On April 27, 2011, one week before we were to set sail on a celebratory birthday cruise from Sicily to Athens, our lives were changed forever. In just an instant, at exactly 4:05pm, my husband Bob, 61, suffered a catastrophic brain bleed when a heavy, overhead cabinet door fell on his head while working at Cisco Systems in Atlanta. He yelled out in agony, his colleagues later shared, and the loud crash of falling furniture echoed throughout the corridors of the high-tech telecommunications company.
A former Senior Pastor and member of the Bishop’s Cabinet in the United Methodist Church, Bob took early retirement after 26 years and we relocated from Orlando, Florida, to Atlanta, Georgia, to be near our college-age children: Rob, Britt and Ashley. While this meant finding a new home and re-careering, I was thrilled with his decision to change direction at mid-life and seek his dream. I helped him create a dynamic resume for prospective employers and even worked overtime to cover the mortgage and Emory college tuition during this transition.
Newly positioned as an award-winning Senior Technical Writer and Editor at Cisco Systems, Bob loved this challenging, new career that merged his innate gift of organization and writing with his love of technology. He also took tremendous pride in our strong marriage of 38 years and in his children’s success. In fact, as a graduate of Emory University, he recently had celebrated the Emory graduation of all three children followed by prestigious graduate programs and law school. To those who knew him, Bob was the quintessential Great American Father, participating in our children’s marriages with family weddings and then baptizing our four beautiful grandchildren. He had just finished contracting out a swimming pool for our grandchildren, a free-form style he meticulously designed to fit between the mature Atlanta gardens of English ivy, azaleas and hydrangeas.
And then everything good and perfect about our life stopped. That afternoon, without thinking he was wounded, Bob cheerfully said goodbye to his colleagues and drove home as always, in Atlanta’s frenetic rush hour traffic on I-85. He called me from his cell, a call that I anticipated daily at 4:30pm. Yet instead of asking the usual “What’s for dinner?” he cried out, “Deb, I need help. I’ve never been so sick in my life.”
Sick? Bob’s never sick. He’d never missed a day of work at Cisco either, so it must be a springtime cold he caught from a grand baby. I nervously met him at a gas station near our home where he was parked in the tall grass, slumped over the steering wheel with engine running and the front seat of the car filled with vomit. He was so dizzy he could not stand. Realizing this was “the Big One,” I immediately held him close to me, helped him to my SUV and called 911. Little did I know, this was the very last time I would hold my precious husband, my dearest friend in the entire world, before a calamitous accident would change our lives forever.