Celebrating the Days Left
About the Guest
What if you knew your days with a loved one were coming to an end? That’s where Gary Oliver found himself when his wife, Carrie, was diagnosed with cancer and given three months to live. Gary shares some practical advice for couples walking through similar trials, and encourages them to hold onto Christ by faith, believing that He cares for them.
Gary shares some practical advice for couples walking through similar trials, and encourages them to hold onto Christ by faith, believing that He cares for them.
Celebrating the Days Left
Bob: The challenge is, life goes on, you still have to earn a living. You still have a job you have to do. You still have responsibilities and so there’s this tension between, “I only have this much time, I don’t know how much it is.” When you’d go off to speak or you’d go to the classroom, did you feel like you were going where you shouldn’t go and you needed to stay home.
Gary: Bob, it was so hard. I knew I needed to; I knew I was supposed to. But a part of me also felt kind of guilty. I knew part of that guilt voice, though wasn’t the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit does not accuse the brethren. That’s the evil one. I’ll tell you, the evil one—God is faithful, but Satan is also very faithful. We can trust him to seek ways to discourage us, to defeat us, to distort our perspective, to distract us, to take our eyes off what we know to be true, to focus on the problem and ignore the solution.
Dennis: And to lie.
Gary: Oh, yes.
Dennis: His greatest weapons are his lies. Did you hear any of them?
Gary: Oh, goodness! “You’re not doing a good job,” “Enough is never enough,” If I was working, I should not be working, if I was at home with Carrie I shouldn’t be there. I kept getting advice. I had a few of the counselors that Job had. Mostly I didn’t, but I had a few and it was like, no matter what I did, it wasn’t this enough or that enough.
There were times guys, in all honesty, when I would sit and I didn’t let Carrie see it, but I would go for walks and I would just weep. I just said, “God I don’t know what to do. I’m Gary Oliver. I’ve memorized hundreds of verses. I’ve walked with you for years. I love you. I believe you, I need to hear something. I have no idea what to do. I’m not hearing your voice. I know you’re there, but it would help if I could have some sense of what that looks like.”
There were times when I thought that there was not one tear left in my body. And then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, sobs that I didn’t understand would just come from the deepest part of who I was that I didn’t know I was capable of. But, that was not bad. That was good, because God was allowing me to start to grieve. There was a loss of our twenty-fifth anniversary in Tuscany. There was a loss of things that might never happen. There was the loss of dreams. There were very real losses that God was allowing me and Carrie to start to grieve.
Dennis: If we could somehow have the privilege of being able to go to Heaven right now, and ask Carrie, “Carrie how did your husband love you well?” You mentioned earlier, you said Carrie mentioned to you that she had felt well loved, well cared for. What did that look like?
I think Gary, many times, within the community of faith; we put this thing, this mantle of leadership on men. Yet, we don’t put the flesh on it. That undoubtedly you did for your wife to say at the very end, “I really felt really loved by you.” What did you do? What would she say?
Gary: I think she would say that I was present. I think she would say that I didn’t lie to her. That I told her what the doctors told me. I told her.
Dennis: Did she ask you about whether you were afraid at that time? Did you talk about fears?
Gary: Absolutely we talked about fears. I talked about being alone. I talked about the boys. We talked about she was able to see our oldest son Nathan get married. She’d barely made that, but she made it down to Florida. We danced, I partially held her up, Nathan partially held her up she was going to have a dance with her son at his wedding. God gave her that very very special, precious gift. No, we talked about life for our sons. She said, “Gary, you can’t be a mother. If God takes me, you’ve been a great dad; you’ve been a great, great husband. But, don’t try to be more than you can be.”
Actually she almost ministered to me more in those two years than I ministered to her. It was astonishing. I think she would say my sense of humor. We still joked together, and we still touched a lot. I would take her hand, even though her hand was almost like skin just draped over some bones. In all honesty it’s very hard to reach out to take your beloved’s hand and feel a skeleton, and know that she’s in much more pain than you’re in. And knowing that as a husband that’s supposed to protect his wife, that there’s absolutely nothing you can do except to love and pray and be present.
Dennis: You may have already shared this. But I have to ask this question. If you could just keep a snapshot in those last two years, of one moment with Carrie, what would it be?
Gary: That’s really easy. We were standing on the beach in Maui, a beach we’d been to with our boys a number of times before. I had put my arm around her, there wasn’t that much then to put my arm around. She turned and faced me. We were feeling the sand; we could hear the waves crashed. I looked into her eyes, and she looked into my eyes, and our lips just touched. It wasn’t like a really passionate kiss. Our lips touched. There was something about that moment that we reflected on, even later. God was so present in that moment, we were one. There was an awareness of being one, and of being in God’s presence. There was a sense of God saying to both of us. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
Dennis: You know, that’s really the picture that is spoken of in the book of Genesis. For this cause, a father will leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.
Gary: It doesn’t get any better than that.
Dennis: It really doesn’t. But there is no ability to be one without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s really what you’ve shared with us today. Bob, I think our listeners hear us come to them every day on FamilyLife Today and, the question for you as a listener has to be, “Are you building your house on Jesus Christ? Is He present in your life—the Lord Master of your life, and of your marriage? And are you pleasing Him? Are you able to take news like Gary and Carrie got and ultimately, in the midst of that, praise God for what He’s doing in your marriage?”
Bob: Yes, you can have a good relationship with shared interests and with same sense of humor; there can all of those kinds of things that lead into a good relationship. But what you’re talking about is a spiritual intimacy. If that’s absent from a marriage, there’s a hole in the midst of what your marriage was designed to be.
I know you and your wife Barbara, years ago wrote a devotional guide for couples called Moments With You that is designed to strengthen the spiritual bond between a husband and wife. It gives you an opportunity each day to consider a verse of scripture together, to look at a devotional that is tied to that scripture, and then it gives you an opportunity to pray together.
As you’ve said Gary, it’s that kind of spiritual intimacy that is the bedrock on which you face struggles together as a couple. We don’t know when they’re coming, but we can prepare for them knowing that we’re likely to face them, and we want to make sure the foundation is solid before they come.
If our listeners are interested in a copy of your daily devotional guide Moments With You
they can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy. Or they can call 1-800-FLTODAY. Again, the website is FamilyLufeToday.com, you can order from us online if you’d like, or call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY. We’ll make arrangements to get a copy of the book out to you.
Let me also mention, if you are grieving or if you know someone who is grieving, Jerry Sittser’s book, A Grace Disguised is maybe the best resource we know to recommend to those who want to honestly confront the reality of their grief and understand where God is in the midst of it. Again the book is called A Grace Disguised, and there’s information about it on our website as well, FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can order a copy by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY.
This issue of building the spiritual foundation of a marriage is really what FamilyLife has been committed to for more than three decades now. Our goal is to see every home become a godly home. The foundation of that is a marriage where a husband and wife together bow before God committed first to Him, and then to one another. Through our events and the resources that we create through this daily radio program and our website, all of what we do is designed to point couples in that direction.
Just recently we have revised one of our core resources. It’s our HomeBuilders® study guide called Building Your Marriage to Last. This is the best selling study in our series of what is the best selling series of studies on marriage and family to be produced over the last thirty years. If you’re able to help with a donation to FamilyLife this month, we’d love to send you two study guides from the new HomeBuilders® Series, Building Your Marriage to Last. This is something you and your spouse can go through together, just the two of you as a couple, or it’s something that you can invite other couples to join you in. I’ll tell you, to put a HomeBuilders® group together and go through these studies with three or four other couples, is a great way to build relationships, and a great way to grow together in your relationship with Christ.
Again, if you can help with a donation of any amount this month to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we’d love to send you couple of these brand new, revised study guides, Building Your Marriage to Last, a part of the HomeBuilders® Couples Series.
When you make your donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com, just type the word, “build” in the key code box that you find on the online donation form, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, make your donation over the phone and ask for the HomeBuilders® studies, and again we’re happy to send them out to you. We hope they’ll help strengthen your marriage and we hope you might connect with some other couples and build into their marriages as well.
With that, we’ve got to wrap things up for today. Hope you can be back with us tomorrow, when we’re going to continue our conversation with Dr. Gary Oliver and hear about another tragedy that emerged right in the midst of the tragedy with his wife Carrie. That comes up tomorrow. I hope you can be with us.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch, our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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