As one might expect I have been flooded with love and support in many forms. I haven't been able to drop my unread texts below about 75 all week. My Facebook feed is even more inundated with messages and posts. I have barely looked at the blog and my emails. It has helped me see what I might not have seen as a widower in the 1990's or earlier; that there are far more people who care and want to support you than what you see immediately. Many of the messages and gestures are of condolences. Some are memories of my wife. One in particular hit me like a train when I read it. I didn't expect it at all from this confident, successful, and loving individual. He wrote: "I don't know if you know this, but Julie and I had a class together in school. At a time in my life where I felt like a complete outcast, like I didn't belong in this world, your wife was so kind to me. She literally asked me how I was. Completely out of the blue. I don't know how to explain it. I have never told anyone this. But, I remember her eyes. She was asking me how I was because she really wanted to know. I will never forget." When I read this message from one of Julie's school mates, I thought of the Savior doing this for this young man. I was immediately moved to tears. This is a perfect litmus of who Julie was. She cared for others, and noticed them, no matter who they were. Possibly without even realizing it she acted in the Lord's behalf. It was in her nature to think of others feelings.
Julie was always quick to forgive. If I ever left the room out of frustration or if she sent me to the couch for being a punk, she would make her way out or reach out via text and let me know she was sorry or that she needed me to come back in. You would think this would have a negative effect and that I would act selfishly and just wait till she wasn't mad any longer and push the envelope. I may act like a child most of the time, but her action to forgive so quickly always pushed me to do the same. When I was upset with her, I knew if I cooled down, she would follow. When I ticked her off, I knew that as soon as I gave in she would too. It motivated me to be good to her, not to take advantage, and to do my very best to be slow to anger. That said she was the only person that could really get under my skin, and if it was a disagreement, she would just pick at me. I would go 0-60 and she would stay calm and collected and just keep knit picking me or my position. If I ever used profanity out of frustration, she would shut off the conversation and disengage completely....Just like my mother. She was the same way with friends and acquaintances. She feels so deeply, but she was able to see past her feelings quickly and think of the other person. Just as she did with her classmate, she saw others through the Lords eyes, even those who crossed her in sometimes terrible ways.
She and I were kindred spirits in our love for others. Though she was more introverted, she deeply cared about the relationships she had. As we dated, it was so smooth and easy with really no drama. We spoke early of marriage and I was excited but reluctant that it was the right decision. It was perplexing that it was such a drama free relationship. Part of that stemmed from the fact that I had grown up, and we were the same age. I don't know many relationships among early 20 somethings that don't have some fireworks. In an effort to get me to move off dead center, and stop focussing on remodeling my house and making a living, Julie broke up with me in my newly purchased house. We were sitting on the floor in the main room without any furniture. I remember being crushed. After she left, I cried similar to how I have cried from time to time the last few days. She wasn't going to wait for me to take the initiative and move forward. She was in her mid 20's already beating her first bout with life and death a year earlier. She wanted to move forward. If I wasn't the right one, she had to move on. I found out later she was beside herself after breaking up with me. She expressed her worry to her late brother James. He offered a succinct calming response, "He'll be back." He was right, just a week went by and we were back in contact with each other. It took me finding out she was going out with someone who was an attractive eligible bachelor for me to say to her, "We are back together." "Since when?" She asked. "Since now. You aren't going out with that guy cause we are going to date. He's a tool." We were engaged shortly after and married in January 2007. Looking back on it, she knew exactly what she was doing. Although she was scared I wouldn't commit, she went for it and did what she needed to do to get my attention. This has been her mantra ever since I have met her. I thought, 'this is the most incredible girl I have ever dated. If I pass her up and don't go for it, I am going to be kicking myself for the rest of my life. 2 years or 80, I want to be with her.
In regard to filling her life dreams and just plain surviving, Julie had her foot on the gas pedal and I just put a brick on top of it. On separate occasions when we had set backs over the years, we had the same scripture come to our mind: D&C 6:23 "Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?" Julie had been given priesthood blessings as a child and as an adult to do seemingly insurmountable things. We were talking about how we were going to have children of our own when we were engaged. I knew she wanted to try surrogacy before we looked at adoption. We also knew that on paper, adoption would be tough. Here was a girl who was only going to live for a few more years...or so we thought. We were in the doctors office within a few months and interviewing potential surrogates around us. It wasn't until after a few failed attempts that we had my sweet sister come forward and offer to carry for us. Thanks to her husband, who egged her on in her impression to do this we were on our way. Julie was elated, and comforted that my sister put up with her meticulous nature. We spoke often by phone and in person. When B&J were born, Jules was admitted for a CF clean-out. We left the hospital while we were admitted to see the C-section birth. While waiting in the OR, Julie felt her late brother James close to her. She said to me once that all her life he had charted the waters for her since he was more sick. As her care increased, he would offer comfort to her anxious spirit. Once he passed, Julie was doing new things that she didn't have anyone to relate them to. She learned how much grit she had in her as she faced these challenges.
We had several set backs during the process to have the twins, but Julie kept pushing. She would worry initially, and then find a way around the issue. She was always problem solving. It wasn't a Type A or driver approach, it was a tenacious and well researched approach. She took this same approach when caring for herself during the next 3 years as she faced poor lung function from her CF. When we were told she had an 80% chance of dying in the next 5 years and that choosing Transplant was choosing quality over quantity, she was torn between the potential for new drugs in the CF pipeline, or enjoying life 5-20 years (on paper) with new lungs. She really wrestled with this. She wanted James to tell her what she should do. She had to decide on her own. As with finding her spouse, and having twins, she went to her knees. It wasn't an easy decision, but once it was made, she didn't look back.
As soon as she was in recovery for transplant she was asking what she would need to do to carry a child. She was told to not bring it up for at least a year. That year came and went and she started to press the clinic for their support. There wasn't any data on a patient with her conditions and transplant carrying a child. It was too specific. There were too many co morbid conditions. We received the support of the clinic once they realized she was headed that way one way or another. They gave us both scenarios and it didn't hold her back. We struggled to get pregnant for months. After her asking me to support her in going to the fertility clinic several times, we made an appointment. She was faced again with another challenge: Stage 4 or severe endometriosis. We set a plan in place and I was so worried she wouldn't have success. I pressed against her desire, and she finally told me "I have to at least try. If it doesn't work out, then I can live with that; but we have to try." She received surgery, we tried 4 attempts of IUI, and on the 4th attempt when she was ovulating late and I was in and out of town the following week. She ovulated during an 18 hour block I was home. 8 months later we had Charles. The light of our home. He was born happy.
Julie's favorite stage with the twins as babies was between 1 and 2 years. It was difficult to go through Chemo last year and feel like she was missing out on watching and raising Charles. She only mentioned it a few times, but I knew it broke her heart. How she was able to keep her head up when she clearly had enough to drag her down is beyond me.
Julie shared her thoughts with her nieces and nephews on struggle and challenges and seeing your way through them just in January. As I watched what used to seem so normal to me on a video last week, I saw her show such power and dignity. I want to finish by pointing out a few of the things that she felt about her plight and her struggle.
- Through all these struggles, she said the following: "I had to pray and not get the answer that I really wanted, but ya know, it takes faith. I have really prayed and tried to learn that, ya know when things wouldn't go the way that you want them, and maybe it sounds kind of morbid but, I mean cause I have been facing life or death a lot this last year and its more like, What do YOU want for me? What's your plan? I have to be on board with it and I will accept His will. So when you ask it's, what is thy will; and and I will do it. Cause I don't know whats going to happen (crying). But I am blessed that the cancer is in remission; so I don't have it. It could come back but, I don't plan on it. I am grateful that I am feeling better with my lungs and stuff. Sometimes you don't get the answer in the way that you want, but I think that you can find peace and have faith things will eventually happen the way that you want. They have kind of been going that way in what we want so it's good. It just takes patience. Patience is soo key. It's been a long time. It's been a long haul; but this year we have been blessed even though we have been through trials.
- When people say, this is not as hard as Julie, IT IS!! I mean for you it IS hard. I don't think that God will give you anything that you can't handle...I mean, He will, cause I can't handle this without Him. But you have to keep Him with you. That is how you do get through it. I'm like 'I can't handle this. You need to help me.' And He will be with you.
We talked about these topics in private at home. One time I had been charged to explain to a Sunday school group how we were getting through such a rough year. I felt inadequate to answer since I wasn't that one actually suffering, she was. So I asked her. She started to tell me that "for all the people in the community, city, and world that are upset at God about this or that; they may turn their back on him and forget him. But He will NEVER leave them. He will always be with them. He hasn't left me. I mean, If I start to think about what is wrong, I stop myself and think, "Look at what He has done for me. He has never left me. He has always been there." Hebrews 13:5-6 "...for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldy say the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me."
These final thoughts that Julie shared about her plight and the Lords involvement in her life sum up her M.O. She had every reason to doubt, be angry, upset, frustrated, and question God. But she always looked at what good had come to her; ended on a positive, but informed note. This didn't come without worry or anxiety about her situation. She wasn't superhuman (maybe she was...). This wasn't some mysterious universe, or positive energy to her, it was a loving Heavenly Father. She of all people should have been ticked, but she wasn't. She would say to me "none of that stuff people are upset about really matters." When you are thinking about leaving your faith and giving it all up for something that is so upsetting to you, ask yourself 'is this worth giving it all up for?' We don't have all the answers to our questions, and we never will. Doubt your doubts and not your faith. There is way too much at stake. Come back to the Lord. No one is doing it all so you are not as far off the mark as you may think. The beauty of the atonement of Christ is its like a bullet bike back to the path of righteousness; you pick up time and again when you screw up and He will forgive you helping you to do what may be more important: forgive yourself. Just remember, He will NEVER leave you. No matter what you do, He is always right there for you. Take it from the ultimate warrior Julie, not me.