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In the early morning hours of Dec. 4, 2020, the doctor called to tell me my wife Kim had hours to live.
Diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer in January 2017, Kim endured a complicated Whipple surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from her pancreas, 14 months of chemotherapy, a hernia operation, and two liver resections over the course of three years.
Kim told our children she would be their guardian angel, watching over them.
But the cancer returned the following spring, this time blocking her bile duct. More grueling and painful treatment followed but without success.
This is one of my favorite photos of me with Kim.
On that December morning when I thought we were going to lose Kim, I took our sons outside and had a tear-filled conversation. I told them their mother had fought as hard as she could, but we were not going to beat the cancer. We went to the hospital to say our final goodbyes.
But by the time we reached the hospital, Kim had made a miraculous recovery.
Father Will told Kim and me that God wanted us to have more time.
And for cancer patients, there is nothing more precious than time.
Even though she was in hospice care, Kim devoted her remaining three months on this earth to our children as faithfully as she had since they were born. She ordered their holiday and birthday presents and ensured there was more than enough candy for their baskets when they celebrated Easter with family friends after Kim passed away.
When we visited and during regular facetime chats, Kim told our sons how much she loved them as she discussed their hopes and dreams for the future.
We turned her hospice room into party central, with cake and candles for the last birthday she would celebrate with our younger son.
She told our children she would be their guardian angel, watching over them.
I’m sad and devastated over losing Kim and angry at the ghastly cancer for taking her from us before her 42nd birthday.
The two of us on our wedding day. May 16 is our anniversary.
But my overriding emotion is one of gratitude. I’m deeply grateful we met in the most unlikely of circumstances at CIA, when I was preparing for an overseas assignment, and she was randomly chosen as the disguise technician who would find crafty ways to cloak my true appearance.
Selfless and empathic, Kim always asked me how I was doing before she answered the same question that I had posed to her.
Whenever I’m asked about the best thing I ever did at CIA, my answer is most certainly not some cloak-and-dagger espionage or counterterrorism mission. It was falling for Kim in the most consequential “chance encounter.”
Kim fought to beat cancer during the first three years after being diagnosed with the disease but during the last year, most especially in her final months, she fought for time to squeeze out every moment we had together as a family. Her bravery and toughness gave us time to process, adapt and prepare for a future without her.
In her final months, she fought for time to squeeze out every moment we had together as a family.
Selfless and empathic, Kim always asked me how I was doing before she answered the same question that I had posed to her. One of her greatest gifts was the ability to see the world through the eyes of her friends and loved ones. It made her a close and trusted confidant, on whom we all comfortably relied.
We were transparent with our children about Kim’s arduous struggle but as time went on and they grew up, we were able to explain to them more fully about Kim’s prognosis. We settled into grieving together as a family while committing ourselves to living our lives to the fullest. That meant vacations to the beach and Disney, outings with our friends and family, and cherishing what we might have once considered a mundane home routine.
I’m eternally grateful to Kim for our two beautiful children, who so poignantly remind me of her. And I’m grateful for all the precious moments we spent together in health and in sickness.
I’m eternally grateful to Kim for our two beautiful children, who so poignantly remind me of her.
With the greatest love and dedication, Kim shared her acumen, experience and deep understanding of our family so that under her tutelage I learned how to be a single parent and our sons – now immersed in competitive swimming, music study and, to their great joy, in-person school – internalized the most sacred life lesson about striving to reach their potential as human beings even while carrying their grief over their mother’s passing.
When I visited her the weekend before she passed away, no longer able to talk, Kim squeezed my hand in recognition when I told her it was OK to go when she was ready, that she had raised our sons and prepared me to carry on.
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