Married just a little over a year and with a beautiful baby girl, my life was about to be "blessed" again. Sheila was to be the next learning in my walk of things I know about. Her illness, her undeniable and encouraging strengths would take me to another opportunity to either love and grow or become bitter. It was during her illness that I realized part of why God had blessed me with the years of working with those that were "challenged."
Sheila developed Muscular Dystrophy one year after we were married. We had our first child by then and I was working a full time job as a foreman. I had served my four years in the Military and got out. As her disease progressed, we spent many hours and days and weeks and even years in hospital rooms. During a year of total remission, she became pregnant with our second child. Though not planned, we were estatic to learn of the blessing to come. The pregnancy was hard and Sheila spent the better part of 9 months in the hospital under intense medical care. Our daughter was born two months early and weighed only 3.2lbs. She was in the Neo-Natal Unit until she was seven weeks old. I would go up each night after I got off of work at midnight and learn to feed her and care for her. There were special ways to feed her and infant CPR classes to be taken. She came home on a heart monitor and there were classes to take for that.
Sheila remained in the hospital for another 5 months after our daughter came home. I would work my night shift job and come home and feed our daughter. I would wake in the night to feed her again and then my parents would wake me when they were leaving for work. I survived on two hours sleep a night for several years. I had two babies, aged new born and two years old to care for and my wife to visit each day as well as work.
Sheila came home and went back into remission for several years. Together we found a way to purchase our first house and live a wonderful life together. We could not have done it without the loving help of my family, that I do know. In spite of all the hurdles in our life, we made ourlife and our children's lives the best they could be. Insurances ran out and renewals denied but we continued to give our girls everything we could. They never knew when we were strapped for money or going without. We sold our home to move to a smaller town to raise ourdaughters. The city simply was not a safe place to raise them. We bought a 3 acre property and lived there for almost twenty years. Sheila was hospitalized 25 times in those years but we continued to be a family and to love our daughters and each other beautifully.
In those years I wanted so much to write. I had written songs since I was thirteen and written short stories when ever I could. Sheila and the girls encouraged me too try and publish them. In 2004, my first novel was published. I cut a C.D. the same year of 13 of the 100 songs I hadwritten. Both went on sale and though I didn't become rich in money from them, my life was enriched to know I had become a published author and singer/songwriter. In 2005 my second novel was published and today I wait for novels three and four to be published. Sheila being loved and missed more than my words will ever convey, I continued to write as she asked me too. I remember the day that I stood in front of my novels in the Barnes and Noble in the Mall of America.I held my novel up to the sky and said, "We did it, Baby. We made it here."
Things I know about because of our life together are about giving and love and care-giving. To be a care-giver for life I think takes a special heart. There are so many pros to that lifestyle and certainly some cons. When Sheila got sick in the early stages of our marriage, she neededcare to walk and bathe and do most things. From time to time, she would go into remission and for a year or so she would be able to walk and we would embrace that time and live it to the fullest. Taking care of her became just a way of life and we never really thought of life asanything different from anyone elses life. Our life was perhaps a bit different in that we had to be a little more prepared for emergencies as she would be fine one minute and then in an instant, in the hospital for a month or three or four. But we still lived our lives as filled as we could and were always on the go.
Sheila taught me that life doesn't have to control you. You can take control and make living a joy no matter what the challenge may be. She taught me that an illness, no matter how crippling, can only control you IF you allow it to. When life is beating you up, fight it and to remember that "Quitting is Never an Option."And she taught me that Love really IS stronger than anything this world can toss at us.
Things I know about? I know that love is everlasting long past when our loved one goes to heaven. Life is what you make it and choosing to live and love life is a better choice than becoming bitter. You only lose years of living and memories that you can never recover if you become bitter. She taught me that care-giving is a two way street. She was MY strength and My happiness as I was hers.
Life took many turns for both my wife and I but we remained with one another until March 8th, 2006.The disease she had fought so bravely and strongly for almost 24 years had taken it's toll on her precious body. After being in a coma for 60 days and then again for 30 days, Sheila went to heaven. But before she went, she taught me so many "things that I know" today.
Oh yes... she taught me one more thing that I know. It is Never, ever Goodbye, it is only "see you later." Darrel