After husband’s death, wife awaits their twins
February 17, 2004
Sarah Smith held her husband Eric in her arms almost a year ago as he died from a rare form of cancer.
Today she’s pregnant with twins ” hers and Eric’s.
Because of modern medicine and the couple’s ability to look ahead during tough times, Sarah will give birth to two boys a year and a half after her husband died.
“Years ago this wouldn’t have been able to happen,” Smith said. “It’s still a miracle that blows my mind every day.”
Eric Smith, 37, died on Feb. 24 after being diagnosed with a rare and aggressive type of cancer. As a well-known and much-loved snowboard instructor at Snowmass Ski Area, the community first gathered for benefits in his honor with Sarah and friends before mourning his loss.
A shrine for Smith was set up last summer at Snowmass.
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Not many people at the time of his struggle with cancer may have known about his intention to make sure he and his wife had children. But now pleasantly pregnant, Sarah, 34, is talking about the decision she and Eric made to have children before tragedy struck.
“We were really positive about every day, and we didn’t get caught up in what might happen in a week, 10 days or a month,” said Sarah, a Snowmass Village resident. “As hard as this all was for him, he knew it was just as important as chemotherapy to have power over his children’s future.”
Eric was diagnosed with cancer in October 2002, just four months after he and Sarah were married. But before the couple knew how serious the disease would be for Eric, he was talking about making sure they could still have children.
“We didn’t know what kind of cancer it was and were still hoping that the doctors had make a mistake,” Sarah said of those earliest days. “But Eric wanted to err on the side of caution and said we’d have to find a way to freeze his sperm because we were having kids, no matter what.”
The Smiths visited a sperm bank in Boulder before Eric began chemotherapy; otherwise they would have had to wait a year afterward for him to generate new sperm cells. Although Eric was getting progressively sicker during those trips, Sarah said his sense of purpose for her and their children kept him going.
“There was not one time during the whole nightmare that he ever felt sorry for himself,” she said. “He’d say, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, I can’t believe this is happening to you.’ He was never the martyr, and he was so apologetic for putting his family and friends through it all.”
But after intensive chemotherapy and doing everything doctors recommended, Eric lost his battle with cancer.
“Eric was so strong, and so heroic, and he keeps giving it back to me,” Sarah said. “The person I was before I met Eric never would have been able to do this.”
Last fall, Sarah went to the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine to have several of her eggs harvested after enduring weeks of hormone shots she gave herself. The center fertilized her eggs with Eric’s sperm, and on Nov. 1 she had three of the resulting embryos put in her.
A week and a half later she learned she was pregnant. She’s just over three months pregnant and has a due date for the twin boys in July.
Tall and thin, she said she already feels like she’s “a snake that swallowed a watermelon.”
Before his illness, Eric and Sarah had decided on a name for a boy and a name for a girl that they wanted their children to have. Now Sarah has taken the proposed boy’s name, Braden Shae, and split it for her twin boys.
Braden Harper’s middle name comes from Ben Harper, Eric and Sarah’s favorite musician. And Shae Curren’s middle namesake is Tom Curren, Eric’s favorite surfer.
“I felt them move yesterday for the first time ” that’s a really strange feeling,” she said.
Of course, having twins wasn’t something Sarah and Eric predicted, and being a single mom with two boys can seem daunting.
“Sure, it’ll be challenging, but having gone through what we went through … you look at life with a totally different perspective,” she said. “Losing your husband, having your soul mate die in your arms less than a year after marriage, and comparing that to raising twins … it cuts through it all.”
Sarah and Eric’s families are both supportive of the new additions to the family, and Sarah said she continues to feel community outreach for her and her husband’s memory.
“Eric is still my husband, and he always will be. It feels beautiful and perfect, and like we beat cancer,” she said. “His final wishes were achieved, and it’s triumphant for us. I’ll always feel Eric with me, and this makes him feel closer.”
[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com]