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Dedicated to Lisa Albertoni
Submitted by Tony
My wife, Lisa, LOVED Hawaii. While we were dating, she told me of her first trip to Kauai on a choir tour. She said God had created all the most beautiful landscape scenes and then placed them on this tiny island. When we married, it was no surprise that she wanted to honeymoon in Kauai. Our parents' gift made it possible for us to stay in a wonderful cottage on the northshore. Our relationship was cemented in that unspoiled setting, and we often talked about a possible return someday.
After our honeymoon, we settled into life's routines. We had wanted to start a family, but because of an infertility problem, we were told that this may be difficult. One day, Lisa went to the doctor to check an enlarged lymph node, and a bombshell was dropped: Lisa had leukemia and had three to five years to live. Our dreams were shattered, and we cried together as we fell asleep that night. I determined then that I would find a way to take Lisa back to Kauai.
Six months later, we were back in the wonderful Kauai cottage. We spent a week re-living our honeymoon and adding cherished memories. We stopped at a jewelry store where Lisa fell in love with Niihau shells. Niihau is a privately-owned island west of Kauai. Niihau shells have a beautiful luster that allows them to be the only shells in the world to be appraised as jewelry. Leis can cost up to $25,000, but we settled for a nice necklace, which I knew would take me a year to pay off. But this was a special trip and a special necklace, and we both knew it would be our last Kauai trip together. Lisa wore that necklace everyday for the rest of her life.
Lisa was scheduled to start chemotherapy six months after our return from Kauai, and then another bombshell was dropped: Lisa was pregnant! The doctor reminded us that he said that pregnancy was difficult, not impossible! Lisa held off on the chemotherapy, and nine months after our Kauai trip, she delivered a healthy baby girl! It was such a bitter-sweet miracle. Here, I was losing my wife and gaining a little girl who we had wanted so badly. I vacillated between tears of heartbreak and tears of joy.
Annaliese was five years old as we held hands at Lisa's funeral. Lisa regretted that Annaliese would only remember her as a chronically-ill mother, but I assured Lisa that I would keep her alive as a mother who loved her desperately and would have done anything to change the circumstances.
Today, eight year old Annaliese has Lisa's compassionate eyes, and she often asks about her mother. I plan to take Annaliese to Kauai next year and show her all the special places that her mother and I shared. She has heard so many stories that she is looking forward to this special "Daddy-daughter" trip. I also have a special gift to give her while we are there: the Niihau necklace that Lisa loved so much and asked me to someday give to Annaliese when the time is right.