How Will I Manage Without You
As the nurse escorted my sister and I towards the room, she began to warn us about all the equipment we would encounter. I immediately told her, "I've seen it with my niece after her heart transplant and it wasn't an issue." We walked through surgical ICU and entered a room and there he was. Connected to numerous machines completely motionless. As I approached his bed I grabbed his hand and said, "Billy, I'm here!". He opened his eyes and squeezed my hand.
We met in 1984 at a wedding of his friend. I happen to be friend's with the groom's sister. As fairy tales go, I caught the bouquet and he caught the garter. He called several days later and we had our first date. I knew within a month he was the one I would be marrying. I was only 19. On September 20, 1986 we were married. What an amazing life we created together! Over the next eight years, we were blessed with three boys. Bill truly loved his boys and enjoyed just spending time with them. He always called them "his little buddies".
Dinners were a family affair. We would have dinner together nightly and had dedicated Friday to "Pizza Night". It gave us opportunities to talk about EVERYTHING. Nothing was off limits, including the scary "what if" question. As much as we loved each other, we wanted to make sure that if either one of us left this world before we had completed our 99 year marriage contract, the other would move on without guilt or shame.
As I left my principal's office on that sunny November day in 2009, Chadd, my oldest son was standing there. I didn't understand why he was there since he was suppose to be at work. Immediately, he said "Why don't you have your phone, Amber has been trying to call you. Dad got hurt and she needs to talk to you." Immediately I went to my classroom and called Amber. She informed me that Bill had been hurt on the job and I needed to get a flight to Denver as soon as possible. I fell apart but knew Billy needed me. I called my Dad to arrange a ride to the airport. He in turn called both of my sisters. Amber booked my flight. My younger sister, Diane, who lives close to me in California, booked a flight to go with me since I had no idea what I was going to find when I got there. My older sister, Linda, booked a flight from North Carolina to fly in the next day. Their support was the only thing helping to keep me together.
The flight was awful. I only knew that Bill had been electrocuted and that he had an injury to his leg that needed surgery which they would be performing before I got there. I couldn't be with him fast enough. We got to the hospital by 11:00 p.m. and had to wait since they were trying to disinfect the injury since he wasn't stable enough for surgery. Seeing him was heartbreaking. A vibrant, happy, lover of life, his family, and friends lay motionless in a hospital bed.
Over the course of the next couple of days it was apparent that Billy would not be boarding a plane to come home to us. The only voluntary movement he had was the first day I saw him. I believe he was hanging on and that was the moment he waited for to say good-bye. He passed away 3 days later.
My head was spinning. How was I going to survive with out my husband of 23 years, best friend, father of my children. He was gone. This brought on so much uncertainty. As a married parent I always questioned how so many of my student's mothers raised their children on their own. I knew, without even experiencing it, that it was extremely difficult and now I was one of them.
Making all the decisions became overwhelming. Learning how to balance the rolls of "Mom" and "Dad" were exhausting. I just didn't want the job. I had one and it was "Mom" and "Wife". The struggle to find a balance took a tole on me physically and mentally. In addition to handling an entire household, I also had to teach 24 first graders. The anxiety was overwhelming. So much so that I requested help from my doctor who offered medication to help me with my stress and something to help me sleep. This exasperated my stress due to my fear of becoming addicted and the fear of not being unable to function without a crutch. I needed to be fully available to my kids. My mental stability was all I had to offer them. I remembered how Bill handled things. How he always let the little things go. These things just didn't matter. If it wasn't going to change his life, it wasn't worth the time. He would constantly say "It's All Good!" This was the way he lived his life. I knew that the only way to bring stability to our lives and give the boys a piece of their dad, would be for me to take on Bill's motto for life.
I needed something that would remind me of the saying whenever I thought I couldn't take anymore of what life was delivering.
While on Facebook one day, my niece had posted a picture of a hibiscus flower with a banner above it that read "It's All Good!". That was it. I would take her drawing and have it permanently put on my body so that when I was sinking into the "black hole" I could look at the tattoo and find the strength through Bill's words to get through each episode.
I took the picture to a tattoo artist and decided the best place for this would be on my right hip (as Bill was my right hand), out of sight of the general public and only visible when in a bathing suit. After about 2 hours it was complete. I now had the words of my husband as a permanent part of my life. When things seem at their worst, I just look down and know that I have the strength to carry on through his words.
Raising three boys is difficult. Raising three boys alone is overwhelming and exhausting. It has been two and a half years now and I am learning to live my life again. Looking at the boys, I know Billy would be so proud of them. They have continued to surprise me daily with their perseverance to be successful in school and making grown up decisions. Chadd has chosen to add a minor to his Mechanical Engineering degree. Jeremy has completed his 3rd year of college and has decided to go into the Navy. Austin is working his way through middle school with all of its curve balls and having to do it without his dad.
I believe that Billy was sent here to mold me into the person I am today and to touch the lives of hundreds of people who constantly remind me of what a fabulous man and friend he was. I do find peace in the fact that he helped to shape me into the person today and will always be grateful for the time we had together.