Do you remember this place? Do you remember how much Shelby loves coming here? It was the first place that Shelby and I ever took a hike, and it's the final place, a year ago, that you and I took a walk. I can still remember Shelby running around, picking up last year’s acorns, the few remaining ones left alone by the squirrels at least. I remember holding your hand and just walking, letting her be fascinated by nature, as she always was, and still is. We strolled...slowly. You had already been in rejection for a few months, but you weren't sick enough yet that you couldn't shuffle along.
We could smell the dogwood trees blooming, and I remember you commenting on how they smelled so much better than any perfume that anyone had ever worn around you, and how, for a change, a potent scent didn't make you cough.
I remember being terrified at the time that this would be the last walk we would ever take together. Turns out, my fear would become reality in November..
God, how many times we came here, and walked the different paths through the various gardens, but we always ended up here, at the “Weeping Collection”.
You loved weeping willows. They were your favorite tree, and every time we would pass one on a drive, you would always comment on how much you loved them. I always wished that we lived somewhere where I could have planted one for you. They need more space, and our little white house with the white picket fence on a ⅛ acre city lot in Akron just would not suffice. I wish we had gotten even just a year or two more...long enough we could have moved, and I could have planted that willow for you on the little mini-farm I always wanted to live out the rest of my days on. I knew you weren't going to be around forever, but I had at least hoped for the chance to get you out of the city.
We would have renewed our vows on our 10th anniversary, this coming August, right here under this weeping willow in the gazebo. I had decided upon it on our walk, but I never got the chance to tell you.
So, I came back here today to write this to you. I had to come in the spring, just to remember that walk, and all the sights, sounds, and smells. Honestly, what I needed most was to sit and mourn you for awhile. I haven’t mourned the loss of you for some time because frankly, I've been happy. I needed to sit here and talk to you, honestly, deeply, and frankly, in a place that was one of the last that you and I shared before sitting quietly among industrial tile floors, a ventilator pumping away, and IV poles for six months, and I needed to do it alone, at least this first time.
I’m sorry babe. I’m sorry that I didn't move fast enough in life to plant that willow for you, or to renew our vows under the little gazebo covered in wisteria. If I knew then what I know now, we would have done it that very day. There was no sense in waiting for a specific date, because honestly, the vows I took, and wanted to renew, meant the world to me no matter when they were stated. I guess there is no sense in renewing them now, as now that death has done us part, they can never be broken. I am morbidly proud of that fact.
Unfortunately, we can only know what we know now. I know now that you were preparing me, for 12 years, to be the man I am today. I know now that, other than still being alive and healthy, you wouldn't have it any other way for Shelby or I. I know now that I am supposed to continue my life as if you were still here with us, but with someone else that is just as special as you were, and that I can love just as much as I loved you.
I know now that every spring, I should come here, walk, talk to you, mourn you, and thank you for being who you were, and who you continue to reveal yourself to be. I know now that the same thanks should have been given to you while you were alive. I know now that those who deserve thanks and love should get it then and there, when I’m feeling it, and not on some arbitrary “special occasion”, because there aren't any guarantees that the special occasion will occur.
You taught me all of this, Megan. You've taught me that I can love even more than I ever thought possible, and that my love for you will continue to grow right alongside my new love. You've brought me to where I am today, and you'll continue to take me where I'm going. In that sense, we're still holding hands, walking together, and I know you'll be there by my side the rest of my life. Shelby? She's running just ahead, taking in everything on her own terms, but always under both of our watchful eyes.
Take care babe, I love you.