Seth Esvelt

December 31st 2015

Update on the Esvelts

December 2015

He whose heart is kind beyond all measure gives unto each day what He deems best;

Lovingly, it’s part of pain and pleasure, mingling toil with peace and rest. – “Day by Day” Christian hymn

I try to have the lights off in Seth’s room by 10:00 pm, after I’ve read to him from a book (sometimes fiction, sometimes not), the Bible, and prayed over him. Sometimes he’s almost asleep but often his eyes are wide open. It’s quiet, it’s dark, and I wonder what he thinks about after I leave his room. Obviously, he spends a lot of time alone like that. For the past twelve and a half years I’ve wondered how much he actually contemplates what is going on around him. Sometimes I get glimpses into his private thoughts by the limited responses he makes.

This past summer he turned 35. I took him to our annual church service and picnic at nearby Lake Wilderness Park and set his wheelchair at the back of the crowd of church folks while we sang accompanied by guitars, and then listened to Alan (the other pastor) bring a devotional message. Alan began to speak on the subject of envy, how we all have the tendency to want what others have.  As I listened, I thought to myself, “How could someone like Seth—trapped as he is in a body that cannot respond—not desire what others have, those things are the merely normal functions that others take for granted, e.g., moving, eating, speaking, etc.?” I glanced over at him, and for the first time in years saw tears running down his cheeks. It broke my heart.

The chronic cough he’s had for nearly two years is apparently due to the fact that he’s lost much of his ability to swallow, so his saliva, etc. tends to find its way into his windpipe and he must continually cough to keep it from going down into his lungs. There is always the danger that, as the muscles around his larynx gradually weaken from lack of use, he will aspirate and develop pneumonia. The doctors are surprised that he hasn’t done so already. In order to reduce the amount of saliva, he receives Botox shots into his salivary glands and regular applications of ear patches. These procedures have lessened the frequency, but certainly haven’t eliminated, the coughing. Should his condition worsen, the only options would be surgical—either remove the salivary glands altogether (complicated in his case) or surgically close off his windpipe and have him breathe through a hole in his neck for the rest of his life. I abhor the thought of either and can only hope that he can be maintained at his current level as long as possible.

The Christmas season was a nice break in our routine. As usual, I set up a tree in Seth’s room that he could look at from his bed and my daughter, Holly, masterfully added the decorations. My mother, who will be 90 this February, spent a week with us and I know Seth thoroughly enjoyed her fussing over him. Always a grandma!


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June 11th 2015

Update on Seth (and his dad)

June 10, 2015

I feel like apologizing for the length of time since my last update, but the routine that Seth and I have established has had little in the way of significant interruptions, either positive or negative. Tomorrow I’ll be taking him to see his family physician in hopes that something can be figured out regarding a chronic cough and congestion that Seth has struggled with for over a year, something in his throat as opposed to his lungs. The delicate way the doc has expressed it is, “not processing his secretions very well.” Much has already been tried in the way of medications. Otherwise, he seems in good shape, with regular sessions in his Quadriciser (passive exercise machine) and on the tilt board.

This being the anniversary of my marriage to Mary 43 years ago, I thought it might be interesting—especially to those of you who knew Mary—to include a note she wrote on our last anniversary together, three years ago. She wrote the following thoughts while recovering in a rehab center shortly after brain surgery, apparently with the intention of putting them out as an update (but for some reason she neglected to give them to me with those instructions).

(June 10, 2012)

Forty years ago today on a magical June day, Craig and I stood in my parents’ beautiful backyard as we pledged to love each other in sickness and in health, me in my ecro-colored (off-white) cotton muslin wedding dress carrying a basket of daisies and Craig in a pink sports coat of his dad’s! I could only imagine on that June day that every time a page would turn in our life journey, it would say, “And they lived happily ever after.”

Every wedding has a glitch, and ours was no exception. Less than a week before the big day, my pastor decided that, since Craig had not come to Christ, he could not marry us since we would be “unequally yoked.” My dad, who was not a believer, was on some city committee who had a pastor as a committee member. I think he slipped him a few bucks and talked the pastor into marrying us. A little unconventional, but I guess it took! And then I had an amazing front row seat as I watched God pluck Craig from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light and give him a purpose in life bigger than himself.

We were such babies in Christ and knew so little, but we had an unquenchable desire to know God through His Word. We began getting up early every day (no one told us to) to read, study, and memorize the Word of God. I’m sure we weren’t even familiar with Matthew 7:24 which talks about the wise man building his house upon the rock compared to the foolish man who built his house on the shifting sands of popular culture. The verse goes on to say that WHEN, not “if” the storms of rain and wind come, the house on the rock will stand firm.

Forty years ago, as the pages of our lives gently turned in the breeze, we could have never imagined that a few years later there would be a page that read, “Rheumatoid Arthritis” and would include years of pain along with six total joint replacements and 13 reconstructive surgeries as the disease slowly worked on my body. Even more of a storm would have been August 16, 2003 when our only son, a college senior, would be involved in a near-fatal car accident that would leave him in a vegetative, minimally-conscious state. But even the shock of that pales in comparison to May 13, 2012, when I was diagnosed with malignant brain cancer.

How grateful I am to God that 40 years ago He directed us to start building our house on the solid rock. All praise to Him!


Although she’s been gone for more than two and a half years, her expressions of faith and perseverance continue to challenge and encourage me. How I miss her!



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December 15th 2014

Update on Seth (and his dad)

December 2014

“For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.” (Psalm 72:12-13)

Our little Christmas tree, masterfully decorated by my daughter Holly, stands in Seth’s room where he can observe it from his bed. I’ve always loved this time of year, and especially those Christmases of years’ gone by when my whole family was together. It didn’t matter that we usually purchased a cheap Douglas fir from the nearby hardware store and had little money to spend on the kids, my landscape design income typically falling off dramatically in the winter months. I recall the year that Mary, somewhat irked that (on previous Christmases) the kids continually rattled and shook their presents in hopes of discovering their contents, purposely mislabeled each child’s gifts. As Holly, Seth, and Kirsten were anxiously poised over their little pile of presents, ready to tear into them, she calmly instructed the children to pass their gifts to the sibling sitting to their right, so that they could unwrap the gifts actually meant for them. The look on their faces was priceless!

As I look back over this past year, I think the highlights, for me, were the two weddings at which I officiated, the first one (in June) being for my niece, Melissa, who was married to Christopher Kehr in Spokane. The other was for my own youngest, Kirsten, who wed Wes Ray at a beautiful September ceremony in the backyard of his parents’ place. I contributed to the decorations with many plant pots spilling over with flowers I had grown and propagated during the previous winter. Seth was able to attend his sister’s wedding, sitting in his wheelchair and clad in a special T-shirt printed to look like a tuxedo.

I’ve not much to report otherwise so far as Seth and I are concerned—life goes on without much change, having made adjustments to a world without Mary but still missing her deeply. As many of you know, if you have followed these updates for some time, Mary used to provide her own thoughts from time to time. Now, as a slight departure from the norm, I would like to offer some recent perspectives from my son-in-law, Matthew Rollosson, Holly’s husband, that I think you will find interesting. Matthew is a big, sensitive guy with a heart for people who are hurting—one of the qualities that attracted Holly and the rest of our family to him when he was caring for Seth in an intensive care unit eleven years ago. He has a particular burden for the underprivileged people of Africa and, with graduate training in public health and tropical medicine, spent the month of August in Tanzania training indigenous nurses in ICU techniques. More recently, he has been on the front lines in the battle with the deadly Ebola virus that has devastated several western African countries, having spent six weeks at a clinic in the interior of Sierra Leone. We, as a family, are proud of his sacrifice and courage. The following reflections are from his last blog entry (


Will you come back?

Greetings, once again, from Freetown, Sierra Leone. I should be home in a couple of days.

The stories are heartbreaking. I saw people who had lost their spouses to Ebola virus disease (EVD), people who lost children, and children who had lost one or both parents. I saw people of every age die; the elderly, young adults, children, and, yes, infants. One woman, whose baby had died in the confirmed ward, complained that her breasts hurt. She was still producing milk.

 I was prepared for the deaths. I came with the awareness that ebolaviruses are highly lethal pathogens and that the mortality of EVD is high. I was most affected by the survivors.

 I transferred a three-year-old boy from the suspect ward to the confirmed ward after he had a positive PCR for ebolavirus. Both of his parents had died. I stopped by his bed every time I went in the confirmed ward to get him to drink oral rehydration solution (ORS) and talk to him. I didn’t see him get out of bed for several days. I was pleased when I saw him outside playing with some of the other boys. A few days later, those boys were discharged and an older woman started looking after him. Not long after that, the woman taking care of him tested negative and was being discharged. I thanked her for looking after him, but I was afraid he would be left alone again. Fortunately, we received a negative test result for him the same day. I ran out to the street as he was being discharged to say goodbye to him and show him a picture of Andrew. I told the aunt who was there to pick him up that he was a brave little boy. I knew he was frightened, but I never saw him cry. Then I found a place where I could be alone, sat down, and cried.

 There’s a 9-year-old girl who was brought to the confirmed ward about two weeks ago. She had profound neurological symptoms; nystagmus, tremor, and ataxia. For a while we thought she might be having seizures. We thought she was going to die. We spent a lot of time taking care of her – getting her to drink ORS and take a few bites of food, changing her urine- and diarrhea-soaked clothes, and washing her a couple of times a day. Her symptoms gradually improved. The nystagmus stopped, her tremor improved, and she started eating a little more. Thursday I made my last trip into the confirmed ward and saw her sitting up in bed feeding herself. I asked one of the local nurses to tell her that I was very happy to see her getting better. Then she turned and smiled at me. That was the best going-away gift anyone could have given me.

 The work has been challenging. Working in full personal protective equipment (PPE) in the heat and humidity of tropical Africa is uncomfortable. My scrubs were drenched with sweat when I left ward. Sometimes my N95 respirator would become soaked with sweat, making breathing difficult. Working in PPE in an Ebola treatment unit (ETU) is not conducive to proper body mechanics, so my muscles often ached. The chlorine solution used to decontaminate our PPE irritated my lungs and occasionally gave me cough so severe that, the first time it happened, I thought I might have pertussis.

 In spite of all of the challenges, this has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. When we first arrived in Port Loko, no Ebola survivors had ever been discharged from the Maforki ETU. By the time I left, we had discharged 60 survivors.

 I have been asked several times if I am coming back to continue working in the Ebola response. The answer is that I am going home to be with my wife and son. One of the doctors who recently arrived in Port Loko remarked that I am “outside of the demographic.” It seems that most of the expatriates working in the Ebola response either have no children or have adult children. I am an outlier; the only expat with a young child.

I love Africa. I became a nurse to work in Africa and I plan to return to this continent whenever I am able to do so. For now, it’s time for me to go home and be Holly’s husband and Andrew’s daddy.

 I’ve worked with a lot of remarkable people here, both local staff and expatriates. All of us have made personal sacrifices to be here. Some of the nurses and doctors with whom I’ve worked quit their jobs to be here. Everyone I’ve worked with found ways in which she or he could best serve in this response.

 I can’t possibly do justice to all of my colleagues in this response by naming them individually and describing their invaluable contributions to this response, however, there are two people whom I would like to thank: Larry, who came here with me, and Christian, who arrived a week later. Both of them worked with me in the confirmed ward, going in twice and sometimes three times nearly every day that we’ve been here. Christian and Larry helped establish high standards for patient care and there are people who are alive today because of their efforts. I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with Christian and Larry and proud to call them my colleagues.

May our Lord richly bless you all this Christmas season as we remember the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ. May we offer praise to God the Father, Who bid farewell to the Son as he stepped across the stars to Bethlehem.


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August 20th 2014

August 2014

A Father’s Perspective

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 42:11)

The message that I shared at my church this past Sunday focused on the above Psalm (42) in which the writer, curiously, appears to be speaking to himself or, as I’m inclined to believe, is having a personal conversation by which his spirit—that part of him that is in communion with God—is giving counsel to his soul, as if he is being pulled in two directions. Have you ever done that? I can certainly relate.

This past weekend was one of coincidences, or perhaps ironies would be a more accurate description. Not only was August 16th exactly eleven years to the day from Seth’s accident but, this year, it also fell on the same day of the week (Saturday). As I sat by Seth’s bed that evening, I relived with him an almost minute-by-minute account of that fateful evening that became a defining date for my family, a pivotal point in time from which our lives would never be the same. Not only so, but at the time of his accident eleven years ago, I was just beginning to preach through a series on the Psalms (though at a different church), just as I am doing now. This proved to be providential at the time, because in the Psalms one steps through a door and confronts the gamut of emotions that a believer may experience, praising God on the one hand and struggling with faith on the other, harbingers of a tumultuous journey that my family was soon to be embarking on back in 2003.

The lowest point in that journey came about a month and a half after the accident, when an MRI revealed the extent of Seth’s brain injury. For him, a continued existence would be a “living death,” as the doctors put it, and for us an unbearable load to carry. Odds were strong that, since he was breathing by means of a tracheotomy at that time, he would get an infection and develop pneumonia (which proved true later), and the doctors advised us that, when that occurred, we should not treat the disease but “let nature take its course” for the good of us all—just let him die. It was not only a parent’s love that constrained us not to pursue that course of action but, at the time, a wishful hope that God might yet work a miracle and heal our son. In either case, we felt such a decision would be interfering with whatever purpose the Lord had in mind. And how could we be so sure that that’s what Seth would have wanted?

I recall the awkwardness and chagrin of those early days, of being bothered by the stares of people passing by as I pushed Seth along in his wheelchair, or being embarrassed at his expressionless face or his drooling. I wanted to shout, “This isn’t the real Seth! . . . If you could have only known my son before this!—he was so vibrant, so smart (he was a good student), he loved life, he had an easy, engaging smile, etc., etc.” And the daily sacrifices that Mary made day after day and month after month to visit Seth, wash him, brush his hair, read to him, exercise his limbs, etc., did indeed become burdensome, particularly when we saw so little change in him. On one occasion, in exasperation, she (uncharacteristically) vented and exclaimed, “Are we just dressing up a manikin?!”

I have no idea of the degree of enjoyment Seth may or may not be getting out of life. Does he really wish he were dead? His smiles warm my heart. Being formerly such an active individual, he probably chafes at having to be confined to the house so much. I’m considering taking him to the State Fair in Puyallup next month, along with my daughter Holly and grandson, Andrew. Perhaps the familiar sights, smells and sounds would trigger memories of long ago when Mary used to take him and the girls to the Fair each year (regretfully, I was too often “too busy” to go along). The kids were allowed to bring home one souvenir from the Fair, and for several years Seth’s choice of purchase was a plastic sword (so typically boyish). In any event, after eleven years I’m more comfortable with the stares.

He missed his older sister’s wedding in 2005 but will be present when I officiate at the marriage of his little sister, Kirsten, in a few weeks, when she becomes Mrs. Charles Wesley Ray. In spite of the void that was left with Mary’s passing nearly 22 months ago, am so very thankful that my daughters’ families are to remain so close. My position at my church provides fulfillment and a wealth of friendships. My grandson, now two, is an ongoing occasion for joy. I’m sure he wonders why his Uncle Seth doesn’t talk to him or move out of that strange-looking chair with the big wheels.

Still, despondency nips at my heals like a relentless, nasty little dog as I look at my son’s face each day and remember who he was in light of his current condition and consider our respective futures in “the here and now.” That’s when my spirit often comes running to the rescue and begins to speak God’s truth to my downcast soul—that God is, that He is good in everything He does and that we will still “look upon His goodness in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13) and afterward share a fantastic, everlasting future together that will make this life pale in comparison. So why has God allowed us to go through these past, difficult eleven years? Only He knows, and I can’t come up with any (personally) satisfying answers on my own. Phillip Keller, a pastor and author in New York notes that “when we look at the cross of Jesus, we still do not know what the answer is. However, we now know what the answer isn’t. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he is indifferent or detached from our condition. God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that he was willing to take it on himself.”


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April 10th 2014

Update on Seth (and his dad)

April 2014

 “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)

 Here in the Pacific Northwest we are emerging from the wettest March on record, having received nearly nine and a half inches of rain when a typical March only drenches us with something less than four. This obviously factored in on the devastating mudslide that occurred a couple of weeks ago about an hour and a half north of us, which everyone has been kept abreast by the media. April promises to be warmer and drier, and I’m looking forward to getting Seth out in some sunshine, perhaps on one of the local paved walking trails.

 Spring also means the proliferation of color popping out everywhere against the fading winter’s backdrop of evergreens and gray skies with the coming-in-bloom of cherry trees, rhododendrons, forsythias, azaleas, and the like. As a landscape architect, I enjoy working outside—in my own yard (for others, my landscaping is just designing on paper, where the dirtiest my hands get is from a little graphite under my fingernail). In years’ past, after the lean winter months, I always looked forward to spring when the calls would begin coming in from landscape clients and I could make up for lost time financially. But the increase in my design business and yard work this time of year is now added onto to the housework, pastoral responsibilities at my church and, of course, day to day sole care of Seth’s various needs. To put it in perspective, it’s like handing the roles of a part-time landscape designer and pastor to a single mother who has the care of a newborn, along with all the necessary housework and yard work, the only hitch being that a hundred and seventy-pound “child” is not quite as easy to take along on errands as a baby. It’s a trite but true statement that you tend to appreciate a person more once they are gone (and not just for the assistance they provide). “Seth, do you think about your mother a lot?” (rapid blinking of his eyes). “Me, too.”

 Seth’s younger sister, Kirsten, will be married in September. She and her fiancé, Wes Ray, will be married in the backyard of Wes’ parents who, ironically, had me provide a landscape design plan for them about 15 years ago (they attend the same church that our kids grew up in and where I served as associate pastor for 20 years). I will officiate at the wedding and hope to provide some extra splashes of color with the flowers I am currently growing in my greenhouse. This time Seth will be present to watch the ceremony, whereas when Holly was married in April of 2005 Seth was still at the nursing care center. It saddens me that Mary is not here to do the motherly things she would have loved doing for and with our daughter in preparation for the event.

Both Kirsten and Wes purchased their own homes a few years back, and they will move into Kirsten’s place—only ten minutes from me—while Wes rents out his house. I am grateful that both of my daughters remain close by (along with my grandson, naturally) and have been enjoying watching those special years of courtship, early marriage, and the blessing of children, years of my own life that I now look back upon with particular fondness. May the Lord enrich these years for them as He did for Mary and me!

– Craig –


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October 31st 2013

Update from Craig

October 31, 2013

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. (Isaiah 49:13)

Exactly one year has transpired since the Lord called my dear Mary to her eternal home. Frankly, I’ve been looking forward to getting past this particular day, because throughout the past year I have found myself frequently wondering, “What were WE doing exactly one year ago on this very date?” and I would often thumb through my last year’s calendar or Mary’s old appointment book to see what we may have been doing on that day. I tried to relive in my mind what that particular experience was like, a clinging attempt to maintain some kind of connection. Just as I had feared the inevitable loss of memories of the ordinary times and conversations I had spent with Seth during the 23 years we had connected as father and son prior to his brain injury, so also do I presently dread the toll that time will surely take on many of the little, day to day remembrances of the wonderful woman who blessed and nourished so much of my life.

Seth is doing well, having had (to my knowledge) only one seizure in the past year which was quickly brought under control with medication I am able to administer. I’m always a bit apprehensive about being away from him when I am working in the yard or taking the dog for a walk. Whenever I have to leave home for errands and appointments I must rely on care givers to be here to stay with him in case of such an emergency. Sometimes they are friends who have volunteered to help and a couple of others are paid by the hour by a care-giving organization that receives a portion of the monthly allotment of hours I receive from the Department of Social and Health Services. The rest of those hours now take up most of my time and make up much of my own income. How could I ever have imagined that my son would be (passively) supporting me at this time of life?

I am fortunate that both of my daughters live close by and Seth and I are able to make frequent visits to their homes (my grandson is a special attraction), or they are able to drop by our place. Holly and Kirsten are both far better cooks than I am, a skill passed down from their mother. Kirsten, in fact, drops by most every Thursday evening to cook a meal for us and beat me at Scrabble. I know that Seth also enjoys my hosting other couples over for a meal and listening in on our conversations (I do remarkably well with Papa Murphy’s pizzas!). A couple of weeks ago I took him for an outing to a nearby walking trail (I push and he rides in the wheelchair) and we stopped on an old railroad trestle to watch the red backs of the salmon spawning in the Cedar River below.

It’s hard to know how he has coped with the loss of his mother. I’m sure he misses her cheerful voice and her bustling about and must resign himself to listening to the radio or stereo or watching TV while his dad is necessarily preoccupied elsewhere. For my part, each day is taken one at a time. For the past year and a half, since the day we discovered Mary’s tumor on May 13, 2012, I have dropped into bed each night and prayed the same three things: “Lord, I trust in Your unfailing love” . . . “Lord, help me to (continue to) trust in Your unfailing love” . . . “Lord, show me Your unfailing love.” And He has been faithful. Ten years ago, just a couple of months after Seth’s accident and on this very day of October 31st, I highlighted a paragraph from Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest, which read: “Faith by its very nature must be tried, and the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character has to be cleared in our own minds. Faith in its actual working out has to go through spells of unsyllabled isolation. Never confound the trial of faith with the ordinary discipline of life; much that we call the trial of faith is the inevitable result of being alive. Faith in the Bible is faith in God against everything that contradicts Him-I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do. ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him’-this is the most sublime utterance of faith in the whole of the Bible.”


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June 11th 2013

Update from Craig

June 10, 2013

 “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

 Years ago on this very day (June 10th) Mary and I stood side by side in her parents’ backyard overlooking a panorama of forested hills and rolling wheat fields and recited our wedding vows. She was absolutely stunning, we were both deeply in love, and we looked forward to spending our lives together. Today would have been our 41st anniversary.

 Fairly early in our marriage Mary purchased a small journaling book with the idea of recording the events of each wedding anniversary. Realizing that we couldn’t even recall the way we had celebrated our first several anniversaries, she wanted both of us to write down, every June 10th, where we had gone to eat, movies we might have seen, or other places we had stayed for an overnighter or two. In addition to the events of that special day we also wrote a page or so reflecting on the previous year, specifically, the happenings that had made that year significant (both positive and negative) and which had a part in shaping our lives and adding to our treasure chest of memories. We were open and honest in sharing our feelings of joy, anticipation, and (most notably in 2003 with Seth’s accident) our disappointments and grief. That little blue book was one of the best investments we ever made, for such memories often otherwise fade to a few fleeting images or are lost altogether, and those pages became a source of enjoyment each year as we not only made our respective entries but would often read back, out loud together, over the many recollections of job changes, children’s milestones, trips and holidays, the physical challenges brought on by Mary’s rheumatoid arthritis, and so forth.

 Our last anniversary in 2012 had only one entry, mine, since Mary was at a rehabilitation facility recovering from brain surgery and did not have the opportunity to write in the book. I had brought her home for a few hours that day, ordered lunch out so we could enjoy a good meal together, and then had taken her back to the rehab center. Later, I remembered the book and made my own entry, citing (as you might expect) the emotional highs and lows of the previous months. The year had begun with multiple blessings of our eldest daughter’s pregnancy with the anticipation of our first grandchild, our younger daughter’s purchase of a home, and a new and seeming ideal position for me on staff at a nearby church. Life had taken an upswing, and after some difficult years we were experiencing some renewed optimism, but then we were blindsided by the news of a malignant brain tumor in Mary on Mother’s Day. I ended my entry that day with the words, “So, this has been one of the hardest years ever, not unlike 2003 with Seth’s accident. What will the next year hold? Hopefully, . . . the Lord will give us many more years.”

Several weeks after Mary’s passing on October 31st I was taken with a bout of nostalgia and decided to retrieve the little book out of its drawer and read some of my precious wife’s words from years gone by. Imagine my surprise to discover she had made a final entry, unbeknownst to me, several weeks after our anniversary when she had finally returned home from the rehab facility! Now, months removed, I was brought to tears as I read a final communication from my beloved, who penned, “There is no way I could love or respect Craig any more than I do at this moment in time. We have been hit hard and we’re still standing. His strength, drawn from the Lord over years of discipline, has held our family and lives together. I pray God gives us MANY more years to minister together and even the most fruitful would still be ahead.”

 Apparently, in the providence and perfect mind of God, He had other designs, and in His plan a blessed marriage and life were necessarily coming to completion. And ironically (if not fittingly), after pages and pages of the years of the chronicles of our lives, Mary’s final words that expressed her anticipation of the birth of our grandson—“Can’t wait to meet Holly and Matthew’s little boy soon”—completed the last line of the very last page of that little blue book! She could have written “The End,” but for her it was soon to be the beginning of something new and greater and more enduring.

 Mary’s ashes were laid to rest on June 2nd at a little cemetery at Dartford, just north of Spokane, where my great-grandfather had settled in the 1890’s and where most of my clan is buried. At the small graveside gathering I read the words of an 18th century Italian priest, Ugo Bassi, which seem to sum up her life quite well:

 “Measure thy life by loss and not by gain;

Not by the wine drunk but by the wine poured forth.

For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice

And he who suffereth most has most to give.”


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May 22nd 2013

Update from Craig

May 2013

 “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

 It was just a year ago this month that my family’s life was turned on its head, so to speak, with a second major upheaval. The first one occurred nearly ten years ago, in August of 2003, when Seth suffered a near-fatal car accident that left him in a severely and permanently disabled condition with a brain injury. Then a year ago Mary was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, suffered through a major brain surgery, radiation and chemo treatments, and finally succumbed in October. The sadness and sense of great loss goes on, tempered by the grace of God, Who “comforts us in all our affliction.”

I am heartened by the fact that Mary’s influence continues on in several ways. First of all are the kind words of friends and acquaintances who have shared how her life impacted their own lives by her godly example and practical counsel. Happily, this will not necessarily cease. A few months ago I was looking through some old boxes of cassettes and found a ten-week series of Sunday lessons she taught the ladies at a former church entitled “Teach Us to Number Our Days,” one of her favorite Bible verses and a statement that well-expresses the intentionality of her life—informative messages on various biblical disciplines, of being a wife and mother, and ministries that were drawn from her own life experiences. Having not attended that class myself, I was impressed with the practicality of it all and was blessed by being reminded of many scenarios from our family’s past. I’ve transferred them to CD’s in hopes of perpetuating her teaching ministry and am pleased to hear that a former church will use them at a women’s retreat next fall.

Finally, the balance of the donations from Mary’s well fund (over $32,000) have been sent to Charity: Water—an organization that installs water wells in areas of Africa that desperately need clean water (most of the diseases in that nation stem from impure water). With the monies we provided, two deep bore wells will be installed in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, one being a community well and the other a well and other sanitary facilities for a school. From start to finish the projects will take about 18 months; information on the progress of each well will be provided from time to time and ultimately a GPS coordinate will be assigned on each well and their respective sites can be viewed at Also, a bronze plaque in Mary’s name will be installed at each well. Hopefully, at some time in the future my son-in-law, Matthew, who served as a nurse in Ethiopia a few years back, will be able to view these wells with our grandson, Andrew (a fitting tribute to his grandmother).

 Charity: Water informed me that an anonymous donor has offered to match any funds for work in that area at this time, so an additional community well and school project will be provided beyond that sponsored by Mary’s well fund—four deep well projects total, all because of a desire Mary had last fall for our family to collect loose change up until Christmas and donate the proceeds to some charitable organization for digging a well somewhere in Africa! Not only so, my youngest daughter, Kirsten, organized a combined birthday party for her and friends last week that raised over $2,000 for another Charity: Water project.

 Otherwise, Seth seems to be doing well. With warmer weather on the horizon he will be able to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine he loved in former years. He remains remarkably fit for one in his situation, with daily routines in the Quadriciser, a passive exercise machine, and episodes on a tilt board that is designed to keep his leg bones strong and his feet properly straight and flexible. I am grateful for the friends who offer to come over and stay with him when I need to get out for errands and appointments.


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January 28th 2013

Update from Craig Esvelt

January 2013

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of sorrow will not overflow;

For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”

(old Christian hymn)

People continually ask how I am doing since Mary’s eternal home going. The loss of my beloved wife, compared to—in a manner of speaking—that of Seth, by virtue of his traumatic brain injury over nine years ago, has impacted me differently. Even though we did not deal with an actual, physical death with regard to our son, the grief I experienced after Seth’s accident has been of a sharper, more devastating kind of pain, for it not only entails a loss of companionship with the son I had known but the horrible realization that (for him) life as he had known it was effectively over at age 23, that he would never experience so much of the good things it had to offer. His was a life cut prematurely short, one of so much potential unrealized and dreams unfulfilled. Mary, on the other hand, ran the course of her life very well, having enriched more people’s lives in a very positive way than most women who live well beyond the 62 years that was given her (and I think those who knew her well would agree). I loved her more deeply than anyone this side of heaven and I certainly miss her presence and grieve the loss of her companionship, her encouragement, and so many other ways she blessed my life, but she first of all belonged to her Savior and I accept that she was “on loan” to me from the Lord. Part of the way I deal with the grief of her absence is in purposing to thank God for the 40 great years He gave us rather than succumbing to resentment for the loss of the 20 or so years I presumed I still had coming to us. The assurance that she is very much alive in a very real place that transcends anything this earth has to offer—and that we will be reunited someday—is truly a wonderful benefit of my faith in Jesus Christ, a great source of comfort. To put it another way, I grieve over Mary (my loss, my pain), but not for her (since she is better off now), whereas I have grieved both over Seth and for him. Surely the prayers of so many of our friends have, as well, cushioned the blow my family has been dealt, and for that I am grateful.

Aside from the predictable emotional ups and downs, life has also taken a turn so far as activities and responsibilities are concerned. Much of my days are now spent having to do what Mary did so well and what was too often taken for granted—doing the laundry, cooking dishes, house cleaning, as well as the daily routines of Seth’s care, e.g., bathing, food preparation, adjusting his position, changing pads, getting him in and out of his passive exercise machine, and so forth. Although he cannot communicate in any meaningful fashion, I find that just having another person in the house is comforting; it would be more difficult to endure Mary’s absence if I had been left all alone in this house. Seth affords me another reason to get up each morning. The downside is being so utterly homebound; each time I need to leave home for various appointments, church, groceries, and any other necessary errands, I have to plan ahead and secure someone to be here with him, and even then for only a matter of hours. I am blessed by the friends who have stepped in to help. Such a restricted lifestyle is a far cry from the anticipated “empty nest” years Mary and I had envisioned together years ago. And who would have thought, at this stage of life, that I would be assuming the role of a “single parent”?!

Seth seems to be doing well, although he and I recently had a nasty virus to deal with despite our having had flu shots. He still smiles frequently and gratuitously at my lame attempts at humor, and is probably looking forward to sunnier days to come when he can spend more time outside on the patio. I regret that so much of his social life is now limited to the presence of only one parent; undoubtedly he misses his mom’s loving care and bright spirit. Visits with my six month-old grandson and Seth’s nephew are a welcome event; Andrew is a happy little fellow and we often sit him on Seth’s lap in the wheelchair.

My daughters and I have been supremely blessed by the response to the Mary Esvelt Well Fund, by which we intend to support the digging of wells to provide fresh water for Ethiopians and perhaps others as well. Donations have exceeded $30,000 so far, which far surpasses anything Mary envisioned in the month prior to her death when she asked us as a family to begin collecting loose change in water bottles that would be cashed in at Christmas. She who refreshed so many spiritually in this life will continue to refresh others physically though she now resides in heaven! Donations can be made to: Valley View Christian Church, at 25605 124th Ave. SE, Kent, WA 98030, to make her influence ongoing.

If you haven’t yet viewed the 9-minute video of Mary’s life and snippets of her teaching that was shown at her memorial service, you can click on to


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November 23rd 2012

November 22, 2012

A Husband and Father’s Perspective

On November 1st, the day after his mother passed away, Seth had a pained expression on his face that generally means something hurts. I usually ask him, “Seth, if something hurt’s, blink your eyes and I’ll get you some Tylenol.” This time there was no response until I said, “If you’re feeling sad because of your mom, blink your eyes,” and he immediately blinked several times. For him and me, there will now be a “new normal” around the house, without the precious woman who had been so much the very heart of our family, whose love and daily sacrifices were too often taken for granted. On this Thanksgiving Day, I am particularly thankful for the 40 wonderful years the Lord granted me to spend with such a special lady.

Mary’s memorial service drew over 600 people, even filling the balcony of the large church with folks standing two deep in the back, and many others were viewing it on the internet. It was a tribute to a life well-lived, for she had obviously touched many lives. Mary had instructed me a few months earlier that she didn’t want anyone to preach a sermon at her memorial service, she just wanted meto share some thoughts and memories. Somehow I managed to do that. Many friends and acquaintances had written in to offer their condolences and memories of her as well, and two pastors and an elder from the three churches we have been part of read about four pages of these testimonies, selections that had been whittled down from about 35 pages of cards and emails I had accumulated during the previous couple of weeks. One that was read had been sent from a woman in our church. She said, About two weeks before Mary died, I was listening to her tell a few of us what she had been telling Seth. She said that she had been telling him that she would be waiting for him in heaven and that she couldn’t wait to hear EVERYTHING that he had been thinking over the past years. She was so excited to be able to sit with him and LISTEN to him. Her sweet mother’s heart was so evident. Dying really meant nothing to her, but getting to communicate again with Seth meant so much. It blessed my heart!!

I presented my two daughters with a ruby each, something that Mary had also requested I do. These will be placed in a setting of the girls’ choice to remind them of Proverbs 31:10-“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies”—an encouragement for them each time they look at these gems to be that kind of woman and to bring to their minds their mother, who was such a woman.

We had hoped to record the memorial service but, due to unforeseen limitations, we were not able to do so. Our hope is that someone who may have viewed the service online may also have saved it onto their home computer (let us know if you are out there!). Aside from that, a nine and a half minute video of Mary’s life and video excerpts of her teaching that was shown at the conclusion of her memorial service will soon be made available for downloading for those of you who knew her. In the meantime, this video may be viewed at:

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