I realized that if you don't follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you have been missing out on the wonderful faces of Marian! (Plus, I'm looking for reasons to distract me from working today, so here you go...)
Lori and I grew up with the deepest love for our siblings and we wanted Marian to enjoy a similar experience. We wished for her to trek through life with a best friend and, on occasion, a healthy rival. But due to our precarious situation with cancer and it's impact on our future, we determined that decision would be left best in God's hands.
And apparently it didn't take God too long...
After a week or two of Lori not feeling so well I suggested she take a pregnancy test and... TA-DA! As confirmed by ultrasound this very morning, we are ridiculously thrilled to announce Baby #2! Lori is already 9+ weeks into the pregnancy and the baby's due date is May 18th. That's only 3 days after Marian! (Secretly, I must admit we have our fingers crossed for Irish twins.)
There is absolutely no better present than an ultrasound of your new child with a strong pumping heart. Honestly, today continues to be one of the happiest birthdays of all time. I owe it to all of you who are texting me and posting such wonderful birthday messages on my facebook page, to my family for surrounding me with unconditional love and support, but most of all, to Lori, Marian, and, yet another complete surprise, Baby #2!
I just have to be one of the luckiest guys on earth...
(quick photo this morning by an incredible artist and dear friend of mine, Erik Wahl)
That was what I told my literary agent one year ago today. He expressed the third part of my book proposal was still slightly unclear, that there was a fuzzy ending to the rest of my story. I knew that. I knew the third part was hazy at best, but I promised God I would accomplish this and send out my book proposal - with or without a vague ending. My agent was kind enough to simultaneously throw up his hands alongside me and obey what I felt was my next step.
I had been working on my proposal for several months, casting off actual paying work in an attempt to climb this next mountain in my life. This proposal haunted me to such a degree that I couldn’t work even if I wanted to. But after that phone call, there was a solid twenty minutes of pure elation. I sat in the kitchen telling God the rest of this book proposal was up to him, even if nothing else came from it. I had done my part, co-authoring my story by finishing my proposal, the only thing I had the power to do. Now, it was time to return to real work, bill-paying work.
Well, at least that was the plan for the next twenty minutes.
Twenty minutes later, I received a mysterious text from my friend, Lori. She wanted to get dinner. But there was something strange about this text, almost as if there were hidden words beneath the actual image on my phone. Something was up so I asked her to call me immediately.
“David, today is a crazy day. It’s my nephew Ryan’s birthday, my dad just had a stroke and… I’m having your child.”
There are multiple moments in life that change us. I thought cancer changed me and it did to a degree. But I still have hope that I can overcome it and consider it a distant memory. I thought divorce would change me and it did to a degree. But as time passes I am starting to see things as they really were, and I have come to peace with how things ended. But this phone call did indeed change everything. Cancer and marriage - both of these things come and go, but a new child is an entirely different story. I am now responsible for another human being. I was going to be a father.
Looking back, I enjoyed that twenty minute break. I see it as a tiny pause before moving to phase II of my life. It represented the end of the first part of my life - sending in a book proposal covering everything up to that point. And the next part, twenty minutes later, encompassing the rest of my life - the knowledge of me becoming a father.
I won’t bore you by going over the call. There was the dead-pan silence, the “Are you sure? Are you really really sure?”, the “but doctors said this wasn’t possible!”, the rather repetitive curse-laden understandings of what was happening at that very moment. I immediately called my agent back. “Don’t sent the proposal yet.” He asked why but there was no way I could tell him. I told him to put it on the back-burner and I’d call him back in the next two months. He sensed my holy-shit inflection and asked if I was okay. I lied through my teeth, "Everything is fine, I just need to figure out that third part."
Lori and I met at Terra, a small restaurant in Eastown. We sat across from each other in immeasurable silence. The agony was equivalent to a break-up dinner, but this was the opposite. This was a together-forever dinner. This was a worlds-colliding dinner. This was the understanding that my life was eternally linked to Lori's. I had stumbled onto something bigger than cancer, something bigger than divorce. I was 50% responsible for a new human that would show up sometime in (count it out on the fingers) May.
Strangely enough, I didn’t have any seizures that week. I am yet to figure out why. I’m pretty sure it was because I spent the week in shock. My body was operating on just enough fuel to keep it alive and nothing else was expected from it. Maybe God was kind enough to give me a break from my daily seizures, who knows.
Our daughter’s name is Marian. There are multiple reasons why we named her that, but one of those reasons is because Marian means, “Bitter”. Many people name kids based on what they hope for them or what they want them to eventually accomplish. But, to me, the age-old tradition is to name a child under the exact scenario they entered into. If we actually wanted to tell the story of her, to represent her beginning, she needed to know that with bitterness I initially received her into my life. I hate to admit it, but it's the truth.
Today represents a day neither Lori or I planned on. One year ago today was the first day we were thrown together into this parent-mix. God, seemingly against all of his other rules, somehow allowed this bizarre relationship to form. And against all my self-inflicted guilt and shame I hid behind, God sat quietly knowing that today, one full year later, would arrive. That Lori and I would indeed work out, that we would fall in love, and we would share a daughter that brings us eternal joy.
We also named her Marian because it means, “wished for child”. As strange as it sounds to say, Marian is not here because of the mistakes of Lori or myself. She is here because God was well aware of her before she was ever fabricated in Lori’s womb. I believe that God has been waiting for Marian for a long, long, time. Lori and I are just now starting to understand it.
We never knew what day we should declare as our anniversary, but today seems quite fitting. It is a day that started with bitterness but over the course of a year has become miraculous as we enjoy gazing upon our nearly 4 month-old daughter. What started in guilt and shame now represents the day where Lori and I dedicated ourselves to one another, and to our future with this child.
Two months after Lori's initial life-changing call, I called my agent (yes, even before I told my parents…) and told him that I was going to be a father. He smiled as he congratulated me and said the third part of my story was beginning to unfold. I agreed. The third part of my story, of my family’s story, is indeed starting to show itself and I couldn't be more pleased.
Lori, I love you. Happy one-year anniversary. May what started in chaos now find it's proper order. May there be many, many more years to follow...
This speech was given earlier this evening at the Sandy Point Beach House amongst my dearest friends and family in honor of my five-year cancer survival celebration...
"Today, June 7th, 2014, 5 years after passing out in a room of 400 experts at a fancy hotel in San Francisco and being rushed to Stanford hospital where a series of tests were performed to tell me that I have an inoperable brain tumor with only 5-7 years left to live, I am proud to say that I am officially deemed by the American Cancer Society as a Cancer Survivor. It is a proud day for me, my family and my friends, minus one slight little problem… I still have this pesky cancer growing in my head.
Ben Arment, author of Dream Year, sees magic in our lives loooong before we do.
At least, that's what he did with me nearly four and a half years ago. He let me know I had been granted a story worth sharing and he invited me, without even meeting me, to share my cancer story from the stage at Story Conference in Chicago. I hesitantly agreed as Ben set into motion a dream of mine to openly communicate my cancer story. I am positive that my life is better because Ben called me out of the blue that strange weekday afternoon.
Because he did that for me, I am thrilled to announce that Ben is coming to Grand Rapids on his new book tour for Dream Year. I suppose I could tell you to buy a ticket and come get inspired, walking away with the Dream Year book in your hands. Heck, that alone would be worth it! But honestly, I think you should buy a ticket so you can come and meet Ben. So you can watch him, hear from him, and witness how he interacts with other people.
Since learning of Ben, I have enjoyed watching from a distance as he pieces together HIS own ultimate plan - quietly speaking into the lives of others and encouraging them to bring THEIR dreams to life. Without a doubt, I can honestly say Ben is one of my favorite human beings. Period.
We will all be getting together at The Factory on August 15th where we will listen to ten individuals share their unique stories. In addition, we'll hear from Ben as he shares a few highlights from the book. Honestly, this night is really about you and your dreams. Ben, as always, is just serving as the quiet facilitator bringing it all together.
"IT'S A GIRL!", I yelled to Lori. She looked at me in wild-eyed confusion considering I interrupted the management of her present contraction. "WHAT???!!!" she shouted back.
Considering the head was just barely starting to show, I admit my words of encouragement got a wee-bit mixed up. In the middle of repeating, "Good Girl!" and "Keep Pushing!" and "You can do this!" the words, "It's a girl!" somehow managed to show up. But nevertheless, it appears I was right! (And good thing I was or this moment would be held over my head forever...)
Despite my gut feelings a boy was on the way, Lori's maternal instincts served her right! It was indeed a new baby girl! After a 15 hour natural labor, including over 4 hours of beet-red and broken blood vessel pushing, Lori gave birth at home in the baby's nursery.
I cruise at 79 miles an hour. That way, should it happen, I can honestly look the cop in the eye and tell him I was driving 70-something. But that day when I was driving home, my car started to stall as though it were low on gas. I looked down to see my gas-gauge reading a quarter tank. Well, crap. My mind immediately returned to a lesson I learned while working for MINI Cooper. I was experiencing a computer controlled vehicle shut-down. My car's speed evenly decreased, I turned on my hazards, pulled toward the shoulder of the road and came to a halt. My engine eventually stopped running and I sat there in silence. It was a pleasant Sunday, a lovely day for a break down.