Ten years ago today, it was November 23, 2001.
It was a Friday and the day after Thanksgiving. I was on the home stretch of wrapping up my first semester of community college and was working part time at the bank.
The banks don’t close the Friday after Thanksgiving, so I woke up early that morning to get ready for work. I packed a bag with a change of clothes, some hair spray, my teasing comb and my make-up bag….all the necessities for after-work plans. Even after all the extra preparations I had done that morning, I still managed to be on time, which was always star worthy for me. I was excited for the day to be over, but nervous for the evening to begin. I had a big first date that night.
There was this guy I’d been talking to for quite some time, who worked as a financial advisor for the bank. We’d become friends several months earlier and he had finally asked me out! He was in fact young, although I was convinced he was a grown man in every sense of the word. He was, after all, four years older than me. He’d been to college and back, and even owned his own house. The idea of going on a date with a “grown man” had my stomach in knots all day.
The day dragged by and finally it was close to closing time. The generous head teller let me balance my drawer first and have a few minutes to change and get ready. Devin was right on-time and picked me up at the bank at 6:00. I got in the truck with that “grown man” and we made the drive to Gainesville. My palms were sweaty and my knees were shaky, but the conversation came easy. By the time we’d made it through Archer I was completely calm and was certain I wouldn’t pass out after all.
DW was still driving the 2-Door Z-71 Tahoe he’d bought to go to college in. It was navy blue with grey on the bottom and had a BEEF sticker on the bumper. I loved it- his Tahoe and the Beef sticker. We were having steak (imagine that) for dinner that night, and when I ordered mine, “well-done,” he caught me completely off guard when he looked at the waitress and said, “no way, at least medium.” WHO.THE.HECK.IS.THIS.GUY.? Did he REALLY just change the way I get my steak cooked? “You can’t eat a burnt steak,” said the guy with the BEEF tag on his truck. I was so shocked and caught off guard, that I just shrugged my shoulders, laughed nervously and silently wondered how in the world I was going to eat a medium cooked steak. We talked and laughed and before I knew it, the pink-centered steak was in front of me and I did what any girl would do on the first date with a really nice guy… I ate it. We finished our dinner and went to see a movie.
The date ended that night with what DW calls the worst hug he’s ever had. We laugh about it now and I always tell him I didn’t want him getting the wrong idea about me. He didn’t know what it took for me to convince my Dad (even though I was out of school) that he didn’t need to pick me up at our house and meet my parents that night! I mean hello, I was a good girl…and he was a grown a man and he did own his own house. :)
Neither of us knew that night ten years ago what the future held for us. We had no idea that exactly one year, one month and one day later, we’d get engaged and by May of that year we’d be married.
We certainly would have never imagined that exactly six years later, when November 23 fell again on a Friday and the day after Thanksgiving, just like it had on our first date, we’d lose our son in a tragic accident.
It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since we had to say goodbye to our Cooper. One of the cruelest things about losing a child is having to go on. Life doesn’t just stop like you think it should. As hard as it has been to go on, though, I am thankful that we have. I am thankful for a God who restores our joy and happiness here on this sometimes hopeless feeling earth. Four years ago, I never thought I’d ever even smile again. And while it did take time, and there are still very hard days, I can honestly say I have happiness and joy in my life. All of which comes from the Hope that only the Lord gives. I know that is true.
Thanksgiving and this time of year will always be a tough one for us, just because it brings it all back. I feel like I’ve been walking around with a lump in my throat and stinging eyes for about a week now and I know today I will have my moments. But I’ve decided that I’m going to remember 10 years ago. I am going to remember that precious first date with the grown man who later asked me to be his wife. Who would have ever thought he’d call for a second date after the horrible, “worst hug of his life” that I gave him on our first date? I’m going to smile when I think about him changing my order at dinner because I know it wasn’t out of control or bossiness that he did it. He did it because he wanted me to have something better. I’ll probably cry when I start to think of that, because he’s still that way. He changed the way I ordered my steak that night, because I haven’t ordered a burnt one since, but he also changed my whole life. I love the line in the song, “God gave me You” that says, “we are stitched together, and what love has tethered, I pray we never undo.” I feel like life has certainly stitched DW and I together. I am thankful that for the past 10 years we’ve walked this road together…on the happiest, highest mountain peaks and in the darkest valleys, too.
We are so blessed to be loved and cared about by so many others, too. We have wonderful family and friends who have and continue to love us through the difficult times. I am so thankful for them, too. I will always be overwhelmed at the way we have experienced God’s love through other people.
Ten years ago, we didn’t know what our futures looked like. We were just a fresh out of high school girl and a grown man going out on a first date. But God knew.
I have a scripture calendar on my desk and this was Monday’s scripture:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you…Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; there is hope for your future.” – Jeremiah 31:3;17 NRSV
Yes, you have, Lord. And I am thankful.
And in case anyone’s wondering, here’s what a fresh out high school girl and a grown man look like… What babies we BOTH were. (And funny that I look like the OLDEST!) :)