Wide open arms.

That's how Elaine Gardner remembers her son, Gene, embraced life, faith, illness and eventual death.

It's also an image, the first-time Grove author has used, for her book Arms Wide Open.

Part memoir and part spiritual encouragement, Gardner uses the manuscript - drawn from her many journals - in order to not only tell Gene's story, but also help encourage others who may find themselves along a similar path.

"Everytime [Gene] would get out in the wind, he would open his up, for him it was an expression of joy," Gardner said. "I went through a lot of titles, but this is just how God is, arms wide open [for] us."

For much of the book, published using CreateSpace on Amazon, Gardner talks about how her son's diagnosis with brain cancer impacted not only the family, but also the community of Grove.

"Gene is in there a lot, because it was his journey," Gardner said. "But the real story is the care and support we got, and how God works in our lives all of the time."

Gardner said time and time again, she, her husband, Mark, and younger son Dale, found themselves receiving help from people in unique and unusual ways.

Gardner attributes the care and support from others as a gift from God. 

"God works in our lives, through others, so we know we are in his presence," Gardner said.

Gene was 16, and a student at Grove High School, when doctors discovered he had oligodendroglioma, a tumor growing between the two spheres of his brain. 

Diagnosed in 1999, Gene fought the disease for nine years before his death in October 2008 through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and more.

"He lived a good life for nine years," Gardner said. "He still enjoyed life."

Gardner said the book developed as a way to talk about her journey, which took place alongside Gene.

"The main story, [is one] of God's care, not just for us but for all of his children," Gardner said. "When someone does something good for you, you just have to tell the story.

"God did so many things, [which] just allowed us to see that he works in our lives all of the time."

Gardner said sometimes, the difficult times can blind people to God's love.

"You can get so caught up in life's hardships and disappointments, you don't always look for God," Gardner said. "I just wanted to show how [God] opened the doors, and when he did, something was evident he was preparing the way for us for something else."

Gardner said the book is filled with moments that ultimately helped strengthen her faith, even in the midst of trials.

"When [God] did something so great, I would write it down," Gardner said. "I didn't want to forget those moments or circumstances."

While parts are sad, she hopes readers will take away a sense of encouragement from her words, as well as how much God loves them.

"I just want other people to be encouraged," Gardner said. "I've had lots of disappointments and stressful days. 

"Some people just give up home. But you can't give up home. Help is there."

INTEGRIS Grove Hospital chaplain Gary Bishop wrote the foreward to Gardner's book. 

"I wanted Gary to read it because he does a lot of grief counseling," Gardner said. "I wanted this book to be encouraging for families going through their own grief.

"Then he wrote the foreword, which to me confirmed there was God's hand [in the project] again."

Gardner, who works as the chief financial officer for Grand Savings Bank, said she would like to write a few other books; possibly a humorous book and and maybe a children's book.

More about Gardner

Gardner and her husband, Mark, have been married for 41 years. The couple, along with their son, Dale and his wife, Tosha, and their two children, Sophia and Blake, all live in the Grove area.

The Gardners have a cattle operation in rural Grove. She has worked at Grand Savings Bank for 30 of her 40 years in banking.

If You Go

Elaine Gardner of Grove will host a book signing for her debut book, Arms Wide Open, from 2 to 4 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 15, Grand Savings Bank in Grove.

Books will be available for purchase during the signing. They are also available at Sissy’s Place in Grove and on Amazon.com.

For more information, persons interested may email elainegardner.author@gmail.com or visit www.facebook.com/elainegardner.author.