When my partner, William, accepted a six-month consulting job in Boston, I was thrilled for him. What a great opportunity, overseeing the launch of a brand new division for a highly successful company. William had just left his full-time job and was searching for something new, challenging, and positive. I knew he had been unhappy for some time, and the possibility of seeing the spark return in his eyes filled my heart with hope for him.
As we prepared for his departure, I remained positive and upbeat most of the time. I knew it would be different for us, living 1,200 miles apart. But it was six months. How tough could it be? We had the phone, text, email, Skype, and even occasional weekend flights to reconnect. We were grown-ups. Six months? Piece of cake.
We packed his belongings, loaded up his pick-up and made a fun road trip to Boston. During the ride, we talked about everything, as usual. There was an exciting vibe to this excursion, and watching William embrace this new path energized us both.
Saturday morning we moved him into his temporary home—a very cool loft apartment with plenty of natural light and exposed beams in what used to be an old shoe mill back in the early 1900’s. We unpacked his stuff and headed to the grocery store. Little did I know that this everyday errand would turn into a sneak attack of epic proportions.
We walked into Market Basket and initiated grocery shopping—something we have done together at least 900 times. I was not thinking of anything in particular when suddenly something that carried the weight of three elephants seemed to press down on my shoulders and crush my heart. Out of nowhere, tears began to flow as I walked through the produce section. I couldn’t stop them, and I was completely baffled. Why now? Why, when we still had another day together, was I feeling such deep grief? William looked at me, a bit bewildered. I started to laugh and then cried even harder. I had no answer for him. And then it hit me: I would not be eating any of this food with him.
I started visualizing all the things I would be doing alone. All of the tiny, fun, stupid, nothing, ordinary things we shared on a daily basis would cease. Our morning rituals. Our Wednesday evening wine drinking. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” watching. Our lame attempts at jogging. Everything. Done.
I tried to rationalize away my painful feelings. Why was I so full of sorrow? In my mind, I was clear—this was a temporary arrangement. I told myself this was nothing compared to all those military families who go years without seeing their loved ones. I thought about my friends who have had loved ones pass away, and I felt so selfish for feeling sad, but nothing helped me. I could not think my way out of these feelings.
On Sunday, I said goodbye to William at the airport, and I cried through half of the flight. I cried when I walked into our house. I cried when I went to bed. I cried when I talked with him, and I cried during most of my drives during that first week. I missed this man in a way that was brand new, unfamiliar, and uninvited. And then this hit me:
I was intensely upset because I truly loved William—true, deep, all-consuming, beautiful love. I felt it all. Never in my past did I believe I could feel this way. I don’t think I knew what love was supposed to feel like, and I couldn’t quite relate to others who loved like that. Honestly, I never believed them.
I have been an independent woman for many years. I never felt I needed any “Jerry McGuire” complete me kind of deal. I’m a happy, healthy adult now, and I can hold my own in life. Admittedly, there were some years where I imagined marrying someone very busy such as an E.R. physician who would often be on-call. I didn’t want my freedom threatened, and I believed love equaled some loss of that independence.
Once I met William, my perspective changed. He made everything better. He loved me completely and unconditionally. We quickly became each other’s cheerleaders, always pushing each other to be our best selves. William became my best friend, my confidant, my lover, my personal motivator, my nagging conscience, and the acceptor of my flaws in the kindest of ways. Not once has he been a threat to my independence. It’s funny how the more he encourages my independence, the closer I feel to him.
I miss William more than I can describe. And I am filled with gratitude for this sadness and longing. It means I have love in my heart. What a blessing! How did I get so lucky to miss someone so perfect for me? Imagine if I reached the end of my life and never experienced this kind of love, this kind of sadness?
So I will embrace the tears and the grief and the longing. And I will say thank you every day for God bringing me someone to miss. And you better believe I will be counting the days until that pick-up rolls back into our driveway.