Thirteen years ago today, I was shaken awake before the sun rose in the sky by our favorite nurses. I'd been asleep on a cot next to Greg's hospital bed in the room he'd lived in for more than a month. We'd grown close to his nurses who had a soft spot for Greg and me- we were only 25 years old and most of their patients were old enough to be our grandparents.
They had huge smiles on their faces as they whispered the good news: a heart had become available for Greg! I was terrified of the risky surgery that could end his life forever, but their excitement gave me confidence and hope. We were being given the gift of more time.
In the end, we had a little more than a decade together after his transplant, and what a decade it was. We lived a lot of life in those years. We became parents, moved multiple times and invested our lives in the ministry God called us to. We learned to forgive deeply, saw the worst and best of each other and ourselves, and fought hard for hope when there was little to be found. We depended on Jesus, we're humbled again and again, and realized how deeply we needed grace for the day. We had high highs and low lows and so much laughter and tears. Those years with Greg mattered and I cannot imagine life with them.
Yet it was just 10 years.
Instead of celebrating his 10 year heart anniversary on 11/25/2020, I drove him to the ER for heart failure symptoms. The ER was a madhouse that day with a line of masked people squished together pouring out the doors into the cold. It was the first time Greg wasn't rushed to the front of the line because of his heart-recipient status. The ER was struggled to keep up with demand and Greg was left in the queue with everyone else. It was a terrifying day that led to more confusing and terrifying days. Within less than a month, he was gone. Our extra time together was over.
Tonight as I reflect on those years, my heart screams that it wasn't enough. 10 years extra meant losing him at 35. 10 years extra meant him missing our son's 7th Christmas and every Christmas after that. Yes,10 years extra was a gift but I wanted 60 more with him.
From the distance of time, I can see things a bit more clearly. We hoped he would live to watch our son grow into adulthood and we dreamed of being together at his wedding one day... but those things became unlikely the first time the words "heart transplant" were uttered in our presence. He was not going to grow old. He was never even going to make it to middle age.
I grieve his short life even as I celebrate those extra years. I feel sorrowful and grateful and angry and resigned all at the same time.
Transplants aren't cures and they come with no guarantees. I am so grateful Greg had his and I wish it had given us more time. Those 10 years didn't feel like extra. They felt like barely enough.