Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Dear Heather

It is hard to believe that you are gone. Those six months since we found out about your cancer where so full, lovely, and quick. I long to talk to you again so I thought I would write you a letter, maybe you can take a break from riding your moped in heaven to read this novel, I have a lot to say. Please don’t be mad that I stole your blog audience; don’t worry, my letter to you will be a distance second to your incredible posts. As you can imagine, my mind is churning over the future and what that might look like without you. Your memories will always be crystal clear to me. The rawest question I have dealt with lately is, “What do I tell Levi and Ivey about you years down the road, when the memories begin to fade?” How do I capture you in a few stories? How do I represent a life as rich as yours?

It’s remarkable how a person’s life can climax at the end. It’s amazing that someone’s life can shine the brightest during pain. I guess suffering has a way of stripping away the non-essentials. When pondering this question, the things that stand out the most happened in your last few months, not because they are the freshest memories, but because they were the most beautiful. I think of you talking to the radiologist when we were in the hospital for what seemed like the hundredth time to get your fluid drained. You told me that he opened up to you during the procedure and told you he once knew the God you loved, but had become lost. You told me that maybe your fluid was building up so often so that you would have more chances to talk to him. I think about how you were in the middle of excruciating pain, but your prayer was for more time on earth so that you could have lunch again with a friend of yours who wants to know more about the peace you possess. I think about how you were bound and determined to get enough rest to make it to Ivey’s birthday party, but you stayed up all night talking to your father about Jesus as he wrestled with why this was happening to you. I think about when a friend came to serve you while we were staying in the hospital, I heard crying, assuming it was you, only to look up and seeing you with your hand on your friend’s head praying that the Lord would guide her through her troubles. I think about you choosing memories over chemo, and comforting me when I was frightened about that. I think about you calling ALL to fast and pray, not only for your healing, but because you wanted everyone to have greater communion with the Father. I will tell them about a packed celebration service that included people from all walks of life, from all corners of the earth. 

I will tell them these stories; I will tell them about when you shined the brightest. I will tell them about the stories planted on my heart from our life together.

 I will tell them about the many nights in Africa when the power would come back on at 3:00 AM and you would jump out of bed to do some laundry so all 7 of us could have clean clothes. I will tell them about the giant cockroach that crawled up your arm in the process. I will tell them about Morlai, the boy next door who had nothing, and how you cared for him as if he was your own. How you bandaged him when he was injured, and while we couldn’t take him in, you made dang sure that he was cared for well by others. I will tell them about how you were abundantly gracious, how you were quick to say “I’m sorry” even when I was still throwing a tantrum. I will tell them how you gave me opportunities time and time again to step up and lead our family well. I will tell them about how captivating you were the instant anyone met you. I will remind them of the incredible birthday parties you threw in Africa because it was important to you for each kid to have a special day, just for themselves. I will remind them of the safari’s in our compound, how you turned our living room into Candy Land complete with costumes and a life sized board game, I’ll show them pictures of the remote control car track you set up, and the tea party. You made life fun for us, during a hard time. I will tell them about the boy in your class there, who was so hardened by the street. Instead of running away, you took on the challenge. I will tell how he would not open up to anyone and you thought you had lost the battle. I will tell them about the rare smile I saw beaming from his face when he finally passed the grade and ran up to you first to show you his results. That boy has a family now, and I know you opened him up to be loved by others.

You worried so much about not being here for Levi and Ivey. While you are not physically here, believe me Heather, you are here. When Levi sees the world in colors and not numbers, he will see you. When Ivey loves those in her class that are hard to love, she will see you. When Levi does things “his way” and I get so frustrated, I will have to smile, because we will both see you. When Ivey has kids of her own and loves them well, she will see you. When they both are called to do amazingly hard things for Christ, they will say YES, because of you. As they walk through trials of their own, they will handle the suffering with grace and strength because of you.

When they ask me why you had to get sick, I will be able to tell them that we live in a broken world, but that is not the end of the story. I will be able to tell them that in the midst of trouble, He is there, when suffering is at its highest, so is Love. I will be able to tell them that in the trenches of your trials, hearts were changed, chains were broken and people became free, you became free. When they ask me, “why didn’t He heal her?” I will be able to say, “He did, and many others along the way.”

I will tell them of a life well lived, a life full of gusto. When they want to know you again, I will tell them these stories. While the stories will only scratch the surface of who you were, I thank you Heather, for giving me the opportunity to point them towards Christ and say, “See, there is your mother.”

I love you and I will always miss you. The Lord will guide us and we will see you soon. Enjoy the next adventure….


  1. Well said Andrew. Thank you for loving my daughter and taking such good care of her.I too will miss her so much.

  2. I didn't know your sweet wife, but I am provoked by her life. I am praying for you and your children. Grace and peace to you all and her extended family.

  3. What a wonderful tribute to an amazing wife, mother and child of God. Andrew, you don't know me but I am a friend of sweet Katie and have watched this unfold through her eyes. Still praying for all of you. With love and deepest sympathy, Barbara
    May the God of hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing with hope. - Romans 15:13

  4. You are a wise and loving man. As you keep alive the memories of Heather for Levi and Ivey, you will honor their mother and keep her "alive" for them. They will never have to look any further than their own home for an example of what it means to be a godly woman. Or, a godly man. You're a good man, Andrew. Your broad shoulders are carrying a lot of weight now; May God give you the grace and the support to carry it well. -- Bob V

  5. I'm sorry to hear about that Andrew, although I do not know you my full condolences go to you and your family. I wish the best for you and everyone around you.

  6. I went to Harding with Heather & met her thru Delta Gamma Rho. This is beautiful & so inspiring. She finished her race & the task God gave her well. Prayers for your family!

  7. So sorry. Heather was the most beautiful soul I have ever met. She was always so joyful in the Lord. I know that she will be missed by so many.

  8. My wife, Lindsay, and I went to Harding with Heather. We join with you in your grief. May the Lord be with you during this time. What a wonderful witness Heather was.

  9. What a man and woman after GOD's heart, and not your own. You both scatter His Word among others in faith of the Upper Story. Blessed are you! And blessed are we for knowing you and the LORD you serve.

  10. Elizabeth (Grampp)VallsFebruary 9, 2017 at 1:54 PM

    It's hard to know what to say here. We grieve with you and we hold you up in thoughts and prayer. Heather impacted my life like so many others. You two were were a dynamic couple. We pray for continued comfort for you, Levi and Ivey by name from the mouths of our children and ours.

  11. I was scrolling through Facebook and saw someone I went to HU with comment on another HU friend's post; I hadn't thought about this person in ages and went to look at his page. I scrolled down and was so sad to see a post from last summer about Heather's illness. I immediately wondered what I could do- send money to contribute to medical care, at least send a card. Then I saw a link to this blog and your letter. I was in Delta Gamma Rho with Heather. We weren't close, but we were friends. I just wanted to say that when I think of her, I picture the biggest smile. I see a bright, radiant face full of love and joy and making everyone around her smile, too. I'm incredibly sorry for your loss, and wish you and all of Heather's family peace in this time of transition.

  12. This is profound and beautiful. Your words about your wife's life have challenged me to live more fully alive to the reality that we are all called to have others see Him in us. I will be praying for you and your children tonight and moving forward. May the God of peace grant you comfort as you morn and as you move forward.

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