Today [June 18] would have been our ninth wedding anniversary. I had to look up the theme for year nine. Turns out it’s willow, which is like wicker. I guess we could have gotten each other wicker baskets? Seems kind of silly to me. Probably would have to you, too. We never did stick that closely to the traditional themes anyway. Except on our fifth anniversary when you were clever and bought me a little statue of Jesus carved out of wood from Jerusalem. Now that was cool! I don’t know what I would have gotten you today. Given the year I’ve had, I’d give you anything if you were still here with me.
It’s hard to believe we got married nine years ago. Seems like only yesterday. I have so many memories from that weekend, like when you and your bridesmaids crashed my bachelor party and we all played a “guys vs. girls” game of “Scene It” that lasted for hours. Or after the ceremony when our wedding pictures took an hour and we were so exhausted by the time we got to the reception that we just wanted to leave for our honeymoon. And then there was that first night in Tennessee when I got turned around at night on the highway and we ended up crossing the border back into North Carolina. Those memories are so special because we lived them together. It was just the two of us, forging a new life for ourselves. But those days also seem so far away in the midst of my present reality.
So much has happened since you’ve been gone. Elizabeth started and finished Kindergarten. Can you believe that? She turned five and six in the last fifteen months. She’s growing up so fast. She wasn’t the least bit scared on her first day of school. I dropped her off at the front of the building and watched her walk herself right in. I had this crazy idea that I would hold her hand, walk her to class, kiss her goodbye, watch her put down her backpack and move toward her desk, only to see her spin around with a smile and run back to give me the biggest hug. But that didn’t happen. What did happen was me sobbing so much as I pulled away from the school that I could barely see the road ahead of me. God got me through it, though, and I am grateful for that. I guess I’d just always thought we’d go through that experience together.
Ian started and finished wearing a helmet to correct a flat spot on the back of his head. He wore that thing for twenty-three hours a day, every day from November to April, and he was the cutest little football player you’d ever seen. He still isn’t walking, even at fifteen months, but he crawls faster than a speeding bullet–and sometimes the smell from his diaper is more powerful than a locomotive. He’s turning into such a handsome boy, too. So cute, and so sweet. Sometimes I wonder if he ever thinks about you. Does he wonder where you are? Does he wonder if you’re coming back? What sort of questions will he ask me when he gets older? Will he be angry or upset that he doesn’t have a mom like all the other kids? Elizabeth’s already felt that way, so I wonder if he will, too. All I can do is trust in God to provide for their needs. It’s all you and I would be doing if you were still here. Every night when I put Elizabeth and Ian to bed, I pray that God will send people into their lives to teach them about Jesus and fill in the gaps where I fall woefully short. And you know what? God hears my prayer and continues to answer it. Our kids get so much love from so many people. There are hundreds of individuals who love and care for our children, Kristen. I haven’t even met some of them, but they pray for us, and they encourage us where they are. I’m just amazed, so amazed, by the outpouring of love. God is good!
For as long as I live, Kristen, I will always love you, and I will always miss you. We were made for each other, and I couldn’t have asked for a better wife or a better friend. You made me better in so many ways. It’s because of your grace, patience, and perseverance that I became a better person, a better husband, a better father, and a better friend. I know our marriage wasn’t always easy, that there were some difficult seasons, and I wasn’t always very good to you. I was quite selfish and insensitive in the beginning, a twenty-two-year-old boy who devoted more time and energy to school, sports, and video games than he did to you. I didn’t realize how much work it takes to build a strong and thriving marriage. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but that’s why I’m so grateful to you. You never gave up on me. You taught me how to be kind and generous and nurturing. And most important of all, you taught me how to love. So I just want to say thank you, Kristen. Thank you for your unconditional love.
I get to see you sometimes in my dreams. You’re always smiling, always happy. So content and overjoyed, it’s like you don’t have a care in the world. I wish I could be there with you, My Love, but I can’t. Not yet, anyway. God still has something left for me to do here. I don’t know exactly what that is, but until He says otherwise, I’m going to press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. And I’m going to make you so proud, Kristen. So very proud, indeed.
With all my love,