Russ and I celebrated our 30th anniversary on August 4th. It was memorable, if not romantic: we spent it in the hospital with our critically ill daughter.

After 30 years, I can honestly say I don’t remember a single anniversary until this one. We never made a big deal out of them. We married young and poor, and a few days before our first anniversary rolled around, my husband looked at me and asked what are we supposed to do? If I’d known my answer would set the stage for the rest of our married life, I might have answered more carefully. I knew he was really asking if I expected a gift with our extremely limited funds, so I made the practical suggestion that we buy each other’s car tags which were due. That became our tradition for the next 20 years. No wonder I don’t remember any of them.

This year, however, I remember every detail. I remember how on the 2nd, two days before our anniversary, Megan began rapidly deteriorating after two weeks in the hospital with no clear diagnosis. How a day later on the 3rd, we watched her body crash as she fought a dangerous bloodstream infection. How on the morning of the 4th–our anniversary–one doctor admitted to me that he hadn’t expected her to make it through the night. How later that day the doctors performed the biopsy which would confirm their fears. How on the 5th, she started chemotherapy after confirmation of the diagnosis which would change our lives forever. How, while waiting for those results, the nurses gave us an anniversary card, having taken up a collection for a gift card to the hospital coffee shop. They had sweetly taken pity on us, “celebrating” this momentous occasion as we watched our daughter flirt with death.

There are other memorable dates these last couple of months. The date Megan first fell ill: June 5th. The date of the first of ten doctor’s visits trying to determine what was wrong: June 7th. The date of the first indication this was something way more than the virus they’d been saying it was: June 27th. The date of that tenth doctor’s visit, not knowing we wouldn’t be coming home from the ER: July 17th. The date we ate our first dinner together as a family in two months: September 11th.

I thought about these dates recently when a fellow HLH mom wished her daughter a happy “re-birthday” for her bone marrow transplant anniversary. After all of the bad dates we’ve had, this was a reminder that there will be good ones ahead of us to celebrate. So instead of remembering the bad, I’m going to start looking forward to these happy dates:
• The date we receive word there is a donor match.
• The date we see the first signs that Megan’s new marrow is taking hold.
• The all-critical 100th day post-transplant.
• The date we can all be home together again.
• The date her immune system is strong enough for all of us to go together to a restaurant.
• The first day of school.
• The first re-birthday of the transplant which will put this monstrous disease into permanent remission.

For the first time this year as our 30th approached, I had asked to celebrate our anniversary, to be taken to a favorite local Italian restaurant which we don’t eat at often because it’s somewhat expensive. We never made it. My goal is to celebrate there next year, with our family healthy and whole again. From now on, I plan to celebrate our happy anniversaries; we will have much to celebrate.

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” –Oprah Winfrey


About Kelly J. McCleary

Wife and mother of three, author, financial professional View all posts by Kelly J. McCleary

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