January 28, 2018: Strength of Conviction

The day was full of family. By early-afternoon, Matt’s room was awash in light and love and even a little laughter. In addition to me, G, and H, Matt’s parents, his sisters, his old family friends all came to sit with Matt for a little while. And, though we’d been holding off on allowing visits from anyone outside of family until Matt woke up—if he woke up—two old friends from the city arrived; their visit was a surprise and a reminder of a life that was little more than a memory and an origin story that was becoming more sacred by each passing second.

As the hours passed, the absence of Matt’s voice, his laugh, was unmistakeable; the sound of his labored breathing was unmissable. And the reverberation of G’s innocent hope was heartbreaking. She so desperately wanted Daddy to wake up one more time, and it was impossible to not want that for her. But, even as I so desperately wanted to cling to that hope for her sake, by the end of the day, I’d begun to lose hope. Save for that eleventh hour miracle, one year ago today, I stopped believing Matt would wake up, even for G—our miracle baby. And I crafted my last theory to explain the unexplainable, to explain why he so suddenly–because it did feel all too sudden–couldn’t wake up.

Matt’s tumor was vicious. Every victory was met with a stunning defeat; upswings were followed by downswings that reached new depths. Every time we thought we could breathe, we were deprived of air. For twenty months, we’d had one crisis after another. And while I worried and stressed and researched, Matt remained true to this singular conviction: he believed he would get better. So each time, after each stunning defeat, Matt stood back up, and each time he defied expectations, and each time the doctor told him he looked too good for a person with disease as widespread as his.

Until the disease knocked him down this last time. Until that invisible monster had been revealed in all its horror on the spinal MRI. Until the doctor said weeks and I signed hospice papers in a chair while Matt slept in the bed beside me.

Even though we (Matt and I) had never had that particular hard conversation, maybe some part of him knew the truth about the spinal MRI and hospice. Maybe some part of Matt had known for a while the truth the doctors would find in his spine and that part of Matt had fought, desperately, with every ounce of his heart and soul, to deny that truth. But once that truth was discovered, once those papers were signed, that part of Matt that had been fighting so desperately, could finally stop fighting.

My unprovable theory is this: Matt’s strength of conviction—his belief in the elusive idea of our future, our happily ever after—was the reason he defied those expectations and looked too good for a man whose disease had so viciously progressed. Matt’s strength of conviction is the reason the hope in this story burned bright and true. Matt’s strength of conviction is the reason we soared when it would have been easier to crawl.

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