The arrival of October first marks the anniversary of the worst day of our lives. Five years ago on this date, Eli learned of the malignant tumor growing in her breast. She listened while doctors explained that this extraordinarily aggressive cancer had spread to many of her vital organs. The disease had invaded her lungs, scarred her liver, and found a foothold in her brain.
While the doctors remained calm in our presence, their sense of disbelief at the widespread devastation cancer already caused in the body of this young woman was obvious. Taken aback by the utterly cruel nature of Eli’s condition, the team of professionals at the hospital concluded that there was no hope. They believed her time was coming to an abrupt end.
A Stage IV cancer diagnosis equates to a death sentence. Imagine hearing that you have a critical problem for which there is no solution. Consider learning that the finest doctors in the country believe you hold no more than a two percent chance of surviving the next five years.
Upon receiving this ominous news, Elizabeth Swift Timms took a stand. She chose to bravely confront the imminent obstacles in her path and to remain unchanged in her pursuit of joy. Facing bottomless fear with courage and dignity, Eli time and again met challenges no one should experience. She learned to live in an entirely new way, inviting us to come along for the ride.
In the time since the diagnosis, we visited nine countries on three continents. We climbed over mountains, dived under ocean waves, and navigated foreign cities at a furious pace. Our list of travel experiences together grew to include an expedition through the largest wetland in the world, visiting the Galapagos Islands, and an African safari to name a few. Eli has taken me to one paradise after another never letting her diagnosis stop her from doing what she truly loves to do.
Eli never stopped trying to see all that the world gives us; she’s tried to eat it, too. As my growing waistline can attest, we’ve eaten and eaten well. Food is not simply sustenance for Eli, but her passion. She loves fine cuisine, from each aspect of preparation, to the last detail of the presentation. Everything about food is important. Nothing, however, is more important than sharing the event with others.
Over the past five years we’ve broken bread hundreds of times, and the wine has freely flowed. Eli’s food generates its own gravity, drawing people closer to her. Friendships have originated and flourished around her cooking. Almost all of my great memories in Santiago center on a meal she organized. Every milestone, every achievement, every bit of bad news was shared while we ate a sumptuous meal. Eli brought us together and kept us there with her cooking.
Above all, though, Eli has learned to love. For five years, Eli has opened up her heart and shared it with the world. She’s shared every lucky and unlucky moment of her life. She’s learned how to let people into her life so we can marvel at what makes her unique. Most of her life, Eli was highly guarded, always worried about what people thought of her. One was lucky to gain access to her true self, avoiding the detours and fences she placed along the way. Since her diagnosis, Eli has let down her guard and bared her soul. She made herself available, and showed us all what it means to be gracefully imperfect. That vulnerability and openness provides strength and crushes dread.
Eli, what matters most to me is that you opened your heart and let yourself be loved. You allowed this tall, weird, goofy man into your life to celebrate every good day with a kiss and endure every bad day with a hug. I am a man who appreciates you for who you are and cherishes every moment with you. I love you so much and I’m glad we’ve spent this past five years together. Thank you for marrying me and making me part of your family. Thank you for being my wife and my lover. Thank you for supporting me and standing by me. Thank you for being the woman of my dreams.
Finally, thank you for making your stand. You could have been defeated and given up on life. Instead you lived and taught us all how we should live.
And thank you to Elliott Pope for the help.