When you’re walking with someone you love, the destination isn’t what’s important. You could be in a far-off land, in a big city, on the college campus in your hometown, wandering the mall, or off for a hike in the woods—where you are isn’t the point. The point is you are in the company of someone you care about and enjoy spending time with. Different couples share different dynamics. Sometimes there’s a playful banter back and forth with lots of laughs. Sometimes there’s a comfortable quiet, walking in hand in hand, just sharing presence and understanding without even needing words. Sometimes there’s the necessity of everyday: planning things and passing along the crucial information.
Then there are the times for the deeper, more intense conversations, the times when people like myself might cry: because when I allow myself to be fully vulnerable that often comes with the territory. Those are the pivotal moments, the moments that make or break it. Will I be accepted? Will I be validated? Upon showing my true self will I still be loved and wanted? When the unsavory bits of me are on display, do you still choose me?
It takes a mature person who is unafraid of challenge, unafraid of commitment, unafraid of the truth that conflict will come to stick with it in these times. I had it in Chris. When his girlfriend of 3 months did the most violent, selfish act and wound up in a hospital post-suicide attempt, most teenage boyfriends would have been done. And who could have blamed him if he’d walked away? In fact, I tried to break up with him. It hurt me to see him love me when I was in such a state. Much as I wanted him in my life, it hurt me to keep him there, knowing what a train wreck I was and sensing the burden I was habitually laying at his feet.
His love for me was fierce. He continued to walk with me, staying with me even as depression and anxiety enveloped me. For years they tossed me back and forth but he continued to love me through it. He married me, eyes wide open, trusting the Lord to carry us through.
I still struggled even after we were married. When I would self-harm I was so ashamed and I would hide it (or try to) even from him. Then eventually, after a few days, I would break down and tell him. His response was generally the same. “I knew,” he would say. Next he would open his arms to hold me as I would begin to sob. Though it hurt him he never met me with judgment, only forgiveness. He also knew the self-harm was only the symptom of the bigger issue: the depression itself. Later once I was calm, he might talk to me about wanting me to get better—broach the topic of switching my meds (with my doctor), going to counseling, or something along those lines. Yet he knew to wait until a better time than in the raw moment.
In 2010 my depression was lifted. I experienced healing at a Bible study one night when Chris and a group of my friends put their hands on me and prayed. After 17 years of suffering, I experienced true freedom for the first time. The husband that had walked through so many seasons of “in sickness” with me finally got to experience “in health” with me. I was whole.
Hand in hand, heart to heart, we continued walking together. It never mattered much where we were, just that we were together. I wanted to see him happy. I wanted to support his dreams and see them come to fruition. I believed in him. He was a hard worker, a good friend, an amazing dada, and an imperfect but wonderful husband. I thought I had a lot more time to journey this life with him, but in 2014 our time was up. There are so many unexpected turns in the path are there not? For better or worse, I no longer have my traveling companion. My path is no longer shared with a handsome gentleman 2 inches taller than myself, sporting a reddish beard and a twinkle in his eye. I miss Chris, my love, my best friend, my traveling companion, but all is not lost. My path is still shared with one child for each of my hands, both of whom carry some of his DNA.
The joy is in the journey and in sharing it. I share it with Abbi and Aurora. And oh my friends, it is enough.