Today I spent the better part of the afternoon looking forward to settling in to write something humorous. Feeling the need for a little laughter in my life opened my eyes to numerous opportunities as I traveled about. Many ideas floated around in my dome, so funny were some, I was seen standing alone laughing out loud like a crazy person on the subway. Not a bad thing really, I think it’s a benefit to keep people off guard sometimes.
It felt as though my brain was on fire! Smile across my face, grinning from ear to ear, I could hardly keep my enthusiasm to blog under wraps. It seemed an eternity before the keys of my computer were clacking beneath my finger tips! Writing keeps me sane and this was my moment of pure laughter ridden sanity, waiting to unfold! I sat down at my desk with a hot cup of tea, cracked my knuckles and gazed upon my carelessly scribbled notes of hysterics. Then something occurred to me, hitting my brain like a ton of bricks! I was rocked to the core, my eyes darted across the desk top searching for my calendar, hoping praying I was wrong. It just couldn’t be, nope, no way! I really didn’t need this right now! Pure selfishness on my part really.. But I knew it was true, I could sense it, I could feel it, the pit of my stomach hurt and I began to feel nauseous. It doesn’t matter how many years go by, its always there to remind me, to haunt me, to let me know how quickly life can change. Everything changes in the blink of an eye and there is nothing any of us can do about it.
March 22 2001
A day like any other, right? What I didn’t know was this would be the last day I would ever have a normal conversation with my wife again. It was the last time we went about our business like all married couples will. Off to work, off to daycare for the boys, off to school for me. Dinner with the family, small talk before bed, studying for me, snuggling with the baby for her. It was another average some might even say boring day. Something I took for granted all to often. Something I think we all take for granted “all to often”.
March 23 2001
I awoke early and headed off to school, I kissed my wife on the cheek and told her I loved her. She mumbled good luck on your test and I love you, it was the last time I would ever hear her voice. It was the last interaction with recognition that would ever transpire between the two of us. Little did I know what test she really was referring too. It was and has been the hardest test of my life.
She had the day off and was going on a trip to the park with our oldest, the newborn and some friends. I was in class preparing to take an exam when I received the call. A friend of ours, with her at the park called me, panicked, nervously explaining that my wife was on the ground complaining of severe chest pain. “She just wants to go home” was exclaimed; our friend didn’t think that was right. Little did she know how right she was! I remained calm performing a quick assessment over the phone, quickly advising her to hang up with me and call 911! If she didn’t do it I was going too! I had the day off work for class, so it was my Engine Company that arrived on scene. My guys took care of her, my guys accompanied her to the hospital, my guys made the call, reporting everything they knew directly to me. My guys were suffering too.
And so started a 19 day odyssey of emotion, heart-break, self discovery, unity, hope, and finally complete destruction of what I thought was my life. Kimberly Nadine perished on April 10 2001 after a hard-fought battle against a failing heart. That very moment started a journey that woke me up sending me on my way. It was the test of my life and I am still living that test to this day.
A promise made, a promise kept…..
I promised Kim I would never forget those 19 days, I also promised I would never forget the ten years we spent together, using them as a lesson learned in how not to be a husband. I was selfish, self-centered, egotistical and a generally a poor excuse for a spouse. Looking back I often wonder why she chose me. She tried her best to smooth the rough edges, but before finishing the job she was gone. This left me looking into the eyes of our children, seeing her and wondering why. So I’ve made a point to never forget, every year it comes, on this day I keep my promise. To hold that in perspective one must remember, It’s hard to take a scar and never let it heal. To pick at the wounds of those lost until they bleed. But I continue to do this, as a reminder of what it takes to be a better person. The person I felt she always wanted me to become. I kept a detailed journal over the 19 days at Stanford hospital. On this day every year I take a moment to myself, pick up the journal I kept, let it fall open and read an entry from what ever page appears. In 11 years the same page has never revealed itself twice. I read it, I remember, I go through sadness, anger, and eventually peace. It’s difficult to do, it leaves a lump in my throat, and sometimes depending on the page, it leaves me weeping. Not for the fact she perished, not for the fact she is not here to see her children, but for the unknown. I will never know what she felt, or how she suffered. But I carry a fair idea due to my medical knowledge. I will never know if she gave up because I told her it was ok to go, letting her know I understood if she wanted to quit fighting. She fought really hard through two failed operations, the odds were stacked against her. I knew it, the doctors knew it, no one wanted to verbally say it! After I whispered it was ok, and told her I loved her I stepped out of the room to gather myself and bring her mom in to see her. It never happened, ten minutes later she went into cardiac arrest and died. I will never know if she heard those words I wanted so badly to take back. I will never know if she heard me say I love you one last time. Those images can never be erased from my head, images of her dead lifeless body lying there so peaceful at rest. Cold…….
So that brings me to today.
My cheerfulness depleted, my humor erased. I walked to my dorm and pulled out the books that hide my journal. In goes the good air, out goes the bad. Head pounding, weight of a rough week on my shoulders, eyes already misting, I hold the book ever so gently as to not influence the fall of pages. It opens… Here is the page it fell upon.
It’s not the greatest, I wrote it 11 years ago, tired, exhausted and emotionally spent.
April 22, 2001
Its been 12 days since you’ve gone. I am lonely and tired. Caring for both boys by myself is exhausting. I never realized how much I took your hard work for granted. I promise to never do that in a relationship again. Someday I think I will publish this journal, not just for the boys, but for all men in America. My eyes have been opened and I feel that many as I was are walking around blind.
I want every man in America to learn these lessons now and not the hard way as I have! It’s too painful, and though many will have to learn them the hard way maybe, just maybe if one listens it will make a difference.
Men in America need to understand what true love is:
True love is holding hands, not because you have to, but because you want too.
True love is knowing when to look deep in her eyes and tell her its going to be OK.
A true loving marriage does not consist of coming home to find your laundry done, your meal cooked and a warm bed to sleep in, that’s called having a maid.
True love is telling her you love her every morning, you never know when it will be your last.
True love is watching the mother of your children beam with pride at the sight of your children.
True love is never, ever going to bed angry.
True love is sitting at the breakfast table with a cup of coffee listening. Even though you have some place else you should be and something you want to say, just listen.
True love is letting her sleep while you take care of the kids. Not just once in a while, but on a regular basis. They are your children too.
True love is standing back and marveling at how much one person can accomplish in your absence. Then letting the other know how much you appreciate the effort by performing the exact same way in her absence.
True love is never losing interest, marriage isn’t easy but if you can just call her once or twice a day to listen,talk, and remind her how much you love her, your relationship will flourish.
I am remarried with two more children for a total of four, as most of you know who follow my blog. When I read my journal entry today I was fully expecting my annual tear fest to start storming and yet I realized something halfway through the page. I have accomplished all of these snippets. Every single one of them! I kept my promise! I kept it, I kept my word and I have a relationship that I never take for granted. I am blessed, I am whole, my family is one.
In life we are often faced with difficult insurmountable obstacles that are placed in our paths of growth and exploration. But overcome them we will, with perseverance, and will power. Remembering who we are, where we come from and trusting in where we are going. I never in my life thought at 34 I would be widowed with two kids. It was a hard and bumpy ride, I pray I am never in that position again. It would have been a shame had I not learned from the experience. But I came away from it stronger and wiser than before, able to give and receive love without question. To trust and believe that lives can be rebuilt, relationships forged. To get up off the floor dust myself off and start all over again. Death is never easy for anyone under any circumstances. Some lessons are learned the hard way. It’s just the way it is…..
Remember life is a gift for you to cherish. Dont waste it. For all you know tomorrow is your last day. How do you want to be remembered?