Each year around Christmas time I put out a detailed newsletter of all the trips I’ve taken and adventures happened upon. This year I pondered whether or not I was even going to write a newsletter. In fact, when I first thought about the task I wasn’t. But today is fitting, and my year in review is being shared early. A year ago this week I was celebrating my 30th birthday. I never thought a year from this moment I would be saying goodbye to my best friend. At this point it would be easier with a death. Knowing you are abandoned by your best friend who is still living feels unbearable. But it was more than a friendship, he is my husband. At least until today.
I could write of my year in tears but instead I’ll tell you our love story – abreviated of course.
It was senior year in high school. I always assumed I’d wait until I was in college to date so I never acted interested in anyone, no matter what was said. I think Josh caught on to this early because all year he asked me to marry him, forget the dating. I got so many twisty tie rings that year. My answer was always “no” and I was in fact quite embarrassed he kept asking.
This was his first year at the school I had been to since kindergarten. He was funny enough… and quite distracting in class. So much so my A+ in Chemistry was soon a A-. Nothing happened all year, we both didn’t really know what we wanted out of life and were only together because our graduating class was as small as 12.
The summer of ’99 is when everything started. My best friend at the time wanted to hang out with Josh’s friend so I found myself with Josh, again, it just happened that way. That summer was one that they write songs about. Carefree and innocent. We became best friends. We worked the same job and were together pretty much all the time. Summer soon ended and we both started at the same college. He stopped asking me to marry him and started leaving notes on my car with paper roses he’d make from straws.
When I transferred to Clemson, over an hour away, he’d still come over several times a week to hang out. For those of you who are from the south you know we have roaches. It’s not something that can necessarily be controlled. I would always anticipate Josh to come visit me during the week so if I saw a bug I would put a cup over it and wait for Josh to “take care of it”. Sometimes there would be several cups waiting… One day Josh surprised me with roses… I was shocked. I didn’t have anything to put them in so I had to get creative.
One of my favorite trips and first international together was Ireland. This was just after 9-11. Soon after he told me he joined the Marines.
Before I graduated college he was gone. His parents were already a big part of my life and they came to my graduation, even though Josh was in training.
I wrote him every day for 6 months while he was in training. We couldn’t talk on the phone and didn’t have e-mail with the Marines. We fell in love through letters. We wouldn’t be together again for a full four years. He was overseas the entire time except for a week or two a year when he’d be on leave.
We did this at the mall just for fun…
Most of you think after his tour in Iraq we were married at Cypress Gardens in So. Carolina.
But the truth is we secretly eloped in Hawaii just before he left for Iraq. We picked out this spot.
The next day we were married. We didn’t have witnesses… so the guy in the speedo obliged us and signed as our witness. We were married by a Rev. Kermit, our other witness. 🙂 No professional photographer… no wedding dress… no rings. We used leis for our rings. Josh, being the sentimental one, saved them. They are preserved in a frame. Josh was the first guy I’d ever kissed, the only guy I’ve ever kissed, my one and only for everything.
We were together a week then he was gone again and we wouldn’t see each other for an entire year. That’s when we were married for our family in Charleston. It wasn’t until January of 2007 that he came home for good. He wasn’t the same though. It wasn’t the Josh in the letters or the boy that I knew from college. War had changed him. I tried to ignore it because I knew he wouldn’t want to talk to me. I couldn’t understand. It was hard but I learned to love the new Josh. He was always nice to me. I was nice to him. We never fought… we had no reasons to… but he was struggling within himself and couldn’t share with me.
This is where our story ends… and theirs begins.
I can’t put into words the emotions I have had and continue to face. I also can’t thank all of my friends and family that have supported me enough. You hear of so many that go though this same situation but it doesn’t hit home. I have learned to have so much empathy for others through this. Most of us stay within our own world and don’t see others hurting. I know my situation is not unique. I know there are others with bigger burdens than mine all around me. Sometimes when we are uncertain of what to say or do we tend to avoid people and situations. Truth is they don’t need you to do or say anything of epic proportion. They just need to know you care. I have had so many of you care for me over the last few months. Thank you.
I celebrated my birthday this week. I’ll break tradition and tell you what my birthday wish has been for the last decade. My wish each year was that I would always be loved by him. This may seem like a silly wish when you are married and feel happy in your marriage. But that was the one thing that put a smile on my face in the morning whether I was home or in a hotel while traveling. I knew I was loved. That was the one thing that gave me strength to give life my all and take on so many obligations, I felt loved. I felt unconditionally loved no matter what. This year I couldn’t wish to be loved by Josh. I love him so much I’m letting him go. I wish him joy, peace, and happiness. I wish you would all pray the same.