I dedicate this blog to my husband, Jim, to whom I will be forever yours…
March 12th we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary which some would consider remarkable in this day and age with a divorce rate of over 50%. I think that it is remarkable for another reason, and you will too when you consider our story:
The year was 1985. We were in the prime of our lives, young and in love. Married 9 years, we had three beautiful children ages 6, 5, and 3. Jim was in line for a big job promotion that would transfer us to New York where he would manage a manufacturing plant – quite an accomplishment for a 30 year old man.
Then came the day when his drunken antics caused him to fall off the back of a cart at a golf outing with work buddies. It turned out to be the fall that saved his life…
He came home complaining of some vague stomach pain and while my initial reaction was that he got his just deserves, I became concerned when a few days later he became pale, exhausted, and still complaining of the increasing pain. A trip to the doctor prompted an order for an ultrasound to look for the presumed gall stones. What it did reveal was a solid mass the size of a man’s fist on the left lobe of his liver. Apparently the fall had caused the mass to bleed.
Two days and one painful biopsy later, we were delivered the devastating news: CANCER.
We were in a complete daze in the hospital, when a young soft spoken surgeon came into Jim’s room, introduced himself, and started to explain the operation that Jim would need as soon as possible. My mother-in-law cut him off, leveled a stare at him, and in her direct no nonsense manner asked him if he was up to the job.
Looking right back at her he replied confidently that he was. Because God was the surgeon and he was just the tool in God’s hand. We all nodded our heads and Jim silently signed the consent.
The next day, Jim came out of the grueling 8 hour surgery to begin a long, horrendous, recovery process that was fraught with every complication the text books could predict and a few more. My days/weeks were spent shuffling between his room in the ICU and the ICU waiting room where I waited until the next hour when I could spend my allotted ten minutes by his bedside. He was yellow as a banana, and his weight was down to about 120 lbs. on his 6’2” frame. His breathing was becoming more and more labored as pneumonia ravaged his lungs, causing one to collapse. Finally I was summoned from the waiting room and told that they were running out of options as he wasn’t responding to the massive doses of IV antibiotics and it was extremely difficult to dose the medications as they all had to metabolize through his liver that was now precarious and missing it’s left lobe. The team of doctors decided that in one last ditch effort, they would put his body into an artificial coma and put him on a respirator to allow his body to totally rest without even having to endure the effort of trying to breathe. They suggested that I stay by his bedside and not leave if at all possible – bending the usual strict 10 minutes on the hour rule. Later, I would learn that was because they felt very strongly that he was not going to make it through the night and had even put the morgue on stand-by.
My head hurt and my throat was sore from all the tears that I had shed for so many days – how many I had lost count. Just like I had lost track of which relative currently was caring for our children. I can remember though, as if it was yesterday, leaning against his cold arm that was resting on the cooling blanket they had under him to help lower his temperature. I single tear trickled down from my face to his arm and I whispered, “Don’t you die on me Jim Cory. If you do, I’ll have to kill ya!”
God only knows what prompted me to utter those almost ironic words to my dying husband, but I said exactly that. The very next day he turned the proverbial corner and his temperature started to drop as his lungs started to clear. The last ditch effort to give the body a chance to heal itself through absolute, total rest was working. He still had a long road ahead of him, but he steadily progressed from that point on. While in the coma, he was given medication that was supposed to obliterate his memory of the trauma his body was subjected to. Largely, when it was all over, he said that for the most part he didn’t remember much of anything. Just a few vague pieces slipped through. He never alluded to what they were.
Fast forward to 2010. Our children (with the exception of our son that passed away 5 years ago) are grown and we are the grandparents of 6 beautiful grand children .We are successful in our jobs and as much in love as ever. Somehow, after surviving that close a brush of being separated by death, the fact that his shorts perpetually miss the laundry hamper just doesn’t stress me out anymore. I hadn’t given thought to that fateful night in the ICU for some time – until last year in fact when I myself had a bad turn of luck healthwise. I was allergic to several different antibiotics including penicillin and when a nasty sinus infection failed to clear with the usual antibiotics left in the arsenal I could take, the doctor asked me just exactly what my reaction to penicillin was. I said I didn’t know, my mother thought I had a reaction when I was an infant but she wasn’t sure. It might have been my sister, Kaye. So based on that sketchy history, it was elected to give me penicillin. Two hours after ingesting the first tablet, my body broke out into hives and my face swelled so severely my eyes were slits and my lips looked like they had been stung by a swarm of bees. I groped my way down the bannister of our steps into the family room, where Jim was watching television. He took one look at me and said we were going to the hospital. I felt sick. Incredibly sick. Yet I was able to breathe and swallow my saliva ok so I wasn’t panicking.
In the emergency room, I was sick to my stomach, and Jim gently held back my hair as I retched into the tiny basin they gave me for that purpose. I started to cry. I don’t know if I was afraid I’d die or afraid that I wouldn’t at that point. Jim was anxious and man of few words that he normally is, leaned over and whispered: “Don’t you die, Joanne Cory, because if you do, I’d have to kill ya”!
I looked up at him and our eyes locked. We didn’t say another word yet we said a thousand words. A lifetime of connection. His heart to mine.
I want to share a song with you by Michael W Smith entitled “Forever Yours” because sometimes someone else can say it better than us. This song IS our song. Here are the words, but even better is the link at the bottem to listen.
Forever Yours by Michael W. Smith
I’m swept away in this moment, I feel your heartbeat next to mine
My hands are trembling, it’s overwhelming
A whisper breaks through the silence, a vow to test the breadth of time
Until forever, I’ll be forever yours
Not just tonight, I’m by your side
For all your life –
Till death comes between us, and the heavens steal you away
I’ll stay yours forever –
Don’t you worry, don’t be afraid.
The heart can shift like a shadow, the deepest passions start to wane
Stay ever tender, never surrender
Come waltz with me through the twilight, and we will dance as seasons pass
We move together, I’ll be forever – yours
So hold me tight, say you’ll be mine
For all your life
Come what may
So all we have is this moment, but moments come and go so fast
Until forever, I’ll be forever – yours
There is no other, I am forever –