On Wedding Vows Backwards, and dating...
Diana, a professional singer, performer. David, a professional dancer, ballet & Broadway, a performer.
How we came together and have lived the wedding vows backwards.
Diana and I met while she was a performer, a singer, on stage. She fronted for The Little Big Band. I saw her performing in Colorado Springs, CO... where I had returned after performing on Broadway, ballet at the New York School of Ballet, modeling and commercial work, a dip into soap opera, and sundry other things one does when moving in high performance circles in NYC.
At the recommendation of a very, very close friend, the great acting coach Stella Adler, I retreated to Colorado Springs to write. Screenplays. At the time I met Diana, I had one script optioned, had completed another one, and was back and forth to CA to pitch the property, and working on a third.
Fast forwarding to....
I first met Diana by not meeting her.
She was performing on stage. Me seeing her for the first time and.... 'holy cow, she is beautiful. And damn, she can SIIIIIING. And... who is that???'
And there it was. Smitten. But we didn't actually meet meet until days later. A very strong attraction. And forward we went. She rehearsing and performing 5 hours a night, me writing. And writing more. Both of us extremely busy. Consumed.
Consequently we grew together but...
… we never really dated. Nawp. We never went on dates. Too bizzy bizzy...
Fast forwarding again to...
Not too long into our coming together but date-starved relationship, Diana became ill. Then critically ill. Our days became a litany of doctor after doctor after doctor visits. No confirming diagnosis.
After many weeks she was referred to the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver, CO. Where she incurred a very painful liver biopsy that revealed the worst. She almost bled out. I brought her home to care for her. Four days later as she stood up, she fainted. I caught her before she hit the floor. She lapsed into a coma.
A lot of screaming into phones by myself and her Primary Care Physician.. we were able to get her admitted back to UC Denver. They did not want to take her, saying they did not have space. In reality they did not want to accept her because she was too ill. But between her wonderful and deeply driven PCP doctor and myself, we were able to get her admitted.
After a 70 mile ambulance race to UC Denver, she was placed in literally, a closet. It was 6pm. Family was called. The attending physicians for the 'overnight crew' assessed the situation. They did not think she would survive to morning. Diana was given last rites. The first of two.
Diana did survive the night. I'd spent the whole time racing around, spouting endless numbers, lab numbers, information... anything I felt could matter. Later I was told this likely helped the on call doctors create protocols that first night. Was getting in front of anyone who would listen. Creating Diana as a real person as she was in a coma, unable to speak for herself. I would place speakers above her and play her music, singing, and place photos around her so people could know who she is.
The following morning I'd gone to the hospital's chaplain to ask for prayers. I called everyone I knew, of every faith, to pray for Diana. To place her on prayer rolls. Anything. Everything. China to New York. Then, someone located me in the chaplain's office and asked me to come up to a 7th floor room. I had no idea why but.. my heart sunk.
More sprinting. And was the last person to arrive into a large conference room. There were approximately 40 serious looking people spread out around 3 sides of a substantial horseshoe shaped table. Being the last one in, I ended up sitting at the end of this caverness conference room. Because of the configuration of the room and table, and being the last arrival, all eyes were on me.
And I quickly realized these were teams. Teams that under other circumstances, would be brought together over several weeks, months, to evaluate a patient. Hepatologists. Psychologists. Nutritionists. Financials. ICU. Nephrologists. And the head surgeon for liver transplantation.
Those words had never been spoken before this moment. It was a lightning bolt. All I knew was to muster laser sharp calm focus in zero seconds flat. And around the table they went.
… questions. Many questions. Most included me. Medical questions. Personal questions. Socially historical questions. More personal questions. Speculation questions. Wave after wave of questions.
Minutes later and half way around the table circle, directly opposite of me, one of the team members asked me about... and I do not remember what they asked, but two words exploded into my brain.
... “blah blah blah your wife blah blah blah”...
I said “yes... yes”.
And in that instant I made us married.
Why matter? Well, we weren't married. At least not on paper or ceremony. Yet. But I knew by saying yes in that split moment, I would be able to make medical decisions for Diana. By making us married.. in the eyes of all present. Including to her parents who were sitting to my right. And for a few nanoseconds I sweated out please please please, just go with it. Very thankfully they didn't react with “When did you get married?!?!?" which would have required some real tap dancing.
Thankfully, by the time the conversation had made it around the gaggle of people, the last person to speak was Dr. Igal Kam. Famous, as in world famous I found out later. He said in his soft spoken manner which belies the substaintial bearing he brings to the room, "well, I believe I speak for everyone in the room, but we have chosen to accept Diana into the program for a liver transplant."
In effect, Diana was evaluated and accepted for a liver transplant. In less than 18 hours. Being married helped. No. Being married was vital.
Fast forwarding to...
.. much of the next many weeks of the story skipped. Snippets of the story were like being able to make critical medical, social, psychological and financial decisions for her in an instant. In and out of comas, for 3 ½ weeks. Then she began sliding. Being called again called into a much smaller meeting and told she was given 24 hours. More last rites. And then a donor liver becoming available. And in a crazy turn, I had learned about the donor liver two days before it was approved for transplantation by the UC Denver transplant team, an essentially impossible thing. But it happened. To...
Diana received a liver transplant on September 6, 1992. An 8+ hour procedure. It took over two days for her to slowly emerge from a coma. And the gradual awareness of what had happened. SOOOoooo much more of this story skipped to very fast forward to....
… five years later. My parents gave me a tie clasp. A 100 year old family heirloom with an embedded diamond. Known as a miner's cut, an old Eurpoean style. Diana mused for a couple of weeks about could she make a ring using the diamond. Of course yes. Absolutely cool excellent idea. She designed a ring. And when she received it I suggested “well, that would be our wedding ring, yes?”
So, there. It became our wedding ring which she wears now.
A year later, Diana built on to the ring. Adding another layer.
“Well, yes, that would be our engagement ring.” I said.
Five years after that, we flew to Las Vegas and were married in a vegas style wedding. Just the two of us.
And sigh. Diana subsequently received 6 total joint replacements. Two shoulder, two hip and two knee replacements. And now two ankle fusions. Along with other major surgeries. All this spread out over years after Vegas. At least we weren't ships passing in the night. But all this... the reasons for needing, the run up to, the actual surgical events, the recoveries from... only to slide right into the next run up to... all of these surgeries.
Sidenote: The most recent surgeries were in Dec of 2017 which turned into horrific events. Vastly understated. She ended up in emergency care for a total of 9 days due to medical mistakes. The recovery from these procedures continue to this day, 10 months later.
Anyway... The wedding vows. Backwards.
Married first. Under the direst of circumstances. We figure we have faced the vows like “until death do us..” - came as close as one can get on this. “Richer or poorer”. - ya, these major medical events are not inexpensive. “Better or worse”. - yup, check on that one. And so on.
And now Diana is about to celebrate her 25th liver transplant anniversary. An absolutely incredible journey. This missive hardly scratches the surface of her real overall journey. But it does speak to how we have managed to do everything backwards to where now we like to think that maybe, maybe we can finally start dating.
The wedding vows backwards.
A postscript. On Proposing...
We were still missing things in our story. We became married when I answered 'yes' to a doctor's question about "your wife'. Then the wedding ring 5 years later, then the engagement ring a year later, then to Vegas five years later to be married married... all spanning several years. And essentially backwards.
But I never actually proposed.
So on 9/3/2017, during the gathering of approximately 140 family and friends for this wonderful 25th anniversary celebration, I went down to my knee and proposed to Diana.
Let's see now.. what's missing still? Diana never had a bachelorette party. I never had a bachelor's party. And oh yes... we never had a honeymoon. Something to aspire to...
In March of 2018, several months after the 25th anniversary celebration, Diana lost her rings. We were heading to an medical appointment. Diana was experiencing very high levels of pain. She inadvertently took her rings off for a moment so she could rub some pain ointment onto her hands. She placed the rings in her lap while we were driving, something she never does. On arrival, she stood up… forgetting her rings. Two hours later she discovered what had happened. We went back to the parking lot but.... nothing.
No words can describe the devastation she felt.
We placed ads in papers. Online. Police reports. Put up flyers. Pleading for any information. Weeks went by. Nothing. The saddness was overwhelming.
Then one morning the doctor’s office called. Someone had read a flyer and returned the rings to the office. 25 days after their loss. Unbelievable. Diana was beyond restored. These rings have epic meaning to her. And they were lost and then found. Relief does not begin to describe what the return of these rings have meant.
All part of Diana’s story.