:51-57), that gets the last laugh as the sting of death is removed and (as John Piper would say) death is made, unwittingly, to serve Linda as it ushers her into the presence of Jesus! Hallelujah!

So, this odd mixture of intense pain and unspeakable joy find residence together this morning in the Talley household. With no offense intended to even one of my dear friends, I am always perplexed or amused when you commend me for my response to all this. I have NOTHING in me that is commendable, but Jesus (why, is beyond me) loves me and lives inside me and directs my response to life. I have failed miserably in response to pain of all sorts, but I have been given grace beyond measure for this greatest of sorrows, and I thank Him for responding to your prayers as He has. I sense that the pain, though, has only begun for me. I am losing so much in my dear, precious wife. The incredible truth and comfort found in Romans 8 will be as true for me as it is for Linda, and it will be as true when the Lord brings her to Himself as it is has been during this incredible year that He has allowed us to spend together. I covet your prayers in the coming days - I know that you will pray for all of her family (a large one, indeed - children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, in-laws, church, school, camp - nowhere to stop!). We thank you in advance. God bless you.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


Linda is totally unresponsive. She is not eating or drinking anything. She does not even complain when we turn her - a few days ago, that was traumatic for her. We continue to talk with her and play music for her, but she is completely unable to respond. We are unsure how much she understands (you always hear that coma patients can hear what you are saying) because of the brain tumor. She was unable to process much of what she heard (her sight was seriously compromised from the bleed) before she lapsed into the coma. No matter, we tell her how much she means to us.

There is not much to say. It has been a difficult day. No worries - God is still incredibly good. Thank you for - everything.