You just have to see it from the proper angle

Yes, your spouse getting sick and dying is a gift. Your car throwing a rod on your hour long commute home is a gift. Even the autism diagnosis for your youngest child is a gift.

My wife was diagnosed with ALS on October 17th, 2006. The previous year I had spent every other week traveling back and forth to headquarters and managing a software distribution team for my company. Every other week in a hotel room. My wife was convinced I was having an affair.

The week before she was diagnosed my manager called me into his office and asked if I would take on the responsibility full time. I told him he would have to give me a 50% raise to even consider it. He said “and if I could do that?” I told him I would have to discuss it with my wife.

We talked it over that weekend. But neither of us really wanted to live that close to NYC. And there was this mysterious weakening in her right hand that still didn’t have a diagnosis. I told my boss that I couldn’t do it. The next day she was diagnosed. I never spent another week at headquarters.

The next three years were a whirlwind of moving, prepping the house for sale, setting up the new house to enable disabled access and preparing to take care of a terminally ill wife. Our relationship suffered. But my kids got to see what “till death do us part” really meant to their father.

Liz died three days before Thanksgiving, 2009. A nuclear explosion in an otherwise unremarkable life. I had four kids to get to adulthood. ALONE.

One of the gifts was four remarkable children who rose up to the task of becoming adults. Not completely without adult supervision but with a father that was barely able to hold himself together, let alone give his children the tools they would need to navigate a world that was already becoming unrecognizable to all previous generations.

A couple of days after Liz died I stepped into the garage, turned on the music and Zac Brown’s “Free” came blaring out. It hit me in the heart. Every word felt like it was written for what I had just survived.

I felt guilt. But I also felt the gift of freedom, not from my wife, but from the pain and stress of caring for the terminally ill, wheelchair bound woman I had pledged my life to. She may have wanted to live, but that wasn’t the woman I knew and had loved for the last 20 years. That woman hated being dependent on anyone. I still have trouble reconciling the woman I married with the woman I cared for at the end.

It was a gift, sent by my wife, to let me know that it was all going to be okay. You can’t explain these things to people who haven’t experienced them. You can’t really believe them yourself. But they are real. They are gifts. From the Universe. From our long lost loved ones. From ourselves. Because, in the end, we are all one.

Look for the gift. The silver lining. It’s the way out of the depression that these sorts of life altering situations bring. There is always a gift.

father, motorcyclist, old retired guy who’s just a little lost on a blue marble corkscrewing its way to oblivion

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