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.
6 days ago