It is a regular occurrence that people make comments about the love Emily and I shared for one another. It has always been this way. People said it before cancer, they said it during cancer, and I hear it regularly now that she is gone. I often think about that love and what it is about us that made our love more evident to others to the point of recognition. I have come to one conclusion: our love is less about some romantic notion or expertise, and more about what we valued in life. There was no magic formula. It wasn’t something we did right. There was no love language guide. We just naturally valued one another.
We all have different goals and aspirations. For Emily and I, that list was very short and the number one thing was always to take care of each other. It wasn’t that there weren’t other goals, aspirations, people or things in life worthy of attention. We both had a desire to succeed in our careers. We both valued our friends and family. We both enjoyed being physically fit (but both hated the process). We both loved queso (making the fit thing even more of a challenge).
All of those things were important to us, and I’m sure other couples have similar lists. We also had things on our lists of priorities that weren’t the same. Emily had a real desire to be out in the world and to enjoy every day. Emily concerned herself with others and did her best to make their lives easier. Emily liked to craft and shop and shop for crafts. And then I, well, I liked to sit on my ass and watch football.
However, of all the things we concerned ourselves with, few things came close to our number one: each other. We both sincerely loved taking care of the person we loved most. It’s not that other things weren’t important; it’s just that we never found those things more worthy of our time or effort, or more personally satisfying. It’s just the way we were wired.
It is a rare thing in this life for someone to truly find their worth in the heart of the person they love. It is even rarer for two of those people to find each other and be the object of one another’s love. That is the rarity that I believe others see in us.
Understanding the rarity of our love brings a question to mind. It is an uncomfortable question that only a few have asked, but I’m sure others have thought.
“Once you find something so rare and unique, what do you do when it is gone? Will you ever love again?”
Today, it has been five months since I have been without Emily, and my answer hasn’t changed in that time: I don’t know.
Now, I know some of you are probably thinking, “Oh Bret, five months is not very long.” Can I just tell you that you are wrong? Incredibly wrong. It is a goddamn eternity. It has been the longest stretch of time ever experienced by any human. Ever. And in this eternity, I have had time to think about a lot of things, including the question above.
Emily and I never discussed what I would do with my life after she was gone. It meant acknowledging a reality that neither of us wanted to exist in. We didn’t need to discuss it, though. I am confident in who Emily believed me to be, and I am confident that she wants me to continue to be that person now.
While I have not come up with any definitive conclusions, I’m fairly certain that if and when I do love again, the person I love will be unbelievably loved. And that person will be so loved, because Emily so loved me. Who she was to me, how she treated me, how she loved me, how she valued me, has made me into the best person I can be. And because of that, the love Emily and I have is not a basis of comparison for future love (if it exists); it is the foundation.
The first time someone asked me if I thought I would ever love again, I remember that my initial response was, “Oh, that poor girl, whoever she is.” That’s not right, though. She will be the luckiest girl in the world, because I have been the luckiest man. Because of Emily.