Today marks 17 years married to this guy.
It’s been nearly 21 years since our fist date…officially together for more of my life than not. It’s crazy to think about. Last week I was thinking about what I wanted to say about 17 years of marriage with the only man I’ve ever loved. I had this nice story I was going to tell about the antique rocking chair he gave me when our first child was born, how it’s been broken and repaired, much like our marriage over the years. A sweet analogy, but I’ll have to save it for another time.
Because everything changed for me on Monday when I got the call from my husband that he was on his way to the ER. And then three hours later the text that they were admitting him.
He’d had a stroke.
I was in the middle of teaching a class when I read those words on my phone. To be completely truthful I hadn’t expected it to be anything serious. He’d started experiencing numbness on his left side two days earlier, but since he had absolutely no other symptoms we thought it might be related to a recent surgery on his elbow and didn’t worry too much. Then Monday, when the numbness hadn’t gone, he went to the clinic at his work and his blood pressure was through the roof.
That’s when they sent him to the ER.
Even at that point, while I was starting to get more concerned, I really didn’t think it could be anything too serious. Because until it happens to you, you don’t believe it will.
He’s only 43 and he’d had a stroke. The only person I ever remembered having a stroke was my grandpa but he was sick from before I was born. Strokes only happen to elderly and very sick people, didn’t they?
As I made arrangements with my boss to end my class early and jumped in the car to start the painfully long drive from Centreville to Winchester there was one thought that kept going through my mind: Does he know?
Does he know how much I appreciate everything he did for me the last two weeks?
Does he know how his presence comforts me?
Does he know how much I respect him and admire him for all that he’s overcome?
Does he know how much I need him in my life?
Does he know how much I love him?
Because the thought that plagued me and left a knot in my stomach was that I couldn’t remember if I’d said these things lately.
We’re pretty generous with the “I love you’s”, the hugs and kisses, and even the occasional cheeky text message. But they are scattered among lots of “did you remember to buy the milk?”, “have you seen the scissors?”, and the ever-popular, “what do you want to do for dinner?” So sometimes the other things seem to get lost in the shuffle. Sometimes you say and do those things every day and you wonder if the intent behind them is truly felt. Had I sat him down, looked in his eyes, and said how I really felt about him lately?
I thought about the night before and how we’d had a tense conversation about finances. It wasn’t an argument, but let’s suffice to say that there was frustration felt on both sides. While we hadn’t gone to bed angry, I couldn’t fathom the idea that that would be our last real conversation.
Oh God, please, don’t let that be the last thing we ever talked about.
I’m not going to sit here and tell all of you how important it is to tell the people you love how you feel. To never go to bed or part angry. To set-aside differences, forgive old wounds, and restore relationships before it’s too late. It’s been said a million times by every other person who has faced a medical scare, walked away from a near-death accident, survived cancer, or lost a loved one too soon. So I won’t say it again.
Because the truth I learned this week is that until you are driving like a bat-out-of-hell on the interstate to get to a hospital room; until you are there in that hospital room waiting for test results; until you hear the word stroke, or heart attack, or paralysis, or cancer, or worst of all, “I’m sorry we did everything we could,” the reality that last night’s conversation may have been the last one doesn’t fully settle into your heart, branding itself there forever.
Until that moment we may know intellectually all that is possible, but we don’t truly feel it. We don’t believe it could be us.
I’ve cried a lot of tears this week, taken a lot of deep breaths, and said a lot of words to God. I even laid in a hospital bed next to my sweet husband and told him that if he died and left me to raise our three kids on my own I would kick his a$$ when I got to heaven. Because humor is a coping mechanism for me.
But the heart’s intent behind all of those tears, and deep breaths, and prayers, and joking was simply this: I can’t imagine my life without you in it. I don’t want to do life without you in it.
I’m so very grateful that we get more time. That we are here today, celebrating 17 years of marriage. That today I can make sure he knows. And tomorrow, and the next day.
Because I don’t know which conversation will truly be our last, but God help me, whenever or wherever it is, I will not have to wonder again if my husband knows he is the love of my life.