We spent eleven years together, eleven years of love, eleven years with their ups and downs, eleven years figuring out life side by side. For eight of those years I was proud to be called by the name of “wife”, or more often, “Wifeling”. It hurts not to have him here. A worse tragedy than the death that separates us however, would be the tragedy of ceasing to honor that love, ceasing to remember all the things I learned from the time we had.
Getting married at twenty is like being thrown into the deep end of the swimming pool. You sink or you swim. Praise the Lord, we somehow figured out how to swim. Our marriage was full of opportunities for growth and learning. Here are a few of those things that stuck with me:
~I learned what it is to have one person who is truly a safe place; to be able to speak the truth you do not want to speak and to be met with gentle love. Even if I never have that again it was the most beautiful thing to have had.
~I learned: true intimacy is not the act of baring naked bodies. That’s easy for many people but the real thing can be much more difficult. True intimacy is the act of
baring souls, one to another. It’s honest communication of thoughts, feelings, ideas, hopes and dreams.
~I learned that I am worthy of love even at my lowest.
~I learned what it meant to have someone love me and to know, 100%, that it was his choice. He could have walked away from the train wreck that was (often) me a million times over but he kept choosing me anyway.
~I learned that it’s easier to do housework for those you love, especially when you feel appreciated. Sometimes Chris would spontaneously scrub the shower or sweep the floor just to serve me. He routinely kept up on dishes and bills. I did the laundry and much of the grocery shopping.
~I learned that Chris couldn’t hear my needs when I was yelling. The louder and the angrier my voice, the less he was able to hear a word I said. I learned that effective communication required me to be respectful and use a gentle
voice, same as I expected from him.
~I learned that I am a good forgiver and that I am happier when I choose that path.
~I learned that I am an excellent team member. I may not want to be the person in charge but I’m wonderful at pitching in and being a “second in command”.
~I learned that I have control issues (okay, confession, I knew that prior to Chris) but that it’s good to relax and let it go. Chris was way more type B personality to my type A personality and often had to deal with my crazy when things
didn’t go “according to plan” or we were running late, etc. He helped me become much more laid back and flexible than I used to be. This is especially useful now that I’m a mother.
~I learned that it’s good to get out of my comfort zone. Chris was big on making awkward comments for some laughs and as the girlfriend or wife sometimes it could get uncomfortable. One time he asked our waitress to be his second wife—we’re talking in addition to me. I was kind of horrified but thank God waitress had a sense of humor… so then I started laughing too.
~I learned that love requires sacrifice. Love meant leaving my parents’ comfortable home to live in a crappy trailer with my husband. It meant dealing with a constant roach problem that was no fault of our own. It meant settling for less than glamorous meals, but meals cooked with care and shared. It meant shivering under the covers together at night because the heat bill was more than the rent and even then, it was still somehow only 55˚F in our bedroom. Love meant taking turns on our education—we couldn’t afford to be full-time students simultaneously.
~I learned that love is about being each other’s biggest cheerleader. I learned that we were both at our best when we supported and encouraged one another. Verbal/written praise was one of the ways Chris felt most loved so I made a point to tell him how much I appreciated him—whether in random cards left on his pillow, Facebook posts, face to face, or verbally in front of others. The more loved and appreciated he felt, the more he was able to give his best—in all aspects of life—not just to me.
~I learned that love changes and expands as time goes on—as long as you are willing to cultivate it. (It does take work of course.) I loved Chris when I was 17 with all I could emotionally give at the time. However, that was a very
different love than I had for him at 22. It matured, grew, changed, and transformed. When I was 26 and we became parents I learned to love him in a completely new way I saw him come into his own as a wonderful daddy. Time continued to move forward. I loved him even more at 28, as he was walking with me those last months, carrying me through in
the wake of our miscarriage and my dad’s death. And yes, I love him still now—myself 31 and he never more than 28—and the love is different than it was when he was here with us. We cannot touch, see, or speak to one another but he is there in heaven; he exists. I have photos, letters, clothes,
evidences that he was here… and of course, most notably, our daughters whom I had the privilege of carrying in my womb and now to raise.
I do not know why the time I had with Chris was eleven years and not longer. I don’t know why I have to suffer this way, why my children have to grow up without their daddy…
Yet the time we had—I am grateful for that. Not everyone is so blessed to have such a great love in their lives for any amount of time, and I am acutely aware of that. I am grateful for the love we shared, the adventures we had, and for the little girls I’m raising. I’m grateful for all the things the Lord in His infinite mercy chose to teach me through my time with Chris.