Saturday, February 7, 2009

Our Story

I know that I have new readers, and maybe some old ones, that don't know our "story." I've had some questions about Darrell, my kids and other things so I thought I would fill in a few details.

In 1996, on March 17th, Darrell and I were married. It was second marriage for both of us. At the time I had my 2 boys, Trace and Ross who were 8 and 5. Darrell had 2 daughters, who were 12 an 7. Darrell and I had our daughter Julia when we had been married 15 months.

We moved around a lot. Darrell and I met and married while we lived in Joplin, Missouri. Five days after Julia was born we moved to Jacksonville, Arkansas while Darrell did a fellowship in Hematopathology at the University of Arkansas Medical Center in Little Rock. He was already a pathologist but wanted the sub specialty. Hematopathologists help diagnosis blood and bone marrow disorders and cancers, like anemias, leukemia and lymphomas. After his year fellowship (our year in hell) we moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

We lived in Tulsa four years. While we were there, I attended school at University of Oklahoma, Tulsa campus, with a major in interior design. I also worked at home drawing for a kitchen designer. There were multiple changes in Darrell's pathology group while he was there and we realized that the best thing for us would be for him to work some where else. We ended back in Little Rock.

Our stay in Little Rock was for 2 1/2 years. While we were there Darrell agreed to adopt from China. When Julia was 6 months old, I had a pregnancy "scare" but I soon realized that I actually wanted another baby, even though we had 5 children already. But Darrell had gotten a vasectomy when Julia was one month old, and he had had a reversal so we could have her. Another vasectomy reversal was not an option so I suffered with my need for another child. It was a very strong "need" and I prayed and prayed for God to take it away. Darrell even offered to try to get another reversal, which I would never put him through again. And then when Julia was 4, I met 2 little girls adopted from China. I immediately went home and told Darrell about them and we looked their agency up but the cost seemed so high Darrell automatically said "no way." But then he added "but I'll pray about it."

God threw many families who had adopted internationally in Darrell's path so he was always "thinking about it." And then when we moved to Little Rock, one of the pathologists he worked with had adopted a daughter from China and was waiting for his second referral. A few months later Darrell sat down with me and asked "Do you still want to adopt from China, because I think I want to adopt too." Within 2 weeks we had an agency and a home study agency. A year and half later we had Jenna Meilin, formerly Lu Chu, a very cute 17 month old who wanted nothing to do with her new daddy. Less than a year later, we found out that Darrell had lost his job and we had to move again.

This time we ended up in Franklin, Tennessee. We finally felt at peace and we both felt like we "belonged" there. We were also thinking about adopting again. One of the families in our travel group to get Jenna had not finalized their adoption with the child they were referred. They were told that the baby had a heart condition. We had seen the child and she was fat, pink and seemed healthy. Darrell was devastated. He was sure that the child was too healthy to have a serious heart condition and a few months after we came home he wanted to try to adopt the baby. I called our agency and found out she had already been adopted. We were relieved but our hearts were now drawn to a heart baby.

Eight months after we moved to Tennessee, Darrell was in a single engine plane crash. He had a plane so he could fly to visit his daughters in Missouri. He was alone in his plane when he crashed although Jenna had wanted to fly with him but I talked him out of taking her so he could enjoy his flight and not have to worry about her. His plane had been in the shop for 3 months and he was eager to fly it. Immediately on take off, he discovered he was having mechanical problems. The flight tower told him to fly to another airport and he crashed about 50 feet short of the runway. He broke his ankle in the crash and cut his forehead but as he was crawling away from the plane, it burst into flames and he was burned. He suffered third degree burns on 60% of his body.

He was life flighted to Vanderbilt University Hospital and admitted to their burn unit. He stayed there for 5 weeks, mostly unconscious, and then he died on March 7, 2006, ten days before our 10th wedding anniversary. That 5 weeks seemed like an eternity. It was a terrifying roller coaster ride-- one minute he would be stable, an hour later he had another infection, or pneumonia or renal failure. In the end, his cause of death was multi system organ failure. His body just couldn't take the stress anymore. He had received skin grafts but they had all failed as well as the site where he donated skin for the grafts now needed grafts.

I wish I could have heard him tell me he loved me one more time. He was on a ventilator his entire hospital stay so he was incapable of speaking, not that he would have been able to anyway. When he was awake he was strung out on pain killers. I would have even settled for holding his hand, but they were burnt and in splints most of the time. I finally held his hand the last hour before he died. He was unconscious, medically sedated, and his body was giving up. Everyone knew this was the end and I wanted him to die somehow knowing I was there. I asked the nurse to remove his hand from the splint so I could hold it. So I held his hand as I watched his heart rate and oxygen saturation rate drop and drop, until it was finally zero. And then I let it go. I lay across his chest and sobbed my heart out, cried my life way, because life as I knew it was gone and the love of my life was gone with it.

I spent the next 6 months trying to make sense of my life. When you lose your husband, you lose your identity too. I was no longer "Darrell's wife." I was no longer married. The person who knew me better than anyone on earth has ever known me was gone and I have never felt so alone in all my life. But I finally found my way out of the pit and I went on to adopt Emma from Vietnam. Her story is in my Vietnam Series. About 6 months after I adopted her I got Ryan's referral. I also moved from Tennessee to Missouri to be with my family.

I'm writing a book about Darrell's accident, his death and how I struggled to survive. God was very much present in all of it and He blessed us more than I deserved. While Darrell was in the hospital God kept showing me verses that said everything was done for "His glory." I thought Darrell would live and we could tell the story about how God healed him. Now I think I'm supposed to tell the story of how God provided and how I still trusted, even after Darrell died. I am not a saint, not even close, and I'm sure I can name a few people who would be first in line to confirm this statement. But the fact that I am not a saint, and yet God was still faithful is a story of comfort and reassurance that many would like to hear.

I'm a different person then I was 3 years ago, and I'm learning to accept that's not such a bad thing.

52 comments:

misspro312 said...

What an amazing story! It seriously brought tears to my eyes!


You are a great woman!

Kelsey said...

I'm so sorry that you had to lose your husband. I can't imagine how hard it has been, but I wanted to let you know that you're amazing and an inspiration.
I can't wait to read your book. Let us know when it hits stores!

Glen and Andrea said...

Wow - your story is incredible and heartbreaking. You are a brave, brave person even though I'm sure you'd rather not have had to be.

I'm enjoying reading your blog and getting to know you. I also have a Degree in Spatial Design, and a son adopted from Thailand.

I think it is amazing and wonderful how you can see God in your story even though it didn't pan out how you had hoped. That shows such a strong, mature spirit to us looking in.

Andrea, from New Zealand

Kristy said...

HUGGING you soooo tight from here in Texas!

Kristin said...

I'm sending hugs your way, Denise!

I completely understand what it's like to sit in a hospital and say goodbye to a loved one, without really getting to say goodbye, unexpectedly.

I think your story is a wonderful one to tell. Isn't it amazing how God works through us in times of such heartache? I loved reading your story and I will love reading your book when you are finished with it.

You are an awesome Mom and you bring me joy every day that you make me laugh with your funny stories and pictures on your blog!

I know it's hard finding your identity again. I'm going through very much the same thing after losing my Mom. We will get there though!

Lindsey's mom said...

Denise
What a post! You have inspired me to tell Chelsea's story sometime...It amazes me how we have been able to connect. Just amazing..our timetables are similar, but losses are losses but so different. I know you know what I mean! God Bless You!!
Your Alaskan Buddy!

Lindsey's mom said...

Hey Denise..my first comment did nto come out..typos. I did not mean "losse are losses". I meant our losses are personal and similar yet so very different. SOrry if I offended in any way with the first. I would never pretend to say I "get" how it is to lose a spouse..just like you would not do that with the loss of a child. GOD BLESS

Megan said...

What a story you have to tell. I'm so sorry you had to lose the love of your life. It sounds as though God has made you stronger through it all though. Thank you for sharing. =)

The Gotch 5 said...

Denise, That story is amazing. I can not imagine how hard these past few years have been. I know the things that my friend went through when her husband died things you don't even think of and that are a constant reminder of what happened. You should be so proud you have an AMAZING family and one that is full of love. Darrel must be so proud as he watches their lives unfold. I love your blog thank you for sharing this personal story.

momma said...

thank you for opening your heart to share this story!

becky said...

wow. such an incredible story. if you're still near joplin, i hope to run into you someday when we move back there (between branson & springfield).

Carey-Life in the Carpool Lane said...

Denise,
Thank you for sharing your story. Is is amazing how much a life can change in such a short period of time...
Sending hugs and good thoughts your way!

Shannon of "Room for More" said...

Denise,
I have picked up pieces of the story while following your blog, but I did not know the entire story. I look forward to reading the book someday. God uses you to touch so many lives.

I hope your house is all well again and the viruses & strep are gone, gone, gone!!

Erika said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! I have such a lump in my throat. I knew you had been through a lot from everything I had read here, but I never asked because I didn't want to pry. God bless you all!

Brandy said...

I really had no idea. Thank you for sharing your story. It was touching and I feel like I know you better now.

April said...

thanks for telling your story. i'm sure it wasn't easy to tell, nonetheless live through! you're a strong woman.

Elizabeth M Thompson said...

Wow. Your story is heart-wrenching and hope-filled at the same time. Thanks for sharing your life with us. You are an inspiration. Your family is beautiful.

C. Beth said...

Wow--what a story. Thank you so much for sharing it. (I clicked on it from the BlogHer ad on my blog.)

My husband had a brain abscess 2 years ago. In our case, our story is about God healing him (with lots of help from a wonderful neurosurgeon and many others in the medical field.) But it changed us, and life seems both more fragile and more precious now.

Mrs. Stringer said...

Thank you for sharing your story Denise. You are such a special person in my life. I am so glad I found your blog.

mommy4life said...

People like you who can open up and share their story while dealing with tragedy are inspirations to others.

Margaret M said...

I am always amazed each time I hear the story. I can't wait for the book and again, my offer to edit still stands! (Yes, I am really just trying to get a look at the book before all others!)

Sandy Toes said...

It's 5:33am...I have to get my kids up soon and tears are strolling down my face. I had a dear friend who lost a husband in a plane crash in OHIO 3 yrs. ago.

I remember her telling me..."sometimes I forget to breath b/c the pain just hurts". Thank you for sharing this unbelievable story...your journey...I see your blog differently this morning!
-sandy toe

Katie said...

That's quite a journey. I love reading about your family--it's a beautiful one. I'm excited to hear how much a part of your life God is. That's awesome!

Emily said...

wow-- that is an amazing story-- and what a testimony to God-- I almost lost my husband in a car crash 3 weeks ago- and we have 4 children under the age of 6- your story is a reminder that GOD is our strength and provider- with him- whome shall we fear?!

Brandy said...

Hey lady! No days off for you...

I'm totally kidding! But I came by to get clicky with it. I'm going to make you millions one click at a time.

Janne said...

Your story still moves me. What a gift to you to recognize God in all the heartache and joy of your life. And what a gift to others to share it! You inspire me!

Shari U said...

Denise, You really are an inspiration. So many people would have a hard time picking up and carrying on with their lives, but you, YOU went on and fulfilled your dreams and added 2 more children to the mix. I'm sure Darrell is very, very proud of you!

Crystal said...

It breaks my heart each time I read about you losing Darell. I can only imagine that it would feel like your heart was ripped from you. I have told you before but I will say it again, I am so sorry.

I think it's amazing that you continued to allow your family to grow after losing him.

Thank you for sharing your story, Denise. I feel like I know you just a bit more now.

Lula! said...

Oh, Denise...

I'm so glad God gave you the strength to write this, because I know that kind of peace only comes from Him. You amaze me. He amazes me.

Thanks for sharing your story. It has blessed me today.

Anita said...

I had looked back and read most of your story Denise, and I read your page on the book you are writing. Reading it again, it's so moving, and so sad and yet you are an amazing survivor.
Thank you again for sharing it.

Proudmama said...

Wow! I had just recently discovered your blog. I had no idea of all you and your family have been through. God certainly is using you and your story to reach and touch others. I am looking forward to reading that book someday.

Heather said...

Denise,

We met briefly in Vietnam in the Somerset playroom.

Every time I hear your story it makes me cry. You are an excellent writer. I can feel your pain in your words. I hope you write more on your book blog soon. I am sooooo sorry you lost Darryl.

You have amazed me how you have gone on to adopt two more children as a single Mother. Most Mothers would have felt overwhelmed, after the loss, parenting the kids they already had alone; Not you. You are a true inspiration to all Mothers and the adoption world.

Party of Seven said...

Thanks for sharing your story! You are a survivor of the unimaginable, God is obviously very strong in your life.
I lost my sister in law last year we were very close, just like bio sisters. I still have good and bad days. She left behind 3 beautiful little girls that we help with every summer while they are off of school. It makes for a busy house but worth every minute.
I cant wait to read your book, what a inspiration you are to all of us.{{{HUGS}}}}

TuTu's Bliss said...

Thank you so much for sharing this touching story. Loves and hugs for your amazing family. Jen

cat said...

Oh you have touched my heart! Love and light to you.

Astrid said...

What an amazing story!

My father also died in an airplane accident (25 years ago this year!). Unfortunately we never found him....he's still in a mountain range. I don't think my family ever fully recovered from that. I'm so thankful for my own little family- my husband and daughters.

Jaime said...

Thank you for your testimony of strength and faith. You are an amazing woman and you have a beautiful family!

Anti-Supermom said...

Thank you for sharing such an incredible story.

You are such a pillar.

wenderful said...

Wow, I am touched by your story. I'm so sorry about your husband. You are an inspiring parent. I'll look forward to reading your book.

Katie said...

You have such a touching story. Thanks for sharing it!

Stacey said...

Life can never be taken for granted. Thank you so much for sharing your strength and sorrow with us.

Rachel Ann said...

Stopping by from SITS...thank you for sharing your story! Bless you and your family!

Mrs. Newlywed said...

I am stopping by from SITS, and this is one of the most heartwrenching and touching stories at once.

My husband and I have plans to adopt, and your willingness to embrace children is so inspirational to us.

Melissa said...

Also here from SITS. What an amazing story. What an amazing woman you are.

Gamma Sharon said...

I just want to say God Bless You. We never know what is next in our life but we do know God is in it with us.
Thanks for sharing your story and your life!

Barbara said...

Wow - your story is heartbreaking and uplifting. You tell it very well. Obviously you have a gift for writing. I just found your blog and have bookmarked it. Thanks for sharing. I am a mom to only one child - a little boy adopted from S. Korea. God is good!

Anonymous said...

You sound like an incredible woman! I am so sorry for your loss, God bless you and your family!

Anonymous said...

You sound like an incredible woman! I am so sorry for your loss, God bless you and your family!

Heather said...

Denise, thank you for sharing your story with me in person this past weekend. Many times during our conversation, I had goosebumps, marveling over God's glory in bringing you through this experience. I am so glad that I was able to meet you; I hope we're able to do it again next year...

Michelle said...

Hello Denise! This is my first stop at your blog (I'm doing a 365 blog project) and boy am I glad I did. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story and your life with complete strangers. Thank you!

sadiesmom said...

I found your blog in the adoption section of SITS and I am so glad I did. Thank you for sharing your story. Reading your story reminds me of how fragile life really is, but how faithful God is through times we don't imagine we could survive.

J.L. Campbell said...

I came over from your other blog and got stuck here reading about your children and your husband. God does give us the strength to go on when we think we can't. Your story is an inspiration.