It was Sunday, December 18, 2016 at 11 AM and I sat at my favorite little Mexican place sipping on my second margarita. My eyes were bloodshot, my hair was clean but in a tight braid and matted to my head – clear signs that I had gone straight from the shower to putting on clothes in no mood for the full Jackie list of get ready to dos. Two special girlfriends sat across from me – Libby and Randi – and listened. There eyes were wide and so full of empathy it didn’t matter what they said – just being there with me was everything I needed. Danny had been home around 10 days and things had gone haywire. It was the first introduction to the fact that although he was doing so well by medical standards the power of the drugs and whirlwind situation presented a field of emotional landmines ready to cause destruction. People don’t often talk about this part of transplant, but being around others who have walked it and medical experts – this is transplant life.
That day went from bad to worse and it was obvious that just helping to care for Danny wasn’t going to be what was hard. Surviving these moments that presented pain and questioned my ability to even do this would be the uphill battle. I had been crying for days – a mixture of stress, no sleep, criticism disguised as “advice”, fear of doing something wrong and not feeling at all like myself – I kept expecting to run out of tears. But from my point of view the candle of hope that was lit on December 1 that handed us the world at our fingertips had suddenly been extinguished in a hard and fast blow. There would be other times like these ahead – some days I was at the end of my rope and sometimes it was Danny who was looking to give up. There were moments where we both wanted to quit – me to walk away from my marriage and Danny to pull the plug on life. It sounds so harsh and when you look at our life right now you think – you fools! How could you consider giving up? Even when I look at a calendar now I see it was a matter of weeks that were hard, compared to a life time of good. But here is the truth – when you are in a moment that hope is gone, you do not see a way forward.
These sweet friends of mine would be called upon again…. others who turned into my phone support system would be answering calls all hours of the night to remind me that we were not alone and it was going to be OK. But it is that day in December that I remember the most clear. It really was the first time I felt all the air be sucked out of the room and for someone who feeds off of faith and staying positive, I felt depleted and done for. After my margaritas I went to my parents and just slept. Laid on the couch and just gave into the feeling of giving up. 5PM rolled around and just as if I was little kiddo they got me up, encouraged me to get on my jacket and we piled into the car to head to Sunday evening mass. We were a little late and thus could not sit in one pew, so Dad and I sat in the back of the church in this quiet little alcove off to the side. You can see the pulpit, you can hear every word – but you feel a little hidden away and removed. It was there that I let go again – of it all. I just cried and cried scared to death that I could not even comprehend how to move forward, let alone begin the process of finding the silver lining. That is my go to survival process and in this moment I couldn’t even fathom a silver lining. My dad placed his hand on by back and with tears welling in his eyes he said to me “He is here with you, Jac”…. “God is here and crying with you because of your pain”….. “He knows your fear and he will walk with you”. And Dad closed with – “and I too don’t know how this will work out, but we are in the right place, I am with you and it will all be ok someday.”
Today, September 20, 2017 I sat downtown in one of the most lovely buildings in DC. It is an old tradition club that I would pass by years prior when I worked downtown. When I saw this very impressive building, important looking folks were always going in and out of it and I would think to myself – when I go to a meeting there I will have really made it in my career. An introduction was given about a young man who had received a life saving gift – lungs – through a transplant …. and up walks Danny. He thanks the DC Rotary club for the opportunity to visit today and that he was honored to share “our story, the story of my wife and I on our transplant journey.” Danny shared more than I expected about the moments he was ready to call it quits (on life) and how long and hard the journey had been for us both – but we were blessed because we had made it. The theme of Dan’s speech was “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans” and how that was our little family motto. How much God must have laughed this last year and through so much of Dan’s journey with CF and our journey as the Bessettes. And here in a completely different place, time, season, and setting again the tears for me welled up….remembering those moments and then looking at us now. Medically, emotionally, martially, and as individuals we are walking proof that it is true “He is here”.
Throughout the day I was bursting with joy, pride and gratitude. To share our story and hear others’….. to connect with people…. to answer questions…. and to be partnering with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) who helped us survive this whole ordeal, fed my soul. It can be rare in this life to feel that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you hope to do – so I soaked up every moment of it. And all day long the memory of that day in December stayed with me. That morning of having to pour out my emotions to friends without a worry of how I looked because I was too tapped out to care, to that night when I clung to an image of Jesus pulling me forward and my father helping to support me while I try and keep walking….. He is here….. Then today when I see my hearts counterpoint sharing the same message of fear, hope, redemption, and faith with a whole room – and categorizing this as “our” story, not just his sickness: my prayers were answered. Oh and the answer – nothing like I would have ever dreamed of…..better than I was even capable of wishing into existence.
If your walking and the path forward is dark – I promise you keep walking, He is here, and you will be amazed where you land.
Thank you so much for reading and remember to make it a great day!