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E40 Time | Preparing for the Eulogy

"So, I conclude that the happiest marriage in the world is but a head start on the joys of heaven. It is the appetizer before the feast. It is the warm-up singer who’s really good before the great artist sings. God saves the best wine, just like Jesus at Cana, till the last (John 2:10). And in a happy marriage, even the first wine was really good." - John Piper, Will My Spouse Be My Best Friend in Heaven?

Happy Sunday Everyone, Hope everyone is having a great weekend. This post probably has too much content in it, but that's fine since I feel like all of it is somewhat related. The sun is out now which means I better go for a run after I'm done with this post. I am thankful to have spent my Saturday listening to the rain and resting. This was much needed after a long mountain bike ride: We ran into some cows and then got stuck in the mud because it rained on us towards the the end of the ride. This just means more stories to share here that I will save for another time.


Book of Genesis - Completed


One of my friends asked if I found it annoying if she asked how I was doing with my bible reading from time to time. To be honest, I only found Teri to be annoying since she was on top of her reading and I was not. I said I'm thankful and I'll do even better - I'll post about my reading here as well. I've made it through the book of Genesis last week in my bible reading plan. There's some themes in the book that remind me of grief, such as the relationship with Abraham and Sarah. Abraham had to mourn Sarah and secure a burial place for her. This reminded me of the process of preparing for the funeral and finding a place for Teri's ashes. I'm excited to get into Exodus. It will take a miracle to have the same outlook on Leviticus like Teri did, more on that later when I get there.


I was curious too if I had any videos regarding Teri and discussing Genesis, since she had so much to say about it. She was such a nerd. Here is another humbling video clip to remind me that I better go reread the book again before I get behind in Exodus:

I don't get it..none of this was covered in the reading plan

I think my life is so interesting and fun right now. Well at least I that's what I tell myself. I am happy and smiling more than I deserve and I can't explain it. I'm not saying I had the happiest marriage like in the quote, but I am thankful for my time with Teri, both the ups and downs. I feel so selfish that I always want to talk about it and seek so many of you to listen. I've gotten pretty good at the skill of just asking people what I need. In between my meetups with people, I just end up blogging, since I feel like it saves some time because I would want to share these stories with so many of you in person, but everyone is busy.


I know not everyone would describe their life right now as interesting and fun. Some would say that life is difficult. My pastor Yohan who officiated the Celebration of Life Service lost his dad last week. Yesterday, another close friend I see almost weekly now lost his dad. It breaks my heart to think about losing someone you have known literally your entire life. I can't even imagine. I'm thankful to still have all my immediate family with me and that we celebrated E30 together (except my dad):


I love my family, including Eric (far left, also single)

There are many others still hurting and dealing with loss of a loved one. Some are sick or stressed out about work, or even looking for work so you can take care of our family. Please let me know if I can help. While I have my share of work to catch up on, I can't help it though to still feel so thankful and blessed to be in this unique stage of being single and figuring out what's next for me.


Coming Soon - E40


Speaking of what's next, it's time for E40. Party time! I can't believe it. I'm throwing a birthday party to celebrate 40 years of life and the 10 year anniversary of a pretty special day in my life, The E30 Conference.



It's a privilege to turn 40. Not there yet, just six weeks away. I am opting for a smaller party this time around since the Diamond Bar Center was already booked. All of you reading this are invited, please message me if you want to come. TBD about the details and schedule, which means I need to get on top of things. There is also no one like Teri to get on my case that I'm behind schedule since its six weeks away. Lets make her proud (and avoid some stress) by not waiting until the last minute like I always do. I just know I want to have fun celebrating the precious life God has given me with some of my favorite people. I also know (and you know) that it's more likely that I'll have regrets if I do the opposite and do nothing (my original plan), and I'm all about having no regrets.


Remembering Teri while Planning for E40


While Teri did make it to turn 40, I'm sad that Teri didn't make it to celebrate E40 like I said she would on March 8. On Friday I had the opportunity to catch up with a close friend for dinner. We talked about what in the world do I want to do at the birthday party. Ideally, it can be a conference and there's a few interesting topics. Unfortunately it's not easy to find last minute speakers besides myself. David Goggins would have been my first choice, but he's a bit outside my budget.


I shared with my friend that I recently had a dream that I did a stand up comedy act, and I was completely unprepared. It was a weird setting, on some sort of rooftop. While the act didn't turn out well, I didn't feel too embarrassed since all my friends and family are pretty nice people. Perhaps this is the year for me to work on my sense of humor, but in other ways (not at E40).


This always happens to me. When I'm feeling anxious about something coming up, I have a dream about it and that dream involves me screwing things up. I also had a dream about my upcoming triathlon and wasn't prepared at all. But then I feel thankful I have a second chance to not screw things up.


My friend said I'm always prepared for my presentations and speeches and I'm sure that whatever I do, it will all work out. I said, that's not always the case regarding preparation. During Teri's celebration of life service, my eulogy was not scripted. I had few bullet points I wrote on the back of a card I received the night before from my small group leader. I didn't even refer to since I was so nervous. She then paused and looked at me with a sense of confusion. She didn't really believe me.


I wasn't trying to wing a very important moment to share about Teri to hundreds of people. I spent several hours thinking, praying, and talking with friends and family about what to say that Wednesday morning. I just couldn't put any of it on paper that I felt comfortable printing out and actually using. It was quite surprising to be honest since I usually figure things out and get them on paper eventually. But it all seemed to work out.


So what was really on my mind after she passed away?


Thinking of my friend that just lost his dad, I can't really figure out the right words to describe the time from the moment Teri passed away on Sunday morning, April 2 up until the eulogy on Thursday morning, April 6. It's a rather busy and unsettling window to be in before any funeral and an extra week would have been nice. I know that on Sunday, I went to the 11:30am service at church with my entire immediate family and that was by far the most emotional service I've ever been to in my life, knowing that Teri was singing with us in heaven while I was crying my eyes out singing Living Hope and Where I'm Standing Now God made it even better with the Rooted cardboard Testimonies:


Seeing photos again makes this all feel like it all happened yesterday.

Then I came back home, settled down and started figuring out all the logistics around planning a funeral in record time in order to accommodate all the out of town guests. It was time to get in the zone and get to work. It was a still a good week that was calm for the most part, except when I rushed to grab some plates at the top shelf of my closet and cut my chest on something sharp. I jumped to grab the plates instead of spending 3 seconds getting the chair behind me:

This scar is still very visible today. I still laugh about it. Good reminder to slow down.

I remember how blessed I was knowing I have so many talented friends and family with the gifts of administration that I could put in place to make things happen. If I was smart I would just delegate E40 to them and just show up, but I have time (for now) and don't mind doing most of the planning. For the celebration of life service, they could handle all the logistics better than I would. Some I haven't talked to in several years, but when we reconnected, they pretty much read my mind on what needed to get done and got it done. If I had to think of my "favorite people" in 2023, it was definitely the handful that made some aspect of the funeral happen. The people I trusted enough to help honor the life of Teri, an event that felt more important to me than our wedding. My second favorites are the people still reading this blog. Thank you for still following along.


One option - Talking about my vows


There wasn't really any time to figure out how to write a eulogy. I just knew I neeed to be in the right mindset. So I spent time looking through my computer about anything that I forgot about over the years. Our vows was one of them:

"I am honored to say that I, Erwin, take you, Teri, to be my wife, and these things I promise you: I will be faithful to you and honest with you. I promise to help fulfill your dreams of wanting to seek new adventures, grow in new communities, travel the world, and take care of your family at home, encouraging you to fly back any and every time you need to. I will share my life with you; I will love and forgive you as we have been loved and forgiven; and I will try with you to better understand ourselves, the world, and God; through sickness and in health, and as long as we both shall live. I love you, Teri. Thank you for being the cutest person in the whole world. I am so blessed that I get to be your husband." Erwin's Vows (paragraph 3 of 3)

Two days before the funeral, I reread both of our vows several times in the grassy area outside the house that we would walk to with Mayo. Through sickness and health...seemed obvious to me already when Teri has cancer the first time in 2017 and we were still dating. After she decided to schedule the hysterectomy, I won't forget having a difficult conversation with a family member about Teri. Before we were able to freeze her eggs, he said, are you sure you want to marry someone that can't have kids naturally? I don't really think this is a good idea, you can find someone else. I think about that question to this day. I'm not upset that he asked, I just feel sad that not having a uterus because of cancer are really dealbreakers for people.


Teri and I only met five months before hearing the news of her first cancer. We could have ended the relationship for several other reasons like "incompatibility" or "long distance" and people would have understood. Those reasons were why some of my previous relationships ended. What was most depressing to hear were the stories Teri shared with me from her cancer support group. She started attending shortly after we found out about cancer #2 in February 2023 with my mom. I'll never forget what she told me: Many attendees were recently divorced or in the process of getting a divorce. Their stories all shared a similar theme, the stress of battling cancer was too much for the caregiver to handle, and they wanted out.


Thinking about this makes at the time made me really mad, and I had a right to be. At the same time, I felt so judgmental and prideful hearing all of this... how could people do such a thing, especially if they have kids? Reflecting on this now, I know that everyone has a story, including the caretakers. They are also human, just like me and Teri who are just as sinful and in need of God's love and mercy. I am no better than any of these people, as I continue to sin and hurt God and others, every single day. Maybe their marriages weren't doing well and was already heading towards divorce, and the cancer was the straw that broke the camels back. I don't know. I wrote a pretty harsh email to Teri in November 2020 wanting a divorce since I couldn't see things getting better in our marriage. Thankfully, God had a better plan for us and kept us together. I just try to focus on today and that every day I get to to work on growing in my faith through my daily bible reading plan and strengthening my core values instead of judging others. I don't know their story, but God does. God can handle these people just like he is able to handle me and getting through this first year of losing Teri. While I don't know what challenge God will put me through next, but I really want to be ready and it starts with spending time with him daily in the Word.


Another Option - The letter from Christopher Love


Some have asked me, what was the biggest turning point of your life? Besides getting married, it's no doubt that listening to the Relationship series by Rick Holland was an absolute game changer in my faith when my friend introduced it to me in Winter 2023. This was desperately needed after my first girlfriend broke up with me and I needed answers regarding what I could have done better. To summarize the 13 part series, preparing for marriage starts now when you are single, not when you are already married. I've listened to the series several times, and thinking about this reminds me that I should listen to this again.


In one of the sermons, Rick read a letter from the Mary Love, the wife of Puritan Preacher Christopher Love, the evening of his execution by the English government. I reread this letter a few times just after Teri passed away to encourage me. I also wish I could have wrote something in my own words to Teri and shared with her that Saturday morning after we decided to move into hospice. This letter has perhaps stuck with me more than anything from the series. Mary Love’s perspective is a powerful reminder to me of what peace can look like during a very difficult time. It is a testament to the power of the Holy Spirit. I hope reading it can be a blessing to you too, regardless of your faith background:


July 14, 1651 My Dear Heart, Before I write a word further, I beseech thee think not that it is thy wife but a friend now that writes to thee. I hope thou hast freely given up thy wife and children to God, who hath said in Jeremiah 49:11, “Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive, and let thy widow trust in me.”  Thy Maker will be my husband, and a Father to thy children.

Just one comment on this first part since it was the most impactful part to me: I stopped wearing my wedding ring after I started swimming again to prepare for my upcoming races. I felt at peace with not wearing it, since I try to have more of a mindset that Teri is a dear friend that I lost due to cancer. We won't be married when I see her in heaven. We won't even be best friends. What I do know is that it will be joyful time reuniting with her that we both finished the race well and we can worship Jesus, together, forever.

O that the Lord would keep thee from having one troubled thought for thy relations. I desire freely to give thee up into thy Father’s hands, and not only look upon it as a crown of glory for thee to die for Christ, but as an honor to me that I should have a husband to leave for Christ. I dare not speak to thee, nor have a thought within my own heart of my unspeakable loss, but wholly keep my eye fixed upon thy inexpressible and inconceivable gain. Thou leavest but a sinful, mortal wife to be everlastingly married to the Lord of glory. Thou leavest but children, brothers, and sisters to go to the Lord Jesus, thy eldest Brother. Thou leavest friends on earth to go to the enjoyment of saints and angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect in glory. Thou dost but leave earth for heaven and changest a prison for a palace. And if natural affections should begin to arise, I hope that spirit of grace that is within thee will quell them, knowing that all things here below are but dung and dross in comparison of those things that are above.  I know thou keepest thine eye fixed on the hope of glory, which makes thy feet trample on the loss of earth. My dear, I know God hath not only prepared glory for thee, and thee for it, but I am persuaded that He will sweeten the way for thee to come to the enjoyment of it. When thou art putting on thy clothes that morning, O think, “I am putting on my wedding garments to go to be everlastingly married to my Redeemer.” When the messenger of death comes to thee, let him not seem dreadful to thee, but look on him as a messenger that brings thee tidings of eternal life. When thou goest up the scaffold, think (as thou saidst to me) that it is but thy fiery chariot to carry thee up to thy Father’s house. And when thou layest down thy precious head to receive thy Father’s stroke, remember what thou saidst to me: Though thy head was severed from thy body, yet in a moment thy soul should be united to thy Head, the Lord Jesus, in heaven. And though it may seem something bitter, that by hands of men we are parted a little sooner than otherwise we might have been, yet let us consider that it is the decree and will of our Father, and it will not be long ere we shall enjoy one another in heaven again. Let us comfort one another with these sayings. Be comforted, my dear heart. It is but a little stroke and thou shalt be there where the weary shall be at rest and where the wicked shall cease from troubling. Remember that thou mayest eat thy dinner with bitter herbs, yet thou shalt have a sweet supper with Christ that night. My dear, by what I write unto thee, I do not hereby undertake to teach thee; for these comforts I have received from the Lord by thee. I will write no more, nor trouble thee any further, but commit thee into the arms of God with whom ere long thee and I shall be. Farewell, my dear, I shall never see thy face more till we both behold the face of the Lord Jesus at that great day. - Mary Love

Thanks for reading. My last post was about competition and was so encouraged by all the comments, thank you all. Reading this letter again gave me a vision of what it really means to win in marriage and even in life. Preparing your spouse (and/or the people closest to you) in a way that if you were to pass away, they can have a mindset like Mary Love sounds like a win to me. But if God calls us to a life of celibacy like Jesus and the apostle Paul, we can still trust Him fully.

What helped the most - Watching Teri's videos

That Sermon Series is still my favorite because of the impact it made on my life. But what about my favorite blog post here on Muir Rock? For sure it's Teri's Faith Journey and Lessons on Love, Loss, and Resilience. The video in that post is worth re sharing, as it also really helped me get in the right mindset after the passed away. A mindset of gratitude and thankfulness, knowing that Teri was ready to meet her maker because she was so close to God:


What I ended up sharing


There was a lot more content and conversations that helped me that week. I felt a lot of peace waking up the morning of the service and was ready to just share what was on my mind since I truly believed Teri wouldn't have wanted it any other way. What was most important to me was to share about our time in the hospital on Saturday and how thankful I was to spend quality time with her in the morning, and then spend that afternoon with our friends and family to say goodbye. It is still the most impactful day of my life come to think of it. I love thinking that "We Did Hard Things" and to share about the Emotion Wheel:



I also felt a lot of peace during the week while reading The Art of Dying and felt even better coming across what I underlined the night before. The celebration of life service was ultimately to celebrate the gospel, not just the life of Teri:

"A funeral is the church's opportunity to express those beliefs, to tell the story of the gospel and tie it into the life of the deceased and those gathered to worship." - Rob Moll, The Art of Dying

Conclusion


I'm not really sure about the true intent about this post besides just wanting to share about how my recent discussions about E40 and how hearing about recent loss just got me thinking about Teri. There's a bit of anxiety that I'll still forget some of her story, but I probably wont if all of this happened many months ago and it still feels like yesterday. I'm thankful and feel more at peace to think of Teri as more of a dear friend instead of a spouse, just like Mary referred to Christopher in that powerful letter. If you wrestle in this area since you have lost your spouse, please also check out John Piper's message titled, Will My Spouse Be My Best Friend in Heaven? Listening to this encouraged me recently as well.


Thanks for reading and keeping her memory alive. Have a great upcoming week!

Erwin

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Man, that letter from Mary Love to her husband has me SOBBING. The eternal perspective!! Truth bombs!!!! What a loving and hopeful way to send your earthly husband off to meet his Savior!!! May we always remember in all of our relationships that our time here is short and that the purpose of our relationships is not solely to enjoy one another, but to prepare one another for the eternal reality of heaven!! Lord willing, I'm looking forward to seeing you at E40, where we can all remind one another of these truths and rejoice in our future hope!!

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