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Friday, December 23, 2005 9:25 PM CST

December 23.
A date that will always burn in my memory.
The date that our world changed forever.
The date that we began a roller coaster ride that brought the highest highs and the lowest lows, that lasted forever, but ultimately ended all too soon.

Most of you know this story. Nine years ago today, Dave and his brother, Bob, decided to go to Portland, about 4 hours from our home, to pick up some furniture. I didn't want them to go. Selfishly, I wanted Dave home. So they left very, very early in the morning.

And hit ice outside of Boardman. They rolled the van three times. I got a call from the state patrol saying they'd been taken to the hospital, no word on their condition. Mom and Dad were packing to leave. They stayed to help get things sorted out.

So began one of the longest hours of my life. Phone call after phone call to hospitals in the area. No-one knew anything about them. Finally, an hour later, I reached a nurse in the Hermiston ER. "Yes, they just came in. They're fine. They're making all the nurses laugh. Bob will need a few stitches, but they're okay."

Whew! Crisis over, so I thought. We drive to Hermiston. Dave says, "There's something growing in my head." I think he's crazy. The doctor put the CT scan on the lights. This huge mass is staring at me. This huge white thing, pressing Dave's brain to the side. "That's got to come out," I say, running my fingers over the outline of this monster living inside my love's head. "That's got to come out."

"Yep," says the doctor. "We're sending you to the nearest neurosurgery center by ambulance." Dave was having an erratic heartbeat, they didn't want us to go by car. Where in the world is that? I ask. "Walla Walla," he says. So we ride home, in a bumpy ambulance.

They hook Dave up to IV's. Tubes. Medications. Scans. Tests. Anxiety. Fear. Terror. Hope. Love. A cycle we would come to know intimately over the next 9 years. A cycle we'd repeat every 8-12 weeks for the next 9 years. Holding onto one another. "We'll get through this," Dave would say, "together. We'll beat this thing."

How many times did I sit with him, holding his hand, while they pumped medications, poisons into his veins? How many times did he reach over to reassure me? How many times did I hold my breath as the doctor put the scans over the lights, waiting to see what the beast was doing? Was it asleep or on the prowl? Too many to count.

Too many times sitting in waiting rooms. Too many times facing the possibility that the monster in his head could take away everything that mattered. Too many days of sickness. Too much fatigue. Too much loss. Too many times.

And yet, not enough. Not nearly enough.

2005 is almost over. Today is 4 months since Dave died. One third of a year. I have a hard time believing we've made it this far. So many things he's missed. Kenny's first football game, his first touch down, his smile in that WaHi Blue Devil helmet, Kenny's 15th birthday, Zach's touchdowns, interceptions, sacks, his love of the game, his excitement, his basketball games, Kate's dance recital, her Christmas program, my birthday, our anniversary. And more to come.

It's funny that we ended 2005 in much the same way we began it.

In January of 2005, Dave was scheduled for surgery in Seattle. We had a new (to us) car and went over the pass on the worst travel day of the year. It was something out of revelations. I remember thinking, "Everyone I love is on this mountain. We're all going to die together." There was snow, torrential rain, ice...what a mess. The pass was closed, the flights were cancelled. We pulled over to put chains on the cars. Dave wandered around with the directions on this little plastic mat, reading them, drifting from car to car. Finally, he put it over his head to dodge some of the snow/rain that was coming down. I remember watching him, and the fear, it was so sharp it took my breath away. Earlier I had handed him a cell phone, and he looked at it like he wasn't quite sure what it was. It was one of those moments, where the bottom drops out of your world, and you're left with that sickening, gut-punched feeling.

And now, at the end of 2005, again in a new car, travelling on one of the worst days of the year, bumping over ice in Hood River, torrential rain in Cascade Locks, high winds in Troutdale, and no electricity in Seaside, here we go again...this time without Dave. And I look at our kids, and I have that same sharp fear, that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Because it's so wrong. They are doing well. I'm proud of them. They stay focused on what matters, and they keep moving forward. But it hurts, because they shouldn't have to. They all have that sadness behind their eyes. They've been robbed of something so essential. They'll be okay. I promised Dave, they'll be okay. But it could be, should be so much more than just okay.

Love, 'Chelle


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