This may sound a little arrogant, but I’ve always believed that God loves me a little bit extra. I’ve always been lucky — I’ve always landed in great situations, I always seem to land on my feet - and, most important, I’ve always stumbled into the most amazing people.
On the Saturday night of the 4th of July weekend, 1994, it was my luckiest moment of all. My friends dragged me off the beach to attend a party and begrudgingly, I attended. Little did I know that the cocky guy with the most beautiful smile I’d ever seen, who I let cut me in line for the porto-potty would turn out to be my soul mate. Within 2 years, Mike & I were married and about to have our 1st child. We were completely broke — and obnoxiously happy. 19 years and 5 kids later, almost to the day - Mike suffered a completely unexpected, massive stroke. Within seconds my world -and that of our family -fell apart. I knew that life would throw us challenges, but I never, ever expected the strongest person I know --physically, emotionally and spiritually--would ever be lying in a hospital bed, unconscious and on a ventilator.
I made 4 calls immediately - my parents, and my 3 closest friends - Mary, Seal and Kelly. Although we were 7 hours from home, before the night was over, friends and family filled the little waiting room. As terrifying and heartbreaking as the following days, weeks & months became, I never felt alone. Friends & family rallied around me - either sitting with me, calling to check up on, texting me kind thoughts or inspirational messages - or even the occasional joke. Within months, although Mike could hardly communicate, we started our own secret communication….that a wink of his left eye meant “I love you”. When doctors would come in and out of the room, asking for him to perform these various tasks and commands, for months and months he couldn't do them. But then the doctor would leave the room and he’d wink at me. I knew it would be ok.
Here we are 1 year later — and I wish I could’ve known then what I know now. Mike is continuing to improve and the sky is the limit. He has shown me time and again that he is even stronger than I ever imagined. We can now laugh together, cry together and communicate without needing any words whatsoever. He improves daily in terms of strength and communication. The day we were married, I didn’t think it was possible to love him more than I did when he read me his own vows he had written. Then I watched him with our children and fell even more in love with the man he had evolved into.
Over the past year, there have been challenges and hurdles, but there have been many more celebrations and milestones. I didn’t think I could love him any more, but the love we share now is so much more profound — from laughing together as we listen to Family Feud, to crying together when he’s frustrated, to smiling at stupid jokes & funny memories - and especially to when he flashes me that beautiful smile and winks at me. I can’t wait for the day I will hear his voice again — but I think a little part of me will miss the silent winks that say so much.
So when Diane gave me the necklace that said “STRENGTH”, I take it to represent the love that Mike & I share. Somehow, with each hurdle he has overcome, our love is stronger. I’m a cheerleader and a bystander in the most wonderful success story I’ve ever seen.