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..

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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….

I have become afraid.

I over think things, I really do. I try my hardest not too, but I am the guy who lays in bed all night long thinking, and thinking, and thinking, until I pass out! Of course then I wake up in the morning and start thinking about whatever the hell it is I was thinking about before I went to bed and thus the process starts all over again! Phew, I had to think about that for a minute..

So here is my problem.

When I think about Jacy, most of the time I no longer see her in my mind sick, in pain and getting weaker by the day. My brain for some reason has me grieving our life prior to Leukemia. You know, she is a mom, I am a doting husband, we date twice a week, have rodeo, Criners arena, Sugarland and lots of bbq’s with friends. Also on the flip side my brain is inundating me with Stanford visits and Kaiser Hospital runs/rituals acquired over the last 5 years. So that seems pretty confusing doesn’t it?

Let me rephrase or clarify the upper statement.

It has come to my attention that if I am in a crowd, or shopping, or any place there are people, I begin remembering moments from another time and Jacy being with me, or have memories of us doing things together in conjunction with “whatever” activity I am participating. She is healthy, and so damn beautiful and it crushes whatever spirit I had towards the activity I am trying my hardest to participate in! I begin looking for her desperately in the eyes of every woman that passes by me, every woman with her back to me, I search and search and I can’t find her in the crowd so my heart rate goes up, then I can’t breathe, I am afraid and just when things seem like they couldn’t get any worse they do! I find myself running for cover trying to hide so no one can see I am falling apart on the inside! Then it just happens, and I can’t stop it! I cry.

Crying is absolutely ok. I am rational enough to know that, but I don’t want the attention. I simply want to do so without anyone checking on me and when you are in a large crowd with nowhere to hide that simply is not possible. So I try swallowing it down, hard, which just makes it worse. Because as the tide comes and goes, if the waves are held back to long eventually one massive wave will break onto the shore.

Yeah picture that! So fun.

My face hurts, my chest hurts, I swear my heart is going to explode, I start sweating, I can’t breathe and then it happens, over and over again, her face flashes, events flash, her smile, her kiss, her hand in mine, I can’t fucking take it!!! I can’t see her and my head starts spinning!! Then just like that, it’s gone. She is gone and it’s like someone lifted it all off my shoulders, until something else sets it off and it starts all over again.

I went to Nevada City today to celebrate Christmas with my son since I really haven’t been feeling it at all. I was excited, he was excited; we walked past the entry sign and into the crowd. The deeper we went I felt the tightening in my chest. I began searching. For her…

Parker shopped away as one woman after another passed me and although no one even remotely looked like my wife there was something, some kind of resemblance; a dress, the shoes, the way she walked, a smile. Stupid really, but it only furthered my need to find Jacy! I become irrational, saying things to myself like; She would have loved this place, the smells, the people, oh my, she would have been talking to every stranger she could in every shop or booth! I knew she just simply had to be there! She couldn’t be dead there is no way my wife, the strongest fucking person I have ever known could be FUCKING DEAD!!! WHAT THE FUCK!!!!

Turning the corner looking for a place to run and there in the window of a shop is a pair of shoes. Not just any pair of shoes, but clogs, her favorite and they were decorated and colored and she would have loved them and I would have bought them for her for Christmas because we loved Christmas, and church and Christmas eve pajamas and snow balling our friends and FUCK, FUCK, FUCKITY, FUCK!!!!

But see it doesn’t get better either.

The second part is when I am driving. That’s when I run through five years of hospital rituals, three years of Stanford Hospital rituals. Sneaking her hamburgers when she wasn’t supposed to eat them. Playing words with friends for hours, watching Survivor, quite literally ever single season-twice. Spending all those moments together with machines beeping and nurses coming and going and holding her hand through it all. Listening intently and calming her down as she tells me to please murder the next nurse that puts her on bed alarm! Telling her I loved her a hundred million times, not because I had too, or was afraid she wouldn’t know but because I wanted too. The way when you are first in love and you say those words it feels magical. Yeah like that, every time. Even when things weren’t going well. That’s the way it felt for me. I haven’t heard those words back for 50 days now. It is killing me inside.

I had to go to Kaiser the other day for me. It took me 15 minutes to get out of the truck and go inside. I even parked in the wrong place because I was on auto pilot. Once inside I wanted to run away. I never want to be inside that building again. Either of them. It’s irrational and I know I am going to need to get over it but I can’t right now. Every corner I see her, in a wheel chair, waiting for me to push her into an elevator. Or sitting around the corner waiting for a blood draw. I see the same faces of the same ladies working at reception who helped her and I pray no one makes eye contact with me. I know they won’t know who I am, but if they look at me I will feel like I am supposed to walk up and say; hi good morning, yes Jacy Franceschi at 10:30-04039018. Thanks yes I know where the paperwork goes.

If I drive towards the city it’s all I can do not to head towards Stanford. Again partly on auto pilot and partly because I still feel like she is there and this is all one big misunderstanding! There is no way she is gone, there is no way she is dead; there is no way she is in this wood box sitting behind me! The summation of her physical being bound into a bag with a copper tag and number that have the earrings she was wearing taped to it! There is just no way!!! They said it was a 10/10 match!!! She had the very best odds. They said that, I heard it!! They said she was going to live and there was only the slightest of chances things could go wrong! I heard that too!!!! They fucking said it!!!

I want someone to wake me from this horrible dream. PLEASE!!!!

Listen, I know they said a ton of other things as well, but it is just where I am right now. I don’t blame them, everyone was amazing to us and our family.

I just want my wife back! Can I go to heaven just for the day? (yeah like the song) Just so I can make sure she is ok? It was my job for so long it just feels so unfinished, and yet that is exactly what it has become. Just a day so I can come back and take care of the kids knowing she is all right. That’s all I ask..

Oh well, I guess I will just have to assume.

Listen, I know it will get easier over time. I don’t know how long that is going to be and really I don’t care. I loved her for 17 years, she was my very best friend and I will love her still, no matter where life takes me. I will never quit loving her, or the memory of her, I just wish for a while, I could turn my brain off and quit being afraid.

Choices

You know the funny thing about being a living breathing human being?

You and you alone have a choice. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, believe it or not you have a choice in everything you do, say, the way you react or don’t react to life.

Choice is powerful, we have the freedom of choice and how we wield that choice. I am thankful for that because it means as a human being I am allowed to choose which direction I go in any situation, including the precarious emotional moments I am currently living.

Right now, I have chosen sadness as my course. You heard me right, I have chosen to allow sadness into my life. To not meet the male dominated pre-requisite that we all understand to be a norm but is instead a gigantic falsehood of life; and that is to swallow it down, hiding from the sting of losing quite possibly the one person on this earth who will ever love me for who I am, who I was and who she always thought I could become. That statement alone as its read, and I recall all the times she looked me in the eyes, told me she loved me or was proud of who I had become, creates a surge of sadness that forms deep in my chest and moves like a wave towards my outer being. Who will do that? Who will be proud of me? Who will I champion for in the future, who has my back and loves me unconditionally? Who? And don’t say my children because;

1-that’s a given and

2-that is not what I am referencing here. It’s about the relationship built between you and your spouse..

My son texted me the other day, he wanted to know what I was doing, how I was feeling and our texting conversation ended with; I am feeling down. When prompted as to what was happening he replied; I just need to talk to mom. I replied: is there anything I can do? His response: No I just want to talk to mom about shit….. (in his vernacular “shit” means life)

Yeah; let that sit for a moment. Pardon my bluntness but you’re an asshole if that doesn’t tear you up inside just a little. Anyone who was close to their mom and has lost that person knows exactly how my son is feeling. Sad, alone, the boy inside of him simply needed his mommy. To hear her voice, to laugh together at stupid stuff, to hear I love you son at the end of the conversation. Fuck you Leukemia, fuck you GvHD, I hate you all to hell!

But even though those moments come and go, and even though each day that void widens I choose to keep going, to move forward, and to act in a manner that is respectful to both myself and my family. To set an example for our children. Our lives still need to be lived, there is so much out there to accomplish when it comes to our lives and the lives of others. We still have a choice.

Jacy has none of those choices. She didn’t choose this as her destiny. She can no longer choose an alternate outcome or make decisions based upon her feelings. She can no longer do anything from the confines of the handmade box sitting behind me on the table with her picture hovering over the top.

On the flip side though, Jacy did choose as a living, breathing human being exactly how she would exit this earth. She made it very clear what her expectations where and how we as the ones she loved and cherished most would handle that task. She did not want to go, even though her faith was strong, she wasn’t ready, she screamed she wasn’t ready, she felt as though there was so much left for her to do! In the end she was mad at God for stripping her of her family, something she had always wanted, but knew it was time and was welcoming the thought of heaven.

I am trying my hardest to honor her requests, and I will continue to do so until my very last breath. Why? Because I loved her unconditionally the same way she loved me. Because I made a promise to her 17 years ago, 5 years ago and two months ago! I always keep my promises. She was the center of my universe and even though she is gone I will cherish every single moment we spent together in memory over all those years.

I have no doubt as time rolls forward, our lives will change, priorities will change, and the look of our family will change. But her name, her memory and what she hoped for will not change as I will carry that forward with her in my heart and right by my side in spirit. It was and is my choice.

So what exactly is my point?

When the time comes and darkness hits your family, who are you going to become?  There is no reason to face it alone, because you don’t have too. As I have stated many times over the last five years, I started sharing our story because I didn’t want other spouses, partners or family members to feel alone. Like it was them against the world. I really wanted them to have a voice, a place to speak out, to read, understand and reach forward to someone such as myself who was open and accepting while painfully walking that walk.

Now our journey has ended and I am beginning a new journey forward, as one instead of two. It is scary as hell, I am worried for the future of this family, and the one person who understood me is no longer here to help guide me. But I am not alone.

You don’t ever need to be alone either! You know why?

Because you have a choice.

Sorrow is a bird…

Let me preface today’s writings with a statement: I promised my wife I would keep writing, telling the truth and never masking it or watering it down for the sake of others and that if our story and struggle could help just one person understand they are not alone then we have done our job. Well the “we” has turned to me. Just me and it is daunting to be a me, not a we. So please share/like/subscribe to this blog share our story with everyone you know, because if many can be reached, then maybe the “me” can become a “we” again.

“Sorrow is a bird that sits in the rain. Hunkered down on a branch you see it from the comfort of your window. You think; how sad, that bird is cold and rain soaked beyond its feathers there must be something I can do. But there is nothing you can do, for you cannot help the bird because the bird knows what its up against and understands it must deal with what life has thrown it’s way. There is nothing you can say, for doing so may cause it to panic, flying deeper into the storm, you simply must watch painfully as the sky rains down upon it. For a time the bird must remain sorrowful.”

~Betty~

I am currently drowning in a sea of sorrow and tears.

The darkness in my heart holds me down under its weight. Each day it is becoming harder and harder to leave the house for any reason.

Everywhere I turn I see her face, each place in town or a restaurant or the grocery store or, or, or it never ends. Look there is a grey Honda Odyssey in the parking lot, maybe she is inside and I can surprise her? You never realize just how many grey Honda’s there are out there until you drop kids off at school. You also don’t realize how fast after the one you love is gone, free from all the pain and suffering that your mind takes you back and leaves you with images pre-Leukemia.

There is no reason she would be parked here at the grocery store with the Honda. She hadn’t driven in over 3 years. But that is the crazy game your mind plays with you. It sucks! It really sucks and it hurts a lot!

Lately my mind has been playing the cruelest trick of all. Reminding me or telling me how inadequate I really was and how much better I could or should have been.

Over the last few months, I had really hit bottom when it came to caring for myself. No sleep as it took all night to care for my wife and during the day I had children, ranch and pick up/drop off duties. Plus all the house chores with cooking and cleaning. Of course then there was doctor’s appointments, shuffling her to her dads, oh yeah and then for 48 hours a week I was a kind, caring firefighter for the citizens of our little community. I really was a real life walking zombie.

I found every excuse I could to stay away a few minutes longer when I got out of the house, (I rarely left her alone and only left when she was lucid) to get a break from wet beds, pee on the floor, picking her up because she was suffocating herself in her sleep due to the high number of drugs she was taking. Listening to her tell the same story over and over again as I simply nodded my head while coldly scrolling through my phone because I knew she couldn’t see me due to her GvHD induced blindness. I hate myself for that, I hate myself for every minute I spent away from best friend. Not because I really didn’t want to be with her, but because I just needed a minute to breathe. It was selfish and wrong, I will hate myself forever for not spending those moments engaged or by her side.

What makes things even worse lately is a few things.

My brain also won’t stop replaying every little thing she said to me over the last few months which currently leaves me hearing things I didn’t hear before due to mental exhaustion.

Jacy was starving for my attention! Not the attention I was giving her, the kind of attention she desperately needed. Approval.

I should have thrown the chores to the side and laid next to her more watching movies.

I should have cuddled her more.

I should have spent more time listening and less time talking.

I should have told her I thought she was beautiful despite what GvHD had done to her body. She hated the way she looked and I told her I loved her no matter what, and that I always would which was always followed with a kiss. What I should have said was I think you are beautiful, over and over again.

I should have never left her side even for a moment.

I miss her so badly and just the thought of her sweet face makes me cry. I can’t sleep, not really a fan of eating anymore, I am down to one meal a day. Thankfully I am not drinking on a regular basis or alone. I tried but it just made things worse, so very worse.

I am angry at all of you.

I am sad and angry that we won’t celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary. I had big plans for that one. Watching all of you happily celebrating your anniversaries and birthdays and love, it just makes me angry at God for taking my best friend away. It’s not your fault, but it stings and I don’t understand why the people I love keep dying.

If one more person tells me to find the positives I swear to Christ I am going to punch someone! There are no positives! I cannot for the life of me understand why? Why are there so many pieces of shit walking this earth and the one human being who showed me how to believe in love, humanity, and selflessness is taken from this world in such a horrific way! I watched her die!!! I can never erase that image from my fucking head!

Jacy would always tell me she knew, she always knew that she was supposed to be with me. That god had guided her way and always been the strength in her life!

So was she sent here to rescue me? Was she my own personal angel and now the time has come for her to go home and if so, how could God leave her to suffer so much before she went? I just don’t understand that either. She was in so much pain, every single day, she lost her sight, couldn’t breathe, had to live with broken ribs that wouldn’t heal, always felt like someone was squeezing her chest, retained water like a camel, lost all bladder control and couldn’t walk to the front door without a full blown panic attack!!! This poised, loving, caring, mother of four, church going, humanitarian and god loving human being was left with no dignity at the end!

Then I think it was all the medications that killed her! I mean it’s what I do for a living and yet we blindly follow the doctor’s orders! Most of her medications caused many of the problems she was suffering from under the guise of providing relief!

Or maybe I am just looking for blame because I am mad, because I will never press her cheek against mine again, feel her whisper in my ear, hear I love you. You know that really hurts.

Oh and she won’t be there for Parker and Jessica’s graduation, all the kids marriages and forth coming grandchildren! She won’t be there for mother’s day, no longer around for everyone’s birthdays all the things she enjoyed about life.

Don’t even get me started on Christmas!

Yeah I am a ball of fun!

What do I do? How do I go forward? Each day is getting harder, not easier! I stare at her pictures and want them to talk to me so badly!!! About anything!! Hell I’d even like to hear about the last episode she watched in regards to the Real Asshole Housewives of any fucking stupid city!!

But the pictures don’t talk, they just remind me of a time that was and will never be again. They hurt my heart, they make me wish I had one more day to say I love you, one more day to apologize for any day I was short with her or not on my game, one more day to hear her tell Cody to have a good day on the way out the door or have her tell me Jake called her and it made her day! One more day to hear all the dirty little gossip she learned from Jessica after an hour long bed and dumb television session between the two of them. One more day to laugh as her Parker watch a movie together and they both make silly comments to each other in regards to the flick they would be watching! One more day to hear about how the dogs all piled on top of her, scaring her but at the same time relishing in their doggie love. One more day to hear about how when she was stronger she was taking me to England to show me all the cool things she loved about that country. One more day to hear the story about how she became a firefighter, which of course led to us meeting and how she counted those blessing each and every day.

But of course I know if I had one more day that would lead to me wanting just one more day.

I see her walking out of Stanford triumphantly after 8 months. Crying tears of joy because she felt like she had a chance to live again.

I see lots of things, I am reliving lots of things, I am dying inside over lots of fucking things over and over and OVER AGAIN!

I really am having trouble envisioning a world without my wife in it. It just doesn’t seem fair or right, or both. Not completely for me either, but for all of you, and to the world. She had such big dreams that would have benefitted so many. I would have been so proud to help her see her dreams come to fruition while continuing on as the Montessori kids used to call me; Mr. Jacy.

And thus none of this will happen and here I am on a capsized boat named life. I have no life vest and I am drowning, slowly.

Drowning in a sea of tears..

I know you can’t say it back. But I love you Jacy..

30 Days….

One month ago today my best friend, partner, hand holding, cheek snuggling, mischievous prankster, mom to our four children and all around goofy badass human being of a wife died.

That sounds so strange.

She is dead.

I waited all day to write about you Jacy, because I wasn’t sure how today would play out for me. I was a mess. I put on a good face, went and did something fun with dear friends, our son and horses. But the drive home was painful. I almost sobbed in Burger King as I recalled all the times you would mess with me over your order, hoping I would screw it up and you would get a good laugh at my expense. And for some reason every song on Pandora or the radio was either one of your favorites, one of our favorites or a correlation of both in conjunction with some special time or setting. I struggled to pull into the driveway and as soon as we unloaded horses found a reason to disappear again so no one would see me so damn sad.  Please forgive me honey…..

I know I have said this before and I will say it again so bear with me.

I have never and I mean ever gone this long without talking to her. Listening to her take on things, accepting or rejecting advice given or received from each other. Hearing her say; I love you in one of a hundred different ways that always reaffirmed our commitment to each other regardless of time or place. The darkness, cold and emptiness is, well, I guess it is just empty.

I know for a fact Jacy would kick my ass for behaving this way. She made me promise I wouldn’t and yet it is so hard to keep that promise, I am failing miserably. Sobbing for no reason, pining for her love as if she is going to walk through the door at any moment! We always knew this was a possibility and over the last few months it became more of a reality. Of course how could it not become more of a reality when every doctor during the last two months would ask; Jacy how long do YOU think you have?

Being Jacy she would answer without hesitation she was living long enough to see Parker graduate high school. She would then proclaim her forgiveness to me as that meant she was willing to check out after that milestone. I would smile and say it was ok and then both of us would gaze upon her physician wondering what the real projection might be. Her twitching like a nervous cat and me staring stone faced.

Within the year.

That was the answer we were greeted with and it never set well with her. How could it! Someone just gave you your official life expectancy! It stung even more because, well because this was Jacy!!!! If you knew my ass kicking, never take no for an answer, spin instructor, teacher, YouTube sensation and cheerleader for all wife, you knew that if anyone could beat any doctors expectations it was her! Right??

Ladies and gentlemen that is where the rub lies for me.

I know I have mentioned this before as well, either in the blog or in person, not sure, things have been really weird for me mentally lately. But here goes. The rub for me is I bought into this bullshit!!! I was so secure in my knowledge of my wife, her strengths and weaknesses that I seriously ignored what the doctors said and felt like she could, no dam it! She would make it another four years!!! She conned me and she conned me good!!!!

She cried in the elevator that day after hearing this for the second time, this time from her Kaiser doctor. I couldn’t even muster a “there, there honey” or hold her because I was so in shock! I was in shock we were actually coming to this point, I was in shock my wife who would never, and I mean ever bow to any such flabbergasting, erroneous bullshit prediction was believing it must be true. I was in shock that a day might actually come where she wouldn’t be by my side. I just stood there, in shock, as my wife wept and as the elevator doors opened, she hid her face so others wouldn’t see. We moved slowly to the car, I helped her inside, hugging her on the way down. I put away her wheel chair, slid into the car and did what I always do, tried to crack a joke. It didn’t go over. Right there, right fucking there I should have seen it, but I didn’t! Jacy was giving up.

That was 38 days before she slipped away from us.

I had bought into the super human, wonder woman, I am stronger than anyone on this earth bullshit, that my eyes became covered with blinders. I no longer recognized the worsening distressed look upon her face, the increased swelling and lesions that covered all areas of her body. I no longer heard her struggling to breathe harder than before, I simply treated it more aggressively and moved on. I no longer noticed she was wetting the bed any more or any less and trying her hardest to focus on small tasks she previously handled fairly well with her limited vision.  I no longer…. Not because of a lack of empathy, exhaustion or care, but because as I stated; I bought into the bullshit! This was Jacy and damn it, nothing and I mean nothing was going to happen to her!!!

Instead I became a quiet cheerleader, blinders on, hoping our tough as nails girl was actually doing better than she let on.

Don’t worry about the fact you wet the bed honey, I got it.

No I don’t mind cleaning the toilet chair, quit apologizing, I love you and this is what it means to love someone. Proud of you for making it here on your own.

I have all your pills figured out, no more overlapping, I think we can manage your increased pain without issue, you just need to trust me.

I know you don’t want to eat, but I made something really tasty and it has Marmite!!! Come on, just try a little, you can’t take your pills until you eat something good. She did love my cooking and that is one memory I will always love.

Are you cold, here is a comforter?

Are you warm? Here is a fan.

You want all the dogs on the bed, no problem.

I washed all your clothes, they are folded and placed on the couch; I will help you pick something later. Yes you can dress yourself but I am going to be here in case you need me.

And on and on and on..

With that, she kept going, and her effort every day made me feel like I was helping, like she had some form of independence which I felt she needed to keep mentally tough, to get stronger to win! But unfortunately the increased medications, increased antibiotics, the increased sleeping and loss of mental acuity all spoke volumes to just how wrong I was. My blinders were strong.

The reality is it didn’t matter what I did, GvHD was winning, the doctors knew it, those close to our family, including our immediate family knew it, I recognized it deep inside I suppose; I just chose to ignore it. To keep working hard, hoping she could just keep going a little longer.

Now here I am, alone.

It is such a dilemma of spirit.

Like I said, I know for a fact she would be mad at me for carrying on. But I can’t help it. I miss everything about her and now I am selfishly missing everything we lost before she got sick. I was on auto pilot for so long that it never occurred to me (even though I knew and thought about it all the time) how much I missed date nights, walks in the park or on the property, hiking in the woods, camping, boating, campfire ghost stories, taking in new dogs from the SPCA, cooking together, drinking wine and beer together, watching fucking survivor together, sitting in bed talking for hours, riding horses up Lagoon Valley together. I miss doing everything with her!!! I miss it all and on top of that I can’t even FUCKING TALK TO HER OR HEAR HER VOICE!!! ARRRRRGGGGGGGGG I’M SUCH A BROKEN RECORD!!!!

I miss it all, all of it, every single last messy bit of it!

Nobody ever deserves this but she really never deserved this! She never did anything wrong to anybody, she helped anyone who she felt needed it or asked. She did nothing her whole adult life but give, give, give. She radiated an energy that just can’t be explained and the minute you met her you felt it, you bathed in it and you knew instantly she was something, no, someone special.

Jacy you quite simply were the best human being I have ever known and I am so lucky you were mine for almost 17 years. My life will never, ever be the same.

I’m rambling, so I will wrap it up.

It’s been thirty days since we said goodbye, I feel you inside me, I feel you watching me; I have loved having you visit me in my dreams.

I just wish you could come home, wrap your arms around me, tell me it was all a dream and it will all be ok. Please? I’m scared.

Jacy I love you…….

The sounds of silence and where do I go from here?

Sitting at her desk this morning trying my hardest to focus on the 6 millionth start to a book I have already written, something comes to mind. It is lonely. So very lonely and it’s not a lonely that can be filled by friends or family, a phone call or a letter, facetime or actual conversation with well simply anyone.

It is the lonely that comes from silence.

You never realize how noisy your marriage is until it’s over. All the little things like you hustling trying to get kids out the door, her making lunches or singing in the kitchen to a song on Pandora using made up words because well it is the morning and she knows it bugs the crap out everyone so they move a little faster while she smiles with glee. It is hearing her use the damn coffee pot you hate because you own a Keurig and she simply likes the cheapness associated with a standard coffee pot. Her humming I love you as you walk out the door reminding her you’ll be home in an hour. She says she knows but you never know what can happen and she just wants you to know how much you mean to her.

It really is all the little things. The little things that make up the white noise of a relationship.

I woke up this morning and my dog had climbed onto the bed. He was asleep with his back up against mine and in the haziness of first awaking for a second, one split second I thought it was all a bad dream. 5 years a bad dream! It wasn’t, I was still alone, Jacy is still dead. In reality we hadn’t slept together for almost a year. She needed to be downstairs and with her being up all hours of the night depending on where she was with her meds and her constant need for sound (something she had before she got sick only more intense as time went on) the only way I could achieve even a few hours of sleep a night was to retire upstairs. I regret that decision now. I guess in a way it was preparing me for the future. None the less I have fully determined I hate sleeping alone. Oh well, guess I will have to get over it.

The white noise is everywhere.

I will never come home to the joyous sounds of her playing the piano again. She was never taught how, she played the flute, but her understanding of music made it easy for her to adapt to just about any instrument she picked up. I hate looking at that fucking piano.

Walking through the door in the afternoon to smell and hear all about some god awful concoctions she was creating. Foods or flavors that should never and mean ever be associated with each other, but there wasn’t anything left in the fridge so out to the garden she went and viola we have dinner! The funny thing is with only a few minor exceptions, even her craziest of Top Chef mismatched masterpieces all tasted great! I really am missing that right now on a cool fall morning.

The sounds of her painting or creating leather work. She was blind, but would sit at this very desk and create pieces of art out of whatever she touched. I made her a board from scratch to adjust and hold her leather while she stamped it or painted it slowly with one eye squinted shut and the other double focused on her work. The board is sitting here, never to be used again. I hate that fucking board.

Listening to her ask about the kids days when they got home, remind them of chores, reprimand them when they were jerks to her or smother them in love when they apologized. This whole thing has been so hard on the kids and I know they feel sad about each and every time they brushed her off as she was bedridden still trying her best to run the household. She loved them all so much and that love came out every day. The sounds of love bouncing from these walls, it has certain ring, a specific note when it comes from a mother’s perspective. It is quiet now; that sucks hard.

The permanency of it all is so overwhelming.

I know, everyone keeps telling me she can hear me, her love is all around us, it is in our children and the home we made. I know I simply need to talk with her, or I guess to her because she really can’t talk back. I stare endlessly into this room I created, I hear the oxygen machine still running or the lack of it, I am not sure. I wish I was still bleach mopping the floor while she incessantly apologized for all I needed to do to take care of her. That always bugged me, I would snap at her and say to knock it off! I would tell her I loved more than anything on this earth and there is no place I would rather be! I would kiss her on the forehead, then make her lunch, sit in the chair at the end of her bed and stare at her. Worried this day was coming.

In reality there was some other place I would rather have been.

Back in Alaska on the cruise with her! In Mexico, on the beach with her! In the mountains, hiking with her! In our own backyard riding horses with her!

I would have gone anywhere or done anything with her! Even if I didn’t want to. She just had a way of always convincing me to go and really, if you knew my wife or spent any time with her you just knew what ever her exploits were it was going to be one hell of a good time!

Besides that woman could convince a police officer to rob a bank, a hooker into becoming a nun, or the wealthiest person in the world into giving away every last dime. It just is who she was. I seriously am going to miss that I think the most.

So yeah, the silence is killing me, crushing me, it is hard to breathe most days. I am trying so very hard and it really is so nice how strong everyone believes that I am, but I don’t feel strong, I feel, I feel, I think I feel cursed. I feel as though there is some kind of vendetta against me. I feel like a permanent black cloud. I feel like loneliness is my calling. I hate being alone.

Jacy would tell me that God has a plan for us all and this was his plan. I remember her telling me through tears not more than 6 weeks ago that she wasn’t ready! She wasn’t ready to leave this earth, that she felt there was still so much work to do, so many kids to help!!! I held her while she cried and promised her if her time did come I would carry that work on for her.

I have always been a man of my word.

I am starting a scholarship fund in Jacy’s name for high school kids here in Dixon. It will benefit Ag kids because that is what she believed. We were able to secure a little over $700 on Saturday at her memorial by selling left over tri-tip. So we are up and running.

I am also looking into starting a foundation using Jacys Army as the name. It will hopefully grow and secure enough funding to become perpetual. The objective will be to assist families that do not have the assistance or support we were lucky enough to have while going through Leukemia treatment. This one was my idea and something my wife backed 100% as we talked discussed in detail the lack of assistance for families less fortunate as ourselves as we went through the process.

I also promised her I would continue on, that I would be ok, alone. I lied to her a lot on that one. Starting with day trips, new places and taking lots of pictures of my alone adventures. But I never wanted her to worry about me more than she already did, so I kept doing it even though I wanted nothing more than to be by her side. Ultimately it created a man who was quiet and walked a lot with his head down. She called them rest breaks or time away from caring for her. It was time needed there is no argument there, I put on a super brave face and sold it like a used car salesman, but it is coming back to haunt me now as I long for all those moments I missed with my wife. I hate myself for not being there, for distancing myself from family. But it is what it is I guess, no changing it now.

So instead of rambling on like an A-hole; I guess what all of this is leading to is this;

If you love someone, I mean really love someone!

Make every moment count. Even the little ones. Life is short, it can be taken away at a moment’s notice. I am blessed because we knew it would eventually come. But there are so many that walk out the door in the morning never to return again. Is that how you want to leave it?

Never stay mad at your spouse, no matter what. You have the ability to talk just about anything out and come to a resolution. I promise! I could make that woman spit hot lead, and she could make me flip a truck at times, yet we always forgave each other in our own ways. And yes, sometimes you need to recognize that not all forgiveness comes with an apology. Anyone who has been married long enough who reads this knows exactly what I am talking about.

Remember daily why you love them. Why you married them or are with them. Never forget that, they are special to you for a reason. Honor that reason and cherish it.

Never go to bed mad. Seriously it sounds dumb but it’s true. Every day truly is a new day! We are only given so many of those days so don’t waste them! Besides the snoring is enough on its own, so don’t find something else.

Enjoy every single little thing, from burnt meals, dirty clothes, dishes not done, to bad singing and even watching shows you cannot stand. The thing is you’re spending time together and that’s what’s important. You can never get that lost time back.

When the going gets tough, don’t even think for a moment about running away. If that’s what you’re thinking then in my humble opinion you never truly loved each other. Sorry but as my wife would say; the truth can be painful but in the end, it is still the truth.

Love is amazing, it makes us do crazy things. But the reality is love isn’t all the glorious movie tag lines or clichés we’ve grown up with or are led to believe. No my friends, love is all the messy and yes sometimes painful stuff in the middle. The rest is just the icing on loves cake.

Thanks for letting me vent all this out. I actually feel a little better. I am sorry if I hurt your feelings or made you cry. It was never my intention.

A million no mores………

Where are you?

I see you in the trees, I hear you in the wind. Your smiles a reflection of the sun, your tears an afterthought of rain. I smell you while passing a garden and feel you in the dirt upon my hands. I know you’re in my heart, my chest feels nothing but pain.

You belonged to no one, yet you were mine. I will always have been the lucky one.

Things have settled down, people have filtered away. My house is no longer filled with the sounds of an active family, but instead a quiet, sterile silence echoes from the walls.

I have a lot of time to think. No more oxygen machine, no more pills to be taken, no more round the clock care, sheets to be changed, special meals to be made, I.V.’s to exchange or breathing treatments to administer. No more last minute pain pushes or middle of the night Kaiser Pharmacy runs. No more doctors’ appointments or shuttling to and from her second home at her dads under the wonderful care of her S-MUM. No more……. Anything.

There is also no more middle of the night laughter as she owned being high as a kite! No more rambling conversations with me acting frustrated to get her goat then tell her I was listening all along. No more stories of childhood or the time she decided she wanted to be a firefighter, all having been recited a thousand times. No more theological discussions involving what some would consider the gospel truth, then mixed in with stories of what we both called historical biblical sleight of hand. No more listening painfully to The Real Housewives of any fucking stupid city as she played it purely for background noise to quell her ever increasing anxiety. No more walks together outside or watching as she bravely and oh so blindly used her will of steel to walk on her own. No more morning breakfasts where I tried so very hard to create something flavorful and delicious to make her smile, knowing that being stuck in bed while I ran a million chores made her sad. No more arguments about who wasn’t listening to who or her telling me to slow down because her brain didn’t process as fast as it used too. No more inadvertently hurting her feelings as I needed to treat certain situations in a clinical aspect to get her to comply then working towards forgiveness and a long awaited hug and kiss which she always made me earn and rightfully so. No more watching her snuggle her children or her dogs with glee! No more watching her find joy in the simplest of things, hear her recollect every amazing moment with each and every one of her children or fill those precious moments with every worry she had about their future. No more sage advice from a woman who pulled no punches while never saying she was sorry, but then fill your face with a million kisses instead knowing you’d probably already forgiven her. No more family holidays with her smile radiating across the room. She couldn’t see, but she could sense every single minute surrounded by those she loved and the joy upon her face was the stuff stories are made from. No more hearing her at 1 am downstairs, alone, singing or laughing or talking to her iPad as she recorded things for her children in the future. No more hearing her sob, alone downstairs at 1 in the morning as her brain helped her realize what was to be a certain fate. No more morning goodbyes or walking through the door hellos, followed by a joyous “I love you”. No more hidden cards telling me how much she loved me, no more painted art or crafty paintings! No more kissing her while she slept and adjusting the covers so she was warm. No more, no more, there are a million no mores.

Saturday was the start of something.

Seeing each and every life she ever touched, listening to all the stories and remembrances, being surrounded by that much love was an amazing experience. I know she was there, I hope she was happy, I am sure she spent time in her own way touching each and every one who walked through our gate. Jacy just had a way. I fell in love with her for many reasons, but one of them was because she just had a way. She drew you in like a moth to a flame, she held you close with her warmth, compassion and heart of gold. She only ever cared about you, never herself and that my friends is an amazing quality that is not seen all that often today. She was quite simply an angel.

I can remember dropping her off for choir practice and thinking as I drove away that church seemed a little brighter once she walked into the building. I loved listening to her sing in the choir too. She always glowed. She always said that we all find our way, it is what Go has planned for us. There is no roadmap, no directions, we simply need to trust in him and we all find our way.

After Saturday, seeing everyone and watching a day of remembrance unfold exactly the way she hoped it would, I knew in my heart we will also find our way.

It will be long and painful for all of us. There will be a million new experiences for us. We will make new memories and find our way while hopefully honoring the leader of our family with each and every step.

I will miss being able to report our successes and failures to her, hearing her laugh or wanting to give us a hug. But we will find our way.

The truth of it all is I don’t know how to be anyone but Mr. Jacy and I miss more than anything hearing her voice out loud. It’s in my head, it’s in soundbites and video, but I am selfish, it is not the same.

But I can hear it, and I hear her telling me to have faith, stay strong and find a way.

She told me once that she will be waiting for me with open arms on the other side, and though it will seem like an eternity for me, for her it will be but a joyous moment in time, for she had been with me all along, in my heart and in my soul.

I loved you Jacy Franceschi, I will always love you, I will always be grateful for every single moment we spent together and apart. When it was easy it was good, when it was hard it created what marriage is supposed to be and those memories will never fade. I loved you with everything I had and I can never repay you for what you brought to my life.

I miss you so bad, but I can truly say not only was I loved, but I was loved by an angel.

You were my everything…

Day 11. I’m so sorry you had to go…

Eleven days

It’s been eleven days since we said goodbye. It wasn’t pretty, no longing stares or pointless conversation. Goodbyes are always hard, I am glad we didn’t do the whole; it’s not you, it’s me thing. That would have been pretty pointless.

The thing is, I have never been away from you this long. I have never gone a day without hearing your voice, laughing at something dumb or had you to bounce ideas off. I understand that seasons change, lives change, feelings change and with it we should learn to accept that change, embrace that change and learn to grow from its opportunity. Yet I am so confused.

I feel as though I tried really hard to be everything you needed me to be in the hope we would grow old together, raise grand kids together, and be there for each other. Best friends until the end! It was the plan right? I mean you said it was, you said you would always be there for me to dote over, to help pick me up when I was down, carry some of my load as I to carry yours, meet me in the middle of the toughest situations and walk hand in hand through this messy thing called life! You promised me that I could go first! I know it’s selfish, but after everything that has happened in my life, I just didn’t think I could bear to live through another emotional loss of such magnitude!

And yet here we are. You have left and I am alone.

I cannot get past it, I know, I know, it shouldn’t have been a shock, things hadn’t been working out for a while. But it was a shock, of the greatest magnitude!! When I think of the moment your left and trust me it occupies my every thought, I can’t catch my breath! I cannot think straight, to see you leave that way wasn’t easy by any means!!! I have never seen that look on your face! Your bright, sunny, amazing smile encompassing your olive complexion and radiant eyes has never, and mean ever looked that way before!!! It, well, it was horrific!!

Days later and all I can think of is who am I? Missing your voice, your advice, your goofy demeanor is bad enough, but let’s cut to the chase! Who the fuck am I? I have been 50% Jacy for 17 years and I really liked that, a lot! WHO THE GOD DAMN FUCK AM I? WHO AM I SUPPOSED TO BECOME? WHO AM I SUPPOSED TO TALK TO AS I FIGURE THESE THINGS OUT? YOU AREN’T FUCKING HERE SO WHAT THE BLOODY HELL??!!!

Ok I am sorry. I am really angry! So fucking angry!! I am angry at God, I am angry at Haiti, I am angry at Leukemia, Chemotherapy, experimental drugs, promises, Stanford, Kaiser, fuck I am even angry at myself buying into all this bullshit the same way you did! The only difference is you never wavered, you always felt you were going to beat this fucking thing!! I spent so many nights not sleeping, worrying for you, for your safety, for your mental well-being. I dove into the process and everything and I mean everything pointed to dark, black places that no one should go! But you, you always shone brightly, always with a kind word or positive thought. It is one of a million reasons I fell in love with you. You always knew I was a realist, a black and white kind of guy and although it bothered your unicorn and rainbows outlook at times you could always trust me for the straight answer. And I never disappointed.

I hate that I know the things I know, I hate that my profession has given me insights I never should have had, I hate that on the morning you left I knew that was the day you were leaving.

On the flip side, I am also thankful for the knowledge I have, it allowed me to care for you in ways others could not. It kept you safe and warm and nothing, I mean nothing kept me feeling closer to you than when you would tell me I was the only one you trusted with every single aspect of this shit sandwich we were handed. I was always prideful of our marriage.

I guess none of it matters now though does it? You are gone and here I sit.

Jacy, please know, that I understand completely why you had to leave. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life was lean down on that Saturday morning, kiss your cheek and whisper in your ear that we would be ok, the kids would be ok, I would make sure all of your dreams for them would come true and it was ok for you  to go. It killed me to say it, but it was the right thing to do. All I could think of after was that bullshit saying; if you love something set it free, if it comes back it is yours, if not it wasn’t meant to be. I don’t know why I thought that, because we were meant to be.

You were in enormous pain, you have been for some time. You have been struggling just to make one more day time and again. I no longer wanted you fighting for me and I know you Jacy Mirelle! That is exactly what you were doing. My heart is so torn, it aches beyond any pain I have ever felt, but saying goodbye was the right thing to do even though I know you loved me and you were never coming back. I’m trying to let the reality of it all ease things for me. I mean I know you are no longer in pain, you are in perfect form free from this world earthly struggle. But I guess I am just a selfish man who knows he had something special. You taught me about love, true love, how to love and be loved in return. How does one go forward when that much love has vanished? I am surrounded by so much love and support, yet I am achingly alone. I am trying really hard baby, I really am, but it’s just not ok that you left. I am not mad at you, I could never be, I just miss you.

I’m scared and I need a cheek snuggle really badly.

I’m really sorry you had to go, I love, love, love you..

 

I am not fine…

I am not fine.

There it is, I said it. It has taken me a long time to come to this conclusion. But, I have acknowledged it, pulled it out from under the emotional rock it was hiding and verbally stated its presence.

I am not fine.

There are many reasons I am not fine, and it’s not a simple answer to the question of why? But it is a truth, a truth I have been hiding for quite some time now.

I spent this week in San Diego as a participant in a Health and Wellness for public servants seminar. The first day started with an amazing opening speaker who really inspired and justified my resilience in accepting this time away from Jacy. After that it was a lot of the same old build up, and for us fire guys a reiteration that ICS should always be used while managing any type of incident. Including a mental health crisis. After 8 hours of what was new and interesting information for most and a segment of boring refresher for us fire people. I prayed the class would only get better. It did not disappoint.

Day two found us thrown into the emotional arms of a speaker covering the essentials of support, where that support comes from and what it looks like when built properly. He carefully broke down through his own experiences where we go wrong as public service personnel when it comes to identifying the who, what where and why of our foundations for strength while working these spiritually, emotionally and mentally taxing professions.

As he stood there expounding on his failures, the recognition of a skewed priority system, the ability to deny professional help after a triggered emotional event and the wall he built around him by simply stating he was fine when asked. It hit me, hard, like a ton of bricks that everything he was saying fit me to a tee. That I to have been pronouncing my resilience nonstop and answering every question in regards to how I was doing with the five year demise of my wife as I was “fine”.

But I wasn’t fine. In fact I had been living this lie for so long I actually began to believe my own bullshit.

You see in those few moments as I wandered in and out of his lecture, with every key point fitting me perfectly I knew it had gone on long enough. But where did all this come from? How did I get this way? Why have I been able to carry this load so well for so long and still be standing?

Day three gave me the answer.

During a transition in classes on day three, having freshly been removed from an hour long course on family crisis and the emotional well-being of children in regards to perceptions related to our jobs.

I received the phone call no one wants.

My wife, the love of my life, the strongest human being I know in this world was in demise. As many of you already know Jacy has been fighting a very long hard battle with GvHD post Leukemia transplant. The GvHD has won. We quietly placed her on long term hospice four weeks ago. Affording us instant access to RN’s who would come straight to the house when needed. Also giving me a strong base to stand on as I have been the head nurse to my wife for over a year.

 

 

 

The phone call went something like this: James, Hospice is taking Jacy off the Stanford medications, she can no longer swallow, or eat and really it’s about pain management now. She has but a few days.

Of course there is much more to it than that but this is neither the time nor place to run through her complete medical chart, emotional state or my irrational state of mind.

As of late I have been referring to myself as the air traffic controller of our family, that call was the equivalent of having a plane drop from my screen. Call sign, call sign, pandemonium and panic ensue.

Yet it was also in that moment, standing on a deck just outside the convention overlooking beautiful Mission Bay trying to keep it together as 600 hundred of my fellow public servants could see me from many vantage points I not only realized 100% I met every single criteria for a public servant-no a human being, father of four, dad, a fucking husband in distress and the honest recognition I needed help. Just like that, the clarity as to how I have been able to keep going for so long hit me like a brick.

My father.

My dad could drive me crazy! His self-righteous bullshit was always something I rebelled against! But since his passing here at the house almost three years ago I have come to realize that even though I fought against him so hard for so long there are traits he taught me that I carry proudly to this day.

Son; always put one foot in front of the other, life will knock you down but you need to keep going. What else are you going to do?

Of course in his later years he did nothing but sit on his butt and blame everyone and everything for his perceived failures in life instead of cherishing what was around him. This was also a bone of contention between us because I believed the latter and it made me mad he wouldn’t follow his own advice.

But here I was, overlooking the ocean, swelled up with a myriad of uncontrollable emotions. Not more than a few hours earlier I had been talking to one of my co-workers about how tired I was after five years and several Leukemia associated battles. Trips to Stanford, scares, triumphs, disappointment, doctors’ visits to Kaiser, Jacy crying in the elevator proclaiming she wasn’t ready to die, because she felt there was so much work left to do. It all has taken a tremendous toll on us all, of course no more than what it’s done to my wife.

The only life I have known for five years is that of a single parent (I fully admire all of you single parents) doing his best to get three of my four kids where they need to be when they need to be there, run our ranch, work my job as a firefighter, and care for my wife 24 hours a day many times with little sleep. I am blessed the most amazing support structure in Jacys family and with the assistance of our Gina I don’t know how I would ever have gotten it all done, but either way, yeah I was tired.

But what struck me, what really opened my eyes at that very moment was the realization through wonderful training that week, was that I hadn’t been placing one foot in front of the other for five years, no, no my friends. I have been doing it for 18 years.

 

 

 

I never dealt with or recovered fully from the loss of my first wife. I have been doing the emotional two step in one form or another for a very, very long time, affecting my personal relationships, my children’s ability to grow as human beings and my own self-care.

So yeah I am tired, I am so fucking tired.

But in that same instant, I’m not ready!

I am not ready for any of this, I have the skills to handle it, I have a complete support network in place to handle it, and I have the contacts to some of the best professionals in the business to handle it! All of that is something I didn’t have in 2001 when Kim died. I have been praying for peace for my wife, but her mind says she isn’t ready. I have been wanting to have a moment where I don’t need to worry about anyone or anything, but I am a man who cares deeply for his family, all of his family so that is not a viable wish. But I am not ready to say goodbye.

On the flight home I stared at the ceiling, I could hear my wife’s angelic voice in my head as I replayed moments from the past. It hurt because we haven’t had a conversation that was completely lucid in quite some time. I relived many of my favorite times with her and realized how much I will miss even the tough times. She is the only woman in my life who understood I never ever meant any harm when at times my mouth wrote checks I couldn’t cash. Which means she is also the only person who could ever call me on my shit without receiving the full verbal wrath of James Franceschi! Something I am always embarrassed by when it inadvertently happens.

I don’t do alone.

What am I going to do without her? Why is or did this happen? I have been so focused on keeping her alive that now as the time dwindles away I haven’t remotely considered how I am going to function without her, her strong willed personality, her gigantic kind, giving heart, her ability to coerce me into doing things or trying things I never, ever would have done or experienced completely against my will only to have me thank her for it afterwards. That larger than life smile, how will I go on without that larger than life smile in my life? How are my children going to function? Cody and Jake have been through this, they still have no idea what’s ahead, and they are quietly struggling as well but what do I say, what do I do? What is Jess going to do in a house filled with all boys, no mom to be there for prom, homecoming, graduation, and all the girly things that need to be addressed in the way only a mom, no, only my wife can do! What about Parker, why is this happening to Parker her only child? She fought so hard to bring him into this life and now she won’t be there for him either!! She is his everything!!!

Listen, I understand I am not the only person in the world this has or is happening too. But what the hell???? Why is this happening to me twice and how in the fuck do you justify taking away quite possibly the kindest most giving person I have ever known. Why not me? I have spent my life as an asshole, isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work???

 

 

 

Jacy Mirelle Glenn Franceschi answered a call 16 years ago. She fought hard against all odds to answer that call, fulfil that vision and she has without question made me the man I am today! Something I am so, so grateful for! She fought long and hard, working night and day to create the James Franceschi that sits here typing, wondering why? Is God saying her job is done and if so couldn’t he have found a different, less painful and disturbing way to tell her?

I love, love, love my wife. What am I going to do the first morning I get up and I don’t hear; Good morning my love as I grumble across the kitchen floor and make her coffee and breakfast? That first morning the kids don’t yell goodbye mom see you after school, hope you feel better today, while she does her best to respond with: have a great day! The first time her hospital bed isn’t there, the oxygen machine isn’t running, the doorbell isn’t ringing with medication deliveries and the house is cold and empty as if she never existed? The house she created, the home she filled with warmth and love, the ranch we tried to build together???

WHAT KIND OF FUCKED UP SHIT IS THAT??? MY BEST FRIEND IS DYING SLOWLY AND THERE IS NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT IT!!!!

I’M NOT FINE, THERE IT IS, I’M NOT FUCKING FINE!!!