Back in the '80s, Mia and Troy were high school sweethearts. After school, Troy joined the Navy. They broke up when he got home, and they both married other people. Later, Mia's husband left her and Troy's pregnant wife died in a car accident in the same month. They reunited a few years later when Mia went home for her 10-year high school reunion. They were married that December.
This is the story of what has happened in the past 30 years.
Mia says: "Life was pretty normal most of the time. We were working and raising our two daughters. But when things got bad, they got really bad."
First, Troy suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm and needed surgery. Mia described: "There's nothing like having a neurosurgeon tell you to bring your kids to see their dad for the last time. But Troy surprised everyone and made it through. His sister said he has 99 lives."
Troy had contracted hepatitis C while he was in the Navy. "It's a wicked disease that does its damage over years without showing symptoms," she says.
Still, he was a scuba diver, a mechanical engineer, a volunteer for the American Liver Association and certain veterans' groups, and a timer at his daughters' swim meets. But his health slowly deteriorated. And then, after working 30 years at the same company, he was downsized.
Mia says: "He never complained. Troy was sort of gruff and intimidating. The word 'grace' is not one that would come to mind when thinking of him, but it's the only word I can use to describe how he dealt with this devastating illness.
"In spite of everything, life continued. One daughter married, and we took the whole family to Aruba for Christmas several years ago. It was the best thing ever!
"Three years ago, we moved from the home where our babies grew up into a lovely ranch. Troy had terrible arthritis in his knees, and the stairs were too difficult for him. His health continued to deteriorate, but he tried his best to live a normal life."
Then, on Christmas, Troy fell and broke his hip. That started a steep decline. He was on the list for a liver transplant, but by the time one was available it was too late. He was already in the hospital on life support.
Mia said: "The thing that bothered us most was they had to shave his beard to tape his breathing tube. He'd had that beard since 1970. Our girls had never seen him without it! It sounds stupid, but if you don't focus on the little things, the big things will just about kill you.
"Two hours after his mom and sisters got to the hospital, we decided he'd gone through enough. His 99th life was over. He was 58 years old.
"He was my hero and my best friend. I'm sad we won't grow old together. My parents were married 62 years, and we didn't quite make 30. I hope our girls get to experience the kind of love we had.
"As he got weaker, I got stronger. We made sure I could take care of myself. I'm back at work but considering going back to school, just to prove I can.
"I think it's about time something really good happened to our family. We all play the lotto, but so far, Troy has not exerted any influence on us picking winning numbers!"
-- Is your partner your hero? Send your tale, along with your questions and problems to firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out my e-book, "Dear Cheryl: Advice from Tales from the Front."