There are certain moments in your marriage that you never forget. For me, I vividly remember our first date (Cheesecake Factory), our first kiss (in the hallway upstairs at Mom & Dad’s), our wedding day (a chilly October day), and another one for me was on our so-called “honeymoon.”

Lori and I got married on a Thursday evening, the start of our fall break at Ball State. Lori was working on her masters. I was half way through my dual undergraduate degrees. I had just been offered a weekday air shift on WWKI, starting the week following our honeymoon. Honestly, it wasn’t much of a “honeymoon,” considering we merely locked ourselves in our apartment in Muncie for the weekend where we could be alone. That’s all that mattered – each other. That weekend was amazing and memorable in several ways – more than the socially-sanctioned physical activities.

That first Sunday we were married, we went to church at Southside Church of the Nazarene in Muncie. Oddly enough, Pastor Andy put me on the worship team that morning – having never met me or heard me play or heard me sing. Musically, everything went fine. It’s actually more of that Sunday Night that I remember so well.

Southside had their young adult’s ministry meet on Sunday evenings, so we went back to Southside that evening. I don’t remember everything we did in the context of the ministry activities, but there was a very special moment that I will remember forever.

Leaving the activities in the gymnasium for a while, we found our way back to the sanctuary and the grand piano that I had played earlier that day. I remember watching my fingers playing those keys with a new polished white-gold-plated ring shining with the warm incandescent light colorfully refracting through the diamonds on my left hand. Lori sat beside me on the piano bench. As I played that piano, I was moved to tears by the enormous reality of our new, strange, beautiful, scary, joyous, and momentous covenant. It’s a very special memory for me.

As our new life began to unfold, I never could have imagined the struggles we’d navigate and the very dark valleys we’d walk together. I think back to early in the 2010s with financial insecurity, job loss, and Lori starting a new business when we prayerfully decided that we wanted to start our family.

Like all too many come to know when they want to start a family, conceiving a child is not easy for everyone. A year went by – no baby. Then the next month, the next month, and another month of timing everything perfectly, but still no baby. After 18 grueling months, we mentally and emotionally needed a break. The mostly silent struggle of infertility was really taking its toll on us.

Infertility is one of those things that’s awkward to discuss publicly; because after all, we’re really talking about your sex life. I had conversations with my parents and my sisters, plus some of Lori’s friends knew. But beyond our closest inner circle of friends and family, our journey to becoming parents was kept under wraps.

As life would have it, the month we stopped trying is the month we conceived Savannah. Lori called me upstairs to our bedroom, then she showed me the positive pregnancy test. We were beyond thrilled! Those next few months were wonderful, except for all the nausea and vomiting. We were blissfully unaware of the medical rollercoaster that was preparing to drop us into the scariest and darkest days of our marriage.

Our first insight that something was wrong with our baby came in early August 2013. Our local OB caught that there was something wrong with the baby’s heart. We then raced through high-risk OB appointments, genetic counseling, and fetal echocardiograms until we settled on the team at the University of Cincinnati along with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

After being induced the night before and having a botched epidural, Lori delivered Savannah in record time on the afternoon of November 20, 2013. In fact, our high-risk OB had specifically wanted to deliver Savannah himself – largely because he hardly ever got to deliver babies naturally being in the high-risk OB field.

Savannah wasn’t waiting, and Lori wasn’t either. Dr. Van Hook didn’t make it in time to deliver Savannah. The OB resident handled the delivery, while Dr. Van Hook was popping a nitro from trying to get there so quickly.

There were so many people in that delivery room. There were at least 15 other people. Maybe 20 at times. It was crazy really. I was on one side of the bed, with Patty on the other side. Everyone else were medical professionals attending to Lori and Savannah. Within only a few minutes of Savannah’s delivery, Savannah and I were whisked away to the UC Medical Center NICU leaving Lori behind with Patty.

Within only a few minutes of getting into the NICU, a large convoy of men and women in jumpsuits arrived to take Savannah and I the half-mile trek up the road to Cincinnati Children’s. We arrived in no time, where they escorted us up to our new residence in the CCHMC Cardiac ICU.

I didn’t sleep at all that first night. Being a new dad, away from my wife, placed in the foreign clinical environment with beeps, more beeps, and an on-going parade of clinical providers. I didn’t even attempt to sleep. My tiny human was only 4lbs and 14 ounces at birth, and this excited and scared Dad wasn’t going to miss a moment with his amazing new responsibility. Thankfully, there were some amazing nurses in those first few days to help get me through all that. I was a single parent for a couple of days until Lori was cleared to leave UC and come to Children’s.

Those first 48 hours outside the protection of her momma’s body were merely a foreshadow of the clinical reality that Savannah would experience in the days to come. To date, Savannah’s had two open heart surgeries at Boston Children’s Hospital. She’d had a hand full of heart catheterizations and countless echocardiograms. At 6 years old now, Savannah’s medical “summary” takes up multiple pages and her complete medical history fills binders.

In the more than 11 years of marriage and more than 6 years of parenting, there have been some very tough days. Still today with my own job insecurity and furloughs happening, I’m reminded of those bygone moments of fear and worry where we asked many of the same questions we’re asking today. Nevertheless, we’ve made it through. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One minute at a time.

This life is tough. So many times, when we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, we quickly realize it’s merely another train coming to run us over again. Despite the pain, the stress, the worry, the demands, and the outright dread, there is no one else on this planet that I’d rather have sitting next to me on my piano bench. Just as I sat there playing in the sanctuary at Southside, I am reminded today that there’s hope for tomorrow, full of possibility, full of opportunity, and full of love.

Lori, the demands of our tiny tyrant and your disabled husband are not easy, yet you rise to the challenge every single day. While a mother’s work is never done, you continue to live out your love for us day after day by cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, preparing Savannah’s school lessons, working through Savannah’s therapies, then on to more cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Your selfless service does not go unnoticed.

We love you so very much. Happy Mother’s Day!!!

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