This is a year of “firsts,” that is, the first of many things without Nanci by my side. These weeks have included three of the very hardest firsts, followed quickly by Christmas and New Year’s. Then there will be Valentine’s Day, and March 28, the day of Nanci's homegoing, where in God’s providence our whole family will hopefully be all together, for the first time since her memorial service, May 15.
Last week was my first Thanksgiving without Nanci since 1969, so we had an unbroken string of 52 years. (One of those Thanksgivings three years ago I brought her home from the hospital after one of her surgeries.) Then last Wednesday, November 30, was her birthday, and seven days later, December 7, is the 54th anniversary of the day we met in 1968, as freshmen in high school. I wrote this on her birthday this week:
Happy birthday to my soulmate Nanci. Her mom always used to make her this chocolate wafer log cake with whipped cream for her birthday. After her mom went to Jesus, our daughters Karina and Angela picked up the tradition. I can picture Nanci and her mom and dad and my mom and dad right now. I expect after the resurrection, on the New Earth, where we know we will eat and drink together, that birthdays will probably be celebrated (why not in that Land of Celebration?), and Nanci's mom will be making this log cake for her and the rest of us. Happy first-birthday in a far better world, sweetheart!
The next day Angie sent me this photo of a slice of the log cake she made in honor of her mom’s birthday. I love that Angie still makes it for her family.
I feel profoundly sad in some respects, yet so deeply grateful for the life God gave Nanci and I together, and it is impossible to be this grateful without also being happy. This is 2 Corinthians 6:10, “sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” And it is not just words or pretense or wishful thinking, it’s an absolute blood-bought reality, a certainty that I feel deep in my heart and bones. I sense continuously not only His presence but Nanci’s. “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD [Yahweh], the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).
Below is a blog post I wrote 14 years ago in honor of Nanci’s birthday and the anniversary of our meeting:
December 7, this Sunday, is the 40th anniversary of the day Nanci and I met. We were freshmen in high school. It was a double date in which we went to see two new movies at Portland's Village Theatre on 122nd: the original The Odd Couple, with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, and The Americanization of Emily with Julie Andrews.
Forty years. Wow. I love Nanci more today than ever. She is a treasure. Fun, upbeat, delightful. You name it.
Nanci and I had a wonderful day celebrating her birthday last Sunday November 30. She loves football, so after watching an NFL game, we went out for dinner to The Old Spaghetti Factory.
The Old Spaghetti Factory, the original in downtown Portland, the mother of Spaghetti Factories everywhere, opened one month after we met. It was our favorite place to go in 1969 and the early seventies. (Anybody remember the silent movies they showed you while you were waiting in the always crowded original Old Spaghetti Factory? How about the chunks of fruit in the spumoni ice cream? That was the only thing I didn't like!)
In 1969, at TOSF, I discovered their spaghetti with Mizithra, and I've never ordered anything else there in the forty years since. I don't seek alternatives to perfection, either with Mizithra or with Nanci.
(I haven't read a TOSF menu in years, since there's no point when you know what you want, but I can tell you what it used to say of Mizithra: "Legend has it that Homer lived on this while writing The Illiad." I can't think of many better things to live on while writing a book. Maybe I'll try it someday.)
Next, Nanci and I drove to The Academy Theatre on 78th and Stark. It opened in 1946 (the website says 1948, but congratulatory Western Union telegrams on the wall, from Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, say 1946). Then it closed in the 1970s and was completely renovated a few years ago. It's a charming place, located halfway between Nanci's childhood home and Multnomah Bible College where we went. It's right next to Flyin' Pie Pizza, which they serve on the theatre menu too, and people are welcome to have a full meal in their reclining stadium seats.
Then Nanci and I drove to the house she grew up in, in Southeast Portland, about 69th and Division, by Mount Tabor, in Franklin High School District. Nanci hadn't been back there in years. It was a whole day of nostalgia.
Nanci in gradeschool. Wasn't she adorable? Still is.
Okay, below I'm going to just throw in some random pics of Nanci, from my laptop computer, which is all I have with me now. So scroll down and you'll see some fun pics with brief comments. Apologies to grandsons Ty and Jack since I don't have photos of them with their grandmother on this computer. I'm winging it.
Here we are ten days ago in Florida, with Webers and Tebows. Like I said, Nanci loves football. We couldn't turn down the invitation, and became Gator fans and fast friends. Go Gators.
Nanci with our precious friend Joni Eareckson Tada last month when I was speaking at a Joni and Friends conference in southern California.
Nanci getting laughs from famous people. Notice that she is focused on the dog rather than them, and they're getting a kick out of her.
Nanci watching a playoff game between Seahawks and Packers, her two favorite teams. Picture taken at moment of action. Take a close look at Nanci's face and you can see she's into it. Dan Franklin is pumping his fist at far left, then Dan Stump, and our daughters Angela and Karina. This was pre-grandchildren, so would have been five or six years ago.
Holding Jake, our first grandson, August 2004.
With Matthew and Jake at OMSI a few years ago.
With two of her favorite people, grandson Matt and dog Moses.
With our dear friend Diane Meyer's dog. Nanci's a dog person. Which means half my birthday gifts to her were dog-related.
So, bottom line, I have a Jesus-loving, family-loving, football-loving, movie-loving, dog-loving wife, who also has loved me for forty years this weekend, despite the fact that I can be an idiot, and periodically make a point of proving it.
Who could ask for any more in a wife?
I love you Nano, and I thank God for you.
Always have, always will.