To My Dearest Husband Duane,
I promise to be faithful, open, and steadfast in our daily journey together.
Each day I promise to work through our life challenges side by side with you until we reach the solution.
I promise to challenge you to become all that you are meant to be and to support you tenderly when disappointments come.
I promise to make our home a safe, nurturing place for you and our children and to continue to learn, adapt and grow so this is possible.
I promise to make our marriage a spiritually meaningful celebration of living and sharing by opening my soul to you, to God and to the miracle of creation.
Each day I promise to choose again to love, cherish and respect you as we journey together for all the days that God allows us.
We have not had our fairy tale have we honey? It has been so hard, so very hard, for us to find any space of happiness or peace. Sometimes I wonder how we have come so far down this road and work so hard and are still so stuck. I know that I am not always the perky, rah-rah girl you need and that I used to be. It’s hard to sustain 10 years of war, trauma, loss and battling bureaucracy. The reason I wanted to write to you though honey is that the constant questions in the back of your mind, “How much longer will she stay?” and “Why does she stay?” have almost become an expectation that I will abandon you. That expectation sometimes leads to much unhappiness between us when you withdraw, expecting the worst—a worst that others strongly suggest we explore and which my heart cannot conceive. So why do I stay and why do I love you?
Honey I remember you the way you really are. When I look at you I see the boy in my homeroom class or Ms. Lilienthal’s Pre-Algebra---shy, kind, very smart, idealistic, WONDERFUL. You were the first boy I ever gave a Valentine’s Day card too. I loved those lunch time talks while you worked on Mr. Dort’s computer and we talked about making the world a better place—about the army for you and teaching for me. I think, Mr. Dort knew he was hosting a lunch time date for a boy and a girl whose families would never have allowed them to date anybody. There were stars in my eyes for you then honey though you were too shy to look at them. I guess I always had regret that you left for the Army so quickly and I never got to say good-bye. I never forgot your birthday, ever, in the intervening 15 years.
We both tried to live our dreams, far from where we started and far from each other. Do you have any idea what a miracle it was to find each other again? I do and I guess it is the foundation of why I cherish you. We have both been told we were loved and then abandoned in cruelty. We know what it means to be the one who stands steadfast. Neither one of us is a ”leaver.” In the end though our dream, the dream on which our marriage was built, the dream of making a beautiful life for each other around the crater of hurts we have lived—well let’s just say it hasn’t really happened the way we hoped. I was thinking about this though and I realized Honey, it has happened though even when you didn’t realize it.
Each day as we struggle to hold on to your memories and health, as we scrounge to cover bills and food, in each of those days as we fight together to survive, we become stronger and more sure of the others love and steadfastness. Each time a baby is born into your hands or you hold my back as I do the work, there is the love that you question. When we team up to feed or teach or work with our children, each in our place, that is love. As we work so hard to make our babies well and help them overcome their special needs, there is love. Through each exhausted stressed out day that passes we have more certain knowledge that we will not back down, that we will not give up, and that we are there for each other. Each 16 hour work day is my gift of love. Each night when I poke you in the ribs to go check why another kid is up—that’s love. These may not seem like love but in the truest sense the fact, the very fact, that we are still here, still functioning, still beating the odds stacked against us is concrete proof of the depth of our love and friendship.
There is no one else who knows the exact agony of holding our beautiful, precious son Sam as he struggled and died.There is no one else who knows how we have struggled to and anguished over making the right choices and facing our demons of fear, anxiety and sadness. I fight for you and with you because, at the end of the day honey, there is no one I would rather be with or cuddle close to in the coldness of night, than the man I have loved since he was a boy.
Even if I was forced to start over and please hear this, IF I was FORCED to start over, my heart would always ache for you and would only be waiting until I could see you again. Nothing compares to the reality of being a couple who has shared the depths of pain, the glory of new life, the agony of illness, the adventure of the unknown, the torment of unfair emotional and physical torture from others and still rises from the ashes each day.
In the recent traumas when you have been away physically against your will or hospitalized or
psychologically and mentally gone because of TBI/PTSD, I have had to fight to hold onto the love that I feel. In the end, what I know is that we are not and must not be defined by these experiences. You are not defined by your financial status, your illnesses or your injuries and their symptoms. You are the man who set out to protect America, the man who can/does deny your every need for others, the most gentle person, who never wants to hurt anyone or make any mistakes. Your soul is still you. I see YOU. It is the “you” that I know and believe to be in you that I love. I don’t love lost, angry, PTSD man and I don’t for one minute believe that is you—that is just the symptom. I don’t love mixed up, I forgot man, who messes up (and I don’t hate him either by the way) and I definitely do not love angry, warrior man, raging at everything—I know these are symptoms in a person I love deeply. For me, this is where love and commitment and doing the right thing covers the distance. I believe that God gave you to me in answer to my prayers made so long ago. I believe he spared your life as you died four times so that you would be able to receive the children and I as His gift to you. I believe truly that God’s presence is in our marriage and that it perfects our love when we are short of covering the distance because of hurt, frustration, and sadness. I believe that there is a plan for us and that it does not include forever suffering. That belief lets me love you and keep trying with a fresh start every day
You don’t know this but I think of us as Tommy and Gina –Bon Jovi’s favorite couple. This is our life and as tough as we have to be to make it, at the core of my heart there is absolute love and acceptance of you. Yes, I am sometimes confused about how to meet your needs and our children’s special needs at the same time. I never ever stop loving you, wanting you in my life, desiring you and even celebrating the fact that you are alive. Of course no one wants to live in constant crisis and fear. That way of living needs to change right away. I believe that our love is stronger than TBI/PTSD, MKE and trichloroethylene, poly-trauma, loss, grief, and victimization. Our love and the wonderful family that we have grown in spite of all of that is our miracle.
Your smile, your efforts, your sacrifices, your positive energy is so important and so appreciated. It gets me through the darker days. It is the sunshine in our life. I live for you to show that real part of your nature. I am proud to be your wife--a warrior wife. I am proud that we stand tall and do not back down. I love that after all the beatings you do stand tall and that we have each others backs. That to me is real, abiding, and steadfast love.
So honey when you feel discouraged or very sure that I won’t love you forever, please remember this
note, read it again and remember that no matter what happens or where the twists and turns of fate
take us, deep down, hones,t and true, I love you and have always loved you and always will.
Impossible is not a word—at least not in our house—look together with me at faith, hope and love
because that is our TRUTH!
With All My Love,
This blog post is part of The Love Letter Campaign... a project started by FamilyOfaVet.com to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat. To share your love letter or find out more about the campaign, visit http://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.