Shawn took me on our first official date Valentine’s Day 1999. In the previous year we had been building a friendship across the country (before cell phones were a thing!). We met August 1997 at a three-week training conference in Florida. After the conference we flew back to our homes. Shawn to Texas and me to Portland, Oregon. When we decided did to give dating a whirl it meant a trip on a plane. I flew to Texas February 1999 to meet Shawn’s family and experience a little of his life there. We went to Dallas for the weekend with some friends of his and that is where we went on our first date. The date began with a 4:30 showing at the theater of Message in A Bottle, followed by dinner at a nice restaurant, complete with true Texas hospitality!
Throughout the years of our marriage Shawn and I would reminisce about that first date together. I specifically remember re-watching the movie together on our 5th wedding anniversary, our 10th and our 20th. Watching it on our 20th was a bit surreal. I was in chemotherapy and very sick. I had never really fully paid attention to the movie beyond it being a love story. As I watched with new eyes, I realized it was a movie about a man who lost his wife to cancer. The movie is the story of the man’s grieving process, along with the internal struggle of letting himself be loved by anyone (family, friends, a possible woman) again. A few months after we watched the movie on our 20th anniversary, I had a conversation with Shawn that went something like this. “Shawn, if this doesn’t turn out the way we hope it does, you have to promise me you will one day love again. We’ve worked too hard at learning how to give and receive love for you to close yourself off to love for the rest of your life.” This was one of the hardest things for me to put to words, through tears, while grabbing my husband’s face in my hands. But I had to. I had to make sure Shawn knew that no matter what, I wanted him to remain open to giving and receiving love.
The movie ends with a profound final scene. It’s a voice over that includes these words: “If some lives form a perfect circle, other take shape in ways we cannot predict or always understand. Loss has been part of my journey. But it has also shown me what is precious. So has love for which I can only be grateful.”
(Shawn here) Loss has indeed been part of my journey, our journey…so has love. I was loved by Anna in so many ways. Perhaps one of her most sacrificial acts of love was when she asked me to promise I would not close myself off to love. I can’t imagine, given the ongoing love affair that Anna and I had, how she was able to say those words to me. As I sit here reflecting on love and our first date 22 years ago, I can say that I remain open to receiving and giving love. Receiving and giving love from/ to God, family and others. I am able to honestly echo those final words from the movie scene….”Loss…has shown me what it precious. So has love for which I can only be grateful.”