Change of Plans


Kircher Cliffs, Big Sky, Montana

Nothing is ever quite certain in life. Plans change. What you thought would be the greatest moment of your life can pale. What should have been drab might turn out to be stellar.

Before I met my husband, I thought I lived a spontaneous life. Back then I was living out of the back of my truck in the summer and dirt-bagging at my parent’s cabin at Crystal Mountain in winter. I didn’t earn much, but I didn’t need much. I was always ready at a moment’s notice for whatever adventure came my way.

Or so I thought.

After spending time with John–when I knew I might be falling in love with him–it was his spontaneity that most intrigued me. John lived like a man on a mission. He knew he would need a liver transplant someday. He figured it would be hard, and maybe he wouldn’t live through it. So he took every single moment and stretched, folded and rearranged it to its fullest.

We could all learn a lot from John. Not a single moment is wasted on this man.

When he first got sick, we expected to go to the Mayo Clinic for a few days and return home to await the transplant. Boy were we ever naive. We had no idea the challenge that lay ahead. The night after his first endoscopy, when I cancelled our flight home and prepared to hunker down near the eye of the storm, it was late in the day when I changed hotels.

We’d been staying at a place near the clinic–somewhere close to his doctor’s office, where we could make the daily appointment rounds as we joined the queue for organ donation and figured out the system. But something went wrong during that endoscopy.

He woke up, but didn’t rally. Where was my strong John? We had a flight to catch. We had a life to continue living back at home. And here he was, sick and hurting and telling me he wanted to stay in the hospital that night where they could look after him. He was transferred to the hospital by ambulance while I went to the hotel to check out and take a taxi to a place near him.

As I stood in the elevator, pushing two suitcases and wondering how he was doing back in his hospital room as I frantically changed our flight and hotel arrangements, another woman joined me on the next floor. She glanced at my bags, then at her watch. It was 6pm. She smiled. “It’s late to be checking out,” she said. She was trying to be nice.

I felt a sword in my throat. I knew that if I looked at her I would cry. If I even glanced in her general direction I would break down. This was all too soon. John and I had only been married a year. This liver transplant thing wasn’t supposed to happen yet. We needed a few good years. Our adventures had only started. I tried not to look at this woman, her shiny face a picture of Midwest kindness.

I lifted my chin slightly, my eyebrows making strident arches above my bloodshot eyes, and said, “change of plans.” But I wasn’t as brave and strong as I’d like to pretend I was. My voice wavered. My chest heaved. She knew enough to say she was sorry and to help me stare down the lighted buttons above the door.

As I exited that elevator and headed towards the taxi cabs waiting to transport loved ones with downcast eyes, the earth shifted below my feet. My plans had changed. Our plans. Things would never be the same.

And so when John texted me today to tell me that he’d changed plans and would indeed be joining me in Big Sky for a few days, I was thrilled. I’m here in Big Sky on my book tour and had planned on returning home tomorrow. But not so. My spontaneous husband is now joining me here.

That is the miracle: that my husband is still alive and that we are still being spontaneous. When I say that I’m grateful for every single day I have with him, I’m not kidding. I really am.

25 responses »

  1. Sometimes all of us take life for granted and let the little things get us down. It’s stories and life moments like you shared here that make us realize that life is a God given gift and we should treasure every single experience in every day – the ups and the downs. I just finished reading your book “The Next 15 Minutes”. Victory is always appreciated but the journey is what amplified your strenght. Thanks for sharing.

    • Glad you liked the book Clay. Thanks for mentioning it here. If there is one thing I hope to share in this world it is that life is made of small moments, and we only get one chance to go through them.

  2. Enjoy beautiful Montana! So happy that you have today with your husband and you’re both strong and fit and ready to ski your brains out. You exemplify carpe diem, good words for all us to remember. Best.

  3. Obstacles, challenges, changes of plans can be opportunities in disguise. I can only imagine that what you’ve been through has been tremendously difficult, but you are impacting the world as a result. Blessings!

  4. What a beautiful post and excellent reminder to recognize and embrace adventures in all the ways they present to us. So glad to know you and John – y’all rock! 🙂

  5. NIce that you are promoting “The Next 15 Minutes” when a phone call brings it to life. You better hold his hand on a moonlight walk.

  6. Spontaneity must feel amazing, like such a gift! You just never know what life is going to throw at you, right? I’m so glad that you are able to enjoy Big Sky together, in good health.

  7. Hey ~ I will keep you in my prayers ~ and hope for your husbands successful transplant ~ my niece had a successful bone marrow transplant for lukemia at age 10 and is now a healthy 16yr old ball of energy ~ it’s a scary place to be waiting.
    Thanks for all you share with us online ~ I like many I learn so much from you ! and I love what your blog title is Strength from the top of a mountain ~ my favorite place to be.

  8. HI Kim –

    It was awesome running into you and John in Big Sky! I’m glad I saw John spontaneously go ripping by me under Swift Current and that I was able to spontaneously catch up and connect with you in the base area!


    • John!
      I’m so glad you introduced yourself. Too bad we didn’t get a chance to have a beer. We hadn’t quite taken our “beer run” yet. One of the many reasons I love Big Sky is ripping high-speed groomers. So much fun. Hope you had a good trip.

  9. Hi Kim.
    I’ve never read your blog before today- linked from the patrol blog. At the top of the page, I read your post about going to Japan last week, and now I admit I was pretty jealous. Then, I read this post…. After a brief moment of feeling like a jerk for being so jealous of your trip, I became profoundly happy for you and John, not only that he is in good health but also that you had awesome spontaneous trip. As a past-time lifty at Crystal, I have occasionally been a tad intimidated by the “higher ups,” but after reading this post about John’s transplant, I have a stronger realization that you are both people, the same as I am. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • Matthew,
      I’m glad you stopped by. I would have been jealous about Japan too. It was pretty awesome. But certainly, John and I have been through our share of hardships. It’s not all powder skiing and jet-setting. Believe me.

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