The yellowed face in the picture caught my attention when I noticed the pinkish color of the healthy hand on her forehead. And then I noticed the man’s summary of his story.
“Here she is, Teresa,” the anonymous man wrote on a social media post. “She’s the love of my life, and today is her birthday. And she’s dying.”
This is not my story. I have very little to add to it. But this couple’s story touched me. There’s nothing we can do to help them. But Teresa is dying of liver disease and he’s terrified and heartbroken. The very least we can do is listen to their story.
“She’s getting sicker every day,” the husband writes. “She gets confused from high ammonia levels. She’s yellow because her liver is failing. She’s in pain, and can’t take anything because of the bad liver.”
In the midst of their fear and pain, he recounts that he’s thankful that Teresa walked into the company where he worked around 8 a.m. on Sept. 23, 1983. He said he had to work up the courage to ask her out — and he worded the question vaguely in case she turned him down. But he had to ask her out, he said, because “I fell in love with her eyes the first time I saw her.”
“I’m thankful for our first date at Shoney’s,” he said. “We had beef tips with gravy, mashed potatoes, broccoli and cheese and strawberry pie. I made this meal for her the night I proposed. I’m thankful she said yes. I’m thankful for all the great memories, and that our sons, their wives, and grandkids are healthy.”
They married three years after they met. When they married, they were told they couldn’t have children and he said they were shocked when they discovered in 1988 — two years into their marriage — that Teresa was pregnant with their first son. Seven years later, lightning struck again and she had twins.
“We have four beautiful grandchildren now,” he said. “So amazing for an infertile couple.”
In 2013, Teresa started having abdominal pain. He took her to various doctors and to the emergency rooms of three hospitals. When those doctors couldn’t find a cause for her pain, he drove Teresa to a bigger city — where doctors discovered colon cancer.
Teresa had surgery and chemotherapy. She beat cancer. But the chemo and fatty liver disease gave her cirrhosis of the liver.
“She’s never had a drink in her life,” he said, “but her liver is badly damaged. Now she’s in end-stage liver disease. Our hopes for a liver transplant in time are fading. She acts like she’s not scared, and keeps her sweet smile, but I know she’s worried too.”
The liver disease causes high pressure in Teresa’s esophagus and stomach, which he said causes her blood vessels to bulge.
“She is constantly losing blood,” he said. “She’s had around 60 units in the last year, and that’s only from small leaks. If one of these vessels bursts open, she could bleed to death.”
He said he’s never loved anyone other than Teresa.
“It’s been a great life,” he said. “We’ve stayed best friends, we’ve stayed in love. We never strayed, never flirted with anyone else, never wanted to give up. Now I’m afraid I’m losing her.”
This loving husband retired early to care for Teresa. He said he can’t leave her for long now and he gets few breaks from taking care of her, because their sons are busy young men. And he said he worries about all the medical bills.
“I’ve never seen so many bills at once,” he said.
Although Friday was Teresa’s birthday, she was too sick for him to take her out. He said he was cooking a birthday dinner for them, but he said she probably wouldn’t be able to do anything except drink Ensure.
“I’m sorry for rambling,” he said. “Thank you for reading this. Prayers are always appreciated.”
And then he added his summary for those who didn’t read everything.
“This is Teresa,” he said, “and my heart is breaking.”
I’m heartbroken for this man and his wife, but I’m envious of them, too. They’re both going through something terrible. She is enduring the pain and agony of her body breaking down. He is enduring the pain and agony of watching her slowly die.
But they have truly loved one another.
That’s something very few people get to experience. I would give anything to experience the bond of love this man has with his wife.
They’re paying a terrible price — and he will almost certainly pay a different kind of price after she’s gone — but the love they’ve shared paints a beautiful picture that some of us can only hope for.
I pray that Teresa finds a miracle — and I pray that this loving man finds peace and comfort as he watches the love of his life slowly fade from this world.