My life throughout the past year has literally been an open book. A play-by-play account of the trials and tribulations my family has faced along an arduous journey. Ali made a conscious choice to deal with her diagnosis head on illuminating the intimate details of her hope and anguish. Reluctant at first, I also learned to embrace the unyielding power of sharing my own personal thoughts openly an honestly with family and friends regardless of how difficult the circumstance. It is how we seek the provincial truth, a process toward understanding, a path to finding peace in a maelstrom of chaos.
Our strength in the face of unimaginable adversity is built on the foundation of love and support of everyone who has been touched by this story. I am absolutely thankful for this revelation along with numerous other inexplicable blessings that bear fruition in light of life’s greatest challenges.
So, how are Noah and I doing? Given the undeniable situation: exceptionally well - thank you!
I have come to realize in hindsight my grieving process did not start upon Ali’s passing - rather on April 10, 2008 – the day we found out she had cancer. It was at that point and over the subsequent months we both experienced the rigors of anger, depression and bargaining. I was likely in denial up until her very first chemo injection – when things became all too real. I had already processed these emotions only to excruciatingly watch Ali suffer as her primary care giver. Ali’s death while shocking also brought about a sense of relief. From there, I had to move on to acceptance.
I have also actualized through her very own documentation, Ali’s battle did not start last year. As far back as February of 2005, medical journals she was asked to keep by her primary physician revealed symptoms consistent with the effects of her gastric cancer. At the time, these symptoms were thought to be stress, anxiety and diet related. They were effectively treated as such.
Due to the rarity of her cancer, especially in someone her age, I do not question why it was not discovered sooner. Precisely, I am even more astonished at the length and depth of her intestinal fortitude. The fact she was able to conceive, carry a fetus to term and give caesarean birth to a child while her body was breaking down allows an even more profound appreciation of the miraculous nature of Noah’s existence.
The heavy lifting is done. In a compact span, we have already experienced junctures without her physical presence marking Noah, Ali and my birthdays; mother’s day, father’s day and our wedding anniversary.
Greg and I purchased a headstone, while the staff at Studio Graphique is graciously working on a unique personal design for this marker befitting dear Ali. (In her eternal humor, she would probably want us to take advantage of her prime location to use this stone as part of the University Circle new wayfinding signage installation – with directional arrows highlighting Severance Hall, The Art Museum and other notable landmarks). All that remains is finalizing details of her inscription, placing the stone in ground and acknowledging the first anniversary of her passing on March 9, 2010.
There are still of course random unexpected moments of deep sadness triggered by thought or material reminder. It is during these times I entrust in “courage to feel” the emotional landscape. I am emboldened by the fact Ali is forever manifested in my life. Her divine spirit is a constant and reassuring presence as I seek guidance and wisdom.
I take great comfort knowing Ali and I left nothing unsaid to each other. Through this blessing, I do not suffer the burden of regret nor do I worry about the future. Ali gave me direct marching orders for raising Noah and for moving onward in an era that might not include her in it.
At 35 years old I have already lived an entire lifetime: graduated school, established a career, got engaged, married, bought a house, had a child and buried a spouse. My foremost responsibilities are to take care of myself, raise Noah, respect Ali’s memories and honor her desires. Beyond that, I am content to live in the ‘now’ letting life unfold in front of me without any internal or societal pressures.
I will not be defined as a single father or grieving widower. These are merely descriptors as part of my own voyage. Alas, they do not reveal the entire realm of possibilities. I am inspired to enter a new phase of self discovery armed with an appreciation for the fragility of life, clarity of thought and an open heart. A tribute to the valuable lessons Ali imparted. It also helps to know with certainty I’ve got an angel by my side.
Love to all,