In 1987. I submitted an entry in a contest called “Always and Forever” (the name of country music legend Randy Travis’ new album) sponsored by KUGN-FM radio in Eugene. My letter was chosen as the winner and Jim and I were treated to a wonderful evening at the Hult Center, meeting and visiting with Randy Travis in person on his tour bus for about 20 minutes. At the time, he presented me with a beautiful handcrafted gold necklace with an open umbrella as its pendant. A tiny diamond raindrop dangled from one of the spines of the umbrella and I wore that necklace for years afterwards.
This was my entry:
On Thanksgiving Day, 1983, the doctor entered my hospital room, looked at my husband Jim and me, and said something like this:
“The results of your ultrasound and other tests reveal that you have a large tumor on your left kidney, and after some further testing we must remove the whole kidney in two days time … There’s an 80% chance that the tumor is malignant … If it is encapsulated within the kidney itself, it can be treated. If not …”
I had been running a steady fever for seven days following a previous surgery, which had alerted the doctors that something else was wrong. That night, my temperature escalated to the point where the whole night was a hazy blur.
What I remember most about that night, was the presence of Jim beside my bed – always there when my parched mouth and throat needed a sip of water, or when the cold cloth on my forehead had turned warm and needed to be rinsed out once again. Those gnarled, calloused hands that built fences, roped cows, worked on engines, drove tractors and hauled merchandise for our store with a rugged strength, were as gentle as a baby’s as he ministered to my needs.
He stayed that night until the fever broke and I drifted into an exhausted sleep.
Each of the next two evenings before the scheduled surgery, he was in my room with a smile on his face and cards and flowers in his hands from people in the little community of Lorane where we lived.
When he was with me, he never revealed the strain that I knew he was under. This was quite a feat in itself. This man that I had been married to for over 20 years was highly charged with nervous energy and was normally a very tense individual. I learned later from friends that away from the hospital he was considered a basket-case. But, he was always calm when he came to see me.
I credit a lot of the peace that I felt within myself those days before the surgery to the fact that I had always been blessed with the love of a good man and a family of whom I was very proud. I was ready and willing to accept whatever was to come my way, and Jim was there to support me.
It was Jim’s voice that I first heard through the fog of anesthesia that morning following the surgery …“It’s okay … It’s all right … The tumor was benign.”
The love has always been there – sometimes hidden by misunderstandings or selfishness on the parts of one or the other of us, but it is there. That love and support has given me the courage to not only face the possibility of death, but to realize that each of us must try to do something beneficial with our lives – to make each day count – Always and Forever.