Grief 2.0

If you’re on Facebook, you know how Facebook does that “memories” thing where each day it gives you the opportunity to look back on something you did, pictured, wrote about or whatever 1, 2 or however many years ago.

On April 16, 2014 – so 4 years and 3 days ago, I wrote this post about grief –

At that point, we were dealing with some big issues – my daughter’s heart condition, the loss of some of her dreams, her changing reality, our changing reality.   In addition to that, my career seemed to be at a crossroads – not a cross roads that we wanted or encouraged.

Now we’re in what I’m calling Grief 2.0.   What does that entail?

Life – I’ll be writing about him more in the future, but on March 23 of this year, my dad, Howard Vanderwell, passed from this life into eternal life in heaven.   He fought pancreatic cancer for 15 months, it was his fourth major battle with cancer, and in the end, it was complications from chemo and radiation (some from previous battles) that took him home.

I wrote a piece on his CaringBridge page that last week called “Painful Peace.”   That’s what this last month has been.   It’s been grief, it’s been pain but it’s also been peace.   Peace that in the end, he went home surrounded by his family and without struggle or pain.   Peace that he is now spending time and eternity with the One who he devoted his entire career and life to.   Peace that he is spending time with my grandparents and my younger sister.

But it’s also pain.   It’s a loss not only of a family member, but a church leader, a supporter, a friend, an encourager and a believer – a believer in Christ but also a believer in his kids and grandkids. 

Yesterday, my daughter defended her doctoral project and became the second Dr. Vanderwell in the history of the Vanderwell family.

And the first Dr. Vanderwell wasn’t there to share it with her and with us.

Next week Saturday, she’ll go through the actual graduation.   My dad wanted very much to be there – but God said, “Come home, Howie.  You’ve been faithful, your time on earth is done.”

And then there’s the grief of medical issues gone “not quite right.”   I’ve been battling a condition with the blood vessels in my left neck, shoulder and such called an Arterio Venous Malformation (Google AVM if you want to know more).   It’s been a part of my life and my reality for 40 years and I’ve had surgeries and treatments for it numerous times.  

January 30, 2018 was the most recent one.  The treatment was successful but it brought up some nasty side effects.   I lost most of the hearing in my left ear, I am now extremely sensitive to noise, especially loud noise and my left vocal cord is paralyzed so my voice is significantly impacted in terms of volume, clarity and, well, it sounds like I have a nasty case of laryngitis all of the time.

Grief 2.0

It’s different.

But it’s the same.

Dreams changed.

Plans altered.

Losses experienced.




There’s also God 2.0

God is still here in our grief.

God is still here in our questions.

God is still here with our changed dreams.

Our unfocused dreams.

Our losses.

God is still here.

And just like we did 4 years ago, when we held faith that God was there (here), we do now too.   Some of the same issues carry over – my daughter’s heart condition hasn’t gone away, my career path is in many ways murkier than ever, and then there are new challenges.

God never said believing in Him would be easy.

But  he’s here.

In our grief.

In our sorrow.

In our blessings.

In our peace.

And so, I say, “God, I don’t get it.   I don’t understand.”

“But I’ve got you.”

And then focus on the peace rather than focusing on the pain.

God is good. (All the time)

All the time.  (God is good)


My Story, My Life……

For those of you who know me closely, you know that 2018 has been, shall we say, rocky.   For those who don’t know me as well, stay tuned.   I’m going to be talking about my story and what it all means.

This quote from TobyMac is my hope and dream as I share my story on here.


Can We Talk?

Welcome to what used to be “Thoughts from an Ordinary Guy” and is being reconstructed into “Can We Talk? – Not Easy Questions with No Easy Answers.”

Stay tuned, more changes will be happening soon.


A Step Forward – The Fog of Life

Today is an anniversary of sorts.

It’s been two years.

A chapter closed.

But the need remains

Questions abound.

Answers come slowly.

Answers that sometimes hurt.

Answers that raise questions.

Answers that change roles.

Answers that challenge perceptions.

Answers that bring healing.

Answers that bring more questions.

Answers that remain hidden in the fog.

The Fog of Life.

Trust in a God who shows the way.

Even if it’s only 6 inches at a time.

Even if the answers are shrouded in fog.

But the knowledge of what is right remains.

The knowledge of who is ultimately in charge remains.

And He has the answers

The ones that really matter.


If Only……

If only…….


If only we were kinder to each other.


If only we didn’t write things we weren’t willing to say face to face.


If only we cared about someone else more than we cared about ourselves.


If only we worked to make the world a better place, even for one person.


If only we, all of us, did that for one person.   Just one. Or two or three……


If only we realized that everyone else has struggles too – and were a little nicer to them as they carry their silent load.


If only church was more about Jesus and less about us.


If only white people would be more concerned about the way our black brothers and sisters are treated.


If only we would stop generalizations.  Of police.   Of black young men.


If only black teenage boys could wear hoodies with the hood up in winter.   Dang, it’s cold outside.


If only Jesus would be the center of our world.


If only Jesus would be the center of our churches.


If only Jesus would be the center of our families.


If only Jesus would be the center of it all.


Isn’t He?  Why not?