I think we all can remember those defining moments in our lives. The good, the bad, the ugly…the moments in our own lives that live in infamy that are often so hidden from the world. Moments that change our lives so drastically and quickly it leaves those around us wondering what just happened—Hell sometimes it leaves us wondering what just happened. As this year comes to an end I feel like I have spent the last few years standing in front of a mirror wondering what the Hell happened to me and wondering who I was staring at….it wasn’t until I started to look at moments that I realized it was okay to admit to myself that sometimes life isn’t always easy or perfect, but there is always a lesson. And as soon as I started to open my heart and my mind to learn from the lesson, the fog began to lift and I recognized the woman in the mirror once again.
Nearly ten years ago I walked into a house in amazing Kaneohe, Hawaii in preparation for a fun night out with friends….I noticed a young man sitting on an end table across the room. I am pretty sure we were introduced but I don’t remember that moment. I remember however, standing in a line to get into a club finding it so very easy to chat with him. However, to this day, I can’t remember what we talked about! The night went on…I bought a beer for him….we chatted all night…and he wrote his number down for me on the back of an ATM receipt that I still have (he thinks that because it was payday and I saw his balance, I was hooked…..but really….my fellow Coastie Wife friends….do you think that was what hooked me?) I remember a really great kiss good-bye that evening…and then him not remembering my name. That’s right…not even kidding, he had NO clue what my name was. Luckily, I fell for his smooth line, when he asked how to “spell” my name so he could put it in his phone. That was the day I met Dan. It was fairy tale, like people claim that it is supposed to be!
Fast forward (not very much…we had a quickie military courtship) to the next defining moment….standing on a rock bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, knowing I had married that man I chatted with in line for the club. Looking at the ocean knowing it would tear us apart several times in our life together, but with God’s good grace also would bring us back together. I still look at those the pictures, us looking so small next to the ocean. Little did I know how ironic that would become in our lives. How small we really were…and how very big the seas would get and how very hard our ship would be hit. Looking back we were as young and naïve as we looked in the pictures!
Just about 8 months after we stood on that rock bluff….we sat in an a teeny tiny room…hearing that the baby girl inside my belly was very ill and that chances are we wouldn’t meet her…and if we did…our life with her would be incredibly short and very painful. I remember vividly us grabbing each other and asking each other for forgiveness….and then wiping our tears and vowing to not stop at anything to save her life. What also happened on that day is we replaced our wedding vows with a vow that no parent should have to make. Dan lost a big part of his wife that day. I openly admit NOW….8 years later…that I put so much energy into research , education, and preparation to even be able to take care of this baby that often our marriage was put to the back burner.
I can’t even put into words what life has been like since Morgan came to our lives…for as much heartache as there has been, there has been equally as many happy memories, incredible moments, and true miracles. We are truly better people for having her as our daughter. That is what you all want to hear…that is what we want to share. What we have shielded from the world is how very much this changed us. Today…for the first time in 8 years we talked about it. We talked about our pain. Our struggles. The things we have kept from the world-from our families, from our friends, but worse yet from each other. The worse pain came when Dan had to go to his ship and be on a constantly deploying schedule. Deployments are hard on every military family….however….I wasn’t prepared for what I would face in two years and how much of it would be alone. Morgan’s heart disease journey would take a path that we weren’t prepared for and sadly, we weren’t locked in that tiny room together holding each other. We were thousands of miles apart and I was making decisions on land and sending them via email to a warship in the middle of the ocean. Sometimes waiting for days for a reply or encouragement. Morgan ended up having 3 surgeries during that tour…two minor ones and a major open heart surgery that would change the path of her life forever and the path of our marriage forever. Watching Morgan fight so hard for her life…seeing the surgery not have an optimal outcome…and then learning that our daughter would forever be in heart failure and that she was not to be the “success” story that so many other kids like her changed us forever. Dan’s job requires him to serve our country , I knew that marrying him. That was one of the things I loved so much about him. His willingness to serve, his devotion to his job, his country, and his fellow sailors. However, it was that very same thing that I loved about him that would tear us apart.
During Morgan’s last open heart surgery, Dan had to go to meet the ship. Morgan was still in ICU. She was still fighting very hard. I was two states away from my other two kids, my extended family and a huge bulk of our support system…and duty called. Dan very painfully left California to meet his ship. That day, is a defining day. As sad as this is for me to admit…I quit. I focused everything I had on Morgan. On getting her home. On reuniting with the other kids. Making every day count. And learning how to accept this new life.
Dan and I grew so far apart. I stopped working on us. I stopped supporting him in his career. I became a stranger to him. Wearing a mask to the world. Pretending to be the happy family everyone expected me to be. Pretending to be grateful for a life that I was learning to resent. The only happiness I found was in my kids and even that was sometimes hard to find. I lost myself and any desire to find myself and worse yet to give of myself. With such a huge wedge between us, we did the unthinkable….we took separate roads. The kids and I moved to Idaho, he stayed in Seattle.
An entire year of twists and turns and life lessons would happen….and we struggled with this new life….however….one thing never changed. We never stopped working together for the kids. We always came together when the kids needed us. Once again, Morgan’s disease would take another turn. Her heart became weaker, her lungs are starting to harden from a lung disease bigger than her heart disease and her immunodeficiency disease progressed as well. We fought through another surgery together and began talking every single day…talking about us, about them, about ourselves. We learned so much about each other…we stood in line for that club again…trying to figure out who we were. He became my best friend again…..
My best friend that supported me through the hardest pregnancy I have ever had….yes…even harder than Morgan’s-. He texted me every. single. day. at 6:30 am to check on me. He never “missed” an appointment though most of them were in spirit. He drove over for an amnio that turned out to be a false alarm…and then 2 weeks later…he flew over for the actual procedure. He was there with me when I learned that Macy was a girl….and healthy. He put thousands of miles in the air and on the road trying to be here at least every other weekend through my 2nd and 3rd trimester. He spent hours on the phone, the internet, and in person listening to me cry, hearing my fears, reassuring my doubts and always encouraging me and reassuring me that he was always going to be here. He had no obligation to Macy...but he had incredible love for me that carried over to Macy.
He’s still here….loving me far more than I deserve…and ready to take on 2011…a new phase in our life…400 miles apart...
That’s just part of what is incredible about Dan….he gives you his word and he keeps it. He works harder than any man I have ever known and is truly one of the most selfless people I have ever met in my entire life. He gives far more than he takes and when he loves…he loves with all of him.
I guess the moral of the story is….the day we stood on the rock bluff we promised to live by 1st Corinthians 13 4-7…We truly believed in every single word that…
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
While we still believe that, I think what we have learned is that we have to put action to those words. And we have to choose “us” every time…and that it won’t always be pretty or easy….that we will be led away by tragedy and heartache but it is our choice to let tragedy and heartache define us or to let the goodness that our foundation was made of so many years ago define us.
Many of you know that Morgan’s middle name is Faith…it was chosen because that is truly what we were depending on. Our Faith to get her through our tough times and to help fight the disease(s) that would be so much bigger than all of us…
Macy’s middle name is Hope…Macy’s stem cells have been saved for Morgan to use in her battle with complex immunodeficiency disease and maybe as time goes on her battle with heart disease. Macy provides Hope for our Faith. Macy provides Hope that when all things seem impossible and dark, that nothing truly is impossible if you have enough strength to just keep going.
So in the darkest times in our lives these two little girls have changed us significantly….they have brought us back to 1st Corinthians…to verse 13…
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
We still have so much to learn…so many things to adjust too…and so many mountains to climb, but for the first time in a very long time, we are committed to doing it together and to never leaving the other behind and to face everything as it comes.
Our life is hardly perfect or flawless, but it’s ours….and it's worth fighting for!
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Posted by Angie at 8:51 PM .