Earp Takes Aim | Faith, Culture, Life

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Too Many Firsts

Last Friday, Josh and I took Drew golfing for his 23rd birthday.  Actually, for the sake of accuracy, my back was jacked so I served as Drew’s full-time caddy.   We laughed a lot, trash-talked even more and generally had a great time. 

Except for one thing:  It was Drew’s first birthday without his mom orchestrating the festivities.  We talked about her, but not too much, because we both wanted to just get through the day.  But Drew’s first big day without mom was obviously traumatic for him.  See, with Drew’s disabilities, he always relied on Cindy— to guide him, correct him, teach him and most of all, unconditionally love him.  But now, he must look to others even as he learns to lead himself.

After golf, I took him to Best Buy and bought him a replacement i-Pod.  Now that was definitely NOT a first!  I don’t dare add it up, but that young man has singlehandedly destroyed enough i-Pods to outfit the entire Arizona Cardinals team!  But he loved it…and I made sure he knew it was from both me AND his mom.


Tomorrow is Izzy’s second birthday.  It’s hard to believe that so much time has already passed us by.  I can still remember when Cindy and I celebrated the news that she would become a Grammy.  She was so ecstatic!  Who could’ve known, even as we waited for Iz to be delivered, that awful cancer was already doing its damage? 

Cindy often grieved the fact that Izzy never knew a day when her Grammy wasn’t “sick.”  As I held her and tried to console her, I would always say, “Honey, Iz loves you so much!  And she knows that you love her, too!”  And then I would remind her how she would always read to the girls and even play in the floor with them— even when she was so weakened and nauseous from the chemo. 

There were even times, after Em and Iz would leave for Prescott, that Cindy would talk about the pain she had experienced just holding her granddaughter in her lap.  But here’s the thing…she always held her anyway!  And nobody but me ever knew! 

Izzy’s “second” is tomorrow.  But it’s also her “first.”  And Emily’s, too. 


There are too many “firsts” right now. 

Our “first” Christmas tree.  Maybe that doesn’t sound like big, but if you knew Cindy, you know it’s huge!  Christmas was Cindy’s Super Bowl.  And the tree?  Forget just ONE tree…most years we had three!  And each tree was a veritable work of art, as Cindy would labor over our tree…for hours!  Seriously! 

At first, I considered just skipping the tree.  Then again, I told myself, skipping would only delay my healing.  And I have learned that if I try to deny whatever next “first” is lurking in the shadows for me?  I’m merely postponing my recovery.  So somehow, I did it.  Actually, for the sake of accuracy, Jess did it.  I got the thing out of the attic…but Jess decorated it.  And she did a great job…in spite of her many tears. 

Bottom line?  The tree is up.  And Stevie didn’t wimp out.


This past Sunday, our church had a OneDayServe.  We did random acts of kindness for families enduring all sorts of distress.  By God’s design, four of the places I went to involved families coping with various stages of loss through cancer.  One of the families provided me with yet another “first.” 

Rich’s wife, Heather, had just found out that her breast cancer had metastasized.  On Monday, she was to start a second round of radiation, having completed a repeat round of chemo.  Sound familiar?  And as he spoke of her condition, I felt my knees buckle.  And then, when he spoke such gratitude for the help he’d received from our people— with chores now completed that he couldn’t find the time or energy to do himself— I thought of the army of people who had constantly helped Cindy and me. 

But then…instead of crying, I put my arm around Rich and I prayed.  And that was my next “first.”  I don’t even know if Rich is a believer, and I’m even less sure whether I was praying more for him or for me— but at least I prayed.  I gathered myself and offered ministry to someone who is walking a path painfully similar to mine. 


More “firsts” are awaiting me.  My first Christmas music performance…without Cindy on the keyboards.  My first Christmas Eve…when I drive home from the service alone.  My first Christmas morning…without awakening with my bride by my side. 

Not that I’m complaining.  Far from it.  See, I’m beginning to sense that a rhythmic momentum is building every time I break past each succeeding “first.” 

You might want to read that line again.

And since I decided at the outset of this rugged journey that I would choose to fully experience each new “first”?  I’m more whole and better prepared and more fully equipped to experience my next “first” because I somehow emerged from my last “first.”  Wow!  That’s deep!  I embrace my next “first” [whatever it may be or bring] because I made it through my last “first.” 

And here’s the thing:  After Christmas?  My remaining list of “firsts” shrinks way smaller and feels [at least right now] way less imposing.  Because I’ve endured them.  I haven’t denied them.  I didn’t try to avoid them.  I faced them.  And I will face my Christmas “firsts” that same way. 

It’s just— and I knew it would be like this— there have been way too many “firsts,” this first December without Cindy.  

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