The Day Life Changed In An Instant

Life changed on December 27.

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If you’ve been reading this blog for the past two months, each of those articles was written before the end of 2020 and have not reflected our current reality. After December 27 I did not have time (or motivation) to write anything new and I wrestled with what to do:

  1. Pull those pre-written articles and push pause on the blog until I could write again.
  2. End the blog altogether since I had little motivation to keep going.
  3. Let the two months of pre-written articles run and decide at some point later what to do next.

I chose number 3. Last week’s article about Fitbit features was the final one I wrote before December 27. Now it’s time to more accurately reflect what’s been going on since then.

First, a little context. Much of 2020 was spent preparing for our move from Maryland to South Carolina. The biggest part of those preparations was getting our house ready to sell. It went on the market just before Labor Day. At the same time we also found our new home in the Market Common District of Myrtle Beach.

We closed on the South Carolina house in mid-October, but things did not go as smooth with the sale of our Maryland house. It sold quickly, but the buyer was not able to get financing so the house went back on the market. Gratefully, it sold again quickly, but that closing was also delayed. Finally, we settled in mid-December…two months later than expected.

During those two months, Ava was living in South Carolina while I commuted back and forth to Maryland. In conjunction with moving out of state, my job with the radio station was also changing. I was not retiring, but I was ending my daily role on the morning show. The final Tracey and Dave show was December 23.

Ava also flew back to Maryland that day for Christmas which we spent with some of our kids and grandchildren. The plan was for Ava and me to drive to our new house in South Carolina on December 26. I would then enjoy a week of vacation before beginning my work from home on January 4.

We were both super excited and the seven-hour car ride from Maryland to South Carolina was fun. Ava and I talked the entire way and we couldn’t wait to get started on this new season of life. The final 30 minutes of our drive was heading into one of the most beautiful sunsets ever. It was perfect.

Sunday, December 27 promised to be a mild, sunny day. I always wake before Ava and walked to a coffee shop about a mile from home. After enjoying a great cup of black coffee and a fresh muffin I headed back to the house. Ava was up and we talked about the day.

The Ravens were playing that afternoon and I wanted to watch the game. Since we were no longer in Maryland, watching the Ravens would not be as easy. Thankfully, on my walk to get coffee I noticed a restaurant with a sign indicating they had the NFL Sunday Package, so I could watch the game there. 

Ava’s plan for the day included a four-mile run. For most of 2020, she had been struggling with a foot issue that was painful and impacted how often and how far she could run. That was finally abating and Ava felt good.

Before I headed out to watch the game and Ava left for her run we decided to go to the grocery store together to get some food for the first few days of our “new life.” It was fun walking through the store together planning our meals. I decided to make salmon that night on the grill and we picked up a couple other things I could throw on the grill too. 

As we were going through the store, both of us said to the other, “I can’t believe we’re finally here!” It took a lot of work and navigating some unexpected curves to reach this point and we were beginning to fully embrace that was all in the rear view mirror. It felt really good!

We headed home after loading the car with our groceries. There were a couple items we couldn’t find and Ava said she’d go to a bigger store after her run to pick those up. A half-hour later I was heading out the door to watch the Ravens game. Ava wasn’t far behind me. She was tying her running shoes as I left.

The restaurant was a short 10 minute walk from the house. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and life felt great. The restaurant had a bunch of TV screens with different NFL games. I found a table near a screen featuring the Ravens and settled in. 

This was an important game for my team. The Ravens needed to win their final two games and also needed one of three other teams to lose a game for the Ravens to make the playoffs. Over the next three hours I watched the Ravens win and two of those other teams lose. While that didn’t clinch a playoff spot, it put the Ravens in great position to make the post-season.

A little after 4pm I left the restaurant and started walking home. The walk included a quick detour into a furniture store to check out some side tables. I was having fun making my new home office fit my personality. There was a table I liked so I took some pictures to see how it would look next to my office chair.

I walked home in a great mood. The Ravens were most likely heading for the playoffs, our new life was underway, and the sky was a deep blue with the sun sinking and the temperatures not (sinking). 

I walked into our neighborhood feeling thankful this was OUR neighborhood and approached our new home. Curiously, Ava’s car was not in the driveway. I remembered she was going to the store after her run, but that was hours ago. Ava’s dad lives nearby, but she told me earlier that she wasn’t going to stop by his house today.

Thankfully, I can use my iPhone to check where she is and so I did. After a few seconds, her little picture showed up at Grand Strand Medical Center. I was surprised, but I also know that sometimes this fun iPhone feature can be wrong and place you miles away from where you actually are. 

Easy solution to this…I called her. No answer. Now I was beginning to wonder if something happened to her dad and she was with him. So, I called again. No answer. I checked my iPhone again. It continued to indicate Ava was at the hopital.

Now I began to get concerned because I knew if it was her dad, Ava would have already called me. I called her number again. No answer. Worry starting shifting to panic so I jumped in the car and headed for the hospital which was only a few miles away.

I pulled into the parking lot looking for Ava’s car. It wasn’t there. I checked my iPhone again. Surprisingly, Ava was eight miles north. That’s when I realized I had my hospital’s mixed up. I was at a smaller hospital. Ava’s phone was at the much bigger hospital…the one with the trauma center.

I pulled out of the parking lot and crossed the intersection to head north. As I did, I noticed fresh debris from an accident littered throughout the roadway. This is an intersection Ava would have driven through earlier to get to the store. The panic grew larger.

I called Ava’s phone again. Still no answer. My mind and emotions started circling around a terrible possibility. If Ava had been in a minor crash, she would have called. As I got closer to the hospital I was thinking our new life had probably changed, but I still had a sliver of hope that she was fine and there was an explanation.

Even so, I prayed. I prayed for Ava and I prayed for the grace to face what I would believed was going to be bad news. At a red light I called one more time. No answer.

I turned into the hospital entrance. My panic level was high as I drove through the ER parking lot and did not see Ava’s car. I parked and quickly walked towards the ER. A man stopped me to take my temperature. I said, “I think my wife is here.” He pointed towards the admissions counter.

Before I tell you what happened next, I want you to know why I’m sharing this story. This blog is about fitness and the motivation for fitness. Even though I write about personal stuff, it’s always with the intention of helping you move fitness forward. That will also be the case over the next few weeks as I unpack this story.

I walked up to the woman behind the Grand Strand Medical Center ER admissions counter still hoping against hope that Ava was not here as a patient (or worse).

“I think my wife is here,” I told the woman at the computer. “Her last name is Paul…P-A-U-L,” I said. The woman typed on the computer. My heart sank when she said, “Is her first name Ava?”

(to be continued…)


  1. Dave! Is Ava okay??

    I know you think your blog is about fitness, but to me, fitness is just the setting for the real walk: your walk through life. Through your blog, we’ve gotten to know you, and so Ava as well. We were there when you told us about her breast cancer, when you told us about finding the perfect Christmas gift, raising your children, getting ready for the next phase of your life – all the different stories. We’ve come to know and care about Ava too, because we see her through your loving eyes.

    Please don’t make us wait for weeks to find out if your wife is okay! We care about her too, about both of you.

    Meanwhile, praying for both of you!

    • Hi Kevin. Later that night, Ava told me someone had asked her that question. “How do you answer it?” she said. That should be a hint to the larger part of your question. As for the details, including one of the most epic Ava Moments ever…next week.

  2. It’s good to hear about the details of your journey Dave. We miss so much of what’s going on with someone unless they share. Looking forward to hearing about the rest of the story although I’m not happy about Ava’s accident. I took on the walking challenge January 2020 and it’s because of that (your encouragement) that I’m into my 14th month of walking everyday. Thank You! Prayers for you and Ava!

  3. Major events, especially at the beginning of a new adventure, are never “okay.” We’ve listen to you for years on Shine, have been captivated by your recent move, and are praying for -ealing and health for each of you.

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