Thursday, October 30, 2014


Five years ago today was a scary day for the W. family. I can still hear Eric's voice on the phone when he called me on his walk home from work. We were getting ready for an evening of Halloween fun at Trinity Church in NYC but that all changed when I answered Eric's call to hear him say, "Something's wrong with my mom." Eric is a very stoic man, very calm and levelheaded, but I could hear the worry in his words. That tone of voice was (and is) so rare for Eric that I can still hear it plain as day in my head. We skipped our holiday plans that evening to wait by the phone for updates.

Five years ago today, Toni had her stroke. This day sent the family on a nightmarish ride, so much so that for some time we didn't see any way that we would make it through with Toni still with us. Eric and I joined the rest of the family in Florida and we spent day after day holding vigil in Toni's hospital room, filling the space with love and prayers and hanging on every update from the doctors. The stroke was massive, the ensuing coma unrelenting. We tried our best to stay hopeful in a seemingly hopeless situation.

Ever since I first met Toni years and years ago, I have known that she is one of the strongest women I have ever personally known. Five years ago, she proved that yet again and, against all odds, she woke up. We didn't know how much damage was done so we adopted a "wait and see" approach.

And what we have seen over the past five years has been nothing short of remarkable. Although Eric and I have often wished we were closer and able to see Toni more often, our distance and the gaps in time between visits affords us the ability to really notice the developments in Toni's healing. She has moved limbs that we thought would never move. She has regained so much memory. Every time we see her, she is more conversational than the last. Every single time we're with her, we notice great improvements and marvel at how far she's come.

There are days when it's still hard. I notice that for Eric, and I feel his pain with him. I know he often wishes he could call Toni with a question about parenting or cooking. Or that he could send our children to Nonnie's house for a day, so they could really get to know the woman that he knew as a child. Unfortunately, those things just can't be. Toni is wheelchair and nursing home bound, among other all-too-noticeable changes, and that can be a tough pill to swallow sometimes.

BUT. She's here. She gets around in her wheelchair. She may be living in a nursing home, but she's close to Gramz and is able to visit with her regularly. She tells jokes. She offers advice. She's with us for Christmases and birthdays and baptisms. She is able to know her three grandchildren, and they're able to know her. She still quite obviously fiercely loves her family. Likewise, we love her so much and are so thankful for all the prayers and well wishes and love and support that were given to her and the rest of the family in her time of need. How else does one make it through a thing like that, and come out on the other side against all odds?

Toni's strength can't be denied when I look back over the past five years and see how far she's come. We are so happy to have had all these years with her that we weren't sure we would have. She is an incredible woman, and I'm thrilled that my children will have the opportunity to get to know her. I'm so thankful for her, for so many things - for always putting her children first and raising them to be such kind, loving people; for raising Eric to be a man who values his family above all else; for welcoming me into her family with open, loving arms; for inspiring me as a mother. She simply is like no other.

A very small sampling of great moments with Toni in the last five years! We love her!

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