Thursday, September 22, 2016

Fatih Hope & Love

There are moments that will come in our lives when we feel as if there is no possible way to recover or move on from the adversities or hardships before us. Moments when waking every morning brings us back to the painful realization that whatever trial you are facing is indeed happening and not just a nightmare. These crossroads are inevitable and unfortunately can derail the peaceful and perfectly planned out lives that we are in the middle of living. In these moments it is so very easy to be blinded by the pain and flood of raw emotions that tend to consume us. I was there for a very long time and struggled with the very simplest of decisions and in all that I did. Completely consumed and drowning in the pain of it all.

March 30th, 2012 I stood beside the woman that I loved so dearly and made a promise. The promise to stand by her side through the good times or the bad, through the sunshine and the rain until my lungs no longer had breath left to give. We stood side by side at a beautiful fountain in Savannah GA as all our loved ones watched and shared this beautiful moment in our lives. This is a moment that I have relived in my mind time and time again. The first kiss, first look, first dance, every bit of it and every second of it are moments that will never be forgotten as they are forever etched in my memory. Cloud 9... We road that all through the honeymoon and as newlyweds the world was at our fingertips. No goal unachievable, no mountain un climbable & no obstacle we could not overcome together as a team. Life in that very moment, was beautifully perfect... 

April, 2013. Just over a short year later. As I sat in a classroom at work I heard the aggressive vibration of my silenced phone going off in my book bag, Once it rang, then a second time & finally a third with no breaks in between. At this point I realized that there was something wrong so I stepped outside to check who was so anxiously trying to get ahold of me. My heart sort of stopped when I saw that it was my beautiful wife that had been calling me repeatedly, as she knew I was in class and unable to answer. When I called her back I could hear the pain, hurt and confusion in her voice as if she tried to get words out to form a sentence. My Adrienne was so strong so hearing her scared voice on the line really made my heart sink and beat out of rhythm as I waited for her to get her sentence out... She was finally able to tell me through tears, that her Dr. Had called with biopsy results on tissue they had gathered just the week prior. She said the results tested positive for Melanoma, a word that I have grown to hate and makes me cringe just typing it... Inside I was scared and confused but dared not show it as I tried to calm her down and talk through what was to come next. This is the day that our perfect little life was derailed and completely scrambled in utter chaos. 

The appointments were frequent from here on out, starting with the first surgery that landed on my 29th birthday. I still remember her saying "Baby, I am sorry that we have to spend your birthday in the hospital." That girl, in the midst of this darkness was still concerned about me... The Doctors Office and hospital became a home away from home for us in the months to come as we seemed out answers and cure to this horrible disease. Through it all we both stayed optimistic that she was well on her way to being healed and that our normal life would soon return. So badly I wish that this was the case... 

Adrienne qualified for a trial immunotherapy treatment that had shown some positive results with other patients. This had to be it! Finally this new treatment, it had to be what would make my sweet Adrienne better once again and remove us from the nightmare we were living in. I remember every single detail about our breakfast date prior to going in for her first treatment where we watched the Princess Bride side by side. Sitting there hand in hand as this new drug flowed through her veins, so many thoughts and emotions went through my mind. Our life together, the beautiful moments, the struggles or fights for no reason, the dreams and wishes we had for our future & everything else in between. I felt so ashamed for taking any moment for granted in the years that we were together. This journey opened my eyes to many things that I have since promised I would not be blind to again and changed my outlook on life tremendously.

October 2012. After the completion of treatments it was a waiting game as we had to allow adequate time for the therapy  to work before returning for a scan to see the results. The anxious feeling was eating me up inside every day leading up to this and I can only imagine what my dearest wife was feeling as I only saw the strength and beautiful smiles that she wore throughout the majority of this fight. She had a few moments behind closed doors where she broke down and opened up to me but for the most part she showed more courage and strength than anyone I have ever known. If I broke down or had moments of weakness they were in solitude behind closed doors so that she did not see. I owed that to her, to support her with at least half the strength & courage that she had. That all went out the window on the day we all gathered in that tiny hospital room to meet the Dr. and see the scan results. That is another day that is forever etched into my mind as it was probably one of the most difficult since this all began. After a very brief greeting, the Doctors facial expression quickly changed as he told us that the scan results were not good at all and in that very moment I lost all control of emotions as I looked at my bride and the tears streaming down her face. The tears never seamed to end and my heart felt as if it was out of rhythm leaving me trying to catch my breath. We prayed that day as tears were still pouring down, we prayed through the tears and through all of the fears that were drowning us.

In November Adrienne and I were off to stand beside my little brother and our college friend as they were married. The two of them met at our wedding just a short year and a half ago. I remember how hard it was to try to hide all of the emotions of what was going on in our life and truly be there emotionally for these two on their wedding day. As I watched Adrienne walk down the isle as one of the bridesmaids, tears flooded my eyes and I flashed back to our wedding day thinking of the joy that we shared that day and then wondering how we were in the current situation just a short time later as we had barely started our life together as husband and wife. Wes and Emily had a beautiful wedding day and many of the final happy memories I shared with Adrienne were from this weekend with family and friends.
We were in and out of the hospital frequently for overnights and more appointments seeking out other options and other doctors still in hopes of finding something to cure her. By this time we were staying with Adrienne's parents so that we could all help and support together as a team and family. Between working and rushing home to take care of her I also spent hours packing up our personal belongings from the first home be bought together. This was a painful task and brought me to tears nearly every night, something that I never shared with anyone as it was my alone time to vent and breakdown without showing my weakness.
December. This month brought many sleepless nights that were interrupted by pain and tears and a sense of helplessness as I tried to comfort my wife... To watch someone you love so much go through so much hurt and pain without being able to do a thing about it is nothing I would wish upon anyone. Our last week together was spent in a hospital room... As peoples lives were going on with the flowing lights outside of our hospital room, ours had come crashing down before us and all that we had known was no longer our reality.
Visitors came and went as did the last precious moments that I had left with my wife. I fell asleep playing "Feel your Love" by Adele as I lay by Adrienne's side for what would be the last night, on December 12th. That was the song that played during our first dance as husband and wife in that beautiful little courtyard lit up by the smile of the most stunning bride there ever was. When I woke that morning I instantly knew that she was gone and my heart sank to the floor as did I, into a puddle of tears.
For the days to come I felt as if I were an emotionless corpse just wondering from place to place and going through the motions. I did not want to do life, I did not want to speak to anyone as I could have curled up in bed for days and nights hiding from reality. Somehow, with the help of amazing loved ones, we managed to plan a ceremony to honor Adrienne and say our final goodbyes. The lives she touched were never ending and the love she shared with the world will never be forgotten.

Now what. Where does one even begin after such a devastating event in their life? I feel like the first year and a half I was still so lost that I cant even recall everything that happened other than I stayed busier than I ever have burning the candle from both ends trying to hide from what my new reality was as 29 year old widower. If there was a day without plans, I made some, a family member to visit, I went... It didn't matter to me, I just had to be gone, had to be busy and could not allow myself to sit still. Every night ended with tears in a lonely bed as I listened to our songs or watched our movies until finally falling asleep for a few hours. This went on for 7 months as I stayed with my amazing in-laws for a while until we all could make baby steps in the healing process.

Eventually I bought a new home and moved in which started a whole new process of grieving and healing... The boxes of our belongings that I had to unpack and go through was so very painful for me. This new quietness and loneliness was something that I had never felt before. I went right back to staying so busy that I was rarely home sometimes and if I was I was doing a DIY project to stay busy there! I took up running and that soon became a very healthy addiction and form of therapy for me. It was so cleansing and helped me in so many ways. Days came and went and some of them felt like I had made progress but then others felt as if I was back to the very day I said goodbye so consumed in grief that breathing was a monumental task. The waves came and went without warning, rhythm or rhyme. Looking back I honestly cannot even grasp the events and the confusion that took place. The broken road that lead me to where I am today.

I knew Augusta was always going to be Adrienne and I. That was us and I would never truly be able to move on there which is something that took me a while to figure out. I struggled so much with making this decision even though I know what my heart was telling me. How could I just quit my job of nearly 7 years, leave my in-laws, my faithful friends and Adrienne's resting place? A leap of Faith... one that has since proven to be blessed beyond my wildest dreams. I never thought I would open my heart again enough to let anyone in. I never thought it would even be able to love again, and if so, it wouldn't be fare because Id always be comparing the new love to my old love with Adrienne. right? Thank God I was wrong in believing any of this at all.
So much has changed...

Shortly after moving back near where I grew up, I proposed to an amazing and beautiful woman. She has been a friend of mine for some time and one that in the last few years grew closer and closer slowly opening my heart again. 6 months after Adrienne passed, she lost her husband unexpectedly... We shared stories about things that helped cope and get through and lent an ear for a venting session on the hardest of days. What started as a friendship has grown into a love that I could have never dreamt of. When she finally snuck into my heart enough to make me open up and let my guard down, this beautiful love flourished. Two broken hearts that healed together have been joint as one and it is something so beautiful that it could only be planned by our two angels watching over us. For the first time, in a long time the future isn't scary, it is beautiful and we are so very blessed as we live our lives forever honoring memories of our angels and creating new ones together.

On your darkest of days, know that the sun will shine again.
When you feel like giving up, take one more step forward.
When the pain of grief is consuming you, know that it is temporary and that it is molding and pushing you into being who and where god wants you to be.
And three things shall remain, Faith, Hope and Love but the greatest of these is LOVE.