Just a few days ago, Sarah arrived here in Ohio to visit for the first time. This is something we have both been waiting months for. As our relationship grew over the phone and Skype, the discussion arose on when she would finally meet Shelby, my parents, and Megan’s parents.
When we first discussed, we agreed that now, in September, she would travel here for a day or two at most, cram in meeting the parents and an evening out with Shelby, before she and I departed for Toronto this weekend to attend Camp Widow.
That plan has significantly changed since that first discussion, and it has turned into two weeks in Shelby and I’s (and Megan’s) home, with four days at Camp Widow and a day in Niagara Falls. It has thus far been incredibly surreal. Shelby being Shelby, as soon as we stepped through the door into our house, she monopolized Sarah, and had to show her all around and introduce her to the dogs. This simply feels as if it’s a continuation of Shelby and I’s trip to Texas a month ago, only the sensory overload is even more present for Sarah.
The day after she arrived, we drove the 20 minutes south to my parents house to meet them. My brother brought my niece and nephew over as well. This was a planned and coordinated event. Just as when I met Sarah’s in-laws for the first time, it felt completely natural, like she’d been there all along. The conversation bore no awkwardness or uncomfortable silences. I had nothing but confidence that this would be the case. I mean, I have known my parents pretty much my entire life, so I’d say that after 34 years, I can predict how this would all happen.
Yesterday however, was the event that had caused me some trepidation. Megan’s parents were to meet Sarah. I’ve known them for well over a decade, and I was considered part of their family almost immediately. I was at their son’s bedside when he passed away from Cystic Fibrosis in 2005. I married their daughter, produced their granddaughter, and ultimately, had to make the decision to remove their daughter from life support. Now, I was bringing a new woman, a new love into Megan’s mother’s home, and all I could think about is how much I worried that they would feel that I was forgetting or trying to replace Megan.
I haven’t had that worry with my parents, my friends, or most importantly, Shelby, but i did with them.
Not long after we arrived though, after general small talk, Sarah, Terri (Megan’s mother) and I found ourselves sitting in the kitchen. It’s been years since it was Megan and I sitting there just talking. I would generally be in in the other room, talking to Megan’s brother or watching TV while they talked. Now though, I had to act as Megan’s representative. I wasn’t going to just trhow Sarah “to the wolves” and let her and Terri get to know a little bit about each other without me being present.
Somehow, the conversation turned to the story of Megan and I meeting and starting to date. It was at that moment that any anxiety or uncomfortableness washed away. Sarah listened intently to this, smiling the entire time listening to how goofy of a story it was, and Terri did the same.
I think as I told this story, that Terri knew right then and there that Megan, and the love I had for her, would never leave me. She could see that smile on Sarah’s face as well, and learning Sarah’s story reinforced that Megan will always be a part of all of our lives, just as Drew is now a part of mine. It began to feel as if Terri was starting to accept Sarah as just another new member of the family, rather than someone who was going to drive us apart.
It doesn’t hurt that she could also see the happiness that Shelby has around Sarah. OF COURSE she misses her mom, and she always will, but that is separate from being happy with Sarah. Shelby in a sense IS Megan now. She is the focus and center of attention. If she is happy, everybody is happy.
I can now fully comprehend what Sarah described a few months ago, when I met Drew’s family. I understand how worried she was when I strolled into Virginia a day early to not only surprise her, but also meet her mother-in-law. I also know that flushed feeling of relief that comes when it occurrs that there was nothing to worry about. Of all the talk we’ve had about Megan and Drew bringing us together, we often forget that they not only brought two people together...they brought those two people, and their families, together.
Those two weren’t going to pull their grand scheme off without considering all of the other people they loved as well. It wouldn’t make sense to give us our new loves without also giving our families a new addition.
Sarah and I will never replace Drew or Megan. We’ll never be able to bring them back to their parents. It’s easy to forget sometimes that we aren’t the only people that suffered the loss of someone we loved dearly. I’m also guilty of forgetting that Megan’s parents have had to see both of their children together pass away before either of them were 34 years old. They are as strong and resilient as I am, probably more so.
They are also just as capable of welcoming Sarah into their world with happy, open arms, without forgetting about Megan. They know that my personal happiness and love is not dishonoring Megan, but only respecting her wishes for Shelby and I.