Today is your anniversary. Every September 2nd is a day to remember you now. Same as your birthday. And in my head, the day you came to me to tell me what my future would hold. Although every day is a day to remember you, these special days make me dig a little deeper and remember when you came to me, how you helped me know what to do, and when to do it. You got me here and I will forever be grateful.
When you got sick, I felt so bad for you. How unfair for such a good, kind person to get so sick a third time. And terminally sick. Even though we weren’t friends, I felt like I knew you through her social media. I felt like we would be friends if we ever met or lived near each other. All of your (and her) joys were our joys and your shared sorrows were our sorrows. You both opened your lives to those of us chosen for the sacred support group on facebook. We were there for both of you through all of it, but the tears cried into the universe the night we all found out you were terminal probably numbered in the thousands.
When you got sick, I worried about her. You two lived together, worked together, did everything together. It was a love unlike the shattered life I was trying to hold together. I did feel jealous sometimes, but I felt happy for both of you to have found each other. I lived vicariously through social media all those years. You had jobs you loved, a house you wanted for so long, and two beautiful cats. My life was scattered mess of deployments, no hobbies, the bullshit parts of having children, and two special needs children who were testing every ounce of patience I had. Your life looked so much better than mine. I was wrong.
You had so many struggles, the two of you. Both as a couple and as individuals. But you both wanted to be upbeat publicly and not share the struggles more than you shared the high points. You kept your family of origin’s abuse secret for so long, only sharing the things your terrible sister said to you a couple of times. I know it broke your heart to feel unsupported by your family. You were unappreciated and unloved in the way that you deserved. You truly needed her to ride through the darkness and take you away on her white horse, to a place where unconditional love lives and no one is judging you on your career, the things you enjoy, and most of all, your mistakes and missteps. No one deserves the treatment you were conditioned to tolerate.
As December 2019 went on, it became obvious that there was no way to beat back cancer, not even for a whole month. Treatments stopped, you went to hospice, and it turned into a waiting game. You were strong, but quickly overcome by aggressive cancer. You fought with everything you had, but the fighting became too much and you slipped away on Christmas Eve. My heart broke and I cried that night. I didn’t want you to go but I knew it was going to happen. I had to change my game and start thinking how to best support her and get her through the rough times.
At first I felt insecure. There were so many other people, closer friends, who were so much better at knowing what to say and actually saying it correctly. I was the person who kinda stared off in the distance or stared at the ground while trying to say the right thing. It was never easy for me to do that. I suck at sending cards and mail. My heart is always in the right place and I will buy the cards, write a nice message, and prepare them for mailing, but sending them seems to always escape my mind. I didn’t think I would be more than a peripheral friend to her, like I had been for many years. Someone to message sometimes, with questions about the middle east, or some advice from a smart person who wasn’t too close.
But you changed all that. The night before your service, you came to me in a dream. We were in a living room with furniture that I recognized. I think I remember the living room too, but I couldn’t place it in the dream and I still can’t now. The lighting was dark but bright around us. You were sitting in a recliner and I was on this ugly couch. We were listening to Queen and The Show Must Go On came on. I told you that I loved Queen and Freddie Mercury so much. You smiled and told me you knew. I said “Watch this, I can do this just like Freddie used to.” And then I got up and started singing just like Freddie, all over the top of course. We were both laughing and having fun with it. And then you stopped me and said this is the best part, my favorite part…”Whatever happens, I leave it all to chance.” Then we talked for a few minutes. We both seemed to know she was upstairs and that we were waiting for her to go to dinner. You said, “She does this sometimes. It takes her a minute to get ready but we won’t be late. We will always be on time. She’s just finishing up, don’t worry. Any minute now she will be ready.” I woke up immediately after you said that with my eyes wide open. It was real. We were really somewhere together, but where was that? It was familiar enough to be comfortable but not easily recognizable. And Freddie Mercury always grabs my attention. You must’ve known that. All I knew was that I needed to eventually tell her about the dream, but not that day. She had your service to attend, tons of people in town to be there for her…and you. It wasn’t a good day for me to tell her about the dream.
My chance to tell her would come Thursday of the following week. I was at work and she was home alone. Everyone left and she was relying on friends to keep her busy. But I saw her pop onto messenger, so I wrote up the dream and then she went offline. I wanted to make sure to send it when she was online so I could see when she saw it. I was going to be at work a little longer and I needed to know. I watched for a few minutes and when she came back online, I hit send. Then she saw it and started writing me back. We had a long talk about you and how she was doing. We talked about a bunch. It was nice talking to her.
That was January. We talked almost every day immediately. We talked about you, work, families, what we were doing, college days, everything you could think of. She cried to me about how much she was hurting and I cried right along with her. We never talked on the phone, just on messenger, so I could be my very best self when I had time to read and process before responding. That seems to be what my problem has always been with being awkward. It takes me a minute to get my thoughts together and messenger solved that.
As time went on, I fell in love with her. At first I wasn’t sure if I really was or if you were somehow making me feel your feelings. But I got to know her in a way I hadn’t before. We talked about our hopes and dreams, how much she hated this new life and missed you, and how I was living in hell. I didn’t give away too much, but enough for her to know that I wasn’t happy or doing very well. I learned so much about myself too. I started to trust that I wasn’t so awkward and I could learn to be less awkward. I also felt uplifted by her friendship so much that I knew I needed to keep my feelings to myself. I eventually understood that one day I would tell her when the time was right. And I would clearly understand that the time was right, because you would guide me in that.
Then she opened the door for me to tell her. Her feelings had grown the same way mine had. But you knew that. You knew that we would be perfect for each other when the time was right. That life had prepared me to be exactly what she needed and her life had prepared her to be what exactly what I needed. It was like a dream once we finally talked about our feelings. A very good dream, where I would be loved unconditionally in way I had never experienced. And she would be loved unconditionally in way that I was never able to give another person. We would take care of each other in the most perfect way.
I know a lot of people have trouble being in a relationship with a widow/widower. There seems to be some unattainable high bar that no living person can actually meet. But you have helped me to be exactly what she needs. Not better than you, not different in a better way, but exactly what she needs. You made her exactly what I need too. There is no competition between you and I because there never needs to be. You have your strengths and weaknesses and I have mine. Some might be close or similar, but some are completely different. You were very regimented and needed your routine. I need a loose outline to follow with room to have spontaneous fun. Both work and both can be amazing, but that’s just one way we aren’t the same. I don’t care what of yours stays up on the walls, that your ashes are very present in this house, that your cat loves me so much, that we celebrate your birthday with the kids, that the kids and I started making you birthday party hats, or that I get to have your treasured car. Without you, this epic love story does not exist. Without you, this version of ME does not exist. So no matter what life holds, you are a very welcome part of my life with no need for competition or jealousy. Your memory is most definitely a blessing.
Happy anniversary and thank you for being the one who helped me get to this part of my life. Without you and the dream…I would still be living in hell.