It had happened so fast. At first, he had been laughing with his wife, but when he returned five minutes later, she was lying abnormally still on the garage floor.
Now he looked down at where she had been buried, children at his side. The mourning family had no idea how much worse things could get.
When Todd got down on one knee and asked Katie to marry him, he only wanted to live the rest of his life next to his soulmate.
They’d first bumped into each other while they were still teenagers and, from this meeting, knew they were meant for each other. After dating for a few years, Todd asked Katie to be his forever. He had no idea what the future had in store for them.
Todd and Katie tied the knot in their early twenties. “I had never been sure about anything in my life as I was about marrying her,” he shared while recalling that magical day.
Their marriage would see its first blessing two years later in the name of their first son, Sonny, who would be the first of their seven kids. As far as Todd was concerned, his life was heaven on earth.
The two, together with their family, lived in Wallace, Idaho. Although the town is considered small by some, it was more than enough for Todd and Katie.
Todd loved how each person knew the other in town and how close-knit their community was. Life was going on perfectly for him when out of nowhere, disaster struck.
It was a quiet Sunday afternoon when everything came crashing on Todd’s family. The kids watched TV while Todd and Katie were in the garage doing some spring cleaning.
“There was a very old table from the sixties that Katie and I were trying to get rid of,” Todd shared. “It was chipped and barely standing, and we knew it would cause an accident if we didn’t get rid of it.” The two had no clue how such a beautiful day would turn sour.
“We had little success moving the table, given how big it was. I went to fetch some tools for the job, and Katie kept joking that she could lift the entire thing alone and hurl it into the woods.”
Todd had only been away for less than five minutes when he heard a soft thump inside the garage. Nothing could have ever prepared him for what he found when he rushed back.
Todd found his three-year-old son, Klaus, standing over Katie, who was lying on her back, unresponsive and with her eyes glued to the ceiling. He thought his wife was taking a breather. But as he neared, he realized something was terribly wrong.
“I fell to my knees and cradled her head,” Todd said. “She wasn’t breathing and had no pulse. All I could utter was ‘Please don’t do this to me.” Knowing time was flying, Todd asked his son out of the room and sprang into action.
With his palms over Katie’s chest, Todd began performing CPR. He pressed his crossed fingers against her in a rhythm, taking intervals and helping push air down her lungs.
“Please don’t leave me,” he cried silently, hoping none of their kids would walk in on them like this. But as if on cue, the worst thing happened.
His firstborn, Sonny, walked in. Noticing what was happening, he turned on his heels, leaving Todd and Katie alone. “He promptly called 911 without me telling him to do it,” Todd shared.
“He put on a movie for his siblings and asked them not to come to the garage before taking his dirt bike and rushing down the main road to wave over the ambulance when it reached us.” The EMTs would swoop Katie off of the garage floor and rush her to the emergency room.
Katie spent hours in the emergency room, with several doctors working overtime to stabilize her condition. Todd waited outside the room, his kids at home wondering why mom had been rushed to hospital and why dad was on the verge of tears.
Todd prayed with everything inside him that the heavens wouldn’t take his love away from him. Although his prayers would be answered, it wouldn’t be the response he wanted.
Katie’s doctors walked out of the emergency room after hours of tending to Katie. The look on their faces was a mixture of worry and relief, which threw Todd off completely.
He didn’t know what to think. Was his wife alright? Did her condition worsen in the hours she’d been in the emergency room? What was the root of the issue threatening to rip her from her family?
The first order of business was revealing what caused Katie to collapse in the garage. She had a massive heart attack that interfered with oxygen flow in her body.
As a result, her brain lacked oxygen for more than twenty minutes, resulting in severe brain damage. Todd bit his tongue as he listened, willing his tears not to flow out of his eyes. He didn’t know what the news meant for his wife and their family.
The only thing the doctors could do now was to induce a medical coma in the hope that Katie would heal back to her old self. Todd agreed, knowing there was no one as strong as his Katie.
She would fight through this and return to their family. The doctors carried out the procedure, easing the unconscious Katie into a long sleep. The beginning of the end was here.
With Katie in a coma, Todd took over all her motherly duties at home. With the help of Jazmine, Katie’s sister, he cooked for the kids and cleaned after them. He helped them get ready for school, drove them there, and even came to pick them up afterward.
Since his first son was already a teen, he helped with most of the duties. The other six kids also chipped in with chores at home. But although life would slog on, one thing was for sure.
Katie’s absence could be felt all over the house. The beauty in Todd’s home shriveled to a frail version of its former self. The place seemed empty, with a shadow of worry constantly looming over Todd’s family.
His kids were strong through the first few weeks, trying their best not to worry their dad with questions about their mom. They understood that she was sick and healing, and they wanted to support their dad in every way possible. But the pressure would prove too much.
Todd’s last born was the first to start asking questions. He wanted to know why mommy wasn’t home. The family had survived three weeks without Katie, and he was tired of it.
Cradling the three-year-old, Klaus explained that mommy was healing. She would be home soon. He stemmed his tears, comforting his son as much as he was comforting himself. He hoped Katie would come back to him.
The first few weeks turned into the first month, soon turning into the second. Todd had completely taken over as a mom, creating a system that made everything work. He’d drive his family to the hospital every Saturday to visit Katie.
Although his wife was still in a coma, he’d urge the kids to talk to her. The kids would share stories about their week at school and home, about cool things they saw or nightmares they had. They would always say something that would make Todd look away quickly to wipe his tears away.
“We hope you come back home soon, mommy,” Klaus always said before the family left Katie’s room. In unison, he and the others would share how they could feel her in their hearts even though Katie wasn’t home with them.
No amount of willpower could help Todd hold back his tears each time this happened. He would look away and wipe his eyes. He knew he was beyond fortunate in the kids his wife had given him.
The second month turned into the third, and the third into the fourth. Before Todd knew it, Katie had been in the hospital for half a year.
Yet her doctors didn’t report any good news. As the weeks trudged on, the little faith he’d held onto since the day the ambulance arrived at his garage door was dwindling.
As the year came to an end, the doctors finally called Todd. But the nature of the call was the worst, with the doctor’s voice as cold as it could have been.
She reported that even after the many months Katie had stayed at the hospital, her team couldn’t determine the cause of her heart attack as she was a very healthy lady. But that was the only good part of the news. The rest would rip Todd’s heart out of his chest.
Katie’s condition had deteriorated overnight, with her body responding negatively to the remedies they were subjecting it to. Would Todd be open to coming over in the morning to discuss the way forward?
Todd received the call on a school night. But he didn’t take the kids to school the following morning. Instead, he drove them straight to the hospital.
But he’d find several doctors in Katie’s room. Her condition had worsened. With her family by her side, Katie would pass on peacefully, leaving behind seven kids and a grieving husband.
Todd broke down as he watched nurses wheel her out of her room. Now he was standing over Katie’s tombstone with his kids by his side, wondering how everything had gone south so fast. But it would only get worse from there.
If Todd thought that braving the months when Katie was in a coma was challenging, what came after was pure hell.
He not only missed and grieved for her but felt lost now that he was the only one taking care of their seven kids. But unknown to him, Jazmine, his sister-in-law, and Katie’s younger sister had been busy behind his back.
After Katie got sick, Todd needed to find additional jobs to fill the financial gap solely on his lap now. He’d been working as a university lecturer for the last decade but now took on two more jobs to make ends meet.
Jazmine had seemingly noticed this. “He was working two part-time jobs on top of a full-time and taking care of the kids,” Jazmine shared. “I knew I had to step in.”
When Katie was still in the hospital, Jazmine started a GoFundMe account for her. “I’d seen the medical bill, and I remembered Katie and Todd telling me although the kids had medical insurance, they didn’t,” she said.
“The GoFundMe goal was about a quarter of a million dollars, covering Katie’s bill.” But sadly, although many people globally came to chip in after hearing Todd’s story, Katie would still succumb to her condition. But something remarkable would happen a few months later.
Todd was fighting through his new reality, trying his best to take care of his kids while also being strong for them. Christmas was around the corner, but after settling bills, Todd had barely any cash left for the holiday.
He didn’t know what he’d do. He couldn’t let his kids remember their first Christmas without their mom as the worst in history. They’d been through enough already. But what could he do when the odds stacked against him were so high?
Todd was still pondering a way out of his problem when he heard a knock on the front door. Thinking it was the mailman, he hurried over to ask him to come in and shelter from the December snowfall.
But what he found was a local news reporter and camera people who hadn’t started recording. Todd asked them to come in, but they humbly turned him down. What they’d reveal would leave him in tears.
The reporter told Todd that his story had reached the furthest reaches of the world thanks to Jazmine’s post. Countless people had donated cash to help the family through the holidays since it was his first without Katie.
Todd refused the cash at first, which was upwards of a hundred thousand dollars in donations, gift cards, and coupons. He couldn’t accept such a hefty sum that had seemingly come out of nowhere.
Some of Todd’s kids came out to see what was happening. They found their dad talking to the reporter, with the cameraman on standby.
One look at how happy they were to see people they usually saw on TV made Todd’s heart soften. A smile took his face as he realized one truth that had been before him all this time.
Todd realized that throughout his ordeal, his kids were among the top two reasons he’d stayed strong and fought through the constant pain of being unable to bring Katie back.
He wanted to give them the best Christmas as a thank you and saw the money as an excellent way to do this. But although he accepted the cash, the love and prayers that people had been showing his family were more than enough. Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.