By GAIL MAHOLICK

gmaholick@tnonline.com

Sometime your journey in life changes within seconds.

Our grandbaby's arrival brought a whole new life into our family. That kind of change is a good change to happen, but when your spouse becomes seriously ill, your journey changes in a way that is frightening.

Both of those scenarios happened to me this past year.

It's was so thrilling and is oh so much fun to have a little child to hold and kiss and it was awesome to watch her blossom from newborn, to infant to toddler. She is a bright spot in my life. Her smile is infectious. Her energy boundless and she has started walking. She just turned one year old yesterday.

Life seemed simple and routine up until six weeks ago. Go to work. Come home and do chores and go to bed and then start all over the next day.

Six weeks ago, the unthinkable happened. As soon as I was in the door at home that day after work, I knew that my husband was off kilter. His words were scrambled and all I knew he was having a stroke.

My fears mounted as I awaited my daughter and the arrival of the ambulance. It all seemed so surreal. Was this really happening?

The ride to the hospital with my daughter and son-in-law is a blur. I feared what I would find once we arrived at the hospital. Would he survive? Would I survive?

He did survive the stroke. I have learned that many people do survive strokes, but I also learned that their lives are never the same again.

He initially lost his privilege to drive and much of his vocabulary and vitality. He seems tired much of the time. I can only hope that as his brain heals, he'll have more energy. Since he has a problem speaking, he doesn't like to be around people he doesn't know.

After educating myself about stroke, I learned that having a stroke is a scary thing for the patient and his caretaker and family because recovery from a stroke is a long-term event.

Fortunately he wasn't severely affected. He has a very good chance of recovering most of what was affected over time and his speech is getting better every day, plus he has started driving again.

The major change for him is that he has quit smoking.

When he visited the doctor for his first post-stroke visit, the doctor bluntly told him that "smoking caused your stroke.'

Now if anyone hears that, it should make them stop smoking. At least it has for him.

I know that it is very hard to quit smoking. He had tried a few times and then restarted. I guess his heart wasn't in it. I am praying that his heart is in it this time.

So, we are moving along in life at a slower pace with fewer places to go and a whole lot less to say, but we are moving along. The journey is different, but a least there is a journey. So if you have a loved one who smokes, pass along this message - please quit smoking or you may not be able to tell people your own name.