I’m sure most happily married couples believe their love was meant to be. I believe that about my husband Tom and me, but I believe our connection is even deeper than that. I truly believe that God, along with my mom, planned for us to meet. I love a good love story, but ours is my favorite of all.
Tom and I were both raised in the suburbs of Long Island, with our parents and older siblings (he has an older sister and I have an older brother). Growing up, my mom was my whole world. Her love for my brother and me was always at the forefront of her every decision and action. Everything she said or did was for us. After high school, I received a full scholarship to a local commuter college. I couldn’t imagine living away from home, especially being away from my mom, who would literally cry every time we dropped my brother off at his college dorm room. Even though his college was only an hour away, we saw him every other weekend, and we talked with him on the phone daily, she really missed him. So I knew going away wasn’t the right fit for me and I was thrilled to be able to go to school so close to home.
During the start of my second semester, January 2005, my mom started having abdominal pain and abnormal bleeding. She visited her doctors and the emergency room numerous times and was told she had any number of things from hemorrhoids, to a virus, to just regular menopausal changes. But she still wasn’t feeling right, so that April it was determined that she needed a hysterectomy and that she should get the relief she desired. My brother was supposed to graduate from college that May and she was determined to be there. She was nervous to have such an extensive surgery, but there was no other option.
The day of the surgery, my dad and I sat in the waiting room for what seemed like too long to be good news kind of waiting. I attempted to study for my health and nutrition exam that I had to take the next day, but I was too distracted. Finally the surgeon approached my dad and me, visibly shaken but he bluntly told us that the surgery was complete, but once he began he found uterine cancer. He said he “thought he got it all” and to not tell my mom until she had time to recover from the surgery. I pushed past my dad and the doctor and ran to the car sobbing. My dad followed me and asked me why I was so upset when the doctor seemed to say he got all of the cancer. I screamed saying that my Mommy was never going to see me graduate college or get married. I just knew in my heart this was it. The next day when I took my exam, I failed a test for the first time in my entire life.
My mom was diagnosed with stage four uterine cancer and the prognosis was really bad. They suggested she have a port installed to receive intense chemo therapy. She met her goal of watching my brother graduate college in May and even though she was very uncomfortable, she made it. We picked out a wig and I put encouraging post-it notes all around the house to motivate her. The whole thing didn’t seem real. One day her stomach felt really hard to her, and she was scared and asked me to lie with her and hold her. We didn’t know it at the time but all the space created from the hysterectomy had filled her body with cancer. My mom’s mother and grandmother had raised her when she was growing up, but both passed away years ago. While I held her close, she told me I was all she had and it was like I was her mom now. I told her that I didn’t want to be her mom because I still needed her to be mine. She promised she would try to get better but told me how terrible she was feeling. That night I prayed that if she really wasn’t going to make it, for God to take her soon because I couldn’t handle seeing her suffer.
Little did I know that my prayer would be answered and things progressed quicker than I ever could have imagined. My mom only received one chemo treatment and never lost her hair. As she started feeling worse, she was admitted into the hospital. An insensitive medical student spoke right in front of her about how she didn’t have a lot of time left.
I was shocked and hated his cold demeanor.
I screamed at him and told him to leave the room and that he wasn’t welcome to ever come see my mom again. My mom was in complete sound mind and wanted to switch hospitals in the worst way. We tried to make that happen for her, even though moving her wasn’t advisable. That night, my mom was heavily sedated to help with the pain but I told her we were trying to get her moved to her preferred hospital. She weakly crossed her fingers for luck and nodded her head when I asked her if she loved me. I knew she did but was in the habit of always asking her to say it because I didn’t know what would happen each day. She asked to have her TV connected and we hugged before my brother and I headed home.
My grandparents were due to arrive from Florida the next day. After we picked them up, we planned to bring them to see my mom. Unfortunately, that night was the last time I ever saw my beautiful Mommy. She passed way from a pulmonary embolism the next morning, which was a complication of the cancer pressing on her lungs. My dad was on the phone with my brother when it happened and I am convinced she couldn’t have passed with my brother and me there, because she loved us too much. On June 16, 2004 my mom at the age of 47 was gone and I at the age of 19 felt like my life was over.
Tom’s seemingly normal life didn’t go as planned either. I won’t go too in-depth to protect his privacy, but when he was a young teenager, his family moved to Pennsylvania when his dad got a promotion. He had a really hard time with the transition, and ultimately his family became just him, his dad, and sister following his parents’ painful divorce. His only solace during this difficult time was he got a beagle puppy, that he named K.C., since the dog was born in Kansas City. K.C. became Tom’s best friend and really helped him when he was feeling so bad. After living in Pennsylvania for 6 years, his dad was able to get transferred back to Long Island.
For years, Tom and I both lived at home with our solo dads and older siblings. We both felt a heavy responsibility towards our dads to make sure they were OK. I didn’t think I would ever find love, happiness, or a life of my own after being left with such a huge hole in my heart from losing my mom. I graduated college with a 3.97 grade point average and became an elementary teacher, always striving to make my mom proud. Tom and I both were homebodies who preferred quiet nights at home. We never went out and partied or drank like most twenty year olds. We both had to grow up overnight given our circumstances and just tried to do as best as we could.
In 2009, we were both encouraged by friends to try online dating. I set up my profile with one company who deemed me “un-matchable at this time.” I tried a second company and the first night my profile was live I was bombarded with creeps. I almost called it quits immediately, but my best friend encouraged me to leave it up one more day. The next day Tom saw my profile and messaged me. We chatted back and forth and eventually I gave him my phone number. We arranged a first in person date at a restaurant near my house, but I told him I wanted to drive separately. On the ride there, I heard a song with the lyrics “don’t let me go” and wondered if I would ever meet someone who wouldn’t want to let me go. I figured I would probably have to weed through a lot of frogs before finding my prince, but at least I was finally getting out of the house a bit.
We “met” in front of the restaurant and confirmed we were who we were supposed to be. Tom told me he saw another woman out front smoking and really hoped that wasn’t me. Once we sat down our conversations flowed so easily and I felt like I knew Tom forever. I told him I was a teacher and would be starting my second year that fall. My first year I taught second grade and I told him how my principal was moving me to Kindergarten for the upcoming school year. I told him the name of the small Catholic school where I taught and he said it might be a long shot, but that his cousin had twin daughters who were attending Catholic school as kindergartners that fall. I said I would check my list of entering students that night when I got home. Dinner went too fast for us so we agreed to go to a nearby beach so we could talk more. We went down the wrong road which was dark and vacant, yet I wasn’t nervous at all. I could already tell what a gentleman Tom was and we ended the night with Italian ices and a hug. As soon as I got home I checked my list and his cousin’s twins were right on the top. I texted Tom immediately and we couldn’t believe it!
That week, we spoke on the phone all week and planned our second date for the following Saturday. After dinner on that date, we played mini golf and walked around a nearby park. We both shared intimate details about our lives and the tough times we had endured. If you knew Tom, you would know how private he normally is and how unlikely it is that he would share such personal details. That night we both felt pretty confident that we had found “the one” in each other.
By that December, just a few months later, we were engaged. Even though we hadn’t known each other for long, both our families were very supportive of our decision to get married. My dad even offered Tom my mom’s engagement ring. Tom put my mom’s diamond in a setting he knew I would like and I loved having a piece of both of them on my hand each day. We had a two year engagement and a few months before the wedding, I discovered some old emails of my mom’s on our computer. While reading through them, I found some emails from her job where she was corresponding with someone from human resources. She was expressing how ill she was and wanted to know how my coverage might change if something happened to her. When I looked at the last name of the woman she was writing to, I did a double take. She had Tom’s last name, which is not a common last name at all. I quickly pieced things together and realized my mom had been talking to Tom’s aunt, the grandmother of the twins, years before Tom and I had met.
We were married December 23, 2011. A few years later in 2015, we decided to start a family. We both had our hearts set on a girl. We had two nephews who we adored and I wanted to give the baby my mom’s first name, Phyllis, as her middle name. I had the perfect first name picked out if the baby was a girl too, Kacey, after Tom’s beloved K.C. We were elated when a blood test confirmed that the baby was in fact a girl.
I’m positive Tom and Kacey were sent from heaven. In addition to all the ways we discovered our lives were intertwined, Tom told me months into our relationship about something that happened the night he drove to meet me. He said as he headed to the restaurant, he very clearly saw in the sky the silhouette of an angel in the clouds, with her arms outstretched to where we were meeting. At the time he didn’t say anything because he didn’t want me to think he was crazy, but once he did tell me, we knew it was my mom. He even bought me a snow globe with an angel inside that matches what he saw.
Lastly, my due date with Kacey was October 15th. As my due date approached, we along with our families started to guess when she would make her arrival. Tom shared with me that K.C.’s birthday was October 5th and that was his guess. I thought that was kind of early, especially since this was my first baby. On October 3rd, we watched a movie with Tom’s dad, which we do often to keep his dad company. I felt so at peace that night and prayed before bed that God would let me have the baby on October 5th because I felt that would be special for Tom. My water broke the following morning at 4am, on October 4th, and I thought “well, that’s pretty close.” Little did I know that I would be in labor for over 30 hours and our special little miracle, Kacey Phyllis was born right on October 5th. When we came home from the hospital Tom showed me K.C.’s tags from when he was born with October 5th printed on them. My parents wedding anniversary was October 6th and they would have been married 36 years. Out of 365 days in a year, we couldn’t believe what date Kacey decided to make her entrance into the world.
Overall, I am positive that Tom and Kacey were heaven sent. I’m sure that God, my mom, and K.C. are watching over Tom, Kacey Phyllis, and me every day.