As we travel on this dirt road we call life, we will encounter ruts, twists, turns, forks in the road, fallen trees, and countless other obstacles and choices which will shape the very fabric of your being. It is during these times, that we come to realize what is important.
It was another sleepless night. I tried my best to lay still so that I did not wake my wife who was lying next to me. Her deep breathing told me she was in a sound sleep and probably enjoying some strange adventure that came with her escape to dreamland. I almost envied her ability to crawl into bed and go to sleep within fifteen minutes of her head resting on her pillow. I, on the other hand, would lay for hours trying desperately to turn my mind off so that I could settle into a dreamless world of darkness for maybe two or three hours. Some nights, like this one, I knew that there was a good possibility that the sleep I so desperately craved was not going to come.
Carefully, I turned to face my wife and gathered my pillow under my head so that I could just look at her. The nightlight created just enough of a glow that her face seemed to shine in the darkness.
It reminded me of all the times we danced to the slow country ballads played by bands in the dimly lit clubs when we were dating and getting to know each other.
As we swayed to the music – her body pressed up against me – her arms draped softly around my neck – her eyes fixed on mine – a coy smile that made me just melt – I feel in love. And as we approach our thirty-ninth year together and I lay here looking at her in the darkness – I still experience the same flutter of my heart – the dryness in my mouth that prevents words from forming – the warmth deep within my soul that fills me with joy – and I fall in love all over again.
My mind begins to take a familiar journey. I see us planning and executing a wedding in just one week – moving into our first home together in Hawaii as she began life as a Marine’s wife – packing and unpacking as we moved from one duty station to the next over the years – finally retiring from the Marine Corps and fulfilling my promise to build her a retirement home in Georgia – making that last move and settling into life in the civilian world. In these many years together, there would be wonderful times of joy and laughter – there would be times when we would cry and lean on each other for support – there would be times when the silence and anger would threaten our happiness – there would be times when all we wanted to do was hold each other so that our love could fix everything wrong in the world.
I learned to hide my fear so that she would never know just how scared I was or at least that was the lie I kept telling myself.
But time, like many things in life, is a two-edged sword. The beautiful memories are also peppered with the realities of life. The peaceful look on her face as she sleeps hides the fear we experienced when we learned she would need open-heart surgery. From that moment on, it seemed we were spending more time at doctor appointments, more surgeries, more procedures, more tests, more nights praying by her hospital bed then I can count. I learned to hide my fear so that she would never know just how scared I was or at least that was the lie I kept telling myself.
So, tonight, as I watch the covers raise and lower with each breath she takes in her deep slumber, I will relive every moment – I will experience every emotion again and again – I will fight the urge to laugh out loud or to cry uncontrollably – and I will fall in love again. Because, what is important right now – what matters right now – what will enable me to function tomorrow without a single minute of sleep – is just one simple thing.
We are still together.