Divided, Yet United

6 Minutes Wrestling with Life – Chapter 3 – JohnA Passaro 

United we stand.
Divided we fall.


August 25th, 2009

It seems like it has been forever.

But I get the feeling ‘forever’ hasn’t even started yet…

It is now Tuesday, August 25th, 6:00 a.m., 80 hours since BettyJane and I have entered hell, and one day before BettyJane’s and my 20th wedding anniversary.

We have both been by Jess’s side together, without a minute of sleep, for every second of the last 80 hours.

I know that sounds impossible, but it is true.

The thought of Jess waking up while we slept has kept us both up to the point of mental and physical exhaustion.

I think to myself this strategy is not going to work; we are on a path headed for disaster.

If we continue doing what we are doing, both BettyJane and I will burn out and no one will be able to be with Jess.

We realize we are in for a long battle, so we form a new plan. It is decided BettyJane will take days 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., so I can work days. And I will take nights from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m., so BettyJane can get the kids ready for school each day.

It is agreed that we will do whatever it takes to win this battle, even if it means we will only see each other for the few minutes that it takes to change shifts.

That seems like a small price to pay in order to keep our family intact.

BettyJane and I have a deep emotional conversation about how a sick child can rip parents apart.

How parents who lose a child slowly die inside and stop living.

How their other children are affected.

How a person’s attitude and belief system are attacked under these circumstances.

How, if we don’t protect ourselves from the ensuing attack, it could impact the rest of our lives, and more importantly, the lives of our children.

We make a commitment to each other that we will be divided in location, yet united in our cause.

Getting Jess better and losing our other three kids lives in the process is unacceptable, as is giving up on Jess and having our other kids live happily ever after as if nothing has happened, is also, just as equally unacceptable to us.

We want both.

To care for and cure Jess, and to live and love life.

One without the other is unacceptable.

We want to invest every ounce of our energies to getting Jess better and we want our other kids to live life to the fullest.

Notice I did not say – live a normal life.

We know our lives will never be normal again.

We commit to each other that we will live two lives at the same time, giving each their proper attention and passion.

We both understand the herculean effort that is going to be required to do this, and we commit to each other that we will never falter in our cause.

We take and repeat our new vows to each other,

No matter what.

Good or bad.

Thick or thin.

Right or wrong.

It is at this moment I realize the best thing I have ever done in my life was to marry this woman.

She is willing to give up her life for her child.

I know most parents would do the same. But how many mothers would give up everything they love, everything they will ever be able to do in the future for the “possibility and not the guarantee” of getting their child better.

Now reduce the odds of success to less than 1%.

How many mothers are still standing?

BettyJane is.

Because it is 6:00 a.m., I am the one who gets to go home first.


It seems so distant.

So much has happened in just a short period of time.

I think back on my life; to everything I was trying to accomplish, before these last four days.

How meaningless it all seems now.

I catch myself in my mental aberration and I promise I will not let that happen again. Life is full of meaning and is unbelievably awesome.

I am back on course.

My mind wanders to Travis – I wonder how he is doing?

To Maverick, does he even know what happened?

I haven’t spoken to him yet…

To Cassidy, no seven-year-old should ever see what she saw.

My mind wanders to thoughts of how their lives will change and how wrong that would be.

It is at this moment I promise myself I will to never stop until I achieve both.

To care for and cure Jess, and to live and love life.

I make it out to my truck, which is sitting alone in the hospital parking lot, under a light post.

I open the door to my vehicle, I step up into the driver seat, put my hands on the steering wheel, and I let my head fall forward, hitting the steering wheel.

I stay that way for a few moments.

I then lean my head back in the other direction, trying to take in the enormity of the last 80 hours.

I insert the key into the ignition, instinctively turn on the radio, hit the first preset and I let the torture begin.

“How the hell’d we wind up like this?

Why weren’t we able?

To see the signs that we missed.”

I quickly Click to preset #2,

“One day you’ll see it can happen to me. I need a miracle. I wanna be your girl…”


“As my memory rests. But never forgets what I lost Wake me up when September ends.”

I click off the radio and look around as if someone is punking me.

A good feeling comes over me when I remember the boys have a private wrestling lesson with Mike Patrovich in two hours. I have

just enough time to go pick them up and make the half hour trip to Commack.

Yes, I am taking them to their wrestling private lesson.

I want BOTH.

They are both going to win a State Championship.

This goal has become even more important to me, but now for a different reason. This is now the bogey for accomplishing one-half of “I want both.”

I give a quick departing glance up to Jess’s room on the third floor before I put the car in drive. Her room is on the corner of the building. I see BettyJane inside the room with her face in the palms of her hands, and just outside the room, perched on top of the roof as a decoration, there is a metal owl.

I cry.

Read the Next Chapter – Gap Soldiers


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