Our friend Greg Wallace passed away from cancer on March 3rd. His beloved Melody read this at the funeral. She posted in tribute of Greg and I wanted to share it with all of you. Watching the two of them over the last year has been one the most beautiful yet most heart breaking thing I have ever seen. I have seen love that only comes from God shining through the whole time.
Greg and I met in October of 2006 at an English Country Dance held by a mutual friend of ours. Was it love at first sight? Hardly! This is what I remember thinking, “Well, he’s not bad looking, but …uh-uh. Not interested.” Greg recalls, “Cute. Fun. But maybe a bit too goofy.” We saw each other off and on for the next few years at various dances and events. We were casual friends, hardly more than acquaintances. Then in November of 2009, we started chatting on-line. We were attending the same concert and that led us to start talking about music. The next time we saw each other we began talking a little more. And then suddenly, both of our “antennas” went up and it was like, “Where’d you come from and how come I never really noticed you before?!” Needless to say, Greg and I realized that our initial impressions about each other were way off and some definite interest and attraction began growing.
March 12, 2010, Greg told me that he’d like to pursue a serious relationship with me. We each wrote out a list of Scriptures defining what we believed, and it was so encouraging to see how we lined up on every key issue and doctrine. In fact, it seemed as if we agreed on just about everything! Except for one major thing….and was it possible to continue despite that disagreement? The issue in question was…tomatoes. Greg loved them. I didn’t. But we came to the conclusion that we could still make it work - I would just put any tomatoes I didn’t want on his plate!
As I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to share, the thing that kept coming back to me was “love”. Not just romantic love between a man and a woman, but the love that God has for us. I didn’t love Greg right away. I had been deeply hurt in the past and I was very cautious about opening up my heart again. My prayer from the beginning was, “Lord, yoube glorified in this relationship. Help me to love Greg as you want me to. You are the author of love, so if I’m supposed to love him, then you place that love in my heart.” And He did. It wasn’t long before the friendship and care and attraction grew and deepened. I learned to trust Greg. And I fell in love with him. When I allowed myself to be vulnerable, it was as if God flooded my heart with a joy and love far greater, deeper and better than I had ever imagined. Greg made me feel so beautiful. He treated me as something precious to be treasured. I could be myself with him because he loved me for who I was. He wasn’t afraid to be honest or show emotion, and we talked about absolutely everything. He encouraged me in my walk with the Lord. We read Scripture together. We prayed aloud and those were the times when I saw his character and his deeply ingrained faith.
I could share memories and talk forever about Greg. Our walks down by the river, playing games, meeting each other’s friends, laughing, ski trips, discussing music, his corny puns, crying together, homemade ice cream, 3 Stooges, campfires, working on my brother’s house, dancing, bowling, riding in his convertible with the top down.. .I could go on and on. But what I want to get back to is love.
Greg and I marveled at how amazing love is. How it could continue to flourish and deepen. How often, with an overflowing heart I would think, “Lord, I don’t understand. How is this possible? This huge love that continues to grow and get stronger.” But I know how. I know why. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love, because He first loved us.” In and of myself, I have nothing to give, nothing to offer - it is because God loved me first, with the most perfect and pure love. John 15:12 “Love each other as I have loved you.” He is our example of how to love unconditionally, steadfastly, unselfishly. Giving all without holding back.
Some people might think it was foolish to risk my heart when the future was so uncertain. I knew Greg had cancer when we began our relationship. But I believe that God had brought us together for a purpose, and I wanted to treasure each day, no matter what was coming ahead. Even now I wouldn’t go back and change that. By avoiding this sorrow, I would have missed out on all the incredible joy and love we shared. The sweetness far outweighs the pain.
That’s not to say that I lived this past year in perfect peace and contentment all the time. No, I had my struggles and doubts. I did a lot of crying out to God. I questioned. I asked why. I complained about the unfairness of it all. I asked, why me? Why us??
No, it doesn’t seem fair or right. Greg wasn’t just my “boyfriend” - that’s far too trite. He was my beloved. The man I wanted to marry. We talked often of our future plans. We dreamed. We hoped. We pleaded with God for more time. But he died. What kind of God would do that to us - we who were only striving to please and serve him? It was like pulling the rug out from under our feet! But Psalm 25:10 says “ All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep his commands.” and then in Psalm 62:11,12 “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard; that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.” Do we love and serve God only when things go our way? When the sun shines and it’s easy to trust and love? Is that the only time when God is good and loving? Those verses say that all his ways are loving. So I can either grow angry and bitter and hard because of my circumstances, or I can choose to trust what His words says - that His ways are loving.
I want to focus on the good. On the love. I believe God gave Greg and I a priceless gift. Not once did we take our time for granted. We knew how extremely fragile this life is and we made the most of our time together. We treasured the simplest things: sitting on the couch holding hands and not even saying a word, each text message that made my heart beat faster to receive, our phone conversations that we looked forward to. And Greg told me that our visits were something that he anticipated more than every birthday and Christmas and fun event put together that he ever had in his whole life.
In 12 short months I believe that God blessed Greg and I with a richer and sweeter love than many people will ever experience in a lifetime. God balances the sorrow with the joy. Some of my favorite memories are of the last few months when the cancer was taking its toll. It was enough to just sit there and look at each other.
When Greg texted me from Arizona saying that he was barely hanging on by a thread, I made him promise to hold on until I got there. The night before I arrived, he refused to take any pain medication, even though his pain level was at a 9. He didn’t want to fall asleep because he was afraid of not waking up when I got there. He kept watching the clock and counting down the hours. When we called to say we were almost there, Greg asked for his laptop. He opened it and kept staring at the screen , which was a picture of he and I together this past summer, and then looking at the door. He kept going from the picture and then the door and back again. When I finally walked in, his eyes filled with tears. He trembled as he touched my hair, felt my face, and smelled my skin…almost as if to make sure I was real. I’m so glad that I made it in time. Those two and a half days were heartbreaking, but precious.
The last time Greg opened his eyes, he searched for me in the room. I leaned in close…and he gave a half-smile and winked and stroked the back of my hand with his thumb. Almost as if to say, “We’re gonna be okay.“
There was so much love there in that hospital room. God’s presence was so tangible. You could almost taste it, feel it, touch it. I felt Christ in the love of family and friends and even people we had never met - in the myriad of cards they sent, words of encouragement, gifts, and countless prayers. I saw His love in each one of the Wallaces as they ministered to Greg with such tenderness. I saw God in Greg as he whispered Scripture. And when his mind was confused and cloudy from the drugs and pain, he looked at me earnestly and said, “I choose my faith. I choose my Savior.” His mind may not have been functioning, but his heart was. I heard Christ in the prayers spoken aloud as we surrounded his bed and surrendered him to the One who loves him even more than we do. He went home peacefully. There were tears. And sorrow. But even through all of that, the love of God was still there. We knew Greg was finally free. Healed. Whole. And in the arms of his Savior.
This is the lesson that I want to carry with me for the rest of my life. My God…is love. As great and deep was the love that Greg and I shared, God’s love is even more. It has no bounds. We love because He first loved us. John 13:34, 35 “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” I want that to be what shines forth in my life.
A couple of months ago, I asked Greg to send me a voicemail so that when we weren’t able to talk, I could still hear him. This is what he said: “Hi, Melody. This is Greg. You said you wanted a message from me so you could hear my voice whenever you wanted. So here I am. I love you. You know that, but you still need to hear it. So, I love you. I look forward to the next time I can see you again. Hopefully soon. And I look forward to the time when we can be together and not have to say good-bye.”
I’m going to miss Greg. I miss him already. But I thank God with all my heart, for the priceless, precious gift He gave me when he brought Greg into my life. Good-bye, honey. I too, look forward to the next time I see you when we never have to say good-bye. I love you.