(photo by Joanna Samples/Jenn Fortune Photography 2012)
When you get married at 20, it’s easy to calculate how many years you’ve been married. Chris and I would be 30 having a ten year anniversary, 40 having our 20th, and so on. Our much-anticipated wedding day was June 10th, 2006. The night before was my last night sleeping in my parents’ home as a resident. I remember spending the latter part of that evening with Mom, Dad, Mike, and Laurel, laughing and reminiscing. When I dropped into bed, I could barely sleep. I was so excited and yet, at the same time, I could hardly believe the day was finally arriving. Three years of dating had come before this and we were thrilled beyond words.
(Wedding reception 2006– Picture Perfect Photography by Michlynn)
I woke up the next morning and we did all the busy wedding day prep. I remember just following the ceremony, I looked at Chris and said, “It doesn’t feel different yet. It doesn’t feel real.” He agreed that it had not quite hit him either. It clicked for us both when we made it to the bed and breakfast where we were staying for the night. It sank in even more as we got to our trailer the next day and began settling in.
It was a crazy feeling to be living with Chris, not at “home” with Mom and Dad. We were both so young and so immature. We struggled to financially make ends meet and we both had college educations to complete. For the first four years of our marriage, one or both of us was a student. We fought about spending, about work situations, about how we spent our leisure time, about having people over without consulting our spouse. I yelled a lot and I sometimes called names. That first year I even made the occasional comment about wishing I could move back in with my parents, but that I didn’t believe in divorcing him, so that wasn’t an option. He didn’t stoop that low, but that doesn’t mean he was perfect either. He struggled with making decisions without regard to my needs. I cried a lot with my anxiety and depression. I hadn’t realized how lonely it would feel moving from a household of five to a household of two. It was truly difficult for me to adjust to that.
When we were engaged at nineteen, there were people who tried to warn us against getting married so young. “You have no idea how hard it is to be married,” they said. They were right—we didn’t know. We did feel confident in our decision to wed and I can still say fifteen years later that we made the right choice. At year five and age 25, we really hit our stride. We had both done a lot of growing up and we were both out of school. We’d learned to communicate well, to anticipate the others’ needs, to be kind and respectful. We considered the feelings of the other person when making decisions. We were a team… We were in such a good place.
Our next three years of marriage, though not flawless, were fairly smooth. When there was an issue we talked it out in a calm manner. We were both happy in our careers and budgeted in such a way that money was not a point of contention.
Our marriage lasted until the traditional “til death do us part”. I have to say, I never expected it to come so soon. Eight years and two weeks was all the time we had as husband and wife. Sixteen months was all the time Abigale had her Dada and Aurora never really had him at all. To say it was a shock to my system to be burying him at 28 would be the biggest understatement in the world. Nobody signs up for that situation, that’s for sure.
On this Thursday, Chris and I would have celebrated fifteen years of marriage. I can hardly believe the way time has passed by. It doesn’t seem possible.
(10th wedding anniversary—Jenn Fortune photography)
I’m incredibly grateful for the blessings that have come my way since death took Chris from me. I am immensely, insanely grateful to the Lord of all creation who saw fit to bless this broken widow and her babies. That does not mean that a wedding anniversary comes without heartache. On those days and the days preceding, my body holds tension without my consent. I feel irritable and have trouble dealing with the smallest stressors. My body and mind keep score of all the hurt I’ve endured.
I miss him and I will until the day I die. He was my first love and the Dada of my babies. I thank God that I was his and he was mine. I thank God for the memories I have, for all the growth he did in me through my relationship with Chris. That man made me a better woman—less of a control freak, less uptight, quicker to laugh, more grace-filled. Someday we will meet again. Until then, I will keep on living here… making it the best I can with the help of my Savior.
(My 22nd birthday)