"...until my last breath." My wife Megan and I had those words tattooed onto our forearms on February 8th, 2014. It was my suggestion, and she was completely taken aback by it. Not because she wasn't sold on the idea of a little ink (she had sixteen tattoos already), but because I suggested it and came up with the whole plan. I only had two tattoos at the time, so it wasn't my "thing", and she found it one of the most romantic gestures I had ever made. Yeah, we were weird like that.
Megan and her younger brother were born with Cystic Fibrosis. I won't get into the details of it, but in summary, the symptoms are effectively like having permanent pneumonia. Look it up if you're interested, but prepare to be depressed at what some people have to go through just to live. Her brother Jason only made it to age 19. I was at his bedside with Megan in 2005 when he passed. I was 24 years old. That is the very moment that I knew that I would be seeing this scene play out again, probably before I turned 40 years old, but it would be my wife lying in that bed. Four days after her brother died, Megan and I were married, in the same church where Jason's funeral was to be conducted the next day.
Talk about sobering. She was sick before I even met her in 2002, just after being honorably discharged from the Marine Corps. She was sick when I proposed to her, at the hospital, no less, in 2004. She was sick when we married, and she was sick in 2007, when our daughter Shelby was born. She was sick until 2011, when she received a double lung transplant, and we finally got three healthy years where we maximized every moment we had, not worrying about when her time would come, but knowing in the back of our minds that it would come entirely too early. She wasn't sick again until January 2014, when the "pop" was felt when we were at Crossfit together. That "pop" was the first sign of those recycled lungs beginning to be rejected by her immune system.
On November 19th, 2014, at age 33, Megan took her last breath. I held her hand and watched as her heart rate went from 90 beats per minute to 3, then zero. The tattoo, after spending less than a year on her body, had just taken on its true meaning.
So here I am, writing about my dead wife on the internet. At age 34, with an eight year old daughter, I'm a widower. I was gifted 12 years with an amazing woman. My perspective is somewhat unique, because after the initial shock of losing her, I came to the realization that I don't feel "cheated" like many other widow(er)s justifiably do. I made a deal with the devil, because I loved Megan "in sickness and in health, until death do us part. There wasn't any fine print on that contract. It was all there in big capital letters: IF YOU MARRY HER, SHE WILL BE DEAD BEFORE YOU'RE 40.
I simply refuse to let something that I knew and accepted would happen someday destroy my life. It's not too bad. It's too soon. Of course, I wanted more time with her, and would have sacrificed anything to grow old with her and never have to be here, where I am, right now. She would have never let me do that though. She was guiding me long before she died, and she's still doing it now. I can't help but think that she actually lived, and gave her life, for Shelby and I, and I am eternally grateful.
Did her death change my life? Obviously, but it did not destroy me. I still get mood swings or bad days like everyone else, full of rage and hate and pain and fear of self, but generally those days are followed by ambition and an intense need to scream out that I will not let life take me down. Those bad days are the ones that let me know that I'm human, so I wipe the snot off of my face, get the hell off of the couch, and get shit done. Feeling sorry for myself accomplishes nothing. When that switch flips from suffering to determination, it is simply not possible to feel more powerful.
All of my strength and love and fire went into Megan, involuntarily, for 12 years, and now that she's gone, I've got one hell of a surplus outside of Shelby. I'm still trying to figure out what to do with it all, but I've got a pretty good idea that it shouldn't be left to collect dust. The odd part, and the part I've still got to figure out, is that I don't get to just decide where that all of that fire gets applied. She's somewhere, still stoking and handing out those flames to whomever she sees fit, and I have no choice in the matter but to awkwardly accept it.
Her smart-ass personality (and her brother's) will find it hilarious to watch me flounder around, but I know she only wants what right for Shelby and I. I'm falling down life's staircase, and she's at the top, laughing her ass off at my misfortune as always, but still helping me crawl back up by bringing people and events into my life that even I don't understand yet.
Breathe easy babe.