My Fiance Almost Died and This Is What It Felt Like


I entertain the thought of our inevitable engagement daily. In my mind, it’s like a toy that gets tossed around with both gravity and listless levity, frequently hot-potatoed between friends and family: everyone wants to know when it is coming. Admittedly, I am the completely-beside-myself kind of excited. But also, at least most of the time, I find myself asking if I will ever be certain that this man is the future-husband that represents forever—my particular brand of forever. I frequently fall to the nagging sense that maybe the disagreements and arguments over folding towels and getting our schedules right, that his incessant inquiries from a brain locked in the world of engineering, could someday drive me just off the edge.

But I think perhaps acceptance sometimes comes from unexpected places.

Just days ago—long before vows and ribbons and dresses and budgets—Ryan was involved in a massive motorcycle accident that very nearly took his life.

I had just arrived home from work and was singing along happily to (yet another) song I had decided would be featured at our nuptials—one about the challenges of love and the enduring nature of it. How apropos! Wonderful daydreaming! I had gotten off the phone with Ryan not ten minutes prior, and he was on his very brief commute home.

When the phone rang, I thought that, obviously, some contractor was calling about the new counter tops we were trying to order. The stranger on the phone told me his name, and he indicated that Ryan had been in a motorcycle accident and had hit his head. He told me where they were and then held the phone to Ryan. Nothing really registered as Ryan’s voice reported that he had “fallen off his bike” before he either lost consciousness or the phone cut out. Maybe both. Either way, standing there in my living room suddenly became the most ridiculous possible thing to do.

The accident had happened close by, and as I peeled my car onto the side of the road next to the sirens and lights and backed-up traffic for miles, I suddenly understood absolute and unconditional love. As I ran toward the stretcher and crowd of EMTs and police officers, the motorcycle and shredded parts flashed in my periphery.

When I saw him, this man oddly stretched out and half naked with his neck braced and eyes rolling about, I knew that this man could not die. This man could not be crippled or lost. Because this man was my future. This man was my joy and my anger and my angst and my indelible commitment. I don’t think I will ever forget the moment the wind rushed into my lungs, because it was immediately locked somewhere deep inside, and I could not push this gasp out. In that moment I was helpless. There was no say in whether or not I would receive that ring he had so carefully planned, or whether we would be married or ever argue again or that I would get to watch him do any one of a billion mundane things.

It was not until the following day at the hospital, when he was glancing at the hospital menu, chewing his lip in false and silly consternation, that I realized the future just did not matter. No amount of fear or doubt or anxiety or arguments could change that he was right there. Reading a menu.

Ryan recovered fully just days later with only a mild concussion, an outcome I credit in entirety to the extremely well-designed head gear he has always worn in our dangerous decision to ride motorcycles. During a lane change he had glanced behind him while another car merged into his path. We believe he flipped his bike over the trunk of the car and landed alongside it with the bike on top of him. The bystander that called me had lifted it off of him.

Perhaps not everyone gets to experience such a stark moment of realizing that they have found the person they love. Growing up, I would report almost daily to my parents that every day was the “best” or “worst” day of my life, and they would remind me that I had no idea what I was talking about. Watching that one person being lifted into an ambulance, I suddenly knew what the worst night of my life could feel like. Maybe a few years from now I will also know the best.

I don’t remember exhaling that gasp I drew when I first saw him. Maybe it wrapped itself around the uncertainty and fear that we are never right about the person we choose, and it is holding it there indefinitely. I believe I still haven’t let go of that gasp.

I hope I never do.

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  • I am so glad Ryan is doing well and fully recovered now. What a wakeup call, life is so fragile, so precious . Not to sound like a hallmark card, but yes, every day, every instant with our loved ones is a gift, it is a miracle that we are able to even meet each other in space and time.
    I wish you all the love and joy and happy times together.

  • Rachel Wilkerson

    Oh, Meg, you forgot the “you’re going to cry at your desk disclaimer.” Now I have to pull the old “someone must be chopping an onion in here” routine.

    Lovely post, Blair. I am so glad Ryan is OK.

    • KB

      “Sobbing at your desk” is more like it! Such a beautiful post that so eloquently captures that total and stark fear when you’re in the minutes rushing towards someone you love and all you know is that they’re hurt. You’re right, acceptance sometimes comes as a gradual zen-like feeling and then there are those moments that make you realize that all the small, everyday doubts are just white noise. It’s a happy consequence of a terrifying ordeal.

  • I needed this today, thank you.

    I am so happy Ryan made a full recovery, all my best wishes to you and him xox

  • Granola

    So glad to hear that he’s ok! And kudos to you for finding perspective in the midst of such a difficult time.

  • Celesta

    Thank you, Blair. Just, thank you.

  • carrie

    Well. That was just lovely. Thank you.

    So glad he is okay.

  • Oh, I know that exact feeling… two Septembers ago, my then-boyfriend was having issues with vertigo. The doctor sent him to get an MRI as a precautionary measure. The last thing we were expecting was to find a tumor wrapped around his brain stem. There are few words quite as terrifying as “brain tumor,” and I had the gasp, too – that feeling like you’ve been punched in the chest, when everything is suddenly, perfectly clear. I loved this man more than I’d ever loved anyone, and…just… Yes. Nothing would do but the rest of our lives together.

    Fortunately, the growth was benign, and we happened to live in the same city as one of the best neuroscience hospitals in the world, so it was removed without incident (in so much as brain surgery can be without incident). We were married on New Year’s Eve 2012, and we are so very aware of how lucky we are to have found each other.

    • Blair

      Thank you for sharing your story. Congratulations on your new marriage! We are so very fortunate to have come out of it ok.

      Hold him close.


  • Copper

    This post speaks to me so much, because I experienced the other side of it. I was in a bike crash on the way to work one morning. I was really late, and didn’t wear a helmet because I didn’t think I needed one outside of rush hour (no lectures please, as you’ll see, I’ve learned). I swerved to avoid a car, my wheel got caught in a drainage rut, and I thought “oh shit, this won’t be good.” Then next thing I know I’m in an ambulance throwing up on a paramedic. Then I’m out again, in the hospital. I’d forgotten my phone that morning so they were questioning me about who they could call but I couldn’t stay awake for more than a minute or two at a time. So when my now-fiance showed up I didn’t know quite how that happened, but I do know that I felt immediate relief. I knew that he would look out for me, and even though I still didn’t know the extent of my injuries, I felt safe. We’d only been together for 6 months, but that’s when I knew. The couple of people I’ve shared that with haven’t really understood.

    • Ashlie

      Copper – first off, I’m glad you’re okay! What a scary, scary ordeal. My now husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, when our relationship was still very young (and so was I, he’s 16 years older than me). I stood by him through every step. I went to chemo with him and endured his wild, uncharacteristic, medicine-induced mood swings. He says that’s when he knew it was right with me. You’re right, a lot of people don’t understand that, but it’s a unique and happy bi-product of a horrifying experience. I’m happy that came of your accident.

  • morningglory612

    As someone whose fiance is getting a PhD in Engineering, I laughed out loud at this line: “that his incessant inquiries from a brain locked in the world of engineering, could someday drive me just off the edge.”

    I know how you feel! But those inquiries are sometimes the start of some of our most interesting, challenging, heartfelt conversations. I wouldn’t change it for the world. But yes, sometimes they’re also maddening.

    Glad your engineer is A-OK.

    • Blair

      Hi Morningglory!

      I am so glad you said this. We are classic math/science vs. writing/art. It makes for a real show sometimes!

      • Meg

        I really related to that line, too. My fiance is a physicist; I am a writer. To say we approach life from different directions would be an understatement — but our differences still manage to complement one another! He definitely keeps me on my toes, and our differing views have prompted me to look beyond my own nose. Somehow, it works.

        I loved this piece and am so glad Ryan has recovered. Thank you for the reminder to live in the present, too!

  • I’m glad to hear Ryan made it through the crash ok. Motorcycle accidents are scary things. :(

    Loss or the threat of loss has a funny way of putting everything in perspective. While no one should ever have to go through those experiences, it’s hard not to come out the other end with a clearer view of what it is you need and want from life.

  • oh my gosh. this was really beautifully written. also, as a fellow motorcyclist, I am so glad that y’all are safe riders and that Ryan is ok. Motorcycling is dangerous but it forces me to accept the cause and effect of my actions in a way that not many other daily activities (that are also secretly dangerous) do. Which is terrifying, but clarifying.

  • KateM

    Yesterday a good friend had a seizure that caused his heart to stop and is now in a medically induced coma. He and his wife got married the weekend before me last May. They are expecting their first baby next month. My heart and prayers are with his wife as I can not imagine how hard this must be.
    We are also expecting our first baby, and while I am worried and praying for my friend, it hits so close to home on every level. The realization that we have so much to loose and how lucky we are right now has been eye opening. It also is making both of look at how we are living to make sure we are embracing it to the fullest. To have this post this morning, well once again APW somehow is always appropriate.
    On a side note, my husband and I love to ride his motorcycle together, but have but that put it on hold until the baby is born. We have no desire to live in fear, but you do start to evaluate which risks are worth it.

  • I have not had a single defining moment about our relationship like that. But there have been so many small moments, on both the good end and the bad end of the spectrum, that have helped me come to the same realization over time. What we have is now. And we have each other. And there are moments where that is all that matters.

  • What a scary way to realize what you want to hold onto. But sometimes those big moments are the only things that can break through the antsy, fearful narratives in our heads. So glad that he’s okay and that you have each other.

  • Janet

    Blair, first I’m very glad to hear Ryan is well and secondly thank you for sharing your story. My fiancé and I have a reversed version of your story. In August, I collapsed at work with massive blood clots in my heart and both lungs (apparently you can have clots and not have any of the classic symptoms) and was rushed to a local hospital. My parents had to call my fiancé at work with the news and thankfully he arrived before I slipped into a coma of sorts.

    I remember his blue eyes brimming with tears and the worry and fear that etched his face as he took my hand and said “Hi sweet-pea.” I don’t remember much of anything after that, until I woke in a new hospital I had been airlifted too. I’ve been told it is for the best I don’t remember what happened and my fiancé doesn’t like talking about it.

    Unfortunately, my recovery was not as quick as Ryan’s and we’ve had some up and downs as I recovered and begun dealing with what we call “my new normal”. I knew I loved him before I was sick and I knew I was going to marry him, but now I know I’d marry him today at the courthouse or on my sick bed in the ICU if we found ourselves there again before our June wedding. Mostly though, my love for him has grown and matured as we’ve walked this “rocky” part of the path that leads to our new baby family and I’m excited to see where our path leads together.

    • Catherine B

      Thank you for sharing your story. The sweet-pea made me tear up. Good luck to you as you continue on your recovery journey!

    • Blair

      Your strength and tenacity are inspiring. It sounds like your fiance is an incredibly strong and loving man. Best wishes for you and your most speedy recovery. Here’s to hoping you will never have to experience it again.


  • Jen

    Ooooh tight throat at work trying to hide my misty eyes… beautifully written and I’m so glad that you had a recovery to report. I think I might know that gasp of air feeling that you described, I got a phone call at work this past summer saying I had to come home right away – our apartment was on fire – and I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone.

    • Those phonecalls.
      In the 15 months we were engaged I had two of them from now DH.
      “Ummm, I crashed into a taxi on my bike ride to work this morning. Just thought you should know”.
      Turns out he was fine, just a couple of scrapes and an insurance bill for the taxi’s brakelights.
      “Just so you know, I’m on my way to A&E at the moment”
      WTF? 3 weeks out from our wedding? He had stepped off a ladder, was higher than the thought and threw his hand out to catch himself, which then caught in a server rack and put a hole in his hand that needed stitches.
      Thankfully both minor in the grand scheme of things, but still totally heart-stopping for that first brief moment.

  • Holy shit, this is beautiful.

  • When my now-ex was in a bad, near fatal accident, was second thought was that he was going to come home and ruin everything, and that’s when I KNEW that our relationship couldn’t be saved. Shouldn’t. Crisises have such a way of distilling situations down to it’s essence. I’m so glad your story has a happy outcome.

  • Senorita

    So happy your man is safe and sound.

    Sometimes those aha! moments can come from totally benign circumstances. I can identify with the ” I find myself asking if I will ever be certain that this man is the future-husband that represents forever”. I had that feeling with all my previous boyfriends and even though I knew my latest boyfriend was amazing and that what we had was wonderful and ridiculously healthy and all the good things in between, my stomach still tightened up at the idea of forever.

    Then one night I had a dream that he had proposed and I woke up so freakin’ happy. I was riding that high for a whole week. I didn’t feel any of my old anxiety, just a calm bliss.

    Just another perspective to throw in the mix :)

  • Oh, I too could have used the tears warning the first time I read this a few days ago. And again just now. I was in much the same spot as you. We got engaged this past July. Two days after my birthday this past September, the night we were supposed to celebrate, I got the call that Charlie was in the ER. They wouldn’t tell me over the phone what had happened, but when I got to the ER, I learned that he’d smashed his face into a windshield (and broke it!) while riding his bicycle. Through some miracle, he didn’t break anything. He had more stitches put around his mouth than anyone cared to count, but otherwise, he’s walked away physically okay. If he hadn’t of been wearing his helmet, we’re pretty sure he would have been either severely injured, or dead. And while I still have some (hopefully healthy) reservations about actually getting married, I never questioned showing up at the ER, or helping him in the days following.