I remember quite clearly, walking hand in hand with my husband, down the Red Carpet at the Primetime Emmy Awards. This was a moment we’d always dreamed of. I thought I had a fairy tale life and this was how it would be forever.
I didn’t realize then, how much I counted on life going the way I planned. I had it all figured out. Here we were celebrating an achievement we’d worked toward since we were in our 20’s.
I was so proud of my husband, but this was my night too! I worked closely with him developing each and every script, and this was a time for us both to shine!
David was an Emmy nominated television writer and producer. In the beginning, our marriage was a partnership based on our love of writing. Our courtship began with an idea for a book. Out of that creative passion, we married and created a beautiful family with four children. I loved our life together.
On the night of the Emmys, amongst the glitz and glam, I thought my fairy tale would last forever.
And then one day my castle walls fell to the ground. Our vibrant, beautiful 16 year old boy went from life to death in less than 24 hours. He died of bacterial meningitis.
The pain is indescribable.On the outside, life had to go on. My husband had a television show to run, and I was handling our family and still reading scripts. We appeared to handle the loss with strength and grace, but inside we were dying.
Our despair shook our foundation, our relationship struggled, and suddenly I was no longer the love of his life.
By April of 2002, I created a whole new life. I moved out of Los Angeles with my children and started a real estate career in the quiet little town of Murrieta. I no longer needed David financially. He remarried and moved to Canada.
What lingered, however, was anger. It was a stage of grief that transferred from the anger of losing my son, to now losing my marriage. What happened to the love I so deeply felt for the father of my children? I discovered there’s a thin line between love and hate, both driven by passion.
Oddly enough, in 2006, I began missing him. I had worked on diffusing my anger and hurt. Everything became more clear when I realized my anger took away from my quality of life. It wasn’t fair to my children that my connection to him was so filled with bitterness.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” — Viktor Frankl, Holocaust Survivor and author, “Man’s Search for Meaning”
I opened myself to that incredibly vulnerable place of honesty with myself. I chose to begin writing about it. It lifted my hurt by leaving my tears and anger on the written page. I did it privately in my journal and openly by sharing my stories. It gave me clarity and the ability to embrace all that was good about my life with David.
I finally arrived at that amazingly powerful place in my heart called “forgiveness.”
I wanted to see David. I wanted to have him in my life again, even if he was just my friend. He was once my best friend.
Something had changed in him, too. He began contacting me by email. He asked for my input on potential stories. We had always been a team. He sounded excited and strong, not beaten down as he had in the last few years of his career. He made arrangements to visit the kids.
He picked the children up that morning in April while I was at work. My intention was to see him at the end of the day. I looked at the clock, 5:00 pm. It was time. I glanced in the mirror, my face flushed with anticipation. I applied fresh lipstick.
I slipped my computer into the bag, then got a business call. It took longer than I expected. I hung up and looked at the time. Oh no! It was past five! I knew David had to be back in LA that night. I got in my car, started the engine and frantically dialed his number.
“David! I’m on my way… don’t leave yet!”
“Oh Sandy, I’m sorry. I was just about to call. I dropped the kids off at the house. I had to leave a little early…”
My heart sank.
“But Sandy,” There was a long, expectant pause, “I’m coming back to LA.”
Something good was happening. I could hear his mind working.
“I’m pretty excited about my new script.” He continued. “Maybe you can read it!”
“David! Sure! I’d love to read it! That’s great! The kids will be so happy you’re coming back!”
I wanted to blurt out how happy I was, too. But, I didn’t. My heart whispered, I knew it! It’s what I’d been feeling for weeks.
He continued, “I had a great day with the kids. They’re incredible, Sandy. And that’s because of you.”
“It’s us, David…we know how to make great kids.” There was a long sweet silence.
“David, I want you to be a part of our lives again,” my voice trembled. “I miss you. I miss us.”
“I know, I miss you, too.” It was hard for him to say, but he said it.
“Come for Thanksgiving! You and… your wife,” I replied. That was the hardest sentence of all… to include her. “ I just want to have you in our lives again.” I said.
“I’m working on that,” he cleared his throat, “on being in your life again.”
“Good,” Then, I could no longer hold it in, “David, what happened to us? We were so happy. We had such a good life together. We made such a beautiful family.”
“Yes… we did.” He was searching for words. How well I knew his writer’s brain. I could read every pause, every sigh, every breath. And I heard him silently cry.
“I guess… well… I guess it was the only way I could process losing Garrett. It hurt too much. I know, now, it wasn’t you, Sandy and I’m sorry. I just had to go away, live life differently.”
So there it was. Exactly what I needed to hear. I’d spent six years searching and questioning. Had I done something to cause it? Could I have done something to prevent it? Wasn’t I good enough? When did our love die?
But it wasn’t me. It was the profoundly tragic loss of our son. It wounded us both beyond anything we could have imagined. Our grief seized control and chiseled away at our foundation. Instead of fighting the battle of bereavement together, we did it separately. Our enchanted love could no longer support us through the fall. The castle walls tumbled to the ground.
David whispered. “I’ll be back to LA in a month. We can see each other then.”
“Really, David? I would like that…a lot.” There was a long silence so full of words he couldn’t say… yet.
“Well… I’m having dinner with Trevor… ” He left the sentence hanging.
“So…great!” I wiped the tears stinging my eyes. I could hardly drive. David would soon be having dinner with our 25-year old son. That was good.
“Tell Trevor I love him. Call me when you get back in town.” I paused and then told the truth, “I’ve missed you so much, David.”
The father of my children deserved to be released from the burden of what grief had done. Our love for each other was still intact.
He replied quietly, “Me too. I’ll be back soon.”
The call ended, but I held onto his gift…the reason.
Our love didn’t die. We had a foundation with the creation of children, four of them. That kind of love remains in every cell of our bodies and in our children, forever. But, we lost our ability to express it. The only thing we could do was to push each other away.
It all boiled down to one tragic moment that changed our lives forever. Together, we lost our beautiful child.
David never made it back to Los Angeles. Three weeks later he died. A heart attack took him at the young age of 54.
I realized, then, I had achieved the highest state of love. I went full circle with him, found power in the act of forgiveness and returned to love.
Years later I began to question, is there really only one soul mate in a lifetime?
In 2010 I entered the world of Facebook. I quickly created a new community of friends gathered from my past and present.
“Grilling some eggplant…” I posted. “I’ve been thinking about a Panini with pesto, prosciutto, tomatoes, and eggplant on sourdough bread. Can’t decide on the cheese, though… Any suggestions?” That “update” went out to my circle of friends. I didn’t know then, my grilled Italian sandwich was about to change my life forever.
I received lots of responses. One, in particular, caught my eye. “You’re killing me,” it said. I laughed. It was from a man I first crossed paths with many decades before. I was just 16 when I flew to New York to audition for a show that sent me around the world singing and dancing. I remembered getting off the bus with my suitcase in hand and my eyes wide open.
There he was, just 20 at the time. He said I didn’t notice him, and I don’t think I did. But guess what? My soul did.
Had we spoken then, my life would have been very different. But, how fortunate life has taught me it doesn’t always happen the way we think it should. At 16, I still had a lifetime of experiences and lessons to learn.
I had the gift of my first husband, and our love brought forth four remarkable children. I learned that love is a privilege and commitment, and not always easy.
I had to discover that I was stronger than I ever believed, and it took the act of forgiveness to show me. My history is a tapestry of beautiful times and tragedies, but choosing forgiveness completes my story of triumph.
At 16, I couldn’t have known when I crossed paths with that handsome 20-year old man in New York, it was a moment tucked away in time. It was my destiny waiting for the future chapters of my life.
I replied back on Facebook, “tell me more.”
We married a year later.
I am a writer, and each time I share my story, I discover more about the power of our stories, how our words help us see, and how acts of forgiveness can come at just the right time. When you let go of anger, it restores the past. I know now, there was a beautiful plan to bring David’s love back into my heart and honor it for what it was… a beautiful marriage with the gift of four children and a lifetime of memories. I’ll let his love reside there forever.
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Originally published at medium.com