Over the last several days, I have written about the past nine months of my medical issues as if it were my story. In truth, I own very little of this story. For large parts of it–indeed, for the worst parts of it–I was either unconscious or not fully aware of what was going on around me. I did not have to bear the burdens of making potentially life-altering medical decisions, informing friends and family of my condition, watching the progression of my condition, feeling the hope of recovery squashed by another reversal. I didn’t have to worry, because I didn’t know I was supposed to.
I wasn’t the one who prayed that if her spouse was going to die, it would happen quickly.
All of those burdens, the heaviest and hardest loads, rested on my remarkable wife.
There is absolutely no way that a blog post adequately can express the depth of my debt to Esther, nor would it be appropriate for me to express here the degree to which I love her. 2015 has been a horror story for her. Not only did she have to support me during my ordeal, but at the same time her father was in hospice care, working out the final weeks of his time on earth. The shadow of death has hovered over Esther almost without interruption this year, which is more than anyone should have to experience. By the end of the year, her own health would suffer, and she would have to have surgery for a painful sinus condition. Throw on top of that financial worries, concerns about the security of her job, and family issues that tugged at her heart. I am sure that if she could have selective amnesia, she would throw 2015 on the ash heap of the forgotten.
While I slept, she fought. She fought for me to get proper treatment. She fought to stay by my side, knowing that my fear of hospitals and my claustrophobia would lead to a panic attack when I woke up intubated and tied to my bed. She fought for a private room, because it would be the only way that she could stay with me. She fought exhaustion and worry. She fought fear. She fought a dozen enemies, any one of which I probably would have run from. Ultimately, however, the biggest foe was despair, both for her and for me. She fought that one, too. And beat the crap out of it.
Memo to the Angel of Death: Do not mess with the Mexican mama. She will pull out a chancla and beat you back to Hell where you came from.
The weeks and months following my initial release from the hospital were hard for both of us. I lost weight every day, just as her dad was doing next door. Esther was watching both of the men in her life slowly disappear, and there was not much of anything she could do about it. She tried everything, but I just continued to waste away. It would be some four months before we sorted out the problem and addressed it, through another round of surgeries and scrapes with death.
During that time, Esther stayed home from work. She was not going to leave me home alone, even if it meant that “home” might be a refrigerator box under a bridge by the time the year was done. For weeks on end, we did little more than sit on the couch together, watching virtually every movie and program available on Netflix. (We were reduced to Lone Ranger reruns before I finally felt well enough to get back to work). This was hardly the romantic marriage we envisioned 25 years ago. (We spent our silver anniversary in ICU. I know how to show a girl a good time). If I had the energy to kiss her, I was doing well for the day. Instead, we just….sat there.
And it was enough.
It reminded me of how much I love this woman, and how valuable her presence is to me. After all of these years, we can sit in a room together without a thing to do, and it is enough. I suspect this is the kind of love that few people are blessed enough to experience, and for that I am sorry. Because I was able to lose everything this year and still be wealthy. My wife loves me. She endured. She stayed.
And, as always, she healed me.
I thank God that I have her.
Tomorrow: My God