LONSBERRY: The Story of Two People in Love


For a hundred nights, she sat by his hospital bed.

               She would talk to him, sing for him, play him music. Tell him about her day. Whisper, “Keep fighting,” into his ear. Sometimes dress up and have a date night, just the two of them.

               And she would pray. Pray for a miracle. That her husband would be saved. That he would be brought back to her. That they would be together again.

All while he lie there, unconscious, comatose, somewhere between dead and alive.

“He is my knight in shining armor,” Tracy Reed said.

               It was some kind of flu and some kind of strep. Right after Christmas of 2019. It came out of nowhere and it came hard, and in a matter of hours he was intubated and out and they put him on machines to keep him alive.

                They had met some 30 years before. She was 19 and pregnant, and he was almost 30 and divorced.

               “I’ve always known that we were meant to be together,” Dwayne Reed said. “No matter what we went through. Trials and tribulations. When I look at her, I see home.”

               “He was a gift from God, even before I knew God gave gifts,” she said. “I feel undeserving of his love.”

               The machines saved him, but they killed his limbs. His arms and his legs. At least the ends of them. The blood got to the organs that mattered, but it didn’t get to the limbs that didn’t. And they died. Turned black and desiccated and had to come off.

               And each time he came close to resurfacing, as he roused from the blackness, they were there to tell him about the need for amputation. Their pastor, the hospital chaplain, a doctor. And his sweetheart. Telling him what had happened, and what it meant, knowing how hard the news would be, knowing that he would slip into unconsciousness and forget and need to be told again and again, each recitation a heartbreak.

               But it sunk in and he accepted it and ultimately the tubes came out and the mind returned and after three months they took him from the hospital to rehab.

               And she couldn’t see him anymore. Covid. With him every morning and night for weeks on end and then a new facility and a new rule and she was shut out. From March of last year until July of last year.

               And so much had changed.

               He had worked constantly. Thirty years with the sewer department and more years with a college, always busy and consumed, always with his hands. “My hands were probably my identity,” he said. “I could do anything that had to be done.”

               At their house he had done the kitchen floors and renovated the bathroom and taken out a wall. They lived there 10 years, and made great memories, walking the dog and riding their bikes and living their lives.

               But his hands and feet were gone and so was that life and so was that house. It didn’t work anymore. Not with his wheelchair and needs. So she sold it and bought another and the contractors came in. Some they knew from church, some from a group, all from the goodness of their hearts. And they didn’t charge them a thing.

               And on July 23 of last year, Dwayne came home to a place perfectly suited to his situation.

               And for the first time in their lives, they were together. All day. Every day. No work for him to hurry off to, no responsibilities pulling them one way or the other. It was just home. It was an answer to prayer. It was their miracle. It was the happiest time of their lives. It was just these two sweethearts, cooing and cuddling and thanking God for the gift of his survival and their undying love.

               And the daily struggle to learn how to live without hands and feet.

               A very difficult struggle. But one they faced and endured and overcame.

               They rejoiced with their church, they told their friends, they recounted their story on social media.

               He had legs made. One he has, another is made but waiting on an insurance clarification. He wants to stand again, and dance. With Tracy. “Everything I Do, I Do For You,” is their song, and they want to, arms around one another, in little circles, dance, like they did as young people, like teenagers did in an earlier day, a slow dance. When he gets that leg.

               He had had a miracle in his life. He had survived a brush with death. He felt joy in his heart.

               And pain in his belly.

               Literally. About the end of June. A pain. And they went to have it checked.

               He had been home almost exactly a year.

               She and their daughter were out in the garage, at a table behind the screen, enjoying the cool of the evening, when they checked the hospital’s online portal. It was stage four. It was all over. He was in another room. He had a doctor’s appointment in a week. They sobbed, and they kept it to themselves.

               “I didn’t tell him,” Tracy said. “I cried behind his back. I cried when he wasn’t in the room. I wasn’t mad at God. I was sad. I was just so sad.

               “Why hadn’t God let him die quickly? Why save him, why make us go through all that, and now make him die slowly?”

               Dwayne found out last Friday. The doctor told him. Their daughter was with him.

               “That was the first time I heard the word ‘incurable,’” Dwayne said. “That’s hard to process. That’s hard to fathom.

“It’s hard to think about. We sat together and cried.”

As he says it, he is in his mechanical chair. It can move him forward and back, left and right, up and down. Tracy is across from him, in a comfortable chair. They both hold back tears. Family pictures and Bible verses are on the walls, a sign with the phrase, “Love Will Prevail,” a plaque proclaiming, “I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME.”

               He doesn’t like timelines. He likes living. He likes doing. He likes being with Tracy.

               “I want to do everything I can,” he said. “I want to walk. I’m hoping with palliative care we can manage my pain and be able to do things.

“I’m going to swing for the fences.”

“He’s just so strong,” she said. “This is still a love story. It’s going to carry on after our human lives.

“God has a plan. Something good is going to come. Even out of this.”

“I want to finish well,” Dwayne said. “I want to leave a legacy that means something.”

“You already have,” Tracy said.

He’d still like to parachute. The other night they went to a ballgame. They hope for that last dance. They trust in God and hold him tight, relying on a purpose they cannot see.

“This isn’t just a cruel joke,” Tracy said. “God doesn’t do that.

“I got to have 365 days with him in a row. That never happened. We never had that time. But we had this year together. That was a gift from God.

“And we’re never promised tomorrow.”


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