Our Story Begins: Three Years
From the Beginning
“You have a choice. You can become bitter and consumed by it or you make it a part of your incredible journey.”
Those are the words used to describe my last three years by my friend Rene Syler. The description comes with the release of what we have turned into an annual event: the making of a music video that is a recap of our previous year. “Our” being myself and my four children: two girls, now aged 19 and 14; two boys aged 10 – twins. Missing from the equation is the woman you see in the picture up there, Andrea Marie Andrews Manoucheri.
This is a strange day for me. Exactly 21 years ago today I was getting primped and prepared and worrying about what happens next as I readied myself to go to St. John’s Church at Creighton University’s campus. It was my wedding day, a day I remember through photos and see as more of a blur than a strong and intense memory. When you’re young – in my case 21 – you stress and worry and freak out about the strangest things. We almost didn’t have her wedding dress, the airlines had lost the bag with the dress in it. We almost didn’t have the rings, they seemed to have disappeared about an hour before the ceremony. I vaguely remember the band, the dance, the songs, all of it.
Today I wish I had been the calm, deliberate demeanor I’ve managed to attain today. I have my moments, my anger and tension boiling and stretching me to the point that I blow like a pressure cooker set too high. Those are few and far between, though, much fewer than they ever were in those first days, weeks, and months of marriage. I miss the memories I didn’t keep roiling around in my brain from that day. It’s abundantly clear, dated as the dress is, that my bride was absolutely beautiful.
It’s a stark contrast, then, to 18 years later – to the day – when Andrea passed away. The blur and the stress and the tension were there, but different. The made up, dressed up, anticipatory feelings were completely replaced by a blur of syringes, IV lines, and CPR counts. The very day I entered into the contract of marriage is the day that the contract dissolved, in a haze. Instead of worry it was panic. Instead of warm glow it was white haze. Tears of joy were replaced by tears shed in grief. Andrea did a lot of things to me: she entranced me, enamored, impressed, indulged, cared for, and improved me and my life. She also infuriated, frustrated, angered, saddened and scared me. That’s marriage, cut down to its purest descriptors. Single-word verbs acting on the noun that is . . . me. I was a better person for having been her husband.
So when the doctors came up to me after having heaved on her chest and injected her with a myriad of drugs and said “you’re going to have to make a decision…” I truly felt her drift away, tearing pieces of me with her as the part of her heart that clung to mine was torn away.
Related: Our Story Begins: Year One
Each year since that day has had its changes. Year one was adjustment. We just had to walk, like our shoes were encased in cement, inch by inch, the journey not so much Rene’s description of “incredible” but more necessary.
Related: Our Story Begins: Then Came Year Two
Year two was pronouncement: we certainly are these people: motherless, wifeless, widowed and without one parent. We told the world this is part of what we are but this is not WHO we are.
Welcome to year three. Each second, minute, day and year since March 26th, 2011, has been one of adjustment. Adjusting to loss; adjusting to routine; adjusting to need; adjusting to change. Change has been our norm but we embraced it. “Life isn’t handed to you in a blue Tiffany box with a nice white bow. Sometimes people are hurt, they change . . . and sometimes they die.” That’s my friend’s description.
This is a journey. It’s a story. We’ve scratched it, letter by letter, like a monk slowly transcribing a bible by candlelight. Our new video this year is an old Emerson Lake and Palmer song, From the Beginning. It’s not a new beginning, it’s another beginning. We have learned to accept help, change, and most important . . . love. (It’s a cheesy line, sure, but it’s true nonetheless) Please watch it…you can see we went from sadness in year one to change in year two . . . to being . . . us. This is my family and we’re happy, lucky and loved. It doesn’t mean we’re perfect. It doesn’t mean we don’t miss her. It certainly doesn’t mean we’re always happy. But happiness was never contingent on just one person.
Still . . . today, on this odd dual anniversary . . . miss her we do. But we’ve known all along: we’re stronger together than when we’re apart. Fly on, my sweet angel, I loved the way you spread your wings.