A week before surgery, we hosted an evening at our new house, boxes and all, where twenty of our friends sat in the round, shared stories, and prayed to anyone who would listen. As I sat by my husband's side, holding his hand, I realized I never wanted to let it go. I was one hundred percent completely married to this man and there was nothing else, but that. Love Guaranteed. In the silence of my prayers that evening and with a small piece of jewelry that I gave him symbolizing his courage, I re-committed to him, to my marriage, to seeing the happiness and hardship in relationships, and to standing by his side, through sickness and in health. It was no joke.
One week later, my husband was laying in an ICU in Los Angeles, unconscious. He was hooked up to a heart and lung machine, only his head visible with his iPod still playing, his earbuds in place (the surgeon allowed the iPod in the OR I knew it would keep him unconsciously calm), his body covered by blankets, which were slowly warming his chilled bones. During the eight-hour, full-circulatory-arrest surgery I'd known all the facts, the human body was chilled down to nearly single digits in temperature to reduce cellular metabolism. With everything on ice (think Han Solo frozen in Carbonite), the doctors could shut down his heart, lung, and brain, to replace the faulty pipe with a piece of plastic that will never rupture or break down. I quietly listened to my own heart beat, unwavering in its intention to keep this family together, to love unconditionally all of life's imperfections as they show us the true meaning of triumph.
When he woke up, our lives were all about recovery, which was incredibly painful at first, as well as aggravating and challenging. It was hard. Really hard. Slowly the healing occurred. It took him three months to go back to work and nine months to feel back to "normal" again, although there is nothing "normal" about being slight bionic.
Nowadays, when I am lying next to him, my head against his chest, I can hear his robust, healthy, safe and sound heart beating. I slip away and burst into tears when I recall his unconscious body, lying entombed in blankets, surviving by machinery. It is a combo of grief and gratitude. During those hours in the waiting room, my entire life flashed before me; high- school humiliation, my circle of heartache and all of my doubts…all of it paled in comparison to the possibility of losing him, because he remains the truest extension of myself, in all its forms, old and new. It is a miracle: His broken heart had the strength to heal my wounded one. Love actually does conquer all. So I conclude with a simple note:
"Take nothing for granted, especially the miracles found in love."
Each woman seems to have a private mantra that keeps her going through her darkest hours. And something in our own words brings light out of the shadows, keeps us faithful in ourselves. In each of the stories in this book, you will get a chance to learn about amazing women and their triumphs over humiliation, heartbreak, and hardship. Their triumphs are unique, but the lessons they share, the notes they wrote to themselves, have universal appeal to the female condition. I invite you to consider writing your defining story down, and with the notes that sustain you, remind yourself of how a few words can make miracles happen.
Don't just live it— write it down, make a note, and never forget.
August 7, 2008