From the grave to grace is the short read. The sun was shining as 250 plus people started to her grave site from behind the horse drawn hearse. As her casket was carried to the grave, an A chord began across the strings of my friends fiddle. Then it moved to the D to the G to the D then to the Bm. On this note, I cried as I heard “wretch like me” hum through my tears. Nothing finalizes finality like seeing your wife lowered 6 feet in the ground as you realize all the stuggle(s) we went through to beat these tumors just vanished into thin air. What remained was the reality that my life would never ever be the same again.
I grew up a pentecostal kid. When the church was unlocked, we were there. I struggled to be a good Christian boy. I never felt I was doing enough right to stay in God’s good grace. It was if he was always there looking to punish me for my sins. I was frightened as hell that I would not get into Heaven when I died. The childhood years struggled on with my faith as I finally threw up my hands and said “to heck with this!” When I turned 18, I moved out. That was the last time I attended church.
Moved from Oklahoma to Dallas in 1996 and formed a band. One band led to another, then to another, until I formed the most debaucherious band, Speedtrucker. We had some success, but we had more “good times” than was allowed by law. I pushed through my early 20’s and 30’s living as a carefree musician, dabbling in business and basically living as one could live with no regards to my childhood up bringing. I had become a staunch agnostic and had convinced myself that it’s foolish that someone could define God.
In 2005, I met Lindy at Adair’s Saloon, a place we played often. I had no interest in getting my heart broken again by anyone. I had just gotten out of a 4 year relationship with a girl that lied to me for 3 years that we were going to get married. Meantime, she knew all along she was never going to defy her parents, and I was not what they wanted their daughter to marry. Lindy didn’t stand a chance after this girl destroyed my trust in women. After a year of Lindy chasing me, the tides turned. I now found myself head-over-heals chasing her. Boy was she hard to catch! She made me chase after her for about 2 1/2 years until 2008. We finally decided we were in love with each other, been through enough, and it was time to get serious.
In 2009, Lindy was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma brain tumor and given 12 months or less. Within weeks of her first diagnosis, we went to Duke for a second opinion. The second opinion was worse. They had upgraded her tumor to stage 4. She cried for the first time. Lindy is one strong woman and tears rarely find their way to her face. I had determined right then and there that she wouldn’t go through this as a single woman and that she would want for nothing. I had already started a job at the end of 2008 that would more than support her lifestyle and I was putting everything into helping her create a worry free home environment.
I proposed to her in Jackson Square in New Orleans later that year with the biggest ring money can buy, money I didn’t really have at all. We planned to get married in August 2010 in Italy, and thats just what we did despite the 12 month death sentence. We got married on Lake Como, Italy in a fairytale dream and we spent almost a month, after the ceremony, traveling all of Italy.
Three weeks after Lindy’s original diagnosis, she started fundraising for the National Brain Tumor Society by doing the DFW Brain Tumor Walk. With only 3-4 weeks to fundraise, as opposed to the other teams who had3 months, Lindy was #1 team and individual fundraiser that year, and every year for 2010-2013. The first year the team theme and shirts were “The Walk for Jacque”. She named all of her tumors after frenchmen. Not sure why, but Jacque was her first tumor she beat and the one that would eventually come back and kill her.
February 6, 2013 Lindy lost her fight with Jacque. She spent the last 26 of her 37 days on earth in a rehab hospital trying to regain her motor, speech and occupational skills. She was sent home when they told me there was nothing more they could do. Her last MRI showed the tumor had spread everywhere. She spent 11 days in our home under hospice care. The morning she passed away, I ran out the back door, through our gate, and started walking the path the city is cutting near our house to White Rock Lake. No care that it was starting to rain. Crying and confused, the sun seemed to find my face when it peeked through the clouds, as if almost her saying good-bye. At that moment, I had realized that walking was very cathartic for me. I had remembered a movie I had seen a few years prior (as I see about 5 movies a week at the theater, no joke) about a walk in Spain.
We buried Lindy a week after she died. During that week I found a can in her drawer, looking for any last wishes she could have written, and it had $8000 cash in it. I took that as a sign that I needed to go to Spain. Three days after she was buried, I was on a flight to Barcelona. I had zero clue what I was doing. I just went.
I took the Barcelona train to Pamplona. I started my pilgrimage from there at 6 am. The first 3 days of this walk I was alone. It was winter and not high season for the Camino de Compostela. I walked and cursed God for the pain he caused me. I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me. “I’m alone now!!!”, I screamed at him. “What did I do to deserve this?” I argued with God for 72 hours straight. That fourth day, I felt prompted to call my cousin, who is a minister in the small town I grew up in and he led me to Deuteronomy 29:29. I found a bible and read. It says, “It is not for us to know the secrets of the Lord”. That verse bounced around in my head for a few hours while walking through the La Rioja wine fields on the Camino. It was there that I realized I had been talking to God for the first time in 22 years. I dropped to my knees and ask God to give me peace. “Please give me comfort”, I cried. “Let me know everything is going to be alright” I repeated like a crazy person out loud. And he did. I felt a peace that was as comforting as a mother wrapping her arms around you when you were a child.
I got started getting reacquainted with Jesus over the next 18 days as I hiked.( That journey is still going, and will continue until my time comes). There were a lot of things on this 250 mile pilgrimage that was beyond comprehension. I felt like I was communing with Lindy at times as I reminisced over our 9 years together. At the Cruz de Ferro, the highest point of the Camino, stood a large wooden cross that you are supposed to leave something on there that is weighing on your mind. I left a prized photo of Lindy and I. After tacking it up to the cross, I blindly reached down to grab a rock to mark the occasion and put it in my pocket. Later that night, as I emptied my pocket, I pulled the rock out and it was a perfect heart. That was her telling me she was with me.
As I walked into Santiago, the end of the route, the two German kids I met two days prior wanted to go get our certificates at the Catholic church before noon mass. Had no idea you got a certificate for this. As I walked into the room the nun asked me which way had I walked. I said, “I have no idea”. She asked for my pilgrim passport that was full of stamps at all the restaurants and hostels I had stayed, and in the softest voice said, “you walked Jacque”. I looked puzzled. “You went Jacques way”, she said again. I fell to my knees and started sobbing.
This was my final finality, not her being lowered in the ground. There was more for me after her death. This was her way of saying welcome back to life. You were there for me from day one and I will be here for you when you walk through Heaven’s gates…
I have been on a journey to a new normal, a new reality, and God only knows where it will take me. I will follow.