Because Her Grace Was Abounding

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but Emily and I signed up for Disciple Bible study back in the fall. I remember that first week, as we debated between going to Disciple class or another option, Emily looked at me and said, “I’ve heard that Disciple classes are pretty intense… Are you sure you’re okay with this?” I nodded, and in we went with no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

As someone who grew up in the Catholic church, I’ve always considered myself to be fairly well versed in scripture. After all, the Lectionary is set up so that you read the entire Bible every three years (assuming you go to Mass every Sunday). I’ll be honest, though, this class has really made me look at everything in a very different way. And, in many ways, it’s made me question a lot of the beliefs I’ve held onto about Christianity and, even more so, myself.

This week, we discussed the Epistle to the Romans. Although I definitely had many thoughts and questions about the book as a whole, I really went down a rabbit hole in my mind when someone in class brought up the topic of grace. It’s a subject that, honestly, I’ve always struggled with, largely because much of modern Christian teachings specifically condemn multiple aspects of my identity as undeserving of God’s grace. And yet, as I drove home tonight and fought back tears, I could hear Emily’s voice clear as day, telling me to stop being so mean to myself… just like she did nearly every single day from 2018 to 2022.

She Showed Me Grace

Emily was one of the most kindhearted, giving people I’ve ever met. In fact, I often think of her when people ask for a definition or example of terms like abounding grace or altruism. She shared her gifts, her presence, and her love with others without hesitation and, oftentimes, without any consideration as to how it might affect her.

It always surprised me when I’d do something that I considered inconsiderate or harsh, and she’d still be there, ready to forgive me and accept me still. And, as I often told her, I didn’t understand how she did it because I felt so undeserving.

The Puppy Debate

There was that ridiculous puppy, Nova, that she fostered for a few days then decided to adopt. She was not only living in an apartment that didn’t allow pets, but she was working two jobs and enrolled in grad school. I watched this puppy for her a couple times, and I spent several nights talking to her on the phone or texting her as she struggled to deal with the dog because it was so young, untrained, and quite the handful.

Finally, I told her, “Emily, just take the damn dog back to the humane society and tell them that you just don’t have the time or space to deal with a puppy right now. It’s not that big of a deal.” She asked if I’d take the dog back for her, and I said, “No. I’ll drive you there, I’ll stand by you the whole time, but I will not do it for you. You are the one who adopted the dog, so you need to be the one to take it back. You’re an adult, and sometimes that means you have to do hard things.”

I know I was harsh. I know I made her cry. And, honestly, I spent the entire rest of that day feeling guilty about it and worrying if she was going to stop being my friend because of it. But, the next day, she reached out and thanked me for what I said and told me she didn’t think any less of me because of it. She never once yelled at me, told me I was a bad friend, or treated my any differently after that. (Oh, and she did take the dog back, too.)

Jealousy Over The Ex

Emily and I started dating about two weeks after she broke up with her ex. We didn’t plan it, and I definitely didn’t see it coming, but I definitely found myself floating on air that entire first week after that night at Hooters.

Then, on Friday night, she started texting me. She’d agreed to hang out with her ex and some mutual connections that evening. However, when she went to pick him up (he doesn’t drive), he had an entire suitcase with him because he decided they needed a “romantic weekend together.” And, because Emily hates confrontation even more than I do (and that’s saying something), she didn’t say no.

She was texting me to try to figure out what to do, but my emotions were all over the place. I stopped replying to her texts because I knew I was going to say something I’d regret, but then she started blowing up my phone because she interpreted my sudden silence as anger. I tried my best to explain to her that I was feeling jealous, hurt, and confused, but I wasn’t doing it well.

At one point, I told her I felt stupid for thinking that she’d actually be into me, and I’d rather her be honest than pretend to be into me. Of course, she responded by telling me that she definitely wanted to date me, but she was afraid of confrontation (which I already knew) and she didn’t want to hurt Julian’s feelings or give him a reason to lash out at her.

The entire time, she kept telling me that my feelings about the situation were valid and the last thing she wanted to do was hurt me. Looking back, I definitely didn’t handle the situation in a mature way, but she was still willing to love me anyway. And, ultimately, she did start setting some harsher boundaries with the ex — it just took a lot of time and effort.

Her Grace Knew No Limits

Obviously, those are very specific examples of me and Emily. However, I watched her show grace to countless other people, too.

She had this friend that, honestly, said some really harsh things to Emily at times. I remember multiple conversations with Emily crying over the things this friend had said about how Emily was “getting fat” and how she “wasn’t a good friend” because she was trying to get the friend to make recovery oriented decisions. And yet, it didn’t matter what Emily had going on in her life, anytime that friend needed help, Emily would drop everything and go. We once even had to turn our date night into sharing a fast food burger and fries outside the emergency room because the friend called her when she was on her way to meet me and needed medical attention.

The same ex I mentioned before? We once picked him up at 11:00pm and took him to the ER as well because his blood sugar was all sorts of out of whack and he called Emily because he didn’t have anyone else. After everything he had done to her (I’m eventually going to talk more about that), she looked at me that night and said, “I know he is a huge jerk, but he needs help and we can help him. Doesn’t everyone deserve that?”

Trying to Find My Emily-Like Grace

As I told people in my Disciple class tonight, I really feel like my job at this point is continuing Emily’s legacy. She never said that, but I feel like she made the world a better place, and I still want that for everyone.

But, like I said tonight: How do you show others grace when you yourself don’t feel deserving? And, even more so, are we supposed to offer abounding grace if we’re truly leaning into our call to be Christ-like?

I am going to talk to Emily about these things this weekend. And, even if I don’t get an answer, I know she’ll at least be willing to listen because she’s always been willing to do anything for me.

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Because She Loved a Good Bargain

Do you ever just have those days that instantly suck from the moment you wake up? Monday was that kind of day for me. The alarm brought my dream to an abrupt halt, which made me angry and sad because dream me was cuddled up in a hospital bed with a very much alive Emily while one of our friends kept watch on the door to the room (long story).

The kids grumbled, groaned, and yelled at me the entire time we got ready for school. A client’s blog broke. Kroger isn’t have several items from my Clicklist order in stock. You name it, it probably went wrong. So, I called it quits a little before 4:00, threw a piece of “magic chocolate” in my mouth (IYKYK), and went over to the battlefield park near my townhouse.

I spent over an hour at the battlefield mindfully walking along trail and sitting to read in the grass for a bit. The sun started to set, so I left, but I knew that my mental state at that point wouldn’t be safe at home alone. So I went to Bargain Hunt. And, of course, about 5 minutes into my time there, I started crying because I thought of Emily.

Shopping on a Budget

In case the posts about Costco and Target weren’t enough indications, I’ll just spell it out for you: Emily loved to shop. Didn’t matter if it was clothes, books, or home decor — she loved it all.

But, here’s the best part: She loved thrifting and bargain shopping just as much as anything else.

Over the years, I went on many adventures with Emily to stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Home Goods, and Bargain Hunt. We also frequently hit thrift stores, Goodwill, and McKays (I’ll probably do a whole other post about McKay’s because there’s a lot of history there). And, of course, I will never forget her love for Five Below.

Sometimes, she went into these stores purely to walk around. But, other times, she went into them with a mission, and that mission was to get whatever items she needed for as cheap as possible. In fact, I watched her price compare things on several occasions, because she was determined to get the best possible price for whatever item it was.

It’s funny, because I don’t think I would have ever guessed by looking at her that Emily was a serious bargain and thrift shopper. But, honestly, I’m pretty sure she knew about more of those stores than I did, which is fairly impressive.

My Favorite Thrifting Date

I’d say Emily and I ended up in some type of bargain store at least once a month. However, I very distinctly remember a day when we intentionally set out to have a thrifting date day, which meant we basically just hit every discount or used goods store in Murfreesboro.

We started at Plato’s Closet and each found a few clothing items there. Then we ran next door to Play & Trade to see if they had any good deals on used Switch games (they really didn’t). From there, we went to Uptown Cheapskate, where we found even more clothes for both of us. I especially liked this part of the day because Emily had several items to try on, so she did a mini fashion show for me (my rendition for her wasn’t nearly as attractive or fun). Then, we ran next door to… Bargain Hunt.

I think this date stands out in my mind to this day for several reasons. For starters, Emily is just incredibly fun to shop with. Also, we each picked out a couple of silly things for the other person to try on, and we both laughed out asses off. And, of course, it was a relatively cheap date, which was nice.

Yet, despite all of that, the best part for me was something that probably doesn’t make sense to anyone else, but it did to Emily. She was totally chill with my buying clothes from the “men’s” part of the store. In fact, she wasn’t even just chill about it — she literally encouraged me to buy things that I liked and made me happy, regardless of what part of the store they were in.

I already knew before that day, but seeing her so openly support me and say how good things looked on me just sealed the deal for me. It was clear that I’d finally found someone who saw, understood, accepted, and loved me just the way I am. And, I hope that day helped her see the very same thing, because I know how hard shopping for clothes could be for her.

An Aisle Full of Tears

It’s funny, as I look back on that thrifting date and many of our other shopping adventures, I don’t think anything overly significant ever happened at Bargain Hunt. But I think the emotions hit me hard yesterday because of the way our brains just associate things, and I’ll always associate stores like that with Emily.

After I finally moved on past the aisle I fell apart in, it was like I kept seeing signs of Emily throughout the rest of the store. There was several beach things and some camping gear. Then I found little decor items that were funny little plant signs: one had a pun that said, “You had me at aloe,” and one that was just a snake plant (which she claimed to be). There were even some damn Boosts in the grocery section… It was all things that made me continue to think of Emily.

My love of a good bargain probably won’t ever disappear. But, because Emily loved that type of shopping as well, I think my mind will always think of her when I step into any of those stores. But, hey, at least she won’t judge me for overspending if I’m buying stuff at a discount store?

Because She Could Spend Hours Inside Costco

This may sound ridiculous, but I took what I’d consider a small step forward today. I went to Costco for the first time since Emily died.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: What the heck does Costco have to do with anything? But, there’s a lot more to this warehouse store than you’d think. Or, maybe I’m overly sentimental… Who knows?

Costco Was Uncharted Territory

If you’ve lived in Murfreesboro for a while, then you know Costco is a fairly new addition to our city’s shopping options. In fact, the warehouse chain just opened the Murfreesboro location in July 2021, which was 3 months after Emily and I started dating.

As the opening date approached, Emily kept talking about how wonderful this was going to be. She’d talk about all of the incredible things she’d bought in bulk at the Nashville Costco, and how she was so glad she had a membership. Sometimes she sounded like a walking advertisement for the place, because she would just insert how we could “save so much” and “stock up on essentials” with a single trip every few months.

Meanwhile, I remained full of scepticism because I’d never been in a Costco before. It was uncharted territory for me, and I just didn’t see how anything could be that amazing. I’d been to Sam’s Club, and it was alright, but only if I needed 800 of something and was willing to deal with the ridiculous crowds. (Spoiler Alert: I hate crowds.)

But, just like with everything else in our relationship, Emily always wins. So, after it opened, we went to check out Costco.

A Magical Warehouse

I’ll be honest, my first encounter with Costco was a lot. I think we spent over two hours in the store, and I got to see every inch of the warehouse. Emily was determined to walk me through every single aisle (I later learned when we went to IKEA that this is just how Emily operates) and show me everything.

Like Sam’s Club, the store has a little bit of everything. Yet, in many ways, it had a wider selection of things, especially for those who follow specific types of diets. Certain sections had a lot more to offer, while there seemed to be less “junk” items available to buy. It was fascinating and overwhelming all at once.

And yet, it was one of those places where Emily seemed to shine.

If you’ve never watched a woman who doesn’t even clear 5′ tall push around a giant cart full to the brim of groceries, paper goods, and various household items, then you’re doing life wrong. It’s hilarious. And, honestly, I’m still not even sure how she did it besides to say magic played a part.

Costco Became Date Night

Over the course of the next year or so, Emily and I made several Costco adventures. And, because we essentially turned it into a date night, we often went when the kids were with their dad.

One time, we completely lost track of time and eventually were ushered to the front because they were trying to close. Another time, we sat in the massage chairs they had on display and spent 30 minutes testing them out and sending each other ridiculous text messages because we couldn’t talk to each other without yelling. Sometimes we’d even eat inside Costco because it was cheap and honestly not that bad.

It didn’t matter what made it to the checkout or how much we spent: we always had fun together inside the store.

We Always Went Back

I remember some of our favorite purchases, too. For example, they had this giant package of sliced cheese you could buy, and Emily made sure that ended up in the cart every single time we went. We’d buy spinach, almond milk, laundry detergent, nose spray, snacks and more. We loved the salmon patties as well as these prepared entrees of Indian food. Oh, and we fell in love with the Truly popsicles and had to get those each time.

So, every couple of months, we’d go to Costco together and stroll through the store together, laughing and filling the cart.

It Felt Strange to Go Without Her

I’ll be honest, I was a bit hesitant to go to Costco today. But I sucked it up and went because I desperately needed laundry detergent and a few other things. And, sure, it wasn’t nearly as fun without her, but it was helpful nonetheless.

Now that I’m back at home, reflecting on my day, I’m realizing that part of the journey we all go on in our grief is reclaiming places and activities after the loss. It’s not that we ever want to erase our person or want to “move on,” but rather that we have to figure out how to exist in the world without the person we loved.

When my grandmother died, I had to learn how to feel comfortable playing card games again because that had been such a huge part of our shared story. She taught me how to play almost every single card game I know, and it felt wrong to play these games without her.

With Emily, nearly every aspect of my life feels wrong when she’s not by my side. Yet, I only have two options: do the things anyway or stop living. And, deep down, I know that Emily would never want me to choose that second option.

So, yes, I’m sure it sounds silly for me to say, “Hey, guys, I did this huge thing today — I went to Costco!” But, because that was something I only did with Emily until now, it’s important for me to recognize the effort it took to step inside the door without her.

Because She Gives Me Strength

Over the past four months, I’ve done a lot of things that, quite frankly, I can’t fully explain. Some of these things, like drinking an entire bottle of rum in a single day, were 100% a form of pain management. Others, like agreeing to be in a fashion show (more on that later), are definitely no-brainer decisions I’ve made on the premise that Emily would want me to do them.

Honestly, I can’t quite explain where the strength or knowledge that compels me to do these things comes from. However, I know that it’s been happening from the moment I walked out of Vanderbilt just over four months ago. And, although most people may think I’m crazy for saying this, I’m choosing to believe it’s some form of Emily with a side of the Holy Spirit leading me along.

Of course, if you don’t believe me, maybe you will once I finish this little story that’s been on my mind today.

Words Are My Thing

When we started the planning process for Emily’s funeral, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But, when her mom asked me if I’d like to speak, I just felt something inside of me saying, “Do it.” I guess it’s probably the fact that words are my thing, and I knew deep down Emily would want me to write something.

So, I did. In fact, this is what I wrote (and read):

“Every great love story starts with an adorable narrative of how the couple met. Sometimes they’re high school sweethearts or have a budding college romance. Other times they meet in places like work, through mutual friends, or at church. 

Of course, if you know Emily, then you know how much she “loved” fitting into the mold. So, it’s only fitting that we met in a way much like any other couple… we met in group therapy in 2018.

If you ask me, I say that our meeting was serendipitous. I was instantly drawn to her warmth, her smile, and her energy. I could just tell that there was something about Emily that made her extraordinary, and I wanted to learn what exactly that spark was all about. If you ask Emily, she’d say that she really only sat next to me because I was ‘less weird than everyone else in the room.’ 

Despite these less-than-conventional beginnings, Emily and I quickly bonded like any couple who is destined to be together. We often laughed at each other’s snarky comments during our therapy group’s weekly meetings and checked in with each other when we sensed something was “off” with the other person. Over time, our conversations moved out of the therapy room into the parking lot, then to text messages and phone calls, dinner rendezvous, and trips to McKay’s together. She accompanied my children and me on vacations, we celebrated a pandemic Thanksgiving together over Zoom, and we regularly indulged in our favorite guilty pleasure — Grey’s Anatomy — from the comfort of my couch.

For me, every moment we spent together was magical and meaningful and far beyond anything I’d ever experienced with another person in my entire life. Yet, somehow, it took us until April 2021 and a day-long adventure of couch shopping together to finally admit what was on our hearts: we were in love.

In some ways, I think the wait was a lesson in patience and learning to ‘trust the process.’ Of course, this lesson was just one of the many things Emily taught me during our time together.

Throughout our friendship and romantic relationship, Emily taught me so many things that I’m not sure I can even list them all. But, I’m going to try and share a few with everyone who is gathered here today.

Emily taught me what true joy and passion looked like. Every time Emily danced, played her oboe, sang, or played the piano, she did so wholeheartedly. You could see the joy these creative outlets brought her, and it made watching or listening to her that much more impactful. 

But she didn’t just express that joy through creative arts — it showed through in even the most mundane tasks. She found ways to sprinkle joy into activities like cooking, caring for pets, working on grad school assignments… pretty much anything you can imagine, Emily found a way to make it joyful and exciting (except cleaning, but we’ll just forget that).

Emily showed me what strength, courage, and determination can really do. In the time I knew her, I watched Emily push through eating disorder recovery. She’d set goals and challenges for herself, and crush them time and time again. She would reach out for support when she needed it, eat meals even when she admitted she didn’t want to or heard her eating disorder telling her to do the opposite. She faced fear foods, bought clothes for her changing body, and broke habits that had become commonplace — all for the sake of her own future. 

Because I watched her do all of this, I had the strength to face my own demons and work on myself as well. I made it through some exceptionally tough times, processed traumas that I’d buried away and shared with no one, and broke out of my own unhealthy habits — all because Emily taught me that I could.

Emily also taught me the true essence of living authentically. Day in and day out, she made the choice to show up and be real. She wasn’t afraid to share her struggles with others and speak candidly about her life. I know this transparency helped her connect with so many people, like her friends from eating disorder treatment, fellow transplant recipients, and even the hundreds of clients she served through her jobs in peer support and crisis stabilization. She was willing to be real with people, and I learned how to be my true self in her presence.

Emily showed me what gratitude looked like, too. Even before she learned about her organ donor, she constantly shared how thankful she was for the precious gift of life she received from another person’s selfless act. After she learned about Victor, she looked for ways to thank him and memorialize him in every step of her journey. She included him on her graduation cap and she fervently shared his story. We’d even discussed ways to show our gratitude to Victor in our life going forward, both through a memorial table at our wedding and by naming the child we hoped to have together after him.

Emily taught me so much more about compassion than I ever knew was possible. No matter what people did or said to her, she still found a way to care about them and help them as much as she could. She would give anyone the shirt off her back or drive them halfway across the country if it would help them in some way. She never asked for anything in return, and she was never resentful or mean — she simply paid it forward to anyone who crossed her path.

Most of all, Emily showed me what true unconditional love looked and felt like. From our first kiss until just a few hours before she passed, Emily constantly let me know how much she cared about me with her words, and more importantly, her actions. It didn’t matter how tired she was or what I had or hadn’t done for her — she loved me completely, without hesitation. I had never experienced the type of love that Emily showed me, and I will carry every compliment, every hug, and every moment we spent together in my heart for the rest of my time on Earth.

As many of you know, I had just proposed to Emily a little less than a month ago. Although we had just started planning our wedding, I was looking forward to writing my vows and making countless promises to her as we started our lives together as a married couple. 

Unfortunately, most of those promises I would have made are now null and void since they required her to also be here on Earth with me. I’ll admit, I’m a little salty she went first, because that’s exactly what I told her not to do. But, I have decided that one of the ways I can keep Emily’s spirit alive is by making some slightly different promises to her today with all of you here as my witness.

So, Emily, even though the life we dreamed of together is going to look a bit different from here on out:

  • I promise you I will find ways to spread joy to others through music and my various spiritual gifts. I may even find a way to spread joy throughout all 50 states since I know you wanted us to visit them all together.
  • I promise I will continue to pay it forward to others by sharing my own recovery journey and helping those who are struggling. If I can, I will even find a way to make that treatment center we dreamed of opening together a reality.
  • I promise I will share Victor’s story and yours in any way I can. I will honor you both by being an organ donor myself and encouraging others to share the gift of life.
  • Finally, I promise you I will continue to live my life authentically and learn to love myself the way you loved me, unconditionally and without hesitation.

I know that, if you’re here today, Emily touched your life just like she touched mine. I also know that even though Emily has left this Earth, her story isn’t over because we all carry pieces of Emily with us in our memories and in our hearts. As long as we’re all willing to cling to those pieces of Emily that we each carry, find joy in simple moments, and live our lives wholeheartedly, Emily will always be here with us.

She Gave Me Strength

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine brought up the funeral. She talked about how she just remembered me making it through my entire speech, and then I just sat down and completely collapsed.

And she wasn’t wrong, I fell into the chair and just started sobbing. It’s like I was somehow protected from the weight of my emotions as I read, and then it all hit me at once as soon as I was done. And, given everything that’s happened to me since, I firmly believe that Emily was there with me that day, giving me the strength to pull through.

Looking back, I don’t even fully remember reading the speech. But I know I made it through.

It’s funny, because when Emily was alive, she was a major source of strength and determination for me, too.

For example, Emily was one of the first people I told about the divorce and many of the details behind it. As I spent several months in the trenches of negotiations and talks with lawyers, Emily was there. When I felt like giving up, she reminded me what I deserve. When I panicked about the future, Emily told me she knew I’d make it through. And when I was really bad, she sat and drank with me until I felt ready to take on the world again.

And it was exactly the same after the divorce was finalized and I decided to do some intense trauma work with my therapist. It was the same when I applied for jobs or took on a new freelance client. It was the same when other friends would completely knock me down. And, funny enough, it was the same when I agreed to ride a water slide that seemed absolutely terrifying. No matter what I faced, Emily gave me the strength to go for it and stand tall. She was my security blanket and the medal to give me courage all wrapped up in a cute, fun-size package. She was the one who helped me through everything.

She’s Still Giving Me Strength

I know that I should be getting over my loss and moving on with life, but I’ll be honest, it’s hard. I told someone the other day that these past 4 months have been harder than anything else I’ve faced in my life, and I meant it. Harder than the semester I got sent to alternative school, harder than the college semester I almost didn’t finish, harder than miscarriage, divorce, and everything else that’s ever happened to me.

Each morning I wake up and spend a solid five minutes convincing myself to get up. Then I have to fight the urge to vomit and cry as I start moving around. There’s usually at least one point where I cry, and I’m still sleeping on the couch.

But, somehow, I get dressed and get the kids ready for school. I get my work done, I prepare dinner, I get the kids ready for bed. I’m holding steady with my freelance work, I’m somehow keeping my head above water with the household chores. And, most importantly, I’m still alive, even though I’ve been incredibly close to trying to change that.

At the end of almost every day, as I lay on the couch curled up in one of Emily’s favorite blankets, I ask myself how I made it through another day. And, nearly every day, there’s only one explanation that comes to mind: her.

I don’t know why I’m still here, but I know that every breath I take is because of Emily. From the first day I met her, she gave me strength. And, I feel so lucky that she’s still giving me strength right now, because today hasn’t been a great day. I just hope that, someday when the time is right, she won’t have to give me strength anymore and can just give my a hug instead.

Because We Love Target

I only got four hours of sleep Monday night. Emily has been on my mind so much lately, and I can’t help but feel like she (and everyone really) is annoyed and disappointed with me. By the time the work day ended on Tuesday, I was in a headspace where I just really needed out of the house. I texted a few folks, but no one answered. So, I closed my eyes and thought, “Where would Emily go right now?”

And that’s how I ended up at Target.

I needed some pens and highlighters, so it seemed like the perfect option. Yet, as soon as I walked in the door and heard two people chatting in the One Spot, I felt the tears. I spent a while just wandering the aisles and reliving memories because, as the title says, we loved going to Target.

Target Is A Magical Place

I don’t know what it is about Target, but I swear just walking around in the store cures everyone. You don’t even have to buy anything, either. You can just walk through the aisles, point out interesting items, then leave hours later.

Over the years, Emily and I spent a lot of time in Target. Sometimes we’d go into the store with a specific mission in mind, while other times we’d just go for the serotonin boost only that red bullseye can provide.

Inevitably, we’d always leave with items we didn’t even know we needed. According to Emily, though, we did need the items. She’d always say, “Target always tells you what you need.” Which, in Emily speak, that meant we had to walk through every single section of the store every single time we went to Target, even if we only went in for something towards the front of the store, like a gift bag or pens.

A Target Date Night

Although I have many fond memories of Target, I think my absolute favorite experience was the time Emily and I planned a Target Date Night. We’d just started dating, and we were looking for something fun to do on a weeknight that wouldn’t require us to be out late. So, we went to the Super Target in Smyrna with this list, and told each other we’d meet back at the front of the store at a specific time.

Of course, we ran into each other several times during the shopping experience. We’d wave, blow each other a kiss, or say, “How many more do you need?” then part ways again. It was fairly hilarious, and felt like a game in many ways. Once we finished, we each checked out, then went to Emily’s apartment to share what we picked out for each other.

Among the most hilarious items were the mascara Emily bought for me as the thing she’d like me to try (I pretty much never wear any makeup), and the fact that I got both coffee and alcohol for her favorite drink. We also each picked out something pride-themed for each other, which was both comical and cute.

Goth Target

As I’ve mentioned before, Emily had a knack for planning trips. The trip we took to Chicago for my birthday in 2021 was no exception. But, of course, she found a way to work both Starbucks and Target into the trip.

If you haven’t heard about Goth Target, you should definitely look it up. Basically, it’s a Target in Downtown Chicago that has goth architecture. Inside, it’s a mostly normal Target (albeit multi-story). However, the exterior alone is enough reason to visit, because it’s really cool.

Anyway, we went into that Target just because, and still left with a ton of random things. Emily was excited about the abundance of winter weather gear, so she got a hat and some gloves. I’d realized when we arrived the night before that I’d forgotten to pack pajamas, so I grabbed those. We got snacks, a few other items, and wandered a bit before heading to the checkout.

Needless to say, I’m glad that was our last stop for the afternoon.

I’ll Listen to Target

Because of Emily, I’ve somewhat adopted the notion that Target tells you what you need. For example, I saw a snow globe in the store shortly after she died, and I just had to buy it. Sure, I didn’t need to spend money. And sure, it could have waited. But it was staring me in the face and I could just feel something inside of me saying, “Buy it!”

I’ll admit, it’s not easy to go into places that hold so many memories. However, I also know that I’ve remembered things related to Emily about pretty much every single store or restaurant I’ve thought about walking into since October 19, so I can’t let that stop me from enjoying Target.

But, because of Emily, I might start leaving the store with at least one impulsive buy every time I visit. I know she won’t mind.

Because She Was Always Cold

Some friends invited the kids and I over for dinner last night. After we ate, all four of the kids (my two + their two) ran upstairs to play. As my friends and I sat in their living room and chatted, one asked the other, “Will you sit on my feet? They’re cold.”

I immediately started laughing, which left my friends wondering what was so funny. I then explained that Emily would often say and do similar things because, no matter what the weather was or what she was wearing, Emily was cold most of the time.

She Owned Dozens of Cardigans

It didn’t matter if it was July or December. If Emily was indoors, she was probably cold. Because of this, she owned over a dozen cardigans in various colors and thicknesses. She usually kept at least one at work, at least one in her car, and the rest lived in various places.

Although she had so many, it never seemed to be enough. She’d frequently “forget” where she put them (they were usually just buried under the other junk in her car), and I’d go online and order her more. I often laughed at how many cardigans she had, but she’d just rebuttal with a statement about them being part of her “future therapist uniform” and move on.

Needless to say, I found at least a few of these cardigans in her car when I cleaned it out after her death.

Cuddles for Warmth

As most people know, I live in a larger body. While this sometimes frustrates me, Emily had dozens of reasons why she loved it. Among those reasons, one was the warmth I provided.

In the evenings, Emily would frequently cuddle up on the couch with a blanket, then proceed to either stick her cold feet somewhere on my body or scooch her entire self as close to me as possible. She’d always say, “You’re so warm!” and I’d laugh.

I remember at least a few occasions in the fall and winter when we’d be walking somewhere in Nashville at night and, of course, she’d be cold. I’d usually cuddle up close to her to either shield her from the wind or wrap her up in whatever jacket I was wearing and try my best to keep her nice and toasty. It may sound silly, but it actually made me happy that I could provide comfort and warmth for her in those moments.

Sometimes as we nestled into bed for the night, Emily would scoot close to me. Again, she’d say the same, “Oh, babe, you’re so warm!” and smile. The only time I hated this was when she’d stick her hands inside my shirt because they were so cold!

Emily The Clothing Thief

Obviously, there was a significant size difference between Emily and I. She wore clothes so small that she could share items with my oldest child, while I have to shop in the plus size section. Although this didn’t work to my advantage, it most certainly worked in Emily’s favor because she could simply steal my clothes if she wanted something baggy and warm.

She’d frequently use my t-shirts as night gowns in the warmer months. In the winter, she’d immediately snatch up a sweatshirt when I took it off to put on pajamas, and she’d often sleep in them at night. The few times I pointed out that I’d worn said sweatshirt the entire day, she’d say, “It’s soft and warm and smells like you — I love it!”

Again, probably sounds silly, but seeing her in my clothes always made me smile. Yes, they looked huge and silly on her, but I knew that it made her happy and it made my heart happy to see her so comfortable and content.

More Things About Her That I Miss

It’s funny, I don’t think I really thought much of all these silly little things as they happened. But now? These simple stories mean the world to me. They were things that you see play out in silly romantic comedies or comic strips about the realities of marriage. So, when you put that spin on it, I think they mean so much to me because it’s just more undeniable proof that our relationship was exactly what I’d always dreamed of finding.

Because Emily was always cold, I have many happy, hilarious memories of keeping her warm that put a smile on my face more times than I can count. But now that she’s gone, I miss these simple moments more than anything.

Because I Asked Her On A Date

Today was laundry day. However, my laundry days have been strange for the past two months because I’ve slowly been working in boxes of clothes that never got unpacked this summer into the loads. That may sound weird to wash things that were technically clean, but after spending several months in cardboard boxes, a lot of it just smelled funky.

As I pulled a load out of the dryer and started folding and sorting everything into the appropriate bin based on whose it is, I found a shirt that made me stop in my tracks: it was the shirt Emily wore on our first “official” date. (If you’re wondering why the heck official is in quotes, go back and read the Hooters story.)

I swear my memory is usually not great, but that shirt brought back every moment of that first date. So, as you can imagine, it only seemed fitting that I write about the date and share it with whoever is still reading these silly posts.

We Love Local Businesses and Good Causes

A couple of days after the Hooters night, Emily saw that Thistle Farms was having a Sip & Shop event on Friday, May 7. If you don’t know about Thistle Farms, it’s a Nashville-based nonprofit organization that helps women heal from prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. They provide housing, healthcare, counseling, and employment for women so they can overcome their past and become self-sufficient in the future. It’s an amazing cause, and it’s local, which means it’s exactly the type of thing Emily and I love to support.

Anyway, she texted me the link, and I instantly replied saying, “Can we go?! I love supporting Thistle Farms and I love spending time with you!” She agreed, and we both put it on our calendars as a date.

Each day for over a week, we texted and saw each other a couple of times. And nearly every time we texted and talked, one of us mentioned how excited we were for this date night.

A Hopeless Romantic Finally Gets The Girl of Her Dreams

To say that Emily was the girl of my dreams is a severe understatement. So, I knew I really wanted to sweep her off her feet. Also, I knew her last relationship had been pretty awful in terms of romance, and I wanted Emily to see what she really deserved.

Because she worked just minutes from Thistle Farms at the time, I told her I would just pick her up from work that day. I asked her what she was planning to wear and picked an outfit that I thought would compliment it and she would like. I stressed so much over small details like my hair because I wanted to look amazing for her.

Then, before I made the trek to Nashville to pick her up, I went to grab flowers. I decided I wanted to make it an unforgettable moment, so I opted for a single rose that I could greet her with as she walked out the door of her workplace.

When I arrived at her work, I texted her to let her know I was there. Then, I grabbed the rose, got out of my car, and waited for her to walk outside. As soon as I saw her, I smiled. I said hello, and extended the rose out to hand her.

I wish I had a picture of the way her face lit up in that moment, but I don’t. But I do have the memory in my head, and I hope I never forget it.

As we got to my car, I opened the door for her. She laughed and asked if I was going to be this ridiculously romantic all night, and I said, “Maybe?” We both laughed, and I started driving to Thistle Farms.

The Perfect Date for Us

As you can imagine, the entire date was amazing. First, we walked around the shop at Thistle Farms and chatted as we sampled items and smelled all the things. When they told us we’d get a free candle with our purchase as part of the event, I asked if we got to choose the scent because I knew lavender was a no-go for Emily (yay, trauma) and I didn’t want her to be stuck with that. Thankfully, they did have other scents.

Then, we got to enjoy some sweet treats and refreshing beverages in the cafe section. We sat and talked more, both of us smiling the entire time. It was one of those moments where time feels like it’s passing by so quickly, yet it also feels like the world is standing still because you’re so focused on the one thing in front of you (for me, it was her).

Eventually, our time was up, so we walked back to the car holding hands, trying to decide what to do next. We decided on a rooftop bar over in The Gulch because it was supposed to have decent food and drinks, plus we thought it would be nice to be out in the fresh air since it was a beautiful evening.

We had to park a couple blocks from the hotel/rooftop bar. As we walked, Emily mentioned her shoes weren’t the best for walking so much. I offered to carry her, but she declined. We finally reached our destination and got into the elevator to go up to the rooftop bar. As soon as the doors to the elevator closed, we kissed. We continued to kiss the entire way up. My heart skipped a beat, and again I felt like time was standing still.

When we reached the top, we got out and made our way to the outdoor seating. Someone was getting ready to start performing, and the waiter told us they were going to have live music all evening. We both looked at each other and said, “This is so cool!”

We ordered a few appetizers to share, and each got drinks. We listened to the music, talked, and just enjoyed each other’s company. At one point I asked her how she felt about our first official date, and she said, “It’s perfect. You’re perfect.” I don’t think I’d ever smiled that big in my life before.

Eventually, it was time to call it a night, and we made our way back to the elevator. Once again, we were the only two in the elevator, so… well, you get the idea.

As we drove back to get her car, I mentioned that I didn’t want the night to end. She said, “You know, it would be a lot easier in the morning if I was already in Murfreesboro since my brother is graduating…” and I jumped at the opportunity. We picked up her car at her work, followed each other to her apartment so she could get clothes and makeup, then went to my place.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. And yes, I guess you could say we leaned into the whole lesbian stereotype a bit. But honestly? I didn’t even care because I was having such an amazing time with her that night.

A Night I Never Want to Forget

Although we later decided to call the Hooters night our official dating anniversary, that first official date with Emily will always hold a special place in my heart. We actually went to another Sip & Shop event this year (it was right around our 1 year anniversary), and we definitely went on other dates that involved live music. It really set the stage for a lot.

But mostly, I just loved the way I felt that night. I loved seeing her so happy. I loved feeling that happy.

Because of Emily and that night, I rediscovered what it was like to feel happy and loved. And, no matter how many years pass, I will never forget the chemistry between us that night. It was pure magic.

Now, I take Emily a dozen roses every time I visit her grave. In a weird way, it’s my way of remembering our first date and reminding her that I will always love her. It’s not the same, but nothing ever will be.