39: The Box

39: The Box

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

The Box

Fate laughs at probabilities.

~Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton

I’m not sure how long I sat there staring at the e-mail. It may have been a minute, it may have been an hour. It was a short message—only three sentences, fewer than fifty words, but I knew it would change everything for me. I was suddenly hearing a voice that had been silent in my life for seventeen years. Until now. Somehow, I had my Amy back.

Even after nearly two decades apart, I could hear her laugh, smell her hair, feel her presence. As the shock and surprise eventually yielded enough to allow rational thinking, the words and wisdom of my late father inexplicably came to mind — sometimes things don’t turn out the way you plan.

For the last year my life had been changing at lightning speed. An unexpected phone call on an ordinary Friday led to the abrupt end of my twelve-year marriage. This was merely the opening act of weeks of pain, frustration, and arguments. Children, family, and friends were notified, and I found myself packing for the move that would usher in the rest of my life, whatever it held. That’s when I found the box.

It was a square cardboard box, which had apparently been pushed to the back of my now-empty closet. I opened it to discover remnants of my childhood and college days—old awards and certificates, cards, letters, photos, and a small ring.

The ring. I held it in my hand and stared at it for several minutes. It was familiar, but why? Finally, a long-closed door in my memory opened, and I remembered. I gasped out loud—not an exclamation, but a name—“Amy.” Yes, the ring belonged to Amy.

I suppose nearly everyone has a memory of “the one that got away,” and Amy was mine. After meeting in junior high, we became best friends in high school, spending our days and nights talking about life and fate. A few years later, we decided to risk the friendship for a chance at love, and we began dating. By college, we were engaged, with a wedding and a lifetime of happiness within reach. But fate had different plans, and we eventually parted ways. As Dad always said, sometimes things just don’t turn out the way you plan.

I continued to stare at the ring and reveled in the unexpected trip down memory lane. As I began to repack the contents of the box, I realized I couldn’t simply pack the ring away. It belonged to Amy and I needed to return it to her. I had not heard anything about her for years, but the last information I had put her thousands of miles away — and married. Suspecting that the re-emergence of a former fiancé after so many years might be disruptive, I reached out to a mutual friend to ask if I could simply mail her the ring and let her handle getting it back to Amy. So I e-mailed the friend to get her address, and briefly explained my circumstances. She immediately replied, and assured me that I could contact Amy without disrupting her life.

And that’s when it happened. In a blink of an eye, I had my best friend back.

A brief e-mail led to another, then another. Within a day, pages of e-mails were exchanged, as we caught up on our seventeen years apart. I learned that Amy was also going through a divorce, having just filed the paperwork a few days before. I learned that we were both in the same line of work. I learned that she was living about 2,000 miles away from me, but ironically, she was minutes away from a town I’d be visiting in a few weeks. I learned about the winding path her life had taken over the years. I learned I was still in love with her.

E-mails gave way to texts, which turned to daily phone calls, leading to a surreal reunion a few weeks later. I don’t remember much of the conversation from that night. I remember laughing. I remember trying to keep my heart from bursting out of my chest. I remember feeling at home again.

Over the following weeks and months, we marveled at the miraculous timing of all of it. How could both of us, with zero contact for almost two decades, come back together as we did? How could we be going through simultaneous divorces after we’d each been married for more than a decade? What were the chances of finding the box at that precise moment in time, along with the ring, forgotten dreams, and a mutual friend to connect the final missing piece?

A little while later, I found myself at a secret lunch with Amy’s parents. For the second time, I asked for their permission to marry their only daughter. For the second time, they agreed. As I left the lunch, I assured them there would not be a third time. I was being given a second chance that few ever receive, and I wouldn’t waste it. Not today, not tomorrow. Not ever.

Several months later I stood in front of family and friends exchanging vows of marriage with the love of my life. She was no longer my ex-fiancée or “the one that got away.” She was now simply my wife. My best friend. My soul mate. My Amy.

Life can be a puzzle. At times, it can seem cruel and unyielding. But then there are the moments when the wonder and magic of it are almost too miraculous to fathom. Whether guided by luck, fate, or divine intervention, somehow we find our way to the place we belong.

And as it turns out, Dad was right. Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you plan.

Sometimes, they turn out even better.

~Rob L. Berry

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