November 30, 2016 Danny got the call for his lungs and when he woke up on December 1, 2016 he had a new set that no longer held CF. Today marks one year from that moment in his life…. in our life…. in this story. One year, I assumed would feel something similar to what this summer held: all of sudden we cleared some sort of hurdle and life felt completely different. It seriously was as if a page in the book turned and things were just better. I found myself on this great road trip laughing and enjoying, talking and dreaming – the months of fear, anxiety, pain, frustration, anger just melted away under the bright sun and life was new. Sometimes in those moments I thought of the chapters in the hospital – during the winter we thought would never end – but mostly I would just feel grateful they were over and return to the present. I assumed the one year mark would be that but on steroids.
This week I have felt in a fog continuing to return to various moments from that first 24 hours through those first few months that were so difficult. Moments that are hard to describe – yet I some how long to. Honestly, I have caught some flack for that. Relationships have been damaged or lost and I know that people have viewed me differently by so openly pouring my emotions – especially when they may not make sense, because I can’t always share what brought them on. Those are scenarios that are difficult for Danny, myself and those in our circle – those aren’t my stories alone to tell. Here I can really only share my heart. But what I can say is I fear not being honest, because its the raw honesty of others who have helped me to keep walking.
Recently we have found a unique interest in the Boston Marathon survivor stories. For me I have become so enthralled because they are so honest. These people struggle with the word hero – they really identify as just surviving. They all are so truthful about how messy trying to heal can be for your mental state, your marriage, and your family relationships. Or when in the hospital this past spring Angie Smith’s book about her daughter where she was so honest and raw with her emotions and anger with God actually transformed my faith’s journey. And Jamie Ivey’s podcast of people who have traveled the most treacherous roads, only to discover the divine power in it all sustained me so much, I would play them when I wasn’t actively listening in hopes the words would influence me through osmosis. If these people had chosen to only share the clean, perfectly summed up packages I would have felt more alone and lost. And as a result of this time I have realized the incredible power that comes from compassion towards others, the gift that is offering up others in prayer, and the realities that everyone has a messy story from their life that is worthy of sharing and praise. We are running the best race of all – the human race – and I am so glad to be able to cheer others on now that I have a better understanding of pain and despair. So I continue to pray for strength and wisdom on how to share.
Again that brings me back to the reality that one year doesn’t feel like this huge milestone that I was expecting. We are still figuring so much out, we are still healing mentally, emotionally, and physically and coming to peace with one very serious truth: for everyday we find a way to become better ingrained into our lives – the life that was lost will feel further away for another family. These are emotions that weren’t able to be processed when we were in the fog, now they can surface and it is complicated.
This week in particular we can’t help but think back. Danny and I reviewed our first texts to one another post surgery (that was a big day that his name re-popped up on my phone). We have scrolled through pictures and my blog post and we talked about it. Some of it was good and some of it was hard – transplant is this bizarre mix of high highs that give way to low lows at such a fast pace you are so happy and blessed and hopeful that the switch makes you angry, lost, sad, anxious…. and then your mad at yourself for feeling that way when life still exists. So you invite in guilt, remorse, and emotional outbursts all over the place. Both Danny and I had the best and worst versions of ourselves many times over during this experience. It makes you want a re-do and to close the box and put it on the highest shelf away all at the same moment. I suspect so much of life is like this: a mix of opposing feelings …. so if you get it – good, we are not alone in this humanity.
So what’s next? Well we don’t really know and that too is a hard fact when you realize a whole year is past. But this experience has taught both of us that life – its a moving train and you best just get on. For the first time we are making changes and really going for it in a few areas. It is my belief that even if we are still at the beginning of these new commitments, just living life by doing them will hold an answer or lead to the path forward. I find myself praying (sometimes hourly) that is the case and just the act of prayer brings about a lot of comfort. At the core of it all, we have to be grateful and know we are blessed to be at the place that we can do that – Danny is well enough to live and we are both in a place to do so together. That is what is most important and when I am feeling really lost, I can offer that up for those who are living with the physical loss.
Even with all the mess though there are three aspects of November 30/December 1that bring incredible joy. First all of you…. that day and night the outpouring of prayers, messages, acts of generosity were so great that the thing I fear most of the transplant process: surgery waiting, was amazingly peaceful. The whole time others in our group would pace or become frantic and my parents and I sat with such a bizarre calm and peace – I was warm the whole time. It was this comfort and calm that it was all going to be ok that I cannot understand, except to say it was the outpouring of love and faith. Whether you are a family member or stranger the decision to contact me transformed this scary moment into an opportunity to be humbled and filled with a true hope. I ask God all the time to find a way to use me as the instrument of peace he provided through so many of you. It was incredible – thank you.
Second through the whole surgery because of that crazy peace I picked up my phone to text Danny no shortage of 30 times. Ya’ll, I had his phone IN MY HAND. What the heck was I doing…. but I kept wanting to share with him the bizarre waiting room happenings or what we were ordering for dinner from one of our favorite places. I would try and send him copies of the messages I was receiving or to share the sweet friend I had heard from. The peace you all gave I so badly wanted to share with my person. And it is true – for all the ups and downs and pain before during and after this moment it comes down to this: Danny is the person I want to share all this with – I can’t even leave him alone for a life saving surgery. He is my husband and I love him.
And finally – after I had a good laugh at myself for wanting to text him – especially about some silly things like did he want the half of my BLT I hadn’t finished (yea, I know…. weird): the first moments he woke up after surgery he asked for his wedding ring. It was the very first thing he communicated to any of us….. he pulled me to his bedside, tubes and all, to grunt and point until my mom figured it out “he wants his wedding ring” and he also asked for a kiss. When Danny returned to this life to keep going – he wanted his person too.
I don’t really know how your supposed to spend this day…. but I know we are blessed to spend it in good health and with each other. Thank you for your part in making that possible.
Image notes: These pictures are brand new during the first 24 hours Danny is post surgery. He hopes to share his story too – and after these have been under lock and key, we are proud to share them today.
Thank you so much for reading and remember to make it a great day!