The Universe is like a road that we are all traveling upon.
And much like the roads that we drive upon each day, we are often oblivious to the journey of others—wrongly assuming that ours is the only journey and destination that matters.
In this vast and endless expanse of life and existence, we may pretend that we are islands, but to do so is delusional.
We are all one—from your friend, to your enemy, and to the strangers that we pass by on the street—we are all linked and intertwined with an intricate precision; a precision that is so delicate and so fine, that we often see randomness in the presence of design, and chance in the place of orchestration.
As 2018 began, I made a decision to change. You see every year, since 2009, I have lived in an eleven month year. I say this because ever since 2009, I have been punishing myself every December, emotionally reliving the loss that I suffered back in 2009.
Those of you that know me, or at least know of my life, will know that on New Years Eve 2009 I lost my pregnant fiancee Samantha in a car accident. Since this tragic event, every December I have become a little reclusive and have eagerly awaited the passing of every December month and New Years Eve.
I did the same thing last month too. However I also promised myself at the end of 2017, that I would stop repeating this annual self-berating behavior.
I decided that I would instead view my time with Samantha as a source of joy, and I decided to focus on the good times that I had shared with her, and not on the tragic event that took her.
I decided to do this because I realized that I had turned her memory into a source of pain; something that would surely hurt her to see.
We may miss the ones that we have loved and lost, but we can only really honor both them and their memory by living full, rich, and happy lives. This way, we can bring happiness to their spirit. For as they watch over us, they can gain solace in seeing how their memory enriches (not haunts) our lives.
In the spirit of this encouragement, I’ve placed below what will eventually be part of a book that charts the experiences of my life. The excerpt charts a pivotal moment in me and Samatha’s relationship.
Families. There are so many versions of families that exist. You are born to a family. You form your own family with someone you love. Even friends can become as meaningful as family.
To me, a family consists of two or more people that have unconditional love for each other.
Most people would say that a family must consist of children, but I know from my own childhood experiences, that children do not automatically make a family. It is LOVE that is the glue that joins souls together, not numbers or biological ties.
I grew up in an environment where I was biologically related to everyone around me, yet I experienced no love. So from my experience, I know that biological ties do not guarantee the presence of love.
Many couples even try to have/use kids to try and bind a troubled relationship together, which is both completely wrong and unfair.
Children need to be raised in a loving atmosphere. They should never be relied upon to fix relationship problems just by their mere presence or existence.
Both my adoptive parents never had children of their own because they couldn’t. But I know that they treated me as a son, and they knew I loved them as parents. We were a family. I wonder if perhaps I was a gift to them, as much as they were a gift to me. Through them I got to enjoy what it was like to be loved, and through me they got to experience the joys of being a parent. As I write this, I truly realize how much I miss them…
Samantha’s experience of family had been very different to mine. She was born to George and Constance. George was an accountant and Constance a nurse. They were both of Greek origin, yet were both born in Scotland.
Scotland is where Samantha was born and spent the first 12 years of her life. She moved from there with her family when George’s work brought them to Buckinghamshire, England. Samantha also had one brother, Thomas, who was 2 years younger than her.
Samantha’s family life was one of laughter and happiness. She was part of a loving family unit where she enjoyed her childhood and looked forward to her visits as an adult. Family was an important component in Samantha’s life. It was something she had built everything else around.
Samantha’s views on life were quite the opposite of her family’s though. She was more spiritual, whereas they subscribed to the Greek Orthodox Church. To be fair, it was more her grandparents who were the ‘true believers’ of the faith. George and Constance attended church for mere ritualistic ‘lip service’ than anything else. They were not strict followers of the religion and their two children had completely strayed from it; something which didn’t bother George and Constance. They were the type of parents that just wanted their children to be happy. I truly respected this trait about them, and perhaps even mildly envied Samantha’s connection with her parents too.
I enjoyed my visits to see her family. Constance and George always got on well with each other, and they made me feel at home whenever I was there. I remember one conversation I had with George, whilst me and him were playing tennis together. We had just finished the game and we were enjoying some cold drinks.
“You could have had me on that last point Ethan,” George said as he recovered his breath.
I modestly replied “Nah, you totally outplayed me, you worked the angles on the court perfectly that last game”
He laughed at my poor attempt at modesty “You’re a good egg, Ethan.”
“Am I?” I replied in my routinely questioning tone of any compliments people bestowed on me.
“I’m not talking about the game, which I know you let this old man win!” said George.
“I’m talking about you, and how happy you make my daughter. I can see it on her face, you treat her with love and respect. It means a lot to me as a father to have someone like you with Sam.”
I started to bashfully decline his compliment “No, not at all, it’s me who’s lucky to have her….”
He interrupted “Let me finish.”
I paused for him to continue.
“As a Dad, it’s always a worry to have a daughter. It’s a blessing, but still a worry. As you know there’s so many idiots out there and I always worry about Sam. But now with you, I don’t worry so much.” He put his hand upon my shoulder “You’re a good man, I’m happy that you are with Sam. I would normally say don’t ever break my daughters heart, but with you I don’t even feel the need to say that.”
“I would never do that,” I said with the utmost of sincerity.
“I know, that’s why I like you. That and the fact, you throw me the odd game on the tennis court too.”
We both laughed, before resuming the game.
I knew what he meant about the idiots out there. I wanted to tell him what had happened to my own Mum, and to tell him that I would always keep Sam safe. But I couldn’t share my past with him, it was not in my nature to do so. The fact he already felt his daughter would be safe with me, that was enough for me really.
As time past on, me and Sam grew closer. I loved her personality, and her zest for life. She was always so positive about things, and that was a beautifully infectious trait. We had so much in common, apart from one thing. She didn’t really believe in the concept of marriage and viewed it as nothing more than a piece of paper. Whereas I saw marriage as the highest commitment one could give to another.
I think this was the only real ‘shadow’ in our relationship. We debated it many times.
“But your parents are married, your grandparents too, why are you so against it?” I’d ask.
“Hun I’m not against it, I just think it’s not needed,” she would reply.
Over time I became quiet regarding the subject, as I realized that maybe it was me that was the problem, and not the fact that she didn’t want to marry.
After all, this is why we kept talking about it. I had proposed not long ago. We had gone to Duror in Scotland, her favorite place. We had planned a weekend away to this beautiful location…
As we were out one day enjoying the scenery of Scotland, we sat upon a beautiful hillside and had a picnic.
It was a beautiful day, the sky was clear blue, laced with grey highlights of the minority of clouds that adorned the skyline. It wasn’t warm, but the cool air was more soothing than it was coarse. Our surroundings were hills that stretched as far as eyes could see. And below us we had a view of the village we were staying at.
It was idyllic.
As we sat there in a comfortable silence, breathing in the peace around us, my mind wondered.
“Should I do this?”, “It feels right, but what if it screws things up between us?” Thoughts like this reverberated inside my head.
I looked at Samantha. I admired her as she looked out into the distance. A look of contentment was painted upon her face; she looked like a masterpiece that I could never grown tired of admiring. She loved nature, she sought it out with every chance she got. She always had this connection to nature, one that she couldn’t explain, yet it was so plainly and evidently there. I guess some things are not meant for words, but are reserved only for our feelings.
I smiled as I noticed the wind gently blow through her long brown hair. I watched the beautiful dance that took place between each strand of hair and the soft, yet graceful, wind. I noticed how the sun reflected of her face, highlighting her beauty in all of it’s glory; each ray of the sun bringing to life, the elegant contours of her face.
As I quietly admired her, she then turned her gaze toward me and smiled, before looking back at her surroundings.
We didn’t even need to talk. Sometimes, between two hearts that love each other, one look can say more than a thousand words ever could.
I felt the inside of my pocket again, I think I had maybe done this 20 times by now.
“It’s still there,” I thought.
The ring was still in my pocket. The ring that would either make this day into something amazing, or completely screw it up. I had rehearsed how I would propose to her more times than I could remember. My mental rehearsal of the methods and approaches I could take in proposing to her, all of them seemed endless. I knew she wouldn’t want anything too public. Despite her outgoing nature, she had an element of privacy about her, which in a lot of ways, mirrored myself.
So I opted for today and this moment. Despite the simplicity of my proposal, I knew I wanted to get this just right. I felt nervous, vulnerable. I wasn’t used to this. I was normally leading a situation, but now I was about to hand the reigns of my heart to Sam. In an emotional sense, I would be naked and vulnerable.
I was placing my heart in a guillotine before her. I wondered if she would cut it in half, or save it?
I took a silent pause and gathered myself, before looking at her.
“Yes Hun,” she replied whilst observing some ponies in the distance.
I sat up and moved toward her, brushing her cheek with my hand “Hey.”
She turned to me smiling and kissed me “Yes love, what can I do for you?” she playfully joked through my favorite smile on the entire planet.
I moved my face within a few inches of hers. Whilst doing so, I simultaneously gathered together my emotions and feelings, taming them like a lion. I then began to gently whisper into her ear.
“Dear Sam, I love you so very deeply. You make life beautiful for me. How about we spend the rest of our lives together?”
She pulled back, looking serious “Are you?”
I stood up, then knelt down on one knee. “Will you do me the honor of marrying me?”
She paused for a moment, which felt like hours to me.
“Ethan… I love you so much you know that, right?”
I sighed as I felt the “but” that was about to punctuate both her sentence and my feelings. I looked away, bracing for the pain that was about to hit me and shatter my heart.
“Hey,” she pulled my face back towards her “Don’t be sad, come on let me finish, please?”
“Ok.” I said in the calmest voice I could muster. Nothing was ‘ok’ about that moment, but I knew that wallowing in self pity was a futile and pathetic act.
“Hun I love you more than I’ve ever loved any guy, you know that too, I know you do. You just have to know that I’m not one for marriage. Yes, we can get engaged, but I don’t know when we’ll get married, I don’t even know if I’ll ever want to. I do know that I love you though. I know that I don’t want to ever be with any other guy but you.”
I processed the information in the most logical way I could, mentally pushing back my emotions as they vied for my attention, while she continued to talk.
“You just have to understand how I feel about things, I know you already kind of knew too. Can we do that? Can we be engaged, but not get married? If you can’t, it will break my heart, but I’ll understand, I’ll hold no grudge.”
“Shh.” I said as out my fingers upon her lips.
I couldn’t bear the thought of losing her, so I did something I hadn’t done before in our relationship, I compromised my beliefs, selling them off like a cheap ornament.
“Ok, we can do that.”
“Are you sure? I mean I want to have children with you too, but I want that now, and I don’t want to get married first.”
“Wow,” I thought “This was a lot to process.”
She could see I needed to think.
“Hun, I’m going to go walk over there,” Samantha said as she pointed to a hilly area “think about what I’m saying and then come and talk to me when you’re ready, ok?”
I nodded, giving her a cue to go for her walk.
I don’t know how long I sat there, time became meaningless as my thoughts began to claim my attention. Here I was, the normally decisive Ethan Michael Carter, at a cross roads in my life and this relationship. I believed in marriage and wanted it. But at the same time I loved her so very much.
Was I being stubborn? Was she? Were we both just being honest?
I deliberated things in my mind over and over, as I did I momentarily looked at her in the distance. She had sat upon the hill and began to pull out materials from her backpack and engage in her favorite pastime of drawing.
To most, it may have looked like she didn’t care about the gravity of the situation. It would have looked as the most flippant of acts. I knew her better though. I knew that drawing was her way of coping with stress. It was her form of escapism and even her vehicle through which she could gain fresh and new perspectives to deal with situations.
As I watched her open her sketch book and begin to mark the virgin paper with her pencil, I began to see our situation as a metaphor.
Her, over there. Me, over here. Aware of each others existence, yet painfully apart.
I asked myself if I could I live like this; live a life in which she wasn’t present.
What sort of a life would that be? Devoid of emotional connection and most probably mark a return to my old ways of meaningless flings and a life without love.
Through this cross examination, to which I was both the defense and the prosecution, all I could think of and all I knew, was that upon that hill sat a woman that I loved. A woman that had been the first to truly and completely access my heart. A woman that loved me too. A woman who’s love filled every part of my heart. A woman that I would happily give my life for. A woman that made me feel whole. We were two halves of a whole.
I stood up and walked towards her. I knew I was doing more than simply walking toward Samantha, I was walking toward a new stage in our relationship. A stage which would require me to compromise my beliefs. Was I doing the right thing? I wasn’t sure in a logical sense, but emotionally and spiritually, I felt drawn to her.
As I drew nearer and she noticed my arrival, she put down her drawing materials and stood up. She faced me filled with a look that emanated nervousness. As she stood there awaiting my answer to her questions, apprehension replaced the peace that had earlier been painted upon her face.
Standing there, touching distance from her, I said nothing. I simply looked into her eyes for a moment. Her eyes scanned mine, trying to anticipate the words that were about to flow out of my mouth. Before she could reach a premature conclusion, I took a step forward and hugged her with a tender, yet tight embrace. As she began to reciprocate by wrapping her arms around me in an almost vice-like manner, I said “I’ll do it Sam, I love you.”
She squeezed me tighter, before pulling back and putting her hand out, I placed the ring upon her finger. We were now engaged.
A few months later.
We had been trying for a baby for a short while now. I had buried my wish of being married before we had kids. I saw it as a sacrifice for what we had.
I didn’t begrudge her or the situation, I simply embraced it.
After all, I was engaged to the woman I loved and we were trying for a baby, “Sounds good to me.” I thought.
August 5th, 2009–I was driving home after meeting some friends and playing some pool.
As I negotiated the streets, I thought about what Samantha had been up to that day. She said she was going to go talk to her mum about something, she didn’t say what it was about, but I wasn’t going to pry. If she wanted to tell me, she could do so in her own time. I respected the bond between parent and child, it was a private one.
I pulled up in the carpark and looked up at our apartment window on the top floor. I could see her moving in the kitchen, engrossed in the art of preparation.
“I bet she was cooking something as a surprise.” I thought to myself.
I never expected her to do things like that, but I certainly appreciated them when she did. Still musing about what she had prepared, I walked from the car, to the front entrance of our block of apartments. With a cheeky smile of anticipation on my face, I turned the key to the lock of the front entrance door. Upon entering the main building, I quickly checked our mail box, before lunging up the steps of the staircase that led to our apartment, two at at time. I’d missed her today and I felt like giving her a hug.
Reaching our apartment door, I quickly unlocked the door and opened it hastily. Stepping through the doorway, looking to my left, I noticed her standing at the end of our hallway, leaning around the corner from the kitchen.
“You’re early, luv?” she said through a large smile.
“Yeah, sorry about that.” I said as I walked toward her “Did you have enough time to get rid of your fancy man out of the window? If not I’ll be happy to help him out, but I may forget to open the window first!” I playfully said.
“Ha-dee-fucking-ha, you’re such a comedian,” she said as she threw a dishcloth at me, which I caught, before playfully wrapping it around the back of her neck and pulling her close to me for a kiss.
“Still a cocky jerk I see,” she jokingly teased.
“Still head over heels in love with me, I see,” I countered as I pulled her close again.
“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not?” She sarcastically replied.
“Ow, you got me right here,” I said as I mimicked being shot in the heart.
She jabbed me in the chest with a playful punch “Asshole!”
I playfully quipped “Um, no anal sex yet Hun, maybe after dinner?”
She laughed out loudly “You filthy so and so.”
“What can I say Sam, you got me figured out,” I joked as I pulled her close and kissed her again, this time more slower and purposefully than before. As we savored the passionate exchange that took place between our lips, she pulled back gently.
“Ethan?” she shyly said.
“Yes, Samantha” I said as I pretended to look as serious as I could, mocking her playfully.
“Crazy about me? I already know,” I rudely interjected.
“No, shhh, let me talk.”
“Ok.” I replied.
I stood there for a moment, speechless. I know we had been trying for a baby. I also know I wanted to get married first, but right now all I knew was that she was pregnant. Carrying our child.
“Are you ok Hun,” she nervously asked, perhaps anticipating a negative reaction.
I looked deeply into her eyes as I placed my hands gently upon her shoulders “Ok? The woman that I love is carrying my baby, I’m over the moon!”
A tear of happiness and perhaps relief, rolled down her cheek, I wiped it away and kissed her gently. I then stared into her eyes again and slowly said “I love you Samantha. You have no idea how much I love you.”
She replied “I love you too Ethan, I really do.”
We held each other and smiled for the rest of the evening.
I felt happy. I felt content. I felt, peace.
PERSPECTIVE IS KEY
I hope you enjoyed reading the excerpt. Feel free to leave a comment below. For me, the biggest change in how I deal with this event now is regarding my perspective. Nothing in life is completely good, nor is it completely bad. Every experience we have is a mixed bag of positivity and negativity. Think of these elements of each experience as seeds. The attention we give these seeds, is like the water and sunlight that we feed them.
For too long now, I was feeding the negative side of my experience of losing Samantha. Obviously, losing my fiancee as I did, is heartbreaking and soul-destroying. But the biggest tragedy is allowing (deciding) to continue to allow the pain and suffering of the event to follow me around. Because by doing so, it has prevented me from recalling the joy and love that me and Samantha shared.
What pain are you reliving? What situation are you allowing to rob you of your happiness?
You must, for the sake of your happiness, refocus your attention away from the negative and onto the positive. Will it be easy to adopt this perspective? No.
However, when has anything worth doing been an easy task?
Look, and look hard. Find the positives within the sea of despair you might be experiencing; find the positives and cling to them.
I promise things will get better over time.