Yesterday we shared a post from Zen about shifting priorities in marriage and finding comfort in the familiar after the upheaval of a wedding. Well, today we’ve got a post from Courtney that explores a slightly different take on starting anew after experiencing a major life change. After losing a dear friend, Courtney and her husband decided that the time was right to go after the things they’d been putting off until tomorrow. As someone who has spent a lot of time in this very same space, I’m comforted to remember that sometimes terrible loss is the one thing that can set us onto the path that we need and want the most.
—Maddie for Maternity Leave
The day after my husband and I returned home from celebrating our first anniversary, we received a phone call that effectively ended our status as carefree newlyweds. A good friend of ours had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the doctors predicted she had six weeks left to live. She was twenty-eight years old.
I won’t dwell on all the sadness the next five and a half weeks brought us, mostly because there was so much of it that I can’t really put it into words yet. Instead, I like to remember the immense love we witnessed every time we watched her husband carry her to bed and kiss her goodnight. I remember the nights I clung to my own husband, so incredibly thankful that he was there next to me instead of in a hospital bed. I remember the sense of adventure our friend always had, even in the days before she passed away, when she confessed that what she missed the most was cooking her favorite exotic foods.
Our lives have changed so much since that phone call. The small spats that worked their way into our first year of marriage now seem childish. We spent my husband’s twenty-seventh birthday in a hospice room, during the last hours of our friend’s life. Today, instead of arguing over who would do the dishes (my husband volunteered!), we outlined a plan for finalizing our wills. Last week, I finally submitted an application to a graduate school program that will begin in the fall. The biggest change, though, has been our plans for the future.
In February, we are both leaving our relatively stable, corporate jobs for three months of roughing it around Australia and Southeast Asia. It’s an idea we’ve been thinking about for a long, long time. We’ve been aggressively saving up for it for nearly a year. We’ve been “planning” it for almost as long, but always with an out. There was a big part of me that thought the fun was in planning, even if we didn’t actually go through with it. There’s always next year, or the year after. We want kids someday in the future, but we can take our time with that and still have plenty of time to travel.
My timeline is different now. Watching a friend become a widower in his early thirties proves that sometimes, next year or the year after doesn’t happen. The week that we received that terrible phone call, we booked the first part of our trip to Thailand. We’re in the process of putting together the rest of it, and sometime in the middle of January, we’ll be telling our employers that we’re leaving and getting our house ready to rent out. We’ll return to the unknown, potential unemployment, and hopefully grad school enrollment. The planner in me, the part that embraces the corporate career and home ownership, is terrified. But my husband tells me we will be okay, and so far, even in the darkness of tragedy, he’s been right. As long as he is here to remind me of that, I’m jumping in—wherever this adventure leads us.
Photo from Courtney’s personal collection.