Holding on to the Good

I'll be really honest with you. I have been dreading today for weeks. Every time I thought of February 15th, I would shove the idea away to avoid the pain. I have contemplated on whether to even acknowledge the day at all. But, now that I sit here at my laptop, I realize that not acknowledging it would be more painful. Today would have been my ninth wedding anniversary to Eric.

I knew for months that today would be one of the harder ones to go through in this dreaded "first year" of being without him. You see, we have never been apart before on February 15th. Even when he was deployed to Iraq, he scheduled his two week leave to coincide with our anniversary. I cannot tell you how hollow I feel today, how much I ache, how much I want him here with me.

But in spite of the grief, there is an element of goodness in it all. There is always good, isn't there? Nine years ago we started a journey that resulted in three beautiful children that are worth celebrating the moment. There were so many good memories made over the years and I find myself clinging to them in order to get through the tough days like this.

I've blogged before about our wedding and I think it's appropriate to re-post a lot of it here today. It's a long one, but it's our story.

[Written in 2010] Seven years ago, my husband and I started our journey of being husband and wife. But it definitely wasn’t your typical “wedding.” So, maybe you should hear the whole story.

My husband and I met through mutual friends in August of 2002 and began a whirlwind courtship in October. By New Year’s Eve, we were engaged and we were planning on a fall wedding in 2003. But my husband was in the United States Army Reserves at the time and with everything brewing in Iraq, we both knew that a deployment could happen at anytime.

So, on February 9th of 2003, I was visiting Eric at his dad’s house (we lived 2 1/2 hours apart at the time) when a phone call came in for my husband: Get ready to go to Minnesota. You’re getting activated for deployment.

Thus began a rather hectic week for us. I drove my husband to the airport the next morning (Monday) and tearfully kissed him goodbye. On the way to the airport, we made a huge decision: Let’s get married this week. (My note: My husband says we decided all of this while he was in Minnesota, but I remember it differently.)

I drove back home where my amazing parents helped me plan a wedding. We decided to keep it small and invite our closest friends and a few members of our family. We planned to get married in my parents’ living room and have a small reception dinner at Burgundy’s, a restaurant I used to work at in college in my hometown. The date (through some discussions with family) was set for February 15.

My husband was in Minnesota from Monday until Wednesday and he told me later that they kept changing the dates of his deployment (at one point, he was supposed to leave February 13) but he never told me of all the changes so I wouldn’t panic (good move).

On Tuesday, I bought my wedding dress: a white prom dress and sheer white jacket that cost a total of $35. We invited our friends and family to attend if they could. Also on Tuesday, I made the second phone call to my best friend from high school and left her another message asking her to call me back and let me know if she could be my maid of honor.

On Wednesday, I picked up my husband from the airport in Cleveland and on Thursday, we headed back to Lima to get our marriage license (which had to be expedited due to the unusual circumstances). We had a talk with a Justice of the Peace (who was actually one of my neighbors growing up) and he agreed to come to my parents’ house on Saturday. Thursday night, my husband headed back to the Cleveland area and my mom and I finished arranging things for the wedding (we got a tiered cake, bought a guest book and I picked up my husband’s wedding ring). After making a third call to my best friend from high school, I called my best friend from college and asked her if she would be willing to be my maid of honor. She said yes.

“What should I wear” she asked.

“Whatever you want,” I replied.

“So a blue flower print dress and combat boots is fine?”

“Sure, why not,” I said.

“And it doesn’t matter that I have pink hair?”

“Nope, no problem.”

So, that was taken care of, or so I thought.

Friday came and everything was still getting finalized. My husband had a bachelor party of sorts at Dave & Buster’s (if you’ve never heard of it, it’s kind of like a high-class Chuck E Cheese for adults) and I spent time with family at home. Yet another thing had taken my attention: a blizzard of sorts was brewing over the Buckeye state. And about half of our guests were from the Cleveland area. So now I had to have a backup for a maid of honor. I chose a mutual friend to both me and my husband, AJ, just in case Lindsay couldn’t make it.

Saturday morning and it’s time to get ready. My wonderful friend Adrian did my hair and my veil was the veil I wore in second grade for my First Communion, handmade by my dear Aunt Bea. The storm was still brewing and Lindsay had called to say she was on the road, but that things were going slow. Did we have our back up ready?

Yes, we have a backup.

Except, about 25 minutes later, I got a call saying AJ wouldn’t be able to attend. Her daughter was ill and they were hesitant to get on the road.

So, now I needed a backup to my backup. I chose my soon-to-be-sister-in-law Amy to stand in if necessary.

But, Lindsay showed up at my house about an hour later. And she wasn’t joking when she said she had pink hair. She still looked beautiful and I was grateful that she had made the trip. I finished getting ready and soon after, my husband arrived with his best man. (Yes, I peeked out the window. I don’t believe in superstitions.)

The ceremony was beautiful. My mom did an amazing job turning a living room into a wedding chapel of sorts. The ceremony was short and soon it was official: I was a wife.

Fast forward a couple of days and my husband dropped me off at my parents’ house and headed home (we didn’t live together nor did we have enough to get a place together). We lived apart from each other for nearly six months until Eric went active in the army and we moved to Upstate New York (but that’s for a whole other post).

For a while afterward, I kept thinking that we would have another wedding. A big, traditional wedding with lots of friends and family and dancing and all the fanfare that comes with it. But later I thought “Why?”

Our wedding was simple and yes, a little rushed.

Our wedding was non-traditional and intimate.

Our wedding wasn’t full of pomp and circumstance or fanfare.

But our wedding was perfect for us. And a wedding should be about the bride and groom. So it suited us perfectly.

So I cling to memories like this to get me through the next 24 hours and the other tough 24 hours that will no doubt come down the road. I think of going to Ireland with him, of seeing the Packers play the Bears at Lambeau Field, of the births of our two older children and the look on his face when he met them. I think of watching him walking through a field of daylilies and the look on his face when he was listening to music that he loved. I think of these things and I feel him near me. And I need to feel that. I miss so much about him that I can barely express it all. But today is not the day to try. Today is a day to remember that I got to share so much with him and that I'm grateful for it all, the good and the bad, the ordinary and the life changing. It made us who we were.

So Happy Anniversary baby. I'll hug the kids for you today.