I’ve been looking back at old text messages Emily and I sent each other over the years. Some of them are quite hilarious and speak to the dark and often snarky sense of humor we shared. Many others have reminded me of just how much Emily and I cared for each other and what we had planned for our lives together. (Hint: It was a lot!)
However, one thing that kept standing out to me was the number of times one of us mentioned the word “forever.” We had no intention of ever leaving each other, and we both firmly believed our relationship was the real deal, worthy of a lifetime of love and laughter together. I never wanted to say goodbye to her, yet here I am, doing it nearly every single day (sometimes multiple times per day).
Our Relationship Was My “Happily Ever After”
Before Emily, my track record with dating was pretty terrible. My low self-esteem and the notion that I wasn’t “good enough” to deserve love often led me to less-than-healthy relationships. Now, that’s not to say there weren’t moments of happiness in those previous relationships or my marriage. Still, those flashes of joy were small and only lightly sprinkled into days mostly filled with fear, sadness, and verbal abuse.
When my now ex-husband served me with divorce papers in January 2020, I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to date again. It was clear to me that I just didn’t deserve love and happiness, and I was tired to dealing with trying to be perfect for someone else, only to have them constantly point out every single one of my flaws.
But with Emily, everything was different.
From that evening at Hooters to those last few hours we had together on Tuesday, October 18, she was a picture-perfect partner. Instead of yelling at me for everything I was doing wrong, she constantly pointed out the things I was doing right. Instead of telling me my dreams and ideas were stupid, she encouraged me to pursue them as much as I wanted. Instead of making fun of my appearance, she complimented me. And the list goes on and on.
I often told Emily (and other people who asked) that she was my “happily ever after.” Because, in many ways, I felt like she was my redemption. She was my prize at the end of a marathon filled with several horrible obstacles along the way. For the first time in my life, I was in a healthy, supportive relationship filled with mutual respect, adoration, and unconditional love.
Because of Emily, I was willing to risk my heart again and pledge to spend my life with someone. I felt safe, I felt loved, and I felt like I was at home. And, until last month, I thought that I would get to spend every day for the rest of my life enjoying this “happily ever after.”
Every Step Forward Is a Goodbye
For the past four weeks, I’ve felt like I am living in a nightmare. Every morning I wake up and remind myself that she’s no longer here. Every night, I cry. It’s become so hard to be awake and present that I am spending a lot of my time self-medicating just so I can make it through the day.
It’s hard because every step I take feels like I’m saying goodbye all over again. I spent several hours in that hospital room saying goodbye, yet when it was time to leave, I just wanted to curl up next to her and let them take me with her. During her funeral, I cried constantly because I knew this was another goodbye. At the graveside service, I lingered near her casket, wishing I could just get in the ground with her.
Every single day, I am forced to do another thing that feels like it’s saying goodbye all over again. I have canceled a few of her subscriptions. On All Saint’s Sunday, I rang a bell as her name was read during our church service. Last week, I finally went to the leasing office to remove her from the lease. Sunday afternoon, I drove her car to Cookeville and met her parents so they could figure out what they need to do to get rid of it.
Each of these tasks should be simple. But they’re not. They’re each a painful reminder that she’s gone… the love of my life is gone. It’s all so painful, so physically draining that I have little energy left to do much else. Joining her in death feels much easier than living life without her, and I can’t seem to shake that feeling.
I’d Rather Say “Hello”
Obviously, one of the hardest things about this loss has been saying goodbye. Emily was just 26 — it wasn’t time for her to go yet. And, given that I’m 9 years older than her, I always just assumed I’d be the one to go first. (Clearly, I shouldn’t have relied on my age and health to do me first.) So, instead of goodbye, I’d rather be saying, “Hello.”
I did get to experience this for a short amount of time two weekends ago when I went to visit her grave at the cemetery for a bit. In a way, I felt connected with her again, even if I was laying above the ground while her body is buried deep down there. Regardless, I talked to her, I watched television with her, and I just laid there silently, soaking in as much of her presence as I could.
I also keep wondering if I will ever get to say “hello” to her again. Is that something that is actually promised to us? Will I even be worthy of a place in Heaven? And even if I am, will Emily even want to see me? Is that something that is allowed? Will it feel the same?
I may never have the answers. I may never know the truth. So I guess I’m left to decide if I want to continue down the path I’m on and hope for the best, or if I should simply change course. Either way, the fact remains that I’m still here, I’m still alone, and I’m still missing my better half.