Four hundred and something days ago we made that decision, one of the hardest ones of our life.
Three hundred ninety-eight days ago they cut open my husband’s chest and let a machine breathe for him and pump his blood. My husband was Darth Vader for six hours.
It seems so much longer ago than a year. It feels like it happened in some other dimension, a fuzzy place we can barely bring before our minds’ eyes, a place called not June but Before Anna. A barely perceptible speck in life’s rear-view mirror.
I think of it every day, of course, and yet give it little thought at all. I thought this anniversary would feel more significant—though I’m glad it didn’t since that’s a sign that all’s well and we made the right decision.
Still, I thought about it as the dates passed and as we walked around doing the things he struggled to do last year. I remembered how it felt last year to have to cajole him into going, reminding him it would be good for him to get out of the house, and how it felt to walk as slowly as he had to and try not to show I was keeping a nervous eye on how hard he was breathing. What a contrast between that and how now he says, “I’ll get the little girl!” and swoops her up to his shoulders, carrying her proudly to greet people and point at dogs, skipping to make her laugh.
Like the physical scars, the memories and feelings of the June lost to surgery are hidden most of the time. They are a new feature of our history that we don’t examine much now that they’re healed over. You have to pull back some layers to see the scars. But once in a while they catch my eye. They surface in the dull ache in his chest some days, the tick of his mechanical valve at an unexpected moment, the familiarity of hospital waiting rooms, the taunting what-ifs of concerns over health insurance. But they are covered most days by the proof we reached the other side—the joy that was set before us, in a picture on a bedside tray, that got him up and out of bed and all the way to Ethiopia—the living, running, giggling proof of life beyond surgery, beyond Marfan’s, beyond ourselves.
Even though they have faded, those scar-memories are with us. And they are good. They have changed us and taught us much. So it is good to remember.But it is better to go out and live.