Tuesday, July 5, 2016
To Kristi, Madison, and Brandon...I Love You
I know we have all been through hardships. Some harder than others, some even harder than what we have gone through over the last couple of weeks and really for the last 30 plus years.
But I am here to explain, share and hopefully help myself, others and my children in a few years when they read this by writing about June 28, 2016. That's the day my children's mother donated a kidney to save the life of her sister. Her sister has had two heart transplants and two kidney transplants all because of a virus that attacked her heart when she was a baby.
The days leading up to the surgery, I sort of compartmentalized what I had going on this summer, and really, what I had going on that one particular day or the next few days. Whether it was the kids sporting events, the high school basketball games/trips, or going to Colombia, I wouldn't let myself think about June 28 until around June 26.
That's when I realized I'd be spending the next week in Nashville, TN at Vanderbilt University hospital. I knew I'd be going to the hospital, but it hadn't dawned on me I needed to pack a bag for an extended stay. My wife got the kids' stuff ready and I took care of myself. As she did this, it hit me that I would be the one taking care of most of the "taking care of" over the next few weeks.
My wife, sis-in-law and mother-in-law went down on Sunday because they had tests that needed to be done early Monday, the 27th. The kids and myself drove down that Monday and by the previous day at church and all day Monday, I had gone into an "anxiety riddled, don't talk to me, I have nothing to say, I need to focus on your mother" attitude.
I've been called Mr. Worst Case Scenario before and it's probably true, no it is true. I think it's what made me as good a coach as I could have been always prepping for the worst thing that could happen. Up 20 with 1:00 to go? No way I am relaxing, they could hit 6 three point shots and be right back in it...any way. I realize being around Megan, my sis-in-law, that medical personnel do these types of things every day. Visit a hospital and you will see the transplants and surgeries that are done regularly. To the surgeons, doctors, nurses, etc, this is a typical work day for them. It's like me getting up in front of a high school history class to talk about, well, history. It terrifies some, for me, it's just another day at work.
That Monday night we went to eat ("we", the kids and me) and went bowling. I had little patience for my kids behaving as an 11 and an 8 year old would while they are dealing with the fact their mother is being operated on the next day and I was not enjoying myself. My wife beat me, that just doesn't happen, and we proceeded to go back to the room and prepare for the night's sleep.
At 1:30 AM, I woke up to use the bathroom. I sometimes have a hard time getting back to sleep at night and this night was the worst. As I laid in my bed, on the floor and finally in a chair next to my wife watching her sleep, I let my mind go places I shouldn't have. "What if I don't have her after this?" "How do I tell the kids?" "What will we do?" So I prayed and I prayed and I prayed some more.
I prayed for God's will to be done, it's going to be done whether I ask for it to or not, but I wanted for everything to go as planned, as well as planned. I prayed for strength for my wife and kids over the next few days and I prayed for myself to keep it together.
Finally, the morning comes that she is going to go back for her kidney surgery. As we laid there and I tried to make jokes, I was overwhelmed at how much I love my wife and even more how much she loves her sister. If this were the last time I would see her alive, I wanted to take in every moment. Every corner of her smile, of her face. of her hands, I wanted to remember everything. And as she was wheeled out, I whispered that I love her and that I would see her shortly.
But also, I watched as she was doing this willingly to help her sister. Most of us, many of us would do something like this, sometimes only because it's the right thing to do. Madison, our daughter, asked her the night before: "Are you doing this because you want to or because it's the right thing to do?" I answered for my wife, which I shouldn't have, "Both!" Maddie had many other questions and my wife spoke, I was overcome by her love for her sister.
"Maddie, when I was a little girl, your Aunt was very sick and I always wanted to do something to help her and I couldn't. Now, I can."
As Kristi was wheeled back, I thought of those words.
When I got downstairs to where the rest of the family was waiting, I wanted to collapse. I was emotional and I felt like I had been strong for Kristi and needed to rest. My friend Nick Ray who is married to Kristi's cousin asked if I wanted to get something to eat and I did. As tears were welling up in my eyes, Brandon, our son, said he wanted to go too and I came back to reality that this wasn't about me, but those little kids of ours.
And Kristi's parents.
Many times during the surgery, I tried to imagine if Madison were being operated on at the same time that Brandon was and I couldn't fathom what my in laws were going through, what they have gone through and will continue to do so in the future. But they are a strong example for me that day and always have been.
The surgery went well as the kidney was removed from my wife and placed into her sister. After a few short days both women were checked out and are resting at their homes. So far everything has gone as well as expected. (I am constantly amazed at how tough and wonderful my sister-in-law is. What she has gone through and continues to is an inspiration to me and many people.)
Both have been in pain, but both are smiling and spending time with their family and friends.
Whether I believe in God and the love of Jesus or not, I am sure that I would have gotten through this last week. But I remember before that time, I didn't always have the hope of not just today, but of after this life. Our faith has helped us to understand that it is not about us, it is about serving God, and it is about helping others.
I know we both fall short of both of those ideals (me more than Kristi, everyone will tell you that), but we try.
I know that no matter what happens, no matter how much it hurts, no matter how upsetting something can be that God is in control and we will not understand everything that does happen or does not happen this side of heaven.
But my wife...my wife....oh how I love her.
Because of her and her example, I was led to Christ.
Because of her, I am reminded every day what selfless love looks like.
And from now on I can never look at her the same.
She's a hero.
And she's a servant of Jesus Christ.
God Bless You if you are reading this, and thank you for the prayers, thoughts, texts, food, and offers we've had during this time. It has been truly overwhelming.
Never forget that God loves you no matter what your situation and is there for you, just look around.
Just look around.