When I went to college in the fall of 1998, I was not looking for love. In fact, I was engaged to my high school sweetheart whom I had been dating for over three years. I was at college to work hard, study long and get my degree.
But then I met someone. My first impressions of him weren’t that great, but as I got to know him I liked him more and more. At one point I called my dad and he talked to this guy (who I wasn’t even dating yet) and my dad told me, “You’re gonna marry that guy.” I thought he was crazy.
I ended up breaking up with my fiancé, because my feelings were just so confusing. I started dating this other guy and really, the rest is history. We both lived in the dorms (that’s how we met) and when it came time to move out for summer, we moved in together. He was going to go visit his high school friends for the summer, but then I said “How about we move in together?” And he agreed.
Things were great. We both worked hard to pay the rent and all the bills. We spent all our non-working time together. He met my parents and my sisters, making the five hour drive over the Cascade mountains with me.
For my New Year resolution in 2000 (new year, new millennium!) I wanted to start going to church. I had stopped attending church regularly about five years before then, but I had always felt guilty about it. He decided to go with me. I thought this was really strange, since guys didn’t like church, or so it seemed to me. He actually went first. I have always struggled with getting up early, so he went without me one week. He came home an hour later talking about how neat it was. After that, we went together and the missionaries started teaching him.
We were getting integrated into the church family when tragedy struck. We were actually on a road trip to see his family in California before school started back up again in the fall of 2000, when I received a call that my mother was in critical condition after a car accident. My sister and I would be the executors of the estate, so we needed to get there as soon as possible.
In the middle of the night, with the help of his aunt and uncle, we left our truck in California and flew to Spokane via Seattle. There are snippets of memory left about this time, but I remember so little. My world had been hit with the first real earthquake it would know. I do remember as we were driving into Spokane from the airport that it was all sunny except for one rain cloud over Spokane. I thought the heavens were weeping for my mom.
My mom did pass away after my sister and I, in conference with our family, decided to take her off life support. It was a lot for a barely- 20 year old to handle. Funeral decisions, going through her possessions, closing bank accounts and other personal things. All while my family was hurting and feuding amongst each other.
This guy, who would become my husband a year later, was there. He didn’t shy away. He didn’t hang back. He was my rock and my soft place. When my head was full of tears, his was thinking straight.
After three weeks away from Seattle, I needed to return to start my next quarter of school. And honestly it was a relief. Just school and work and regular life was a better alternative to the grief I was trying to process. I do remember not being myself and crying so easily.
This experience easily could have driven us apart. We weren’t even married. This ugly, vulnerable side of me could have scared him off. But it didn’t. What is it they say? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. This was so true for us back then and it remains so to this day.
Some of our family asked why get married so young? Why not wait? But we had already been together for 2.5 years and we knew it was right for us. We got home from our honeymoon to Oahu, Hawaii late on September 10th, 2001. We woke to a phone call asking if we were ok. “Why wouldn’t we be?” “Turn on the TV.”
While thousands of personal tragedies were underway as the world watched, we had just begun our marriage together. We had already dealt with personal tragedy, and we did it together, coming out stronger on the other side. We still choose to allow the disappointments and hurt in our lives to bind us closer instead of splitting us apart. That is the best part of my marriage: it is built on a sure foundation of trust and love.
So on this September 11th, I remember how tragedy can turn to treasure if you let it.