The following is from LIVESTRONG Leader and fundraising mentor Barb Simmons. Barb has shared her story with us a few times over the years. Today’s story comes from her own blog, Running Strong for Hope. Thanks Barb for your willingness to share your story and in turn helping others along the way. If you have lost a loved one and need support, please contact us. No one should have to face a difficult time like this alone.
“The crime of loving is forgetting.” ~ Maurice Chevalier
About 27 years ago, give or take a year or a few months, my closest college friends and I were contemplating our futures. It was agreed – unanimously I may add – that of the 5 of us, I would be the last to marry and would always be a fabulous aunt, but never a mother. Ironically, I was the first to marry and the first to have children…three no less!
Life certainly gives you surprises along the way (that would definitely explain why there is a rather large gap between by middle child and the youngest…Surprise!!). My dreams and aspirations when I was 19 and 20 years old are considerable different that the 46 year old version of me.
The first major change in my dreams and hopes? Unexpectedly meeting this really great guy at a fraternity party in the second semester of our senior year in college. This frat boy and I had both been in Ithaca, NY over the same period of time, but not until January 1988 did we cross paths…..and our paths stayed intertwined from that day forward.
There was never any question in my mind – although this boy did not work into my “plan” nor my friendly wager with my college girlfriends. No, this boy was a game changer – or more appropriately a life changer.
Tomorrow marks the 24th anniversary of my marriage to this frat boy.
24 years since our college friends – many of them that were present on that fateful evening in the basement bar of Lambda Chi Alpha – gathered to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter in both our lives. A chapter neither of us saw coming so quickly. But nonetheless, a chapter we were not going to run away from. I truly believe that every so often, someone will walk into your life that changes it forever.
Brian was this person to me.
I have no doubt that there have been others – friends I have made along the 46 years of my life, teachers, coaches, and quite possible complete strangers on a plane. Brian was different. He allowed me to unleash my inner-confidence. He never once doubted what I was able to achieve – although (and I’m sure this will surprise many of you), I was filled with doubts about myself.
Every moment from that first time we spoke (in which he told me they were out of beer…..really, who runs out of beer at a fraternity happy hour??), we never skipped a beat. It was always effortless – even when it shouldn’t have been.
Recently a very brave friend asked me a question that I suppose others would have been offended by. I’ll admit, I was for a moment until I realized that this person – as many others – really was just curious and trying to gain an understanding. It wasn’t meant to judge me or anyone else. I was asked at what point do widows “move on.” It wasn’t directed to me per say, it was really just a general question and since I was a widow, and I’m pretty much an open-book, and lets face it, an opinionated one to boot, it makes sense to ask me. My response was we all move on in a different time frame. There is no “exact” time and quite honestly, as I’ve mentioned before, grieving never truly is “over.”
Yes, I am still in love with Brian.
How do you stop loving someone that had such an influential impact on your life? As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I don’t know what it is like to be divorced, but I do know that those I’m friends with still go through a grieving period, yet often times there is no love lost in those relationships. The difference with a widow? Our relationship was ended for us by something completely out of our control. It didn’t end because either or both parties feel out of love or potentially realized they never were truly in love. Now, before I am criticized, I do recognize that some widows perhaps were in loveless marriages.
That was not the case with Brian and I. We were very much still in love when he passed away. Never in my mind – and I can only hope he felt the same way – did I ever doubt that I would live the rest of my life with him by my side.
Unfortunately, that was only true for Brian.
Yes, I have moved on. As a matter of fact I have loved again since Brian passed away. Ironically it is that relationship that put my life on hold….made me feel stuck….and caused me to struggle moving forward. It was that relationship that caused an internal struggle with moving forward because with the end of that relationship, I lost trust, lost faith, and sadly lost my sense of confidence.
I will always love Brian. I have no reason not to love Brian. We didn’t part ways angry and disillusioned with one another, didn’t disappoint one another, didn’t lose trust in one another, never made each other feel like an option and never ever stopped loving one another.
Brian is very much still a very important part of my life. We have three beautiful children that deserve to know their father and how much he loved them. As a matter of fact, it would be hard to forget Brian even if I never spoke of him again. One is the spitting image of Brian and all three exhibit behaviors of Brian, so every day I am constantly given subtle reminders of him.
I absolutely love that my life crossed paths with Brian that night….without him, I would be a completely different version of myself. I am so glad that night occurred when it did and that the bond between Brian and I was so strong so immediately. I am glad that both of us recognized that our meeting was worth derailing our hopes and dreams. Otherwise, I would not have enjoyed 15 fabulous loving years married to this frat boy. I’ll take those 15 years with him loving him over a lifetime without him. And I will never regret still loving him. No one, no experience, no bumps along the road of life will ever change my feelings for him.
Now, go hug someone special in your life and tell them how much you love them! And enjoy those unexpected surprises life tosses you!