They had finished the transplant. The surgeon came out with a huge smile on his face and said things looked great. We had to wait a bit, but it wouldn’t be long until we could see Danny. Eventually we all suited up- myself, my parents, Dan’s parents and his cousin. We could finally see him just as he was waking up.
Dan’s parents jumped into the room first – a theme of the day. It had not gone at all how we had envisioned and truthfully, later we would regret not carving out time for just us. But so much of transplant day was a complete blur and so I just took my deep breath and knew I would get my chance to say hello. As Danny began to open his eyes he scanned the room and pointed to me to come closer. At this point he was still intubated so no words, just pointing and some odd noises. Danny pointed and told me to come closer and then closer and then closer…. I couldn’t quite get what he was asking for until he pointed to his mouth and I said “a kiss?” He shook his head yes over and over again. But I was in my protective gear and not allowed to remove the mask and he had a tube. He settled for a kiss to the forehead, but quickly became restless again. He was pointing to his left hand and grunting – so very sure of what he needed and yet we in the room were at a loss. Suddenly my mom said, “his wedding ring, Dan wants his wedding ring” and to this another vigorous head nod. One of Danny’s greatest hospital fears is the staff not knowing that he belongs to someone and I will say most procedures he has sweet talked his way into keeping it on with tape or something, but transplant was a no go. So he gave it me to hold and now that he was on the other side he wanted it back. Danny wanted back the symbol that we belonged to each other in sickness or in health… he had gotten his second chance at life and wanted to be sure it started with the reminder of our marriage.
The months following the transplant however we almost lost it. I have learned during our life’s journey to never let a moment be overshadowed or history to be rewritten too much that you lose that first moment’s power, just because they are fleeting or harder to remember when things aren’t quite so good. In that moment when Danny opened his eyes he wanted his wife and to honor our vows as husband and wife. But transplant recovery it would be hard to recall that initial experience. Struggling through recovery, the stress of the demands this puts on your day to day life, finances, and relationship are unbelievable. Having to learn a whole new disease – CF had been a known entity, but transplant life was new for us all – is intense. Having to also balance it with family involvement, that you often need, is honestly is extremely detrimental. It would be a solid year before I felt comfortable around my in-laws again. Post transplant life is incredibly hard and I am very grateful for all the other couples that have stood up and shared the same truth. And for the many that don’t make it, we understand- completely. In fact, most marriages don’t survive and I am not sure that love has a thing to do with it – its just a very challenging situation. Ours survived but not without the hardest work either of us have had to do. Ultimately it made us stronger, it made us better…. we started the journey securing our rings on tight and we would end it so much stronger than we ever knew possible – even with some scars that have left forever marks.
This Sunday evening concludes National Marriage Week. I didn’t know about it until a blogger mentioned it, but it felt so fitting for the week we have had. Transplant life gave us the lessons, the tools, and the knowledge to face another go round. In fact, there is some pride when both Danny and I see a situation that had caused us issues during the last one and we know instantly how to squash it. Right now I am relating it to transplant, but I think this is really how all marriage is. You have to walk through the hard or messy to learn and when you are successful, you might even be glad you went through it. Your scars and growing pains might even be points of pride like ours. And what you may also come to learn, like we are, they are the things that matter the most when the stakes get raised with the next challenge. So many times this week I paused in the middle of something that I thought, “most people our age aren’t doing this” or the ugly word “should” comes up like, “ we should not have to face this” – but what marriage has taught me is in fact these are the precious moments that cement our love, that truly define marriage. I think the beautiful wedding photos or trips or pregnancy announcements are amazing. They are wonderful testimonies of the fruit and beauty of marriage. I know I love to celebrate them and I think its great that we have a space to do that…. but I also thought, the cameras aren’t flashing during the hard moments and yet don’t those create the foundation of a strong marriage too?
This week my husband had to humble himself and ask me for all sorts of help that hasn’t been the case since the first weeks post transplant and even then he was more functional than he is now. We have met with doctors and talked transplant and options but we have also talked about hospice and what preparing for a different future would look like. If given the choice, I am not sure I would pick these moments. When creating an instagram post or the memory books, these aren’t the types of moments I would say “I can’t wait to capture those.” Not only are they deeply private and personal, but they aren’t the ones that come to mind when you think of the words cherished or special – yet they are moments that define Danny and I and our marriage. Maybe when I would have pictured them before I would have shuttered and wondered how we would even do it. And yet this week, I found myself saying silent prayers of thanks to God that I was able to do them. Squeezing his hand, grabbing him and falling to tears when the doctors leave the room, or even arguing about if I am doing whatever medical thing to help him properly…. I literally thanked God that I was here in this moment with Danny. He is my whole world and you don’t get the chance to be in that moment, raw truth, or a partner like that always. We have beautiful wedding shots, great adventure photos, and wonderful dreams of what pictures we hope to capture soon with our daughter. But still, I am in awe of the power and beauty in the moments that may never make it to Instagram but are etched on my heart.
So yes, I agree Marriage does deserve a whole week to honor it. And please don’t get me wrong – I LOVED seeing the stories of how folks met or their favorite anniversary celebrations. The white dresses and the honeymoon sunsets they are beautiful blessings….. but I also want to honor the real stuff. If you are in a season of fighting for your marriage or your future – and its not pretty, those moments, those things still count. Marriage is tough and raw and beautiful…. and I am grateful that I have had ours – messy and all.
Danny update: things are very difficult right now. He has not been listed and there are a variety of things at play. Right now its confusing to even me and I have an unclose view of all of it – so I have not been able to figure out how to update. But we are still told transplant is possible, probable, and although we have our moments we are doing are best to focus there. Hope to have more concrete news to share – but in the meantime, we are so grateful for your prayers and ask they continue.
Thank you so much for reading and remember to make it a great day!