"Our Journey to Healing" was started as a record of life as we battle cancer and awaited Andrea physical healing. But it was not long when I realized that this journey we were on was not just ours and healing was far deeper then the physical. Although this blog draws to an end I will update it throughout this week, maybe longer if for no other reason then I need a place to come and think about life.
Of course this was not how I hoped my final entries would be written. As I said earlier today, God must have really needed Andrea because He overruled so many prayers to take her.
I have thought about this moment many times but my first observation is that I was not prepared for how I would feel. I had placed myself at this point many times but I guess your mind can not truly grasp this moment unless you are in it. Knowing Andrea was sick and that medically she was dying did not prepare me for what happened today, or what is happening tonight. The finality of it all was missing. The idea that I will not drive to the hospital to see her, nor will she come home is sinking in. I hated that hospital, but my love was there, so I went. I hated going in that room, seeing her in that bed, unable to get up or speak, but was love was there so I went. Now I would do anything to go back to that hospital and walk in that room. But my love is not there. We had to go back today to pick up a cross I left in her bed. The room was being cleaned. My love was gone, there was no trace of her, nor the fight fought with such faith. My love is gone. She will not return to my bed, call to me from the other room, or calm me with a smile. My love is gone. She will not tell me about her day. I will not hear her prayers at night. Come home and find her studying her Bible. My love is gone.
I miss you "little bit." I miss you so very much it hurts me. I can not allow myself to even think about it for more then a couple of minutes for fear I won't be able to get out of the pit. I wish I could see you once more. Just to hold you in my arms and feel your head on my shoulder. But I'm left with only memories, pictures and a few home movies. None of which I can touch, or kiss. They just trigger my mind to much happier times, to memories that walk a fine line between a smile and gut wrenching pain wrapped in tears.
I ache, my head hurts and I want this to all go away. But I think of Andrea suffering for over four years yet never giving up, only giving more. How can I do anything less?
I'm thankful I have no regrets, no unspoken words. That I was not trying to tell her how much I loved her as time slipped away in a futile attempt to make up for poor priorities in life. I'm thankful she knew how much I loved her and I knew how much she loved me. I'm thankful I was able to pray with her with our boys in her final moments. I can think of nothing she would desire more then to see us joined together in prayer as she parted. I'm thankful to a Doctor who took a chance so I was able to kiss her lips one last time. I'm thankful to a nurse who cared for my wife with dignity. For the care she gave Andrea when her life ended. For the touch of perfume put behind Andrea's ears. I'm thankful we met.
I could write for weeks about my 27 years 7 months and 18 days of memories I have with Andrea. Maybe someday, but not tonight. Tonight I will tell you one story that sums up my wife.
It was Sunday three weeks ago. The Sunday after Thanksgiving. Nic returned to college on Saturday and we have finished an incredibly busy month involving my Mom passing away. We go to bed Saturday and Andrea is feeling a little short of breath, more then she has in a few weeks but not alarming. I get her oxygen and we go to bed. It turns out to be a sleepless night with Andrea awaking very short of breath. She has trouble catching her breath after getting up. She is beginning to gasp for air so I go turn up the oxygen from her normal two liters to four. This goes on most of the night and I finally have the oxygen at its maximum output and Andrea is still having trouble breathing. She asks me to call 911, but I can not. I'm scared, and I don't want what is happening to happen. I help her get dressed for the trip then I leave the room trying to gather my strength and thoughts. Andrea waits sitting on the bed. I walk back and agree but ask if I can drive her there myself. I ask her, "Are you sure you want to go to the hospital?" I tell her, "Andrea if I take you to the hospital I don't think you will come back soon." I first say "You won’t come back home," but I catch myself and say "Come back home soon." I just want to take care of her myself but it is evident she needs more then I can offer. As I put her in a wheelchair and we are about to enter the doors of the ER I ask her again, "Are you sure you need to go in." Inside I'm pleading please don't let this happen.
Andrea tells me she has to go in. So I reluctantly push her in, the doors open and I look for someone to help us. As I wait for the nurse, I tell Andrea I don't think we will be going home anytime soon. It is then that Andrea speaks her last audible words to me. "Jim you have to be strong now."
I have thought about those words many times over the past three weeks. In those words are the faith of a Godly woman, and the encouraging love of an unselfish wife. She knew I was scared, yet she sat patiently on the bed as I tried to come to terms with her request to go to the hospital. She had to tell me to take her in the ER knowing what lay ahead, yet she did not run she nor was she afraid. She was facing the challenge yet she was telling me to be strong. I know in my heart she was not asking me to be strong to walk into the ER, she was asking me to be strong for the weeks that lay ahead, to be strong for today and tomorrow. I think we both knew this is what she meant. I just think we did not want to think about it.
That was Andrea. Always encouraging, always patient. Always full of faith. Facing things we can only imagine yet faithful.
As I try to adjust to being alone, I am easily overcome by sadness. Everything I see and hear reminds me of her. I can not escape her memory, nor do I want to. I have found I have cried all the tears I have, now it just hurts in my stomach. My head is numb as my body goes into self defense mode. But then I stop and think about a woman I was blessed to call my wife. I think of the years of absolute happiness I had. Then I think about the pain of cancer. When Andrea's hips hurt so bad I had to pick her up. The countless times I held her as she vomited. Watching her hurt so bad from the chemo she could not move. I think of the endless tests, CT scans, Xray, and blood draws. I think about a woman having to have her head shaved four times. I think of the absolute ugliness of cancer. And then I think of Andrea right now. On her 12th hour of eternity. I think of the utter joy she is experiencing. I think of her with her Lord. I see the smile on her face as He tells her, "Well done my good and faithful servant, receive your crown of glory." I think of the happiness she is having seeing her Pa Paw again. I try to imagine what she is seeing right now. I hear her voice as she praises her God in His presence. I see her with long beautiful hair. And I smile. My only wish is I could be there with her. But as she taught me I must be faithful to path God has laid out for me, patiently awaiting my reward and our reunion.
I have to remember to be strong.
I close tonight and I pray for all of you. I pray you know God did not abandon Andrea. Nor did he forsake her because she died. I know this outcome was not our prayer request, and Satan will use this time to steal away the seeds of faith Andrea has planted in you. Guard them, they are life to you. Yes it is true God did not give us the desire of our heart, but He did give us His son. And in doing so He gave us eternity with him. And that is what Andrea has right now.
Well I must close it is 2am and exhaustion is taking it toll and I hope to let it take me away from all my thoughts. It is time to face my new life.
I forgot to tell you a little blessing Andrea left us. About an hour ago Nic was checking his phone messages and sometime today he was offered a paid (that is a key) internship for next semester. This is at the one place he hoped to work (name withheld for now). The message came sometime today and I know Andrea is smiling now as she left us with a small parting gift.
Tomorrow we will decide on the funeral location, either here in San Antonio or in Wichita Falls. Either way it will be on Friday or Saturday. I will send an email and update the blog when we get the details worked out. I hope to have this decided by tomorrow afternoon. I would ask for your prayers that this decision would be clear.
I love you all. Words cannot express my thanks for each of you.
Your brother in Christ,