I have a story that is near and dear to my heart, one that I really haven’t shared–other than with close friends and family. The reason for keeping it to myself? Honestly, I was afraid. I was terrified of what others would think of me. I was afraid that I would be judged for wanting to be happy again. I assumed that people would think that I must not have loved my husband enough, if I was willing to date and marry another man so quickly. Or that I must not have been truly broken hearted over his passing.
Over time I have come to find that while this sometimes is the case, the majority of people are happy to see me moving forward. And ultimately, I have come to accept the fact that, others may not always agree with my choices. But it really doesn’t matter. The only opinions that really count are mine and Gods. Besides, those who know me and love me really do want what is best for me.
And HE is what is best for me. So today I will share my favorite story. OUR story.
I met Ryan (seriously guys…how crazy is it that his name is RYAN!) a few months after my husband passed away. He was in my small town visiting his sister, who had just moved from Alaska to Pocatello.
I was going through the hardest time in my life. I wasn’t eating–unless you count chocolate and Cherry Coke as an occasional meal. I couldn’t sleep, unless I medicated myself, and even then I would stay awake reliving the days in the hospital until the early morning. I threw up often, had panic attacks almost daily, had lost close to 15 pounds in a couple of months…lets just say, I was a complete and utter mess.
I told Ryan right away that I wasn’t interested in dating. When I explained what I was going through, and he heard my story, he was understanding and sympathetic. He asked many questions about how the kids and I were coping, and offered to be a friend. I happily accepted.
Over the next few weeks, he became the person that I would talk to before going to bed. We would stay on the phone late into the night, until I could fall asleep. He would distract me, and I found myself smiling while he recounted stories of his travels and dates that had gone badly. I talked about my husband, my kids, and about my struggles as a single mom and a new widow.
After a month of texting and talking, he finally convinced me to hang out with him. I was adamant that we could not go do anything that even resembled a date. I gave him a verbal list of rules: he couldn’t pick me up, he couldn’t take me out to dinner, we couldn’t go to a movie, he couldn’t meet my kids, he wasn’t allowed to open my door, he couldn’t pay for anything… excessive I know. He agreed to all of my crazy demands, and we finally decided to get hot chocolate. At a Maverick gas station..because I had taken away pretty much every other option. I broke one of my rules however when I allowed him to pay the whole dollar that was owed for my drink.
He was in town for the entire weekend, and we had such a good time together that I eventually warmed up to the idea of sledding and Thai food. Both of which we did, but only as long as they were not considered dates.
And then he went home, and the guilt hit immediately.
I was still married. I still had a husband who I was very much in love with. I had been spending time alone with a single man. I felt as though I had been emotionally unfaithful to my RJ. And how could I even think of having FUN after what had happened. If anyone knew, they would think that I must not have loved my husband enough, or that I was already “over” his death…which of course could not be farther from the truth.
It took me a few days to convince myself that I had done nothing wrong. My loss was still very fresh, and my pain was oh so raw. And even then, I admitted our friendship to only a few of the people I was closest to.
As the months went on, we continued to talk. He really did become my best friend. He was there on my good days, but he also saw me at my very worst. He helped me through the days when my heart hurt more than I could bear. And when he could tell I was getting close to my breaking point, he would plan something fun to help distract me from the reality that was my life. He would fly out to visit me, or occasionally, would fly me to him. We went on so many fun adventures together! Hot springs, canoe trips, bonfires, snow shoeing, and Mexican food. We hiked through canyons, to the tops of mountains, and through Zion’s national park.
A part of me had died with my husband. But when I was with him, I felt new parts awaken…parts that I hadn’t even known existed. I felt alive again.
The first time I visited Ryan in Las Vegas, he asked if I would be willing to do something scary. I am terrified of heights, and he had planned a flying trapeze lesson. Although I agreed that I would do it, I was beyond nervous and stressed about it for days. I remember finally climbing up to the top of the ladder (which looks much less high in pictures than it actually was). My legs felt like rubber, my hands were shaking, and my heart was pounding out of my chest. I seriously considered climbing back down to safety. But something about taking that first leap was so appealing. I stepped off the ledge, and swung high above the ground. The fall was terrifying, and exhilarating all at the same time. Something about being with him made me feel brave. I felt capable and comfortable, and did something I never would have even tried doing at any other time in my life.
To be honest, I have been falling ever since. Although I didn’t admit that we were dating until almost five months after we began our friendship. Every step along the way has felt like a leap to me. A step into the unknown. Dating again was wonderful and hard.
I had to allow myself to feel vulnerable, and put myself in a position where I could have my heart broken again.
I had to dissect the feelings of guilt and self doubt that I felt every time I would say goodbye to him.
I had to come to the realization that things really do turn out well sometimes. My skeptical and damaged side couldn’t believe that things might actually work out.
I had to be ok with feeling happy again. It’s such a strange thing to admit, but true. I had to decide that I was allowed to find joy, even after the death of my spouse.
I had to accept the fact that I was in love with more than one person…a confusing thing for my brain to understand.
I had to deal with the unknown. I am sealed to my first husband, and I can’t be sealed again. This was something difficult for me to accept, but I have come to understand that God will have everything figured out in the end. We will be happy with the way things turn out in the eternities.
I had to learn to trust myself. After you lose a spouse, your emotions are all over the place, and I needed to know that what I was feeling was real, and that I was making rational decisions. Because they were HUGE decisions that I refused to get wrong.
I had to be willing to pray for answers to my questions, and then to act on them.
Thankfully Ryan is the most patient and unselfish person I have ever met. He never pushed me to move faster than I was ready to go. He made it clear that he was in love with me, and that he wasn’t going anywhere unless I asked him to leave. He was supportive and remained steady through all of my emotional breakdowns and fears. Loving him was the easiest thing I have ever done, although I doubted myself all along the way.
Thankfully his patience paid off! After eight months, I was ready for more. I was ready to take the ultimate leap of faith. I wanted to start a new chapter in my life, and I wanted it to be with him. Although it was difficult, I was ready to move my kids to a new home in a new state, to leave my friends and family, and to leave the life I had built with my first husband.
I was ready to be his wife.
We were engaged September 19, at the top a mountain, and were married November 11 in the desert. I feel so incredibly blessed to have Ryan in my life. I feel like God and my sweet RJ pushed us together, because he is exactly who my children and I need. He has picked up the broken pieces of my heart, and he loves me through and despite it all. I keep falling for him, again and again, and look forward to falling for the rest of forever.
“When you find yourself tipped over by the gusts of life; when you fall to the floor and shatter. There are those who will walk around your pieces, lest they cut themselves upon the scatter. But others will pick up your broken bits, they’ll cherish all they can gather. These are the ones to whom you must hold on forever–not those who forsook you–but the ones who glued you back together.” Shakieb Orgunwall