Coming to Terms…This ones for you Jim Wilson.

“If I ever needed to know how he was doing, I would simply read his blog….”

So are the words of a man I hold in high regard.

To Jim, this one’s for you.

Coming to terms with a traumatic event in your life can at times become very difficult. You and you alone will ultimately decide how, where and when you face whatever collateral damage that event may have inflicted upon your mind, body and soul.

I do not believe there is any one answer. For those that believe there is a dedicated path to recovery, I have no words. That every human being is so cookie cutter perfect, a simple pathway of textbook answers by those in the know is exactly how each person will perfectly handle grief, suffering, stress, emptiness, loneness, mental isolation, adversity and a host of other emotions is absurd.

Now don’t get me wrong, the help afforded through networks of well-meaning individuals with countless hour of education is definitely needed, wanted and effectively utilized.

My problem is this; those preaching the loudest are not the ones in the know. They are not the ones who have suffered and been helped. They are not the ones with hundreds of hours of education within the process. To me, when I look around the ones preaching the loudest are those who are arrogant and the closest to you. With little regard to how you feel, or the knowledge you have obtained along the way, believing they know more about you under the guise of caring for you because they are close to you and you appear to be struggling. Yet their motive most times is very clear. They wish to be the ones to say at the end of the day, they were there, and it was because of them and them alone that you are making it. In the end it is about them and not you. Most don’t even know they are behaving in this irrational manor, a smaller handful do and enjoy it.

There is no substitute for experience and even though I am speaking for myself, I wish those experiences on no one but wear mine like a badge of honor. I have earned this shit! Good bad or otherwise, I have earned my way through surviving each and every single devastating thing I have witnessed or been party too these 53 years of life. The ones speaking the loudest have witnessed little in my opinion and although everyone’s tolerance or idea of what a tragedy may or may not be is differing, I am sure I will be chastised at some point for my view being wrong or delusional.

I don’t know why I felt the need to get that off my chest but I did. All part of the process I guess.

I digress; I said this one’s for you my friend so here we go.

I have not comes to terms..

I still haven’t comes to terms with the passing of my first wife Kim. She was an amazingly beautiful human being, the mother of my first two sons and quite simply the kindest person I ever met.

If she did something to upset you, the minute she knew there was nothing that would stop her from correcting that wrong. In ten years we fought once. Once and it lasted a whole 20 minutes or so. She gave me two of the greatest gifts I had ever received. One is currently a CHP officer and the other works construction hoping to one day be a fireman like his old man. She never saw them grow up, she never saw them off to school, helped with their classes, went to camp with them, or guided them into adulthood. She missed it all. All of it.

I know she is gone, I know she will never walk through the door again, I know this is part of life and I know I carried on the way she would have wanted me too. I wish I could say goodbye, but I never have been able too. My heart hurts when I think about her, she was taken way too soon. I would have given it all up, walked away, allowed her life to be with someone else, somewhere else if it meant she wouldn’t have been taken.

I had not dealt with a lot of death at that point in my life. It was strange to see her after she had passed. Serene, peacefully in eternal slumber. It always stuck with me, if I close my eyes I can see her now. My job had not jaded me yet, life hadn’t begun to punish me. Little did I know.

I am also incredibly thankful for our time together. She made me a better person, she built up my confidence, supported my decisions and always stood by my side through the consequences. And believe me there were many. To deal with the younger me, love me and stand by my side on a daily basis took a saint.

There is a picture of her on our wall. She will forever be 34. To be so lucky.

I have still not come to terms with the death of my father.

A man I revered early on in childhood, who through failure and disgust with what I can only assume was himself, became an angry, grumpy and at times violent man. As a young boy I looked up to him, idolized him, loved standing in his shadow and believe me when I say my dad cast a large shadow! I learned much from him. It is because of him I have always believed in doing what’s right, even when no one is looking. Speaking for those who cannot or do not have the power to speak regardless of the consequences and never faltering on a true friend. EVER!

It is also because of him that I have spent a lifetime struggling with an explosive temper. Fighting the urge to fight at the drop of a hat or hit my kids as a form of punishment! I wrestle with it daily, but I do it because it is what’s right. I hated him for the times he beat me, I despised him as a teenager for those years and knew I would eventually become bigger and stronger than he would ever become. I did eventually become bigger and stronger, it didn’t help.

As he grew older he became harder to be around. I became softer in my stance but the damage was done. Our years of butting heads made it where I had a hard time loving him, seeing him as anything but a bully. My parents moved onto my property so we could keep an eye on them as they aged. In my naïve thought process I thought it would bring us closer but it pushed us farther apart. Both of us stubborn, both set in our ways I found myself purposely avoiding him.

When he passed away in our driveway, all I wanted to do was turn back time and say I was sorry.

Sorry for being a troublesome child.

Sorry for fighting/rebelling against him all the time.

Sorry for never living up to his standard.

Sorry for not being the son I am sure he wanted as I was adopted.

Sorry for so many damn things I could write an entire book.

I carried, and still do; all the guilt.

I just needed to be eight again, when he was my dad. Really my dad! The man who held me, kissed me, hugged me, let me sit next to him during a Niner’s game. I will never truly know what happened or why. But that was all I needed and as I parent my kids feeling as though I am failing at every moment, I pray when I am gone, I did a good enough job and they won’t feel this way. It sucks…

I have not come to terms with my second wife’s death.

How do you say goodbye twice? How do you even fathom believing you can not only lose one wife but two! Seriously!! What the hell is wrong with life that this can happen again! How can two amazing women walk into my life, stay for a while and then be gone like the wind. Ten years the first time felt like a dream, this (16 years) felt like the blink of an eye. An alternate universe, a black whole.

Kim went fairly quickly; her heart failing, it was painful, scary but she only suffered for a short period of time. But Jacy, poor Jacy struggled and fought, and struggled some more. She lived with incredible pain every single day, while trying her very best to show a consistent positivity that one could only hope our society strives for, yet really; who deserves that much pain and struggle? Who?

Jacy was a people person and not one person I knew thought otherwise. She had the incredibly rare ability to make a friend from anyone. She could morph herself into any situation and always be loved by all. It was her gift. Anywhere anytime, it didn’t matter. The back of the school yard as a teacher or the far reaches of Haiti. People flocked to her, people loved her.

She willingly and gleefully raised, loved and cared for my first two sons, we added another son together and adopted our daughter. She always placed the kids first and did her best to keep them on their toes, created fun lasting moments in their lives. I still don’t understand how life can take away two moms from one set of boys and the only mother three of them ever knew. Leukemia is a bastard.

I am unable to clear my head from the vision of her taking her last breath. It is with me most days. I look at those I love and pray to never see them die the way I saw her pass away. When my children are sleeping, I stare at them to see that little movement. The rise and fall of the chest. I am permanently scarred. Always looking to see if you are alive. I have witnessed the passing of so many human beings, it wears on you over time. Death staring you in the face. It makes it hard to appreciate life sometimes. While others may hear a clock ticking in the background, I hear a life clock clacking loudly, harshly, reminding me it (death) can be at any moment.

I have not come to terms with my own mortality.             

Three important people in my life gone. People I never knew beyond the few seconds I attended to them in the course of my job, gone. Faces, feelings, the most awful things one could ever have seen done to the human body, emotional disconnect, doubt, all run through my thoughts every single day.

Spending my entire adult life hiding behind a wall of false security. Being a firefighter, we train, learn and work our best at protecting you while needing to feel invincible. It is the only way we could do our jobs. Nothing can touch you, nothing can hurt you, and your good deed bank is overflowing so how can anything bad ever happen to you?

Three gone and I feel wounded. Then I learn that I have an aortic aneurysm and a failing heart valve a mere 8 months after losing my wife. Where is the justice? Why do bad things keep happening? Is there any sunlight left in this world? Why does the darkness always fall upon me or the ones who surround me?

My oldest is a newly christened CHP officer. He has wanted this since he was 8 years old. I am beyond proud of this man for chasing his dreams. Success always follows hard work. Yet, I don’t sleep at night sometimes worrying about him, on his own, with back up 45 minutes away. Especially in today’s climate! He is a public servant, raised in a public service family. All people are to be treated with kindness and respect until proven otherwise. No one person is any better than the other. Yet all some see is the badge which incites hate. Never mind the person or the fact that even though you hate him for what he represents he will gladly protect you, while upholding the law. Praying daily I am the one carrying all the bad luck for the entire family. It all stops with me.

I have a girlfriend. She is amazing. But what is she in for by being with me? Is she destined to perish to soon as well? Will some other medical bullshit mow her down in the prime of life? Would she lead or live a better life by never being with me? Am I cursed? Will her family be cursing me if something does happen? How many people do you know who lost everything twice and are still sane? Still looking for the sunshine on daily basis? How many?

You know, funny tidbit, things come in threes! Are we truly fucked in the end?

Friends have come and many have gone over the last almost two years. Faces and attitudes changed. Some telling me what I should be doing and not supporting me when I didn’t agree. Others openly accepting changes in my life because they understood. Missing a few who kept quiet but just disappeared. Relearning people all over again.

Coming to terms means: To begin to or make an effort to understand, accept, and deal with a difficult or problematic person, thing or situation.

I don’t know if I will ever truly come to terms with some or any of what I have just described. But I do know this, because unlike many humans I have encountered. I know, like and love myself, regardless of any doubt, struggle or pain. I can look in the mirror and say yes; I would hang out with myself if we ever met.

In the end, there is this;

I will always, wake up each morning, put my feet on the floor and take one step forward. Life is so incredibly beautiful if you take a moment each day to look around. It is also too short to think otherwise. Move forward, every single day, breathe and know what will be, will be.

And this.

If you ever want to know how I am doing? Just read my blog.

Thank you for being you Jim Wilson..

30 days..

Over the next month, I met with doctors, health professionals, and people from work. Every person I met I felt as though I was saying goodbye. I hugged, I smiled, I behaved as though nothing was wrong. Then once alone I would cry.

 My girlfriend was amazing! We did get the very best doctor there was for this procedure due to her efforts. We were told we had a very favorable outcome according to those in the know. After one appointment in particular it was explained that I had the arteries of a 20 year old! All positive things!

Lyn’s helped me finish the will. With my son Cody as the executor and my three best friends all holding certain positions within, I knew the children, ranch and animals were well cared for. Signing it, having it notarized, watching friends sign it, was incredibly sobering.

There were a few fun moments.

At my angiogram the nurse and I were talking and he asked what I would like to listen too as I drifted off to sleep. I responded, can we play some Van Halen please?

As I rolled into the room Sammy was screaming on the overhead speakers. That gentle, gracious kindness to a scared 52 year old man I will never forget. My eyes are wet thinking about how much the gentlemen from that room calmed me down, and let me drift off on my own terms. I am forever grateful.

Lyn’s asked me to list all the things I wanted to do in life but never could. When I asked why? She simply stated, because you have more than earned them!

The reality; it was something else to look forward too. To think about living for beyond the operation date. Something other than worrying about my family, my children, my very small circle of friends, all for whom I have no desire to leave. It was a new tomorrow, sunlight at the end of the tunnel, an umbrella from the rain. She was shielding me while providing mental warmth.

Daily I would melt down, daily she would ask me:

Where am I?

I would respond: right here…

Where am I going?

I would respond: nowhere

Then (not ashamed to say) I would cry again..

She would look me in the eye and say, I expect the same from you. You are not going anywhere, this all will be fine, you have the best surgeon, you are in great shape and healthy. This will all be over soon and you will be back to being you.

I chose during this time to silence myself from social media, and from this blog. To keep this procedure to myself. Some would (actually some did) say it was selfish, I should have asked for help from those who cared. But to me, after all I went through after my first wife Kim passed away, and after running through the gauntlet with Jacy’s battle, I simply wanted to fall away. If the operation went south, if they failed to save my valve or botched the aorta transplant, to me nothing would have been more beautiful than to simply draw myself into darkness. Fade to black. No one needed to know.

I had done things right for once, the kids were to be well taken care of, and my friends are my friends because they would understand. The only things that bothered me most was the loneliness the kids would have for eternity because they had lost so much! Between losing both their moms and now their dad; what a fucking mental train wreck for all of them.

Speaking of mental train wrecks! I ended up telling the kids after my first appointment with the cardiologist. Jake and Cody both were home and I asked them all to please sit down on the couch for a family meeting. The looks on their faces, my god I will never forget the looks on their faces. It took a while for it all to settle in and when it did, there were a few questions. I did my best to answer everything honestly. It was so very hard to look them in the eye. I was ashamed I could not be their strength any longer. I am their father, dad, and the foundation for this family yet here I am, just as vulnerable as both their moms. Not the man they thought or I believed they knew me to be.  

And then there was Lyn’s, this whole surgery thing bothered me for Lyn’s as well. Sure we were a fairly new couple, but simply put; I knew that pain all too well. One day someone you love or care for is there and then they aren’t. It’s mortifying, draining, scary, and leaves you always wondering what if.

What if they had lived a full life? What would they or we have become? What would the world have held in store for them/us? Questions that would never be answered.

A whole month, from diagnosis to operation. One trip to the ER because of some strange chest pains in the middle. A whole, long messy, shitty, emotional month. I was scared to move, to breathe, to cough, to lift, to ride my horse, to sit on my motorcycle, I was terrified of every single ache and pain that moved through my chest, I was afraid to live, in reality I was mentally living to die. My entire mindset was just that, counting down the days until surgery, counting down the days until I die, counting down the seconds until I said my final goodbye.

June 27th 2019

Lyn’s and I head to Mercy hospital. I am having my body shaved today by some stranger in a small room while they poke and prod, take samples of blood and prepare me for tomorrow’s grand finale! Uncomfortable is the word to describe how I feel yet strangely to this day it doesn’t even come close to how I felt.

Clean as a whistle we head out for one last meal. We laugh, we joke, and we have a very good time. Heading home the rest of the evening is spent with kids, family. I still feel like I am saying goodbye. Like a death row inmate having the proverbial last meal.

That evening, I don’t sleep very well.

June 28th 2019

Lying in a cold hallway, staring upwards at the tile ceiling I am waiting my turn.

You never know…..

In one of my favorite movies; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, (Queenie) Benjamins adopted by fate mother proclaims; you never know what’s coming for ya.

Floating aboard my cousins Bass Boat very early Saturday morning a mere two days since diagnosis, I felt the need to push all my emotions down deep inside. Control myself, place my mind in the right space so as to look forward, beyond my current issues. Then with confidence firmly choose the correct rod, the right lure and hunker down for a long day’s grind. I could not under any circumstances allow myself to wander into the land of death, possible death, my heart failing, the surgery becoming botched, my family falling apart, my pathetic life unraveling before my eyes. It was as if the angel of death had arrived and was sitting alongside me. Taunting me, calling me out for all my misgivings, while allowing one or two last chances to get things right in this world. It was a daunting emotional mind fuck.

Tony and I were fishing in a very well run tournament series (NewJen) and there was no place I would rather have been at that very moment in time. Fishing is my escape from the world, and being as though I am competitive as fuck, it was a double win for me that very morning. 80 teams around us, the sun just beginning to rise over the mountains and off in the distance the national anthem is being played. 160 or so men, women and youth took off their hats, placed them over their hearts, standing upon the bows of their liquid rocket ships, some singing along, others with their heads slung downward, it was a thing of beauty. We were seconds from blast off, moments from 70-80 mph runs towards our first opportunities for greatness. It is what I live for and not only was I privileged enough to do it that very morning, but with family, my cousin standing alongside me.

Not going to sugar coat it. I was terrified as fuck when we ripped across the lake. Knowing sometimes is so much worse than not knowing. All I could think about over and over again was the doc telling me the size of my aneurism. Too big to live my life untouched, not big enough for emergency surgery, but large enough surgery needs to be done in a rapid timely manner. I can now no longer go do the things I did before. You know simple things like running, lifting weights, oh wait sorry; lifting anything over 5 pounds! Carrying things for your girl, the way I raised. Yeah pretty much no straining in any way, yes that includes pooping!!! Whatever you do don’t strain while doing that!!! Could you imaging pulling an Elvis on the toilet!! Its laxatives every day for me!!! But as we ripped across the lake, every bump, swell or rocker left me holding my chest and wondering why. Why me?

My whole world changed that weekend.

As I was fishing, Lynnsie was back at the cottage with all the kids. She promised them a fun filled adventurous day. Lucky for us we were able to get a cottage with a dock so my Bass Boat was out front in the water and that is where all of the kids spent the majority of the day. Fishing, playing, pretending to be in a tournament of their own. Why was this so lucky? Because while they were making their own fun, Lyn’s spent the entire day, holed up in the bedroom, laptop in hand, mired in research. She learned everything there was to learn about my upcoming procedure, how it was performed, the percentages of those who survive and the percentages of those still making it post op. She also researched within our medical system as to who was the very best doctor to perform the surgery. She wasn’t taking any chances. She would later tell me when presented with all the evidence; you have lived through so much, been in so much emotional pain, you are not going to die on my watch, you don’t deserve this bullshit. I don’t care what anyone tells me, we are getting you the best, you will come out of this alive and I will be right by your side. No arguments, no feeling sorry for yourself. She then handed me a piece of paper stating; this is him, this is the guy and I don’t care that he is the best, which will make it difficult to see him, I will get him to see us.

Tony and I had a fair day fishing, not our best but enough to keep us in the points. By noon I had put my fears away and was really focusing on our task at hand. By the time we rolled in, I was still lost back in a life of normalcy, when we got in the truck to head home, through our normal banter of fish lost or what could have been, I focused on the learning points of the day.

We hit the driveway to our cottage and as I walked in the door turning to wave as my cousin drove away, I grabbed a beer, sat down and was instantaneously transported back to Thursday, the words, the facts, and the diagnosis. I started dwelling on fucking percentages.  Have I ever explained through this blog just how much I hate god damn percentages!! They are numbers derived from testing subjects, cases gone both good and bad, they intentionally are loaded to favor hope. But hope is just that; hope. It is neither fact nor science. It is an emotion, a response to someone’s idea of what might keep you interested or holding on. Hope is a falsehood, a misnomer, a correction of fact to illicit a response. Hope is fucking bullshit because in the end you can have all the hope in the world, but real life tangible fact will always rule the day. I have lived through hope, held onto hope, awoken every day regurgitating statistics leading to hope. Every time fact and science slapped me square in the face with no remorse. Every time through prayer, love, pain and hope I was let down. Every time, I hoped, I ended up placing the person I loved more than anything in the ground. Hope can fuck itself.

There I was, surrounded by family, drinking a beer, looking at the woman who has quite possibly saved my life by forcing me to go to the doctor and all I can think is its all bullshit. Her statistics she worked so hard on all day, the doctor she is telling me about, the procedures, how the procedures are done and their survivability rates, yeah all I can think about because I am clearly not listening is I am going to die, this isn’t going to end well. It never does let’s just face it, it is my turn to die. The angel of death rides shotgun, it’s just a matter of time.

Staring at her. My lip begins to quiver, snot begins to roll from my nose and tears fall hard like rain. I am shaking all over. The kids are outside and so move to the bedroom and hide. The children know nothing and we aren’t going to tell them until we have met with all the doctors and have a solid plan in place. I look like an infant, sobbing, blubbering, expelling so much trapped emotion. I just don’t understand and no matter how many times I am told just how lucky I am it doesn’t matter. Not feeling lucky today fuckers! I have chosen feeling sorry for myself and have resigned myself to the fact I deserve too, right here, right now and for some time to come. I want so badly for the angel of death to quit following me. Or crazy thought; maybe I am the angel of death, and it’s time for me to go. Taking every soul I have acquired over 25 years both professionally in the fire service and in my personal life with me. You know the ones trapped in my head dancing along with the ones I loved.

The next few weeks until my appointment with the cardiologist were to be the hardest of my life. Living in the unknown, trying to not look up procedures on the internet. Wrapping my head around the whole thing. Looking at my children without crying and feeling horrible for them again. What if they lose me, what if their whole lives are forged in hate and despair from losing their parents. It just isn’t right. Trapped in a strange purgatory of not being able to go to work, not being able to work the ranch, ride a horse, a motorcycle, a tractor. Fear of any large jolt or bump dissecting my aneurism kept me regulated to sitting in a chair doing nothing. Not a great way spend time when you don’t have all the answers.

I chose to write a will.

It was strange and quite possibly one of the most realistic, grounding moments of my life.

To die or not to die, that is the question. Quickly enough we would know the answer.

Because you never know what’s coming for ya….

Doctor says what??

April 25, 2019

Working a structure fire in one of our neighboring cities I was partaking in the almost mundane task of lowering a ladder from the “C” side of the structure. Nothing big, I had help and it really was/is a job that after proper training becomes the equivalent of putting your pants on every day, (I mean if you wear pants, like pants, you know, that sort of thing). I had developed a pretty significant cough that week and unfortunately it kept rearing its ugly head. Feeling as though it was nothing more than allergies due to this specific time of year my cough was “kind of” being controlled with medication, but it certainly made firefighting a little harder.

At the halfway point of lowering this particular ladder, something “popped” in my right shoulder. Not like a balloon or a pressurized bag, but more along the lines of let’s say; a guitar string letting go. I knew right, deep down inside there was a problem. Oh I stretched it, didn’t make a thing of it, rotated my arm a couple of times and shrugged it off to being older. But yeah, there was a problem.

The better part of this year I worked out like a mad man. Starting in January with eating right, and swapping to a mostly vegetarian diet. Then running, stairs and eventually weights. This lifestyle change had in fact worked wonders!  Not without struggle though, it was hard, taxing, and I was always dizzy or nauseous after each workout; but for real, I was quite literally in the very best shape of my life! Down three pant sizes, lots of muscle and very, little fat! One side effect to the effort though was these uncontrollable muscle spasms or shaking after each workout.  A little scary at times but I simply chalked it up to effort. In the end, I felt great!!!

So how could such a simple task like lowering a ladder take me out?

Upon returning to the station the On-Duty Captain was notified as the pain was intensifying and my range of motion became more limited. For the record; I hate putting in paperwork! I hate looking broken or weak! Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to do this job and our injury/workers comp system is deplorable! In my humble opinion it favors those who don’t want to go back to work and challenges those who do want to go back or at the very least, need too!  

2019 was going to be a better year, it was supposed to be BETTER I told myself over and over again. This is nothing but a strain, nothing but a simple, every day strain associated with physical work. I’ll be in and out of the doctor’s office and the guys will be giving me shit in a few hours. Right? I climbed into one of our utility vehicles, started the motor….Damn! I’m such a fucking pussy….

Long story short….

Right glenoid tear, cracked ball, strained muscles. I’m officially off work with full restrictions for movement or use. Soooo the much hated workers compensation game began.

Playing by the rules, I began visiting the workers comp doc on a regular basis; who I end up really liking by the way? I began moping around the house, feeling all sorry for myself. Can’t do chores (stupid), can’t ride horses (stupid); can’t sleep because of the pain (stupid) and worse of all? I have this cough that makes my shoulder throb when it’s at its height of coughy, coughy land (fucking stupid)! I’m angry, hard to be around and really not feeling well about myself and life in general. Touche’ 2019, Touche’

Oh yeah that cough…. That fucking pain in the ass cough!

Let’s talk about that shall we? Huh? You in? Ok well, to bad here we go…..

A few weeks go by and my cough is so bad that I am soaking the sheets in sweat at night. Not just damp, moist like a hot summer’s night next to your favorite person; actual pools of sweat. My head is pounding, I can’t breathe and I am up all night struggling.

Lyn’s daily has been suggesting I see a doctor, of course I am balking at it. I’m 53, work in emergency medicine and this fireman isn’t jinxing himself by going to the doctor? Ok, so maybe I should put the bullshit aside and go, but I am not going too. Why? Because I am a stubborn, know it all, self-centered man who obviously knows more than anyone else! Yeah that’s right I just called myself out! But it is the truth. I’m a rigid asshole sometimes..

Finally after much coercion I agree to make an appointment with my general practitioner. Of course I totally don’t! I agreed to it, but never said when! Ha! Yeah that went over real well with her too.

After another week of showing my lungs to the world each time I tried to breathe, the cough just wasn’t going away. Everyday Lyn’s asks if I have made that appointment. Every day I make some lame ass excuse as to why I haven’t. One morning all my excuses and bullshit came to an end.

May 08, 2019

I awoke that morning drenched as if I had taken a dip in the hot tub and rolled right back into bed, then for fun had a kid throw a bucket of water on me to seal the deal. My coughing had gone on all night without a break. Sitting on the edge of the bed wondering if I should try and sleep or just roll over and die, Lyn’s tells (not asks) me to go to the ER. I try pacifying her with a; I’ll walk in and see if there are any openings with my GP. I’m not taking up time in the ER. It’s just a cough. Through searing painful heat ray lasers shooting from her eyes, I glanced up, her arms were crossed and I knew that was the wrong answer.

Here is a little background; Lyn’s works in one of the busiest ER’s in Northern Ca. She worked on an ambulance before that and is no slouch when it comes to patient care. She was no longer looking at someone she cared for feeling a little ill. She had given me all the leeway she was going to give hoping my 25 years in emergency medicine would wake something up inside me where I might say; hey stupid! You probably should go to the doctor! Then do something really crazy like, oh I don’t know, actually following through with such an amazing idea that I thought up all on my own like a really big boy. Let’s face it, in a nutshell, she was finished with my half ass excuses and was treating me like an unruly patient in her charge. Rightfully so.

I was told with stern love and kindness to get off my ass and go to the ER. I tried to pawn it off and it was reiterated that I needed, right now, to get off my fucking ass and go to the ER! If I did not do so by the time she got off work, she was going to beat my ass (not hard to do in the state I was in) load me in the car herself and take me to her facility! Yeah the red headed inner Irish devil child had come out! In retrospect it was kinda sexy…

Being a man who had successfully navigated two previous marriages I knew instantaneously when to fold my cards, push my chair back, stand up and walk from the table. I told her, no I promised her over the phone I was headed to the ER. I always keep my promises.

Parking the car I slowly walked by the front glass doors of the ER. Peering in like a kid trying to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus without being caught, before me lay an empty waiting room. I had told myself if the ER was packed I was going to keep walking over to my GP’s (General Practitioners) office and try to get squeezed in that day. Intent would have been met and no one would be the wiser. But there I stood, staring at an empty ER waiting room. It was a sign.

Walking through the door to triage nurse meets me and asks; how can I help you today.

Me: Are you busy

Nurse: we are open 24/7

Me: (kindly) not what I fucking asked! Are you busy?

Nurse (taking me by the forearm): I think you need to sit down.

Sit down I did, and at that moment I realized while seated I was placing myself in a tripod position to ease my breathing  and that I was in fact speaking in 2 and three word sentences with sweat dripping on the floor. I was sick, real sick and for the first time over the last several weeks, through all my excuses, becoming a little worried.

They (ER staff) took me immediately, chest x-rays done and a breathing treatment started it was fairly obvious I was battling a solid case of pneumonia. Heart rate up, jitters from the albuterol, I was finally starting to catch my breath when the doctor came back to have a word with me.

Doc: Hey James, so we were right, you have pneumonia. We will be sending you home with some medication to treat it along with doses of albuterol, but there is something else. We spotted a dark shadow over your heart so you are being sent to CT for a better picture. Is that ok with you? I laugh and say no problem doc, ask anyone my heart is two sizes to small (Grinch reference) so I’m sure it’s nothing. We both chuckle and off to CT I go.

Two hours later.

Doc comes in and leans against the wall.

Doc: James, it is confirmed for sure, you do have pneumonia.

We both laugh at the absurdity of the re-diagnosis.

Doc: But there is something else. You have a T.A.A.

For those who do not know what a T.A.A is, it stands for Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm.  In a nut shell, the garden hose that feeds my heart is ballooning and ready to pop. If it pops, I’m dead in under thirty seconds! That’s right, I will bleed out on the inside. Nothing anyone can do.

I look him in the eye and say; you can’t tell me that doc, you can’t tell me I have a T.A.A! You know what I do for a living! You can’t tell me that!! I promptly begin freaking out!

He says; James because of what you do for a living, I told you that way. I know you know what it is and what needs to be done. He calms me down, gives me all the specifics and reminds me that in fact I am the luckiest person in the building. They caught something that has no known signs or symptoms. In the medical world it is known as the silent killer.

I walk out to the parking lot in shock. The sun seems brighter, the air smells different. Holding it together, head held high, I make it to the truck. To that date, longest slowest walk of my life. Once inside, I start it, turn on the A/C, hang my head behind my dark tinted windows and cry. A lot.

I text Lyn’s to give her the update. As soon as she is able to process what I have just told her, she clears it with her team and runs outside to call me. I am sobbing and sobbing hard, I can’t breathe, and I’m coughing, crying, and speaking in two word sentences again. All I can focus on is every call at work I responded to where the person/patient had an aortic aneurysm. They died. Even the few I went on that were post operation, yeah……they died. What the fuck! What the holy fuck! Yeah I know doc reminded me I was the luckiest guy in the building at that very moment because they found it in time but I sure didn’t feel lucky! I feel fucking cursed! So god damned fucking cursed!!!! Fuck you 2019, fuck you God, fuck everything!

Lyn’s pulls me back in, reminding me she is there for me, she isn’t going anywhere, and she is going to do a ton of research. She tells me we will find the very best doctor for this procedure, acquire him and everything will be fine. She reminds me that there is no way I have survived everything life has thrown at me without surviving this too. Calm down, breathe it will all be ok.

She has a way about her. I don’t know what it is but she has this consistent way of talking me off the ledge even if it’s momentarily. She is also a thorough planner and I know the planning is about to begin. Someone is going to be taking care of me, something that never, ever happens. The fact that it’s early in our relationship and she isn’t running away, is mind blowing. She says she is all in. Over the next several months, it will show just how “all in” she has become. I learn I am a lucky man once again.

Hanging up the phone, I proceed to spend the next hour calling my three very best friends. The three men in my life I would gladly give my life for in return. I tell them the news, give them all the prognosis and each one of them find a way to make me laugh. You know why? Because that’s what real friends do. They have your back no matter what and you have theirs. We will be that way until we die.

I place the truck in reverse and start my way out of the Kaiser parking lot. I’m terrified, certain I am going to die, worried about what I am going to tell all four of my already emotionally damaged children. Fuck me. What I am going to tell them? They’ve lost their moms’ and now they are most likely going to lose their dad! Haven’t we done enough? Hasn’t my family been through enough already!! Why?

I’m driving up 505, sobbing again. The pain is real, I am scared of the reality I am about to face. Little do I know just how scary things are about to get…

Dream or is it a reality?

It always seems to happen when I am feeling that my life is good. No, let me rephrase, it always happens when I feel as though my life isn’t just going good or well, but great.

It sneaks in through the night using a cover of darkness and a weakness associated with slumber. Knowing the intended victim (myself) doesn’t stand a chance because there are no walls, no observance of its presence until it is too late.

Sometimes it masks itself using my family or friends as an intended target. Other times it drags up memories of the past, the atrocities associated with a long career such as mine. Either way it has a way of tearing me down, leaving me feeling spent both physically and mentally. Other days, it leaves me wrecked beyond belief and I wonder just how much more one man can take. I am confident and strong, I always have been, but there are days I want to curl up and cry for no reason at all.

Dreams of death.

Last night as I slept, Jake my second son came to me in a dream. I was fishing and he appeared in front of me from nowhere.

I said: Jake what are you doing, how did you get here?

Jake: I came to say goodbye dad

Me: Where are you going?

Jake: It’s time for me to go, just wanted you to know I love you

Me: what are talking about?

Jake: Goodbye dad (as he vanished)

The rest of the dream consisted of me doing everything I could to get home! To find my son! And as with most hectic, disorganized dreams every obstacle was put in my place! When I finally got there, he was in fact dead. Gone from this world. It was a nondescript death, a combination of every horrible thing I have witnessed over the life of my career. It was horrendous.

I haven’t been able to shake it.

Here is my problem. I know what it is, I know what these dreams manifest from, I know that it is not a reality.

But

I also knew every single thing about my first wife’s death before it happened because I had in fact dreamt about it over a several year period. I knew everything about where to go and what to do at Stanford Hospital because in my dreams I had been there even though I had never set foot on the property once.

I knew after my second wife was diagnosed with Leukemia that it wasn’t going to go well. Oh at first I believed it was my cynical side, you know that part of us that is carefully crafted from years of getting burned?

But as we went along I did my best to keep faith, to suppress my feelings of dread, to be the most important person in her life during every hiccup or stumble. All the while knowing, not guessing or having a feeling, but knowing she was in fact going to die. Why? Because I dreamt about it over time. From the hospital visits to the pharmacy runs, to her addiction to opioids. I dreamt it all. I knew she would die at home, I knew she was going to suffer and I knew she would leave a huge mark on this world. Not just because of who she was as a person, but because it always came to me in a dream. The only thing my dreams got wrong was her dying in our dining room. In my dreams she died surrounded by family at her dads.

So what is it about me that this happens too?

Is this a curse that only I can live with and if so, do I embrace the knowledge or cower from its implications?

I have so many wonderful people I talk with about my life, my emotions and how to deal with the past.

I have someone very close that I love who lets me talk openly about those last two years while watching the woman I cared for deteriorate and die. The ramifications of being alone but not alone, a caretaker, a warden, a nurse, a pharmacist and surviving nightmare after nightmare. Who listens to everything and anything that comes to mind while I am venting about these crazy notions in my head, understanding completely without thinking any less of me as a person. A beautiful safe space in my life.

But these dreams, these damn dreams, I just need them to stop! I’m weary of death, I am weary of pain, I no longer wish to carry the sufferings of so many in my head only to be replayed over and over again at the whim of nightfall’s grace.

So what do I do?

I do what I have always done.

I write about it for you.

If you are suffering in the slightest I need you to know you are not alone. I need you to understand it doesn’t feel ok, but it is and you are fine. I want you to feel as though you can talk about it, express those very same feelings without judgment or remorse.

I am blessed with the ability to write, to share, and to explain things in a way that you can understand. Everyone has a gift, a talent, something they are particularly good at, I have been told this is mine. Writing allows me to get these feelings out, to purge them from my mind, to let them go even if it’s just for a little while.

If you have something that allows you the same freedom you need to act when you feel down, you need to grab whatever gift you have been bestowed and make it your ritual. It will help I promise.

If you can’t, please find a professional to talk with, to council.

Now, I am going to try and call my son, I think he is out of class by now.

I just need to hear his voice.

Time

What is there to say about time?

“Don’t waste your time with explanations, people only hear what theywant to hear” ~ Paulo Cohelo

“It has been spoken that time heals all wounds. I do not agree, I believe that time distorts the remembrance of pain teaching us how to survive, to move forward as we begin to live again” ~ Betty

“The past is gone, the future is yours and yet we are collectively mired in the moment. It is yours to grab a hold of and thrive or cower and fold” ~ Betty

“Time is the longest distance between two places” ~ Tennessee Williams

“There comes a time when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it is saying” ~Sarah Dessen

I chose in December to not allow time, or the perception of-time to dictate my future. To not allow those mired in their own perception of pain and loss to coerce or change my direction. I am a man of great conviction, faith, perseverance and inner confidence. I was raised that way, by a man who I didn’t always see eye to eye with, yet marveled in his ability to consistently reinvent himself, his family and his life. My father never gave up. Ever.

In the end he was tired, worn out and felt at times a failure. I learned from that too. My father taught me so much and he never knew I was watching. Watching his every move, the way he reacted, plotted, planned and did his very best to succeed.

It is why I strive to be a good man in front of my children all the time, not just some of the time. Because I know in time, they too will be faced with adversity, struggle and hardship. They too will need to draw upon a mental reservoir filled to the brim with lessons never taught but learned through observation. Life is filled with so many lessons and people to help teach them to us. I believe with all my heart people come into our lives for a reason and when they are gone their job is done. Just as I believe when I am gone hopefully I helped many and my job will be done as well. We just need to learn to listen to that voice guiding us constantly. I believe there are souls or energy that travel through space and time, allowing us the ability to find each other again and again hopefully creating a more perfect being assenting towards heaven.

I hated dad’s lessons that were heart to heart, always choosing instead to do things my way, the hard way, alone. I have one of three sons that is following in his father’s footsteps in that regard. He is in for a long uphill battle this I know but in the end he will be strong and wise, hopefully casting a larger shadow than his father did for him. Always helping those who need it through actions not words.

By watching and learning from my father I refuse to let life bring me down, to hold me back. There is a world to see and I plan on doing so.There are people to meet, to love, to keep close and there are those that will fade away. But I will have done my best to be a mentor, friend, and a man who loves with his heart and mind.

So what does time mean to me?

I don’t want to miss a second of time. If anything has hit me harder than a brick after losing not one, but two wives is that we only have so much time on this earth and none of it is guaranteed. Time with my kids, time with my family, time with friends and people I choose to love. Not one second or opportunity will I miss.  

Every day I wake up, put my feet on the floor and take a step forward. Every day I look for the good in everything and everyone. Everyday I pray at work I won’t see another human perish. I know that’s an impossibility but it’s nice to want and wish.  Every single day I willingly choose to make it better than the day before, to lead the way.

Jacy made me promise to live my life, to not mope around or feel despair, to fully recognize that her suffering was over and so was the 5 year struggle within our family. She made me promise to take care of our children and do what’s best for me. She knew she would die young and that her time or work here on this earth was done as well. She was one of the wisest, kindest people to those around her and those for whom she never knew I will have ever known. I learned from her, much like my father from simply watching.

The time is now. I cannot wait for what my life, our life, our families life has in store. Time is never a given and I feel as though our seasons of life are changing, there is no more bad luck and it is definitely time…

Flying home…

Southwest flight 4262 has left the runway.

Sitting in the rear of this 737, by myself, (That’s right awhole row to myself) I am pondering because well let’s face it, there really isnothing else to do but ponder unless you have a laptop or a really good book. Iam pondering the last 100 days. Pondering what my life is supposed to bewithout her here, wondering where she is and how she is doing, but most of all.

That I miss her.

I miss having her hand to hold when we fly. She always heldmy hand during takeoff and landings. Silly really to think two grown people whohave traveled together for as long as we did would still need that reassurance.But we did, and I really do.  

I know it seems strange this 205 pound 5’9 20+ year veteranof the fire service would need someone’s hand to hold while flying. That a personwho carries the ability to calmly walk towards disaster is so fearful of a hurtlingtin can in the sky filled with other similar people he needs simplereassurance! But strangely I do and it’s always been that way. You see eversince I was a little kid while others would recite the horror of classic childhooddreams where they fell, never hitting the ground, or standing naked in front oftheir classmates as everyone laughs or being submerged in water never quitegetting to the top for a desperate gasp of air. I dreamed about falling fromthe sky in a plane, corkscrewing nose first in a ball of fire and darkness.Even now as an adult those dreams still haunt me on occasion. It is why for mycomfort I always held her hand. She understood and without fail always reachedfor my hand the minute we were cleared for take-off. She also had a way ofmaking it feel like I was the one comforting her not the other way around.Letting me play the protector. I can never repay her for that except in memorywith a smile.

This week I took a little time away for myself as anexperiment.

I went to Phoenix Arizona for Barrett-Jacksons annualauction of high end automobiles. It is something I have wanted to do for manyyears. One of my very closest friends in the whole world lives near Phoenix andoffered to put me up for the week! Cheap flight purchased, no hotel costs andwell it just made sense to go far enough away that I couldn’t run home at theslightest inclination of trouble from the family.

It was time. Time to get away from the kids, away from theranch, away from my life. It was a test model for what’s to come, (hence theexperiment) for you see I go back to work on Thursday for a 72 hour shift. Istill don’t know how I feel about it. There has been plenty of time to reflect,to grow, to move past a need for seclusion. Therefore it is time. As I fly homeI am hoping this test was a complete success. (The kids being without me andall.) It will help ease my mind on Thursday as I walk through the doors ofStation 81, knowing they can handle it without dad always being therephysically. But I know deep inside my heart will be at home and those 72 hoursare going to hurt like hell while they drag on slowly.

On the flip side of things I have been sticking to my post-Christmasresolution of not complaining about Jacy being gone.  By the way for reference the previousparagraphs were not complaining they were simply observations! Ok???

No complaining, no whining and moaning the minute somethinghappens knowing that if Jacy were here things would be different. No sir! Myresolve has been strong in keeping my promise to get up every day with a smile,put both feet on the floor, be thankful I am alive and surrounded by suchwonderful people and a loving family. I go out when I can to socialize and havesurrounded myself with a few very close caring people who allow me to just beme with no expectations what so ever. I am able to talk or text them anytimeabout anything, or do nothing at all, no judgement, and that is worth itsweight in gold.

Being a planner looking towards the future is always on mymind. It is just who I am. I don’t know what that future holds and that is hardfor a planner to handle, absorb or let become a reality. I may need to changesome things about the way I choose to live my life, push some boundaries, takesome risks, all things I have never been good at doing simply to help break myplanner addiction. Either way it seems to me the only thing I can plan is thatJames (Betty) is going to find out who he is regardless of what the futureholds. I hope I like who he becomes whether I spread my wings or stay exactly thesame, because the decisions, the inner growth, the choices and experiences willall be mine. The thought of that is kind of cool.

I know what my wife would have wanted and that helps mewhenever I need to make these decisions. She was my best friend after all. Sheknew me better than I knew myself and that is something I will never take forgranted. Just at some point, and this is the hard one, it’s no longer going tobe about her, it’s going to be about me and I am ok with that regardless of thedifficulty associated because I know she would kick my ass if it were any otherway.

So at 30,000 feet, 400mph, I watch the clouds go by out mywindow, I think this is as close as I can get to heaven for now.

Huh?

Maybe she really is sitting here with me holding my hand,letting me know I am doing just fine and everything will be alright.

Just maybe..

2019 I’m ready; so lets aspire to inspire shall we?

Sitting quietly in a dark room, a flickering of light emanating from the television playing off in the distance dances across the somber mood in our living room. The Ball is about to drop ringing in a new year while saying goodbye to 2018.

I am pondering.

Life is a funny thing. Earlier in the evening I went to a friend’s house for a few hours to reconnect, feel a part of life’s tapestry and try my best to remember what life is like when lived. It worked, which is not what I expected. I laughed, hugged, lived and thought to myself on the way home about how much I missed this portion of my extended family. How many things we (Jacy and I) missed while she was sick and fighting for her life over the last five long dreadful years. And how terribly sad it was that she was not there with her million dollar smile, laughing, making new friends while smothering the old friends with love.

I came home early to be with my son.

Parker and I watched the ball drop together. We kind of chuckled at the horrendous attempt at entertainment the entire New Year’s Eve televised show had become. It was bad, really, really bad and to me showed what little value us as a society place upon ourselves or what we expect from others; but that is my opinion and for another conversation.

As expected at midnight the ball dropped, Parker stood up and said: well that was fun (sarcasm), hope 2019 is much better than 2018 for us dad!

I wanted to say; well it couldn’t get any worse!

But then I would be summoning the black cloud that seems to live over the top of us to rumble, crack and prove me wrong once again! Parker then announced he was taking shower; that he loved me and off to bed he strode.

I eventually went to bed, alone, sad, and wondering why? I knew why I was sad and alone, but why I should bother giving a shit was all I had left.

This morning while making coffee and wanting to write, I decided to look back at previous New Year’s offerings to see just what my advice or observations were for the coming years. Maybe that would help me to understand the why.

2012/13- it was all about resolutions. That’s right, I dug deep (sarcasm again) for that one and really hit it out of the park! Of course I had no idea what was instore for our family a mere 10 months later.

2013/14- I didn’t write a thing! You know why? Because I was knee deep in learning about Leukemia, treatments and how we as a family were going to tackle things head on! No mercy! It is the way this family has always handled adversity!

2014/15- New Year/New Fear. Living with the after effects of treatment, chemotherapy, and learning to live again for my wife. Understanding what it means to be in remission. It was a year filled with scares, and adventure. Jacy ran at it full bore because as I found out later, she knew deep inside but didn’t want to say it out loud that she felt Leukemia would come back.

2015/16- We focused on new beginnings, not letting this journey weigh us down, making the most of every moment because the truth is, nothing is guaranteed.  

2016/17- Handling ourselves appropriately. This journey was no longer about us, but how we could help as many people as possible by continuing forward. Both through my writings and her never saying no to any treatments. Finding joy in all the little things. Whether it be a week with some energy and no sickness to simply sitting in the sun with your children. My wife was an amazing human being and she continued to show her super powers during this dreadful year.

2017/18- This one was a little harder. I copied a portion of this former posting because I couldn’t accurately summarize my feelings.

Am I excited by the prospect of 2018 and what it has to offer?

No!!!!!

No I am fucking terrified of another year with more unexpected disappointment! Or maybe after all this time disappointment, disaster, despair should simply be expected and that’s why I am so tense! Wondering day and night as to whether or not there is more tragedy waiting for us just around the corner! I am constantly worrying about our future, her future, our children’s future and all the emotional toil our lives hold on a daily basis! I wonder if I can take on more. Is it humanly possible for me to handle another loss, another failure, another misfortune! Is there room for me to place more emotional unrest inside my soul?

I found myself mumbling; Fuck you 2018 every time I read someone’s cheery uplifting post today! I would start grinding my teeth the moment someone, anyone spoke of this dreaded New Year and it hasn’t even started yet!! That is just not me!!!

I want so badly to embrace this upcoming year, to feel hopeful, promise and opportunity! To know our future looks bright for all involved. But even as I am writing this my chest hurts, it’s hard to breath and the anxiety associated with wishing such selfish thoughts when I know there are thousands suffering in this world tonight. Struggling much harder than I. It is more than I can take right now. What the HOLY HELL!!!

Somewhere I learned the valuable lesson of keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

2018 you are not my friend, you are my enemy.

And there it is. It is like I knew or my negativity proved to be my downfall. I have had to read through the last five years while working on my book and it has been extremely hard. From 2012-2018 Heaven gained my horse Tank, Jakes Horse Twooey, Jacy’s Grandmother, and Uncle, my dad, a few friends and eventually Jacy herself.   

So what does all this mean for our family after looking through the past?

It means I am taking my own advice. Put up or shut up!!!

2019 you are not my friend, you are my enemy and the difference in regards to your arrival shall be that my tactics are changing.

I look forward to the upcoming challenges you present, my life will not be lived in sorrow or misery, it is not what my wife would have wanted for me and I know this because she made sure I understood the importance before she passed. She also knew it would take a while for me to come to terms with her passing, but she had faith I would or could carry on. She always had faith in me and that is something I cherish so very much.

After spending the evening a few weeks back with new friends, the holidays with our beloved family, and last night with old ride or die friends, it has come to my attention that now is the time. Her father sent me a video yesterday from his YouTube channel that really hit me hard. It was wise and insightful and I believe he needs to see I, his son in law, the man who loved his daughter more than I can ever show him, is taking it to heart. No more whining about her being gone. Oh that doesn’t mean I won’t miss her, or occasionally complain about it, or have terrible days for I know all too well they will come, when I least expect it, and it is 100% ok to let those emotions envelop me. Besides I don’t care who you are or think you are, a good cry now and again is good for the soul. But this family needs to look past all that and begin to live life again. We cannot besmirch her memory, her name, and her beliefs about family, life and love by wallowing in a wasted sea of tears.

Jacy Mirelle Franceschi showed me the meaning of love. She also showed me the meaning of life, living life, experiencing everything around you without slipping into the background. She showed how to make a new friend, to laugh or help someone to laugh when it’s needed, even if that means sacrificing your own dignity. She showed me the meaning of family. If you knew my wife, you knew exactly how important it was for her to have a family to call her own. She did, we loved her, and are forever grateful.

So, no, there will be no New Year’s resolutions, no pointless lists of things that couldn’t possibly be accomplished. Instead our family, my family, the family she loved and created are going to face this year head on! Not afraid of challenges, not afraid to explore, no expectations other than to walk out the door every day and live this thing called life to the fullest!

As I have said before, a mantra I have always lived by will surely be followed.

Every day you can get up, put both feet on the floor and take a step forward is a good day, a day to aspire to inspire.

So here goes.

Travel whenever you can, we will be.

Make a new friend at every opportunity, life is way too short not too!

Laugh, hard at everything, including yourself. Often!

Love with meaning, passion, and faith. To love is to be loved and I have been loved by the very best. For that I am both extremely lucky and eternally grateful. I still have so much love to share and so do you. Never forget that, ever!

Never take yourself or life to seriously. It just isn’t worth it.

Take time for yourself. Live, breathe and appreciate all this world has to offer.

And always take time for your friends and family. They are the most people in your life. Trust me after all of this, I know.

So come on 2019! Let’s do this! I am ready for whatever you have to offer. And if I am ever in question I will simply ask myself; what would Jacy do?

I’m seeing ghosts..

Making my way through town I have always seen ghosts. Ghosts of incidents past rattling through my brain like an unwanted house guest! You know, wearing your wife’s robe and your slippers while they drink what’s left of the milk you needed for your morning cereal.  I have written about “them” these ghosts before, remnants of some of the worst things I have seen or participated in during my career. Who they were or are, how they have affected my current reality, and my inability to let them stay, well quite simply “dead”.

Last night I went to Vacaville to pick up tickets for a popular movie two hours early so the kids and I could go see it. Now if you know me well enough, then no need to ponder the movie. The answer is elementary.

Arriving at the theater, it is very obvious the movies are the place to be after Christmas, as the lot was full and I needed to park a block away. Walking up to order tickets a very polite young man behind the glass informed me they were in fact sold out for the night. Hands in my pockets while retreating to my car I heard a couple talking about heading to Winco after the movies.

Then it began.

I looked across the freeway, Winco hides on the other side and it dawned on me that Thursday was our Winco night. I could see her walking through the aisles, grabbing things and placing them close to her face so she could make them out, never ever wanting help unless she absolutely needed it because that tore away at her independence. We would slowly make our way from aisle to aisle and I remember that as much as I hated shopping ( I am a speed shopper, I know what I need and I haul ass outta there) watching the wonderment she held to each and every item she placed near her face always made me smile. It was like watching a child, or someone who had been in a coma for 30 years and just couldn’t believe all the amazing things that now existed! Winco was always a 2 hour affair and at that very moment I couldn’t believe how much I longed to go shopping with my frail, blind wife, spending those two hours together making our way up and down each and every aisle while she beamed with delight, thanking me over and over again for taking her.

UGH!

Vowing to never take another step inside Winco, I slid into the seat of my car and texted the kids; the movie is a no go, sold out, headed home. Then as I got on the freeway and began passing the Nut Tree area it was as if every single place we ever visited from the beginning of our marriage had a giant neon sign over the top of it flashing, brightly screaming that we had fun over there, we had date night right here, do you remember the time that this happened in this street and how you both rolled around laughing for hours!!! I tried to take it as good memories, something I should be so happy about, but instead it just created a bigger void, a tunnel of darkness that began enveloping me from the inside out! I couldn’t drive fast enough to get away, the signs wouldn’t stop flashing, I started breathing really hard and my chest hurt, I began sweating and I couldn’t focus.

Then out of nowhere!

That’s right out of nowhere I found myself in the Kaiser Hospital parking lot. I was parked in my normal spot. Yeah after you have been there a while you kind of pick a row and park there out of habit. Walking towards the building I had my hoodie pulled tightly down over my brow. I must have looked like the grim reaper as I made my way into the building. Stopping at the pharmacy I stared inside for a few minutes, reciting her medical record number then turning to make my way to the fourth floor. Exiting the stairwell I walked slowly down the hall, talking to her as I always had about how long she would be, did she want me to stay, cause I would stay and watch tv with her, should I go and get chores done, is there anything she needed me to pick up for her in Vacaville? All the right questions, praying I would hear an answer. Knowing there was none to be had.

Oncology, I stood in the threshold for a minute or two, still not quite understanding why I was there; then seeing the television was still on I sat down in the same chair I would always inhabit.

And there it was, right there for me to feel, my wife.

It was as if Jacy was sitting in her wheelchair right alongside me, I could feel her, she was talking to me, we had a long conversation about meds, her health and what lay in store. I eventually snapped from the same old topics we discussed and told her how much I missed her, how very lonely I am, how she was the very best thing that ever happened in my life and I don’t like not knowing what is in store for us without her. I told her I loved her so much and how I missed the touch of her hand. I asked her if she was ok. She just smiled, looking at me with her big beautiful eyes and said it was time to go. I asked her to please not go, don’t leave me again, she said; James, its time for my treatment and turned towards the door. She was gone.

And just like that I was back, alone in the very waiting room I had spent countless hours watching other people struggle with cancer while we were waiting for treatment.  

Walking down the hallway towards the stairwell, again slowly, hands in my pockets, hoodie still pulled down tight I felt heavy. No wheel chair to push, no bags to carry, no oxygen bottle to adjust, no wife whose shoulders needed rubbing, no best friend to reassure this was temporary, she wasn’t going to die, she was Jacy Franceschi, the toughest, most badass woman I have ever known and no amount of drugs or disease could possibly kill her.

I lied.

You can’t possibly know how that feels. To have lied.

She knew the risks, she knew what the outcome could be, she knew it all and she did her best each and every day for her family.

I still lied because I loved her.

I see ghosts everywhere I go, they don’t prepare you for that when you become a firefighter, but over time you develop the coping skills to understand it, to deal with it, to accept it when they arise.

No one can prepare you for the ghost being the one you loved more than anything on this earth.

No one….

Wake up, put both feet on the floor and take a step forward.

The sun has risen, the sun has set, over and over and over again. For 4.543 billion years the sun has risen, the sun has set. Under its warmth or hidden in the shadows of the earths darkness lies the stories of roughly 105 billion people.

My story is no different from millions of others, I loved then lost, then loved and lost again. My heart aches as did the hearts of somany others. We all shared or carry the darkness that comes with such grief. I am not special, I am not different; I simply am.

So why can’t my brain accept this fate of mine? Why do I feel so much pain and anger inside? Why can I not understand this outcome, accept this outcome, and realize that no amount of anything is going to change this outcome; bringing her back?

Why do the people I love die? Why have they died for so many before me and continue to perish all around us or so it seems. We all know death is our fate, we as a society choose to look the other way, to ignore its significance when it comes to ourselves claiming it will never happen to me or standing by the adage of when it’s your time, it’s your time.

She (Jacy) always knew she would die young. She always knew.I hate that, because I don’t know what the hell to eat in the morning and cannot fathom knowing, I mean hand on the bible knowing that I was going to die young. It is unconscionable to me, so how does that affect your life, your meaning of life, your belief system?

Every day I do what I have always done for my whole life, I am not happy about it, some days go better than others, but during my childhood I was never good enough, at anything and was reminded of that fact regularly; yet I still do the same thing I taught myself early on, over and over again.

I get up, I put my feet on the floor, and I always take one step forward.

The pain will always be there, the loss is very real, I absolutely hate walking into my house, her house, the house we built together, for there is no warm echo of her voice, only cold walls and pictures to remind me of what was, and what never will be again.

But I move forward.

I believe you need to keep moving to lessen the impact. To understand what that person meant to you, not by staying home curled up in a ball but by trying your hardest to laugh, have a good time and remind yourself that you don’t know you’re going to die. That you don’t have even the slightest inkling what your last day on this planet may be. So keep moving, keep your head up and keep striving for that next big finish line, covering ground, climbing not sinking further into a hole of despair.

Again the pain is still there, oh it’s still there, and it hurts badly, so very bad, yet in the morning I put both feet on the floor, and took another step forward.

I said goodbye to Jacy’s car the other day. It took me two hours to clean it out. We purchased it new in 2007 to support the adoption of our daughter. We traveled all over in that car, as a family, singing 80’s rock, watching movies, laughing, so much laughing. It was a part of our family as silly as that may sound. But at 220,000 miles, a computer that was bleeding off power, one power door that no longer worked and another that only opened manually, a front transaxle that needed replacement and an owner who was no longer alive, unable to ever drive it again, I felt that maybe it had to go.

Cleaning it out, I discovered Jacy had surrounded herself with the most precious of commodities; pictures. She had pictures from all years ofevery one of her children hidden in easily accessible places.  They were everywhere and it made me cry. She loved them all, so very much to the very end. To the very bitter end….

But I cleaned it out, with tears in my eyes, a wet sleeve from drying my eyes and patience for what she left behind. When I left the car at the dealership I took one last picture. I don’t know why, it was just a car, it was Jacy’s car.

I put both feet on the floor, and took another step forward.

I felt guilty driving my new/used car. It is nice, it has 60,000 miles on it, I will be paying for it for five years, and it will start anew chapter in our lives for child transportation. But I can’t help but think how much she would have enjoyed the ride. How her ribs wouldn’t have hurt so badly going from the house to Stanford, or her dads. How I should have thrown caution into the wind and just hoped we could have paid for it so she wouldn’t have suffered so badly. I cried most of the way home carrying so much guilt asI didn’t feel I deserved such a nice ride. I gazed at the empty seat wishing she was there, singing badly at 80’s songs, butchering the words and laughing between tears of pain.

The next morning I put both feet on the floor and took another step forward.

We celebrated Christmas. We did this by going to mass on Christmas Eve. It was the first time I had been to our church since she died. It was one of her favorite places. We gathered and prayed, we sang and prayed and I prayed she was there with me. I kept my eyes closed so tightly and tried sovery hard to feel her presence, to hear her voice when we sang, I wanted so badly to know she was with us, to feel her hand slide gently into mine. But it didn’thappen. I couldn’t feel her. I tried so very hard, so very hard it hurt. I kept it together, we took a family picture by the tree. We as a family went todinner after then home. I didn’t go to bed until 2am. I couldn’t sleep becauseI was so upset that I couldn’t feel her there with me! I was sad, angry and devastated.

The next morning I put both feet on the floor and took another step forward.

We gathered in the morning. Cody made a splendid breakfast and gifts were exchanged. Very quickly we noticed mom’s absence. All the goofy gifts she would order online for each of us. Well thought out with some form of funny undertone. There was a giant hole in the morning festivities, and after allwas said and done I found myself alone for the afternoon cooking dinner for just us. It was lonely and sad and well, strange. I closed my eyes and prayed for her to talk to me, I waited, I tired and nothing happened. The house was cold inside and to me there was no warmth of Christmas. But I tried, the kids didn’t seem to notice and all of them had smiles on their faces. They all enjoyed agood Christmas dinner, there was hugs and laughter, but it just wasn’t the same.

The next morning I put both feet on the floor and took another step forward.

Jacy’s dad’s house was the place to be. It was warm, it was festivious and it was filled with love. Everyone was happy and had a good time.I see her everywhere there, and her step mom does too. It is not easy. I walked out to the cabin where Jacy stayed when she needed to be close to Stanford.Just a short 24 months ago she would have been laying there, happy to see me, smile on her face and love in her heart. 24 months, 730 days, 17,520 hours ago,she was here in this spot. 4 months, 122 days, 2,928 hours ago she was asleepon the very couch I sat on today. 2 months, 67 days, 1,608 hours ago she told me she loved me for the last time.

It’s hard to be happy, when you carry so much guilt for things you could have done better. It’s hard to be happy when the center ofyour universe is gone. It’s hard to be happy when you sit on the end of the bedat night hitting yourself in the head because you don’t know who YOU are or howto find out. It’s hard to be happy when the only person on this earth who loved you unconditionally, who you could tell everything to is no longer there to hear you, to hug you, to give you the love you so desperately need. It is sovery hard to find inspiration.

But you know what?

Tomorrow, I will get up in the morning, put my feet on the floor and take another step forward.

Not for Jacy or because it is what she would want me to do.But because this is who I am. It is who I have always been. I don’t have tolike it, I only need to learn from it, to show the way for my children, and tohopefully help just one person who doesn’t think anyone knows, or understands this pain.

My only goal in life is to aspire to inspire. It is all Ihave left, it can’t be changed by time, it cannot die and leave me, and longafter I am gone if I have affected the lives of just one person then it was all worth it.

I love you Jacy Franceschi. I miss you terribly….