Just before Shawn and I got married, I almost backed out.
I mean, not really. I knew I was going to marry him. But I had just turned 25 and I had a little freak-out that we were getting married too young. I had barely graduated from college and neither of us had jobs. We were moving to a city where we had no friends and I had spent the previous 3 years traveling around the world with little more than what I could fit in a backpack.
I can’t remember exactly what brought on the freak-out, but I definitely remember crying to Shawn about how maybe we should postpone the wedding. “We’re so young!” I said.
“Do you love me?” Shawn asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“And I love you,” he said. “And that’s what matters.”
He convinced me. But he was worried I might freak out again, as a few days later he had to return to Canada for a week to get his marriage visa. “I’m going to write you a few notes,” he said, “and when you start to worry about getting married, I need you to open one of them.”
There were 7 letters, one for each day he was gone, I think, and they were titled, “Freak-Out Letter #1” and so on. I opened five of them. But even when I opened them, I knew I was going to marry him.
I kept all of them, including the two unopened ones, in a ziplock bag with all of the other notes that we wrote each other throughout the years. Over the past year, I’ve re-read things from this bag sometimes, and it usually brings me some comfort.
I had forgotten about these specific freak-out notes until the other night when I was feeling really down and decided to look at these old letters. “My God,” I actually said out loud as I thumbed through the “Freak-Out” letters. Two of them were unopened.
I had been crying for an hour when I found the “Freak-Out” letters. As you may have read about on my blog, this month has not been easy for me.
I looked at the letter. There was a funny picture Shawn had drawn on the front (I think it was supposed to be him) with the words “Shawn loves Marjorie 4 ever” coming out of the stick figure’s mouth. The top was labeled “Freak-Out #6.”
“Hell,” I thought, “if there was ever a freak-out, I think what I am going through qualifies.” I was certainly at the darkest point I’d been through in many months.
I opened the letter.
“I am probably in Montreal right now,” it began, “and if all has gone well, I will have my visa all ready to go.”
I sighed at that. God, how I wish he was in Montreal.
He went on and on. “You may be thinking about all the possible problems that could arise as we travel on the road of life together,” he wrote at one point, “but I will always remain loyal and committed to your happiness.”
I bet if I had read that back in 2004, I may have thought, yes, marriage might be hard. We might be too young and we might not have enough money and we could fight about all of that.
I most definitely wouldn’t think that just 15 years later I’d be sitting alone in a bed without him because he would be dead.
But he was alive on that page. “Zoom-out baby,” he wrote, “and you will realize that our upcoming wedding and marriage is coming at the right time in our lives.” He was right, of course. We could have waited a few more years, we could have had more possessions and a lot more money. We could have had jobs. But the fundamental thing in our lives – each other – wouldn’t have been any different.
But now I am alone. Maybe there was a part of me back in 2004 that knew this could happen. I had only lost my mom a few years prior to our wedding, and I worried a lot about bad things happening to the people I loved. I don’t actually remember being worried that Shawn would die, but I certainly was concerned that we might end up getting divorced because we had gotten married too young. And I loved him so much that even thinking about that possibility was terrifying to me.
Would I have changed my mind if I had known? What if instead of opening this letter in 2019, I had opened it in 2004 with the knowledge of what my life would be like fifteen years later? What if I had known that all of those insecurities I had about our future would come true? What if I had known that there was a happy ending for Shawn and me, but it was limited in time and scope?
What if I had known? Would I change my 25-year-old mind?
That’s impossible to say. In my worst moments, I sometimes wish that I had met someone else and built a different life that didn’t end up so broken.
But then I wouldn’t have had Shawn. And it’s impossible to imagine a life as happy as the one I ended up having for many years with him.
“I love you Marjorie,” he wrote, “and no one else on the planet or elsewhere can love you as much as I can.”
I clutched the note as I read the last line:
“I look forward to holding you close to me.”