Dear Sir

“There was a flower in her heart, it just needed more room to bloom, and when she let it free, she showed the world that sometimes the most beautiful things can grow in the darkest of places without the need of light.” —R.M.Drake

Dear Sir,
I prayed for you while walking through the woods the other day. I don’t know why or what pushed me to do so, but the words poured out as I walked. I believe my heartfelt connected to you in that moment wherever you may be, so I prayed for you.

I think of you often, yet wonder if you are real if you are possible. It seems that when you may be getting closer, I challenge your existence. When I think of you, I feel an explosion of butterflies and razor blades at the same time.

A feeling of excitement and rage coming together all at once.

I have been told that my heart can grow bigger and that it truly is possible to love again. I am still not sure.

I believe there are parts of you that have come along over the last almost 23 months. These small parts of you became a lesson for me.

I have found myself in deep conversation with parts of you where I told you about John. I told you our story. If you only knew how terribly I ached for him during those talks. I felt vulnerable and scared, self-conscious that I may mention him too much, but I couldn’t help it.

When I followed another part of you through the rapids, through the trails, I imagined him up ahead. I felt strange doing these activities with parts of you and found myself searching for him. When a part of you put your lips to mine, I cried for him. Your lips and your touch felt foreign to me. I was not ready.

I realize that only parts of you have come along over time. Each part showing me something different and unique. Each part slowly peeling back a layer of my heart and asking me to consider all of you. I am realizing that those small pieces of you are a part of a much bigger picture that requires patience, balance, presence, acceptance on my part. There have been times I’ve wanted you to come so much sooner. I’ve wanted you to take away the ache in my heart, the longing for him. I realized through this longing, I was setting you up for failure, an impossible task. For taking away my pain was never your job. Replacing him was never your job. Becoming him will never be your job.

There are some things you should know about us. The good and the bad. I found my first love at age 25. I fell hard and fast. John was my best friend. He was my heart. I could laugh with him until I was blue in the face and be my most goofy self; yet seconds later fall into the most passionate exchange of a kiss that took my breath away. John was smart, kind, funny, stoic, honest, confident, beautiful. Yet also emotional, stubborn at times, and even selfish. I never questioned how much he loved me, but I wasn’t always first. On March 9th, 2014, I wasn’t first. I have to live with that.

©Erin Wilburn

©Erin Wilburn

Communication was our biggest hurdle as a young married couple, and we struggled at times to convey what was in our hearts. I always wanted to be viewed as his laid back, easygoing wife. I don’t think we always said what needed to be said during tough decisions. Sometimes he would shut down; sometimes I held things in. I should have found my voice.

Looking back, I don’t know why I was so hesitant to do this at times. I don’t know what I was afraid of.
I lost my voice on March 9th. It is a regret I must live with.

I won’t make this mistake with you, for I realize that letting you hear my voice will be what saves us, what makes our love explode.

John brought out a confidence in me that grew even stronger after he was gone. I have never been surer of the woman I am today, and I give that credit to him. The day that he died, I dropped to my knees and told God that if he took John from me, I would die with him. I would not survive this. I told God it would destroy me and take a lifetime of joy away. I begged.

I have to tell you, none of the above happened. I believe that day was the start of a different walk, an unexpected chapter that is slowly leading me to you.

I have learned over the last 23 months that putting my full reliance in you strong man, for survival is wrong. I’ve realized that my true reliance goes to my creator who loves you more than I ever will be able to. Through him, I believe we can do anything. And yes, you are strong. I can feel your strength during those walks from afar; I believe God’s love is growing your strength for me.

I may struggle to allow you to see this, but John’s death left quite a scar on me. It is a wound so big; I don’t think I’ll be able to keep hiding it as you get to know me.

I told you before that he was my heart. I must tell you that he still is, and this feeling only seemed to grow stronger with his death. I felt as if part of him was simply infused in me and has remained there ever since. I may need to talk about him at times. I may need to cry alone for him. I may need to cry with you.

There won’t be a day that goes by that I won’t think of him, miss him, love him.

Milestones will pass, and I’ll want to honor his life. I may ask you to do this with me. He is not something that could ever be shut off, forgotten, pushed aside. Traces of him will be in our lives from ashes to pictures, to some belongings I couldn’t give away.

Even if letting him go was a matter of life and death, I would fail.

When two become one through marriage, they say “til death do you part.” I have found this to be a lie.

©Erin Wilburn

©Erin Wilburn

I still feel married to him to this day, and I believe there is a part of me that always will, even when I let you completely in.

I realize this may be hard for you to hear, and I don’t mean to hurt you or make you fee less than. For you aren’t less than him, and I believe that all parts of you together will be just as wonderful.

I believe that because of John, I will be even better to you.

Because of him, I will be able to love you in a way that I couldn’t love him. I’ll be able to support you in a way that I couldn’t support him.

I believe you’ll hear my voice in a way that he couldn’t. I believe you may be able to see even deeper into my heart. I believe you will bring out new strengths, new joys, and hope.

I believe my biggest regret in meeting you, in loving you, is that you didn’t get to know him. For the two of you would have been great friends, I have no doubt.

I realize such a love is not for everyone, and it will take a different heart to love mine. I choose to believe it is possible, that you are real and walking towards me, God leading the way.

So to you sir, whether I already know you or not, wherever you are, I will say that I love you already and that I am so proud of you for the man I believe you are becoming for me.

Love Always,
Erin

Erin Wilburn

Erin Wilburn is 32 years old, now living in the heart of the New River Gorge in beautiful Fayetteville, West Virginia. She loves exploring the outdoors whether it's on her mountain bike through the trails or in her kayak through the rapids. She moved to the Appalachian mountains a few months after losing her husband and best friend, John, in a tragic kayaking accident in Northern California on March 9, 2014. John was only 30 years old. Erin and John lived in Southern Oregon at the time and had a wonderful, adventurous life together. Shortly after his death, Erin began to write. Writing has been an outlet for her pain and experience so far with this huge loss. Her hope is that by being honest with herself and others about what it is like to walk through deep grief, it may help others as well. You can read more about her experiences and perspective on her blog. Erin has also recently put together the John Duncan Wilburn Adventure Scholarship that is associated the Shenandoah Community Foundation, in honor of her beloved husband. The scholarship is open to applicants and donors alike.

4 thoughts on “Dear Sir

  1. Bernadine Reply

    Erin,

    As usual, your words always make me think and reflect about my own life and love. You are an amazing soul, and I believe he is walking his way through the woods to get to you. You will find him, and the next chapter in your life will begin. Love you!

  2. Mary Rowen Reply

    I’m so sorry for your tragic loss, Erin. This post makes me cry, but also leaves me in awe of your strength. I wish you all the best as you continue on your courageous journey.

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