When my husband was dying, the only thing he requested was that Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd be played at his graveside service. It was not the song I would’ve expected him to request. Jared was a huge, huge Led Zeppelin fan. I would’ve thought he would’ve requested one of their songs. But he told me that he was going to be free. Free from the pain. Free from the fear. And when he died, he was free. Free to fly with the angels to heaven.


The day of his funeral, our priest was stuck in traffic. So Freebird actually played multiple times. So many of those song lyrics, reverberate with me today. Anytime I hear that song, I immediately think of him. Always. And I think so does anyone who knew him.


The night he died, as he was dying, he looked for the heavens and he asked Carla do you see them? The angels are here. And I kissed his head and said fly home Lovebug, fly home with angels.  And I knew then that Freebird was the perfect song to send him home.


For the last 4.5 years, anytime I heard Freebird playing I would immediately think of Jared.  For the first 2+ years, I cried every time I heard that song. Every single time. And I still cry sometimes.  But usually when I hear Freebird now, I smile. Smile at the years of memories. Smile at the love. Smile at the thought of him flying in the heavens.  


And that’s what healing looks like.  Being able to smile at the memories. Feeling hopeful for the future.  Moving forward while holding love in your heart.


Jared’s death changed me.  In a way, I’m a freebird too.  For I must be traveling on, now.  Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see.  So many adventures to take. So many new memories to make.  So many lessons still to learn.


I want my son to remember his dad.  Remember all the joys we shared. All the adventures we took.  And I want him to be resilient. Able to fly despite the sorrow.  I want him to know his dad lived a lifetime in 37 years. Never let his disease stop him.


I often think if Jared could see us now.  And I’m some ways, I think he can. He would be proud of how we have lived in spite of our grief.  Or maybe because of it. He would think we were courageous at our most fearful times. He would think we were making the most of every day.  Living life to the fullest. That we are free. Free to say yes to adventure. Free to take the road less traveled. Free as a bird. To fly high and see all life has to offer.  


Jared’s death was the greatest sorrow I have ever felt.  And my healing did not happen overnight. It took years. And I’m still healing.  But one of the most important things I have learned is that I am as free as a bird.  And no one can tell me how to grieve. Or how to live.


Healing happens.  It takes time. But eventually, we can all be Freebirds.



Carla always knew she would be a widow but didn’t have any idea how it would actually feel. When Carla met her late husband Jared, he was waiting for a lung transplant due to Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic disease affecting the lungs and pancreas. So she knew that most likely someday she would say goodbye to her husband. But she never dreamt it would be exactly one week before their 14th wedding anniversary. In August 2014, Jared was diagnosed with a rare bacterial infection in his transplanted lung and was expected to survive at least 6 months if not a year. Instead, he died just 6 weeks later. And in the blink of an eye, Carla became a solo mom to their 10-year-old son. And even though her life was forever marked before and after, she was determined to live life to the fullest because her husband would expect no less.

She founded Breathing for Jared, a Foundation to provide college scholarships to those suffering from lung disease in honor of her late husband. Became a supporter of the CF Foundation and Donate Life. And discovered that writing out her emotions and fears on her blog Transplant Wife and Widow helped her to process her grief

Carla recently remarried and is now blending a family with her new husband, bonus daughter, and son.