Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Widow's Walk: Endless Love

I am taking a class on professional writing this semester. A couple of weeks ago, I was the subject of class interviews. They could ask anything they wanted. I gave them the lead of I married a dying man.

The assignment afterwards was to write an feature article about the interview. And for me I had to do it in third person, which I found really difficult to do. Here is the piece I wrote for class.

Endless Love
By Connie Thompson Kuhn

            Connie Kuhn married a dying man. Her husband, Mike was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer two months prior to their May 10th wedding in 2008.
            Mike had been a lifelong smoker. He had taken up the habit in his twenties when he met his first wife. Before he left the hospital, he asked Connie to destroy and remove all evidence of his smoking. Any time he came near smokers, he would comment about the stench wondering how his family and friends had put up with his habit. He clung to the possibility that the cancer was not a result of smoking, but possibly because of his exposure to helicopters he repaired that had been in Desert Storm. Smoking was the one big regret of his life.
            A pulmonary embolism put Mike in the hospital that April, just two weeks after his diagnosis. The emergency room doctor told the couple if they had waited for the ambulance, Mike would have died en route. Connie’s decision to drive him to the hospital saved his life. Later that week, the doctors performed surgery inserting a chest and heart tube to alleviate the fluid off of Mike’s lungs and heart. Complications ensued and the doctor gave Mike days to live. When Connie asked the doctor what they could do, he said pray.
            Mike’s parents had just returned to the United States from Africa, where they were working as missionaries. They requested prayers from all of their friends across the world. People were praying from every continent. Mike’s family, friends, and coworkers also joined in the vigil. The oncologist was amazed as Mike walked out of the hospital four days later.
            One night as the couple sat on the deck beneath the stars listening to the crickets’ symphony, Mike told Connie he didn’t know how much time he had left, but he wanted to spend it with her as his wife. They were married a month later in a simple ceremony in their living room. After saying their vows, the couple greeted guests as Mike sat in his favorite, worn Lazy Boy recliner and Connie by his side.
            Mike resumed chemotherapy a few days after the wedding. The treatments took a devastating toll on his body, sickening and weakening him so much that the oncologist ordered a new CT scan to see if the chemo was having any affect on the tumors. As the doctor viewed the scans, his puzzled frown turned to a smile. He showed the couple the screen – there were no evident signs of cancer – Mike was in remission. The oncologist encouraged Mike to make the most of this miracle, but also warned them that the cancer would one day return and would eventually take his life. “But not today,” Mike said shaking the doctors hand.
            Mike dedicated his life to glorifying God. He helped start a prayer ministry at Hope Point Community Church. He mentored a young man living in a group home that supported teenagers who had aged out of the foster care system. He studied his Bible. He took two theology classes at Brookwood University, a part of the Brookwood Church in Simpsonville, SC. And he never missed an opportunity to tell people about the miracle he received.
            Connie asked Mike about his bucket list wanting to know if there was something special he wanted to do or experience. Mike wanted to spend time with his family and friends. They visited his sisters. His son came often from West Virginia. His parents, who once again called Gastonia, North Carolina home stayed with the couple most weekdays so that Connie could continue her job as a graphic artist. Mike reconnected with friends from his past including the astronaut Scott Parazynski, who also spent part of his youth in Dakar, Senegal. In their youth, Mike and Scott shared a love of basketball and at one time had been considered the least likely to succeed due to their shenanigans.
            Mike spent most time with his wife. They did devotions together. Mike was born in Barberton, Ohio. He had lived in Tennessee and Florida, but South Carolina became his home. Often when Connie would return home from work, Mike wanted to get out of the house. Connie would give Mike tours of Spartanburg showing him the area and telling him stories about the city she had always called home.
            They spent time at Cleveland Park where Mike would enjoy a Big Mac and a strawberry shake as they watched the ducks in the small lake from their handicapped parking spot. They would also go to the Spartanburg Downtown Airport and watch the planes landing and taking off. Mike had his pilot’s license and loved to fly. He said that in the air, he had felt closest to God.
They would often ride through downtown and pass by Converse College. Connie told him how some students in the 70s would actually board their horses at the school’s stables. The girls would ride through the nearby woods and even the Beaumont Mill Village, where Connie lived. She had always hoped one day to go to college there.
Mike urged Connie to go back to school. Before taking some time off, Connie had been a business major. She didn’t enjoy the program, but she felt it would be the most beneficial course of study for her career. Mike encouraged her to take classes she was interested in – major in something you love. They researched the local area colleges together and decided on the Converse II program at Converse College. Connie enrolled in August of 2008.        
Mike died on March 8, 2009, just two months before their first anniversary. “Our prayers were always specific. We didn’t just want more time; we wanted quality time. God gave us that. After Mike passed, I was looking through my journal. On April 5, 2008, the day the oncologist gave Mike days to live, I begged God for more time. I even wrote just one more. And I realized he gave us one more Easter, birthday, vacation, fall (Mike’s favorite season), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day,” said Connie.
            Death is the physical end of a life, but Mike’s legacy will continue to live through those he touched and influenced. Connie was with Mike as he lived the final chapter of his life. She likes to think of their time as the beginning of the second part of her life. Mike gave Connie his love, but he also gave her a future. In May of 2013, Connie will receive her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Creative and Professional Writing from Converse College. She is currently working on her first novel. 

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