When life as you’ve known it is entirely upended, how do you not only survive the grief but also find new ways to grow and reflect more of God’s grace in the midst of loss? Rachael Crabb joins Rosanne Moore today to share how God has met her in the 2.5 years since her husband Larry’s death and the opportunities she’s found amid loss to offer His love to others.
Author Rachael Crabb is a former teacher and ministry consultant who has spoken for conferences and ministry retreats worldwide. Married to Dr. Larry Crabb for over 54 yrs, she is the mother of 2, grandmother of 5, and soon-to-be a great-grandmother. She writes and co-edits for Larger Story’s blog column, “Becoming Me, Without You.”
Reading & Relating book club
[00:00:28] Rosanne Moore: Hello, Larger Story friends. Welcome back to the Relational Spirituality podcast. I’m your host today, Rosanne Moore, and I have a surprise guest, Rachael Crabb, with me today. Anybody who is familiar with our ministry knows and is excited to see her. For those of you who don’t know Rachael was the wife for over 52 years, Rachael?
[00:00:56] Rachael Crabb: 54 years.
[00:00:57] Rosanne Moore: 54 years of Dr. Larry Crabb. She is the mother of two, grandmother of five, and soon to be great grandmother of one. She’s many things. She’s a wonderful teacher, she’s a great hostess, she’s a loving and thoughtful person, and she is also the primary mover and shaker behind our column on “becoming me without you.”
Rachael, thank you for coming today. We’re so happy to have you.
[00:01:34] Rachael Crabb: I’m just happy to be here. I’m glad I could get on this. People who know Larry, he used to work on zoom and I always had to set him up on that to get it going. I would work at least an hour and a half ahead of time so we could do it. Rosanne and I had that today with me. I’m not up to date on the tech since he’s been gone for over 2 years and it’s hard to get on again. So I’m learning.
[00:01:58] Rosanne Moore: Yes, and we’re using a different system now, so that was a whole new learning curve. Although part of the time was me getting set up.
[00:02:08] Rachael Crabb: But you’re so good at this.
[00:02:11] Rosanne Moore: Thank you for being with us. I want to start with your blog column, because I think it’s a good starting place for you sharing what the journey has been like for you since Larry’s gone to be with the Lord. The title of that blog column is “Becoming Me Without You.” Share more about that journey.
[00:02:36] Rachael Crabb: It was when Rosanne and Karlene were working on a strategy plan. They invited me down to spend some time with them while they were working together. I said, What do you girls have in mind? They said, we’d like you to write something for Larger Story. We think we need to have a grief column.
So far we’ve had mostly widowers and widows talking to us. I introduced them and they’re all friends of mine or are becoming friends of mine. We had a wonderful person who had a book, Tracy Pratt, who wrote a book called Anticipatory Grief. That’s what I truly lived for 25 years, because Larry was diagnosed with cancer – islet cell gastrinoma, which starts in the pancreas – he was diagnosed with that in 1997. He passed away in 2021 and there were 25 years of anticipatory grief because I was called into the hospital several times with the 1st round of pancreas surgery. I was called in three times for them to tell me he probably had less than six hours to live.
We’re all dying, but we knew he was dying. It was 25 years. Unbelievable. 25 years and in the last month of his life, I think he was so productive. He was writing things up until he was laying in the hospice bed for eight days. He was still writing. He wrote a note to all our neighbors to say, be happy for me. I’m in paradise and I want you to be there with me. He wrote that to the neighbors where we lived. That just really hit.
I was given a book called Becoming Me Without You. I thought I lived a lot of time becoming me without him because there were lots of things that I had to do. I was in preparation for things. So now it’s learning to be me. I’ve had two widowers that have just been fun and the several of us have been widows. I had a mother of a mother and father of a daughter and I have another one of those coming up real soon and I have in the can. Something about a mother’s death. So it’s not just for us, but we did feel we were special, and I didn’t realize how different it was, death is death, but death of your other half is your half a person.
[00:06:26] Rosanne Moore: We made reference to the fact that you had been married for 54 years, but before that you had been dating for what, eight years, six years, something like that?
[00:06:42] Rachael Crabb: We knew each other from the time we were 10 and we didn’t start dating each other or sitting together in church services or things like that till we were 12.
[00:06:53] Rosanne Moore: So he was a part of pretty much your whole life. So, what has that looked like? How did you get through? You talked about the anticipatory grief. We’re reading SoulTalk right now in this quarter, we’re focused on that. Larry opens the book talking about when he got the initial diagnosis and it was not good and the sort of existential crisis that he had with many of those. That immediate one, right after getting that news. Then, like you said, he went on for a long time and each time facing that and having him pull out of it. I know for me when I realized, okay, he really is going home this time, there was the sense of, this is actually happening now.
[00:08:01] Rachael Crabb: Yes. I had several of his friends say something’s going on in their life right now and they’ve picked up the phone to call Larry because that would have been their first phone call. That’s the stories I’ve gotten from many people and even I know he’s gone. I really know it, but I know also, how can I be so sad when he’s ecstatically happy? Because that’s all he wanted. He was becoming a person. In fact, friends have called and said, did you read his 66 love letters? Did you read what he said in, I think it was first and second Timothy. I did go read it. And they said all he talked about was heaven. He just talked about heaven. He was very heavenly minded.
[00:08:52] Rosanne Moore: Yeah. At the end, he was like, “Don’t you dare pray that I’ll be healed. I’m ready to go!”
[00:08:58] Rachael Crabb:. “Don’t you dare say that.” People had quoted that, they said he would just say, “I want to see…I want to get home. I want to get home.” He was tired of being poked and prodded. We just knew that our weeks were filled with doctors visits as many as five times a week. He was in chemo even though it was New Year’s day, Christmas day. It was arsenic, we knew, but didn’t realize that he was probably filled with all kinds of blisters inside by that time and he had lost so much weight.
We want our column and the editor for that column is Jeanie Sterling and she and her husband lived with us at least a total of three months while he was being treated for prostate cancer as a result of Agent Orange in Vietnam. He was on the registry as a person who got that from Vietnam, from Agent Orange. They lived with us and he was treated at the VA.
When he passed away, Larry went out, sick, though he was. He and I went a week or two after Al’s death and spent time with her and we became very close at that time. But I didn’t get it yet. I didn’t understand what it was to be a widow.
If you read the first blog, it was a letter to us, my boys and me, about John missing Larry, his friend. He was a widower for 16 years when Larry passed away. Jeanie came in for Larry’s birthday. She came to town, and Paul and Maribeth Niager came to town. I had some people in for Larry’s first birthday in heaven.
My son asked a question the other day. He said, “Mom, I wonder if you celebrate his biological birth or his rebirth.” The questions he comes up with! He said, “I wonder which one they’re celebrating in heaven. Do you think they’re celebrating Dad’s biological birth or do they celebrate the day that they know that he became a born again Christian?” That was an interesting question. I said, “You study it, Son, and come up with the answer.”
But they were here, and I got John’s letter on his birthday. That’s all in the blog part that I got the letter from him. I said to her, “He gets it, he understands what it is. Because it’s a different thing, celebrating holidays or not anything except that son Kenny, who lives around the corner from me, told his dad he would never be away from me. He’s going to be away for my birthday coming up; he’s going to be away and I said, “I can do it. I can do it.” “No, Mom. I don’t know. I don’t know if we should go. I don’t know.” I said, “You’re great.”
So anyway, she read it and I said, “Let’s call John and thank him for this letter.” Paul and Maryibeth had left by that time. Jeanie was there with me, and we called John, and we talked and chatted and laughed.
The next morning I said, “I think we’re supposed to ‘date’ John on the phone.” Honestly, we have the best time, the three of us. It’s so nice for me, it’s nice for Jeanie, a brand new person. John was very active in the first church Larry and I went to 57 years ago when we went to Champaign, Illinois. There are even some stories that Tom and Jenny Board met at a potluck that John and Sharon had sponsoring a college group at the University of Illinois at the chapel we went to, and so Tom and Jenny Board met through them. It’s just amazing.
[00:13:39] Rosanne Moore: We had Tom Board on just a few weeks ago as one of our guests here, so that’s an interesting backstory for him.
Thinking about the whole issue of SoulTalk and how you spent time with Jeanie and you were there for her and you got close, but you didn’t really understand what it was like, what do you think now? You talk with people who are grieving; what’s different in the kind of conversations with somebody who’s in that place of raw grief?
[00:14:23] Rachael Crabb: I want to go back and apologize to anyone who’s become a widow that I’ve talked to. I want to apologize for some of the stupid things I said,
[00:14:37] Rosanne Moore: I think we all feel that way when we get through a lot.
[00:14:41] Rachael Crabb: I really do. I said that to Jeanie, so she wrote on the blog two or three months ago. We had something about I’m sorry. I’m sorry was what she wrote about. I’m sorry. And I love that. People want to help. I love that. I was always one to say what can I do for you?
I read a story when I was younger and I should have caught on to this where someone had passed away in a family and the next door neighbor came over. It was back in the days when you had to polish your shoes, the next door neighbor came over with a shoe polishing kit and said, I’m going to polish everyone’s shoes for the funeral, because in those days, we didn’t go to church on Sundays without shoes polished. So we all had the polishing kits and you worked on your shoes, and so someone said they went and did that. I thought of that. I read that when I was probably in my 20s. Why didn’t I take it to heart?
Jeanie wrote a whole article that I thought she did such a great job on. Everyone who’s written for us has done a wonderful job, and we’ve all had different experiences. But Jeanie talked about people saying to her, “What can I do?” And you’re never going to call them back. Ask them, “Hey, I thought of something for you to do.” And so she gave us a lot of good ideas. I think that really makes a difference when just out of the clear blue, someone does something.
[00:16:18] Rosanne Moore: You certainly did that for me recently when I had my appendectomy, you showed up with the best chicken salad, literally the best I’ve ever had in my life, and I am a connoisseur. Chicken salad is one of my favorite things ever.
[00:16:35] Rachael Crabb: I didn’t know that. I thought, I’m going to go down to see my neighbors from Boca Raton, Florida down your direction and I thought, I just have to drop some chicken salad. You have to know I don’t cook anymore . I eat dinner at Kenny’s house.
[00:16:54] Rosanne Moore: I really feel honored then.
[00:16:57] Rachael Crabb: That’s another thing. It’s hard cooking for one. It really is. Kenny and Leslie have just – I’m just an extra person at their place and he usually has his kids who always have extra friends. I said I come every night. He says, no, mom, you only come about 5 out of 7.
I told him recently that I’m going to only come 3. And so far I’ve been there three times this week, so…
[00:17:33] Rosanne Moore: Maybe you’ll start next week, right?
[00:17:35] Rachael Crabb: I will because he’s away so I will have maybe the whole week, but anyway, it’s just the practical of saying what you’re going to do. And if they say, oh, we’re fine, that’s fine.
Anita Grace and I have a special relationship. I do with your boys too. Your kids help me a lot. They come up and empty storage closets for me, and they just are wonderful kids, and I just love feeding them something or giving them a gift card to go eat on their way home. I just love having Rosanne’s kids because Rosanne’s done such a wonderful job with those kids.
[00:18:19] Rosanne Moore: They sure love Ms. Rachael.
[00:18:22] Rachael Crabb: It’s just fun to have them around and they get so excited when I would bring something and hand it to them, it was really good for me to have to make that. It really was. Thanks for letting me have that opportunity. I’m glad to see you. I have not seen you in person since your operation, because when I’d come…
[00:18:46] Rosanne Moore: I was asleep. I was wiped out and I was napping. I think
[00:18:50] Rachael Crabb: I think I carried things in with the kids two times without seeing you. Anyhow. It’s nice to see you.
[00:19:02] Rosanne Moore: Yes, it is. We need to get together in person.
[00:19:06] Rachael Crabb: I know. After September.
[00:19:09] Rosanne Moore: She’s making reference to the fact that we just put a bid on a house, so we’re hoping to move in September.
Even before Larry’s homecoming, you had your own identity. You’re an author. You’ve written several books, one on hospitality. You contributed with Larry to some devotional books and to some books on marriage. Listen In, you wrote with two friends. It was a book – I was going to say it’s a book for women, but really it’s a book for everybody. It’s three women’s voices.
[00:19:55] Rachael Crabb: Guys will call me about that. It’s a great book. They said they were recommending it to their women. A pastor said, yeah we did that book in a men’s group and we whipped through it, but we enjoyed it. I thought that was sweet of him to say.
[00:20:20] Rosanne Moore: I think for any husband who wants to better love his wife, that book is a good resource. I think also there are things just for being a human, the way that you had conversations, the way that you engaged with your own story. That’s not gender specific in terms of everybody has a story that influences how they’re living today. And that book is a really good model of how meaningful conversations with engaged people who are engaged in listening and loving you through even the hard parts of your story, how it makes a difference in the way that you see yourself, the way that you see God at work in the hard places of your life. It’s a great book. It’s a really good book. We will have a link for that in the show notes for anybody who wants to check it out.
But you had written those things. You had been on mission boards. You had done other things. I’m setting you up because I already know the answer to this. What are some of the things you’re doing now? How have things changed? You spent a lot of time traveling with Larry and doing the SSDs and the next steps before the spirit schools, the spiritual direction.
What would you share with our listeners? What’s life look like now? Because you haven’t stopped. You haven’t stopped being Rachael in the middle of this.
[00:21:48] Rachael Crabb: It’s funny because I have a ministry in my apartment and it’s wonderful. The door has opened for me to have this ministry. The first party I had was the longest day of the year. All of a sudden it’s like the Holy Spirit said to me, “Tell them, introduce them to your husband.” And so I introduced them to Larry on their way out the door. It was so sweet. I wrote up a story about who Larry was and where he is and that I was doing this gathering because I had read something that Larry said, and it was like Larry told me to reach out to others. I put that in there and then I put the letter that I wrote all about introducing Larry to them and on the way, when they were leaving the longest night party at 10 o’clock, they said, speech from our hostess! I said, no, I’m just so glad you’re here. I said, “On the way out, on the entryway table, there’s an envelope, no names on the envelope, but I want to tell you about my husband. This party is my new normal, and this is the first time I’ve had more than six or eight people in.” And I said I was a person who liked having people in.
I said,” This is the first time, and here there are almost 30 of you, on my little back deck.” I said, “I want you to know who my husband is.” And on the way out, they picked it up. The next day, I had six people call me. People showed up at my door crying about how they wished they knew him. I was taking care of a woman upstairs who’s just a young woman and she called me from the hospital that she had a stroke. I took that upon myself because they call me the “mayor of the apartments.” However, the other day someone called me “the queen”. So I think I’d rather go with “the queen” than “the mayor.” But, I went up to take care of her dog named Elvis. Of course, I was partial toward Elvis. On her refrigerator, she had hanging the grief shared daily that I had given them where it said what Larry said, “Sometimes when you’re feeling down and you’re feeling low, the best thing you can do is reach out to someone else so as to not get wrapped up in yourself.”
I said, “That’s what my husband told me to do. That’s why we have this party tonight.” And it was hanging on her refrigerator with the letter right under it. It happened to be a week before June 21st, where I had another solstice party and it was hanging on her refrigerator. No way did I even think that she would hang that anywhere or she would say that.
But that was just one person. And I said, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you.”
I’m now in the midst of another domestic situation here but I have good times on the airplane. I went to see Tripp and Judy from Toronto to Quebec City. I met a French teacher who happens to be Quebecois and she happened to move here to live next to her son just down the road from me. We had lunch together yesterday and we’re planning on meeting a lot. I just think, no matter what situation you’re in, you have to make God look good because right now people are trying to make Him look so bad and the Christians aren’t helping.
Larry used to always at the end of an SSD do that passage of the dry bones and saying that he’s going to raise up an army of dry bones. And so that’s what I feel there. There’s a group of dry bones ready to be raised up and we have to be raised up to make God look good.
It’s just this past week I was saying to Rosanne, I get blindsided every time in the GriefShare program. They call it ambushed. I opened up. I do daily readings from the GriefShare. This past week, I read Days 323 and 316. I’m reading along to this little Be Involved in Others Life. You need to find the courage to get deeply involved in other people’s lives and experience the mess and frustration, the sense of impotence, the sense of not knowing what to do, says Dr. Larry Crabb. It says, Dr. Larry Crabb says, in the field of the soul, there are no professional surgeons. There are only caring Christians. I think that’s a biblical thing for us to realize. Soul Talk. And you can’t go in and hit them over the head with the gospel.
I loved what Francis Schaeffer said. He said, if I was next to someone on an airplane for an hour, for the first 45 minutes, I’d talk about life, and the last 15, I would talk about the afterlife. Francis Schaeffer said that one time. So when I’m on an airplane, I talk about life. It was really interesting. The gal I’ve been talking to is a wonderful believer, I did not realize that. I knew it by the time I got off the plane, but by meeting her yesterday, it was absolutely a treat to me. So I get the blessing by reaching out to others.
[00:29:01] Rosanne Moore: It really is a matter of the Lord showing up in the middle. I think sometimes we talk about ministering to others in a way that we think we’re being unselfish, but it’s almost paternalistic. What you’re describing, I think, is what happens when the Spirit really is at work, because there’s a blessing on both sides. Life gets stirred for both parties when we’re really following the Spirit instead of having our own agenda. You show up, you offer who you are, and God shows up in the middle of it and you walk away encouraged as well.
[00:29:40] Rachael Crabb: I attend a Bible study at another church, but I’m leading the Bible study and it’s been great and wonderful with two other gals. The women in the Bible study say, you girls are an answer to prayer. We’re all three new to the church, but I really enjoy just day to day interactions. I like the interactions. I’m old. I don’t know if I’m cut out to be the Bible study person in the future, but I surely have enjoyed the context with people and it’s really good. You say to a kid to know your future, look at your friends. To know your future look at your friends and it’s the friends that will pull you along or the friends that will bring you down and the teenagers have to learn that. That’s one thing that my son Ken has been saying to his girls, if you want to see your future, look at your friends.
Now my future is only heaven. I’m going to be 79 in a few days and I miss Larry terribly, but I said to Rosanne, someone had said this to me in an email, he said an amazing thing. How our loved one can be so ecstatically happy who’s gone and we’re miserable some days. It’s been a hard time.
I spent a week with Trip and Judy, five days alone with just the three of us. We started in 1984. The four of us went all over the world. We started in Paris in 1984, and we were trying to rehearse all the places we’ve been and we couldn’t name them all. We could name incidents that happened and we laughed and we cried. I just think it’s something to do. You have to move on. I’m here. I said to someone, If Larry could see me, I picture seeing him and what he’s doing and that song “I Can Only Imagine” makes a big difference. If Larry could see me, he’d say, that’s just like Rachael because that’s exactly how we wrote our mission statement.
[00:32:15] Rosanne Moore: He’d have a twinkle in his eye as he said it and a big smile.
[00:32:19] Rachael Crabb: He would say, that’s just like Rachael, who’s out there taking care of the sick and she’s out there and that’s what her gifting is. I’m out there trying to make God look good, but it’s not easy. Sometimes I don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like making God look good. I want to have a pity party.
[00:32:42] Rosanne Moore: Thank you so much, Rachael, for sharing with us and for being who you are. Even as you deal with the loss of Larry of not being here, thank you for continuing to become you.
[00:33:01] Rachael Crabb: Becoming the real me. Yeah. I’m getting ready to be in a Job Bible study and of course I love Larry’s stuff on Job. Their favorite things in SoulTalk, and I don’t even know if it’s SoulTalk, where he talks about turning your chairs. I love the turning of the chairs image. I don’t even remember what’s in the books. Except for the girl who yesterday said to me, I was in my early twenties, I read his book and it just really impacted me. She said, I can’t even think of the title. I said it was called Inside Out . . I said it was called Inside Out. Because she was just telling it was gut wrenching. I said that was Inside Out. So I remember those things, but how many times have I heard him do Job devotion?
[00:34:02] Rosanne Moore: One of the things we’ve been talking about recently as we’re developing new things, new offerings for Larger Story is all of those devotional materials and all of his notes from the SSD and next step.
[00:34:18] Rachael Crabb: I may have given it over to you guys who work with this material. He did a home Bible study in Boca Raton, Florida, and he did whole books of the Bible. He sat in the middle of a living room and dining room in the doorway of that on a bar stool and taught both sides of the room to friends of our house, of our neighborhood. He taught that Bible study for years, and the guy recorded every Bible study. I don’t know if those ever got out to you all yet. I don’t know. They definitely were in my collection of stuff. I keep saving things to give Kep because you all have ideas in your strategic planning. Every time I turn around, I find another note from him. He was a note writer. In the morning he would leave me a note that says, I love you gorgeous, and he would leave the note and he would sign L. That was the best you could read of the signature. I think people call me and take a picture of what he wrote in their book. Could you tell me what this said?
I have wonderful memories. He was really the love of my life and and 25 years I lived with, is he going to leave today? Is he going to be called home today? But he was called home in a beautiful way. He chose to give up his medicine, give up all the things that were keeping him plugging along. He said, I’m tired of being poked and prodded, I just want to go home. He was so heavenly minded, he was no earthly good, that he would just hate what’s happening in this world today. He wouldn’t be able to stand it. God took him at a wonderful time. It was the right time. He gave us 25 years more than we ever thought we would have. 25 years.
He was sick when he was speaking at places.He went places sick. A lot of people have seen him very sick. He wouldn’t give up. That was the neat thing because he didn’t want to be a person who ever quit on God. He taught us how to die, how a Christian dies.
I think I told this story before, my brother said to me, sing Jesus Loves Me to him. Every night, when you and Kenny pray with him, sing Jesus Loves Me. We sang Jesus Loves Me, and one night I was alone. Kenny had already left, and it was Wednesday before he passed away. I was singing Jesus Loves Me, and he said, Rachael, I know He does. Why doesn’t He take me home? And I said, because you’re teaching us all how a believer dies and how they’re ready to go. And that’s what he taught us. One of our granddaughters said it the other day, she said, I couldn’t give up on Christianity as much as I have these teenage things in my system to give up on, she said, because I watched Pop die, I can’t do it. I thought, he taught us how to die. It’s been a wonderful lesson. It’s been a wonderful thing and it’s just lonely as all get out.
[00:38:08] Rosanne Moore: I think it’s funny because in Revelation it talks at one point about the prayers of the saints and it seems to me, the context indicates that it’s believers who are in the presence of the Lord.
[00:38:25] Rachael Crabb: In the golden bowl before the throne, yes, it’s Revelation 4
[00:38:31] Rosanne Moore: I really believe that he prays with more joy and more power for you now than he ever did, as faithfully as he did throughout his life in praying for people and for you. I have wondered what it was like for you because you had your morning prayer that you each prayed every morning and I’ve wondered what that was like for you to not have your partner in the morning to pray his half.
[00:39:06] Rachael Crabb: I tried doing it by myself for a while. There’s a woman who has faithfully followed Larry’s teaching. Her name is Marilee. She had no idea that Larry made my latte every morning before he went out. He got it already. All I had to do was push the button and I made a latte and, I understand from Jimmy that he was very proud of making a latte every morning and getting it ready. By the time he’d come home from breakfast – because remember he ate breakfast out every morning – by the time he came home I would have had my two cups of latte and he would clean the pot.
My friend Marilee sent me a cup that said, in the morning when I rise, just give me Jesus. I see it on my shelf over there. I always kept it next to the coffee pot. I took a picture of it and sent it to her. I said, you’ll never realize that’s what he did every morning. And now, it’s just Jesus and me. I had to learn how to clean the latte pot, because he would always wash it. Mine’s stained and he would just take care of that latte pot. When he came in, we’d pray our common prayer and the prayer that we prayed for 30 years, we’d pray that prayer and he’d come find me in the house, pray that prayer, go clean the coffee pot. Those little things like that, I took for granted, but in the morning when I rise, give me Jesus, and I’ll do the latte myself. Now I live in an apartment building that has a coffee bar in the front office. And so people carry their pots up there. No one makes coffee anymore. I make a latte because I like it. I do make my own because I like decaf and they only have caffeine up there.
[00:41:19] Rosanne Moore: Thank you so much, Rachael, for spending this time and sharing with our listeners.
[00:42:05] Rachael Crabb: Thank you for this opportunity. Blessings to all of you who are Larger Story supporters, backers, prayers, people who support this ministry. It’s really something. I wish all the people on there knew him personally. A lot of people do that are on there, but I’ve had some people that I’m meeting now that are now saying, Oh, we’re on Larger Story. They’ll hear this story. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Lord does in everyone’s life in the next little bit. Talk to you soon.
[00:43:00] Rosanne Moore: Great. Thank you, Rachael. Thank you for joining us today at the Relational Spirituality podcast, your place to belong, to become, and to be known. If you want to check out some of the books that we talked about today, the links are in the show notes and we look forward to having you back next week.
Thanks so much.