I am going to share a letter (in its entirety) that I recently received from Sara's college roommate and longtime friend, Lisa Waller.
Lisa gave me permission to share her letter with the masses, and I feel like you will know Sara better after reading this...
October 1, 2009
Where do I even begin? I'm sorry for your loss? God is glorified even in the midst of suffering? Sara was such an amazing woman and we'll all miss her dearly? Surely, all these things are true. But you were right when we spoke at the memorial service and you said, "I know; what do you say?" There are no words.
I've been replaying several memories in my mind since the day Sara died. I'm sure she has told you this story herself, but one of the best times I had with your sweet wife was in Rome. It was one o'clock in the morning and we were having drinks in the Piazza Nirvona. Our waiter had been flirting with us for quite some time, and when a peddler approached us asking if we would like to buy a rose, our waiter took the liberty of buying a dozen for the two of us. Knowing we were leaving the next morning for Germany, Sara had the brilliant idea to spend the rest of the evening giving the roses away. I've never had so much fun; it felt like we were in a movie. You should have seen the looks of peoples' faces - a couple who was arguing suddenly stopped after Sara surprised them with the first rose. We threw one to a guy on a vespa and he held it up high yelling, "Gratzi!" Several homeless men at the train station woke up the next morning to roses on top of their bags. What a night we had!
Another night we went out dancing at a night club in Florence until the wee hours of the morning. Your sweet, innocent wife accepted an invitation to go have drinks at an apartment of one of the guys we were dancing with all night. When I told her I refused to go and that all they wanted was ... well, you know ... she couldn't believe Italian men could be so forward! Thankfully she listened to me and we made it home to our hotel safely. That was Sara, though, always believing only the best in others, even crazy Italian men!
I also recalled this week a time when we went running on the military base in Liverno, Italy, that same summer we backpacked through Europe. She said, "Lis, I could get used to the military lifestyle. I could be a military wife." I responded, "I could never do that, but I could be a pastor's wife. I could be a missionary." A few years later she married you, the "military" man, and I married Bryce, the pastor.
I also remember being at Max's for the crawfish boil and dragging Sara with me. We had been there no more than 10 minutes when she pulled me into a bedroom and said, "Lis, Brady got soooo hot!" I think it was only a couple of weeks later that she wrote you the letter telling you she was in love with you. I could go on and on Brady. You, too, know how amazing your wife was and have more memories to share with Chloe than the rest of us. I'm sure it will take a lifetime to sort through them all.
Meanwhile, I hope you know how much we love you and Chloe. We've been fervently praying for you as a family and will commit to doing so in the years to come. As the Lord would have it, I read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 the morning I flew to Houston for the memorial service. It reads: "But we do not want you to be uninformed brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep." Verse 17 of the same passage finishes, "And so we will always be with the Lord." There is so much hope in this, that though Sara's body is sleeping until the Lord returns, her soul is not! Just as Jesus tells the thief on the cross, "Today you will be with me in paradise," sweet Sara is with Jesus right now. Can't you see her smiling?
After arriving back in Billings, I glanced up at a large black and white picture we had enlarged. It is of our wedding and captures a moment of several people dancing to the band. It is one of our favorite photographs because it displays candid poses of dear friends. Sara is in the center dancing. I hadn't noticed it before, but there she is, in the middle of the dance floor surrounded with friends. I think this is always how I will remember her.
Thank you for being such a loving, gentle husband to her. I know the same qualities that Sara fell in love with will translate into you becoming a wonderful father. You already have. As you grieve, not like those who have no hope, but with the very hope that Sara shared with so many - hope in Christ, know that you are not alone. We will pray and wait with you until the day when we will all be reunited in heaven, with Jesus, and sweet Sara dancing in the center.
Another letter I want to share with you is from Sara. One year ago (Oct 13, 2008), Sara's grandmother passed away. Sara and I were in Korea for an air show when we received the news, and unable to make it home for the services. Sara had been home a few months earlier and spent a lot of time with her Grandmother while she was in the hospital. Sara compiled some of her thoughts and sent them home for the pastor to read at her grandma's funeral. I think you will find her words interesting, now that she too has "gone home."
Here are some scriptures, and I guess my thoughts. I love you all and wish I could be there with you. I am praying for you all.
Mary, Mother, Mom, THE MOM, Grandma, and Great-Grandma. These are all names of the amazing woman we know and love who just recently left this earth to be with our Father in Heaven. As I think about my grandmother I am full of pride and love for the woman she was. I rarely left her presence without learning something new about her or our family. I treasure my time with her. I look back now at the time she spent in the hospital and count it as a blessing.
Because of the situation, my heart was stirred to spend as much time with her as I could, and I count that as a gift from God. It was during this time that I saw Grandma get attitude for the first time in my life and had the privilege of sharing the moment of her taking her first sip of Starbucks coffee ever! You could say I'm a Starbucks junkie, so sharing something I enjoy so much was truly a precious moment for me.
Grandma's First Starbucks CoffeeI also was able to pray with her before one of her daily PT walks, and for me this is the most beautiful thing I could experience with her. Going before God with those we love warms my heart and pleases or Savior, so I am grateful for our prayer for strength as she prepared to walk.
It is never easy to lose someone you love, but there can be a peace when we know that they are in a better place. I feel so blessed to have had my grandmother in my life for as long as I did. She is an amazing woman whom I greatly admire and will dearly miss. I love you, Grandma.
My prayer is that in this time of grieving we will allow our Heavenly Father to wrap His arms around us and comfort us as only He can. We have a God who loves us and cares for us more that we can ever imagine. He knows the number of days in each of our lives before one ever comes to pass.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. --Psalm 139:16
I praise Him for the little reminders of how much He loves us as we see things that remind us of Grandma and make us smile. I believe these are gifts from Jesus because he cares for us and wants us to experience His joy in this painful time.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight --Proverbs 3:5-6
The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. --Zephaniah 3:17
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. --Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4
Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. --Lamentations 3:32
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him. --Lamentations 3:22-24
For those of you who desire to have your letter included in Chloe's book, please get them sent to Debbie Dunn by the end of October. At that time, she is going to compile the book.
Once again, her address is:
500 Riders Trail
Austin, TX 78733
If you want to email her a letter, you can do so at email@example.com.
Thank you for continuing to check up on us. Chloe and I are in Dallas this week, spending time with my brother and his wife. Next weekend, we are running in the Dallas Race for the Cure. You can click here to see the Susan G. Komen - SaraSTRONG webpage.
Hope all is well.