For Rhonda and I, 2002 contained some of the most difficult and challenging events of our entire time together. After looking back at the events of that year, I decided to make this brief summary of 2002 a permanent part of my website. I do this not to emphasize the bad times, but to encourage others who may be considering a major life change.
When I first saw Rhonda in the Intensive Care Unit she was in an induced coma, on a ventilator, had a drainage tube in her brain, a feeding tube in her stomach, a catheter in her bladder, and an IV in each arm. She also had an unusually large amount of blood in her spinal column from the initial hemorrhage and subsequent surgery. Until her body could absorb the blood (over 2 weeks) she experienced excruciating back pain, which severely limited her mobility. Unfortunately, the lack of movement after surgery made her legs a breeding ground for blood clots. Sure enough, Rhonda had a blood clot form and lodge in her lung just as she was starting to feel better. Three weeks after surgery, she was back on oxygen and extremely weak. Rhonda was in the hospital for nearly 4 weeks after the surgery with all the complications. Of course I stayed with her in Grand Junction for the entire time. There were so many times when she might have died that I eventually became rather numb to the thought. It was a terrifying time for both of us.
OK, now for the good news: Rhonda has come along remarkably well. In fact her recovery has been one for the record books. After 7 months I can honestly say that Rhonda is 95% back to normal. She received extensive therapy during her 4 weeks in the hospital, and it continued for another 2 months after her release. Rhonda even returned to work (part time) just a few months after her surgery! Rhonda is a truly remarkable woman.
Life's most difficult times often lead to its most remarkable lessons. It is nothing short of a miracle that Rhonda is back with me exploring southern Utah again. Rhonda was 42 and in seemingly perfect health when her aneurysm struck. Within a split second our life together almost came to an end. Although I experienced many emotions while she was in the hospital fighting for her life, I had one thought that I would like to share...
Rhonda and I made a lot of compromises when we moved to Moab back in 1998 - financial, lifestyle - there were many reasons not to move here. However, because we truly loved southern Utah we followed our hearts and took the plunge. When I was sitting next to Rhonda in the Intensive Care Unit, not knowing if I would ever hear her voice again, I said to myself, "Thank God we moved to Utah." The few years that we have had together in southern Utah are, by far, the best that we have ever shared together. The joy of opening our front door to all of this red rock splendor is indescribable. The happiness that we have shared together while exploring the land we both love is priceless. If Rhonda would have died during her recent incident it would, of course, have been dreadful. However, if she would have died before we ever moved here it would have been a total tragedy. I would have regretted it the rest of my life. To look back on the past few years and have absolutely no regrets is an incredible way to live. My cousin, Cheryl Olszewski, once shared some advice her father had given her many years ago. That advice was …
Try to live your life with no regrets.
Looking at life, from the perspective of death, is very revealing. The way I see it, the path that we take in life should at least in part be guided by the way we want to die. I think that it is heartbreaking for anyone to die with regrets. Regrets for missed opportunities, roads not traveled, or words not spoken are horrible clouds to end a life under. Don't direct your life down the path of least risk. Even if you fail, the lessons of failure are far more valuable than those of being safe.
The photographs below are a small sample of the many that I’ve taken within the past few months. All of them were taken with Rhonda at my side. I find the vistas that you see below quite breathtaking, yet conversely, they are nothing special. These scenes, and this type of dramatic lighting, occur frequently in southern Utah. However, taking the time out of our busy days to get out and experience such beauty is something that seems to be in short supply.
Take the time to chase your dreams. We all create our own worlds. After all that Rhonda and I have been through this year, our world is beautiful.
Robert F. Riberia