April 24, 2012 Today marks the day Todd and I declared our first date 25 years ago!! Hard to believe it has been that long! SO I felt today would be the appropriate time to share how it all began...
Todd and I first met in high school, Newman Smith in Carrollton. In the Spring of 1987 my Junior year and his Senior year. We had 6th period classes next to each other. I could always hear him making jokes and it always seemed his class was having way more fun than mine! We were introduced by a friend in my class and after class the three of us would walk back to our lockers. As I got to know Todd I realized we were attending the same Methodist church and I should have seen the warning signs when he told me he wasn't allowed to go to youth group anymore because he had been kicked off the ski trip, oh my! Needless to say his charisma, good looks and sense of humor drew me in and then a month or so later he asked me to Prom. I was not totally in to him at that point but I was a junior getting to go to senior prom so I thought, "why not." He was also a little on the wild side and I was a good girl so wasn't sure how we'd get along. I will never forget our first date, it was April 24, 1987 we ate at the Chili's near my house. I ordered nachos but I don't think I actually digested a single one because every time I went to take a bite I would laugh so hard that the food would come flying back out my mouth. I don't know that I had ever laughed so hard!! I was hooked and so began our love story. Our relationship in the beginning was not focused on Christ although we had individually accepted Christ into our hearts, we were just SO young, I was 16 and he was 17 to be exact and we were immature, still trying to figure out life and grow up. Needless to say there was a lot of drama, ups and downs and many break ups! I am definitely not an advocate for dating young either but by Gods grace and help our relationship endured the test of time, grew stronger with the years, we essentially grew up together in life and the LORD and we made it work, well!
So after we survived that first prom, Todd and I began spending a lot of time together. Todd graduated HS and he and I spent the summer together before he went off to North Texas to begin college. He was such a funny guy, was always cracking jokes, and being a total clown that I was beginning to wonder if he could ever be serious and then one night right before he was to move up to Denton. I said, "you are going to get to college and be surrounded by pretty girls and you will forget all about me". He looked at me with tears in eyes and said, "no I won't because I love you"! He was true to his word and even though he was in college he came home almost every weekend to see me perform on the drill team and made sure that he was still totally involved in my life. That was until the Spring semester when he decided to pledge a fraternity and then for the first time in 8 months I was put on the back burner. Somehow our relationship survived that wild and crazy time and then later that Spring in June, I graduated from High School and as most young girls in love do... I followed Todd to what became the University of North Texas.
Then in the midst of of lots of sun and enjoying water skiing that summer of 1988. Todd was feeling very short of breath and tired all the time. He had developed a cough and had also started a job at UPS unloading trucks, they called it the Italian sweat shop because it was an unairconditioned warehouse and as you can imagine in the hot Texas summer it was hotter than HOT!! So he thought maybe the job was causing the respiratory issues and the exhaustion. However after several doctor visits and then a biopsy it was determined that Todd had Hodgkin's Disease, which was cancer of the lymph nodes. We were all in shock because in 1988 the only person I had ever heard of getting cancer was Deborah Winger in the movie "Terms of Endearment" and she dies. The one positive was that his type of cancer had a 95% cure rate so we were hopeful! So after 9 months of of out patient chemo and 4 months of radiation and going through what Todd called "hell on earth" He was given a clean bill of health. Unfortunately his clean bill of health was short lived and after 4 months he developed a lump in his neck and another biopsy revealed that the cancer which had been between his lungs before was now in his lungs and in his neck. The doctors were not as hopeful now.
His parents decided to seek out the Hodgkins experts at Standford University in California where they recommended a bone marrow transplant and there was a doctor at Baylor Hospital in Dallas who was performing this experimental treatment. So here is where I could write a small book on all that happened over the course of his 3 month hospital stay while undergoing "hell on earth" part two but the most important things you should know is that Todd had an incredible faith in his BIG GOD, his ability to find humor even in Cancer and his pure determination to never gave up!! He and I continued to date and I think since he thought he may die since he was only given a 35% chance to live, he asked me to marry him for the first time. So in the summer of 1989 we were engaged!! I was 19 and Todd was 20. So with thousands of people all over the world praying for Todd and incredible medical technology, the bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy worked, he did lose all his hair again and lost around 20 pounds and in 1989 Todd who was 6 feet tall was down to 150 pounds! So after 3 months in the hospital Todd finally went home.
At this point in Todd's life he had come back to the Lord fairly strong but as he would share later, like it says in Proverbs 26:11, "As a dog returns to his vomit so a foll repeats his folly." So once he started feeling well again, and regained his strength he began partying again. After all he was "T Man" the life of party and the ring leader for his friends so he could not disappoint. I however had put up with a lot and was getting tired of being left behind for the "better" party. I knew I deserved better and finally had enough after several years of ups and down in our relationship. So in the summer of 1992 after almost 6 years of dating I told Todd we needed to break up for good. I think he was a little surprised but was ready for his freedom and agreed. I did not hear from him for about a month but then like he had done so often before after our break ups he called and told me how sorry he was for being such a jerk and how much he still loved me. He sent me cards, poems, flowers. When I did not respond he finally realized that this time I was serious and none of that was going to win me back!! So soon after we broke up I met a guy from work and we began dating. He was good looking, charming and treated me really well and I thought he the perfect thing to fill the void in my heart. I quickly fell for this guy. Of course I thought of Todd from time to time as I had spent to last 6 years with him and he had become my best friend but I put those feeling aside and decided to give this new relationship a chance. But after almost 4 months I heard from Todd. He asked if he could take me to dinner to talk. I agreed and when I saw him I thought he looked really good and seemed different. He began telling me how he had joined a college Men's Bible Study and he had stopped drinking and had completely turned his life around and had recommitted his life to Christ. Of course, I was skeptical because I had heard some of this "I've changed" talk before and of course was going to need a little more proof to be totally convinced. He also shared how bad he felt for hurting me and asked for my forgiveness. He for the first time thanked me for standing by him through Cancer and he realized that no other girl would have been so faithful. He also told me that he loved me more than ever and was ready to marry me and be the godly man I had always wanted him to be and be the father of my children. What?? He finally said the very thing I had been waiting years for him to say!! I had pressured him for the past year to get married but he would later say, as stupid as he was and for as many mistakes as he had made, he was smart enough to know we did not need to be married in college. SO as he was pouring his heart out to me I began to cry. I still loved Todd then but as soon as I felt myself getting sucked into his charm I said, "I'm sorry Todd, it is too late. I have met someone else." He would tell me later that it was at that moment that he thought his heart which had just dropped down to near his bottom was going to slip right out, I know what a funny thought that... that's Todd's humorous mind for you. He was crushed! He told me how much that hurt him to hear. He also said we couldn't even be friends any longer as it would be too hard. I remember just crying, he was crying too. We hugged and said goodbye. I remember saying to myself later that night, I think I may have just said goodbye to the best thing that ever happened to me. But I had my new guy and I needed to move on. Or so I thought. That night and for the next 4 nights I dreamt about Todd!! I could not shake the man from my mind. My new boyfriend lived in another state and even though I really cared about him I decided to go see Todd. So when I showed up at his apartment in Denton, he was in his last year of college. He was shocked. He said,"what are you doing here?" I said, "I need to talk to you. Can't we just be friends?" He looked at me and very seriously, said "NO"! I persuaded him to let me in and we preceded to talk and I cried for about 4 hours. I shared how I felt empty inside and knew that I was not right with the Lord. I had a void that I finally realized only Christ could fill but I wasn't sure how to get back to Him. Todd with a big smile on his face shared how he finally felt like he was were he needed to be with in his relationship with Christ and if I would let him, he would help me get back on track. I told him that I had missed him but that I thought we needed to take things slow and be friends again and that we were NOT back together. He agreed, then he laid a kiss on me that caused every hair on my body to stand up straight. I still remember that kiss! WOW, what chemistry we had!!!!
Even though I told him we were not back together he showed up at my parents house the next morning where I was living with flowers and as soon as my Mom opened the door, he began to cry. He told her how much he missed her and our family and then when he saw me he gave me a huge hug and asked if he could take me out for the day. It was the middle of December 1992 and we went to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants and Todd just stared at me the whole lunch and cried. He said, "I can't believe I have you back" You see the night Todd and I said goodbye Todd went home and prayed, "God I give Cassi to you, as good as she is God maybe you have someone even better out there for me, I don't want to think about her anymore" He did not give me another thought and it was 5 days later I showed up on his door step. Crazy, I know!!
So later that day we went to his parents house and when he heard his Mom coming through the door, he had me stand behind the door and he said as he pushed me in front of her, "Surprise, Merry Christmas, Cassi and I are back together." His Mom was in shock and I later found out she and Todd's Dad were so mad and upset with Todd for "screwing things up" with me as they would say. Todd talked of marriage right away and getting engaged and wasn't it funny that the show was now on the other foot but I wanted to wait to see if Todd had truly changed. He sure seemed different but I knew time would tell and at that point we were still young, I was 22 and he was 23. We continued to court instead of just date and for the first time we each had surrendered our hearts and individual lives to Jesus Christ completely. We also agreed that the only way we would have a blessed marriage is if we put Christ in the center of our relationship and we were finally the couple God had always wanted us to be, pure before Him! I think sometime in February of the following year I finally saw that even though God had not changed Todd's wild and crazy personality He HAD ABSOLUTELY CHANGED his Character!! SO I let Todd know I was ready to commit to him forever. Even though I suspected it may be coming on Valentines day, and it did in front of 350 of our church friends and family, Todd purposed to me in a poem he wrote, which was the most beautiful thing ever written to me. It was so much better than I had always dreamed it would be, the proposal that is! So with an engagement of 7 months we were married by his uncle who is a Methodist preacher in front of 300 of our family and friends in a Methodist church in Carrollton and began what was an incredibly rich and full life blessed beyond measure for almost 18 years years!!
I loved this quote that a friend shared with me this week and I feel is very appropriate for my life with Todd! He left a permanent mark on my heart and life! I am forever better for having shared life, love, marriage, children, ministry and laughs upon laughs with Todd Wortham!
"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
Thank you for reading this very long post, I am so encouraged by the love and support of those who are following my grief journey and who are supporting this blog. I pray our story will encourage and inspire you to Live For More!!
Cassi PS After trying to write a condensed version our our love story, which I know is way too long for a blog, sorry! I believe more than ever that our story could definitely fill an entire book so stay tuned for that, God willing!
Our last picture taken together as a couple was in June at a dear friends wedding!