“‘I promise to choose you. I chose so many other things throughout the last 10 years, and you kept giving me more chances to choose you. I won’t make the wrong one again,’ I said into the microphone, standing up in front of our friends and family. The tears were streaming down my face as I faced this man. This man that had stood by me until he couldn’t anymore, and then chose me again when that choice didn’t make logical sense. We were celebrating our 10-year anniversary and we decided to renew our vows, so there really wasn’t a dry eye in the house at this point.
You see, our marriage hasn’t been an easy one. It hasn’t even been hard. It was impossible. Out of 10 years, I spent years 2 through 8 in a haze of prescription drugs, lying, manipulation and selfishness. I broke the law, put my children in physical, mental and emotional danger, stole money from church, our business and our personal account to fund my addiction, and many more things. It ended up with me giving him no choice but to take our three children and leave. To choose the safety of our children above the guilt and shame of a failed marriage. To be the guy that broke his vows, ‘til death do us part,’ after growing up believing that marriage is a sacred covenant before God.
There’s a whole other story about why and how I became a drug addict, and how I got clean and stayed clean, but this story is about redemption. It’s about being in the trenches of life with your spouse with the enemy shooting all around you, and still taking steps forward together into the unknown. It’s about being pioneers in a world where the future is a scary place but if you do it together, genuinely together, you can face anything. Our journey back to each other was long and required a lot of individual work from both of us, but it’s been worth every second. The things we’ve had to face since, I’ve needed my solid rock by my side to get me through.
‘Babe, I don’t think Marni is feeling very well,’ I said to my husband Craig. It was the night of our anniversary party and our 3-year-old daughter was looking a little pale and was a bit whiny and not herself. ‘She’ll be fine, she’s just tired,’ he replied. ‘We’ll put her to bed and she’ll be right in the morning.’
About 6 a.m. the next day we woke up to Marni vomiting. I caught most of it in my hands (so gross right, moms?) and we got the rest in a bucket. For a 3-year-old, she’s surprisingly good at aim when it comes to puke. ‘Darn, I think she has a bug,’ I said tiredly. ‘I’ll keep her home from church and hopefully it’s just one of those 24 hour ones.’ ‘Sure hun, no worries, I’ll take the other kids and you two stay home,’ Craig answered. ‘She’ll be ok.’
Marni spent the next 8 hours vomiting and when the vomiting stopped, the fevers started. And then the coughing started. ‘It’s been a week and she’s just not better,’ I said to Craig worriedly. I’d already been up to the hospital once with her because she hadn’t been to the toilet for almost 24 hours, and the GP twice who told me it was viral and she’ll get better on her own. ‘Her cough is getting worse, she looks awful and she’s saying her chest hurts now,’ I said. ‘I think I’m going to take her back to the emergency room.’
‘Probably best,’ he answered. ‘I’ll stay with the other kids and you take her in.’
I took her to the emergency room and after a few tests, they found she had pneumonia. ‘We’ll put her on IV antibiotics and fluids, and she’ll be fine in a couple of days,’ the doctor said to me and went on to the next patient. I didn’t really hear him – all I could hear was PNEUMONIA. See, about 8 months ago, in December 2018, we nearly lost our eldest child to a mystery pneumonia. Our 9-year-old daughter had been put into a medically-induced coma and intubated and ventilated after she’d had a respiratory arrest and barely made it. So as you can imagine, I was thinking, ‘Dear God, please not again.’ Not to mention, I hadn’t really recovered emotionally from that experience. So I text Craig and told him the diagnosis. He immediately was on alert. ‘Are you ok?,’ he asked as soon as I answered the phone, literally 2 seconds after I sent the text. ‘No not really, I don’t know what’s happening, she has pneumonia and it’s all happening again,’ I wailed at him over the phone. ‘No,’ he said firmly. ‘It’s NOT like last time, Marni will be ok.’ He didn’t know that for sure, but somehow him saying that to me so confidently made me believe him.
We spent three days in the hospital and she really WAS fine. It was uncomfortable and unpleasant, but we got through it. Fast forward a week and my eldest daughter woke up with a cough. Yep, the one who had nearly died of pneumonia 6 months before. This time, I was 2 hours away on a work trip. ‘Hello,’ I said sleepily at 6:30 a.m. when the phone rang. ‘Bailee’s sick, I think I need to take her to the hospital,’ Craig said on the other end. I sat up in bed, suddenly wide awake. ‘What? What do you mean, sick?,’ I asked nervously. ‘She was fine yesterday.’
‘Yeah, she’s coughing and saying it hurts to breathe,’ he said. He sounded worried which is unlike him and even more unlike him to make the jump to the hospital visit straight away, he’s usually more a wait and see type person. ‘Right,’ I said. ‘You take her up and I’m on my way.’
I cancelled my meetings and got straight in the car and drove the 2 hours home. It took everything in me to stay calm and trust that he had it under control. I can tell you though, I was praying hard and I don’t really remember a lot of that trip. I did get a text from Craig about halfway home that I pulled over to read in case it was an update. ‘Pneumonia. Straight through to a bed, oxygen saturation at 82%,’ it said. It was happening again.
I got to the hospital and went through to where they were. Bailee was in the resus bay because she’d only just had a rapid decline about 20 minutes before and was requiring a lot of oxygen. By 10:30 p.m. she had declined so much that they were talking about transferring her to a bigger hospital with more resources and equipment in case she needed more intensive care. By midnight, they’d called the specialised paediatric emergency transport doctors and the chopper and off we went. Helicoptered to a hospital 3 hours away. This time we were prepared and knew what to expect, but it didn’t stop me from freaking out. Once again, Craig was there to be my stability. To be the one that would hold my hand and walk with me through this. To sit by his daughter’s bedside while I was in the hallway crying because I was so overwhelmed with the thought of losing her again. This is the trenches. This is the enemy shooting all around us. This is the unknown.
Once again we were faced with doctors telling us they didn’t know why a previously healthy-as-a-horse 9-year-old girl had now almost succumbed to a mystery pneumonia that doesn’t show up in any tests not once, but twice, in 6 months. Once again, we were faced with being terrified at every cough and sniffle that came out of her once we got home. Once again, we’re faced with a fight to get to the bottom of the cause of it and find out how we can make sure this doesn’t happen again. She spent 5 days in the hospital on oxygen and a total of 3 IV antibiotics. She was poked, prodded, x-rayed and almost drained of her blood they did so many tests. She’s stronger than any other 9-year-old I’ve ever met and I’m in awe of how she’s coped with the whole thing. We’ve got more tests ahead when she’s 100% better. We haven’t won yet, but we’re fighting together and that’s what has made it bearable.
I’m standing there, at our 10-year anniversary party, holding a microphone with tears streaming down my face, looking at the love of my life, my soulmate. He’s looking back at me with so much love in his eyes, love that I don’t deserve. ‘Two years ago we were both looking at life as single parents, having to start over,’ I said shakily to everyone in the room, ‘but in the midst of it all, all the pain and hurt and trauma, I knew that somehow, some way, God wasn’t done with us yet.’ And He wasn’t.
I’d love for you to watch this video of a song we sang together. It’s called ‘Pioneers,’ and it’s such a beautiful picture of marriage and the struggle that it often is. But also the excitement and adventure it can bring if we could forgive and forgive again, moving forward into the great unknown together. We tried to sing this live at our party but butchered it completely when the emotion of it became a little too much, so this was the redemption for that.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jaimie Honeysett, of Orange, NSW Australia. Have you had a similar experience? We’d like to hear your journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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