On our first Match.com blind date, John was wearing a t-shirt with “MESA” on it. In the first few awkward moments of that night, I asked him what MESA stood for. “Math Engineering Science Achievement, a national educational program” he told me. Interesting, I thought. Then I asked him if he worked for them. “Oh, no.” He said. “My twin brother Tony worked for them. He gave me this shirt.”
I’m not gonna lie, I thought it was a little weird that he was wearing a hand-me-down shirt from his brother on a first date and we laughed about it a few months later. In the ensuing years, however, it made total sense.
John is an identical twin. When you meet him, it’s one of the first things he tells you. I always say, it’s his favorite things about himself. He and his twin had a rare syndrome at birth called Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. Basically, it means that one twin’s umbilical chord is giant and the other one’s is tiny. So when they were born, John was only 4 1/2 pounds and his brother Tony was over 7 pounds. Prior to the year they were born, the larger twin always died from edema within a few hours of birth.
They were lucky because there was a married couple (he an OBGYN and she a pediatrician) from England who were doing a fellowship at the hospital where they were born. The did an experimental, brand new procedure on Tony and he lived. They were written up in the New England Journal of Medicine the year they were born (that’s the picture from the article) and in the article they were referred to as “Twin A and Twin B.” They’ve used the monikers to describe themselves ever since. John has even asked that “Twin B” be put on his headstone marker.
John has nothing but great memories of growing up a farm kid with his twin and five other siblings. I’ve never met anyone who had a better childhood. He and Tony were inseparable. As we’ve been working on putting together a slide show for his memorial this week. it’s been almost impossible to find any childhood photos other than school pictures with just John. Tony is in every picture. I remember the fist time I ever saw them together thinking that the love they shared was palpable.
I know we are all grieving the loss of this amazing man. His kids are losing their dad, I’m losing my husband and soul mate, his mother is losing her son, his older brother and sisters are losing a sibling. His nieces and nephews are losing their favorite uncle and countless others are losing an amazing friend.
But Tony is literally losing his other half. They share the same DNA and a connection that none of us understand. I honestly can’t imagine how hard that would be. #lovetrumpscancer