Today is my parents wedding anniversary. 57 years together, so far.
Today is also the anniversary of the day that Don Shepherd moved in with me, and packed up his life from Florida and left it to take a risk on a life with me, in New Jersey, just minutes outside NYC. He drove his Grand Prix Pontiac attached to a Penske truck and his cat Isabelle on his lap, trecking through snowstorms to get to me, and to begin our new adventure. It was Superbowl Sunday, and we watched the game surrounded by boxes of everything he owned, just an hour or so after he arrived and unpacked, with the help of our friends. My apartment was chaotic and there was STUFF everywhere you looked, and I had never felt more safe or more sure of anything. My apartment was now ours, and it was now a home.
Don and I would have 4 years and 9 months together before death would suddenly come knocking while I was asleep. The news that my life would be forever changed, and that Don’s had ended, would be the thing that jarred me awake into a new and unwanted reality. My world would never be the same, my heart altered forever. For the first few years of grieving, I focused a lot on how little time we had together, how we didn’t even get 5 years, how I will never know what its like to celebrate a 10 or 20 or 30 year anniversary. It hurt my heart that we just missed the 5 year mark, and that we didnt even get one full decade together. Something about not having a decade just felt all kinds of wrong.
Perspective is a funny thing. Not so much “HaHa” funny, but more like “hmmmmm” kind of funny. Almost 12 years after living in the aftermath of Don Shepherd’s sudden death, I still think it’s incredibly unfair that we only got 4 years and 9 months of marriage. I still grieve for all the life Don never got to live, all the things he wont see or do. But it’s different than how I felt about it all those years ago. I no longer focus on the “only 4 years” part so much. Instead of “we only got”, it’s more of a factual thing: “we were married 4 years and 9 months, and since then, his love and his death continue to affect my life, and our relationship continues to evolve into brand new things. He is with me still – not in the way I wanted or expected – but in some ways, our connection is even more profound in the years after his death. Every day, I continue to learn and grow and become, largely because I knew and loved him, and he loved me.”
We get what we get together, I guess. We cant control when one of us will die, and the other will be left behind to figure out life. Some couples, like my parents, get 57 years and counting. Some couples, like me and Don, get 4 years. Other couples I know got less than that. The impact of love is endless and goes on and on, whether it was 8 months , 8 years, or 48 years. Our hearts never forget, and the footprints of love linger on.
I have no idea how many years Nick and I will be honored with – we just celebrated our 2 year wedding anniversary last month. My great hope is that we have many more years together to keep living our adventure and to keep writing our love story. But the truth is – when one of us dies, our love story and our love does not. Our connection and our relationship will go on, and it will become something else. It will be something that neither of us can even imagine or know today – something that doesn’t yet exist, but will. It will be alive in our hearts and our memories and in all the many people who have been changed somehow by knowing us. And in those ways and more, our love story will never be finished, just as all of yours are not finished. In some ways, they are always just beginning, over and over again.