Years ago now, after finishing my undergrad degree, I lucked my way into a cushy corner office for a defense contractor and set about trying to fit into a normal life. I had all the things that I figured one would need to be happy: a high paying job, a pretty office with glass walls and a future my wife and I could count on. I was well aware of how hard many vets have it on the other side of a DD-214, and I was lucky. Unfortunately, I was also miserable.

It wasn’t long after that my wife’s mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Despite us both making a decent income, we couldn’t afford a full time hospice nurse for her mother’s care (she didn’t have health insurance). So after some deliberation we agreed that my wife would leave her job as a corporate recruiter and move the 250 or so miles to her mom’s secluded home in upstate New York to take care of her. I’d stay in Massachusetts, with my better paying job, and spend my workweek keeping the bills paid, making the six hour drive to New York every Friday night and back every Sunday so I could help out and just generally spend time with Jamie’s mom Jan — a woman I’d been close to since middle school (when she predicted that I’d marry her daughter).

It was perhaps the most difficult time of my wife’s life and, to be frank, it was pretty hard on me too, but there’s no question that those long months of tight budgets, highway miles and, admittedly, sometimes crying ourselves to sleep at night were worth it. Jan passed away exactly the way she wanted to: sitting comfortably in her living room with her loving husband by her side, as Jamie and I slept in a makeshift bedroom we’d assembled in their unfinished basement. In the end, all she wanted was to be home with the people she loved… and that understanding had a lasting effect on the way Jamie and I saw the world.