Love Forever

Karen Su

My dearest husband Jeffrey died on September 18, 1998, leaving this world all the people who he loved very much, especially our children Eric and Ryan, and me and his parents and his brothers.

Jeffrey started having trouble eating in April, food would get stuck in his esophagus sometimes and he couldn't finish his meal. He had quite a few X-rays and went to a couple of doctors, everyone including me thought he was just having too much stress from working, Ph.D. thesis, and expecting a second child.

On May 13, his GI specialist did an endoscopy and found a lump, he sent Jeffrey for X-ray again, the lab sheet reading checking for esophagus cancer. When I drove Jeffrey to the X-ray lab, I was thinking, "cancer?" I wasn't even too concerned then because Jeffrey was thin and very healthy. He did Karate at least twice a week, ate a relative healthy diet, was only 31, and no family history of cancer, and he was feeling fine despite his eating trouble. On mother's day May 10, we took Eric to a lake in Scotts Valley and rowed boat for a few hours. We had so much fun. How could cancer be connected to him?

On May 18, the doctor gave us the worst news confirming the diagnosis of esophagus cancer, but the X-ray didn't show anything else other than the little lump he found during the endoscopy. We needed to make an appointment with the surgeon to prepare for surgery. The night Jeffrey was diagnosed, he said if the baby is born healthy that would cheer him up a lot. He would hate to miss the baby's birth. Next day our second baby boy Ryan was born on May 19, healthy with lots of hair. We had one week of peaceful time enjoying Ryan before Jeffrey's surgery on May 28.

Jeffrey's surgery was early in the morning; everyone was prepared and cheerful. The night before Jeffrey was planning which restaurant he would go when he could eat normal after recovering from the surgery. His surgery was supposed to finish at 12pm, so I went home to rest for a couple of hours since we all got up at 6pm. But at 10am, the phone rang. His mother was crying over the phone saying the surgeon opened him up, found the cancer had spread all over, so the surgeon sew him right back up. Our lives are forever changed from that moment. Ryan and I spent everyday of the next 5 days in the hospital keeping him company. Ryan became pretty famous as the one-week old baby, and nurses would come by just to see him.

In the beginning of June Jeffrey started chemo, and things got better. He could eat almost normal and everyone was so happy and full of hope. Our cousin Martin from Switzerland was here for a month and they played computer games, watched movies and did lots of fun things. We went to the restaurants Jeffrey picked out.

Jeffrey had blood clot a couple of times that made his arm swollen, then he had a stroke from the moving clot, then he had water in the lung, and the chemo no longer work except making him weaker. On September 18, he went to the hospital to have the water taken out of his lung so that he could breath easier. He had this procedure done twice before, so we didn't think much of it. But this time, it was different. After the doctor taken out the fluid, he kept coughing and the oxygen saturation went down instead of going up. Another X-ray was done immediately and it turned out he had pneumonia that was hidden by the fluid and didn't show up in the X-ray earlier before the procedure. He was moved to a trauma room and died of pulmonary edema an hour later. My most love was gone, didn't make it to Ryan's baptism scheduled two days later, or his own 32nd birthday eleven days later.

I couldn't comprehend his death, no matter how hard I try, even to this day. How could someone so young and healthy and full life just die and not with me anymore? I kept playing his final hour in my head over and over. Every dream I had of him was of him in the hospital getting some kind of treatment. When I wake up, I would be relieved knowing he is no long suffering, that he is with God in heaven and watch over us from above.

Having children is lots of work and I did not know how single parents manage. And here I am, a young widow with a three year old and a four month old. I told myself I would do my best to give Eric and Ryan extra love that Jeffrey couldn't give them anymore. It's sad enough they lost their father, I would not let myself be consumed by my own grief and not able to give them proper care. Everyday I had to function with great concentration to get through daily life. I try very very hard to eat and sleep on schedule so that I can function normal.

Jeffrey was my soulmate. He gave me more love than I could ever ask for. The fix years we spent together were the happiest time in both our lives. He taught me to be tolerant, not to be bothered too much by little things, and enjoy fine things in life. We compliment each other so well and we very rarely fight because we didn't have much difference that we felt were important enough to fight for. He lived a short life, and accomplished a lot during this time. He got his Ph.D. at his funeral, had a wonderful marriage, a wife and two children who loved him more than anything in the world, a beautiful home that is full of memory of him, and lots of love from his family and friends. His sorrow of leaving us was beyond words, but he accepted death with serenity, and never complained or turned away from God. He told his mother after the diagnosis, "My life is going so well, I know I have to pay the price somewhere, now I know this is the price I have to pay."

At the funeral, his best friend said Jeffrey is such a wonderful person, God must have a great plan for him to call him so early. I am very grateful that God blessed us with Eric and Ryan, who bring me joy in the saddest time, and in whom my dear love lives on.

Karen Su

You can send email to Karen at: KAREN SU
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anniversary date 09-18-98
date of post 12-08-98

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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW