My second anniversary without Julie
Thirteen years ago last month, on a hot and humid summer morning in Indiana, in the open-air ceremony Julie had wished for, the two of us said, "I DO." For the next 12 years I shared my every day with Julie. But for the last 18 months I have been without her.
While Anahi has given me a reason to get up every day, not having Julie with me has been exceedingly difficult. Julie and I always stuck together, even during the early adjustments of marriage. During our conversations, we would often agree. "Yes," she would say. With Julie, I learned that the depth of conversation develops and the shaping of character occurs only in the long run. How many couples skip out too soon, I wonder, and miss out on what their marriage could have become?
Over the years, I also came to realize that marriage becomes sweeter as it ages—I loved Julie more as the years went by, and agape love began to really make sense. I remember how Julie's smile and her encouraging words meant so much to me. Good tea, apple pies, long conversations holding each other’s hands while looking into each other’s eyes—those were the treats of the wonderful marriage that God allowed us to experience. I am so blessed for having had Julie as my wife.
During the period just before the accident Julie and I agreed that we were experiencing a great season in our marriage. We had come out of a long winter, a winter caused in part by not being able to conceive. After Timothy was born, Julie experienced an ectopic pregnancy as well as surgery for endometriosis, but the arrival of Anahi—born on the first day of spring in the southern hemisphere—helped bring a fresh wind into our marriage. When Anahi joined our family, Julie had a new reason to believe in God's goodness. Julie was constantly smiling and showing off our little girl.
In ministry we had transitioned from directing the radio station to pioneering ICCI, the Bible training school. Seven months before the accident we had accepted an interim pastorate at our local church. We were busy but very excited. "Synergy" was a word we often used as we got up every day to serve each other and to serve the Lord together.
We had both made a commitment to work out any issue that came up. Sunday was usually the day we took the time to talk about anything that might have been left unresolved during the week. It was a day we dedicated to each other, and we made sure that the family was together. That day has been especially hard since Julie passed away.
We tried to make every anniversary special, celebrating each in a different way. In 2000 we shared fondue at the Melting Pot restaurant in Indianapolis. In 2004 we spent our anniversary in the hospital for Julie’s surgery. In 2011 we connected with Anahi for the first time—it seemed like every other celebration paled in comparison to embracing Anahi into our life. We had also begun saving money for our 15th anniversary coming up in 2015. Our hope was to backpack through Europe for two weeks without the kids. We wanted to do something very special to both of us every five years.
I loved being married to Julie, and I continue to believe that marriage is the most fundamental, although the most neglected, institution in the world. Marriage brings out the best and worst in us, but its success really comes down to how much work we want to put into it. Starting by changing oneself will do wonders for any marriage, and service to each other is something both spouses need to learn to do in order to grow a marriage.
Julie, it’s my second year without you. It still does not seem real that you will never again be my side on this side of heaven. We both believed we would grow old together. Some days I think I have the strength to carry on, while others I can’t imagine life without you.
But I also remember that you always encouraged me to overcome and never get stuck in self-pity or complain. So I am taking steps to hope and believe that God still wants me around, and if his plans include the reconstruction of my life with somebody else, I know you would fully approve of me continuing with joy this journey on planet Earth, experiencing the joys of family life that you brought into my life so well. I am encouraged by all of the good memories I have of you; they are a source of inspiration to believe in life and in the love of God.
For now, however, I say goodbye. You continue being loved by two people whom you truly touched in the last 15 years.
Norberto and Anahi