As part of my Next Chapters, I wanted to share the following chapter from my book, My Heroes Ask Wallflowers to Dance (December 2012), and how a chronic disease (cystic fibrosis) and subsequent lung and kidney transplants, has allowed Patrick and I to cherish each other every single day and love with an eternal perspective – in hopes that it will remind us all how precious the gifts of time, love and life truly are:
“I just had this feeling wash over me that I really needed to get to know her,” my husband, Patrick, remembers about the first time he saw me at church. Although no words were exchanged between us, that very same day, I followed promptings I felt to end the serious relationship I was in with a different suitor. Less than two weeks later, both Patrick and I embarked on independent trips to Mexico: he on a surf trip, and me vacationing with friends. While driving, while talking and while in between waves, Patrick asked his friends all about me, one of which happened to be my old roommate.
As he and his friends stood outside a taco shop on the dusty streets of Puerto Nuevo, Patrick was the first to spot me strolling down the street, hitting his brother and exclaiming, “Dude, Ryan! Is that that girl? No way…!” Seconds later, my friend who was standing with Patrick, exclaimed, “Jen, Jen Sabin!” As I met Patrick, I immediately noticed his smiley eyes, sparkling with warmth and kindness. A very macho, “Hey” was all he could muster in his nervous excitement.
A short time later, I helped Patrick move to Carlsbad, California from Murrieta, California, and a small group of us became inseparable, laughing until our stomachs ached almost every night. Within the next three months, I was hospitalized twice, quite out of the ordinary compared to the previous three years of no hospitalizations and the years that would follow. I believe these hospitalizations served as a crash course for Patrick and the hard questions associated with my life. As I waited for test results in the ER, Patrick and my roommate, Andrea, brought me my favorite Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, “Chubby Hubby,” which we ate with hospital tongue depressors, the only utensils we could find.
After I was admitted to the hospital, and in between IV doses, Patrick and I made a “jail break,” sneaking past the nurses’ station, to a local Japanese restaurant for our very memorable second date. I had never known if I was going to get married but I had always known I wasn’t going to settle for anything less than my soul mate. The joy of finding sweet, fun Patrick, in addition to my own happiness, was incomprehensible.
Patrick and I spent so much time talking that I knew I wanted to marry him before we ever even held hands. He knew too. When I brought up my health concerns to him: that I didn’t know if I should have children, that I would eventually need a kidney transplant and that the future is all uncharted territory, he didn’t even flinch. He simply responded, “Everyone has challenges. We’ll know what’s right, everything will work out how it’s supposed to….I’ve been searching for this for so long, I’m just sorry it took me so long to find you.”
When my dad visited with Patrick privately before we were married, he asked him how much he knew of the high risk situation he was facing and if he was prepared to have his heart broken. Patrick reiterated that it did not matter how long we had in this life as long as he had me for forever. Such is the comfort that comes from the beliefs we possess in temple marriage and such is the character and depth of my soul mate.
As I giddily entered the exquisitely beautiful, exquisitely white room where we were to be married in the San Diego Latter-Day Saint Temple, I beheld a sea of loving smiles and twinkling eyes of family, friends and my remarkable lung donors. I struggled to keep my composure…and eventually lost the battle. The miracles in my life had already been profound and the gift of Patrick was the best miracle of all!
Patrick, my dear sweetheart, and I have now been married for over six years [at the time this was published, now over 15!], and there isn’t a day that goes by that he doesn’t make me laugh or feel loved. As I contemplate my future, I’d like to share a very special journal entry about my sweetheart with the hope that it will cause you to cherish your own spouse and/or your own loved ones more, asking them to dance, and if need be, carrying them onto the dance floor:
May 26, 2009, our third year anniversary: I told Patrick that at times I feel so selfish for him marrying me and then me leaving him [in death]. He assured me that he wanted to be with me forever. He said he does think about me dying but if anything it is a great motivating factor for him to be a better person because I was “perfect.” He said he “will cross that bridge when he gets there …”
- Blowing in the wind on a Caribbean Cruise
I never used to think about death so much because I knew I was supposed to survive my transplant. Now, after researching for my book and seeing how few people live past ten years, I realize I could go anytime. I am glad I am more aware but often I wish I could just turn my brain off and stop worrying for my sweetie. It’s so fascinating, I used to not care about dying because it was a way to escape this life’s challenges, now I just pray to prolong it as long as possible so Patrick won’t be alone very long. Then my mind wanders to everyone else…all my dear family members and all my dear friends…and my heart breaks for each one of them. I know we will all be reunited again, but I also know how hard and long the mourning of this life can be. I think about how if Patrick was to die, how crushed, devastated and paralyzed I would be, he is my life, my joy, my everything. I marvel at how perfect we are for each other: he makes me laugh every second and is so sweet, patient, fun and pure. We just “get each other” and “need each other.” We love to be silly; often Patrick we’ll be like, “We’re such idiots,” because of the silly fun we’re having together, glad no one else can hear.
He is a very special man to willingly endure this trial, as well as not having children and to see past this life and its frailty to the eternities beyond. I feel like I have to be much more “amazing” to make up for everything.
Brooke [(his sister)] told me once he had said, “I’d rather have Jen for a few years in this life and then for the rest of eternity than nothing at all. ”
I am so blessed to have Patrick in my life, from “bourbon burgers” [(a Carl’s Jr. special)] to the beach, to cuddling during movies, to cooking together, talking together, laughing together. I am the luckiest girl in the world to have been brought together with my soul mate. We get to celebrate eternity together… and have tons of fun FOREVER! I love you Patrick with all of my heart. You are the joy in my life and I am so privileged to be married to you. You teach me so much and I couldn’t love you any more. Thank you for loving me, thank you for your faith, thank you for being my best friend and the best husband in the whole wide world. I love you forever!!!
–My Heroes Ask Wallflowers To Dance, Jennifer Sabin Sattley, December 2012
Read more about my life saving living donor double lung transplant HERE.