best b-day gift ever

I know what I want for my birthday every year now. Another year with my husband. I’m soooooooo thankful to God for sparing his life and can’t bless his name enough. I don’t take for granted that I get to cry happy tears tonight instead of grieving, anguished ones. Thank you, Jesus.

I have some time (Gabe’s resting and watching football, and my mama is with our girlies at home) so I’ll try to share a bit more of Gabe’s story.

We were at a Fall Festival that our church hosted for the community Saturday night. We had a chili cook-off, lots of goodies, games in the gym, a real-life firetruck w/firemen, and ended the night with trunk-or-treat.

I needed our van keys to open our trunk, so I walked over to the end of the gym where Gabe and 5 buddies were deep in a game of 3-on-3 basketball. I asked Gabe for the keys, took one look at him and said, “Did you get hit??” He said no. I knew something was wrong. He had an awful look on his face like, “I’m in pain, and I’m not happy about it, and don’t talk to me. “Are you okay?” He said no, but shooed me away. I tried not to be offended and went to pass out candy.

As I was throwing candy at little munchkins, he came outside and leaned his head up against the van. He looked awful. Pale, sweaty, and not just-played-basketball sweaty, but cold, clammy sweaty. “Are you okay?” Another no, and “I don’t want to talk.”

I suggested he get in the van and lay the seat back. He did. A minute later he was back. “I can’t catch my breath.” The kiddos were winding down the trunk-or-treat. “Do you need me to do something?” No. Then a minute later he said, “I need to go to the hospital.”

I freaked a little. How? Where? What do I do? Scanned the crowd for Pastor Rich, found him immediately. “Gabe can’t breathe very well. He says he needs to go to the hospital.”

“Let’s try to find a physician,” he said. He runs up to a couple people. I see him talking to our friend Chad. “I’m calling 9-1-1,” Chad says.

Well, that’s a little dramatic, don’t you think? (I don’t say this out loud.)

Gabe sits down beside me in the “trunk” of our mini-van. Our girls are there. A bunch of men somehow circle around us. Rich prays. I cry. The girls cry. I’m not sure at what point I start telling Jesus that I can’t do life without him (Gabe), but I told him that a lot over the next half hour.

The squad arrives, followed by the same firetruck the kids had climbed on 20 minutes earlier. They wouldn’t let me in with him. I stood outside and cried. One of my friend’s husbands rubbed my shoulders. Guys prayed. (all of the women were still “manning” the stations at the festival) The EMT told me I could ride up front or follow the ambulance. Our friend Harlan offered to drive me. I picked Harlan over the dude who wouldn’t let me in the ambulance with my husband.

The fire engine escorted us to the hospital. Harlan dropped me off and parked. I walked into the ER waiting room. So surreal. I felt really calm. Gabe wasn’t in the computer yet. I sat down. Twenty seconds later, they called me up. “He’s in room 52. Go left, right, left.”

I start walking. I turn left, right, left and see doctors and nurses running. Running. One of them says, “I need a something-something in 52. Stat! We’ve got a something-something…”

I can’t really describe that moment. It was awful.

I walked in the room. Gabe was on a gurney, shirtless, cords and wires and IV’s everywhere. Pale as a ghost, in obvious pain. People scurrying, shouting, pulling his clothes off.

Doctor: “It’s a probable heart attack. We’re taking him to the cath lab.”

They hand me his clothes and shoes. I dig in his jeans pockets for his phone. Mine is at home. Dumb. A receptionist takes me to a waiting room. Tells me that calling 9-1-1 was the smartest thing I ever did. I didn’t tell her that it wasn’t my idea. At all.

I sit and wait for Harlan. I need to call Gabe’s dad and brother. Gabe’s mom is in Africa. Gabe’s phone is dead. I don’t know their cell #s by heart. Harlan gets me water. He tells me I can call the operator and they’ll put me through. He’s going to find a charger for Gabe’s phone. I call my mom. No answer. Call my dad. Get “Carrie’s” voicemail. Somehow remember my dad’s real number. He answers.

“Dad, I’m in the hospital. They think Gabe had a heart attack.” I can’t really talk. Dad is in South Carolina with Mom. No one knows Tug or Rock’s number. The phone rings. It’s Tug. Harlan had found a charger and called Tug. Rock and Tug are headed to Columbus.

Harlan and I chat about life. I learn more about him and his amazing, beautiful wife Wendy. I hold back tears. Pastor Rich comes. Then our friends Will and Donna. The doc comes out. Gabe’s left anterior descending artery was 100% blocked. They unblocked it, put a stent in, he’s doing well.

Heart attack. Primary artery. Also known as the Widow Maker.

We go meet him in the hallway and go to his CICU (Cardiac Intensive Care Unit) room. Well, he went to the room, we went to the waiting room. Rock and Tug come. And our friends Pam and Britt. We get to go to his room.

Lots of hugs and tears and some powerful, powerful prayer. God is so good. It was an amazing moment.

I think I’ll stop there. This is all still so surreal. Gabe just said five seconds ago, “Did I really have a heart attack?” He’s doing so well. This is going to change our lives a lot, but we can do all things through Christ.

One of our biggest prayer requests right now is for wisdom about our trip to Cambodia. We’ve gotten some conflicting advice from different nurses. “You can still go.” “You really shouldn’t go.” “You could go, but it would be a huge, huge risk.” Please, God, give us your perfect peace and wisdom. We want to bring you glory, whether that means stay or go.

And friends, I can never thank you enough for all the love and support and encouragement you’ve been showering us with in the past 30 hours. It’s enough to make me bawl. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We love you all so much!

God, you are so, so, so, so, so, so, sooooooooooooooooooo good.

So, yeah, I don’t need anything else for my birthday. Unless you have an extra prayer or two. Thank you!!

67 thoughts on “best b-day gift ever

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  9. Kelly @ Love Well

    Marla! I feel actual guilt that I didn’t see this until today. What a blessing that God poured grace on Gabe and you and your family and your plans. (I read about re: Cambodia.) As someone who knows all to well the whole “Here’s Your will for my life, God, just sign on the bottom line and we’re good to go” way of life, I will be praying that you have continued wisdom to live in the tension of living the adventure yet holding it loosely.

    Mostly, I’m just so glad the story has a happy ending. So glad for 911.

  10. Elizabeth Kirk

    Marla, I heard from Lilia’s mom at school today about Gabe & was totally shocked! I didn’t want to say anything to Olivia, so I checked your site to see if that was all true…it’s just unbelievable. I’m so thankful that he is doing well, & will be praying for him and for your whole family. Please let us know if you need ANYTHING.

  11. Kirk Downing


    I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for you as a wife; the thoughts about what’s next for you and your girls, and whether or not Gabe would pull through.

    All I can say is that I can relate on a level a bit different (as a son). When my Dad had a stroke, Kyle and I followed the ambulance to the hospital and started talking about the possibility of “life after Dad.” It was really scary.

    Although scary, I know that God uses things like this to give us a wake up call in whatever area. I hope and pray that Gabe gets stronger and healthier every day, and is healthier 20 years from now than he is today.

    A lot of wives don’t get to write about a happy ending to a horrific event. The fact that you were able to do so is one of the biggest blessings you will ever experience.

    Praying for you guys every single day.


  12. Angie

    Oh my word, Marla! Scary, scary stuff! I pop into your blog every so often, and I’m so glad I did today. Praise God for sparing Gabe’s life. Kinda changes the game, doesn’t it? I’m also taking notes and will be encouraging (read: FORCING) my hubby to make some big changes. I can’t do life without my guy either! Keeping you, Gabe and your family in my prayers.

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  14. Jon

    We found out Sunday morning via Facebook and have been praying! Thanks for sharing! Trish and I will pray for wisdom from our great God concerning Cambodia and Gabe’s continued recovery. Keep on keeping on!

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  16. Jennifer

    I am sobbing through your post, tears of pain for you and joy at the same time, that God is so very awesome and wonderful. Praise Jesus that he spared Gabe! I know that He has a purpose in ALL things, and this story will go on to touch and save many others through you. Take help right now and just enjoy your family. I will continue to pray for you. Happy Birthday hugs {{{{{{}}}}}}

  17. Krysten

    Praying, praying, praying for you!!! Thank you, Jesus!! Please give this family all Your wisdom to know what to do, back away from, balance out, etc… We trust You completely with Marla, Gabe, and their family. Thank You, thank You, Lord!

  18. Amelia

    Best birthday present ever – praising God with you for sparing Gabe’s life. We’ll be praying for wisdom in the upcoming decisions regarding your trip.

  19. Toben

    So glad Gabe is OK. SCARY! I will be praying for you guys. It’ll take you a while to get over the shock to your system. I can’t help but flashback to Joanne’s ambulance ride to the ER. Hang in there.

  20. Becca

    I’m so so glad he’s ok!!! The CICU is a scary place, and I’m praying for you that he heals well and there are no more problems!!! Praise the Lord!!!

  21. Jennie Sizemore

    What an awesome God. So thankful you had all of the wonderful people around you to help out during a scary time. The Sizemores will keep you and Gabe and the girls in our prayers. Don’t worry about Cambodia right now. You already know God has a plan for that, however it turns out. Happy Birthday, Marla…so much to celebrate!

  22. Cheryl

    Praying for Gabe’s recovery and the peace that passes all understanding for you and your family!
    Happy Birthday and enjoy your birthday wish!

  23. Melissa

    What an incredible story! I was so sad when I heard about his heart attack, as one of my hs classmates lost her husband the same way. After reading your story, I was so thankful that God had Gabe in just the right place when the attack happened, and that you were surrounded with people who knew what to do (pray and call 911). Continuing to keep you all in prayer for healing and for your trip.

  24. Melissa

    Chills and tears reading this. I suffered a pulmonary embolism in 2008 and almost lost my life. It is something that has brought my husband and I closer than ever and God has used the story over and over for His glory.
    I am so thankful that you still have your Gabe. Happy birthday, sending thank-you prayers to Jesus right now!

  25. Joy Fell

    Ditto what Sarah m. just said about the tears. I know I don’t know you or your family but in following your blog I have found myself caring for all of you. Praising God for Gabe’s life right now.
    Oh, and Happy Birthday, glad to know someone else has it on this day.

  26. Life with Kaishon

    Oh my goodness. I am crying hysterically for you. I don’t know if I have ever been to your blog before today. I am so sorry that this happened to your husband and I am so very, very thankful that he was spared and he doing ok. God bless you all.

  27. Sandi Faulk

    What a terrifying, heartbreaking experience for all of you. You, Gabe, and the girls remain at the forefront of our hearts and minds today. Much love, and gratitude for the wisdom and skill of doctors and friends – and the Lord’s prompting and direction in and over all.

    Please tell Gabe that I’m still holding him to his promise that the Tavianos are going to make it back to San Antonio – when I’ll actually be here!

    A friend of mine had life-saving heart surgery some months ago, which has spared and extended her life and ministry here. Every time I see the huge pink/purple scar on her chest, I’m reminded of God’s faithfulness and love, extended to her – and us. Praying you will see His provision, faithfulness, and tender mercies in new ways in the days to come. Love you!

  28. Amy P

    Happy Birthday, Marla! Your family is in my prayers. I will hug my husband a little tighter today. Life can change in an instant and we need to always remember that.

  29. Missy June


    I’m so thankful Gabe is recovering well! I can’t imagine how terrifying that would be. I’m so glad our Lord surrounded you with support right when you would need it most.

  30. joyce

    God is good…glad you got your birthday wish today : ) Take care and I will continue to keep you in prayer along with your Cambodia trip decisions. Happy Birthday!

  31. sarah m.

    tears streaming down my face as I read this. You Taviano’s, especially Gabe have been on our hearts a LOT. We are praying for you often and I’m confident God will give you the wisdom in these difficult days and decisions you have to make. His timing is always perfect and He WILL use this for His Glory – I’m confident of that. Happy Birthday my friend. Love you!!

  32. Betsy E

    God is so good, Marla! Yes, each year with your husband is to be treasured. My sister, at age 52, lost her husband, three years ago to just this same type of heart attack. I can easily tell you that she would LOVE to have him back. He was a wonderful Christian man who loved the Lord. We miss him so much.

  33. Rhonda

    So thankful that Gabe is going to be okay. I’ve been constantly praying since Gail and Stephanie told me about it Sunday morning. God has a perfect plan and a perfect answer to the Cambodia question. I’m praying wisdom and peace for your family.

  34. ellen

    Wow Marla – we could compare notes –and I get surreal – I know you have lots of people around u – but – let me know if I can do anything !!! I can only share this with you – listen to the doctors and the Holy Spirit will answer the Cambodia question – your girls were so themselves at church Sunday and I thought to me — child like faith. No question there dad would be ok !!!
    The only thing to remind us of Robert event are a bunch of pills on the counter — and some new food in our house 🙂

  35. Betsy

    Yeah, bawled like a baby reading this. Thanking God for how this went down. Eye-opening. I’m keeping you and Gabe and the girls in my prayers!

  36. ali

    It’s surreal to read and hear about it. It’s surreal to think about. It’s surreal to be praying about. I can’t even imagine how surreal it is to have lived this. We love you like crazy. And I cannot wait to see you and Gabe again. Be warned. I’m giving you both forever hugs. And I’m not a hugger.

  37. Sharon W

    Crying as I read this. Thanks for giving us details. As I was telling my husband what happened yesterday on the way to church I said, “Oh my word. And tomorrow is Marla’s birthday!” Glad you have two lives to celebrate today. Praying for wisdom on Cambodia.

  38. AJ

    God is good all the time… An all the time God is good.

    God knows your hearts for Cambodia and amazing things will be done for the kingdom of God through the Taviano’s. This is a chance for Him to be glorified through what just happened and what comes next! God bless the Taviano family!

  39. Jeanine

    Happy Birthday, Marla! Praying for you and yours today…thankful that God is with you and gives wisdom. Also thankful that you shared with such honesty about the 911 call. I wouldn’t have thought to call 911, but I will now if there’s any question when someone I love is in obvious distress!

  40. Sharon Meekins

    Dearest Marla, I love you and I’m praying without ceasing! Yes, God is so good. xoxo

    Happy, Happy Birthday, sweet friend!

  41. Karen Shock Crazy stuff. Praising God for Gabe’s life right now and for the stregnth that HE has given you and your family to walk through this! Praying that the God of HOPE will continue to fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him. Happy bithday sweet friend! Love you!

  42. Nichole

    Tears. They are streaming down my face as I think of what yesterday was like for you and for Gabe. I am so thankful for so many things about the whole situation- like you being in a place with other people when it happened, who were able to pray with you and support you and just be by your side- and to call an ambulance 🙂 And I am praising the Lord for Gabe’s life tonight. Happy Birthday dear friend- go give your hubby a hug 🙂

  43. Fiona

    Sorry to hear you’ve had such a scare but thank God for good medical care. Once again I am encouraged by you giving the glory to God and I pray for you all to lean on Him even more.

  44. Ruth Chowdhury

    Ow. Just wow. God is so good & gracious! We will be praying for healing, peace, wisdom, etc for you both. Praise God for all he has done and has yet to do with and through you!

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