43: Love Again

43: Love Again

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

Love Again

There are things that we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people we can’t live without but have to let go.

~Author Unknown

“I think Jay wants to ask you out,” one of my co-workers told me as everyone else left the office for the day. “But he’s a little nervous.”

I was a little nervous too. Danny, my childhood sweetheart, father of our now twelve-year-old son, and love of twenty years, had been dead two years — long enough for me to have grieved and moved forward — but I couldn’t entertain the thought of a new man.

I knew Jay. We shared a few cases together. He was a mental health social worker; I worked in child and adult protection. So occasionally our paths crossed.

Danny and I had vowed to love each other and stay true to each other forever. Our hopes and dreams had been wrapped up in each other and in our child. He would often say, “I have hope, you have faith.”

And it was true. He had high hopes that anything and everything would turn out okay. In turn, my faith, in him and in God, was so strong I thought nothing could stand in our way.

When you’re young, death is a safe wisp of smoke in the distance. Barely thought about. Barely a reality. You believe you’re invincible and that somehow you are immune to that depth of pain and loss.

But in the middle of a cool, quiet September night, one phone call changed all of that.

“It’s Danny,” I heard a family friend telling my mother on another telephone extension at home. “He died in a car wreck.”

He said more, but those were the last words I remember.

I should have done something. Gotten out of bed, driven to the crash scene, called his mother, run around the house clawing into my face with my fingernails, pounded my head against the wall, stabbed my heart with an ice pick... but I didn’t. I just lay there in the bed in dark silence, hot tears sliding from my eyes.

What kept me going was our ten-year-old son Travis. He was the reason I got up in the morning, put on a smile when I didn’t feel like smiling, thought ahead instead of behind, found a way to push through each day, week, and month. I wouldn’t let death cheat him out of a healthy, vibrant, whole mother.

“It’s okay,” he would tell me if he caught me crying. “It’ll be all right.”

Work and motherhood helped ease the pain of losing Danny. In the two years following his death, little by little I rebounded. I learned to laugh again, play again, have fun and make plans.

A few guys asked me out, but I turned them down. I wanted to move on, but it just didn’t feel right. It had nothing to do with grief. It had more to do with feeling like I would betray Danny if I dated someone.

When my best friend Jolene heard that Jay was interested in me, she said, “Don’t be afraid to give him a chance, Tammy. Danny would want you to love again.”

Her words clicked into place in my heart like the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle.

She was right. Danny would not want me to waste the prime of my life missing him and pining for him. He would want me to have someone to love and share my life with, and be a part of Travis’ life too.

When Jay called, I was alone in the office. Jay sounded bright and sunny, so cheerful after a long day at work.

We made small talk about cases, he asked me how my day had gone, and then finally he asked me if I wanted to go to dinner Friday night.

“Yes,” I told him. “I’d like that.” I knew Danny would want me to have a chance at love and happiness again.

As I drove home after work, I began to have second thoughts about saying yes to Jay, and for some reason the tears came. I began to talk to Danny in my heart. I needed to make a stop on the way home — a client’s house. The family lived up a rocky dirt hollow and across a rickety wooden bridge. I loved driving in the countryside, so it was a nice drive. But all the way there, I had second thoughts.

What if it was a mistake? What about the vows I made to Danny? Would he really want me to date someone else? I didn’t know what to do. Should I call Jay back and break the date, or keep it and take one more step into the future? I just needed a sign from Danny. I asked him to show me a sign that it was okay.

That’s when it happened. As I was driving up the hollow toward my client’s home. A flock of a thousand or more butterflies floated from the bushes at the side of the road and across my windshield, so thick I couldn’t see through them and had to stop the car.

I felt rather than heard Danny’s soft, calm voice saying, “It’s okay, Tammy. Go ahead. Love again.”

Somehow. Somehow he sent those butterflies to me as a sign that it was okay to move forward and open my heart to romance, companionship, and love again.

~Tammy Ruggles

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