It has been 3 ½ years since my heart was shattered by my husband’s tragic death. I have fallen into a kind of life that was “fine.” Finally, after almost 4 years, my answers to everyone’s question of “How are you?” has some semblance of truth to it.
I was Fine. Not good. Not bad (at least on most days). Just Fine.
When my husband died, I accepted the fact that I would grow old alone. After all, with the love of my life gone, how could I possibly fall in love again?
While the loneliness could get unbearable at times, I still couldn’t imagine myself being with someone just to ease the pain of being alone, just to help me move on with my life. It wouldn’t be fair – not to me and most definitely, not to you.
“It’s better this way,” I used to rationalize, “less complications for the kids.” How unfair it would be for them if we fell in love and for things to not work out in the end.
I wouldn’t want to be the one to subject them to yet another loss – to allow them to get close to someone and, when things go wrong in the end, lose you, too.
That would be so heartbreaking for me – to see their young hearts get broken again, by losing another man in their lives.
For years, I consciously built a wall around myself – deliberately going straight home after work, avoiding meeting new people, ignoring friend requests from anyone I sensed could be a potential suitor.
I was desperately trying to protect my heart, to shield it from any possibility of pain, and in the process, from love and happiness too. But I was okay with that.
‘Fine’ was better than ‘heartbroken.’ Part of me did not want to risk getting hurt again. Because I really don’t think I can handle getting my heart broken again. I can’t… not anymore.
And for the past years, I thought I was doing a good job at keeping people at arm’s length. Because when they’re not close enough, they can’t hurt me.
But love, it seems, has a sneaky way of creeping up on me, of showing up when I least expect it.
Love found me the second time around when you walked “back” into my life. But really, you were never truly gone from my life. You have been a constant part of it for the past 25 years, a familiar voice, a friendly face, a comforting presence during the ups and downs of my life.
And here you are, my friend of many years, wanting to love me – just love me.
Your presence brought color to where, for a long time, there was only grey. Like a teenager, I’d catch myself smiling – even laughing again; the unmistakable twinkle in my eyes back after so many years of “fine.” Your love made me feel alive again.
And it scares me. The thought of falling in love terrifies me.
You see, falling in love again wasn’t part of the plan. And yet I find my heart longing for you, growing for you, making room for you.
How can I run away from something so beautiful, something so true? And yet the fear remains. At the back of my mind, it’s there, rearing its ugly horns, making me doubt what my heart already knows.
I want you to know that I’m terrified beyond wits, but I want to take a chance with you. I want to let go of my fears and run headlong into your arms.
I’m trying to let my guard down and I thought I’d let you know what’s inside my heart.
1. My life is a mess right now. Grief is messy. Moving forward is messy. Kids are messy. Change is messy. But it also means something spectacular is coming soon. I hope you stay long enough to witness spectacular unfold.
2. Please be patient. I spent years building walls around me. It may take time for me to let my guard down. You can, however, help me break down my walls. Show me that you are someone I can trust.
3. I might be needy. Please don’t get tired of showing me you love me every day. I am a nurturing and giving person, but sometimes, I also want to feel special and taken care of. A sweet text, a loving gaze, notes hidden in unexpected places, a tender hug, or a reassuring touch are enough to make me feel loved.
We may have started out as childhood friends and you might see me as one of the boys, but I would still like to be treated as a lady – open doors for me, give me flowers once in a while, and take me out on dates.
The way you treat me in the early days of our courtship is the treatment I will expect from you even after many years of being together.
4. My children will always be my priority. I’m the only one they have. They have been through what children their age should not have had to go through. They prayed for you, you know. Each night at bedtime, they ask God to give them a new dad. Please don’t break their fragile hearts.
5. There will always be that other guy. I need you to be secure about where you stand in my life. Though he will always hold a place in my heart, you are my now and my future. I am blessed to have found true love twice and to be loved by two amazing men in one lifetime.
6. I’m sorry you will be scrutinized by the people who love me. Everyone, including me, is holding you to a much higher standard than the one who came before you. I’m sorry. Please take it all in stride. They have seen how my world collapsed and they are just being protective of me and my kids. They are understandably wary of anyone who wants to be part of our lives.
7. My heart is still in the process of healing itself. No it’s not broken anymore – I wouldn’t make the decision to fall in love with you if it still is. I’m not asking you to mend my heart. I have done that for myself. It took many tears, heaps of faith, and the passage of time.
And though you can still see the cracks and tears, it is no longer shattered. But is in a fragile state of recovery. Please don’t give it any reason to break. Please don’t lie to me or cheat on me or, like the man who came before you, leave me.
8. If you have no plans of staying for the long haul, please don’t come in. I know it won’t be easy. I know there will be times when you will be frustrated with me. At some point, maybe one or both of us will want to give up.
I know there will be times when you will be tired of loving me and reassuring me and maybe even ask yourself if this is all worth it. But I also know that we will make it. I know it because I will give it my all, as I hope you will.
9. Because I know how fragile and how short life can be, expect me to love you fiercely. Time will come when I will no longer feel the need to hold back, when I can love you without fear or restraint.
Because I know how the person you love can be given and taken away in an instant, expect me to love you with all that I am. Because that’s the only way I know how to love.