AUSTIN (KXAN) — Craig Way is known to many people as “The Voice of the Longhorns.” He has been part of University of Texas sports for 30 seasons and does play by play for Texas baseball, basketball and football games.
In that time, he’s only missed one Texas football game. It was the day his wife, Laurie, died after a long battle with cancer.
“It was the hardest day of my life,” Way said of saying goodbye to his wife of 30 years. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
Craig and Laurie Way’s is a quiet love story that started back in college.
“Our first date was actually after I had to broadcast play by play of a high school basketball playoff game and she was kind of fascinated by what was going on at the campus radio station where I worked,” Craig said.
They married and had four children — two daughters and two sons — and moved to the Austin area in the 1990s.
“She was my best friend and she’d have to be a good friend to be as supportive of the crazy lifestyle that a broadcaster leads,” Craig said. “She would also keep me in my place if she thought she needed to keep me in my place and remind me of the things that were important in life meaning us, our family, our kids. She was an incredible mother and an incredible wife.”
Their life together included summer vacations on the North Carolina coast, football games, dance recitals, volunteer work and church.
And then came February 2011. Laurie was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.
“It was kind of shocking and scary at first,” Craig recalled. “We were told, it’s the most treatable, beatable kind and she went through 8 complete weeks of radiation and it seemed to knock it out and she was in remission for two years so we kind of went back to doing a lot of our routines.
But around the holidays at the end of 2013, Laurie knew something wasn’t right. She told Craig, but wanted to wait until the holidays were over before returning to the doctor. The next three years were the battle of her life, enduring chemotherapy while carrying out as regular an existence as possible.
In June 2016, the doctors told Craig and Laurie the chemotherapy wasn’t working and by October that year, Laurie’s feeding tube was no longer working either.
At Hospice Austin’s Christopher House, the Way family met Chaplain Diana Dwordin.
“They kept their eye on the ball,” Dwordin said. “And what I mean by that is we have a lot of people who show up to Christopher House in their own way and Laurie and Craig had a vision for what they wanted to accomplish. What was giving them a source of support was not only Laurie’s faith tradition, but also family.”
It wasn’t long before the Way family realized it would be hours, not days or weeks before Laurie was gone. On Friday, her four children were at her bedside. And on Saturday, when she took her last breath, her mother and her husband held her hands.
“Saying goodbye to a loved one or in this case, your wife of 30 years is a difficult thing to do but there is some resolution and closure there and they at Hospice Austin made that possible and made it easier to deal with that when some people are not fortunate enough to have that experience,” Craig said.
Craig Way recently returned to Christopher House for the first time since Laurie’s death last year. He thanked the staff and is using his well-known voice to help others navigate through end of life decisions.
“I’d had this really uncomfortable feeling about words like ‘hospice’ and ‘palliative’ because I would look at it like the end of the road,” Craig said. “In a world where we’re so goal oriented and dealing with the end goal in sight, we forget about the process. The process was the comfort. The process was her being at peace and in turn, making her family at peace.”
Craig says if people want to think of him as “the Voice of the Longhorns,” they should know his wife was the rock.
“She was the rock behind the voice. She was the key to anything that I’ve done that’s helped me succeed professionally because of what she did and that’s why I was very grateful to Hospice Austin and to Christopher House because that rock of my life was able to be comfortable and relaxed and able to rest down the stretch.”
About Hospice Austin
In 2016, Hospice Austin served 2,099 patients and their families and provided a total of 107,769 days of patient care.
The average daily census is 294.5 patients per day, 10 of those at Christopher House and 284 per day in home care. The average length of stay for patients in Hospice Austin’s care was 64 days. In 2016, Hospice Austin provided more than $2 million in charity and uncompensated care to patients with no source of funding.