I remember the first time I saw Brian. I was 15 years old, he two years older than me, and he was walking up the hill through the courtyard by the band hall of our high school. His hair was longish and a bit shaggy and he walked with this stride that made me gasp. Dark hair, dark skin, dark eyes and a smile bigger than his entire face, he took my breath away. I didn’t know his name, I only knew that one day, someday, I would be with him. I was sure of it. It was instant and it was powerful and could have physically knocked me over. I was almost always talking then and I’m sure I stopped in mid-sentance and stared, heart pounding, mind blown.
It would be almost another 4 years before he knew my name, a year after that before we spoke to one another, and three further years before we became friends and shortly thereafter fell hopelessly in love. Well, before he fell hopelessly in love. I had been in love with him since that first day.
One day in June of 1999, we took a rather spontaneous trip to St. Louis for my friend’s birthday party. Things were very complicated. I wasn’t exactly free to fall in love, but it was too late. We couldn’t say it to one another with words, but our eyes and our hearts couldn’t help but scream it. We got into my sports car and hit the road. He lifted up the center console panel and looked at what CDs I had in there: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Phish, Little Feat, Bob Marley. He looked at me in the eye and said, “Well, it’s all over now.” Very early the next morning, we raced from St Louis to beat the sun to Columbia so that he could be at work on time, singing “Jackson,” “Blue Skies,” and “Willin'” at the top of our lungs the entire way.
A week or so later, in a gravel driveway / parking lot of our friends’ rural apartment, standing between a light blue Toyota LandCruiser (the first of 3,) and a Ford Ranger under the starry night sky, we said our wedding vows. He looked at me in the eye and whispered, “I love you.” Wanting to hear it again, I pretended I didn’t hear him. “What?” I said. “Don’t make me say it again,” he whispered. Being a very moral man, this was against what he believed and not something he would do, loving a woman who wasn’t legally able to love him back, and yet he was unable to not do it, just as I was unable to not love him fiercely, totally, completely, endlessly back. “I do, too,” I said. Our hearts signed the dotted line right then and there and the vows were made.
20 months later, on February 9, 2001, a snowy Friday afternoon, we stood in front of a judge and witnesses and promised to love, honor, and cherish each other until death us do part. This was the official wedding, although we had been spiritual husband and wife since that night we stood sandwiched between trucks. Our best friends were there (it was their gravel parking lot / driveway,) as was our 8 month old son. He put the ring on my finger. It is still there. I put his ring on his finger. It now lives on the first finger of my right hand. So many things got destroyed when he died, but his wedding ring is still perfect, still whole, still gleaming perfect gold.
Brian came to me in a dream last night. Unlike others, I was able to talk to him, to touch him, to hold him, to kiss him, to hear his voice, to feel his arms around me. The dream took place in the house in which I was living when I first saw him all those years ago, the house I lived in when my heart found it’s partner. Brian brought me back to the beginning. It was a wonderful, beautiful, tender, exciting, loving dream that felt not one tiny bit like good-bye, but completely and totally like, “Hey Babe, I’m still here. I’ll always be here.”
We have broken our marriage vows. We broke the part about “til death us do part.” Death has parted our bodies, but death will never part our spirits. I did then, do now, and will always and forever love, honor, and cherish Brian, and I’m not afraid to repeat it.
I do. I do. I still do.