I don't often get very intimate on my blog. I usually just talk academically about silly things like technology or grammar. Or link to my favorite webcomics and authors. But please indulge me as I share some personal stuff.
First, as most of my real-life friends know, my wife Lauren passed away last November (that's her own personal blog in that link there). I haven't spoken of her death much online, deciding to keep things private for a while. Aside from Facebook, that is, but my FB friends are generally people I know from outside the Internet anyway.
She had cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that caused her in her final years to have increasingly frequent and debilitating cases of pneumonia and other lung infections. Despite her disease, she was an amazingly positive woman; for nearly her entire life, she was able to make CF be merely "something about her" and not allow the disability to define her. In fact, the link at the beginning of this paragraph goes to one of her three (3!) blogs: she was trained as a scientist and also freelanced as a writer. She spent a lot of time distilling medical research about CF into information that average sufferers and caregivers could use to understand the illness and its treatment.
In addition, she was a strong Christian (this link goes to her blog where she wrote devotionals reflecting on passages from the Bible). In our nearly-decade-long relationship she was a great encouragement to me, and I to her, as we pressed onward with faith in God and toward the hope of our future dwelling in Heaven. I'm so glad now that she's being given a perfect body, unmarred by the strife of this present age, in which to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
But providing this brief description of an amazing woman, my wife of more than 6 years, is not what prompted me to write about her. You see, in her "side career" as a writer, she attended the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference on three separate occasions. While there, she made many friends and touched many lives. She was working on a book called "Dear Future Husband" in which she intended to publish selections from a large group of letters she wrote (beginning at age 14) addressed to the man she would one day marry. The last one begins "Dear Brad," and she gave me the whole set as a wedding gift.
Even that awesome writing project (which never got published) isn't quite why I'm remembering her in this post. One of the friends she made at the Writers Conference is Austin Boyd, another talented multi-career individual who for a time worked at the same scientific consulting firm for which Lauren compiled environmental emissions inventories at government installations across the state and the country. Just three days after she died, Austin proposed a scholarship/award to be given at the 2010 conference in her memory, to honor someone else who has withstood many challenges while shining the light of Christ through the written word.
Along with Lauren's parents, I went on Monday night, March 29, to this year's conference to see the presentation of the inaugural Lauren Beyenhof True Grit Award. Between Austin and his agent, Les Stobbe, they were able to present $1000 in her memory. In the course of his presentation, Austin showed a video interview with Lauren and me which had been recorded in 2007. The award went to Rachel Marks, a woman who's fought with cancer but seems as plucky and determined as Lauren ever was to keep hardship from getting in her way.
The whole experience of attending the conference for this presentation was humbling and awe-inspiring (and, as you'd expect, quite emotional). I was able to connect with a part of Lauren's life I hadn't really experienced before, and I heard from many people whose lives she had touched with her ebullience and love. It lifted my own spirits to be in a mountain retreat, communing with the Lord and with other people who knew my wife. I'm glad that Austin paid her this very special tribute, and that I was invited to share in an event to honor her life. I know Lauren would've been confused and taken aback by all the attention, but she and her memory deserve it all.
Thanks, Austin, for creating the award; and Les, for helping to present it. Thanks, Mom & Dad K., for raising a fantastic woman who captivated me and is an integral part of who I've become. And thanks most of all to God, who orchestrated our lives that we might find and fulfill each other in such a wonderful way.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.