“Crossing the Threshold” are the only words that can come to mind as I continue to share with you the very personal journey of my husband Rob’s “crossing the threshold” into the eternal.
The Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary gives the following definition of threshold:
gate, door; end, boundary the end of a runway; the place or point of entering or beginning
There are so many “thresholds“ that we enter in or begin in our lives here on earth. . .
- There is the threshold of our birth into this world
- the threshold of leaving the safety of home to begin the first day of nursery or grammar school
- At the threshold of the marriage altar
- And literally being carried over a “threshold” (pictured above) on your honeymoon!
- Entering into a new home or new job. . .
- And finally. . . the ultimate. . . the threshold of death.
Surely it is, as Merriam Webster defines it, a place or point of entering or beginning. The “world” tells us that life ends at death accompanied by sadness and misery to those who are left behind. Rob and I never looked at it that way. We believed and we knew already that our loved ones that we had already lost in years past were just on another shore waiting for us to join them.
Were we giving up?
Was my husband a fighter?
Oh yes, yes, yes indeed!
He truly was my “Knight in Shining Armor”
We entered into our home that fateful day after the “bad delivery” of the doctor’s news but I believe we both took it in stride. We plopped down together on the couch, looked at each other squarely in the eyes and shrugged our shoulders, literally embracing each other. We would do this together and clearly not alone. We would have our sons, family members, friends, priests that we knew and our Parish community that would be praying for us and rallying us on. In the deepest part of my soul, I knew Jesus would not abandon us no matter which way our “runway” ended. I could bank on that! Jesus promised that so many times throughout scripture. It was His Word!
Rob was invited to begin a clinical trial by Mt. Sinai Hospital. We read through pages and pages of information concerning the trial itself and he signed numerous pages to give his consent. Numerous blood transfusions, chemo treatments, experimental drugs, etc. were offered to Rob that did not come without side effects that manifested themselves into red blotches on his skin, headaches, lack of sleep, pain in the middle of the night and chills which he absolutely abhorred. He could not stand to be so cold. There were so many nights of jumping up to get heating pads or more blankets while he lay there shivering. Just the pain in his back was something that could never be conveyed in human terms to anyone. There were long vigil nights and it was consolation without words that we survived on. . . just simply holding hands lying next to each other with me trying to rub the pain out of his bones. And yet, Rob faced each new day with much joy, grace and peace never looking for sympathy or attention to the medical condition that caused such havoc in his life.
The clinical trial had begun in June and by the time October arrived, things looked great. Rob was in remission, where the numbers were going in the opposite direction of where they had been prior to beginning the trial. As my husband saw it, all the pain that he had endured brought him to yet another entry point which was to be present for our son’s October 31, 2014 wedding date. He made it to that evening and “crossed a threshold” with his son and me, walking down the aisle to begin a beautiful night of celebration and blessings upon us all. I thought silently to myself that night, “maybe my Knight in Shining Armor was truly going to be victorious in yet another battle!” We were truly grateful for the present moment and gave great thanks to God for allowing Rob to be present for such a joyous occasion in our son’s life.
We were definitely on a roller coaster ride and it would be the following year of 2015 that again life would change for us. It was a typical day in April and we were taking a ride to look at garden furniture for the deck. We saw a Mt. Sinai phone number flash on the dashboard’s screen in the car. We knew it was the doctor and Rob picked up the call. Again, the message being conveyed wasn’t a cheery one. “We are sorry, Rob, but your numbers aren’t good and we will have to take you off the trial.“ I remember so clearly what my husband’s face looked like, a mix of surprise and anger which was not one of his noted emotions. “What do you mean, take me off the trial?” were the words he painfully voiced. Plain and simple, they could not keep him on the trial and there was nothing more that they could do other than offer intensified chemo treatments. So there we were again finding ourselves at a “new threshold” of not knowing what was before us. We entered in though, not alone but with our faith and the support of everyone around us. Again, we both placed our trust in God attending Mass together and at night even praying the rosary. Rob was a “pro” at the “Amens!”
I researched a new clinical trial that I read about in the newspaper and we made an appointment to see a new doctor at a different hospital. This doctor gave us hope and had such a positive attitude. She was upbeat and voiced her opinion of Rob’s presence. She thought he looked like he should be on the cover of GQ Magazine and didn’t look one bit sick. We laughed at these words for, in reality, they were true but we knew the nights. How we knew the nights! And how we wished and prayed for a cure. . .
To get on this new clinical trial, my husband had to go through various blood tests, x-rays, etc. As upbeat as the doctor had been and after the results of the tests, she told us sincerely that he was not eligible to participate in this new trial. Maybe a more vigorous treatment of chemo treatments and blood transfusions might help get these numbers down. Together we kept our hopes up and Rob was all in for taking that “entry point” in hopes of turning these numbers back around. Life went on for us and Rob began a ten-day treatment of chemo treatments versus five days once a month as he had done prior. He had just finished the first ten-day session and had gone for a blood transfusion when our course was changed yet again.
It happened one day on the deck of our home. Rob was always plodding around barefoot! “Crossing the threshold” of our back door to enter into our kitchen, he nicked his toe on the screen door. This proved to be the vehicle that would take him into the eternal. The toe just seemed to fester and not heal as it normally would have had Rob been in a healthy condition. This was mainly due to a lack of an immune system in his body which had literally been wiped out by the chemo treatments. We tried to nurse it along as best as we could and then were guided by his doctor to have Rob visit a local medical emergency facility. With Rob’s system on antibiotics and his toe wrapped in gauze, we came back home only to find ourselves back again at a local hospital’s emergency room. From there, Rob was transferred to Columbia Presbyterian on a Friday evening. We found ourselves on the roller coaster once again. . . this time it would be our last ride.
At this juncture of time, my mind wandered back to only months before Rob was taken off the clinical trial. He had shared with me that he had dreamt about the “Guariglia” family. They were the ones who passed on and were inviting him to a “banquet.” This word was definitely not part of my husband’s vocabulary and he immediately had my attention. “What do you mean banquet?. . . and was I invited too? “No,” he replied. “I don’t think you were with me.” My heart sank at those words. I knew what this simple dream was implying. My warrior was leaving me soon. We were entering through another threshold but this time we would be going separate ways for a time being.
And then came that fateful “Tuesday Afternoon,” when Rob would turn to his youngest son sitting at his bedside in the hospital and voice these words to him: “Free Me.” Two simple little words that hold much meaning to them when pondered in one’s heart. “Free Me,” to leave this earth and go where true freedom is and where sickness does not prevail nor does death. We would try our best to honor these words that Rob requested of us and I asked the help of Jesus to do that. I knew personally I could not do that on my own. I was asking for “His” strength for my sons, daughter- in- law, family and friends. We needed His help and support to get us all through this final threshold that we were about to enter through.
To be continued . . .
©2018 Anita Guariglia
Photo Credits – Anita Guariglia
Merriam Webster on-line dictionary
You-tube – Moody Blues “Tuesday Afternoon”