More than 50% of marriages end in divorce. If you add in a head-injury, a traumatic brain injury to be exact....it goes up to somewhere around 75-85% (I have been told all sorts of different statistics). Tell me it's not a miracle that in 2010, we will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Sure, 5 years of those 20 were pure, torturous hell, but, we made it through that part. I can finally say we are on the other side of that horrible ordeal.....the biggest miracle of THIS YEAR.
On March 29, 2009........My Marq picked up and pretty jubilantly rattled the contents of his translucent brownish-orange prescription bottle, then poured out one last pill....and swallowed it. And that was the end of that part of things......we never, ever thought he would finally take his last pill. The huge pile of pills were the only thing that kept things at least slightly stable....kept the rages at bay for the most part, the suicidal thoughts and plans manageable, the depression at least numbed a bit...the sleep constant....the moods hilly instead of mountainy....they kept his body alive and at least kept him from remembering or feeling what his life had become.
But on March 29 he swallowed the last one....because it was time....
I wasn't even home that day. I didn't even know that he was that close to being done with his meds, it was so scary for me that he was actually going to stop taking them, that he really didn't talk to me much about it, just to his doctors. The last pill day was actually his 41st Birthday and I was in Los Angeles.....a story I will tell you a bit later, because that week held all sorts of surprises.......but over the greater part of the last 5 years, the pills were more numerous than I wish to remember, and the different drugs that we tried and failed were a pile of expensive bullies that just made things harder in most cases. I never thought the last pill day would ever come....but it did.
I have to say that I think it is very merciful that we can not see into the future......I think sometimes we think we want to know what is going to happen, but so many times we would be so absolutely overwhelmed with what is ahead for us that we probably would give up. In Autumn of 2004, it had been a few months since Marq's accident, and he still was just not feeling well, and just "off"...not himself. I kept telling myself that it would be just a few more weeks and he would be back to normal, I kept telling him that too...to just hold on...and I really believed it.....I would have my husband...my rock, my hero, my business partner, my parenting partner and my best friend. We could make it a few more weeks.....we had been married just a little more than 14 years at that time....our kids were 13, 11, 8, 3 and 2. Here's a photo of our family just about a year before it happened.....
So we got through that first 6 weeks and things were not getting better. Little did I know....little did HE know...that the bad part hadn't even started yet......that it would be a steady decline down into the darkest most hellish place imaginable....and that soon, we would not even recognize him, he would not recognize himself....that our marriage....our friendship.....our dad.....would only be a memory.
I remember talking to Marq's doctors in the beginning...and asking them what was going to happen, when he would be better....and they would just give me the saddest, most pitiful looks.......and most often would say...."it could b 6 weeks, 6 months, 6 years.....we just never know with brain injuries"
Well, I believed FOR SURE-FOR SURE-FOR SURE that we would be the 6-weeks case. I KNEW that with all of the good things that Marq constantly did in the world for others, for our family...that there's NO WAY that a loving and kind God would let this last more than 6 weeks......so I buckled down and prepared myself for a long 6 weeks.
6 weeks went by.......things still got worse....6 months went by....even worse......a year.......
The path was confusing and horrible. It started with debilitating headaches and exhaustion. (Did I tell you this was from a surfing accident? But...a long string of concussions over the years from all of his extreme sports totally magnified the problem) He was in bed for weeks at a time. He hardly ate. He was so drugged up that he really couldn't carry on a conversation. After about 60 days, when the headaches were managed, but he was still drugged-up, I started to notice little personality changes. He just was not himself.........I attributed it to the drugs. At this time, we had a big, successful business....so I balanced my time between running the business and running home to be with him and our 5 children. He had been the stability and rock in our business and our home...the analytical one who made sure everything was meticulously planned, that everyone was safe, that everyone knew what their part was....that everything would be ok. The chaos that ensued in my brain was indescribable......Thank goodness we had amazing, wonderful, loving babysitters at home helping all day.......Marq just stayed upstairs in our bedroom....so unlike him....you see, he is the hardest working man you will ever meet in your entire life....so full of life and passion and enthusiasm....BOUNDLESS, unbelievable energy.....the BIGGEST LOVE for others I have ever seen in a man.....and he would hardly get out of bed.
Then the rages started...and the depression. He was INCREDIBLY negative. Mean. Nothing made him happy. He would not look at me...he didn't want to see the kids. Every day he slipped into a deeper, darker hole. He didn't want to wear the same clothes....he didn't want to see his friends.....when he was awake he stomped around, so angry. (I do want you to know that he never, ever ever took any of this rage out on me or his children. He knew he could not control it....so he pretty much just stayed away from us........and from almost everyone else.)
More months went by.....he spent more days in a row in bed. He talked less when he was out of bed.....he had a constant scowl on his face....EVERYTHING made him angry. He was scary......he looked different....his face had changed and his posture had changed...even his voice seemed to have changed....it was honestly like our kind and fun dad had died and someone else was living in his body.
SO MUCH HAPPENED during those years.......all around us...too much to mention.....but, he just stayed upstairs in that room....sometimes came downstairs and went out to his workshop to try to weld something, or build something....he would get so frustrated that he would just go back to bed....years and years like that.....YEARS........years are long like that....they stretch and pull and spread like they are eternal.
I will get to this phrase "PLEASE STAY WITH ME" in just a bit.....I guess I need to tell you that in 2000, we bought a 100 year old farm.....the house of my dreams....I would put up a photo here....but I'd have to go look for it because it's just too hard for me to keep photos of that place around......because we don't live there anymore......BUT....Marq and I had spent almost an entire year renovating it before we moved in........he would work looong days outside, turning the side pasture into a huge, beautiful yard for the kids....then work inside....fixing things up.....it was beautiful and perfect and custom made just for us, for our family...it was our home and everything was planned so that someday our grandchildren would visit us there.....and we would rock them to sleep on the porch.....a gorgeous old stone house with a big porch and small, cozy rooms and beadboard everywhere and bright colors painted on the walls.....more than 25 old trees on the place......hay fields and a couple of old barns....I gotta stop talking about it...that part still rips my heart out.
But...that's where all of this happened...so you can imagine what happens to 7 acres when the man of the house is down in bed for years.........our oldest son tried so hard to keep the place up....but he was really just a boy then. Ultimately........through a long string of really yucky things....we lost the farm.
But before that all happened he laid in our bed...the pencil post bed that we set up together in that upstairs room...the coolest part of the house where the entire upstairs was the master bedroom....lined with old 12-panel dormer windows....so full of light....such a happy little room before it all happened.
So....back to STAY WITH ME.
People ask me all the time how we stayed married through this. People asked even more DURING it. The doctors would even ask. Some of the doctors would sit me down after it had been years and tell me that it would be ok if I couldn't keep going.....that things might not ever go back to how they used to be...when they would see what our marriage had become, or how the old Marq was gone and this new guy was miles past difficult and angry and withdrawn. Most of them didn't even know the old Marq....if they would have, they never would have suggested to me that it was ok to leave......
What people didn't know was what would happen when I would think about leaving.....because I will be honest...I did. This time was no picnic.....so, sure...there were sometimes really bleak "what if" thoughts..........but, I want to tell you about a very short little conversation that happened enough times that I was able to endure it........
I don't know how many millions of tears I used to cry............but, it was a lot. I most often cried upstairs in my closet....where my kids couldn't see me, where Marq couldn't hear me from the bed. I would go in my closet and just kneel down and sob and sob and sob. I was so angry at God for lots of those years....but I still talked to Him. He was still very kind......over those years, I really did learn that He knew and understood and knelt right there beside me.....but, I still was angry and confused and felt very abandoned. I would stand in the shower, with it on full blast.....and that's when I would really sob........let the sound of the water drone out my sobs....let it all wash down the drain.....then....I would get dressed............and so often....so very very often, I would come out of the bathroom, where my closet was too....and he would still be there lying in that bed, sleeping.....
and so often......I would tip toe over there and kneel down next to him and cry really silent tears..........and I would stay sometimes for a few seconds and sometimes for a few minutes...sometimes for a long time. Sometimes I would gently put my hand on top of his, or try to fit my hand under his. I would just look at him......and remember...remember the promises and the kindness and the amazing years we had lived together so far..............and I always thought that he didn't even know I was there....his eyes were closed...he wasn't moving at all.....in most cases....it would have been days since he even spoke a word to me.....but SO MANY OF THOSE TIMES, when I would start to stand back up and leave.....his hand would quickly grab my arm....or my hand.....and he would just say....
"Please stay with me"
Now at the time...it was confusing because it never seemed like he wanted me around...or that he even noticed that I was around...but when he would say this...I knew that there were deep parts of him still there, covered up and held hostage by the war that his brain chemicals were waging with him. So, I would stay there, beside him, just a little bit longer...or I would crawl up on the bed and lay next to him............and, it made things feel worse sometimes....those reminders of what we used to be together......and he wouldn't say another word....it didn't lead to a conversation, it didn't really lead to anything....and then more days would go by without him looking at me or talking to me.......but I would remember those words "Please stay with me"
And I would research and research and research ways to help him.....and take him to his doctors....and look at old pictures.....and listen to music that spoke to me............here's a few songs that I used to listen to almost every day (there are so many more too...music is so healing and such a universal language)
"Please stay with me...."
It's really the only thing he ever asked of me during those years........and kneeling or laying beside him was the small thing....but, I don't know that it's really what he meant.........the bigger meaning was to stay through the next years, through the next rage....stay with me while I figure this out....stay with me while I am crazy and mean and psycho....when I'm not myself....please just stay with me.
There was another conversation that happened on a day when he was coherent and up and awake.........one of the WORST parts of the ordeal were the "normal" days...they were like mean tricks and they would show up with no warning and end in the biggest, longest, worst crash....sometimes they would last for days in a row...sometimes for a few hours....but it's like the clouds would clear in a little hole of a storm...and the sun would shine for bit...and my old husband would be back...or really clear glimpses of him.........and I would rush to get as much information out of him as possible.
I asked him on one of these days what he was feeling.....I didn't want to ask....I really didn't want to know the answer to the question that I NEEDED to know the answer to...but I asked it anyway........and we just had a really matter-of-fact conversation. I asked him about Me. I asked him why he didn't see me anymore, why he didn't look at me......I asked him if he still loved me.
I still hate talking about this...but now that we are on the other side..........it's ok to talk about. If you could see me right now I am drenched in tears again because I have not talked about this in SUCH a long time......and feeling now that it's time...these are different tears............more cleansing tears than bitter tears...and that is good I think.
But...the conversation. I asked him if he still loved me. He said...."I know I should love you, I KNOW I should. I know that's what I should feel...but I don't. I don't feel anything....." and he grabbed my hand and said "Melly, I am so sorry. I hope I can feel that again someday."
And then hours or days or whatever...however long that was later.....he was gone in the black hole again.......
and more months and years went by.
Anyone who met Marq this year....or knew him before the accident...this would come as a complete shock. He is the most loving, doting, affectionate, kind, serving, sweet husband. The most patient teacher...the most selfless worker..............the most loving loving, uncondionally loving human being...But, that left him for those years.....
Here's what I know. I know he would have done the SAME for me.....HE WOULD HAVE STAYED. I KNOW he wanted me to stay. I KNOW he wanted to get better..........and I KNOW that there were things that happened during those years that were essentially for my personal growth....for his...for our children....for our family as a unit.......there were things that could not have happened any other way.
I could tell you a million things that made it possible for our family to stay together.........but it all boiled down to DAILY decisions....just like all difficult things do. Sometimes the decisions were hour by hour....but when life is HELL.....When things are harder than you can imagine...you have to wake up every day and decide, before you even get out of bed, what and who you are going to be today...what voices you will listen to....what path you will choose..... We both had to decide each day that we would do what it takes to stay together.....to keep our family together. We had different battles to fight........he had to break free from mental hell......he had to keep fighting when he didn't feel anything but rage and didn't really even want to be alive. I had to fight to keep my promises.....I had to fight off the loneliness and the confusion and the devastation...............and, I KNEW HE STILL LOVED ME SOMEWHERE IN THERE......
But.....if I died tomorrow....I would forever regret not proclaiming what the REAL miracle was....all along. I am not one to preach or to be a religious fanatic.......but there is NO WAY, ABSOLUTELY NO WAY that things would have turned out the way they did without many many many hundreds, thousands of prayers, and the FAITH that we worked really hard to cling to....and the faith and prayers of family and friends and strangers....we simply would NOT have survived this without God there.....without the healing influence that overcomes you when you find that all you have left in the entire world is the love that God feels for you...the way that He knows you....the way He knows what you are capable of...how you feel, what is ahead for you, what you need to be able to keep going. When my husband could not feel love for his wife...me............my heart was so broken.....so I took it to God...I remember saying the same thing over and over to Him..."Please show me who I am to YOU....please help me understand.......please heal this up....." and He did...EVERY DAY...every time I asked...even when I was bawling Him out for letting this happen to us....He just kept comforting me..... ....and that's how I stayed....and that's how Marq stayed alive and fighting......because we stayed next to God.....honestly....and as always....God never left us for a second. Five years is a very long time....and at the same time...five years isn't very long at all.
We are doing awesome. We are happy most days. We have PEACE............
One of the other things I used to pray.....words I would say...."I will give up EVERYTHING if you just give me my husband back...."
Well...guess what? God took me up on that offer...............the next miracles I will talk about concern the other things that happened this year.....losing pretty much every material thing we ever worked for.........but, finding EVERYTHING we ever needed.
Stay tuned...so much more more to come.
Please look hard for your own Christmas miracles...we all have them. We have SO MUCH to be thankful for...every day, no matter what.
be back soon