Today is the anniversary of the night Steven and I exchanged "vows" on our own. It seems like yesterday. Fortunately, I wrote down my thoughts immediately after we talked, so I have a detailed account of the entire event. It was very tough to reread after a year, but I am so thankful for those moments. I guess I want to repost what I wrote in a comment last year, as a way to honor this day and our love. I also want to use this day as a chance to remember what commitment means...not my commitment to him, but the honor and love he showed me for three years, taking care of me and bringing me more happiness in those three years than I could hope to experience in a lifetime.
A conversation led to him pulling out the ring MawMaw gave him to give to me. I took Poppie's ring out of my jewelry box, where we were saving it until the day we made the commitment "official." However, as I've said, and as he and I discussed that night, our commitment began nearly the day we met. On one of the motivation posters we made, we began a list of things he wanted to accomplish in his life. One day I returned from school, and he had written "Jenny Rae Hawkins." I am so thankful MawMaw and Poppie gave us the chance to make that "official" commitment, as he wanted to do. Though the pain still is intense, I have faith our souls will meet again, somehow. I love you Sunshine.
I don't know what to say, but I want to try to convey my love for Steve. After Steve left us, I stayed up and just wrote. Anything I try to write now won't satisfy me, so I decided to just post what I wrote that night...
Steven and I's assigned cubicle chairs in the Economics Department our first year of graduate school were probably no more than six feet apart. He sat behind my left shoulder, and I behind his left shoulder. We both are lefthanded, which meant to glance left-back at the other, the pencil had to be paused. I knew, and I knew Steven knew, a prolonged pencil pause from problem solving meant "I'm stuck". What else do you do but look left-back at your new classmate to see if his pencil pause might mean he is stuck, too? So during the first few weeks of school, two simultaneous pencil pauses and glances left-back led to study partners. Study partners led to best friends, and quickly we knew we were soul mates.
I wouldn't say I knew or even believed in the concept of a soul mate before I met Steven, but I can't explain our relationship any other way. One day during math camp, while discussing some math problem, I realized looking into his big blue eyes was distracting me from figuring out this math problem! I knew our friendship would be something more from that day forward. No matter how determined I was to make graduate school the only focus in life, I couldn't ignore that the blue eyes of my study partner-turned-friend were making me blush.
We realized quickly we were such a great team. We called ourselves the Green Machine, because one day a few of our classmates pointed out we were both wearing mostly green, seemingly coordinated clothing. We understood each other's weaknesses, and found even those weaknesses beautiful. I told Steven one day I knew he truly loved me because all my weaknesses to him were lovable...what a sweetheart. We each had a soul that only felt true happiness and comfort when the other's was always near. We frequently discussed that even if something did tear us apart physically, as it now has, those souls were joined as the Green Machine, and that's why we considered ourselves soul mates.
Love is expressed through actions and not defined by a word. There are many types of boyfriends and husbands, but a soul mate is just that. Steven gave me a ring several weeks ago, passed down to him from MawMaw, and we held our own private commitment ceremony. Steven was given his Popi's wedding ring a few years ago, so I put it on his finger, and he didn't take the ring off from that evening on. But the ceremony felt silly -- between the trials of graduate school and our illness, our commitment was proven long ago.
We had 36 months together, for which we lived a lifetime.
Luckily, we realized this often. We truly were in shock for how much love we had for each other. We had each other to cry with during the many emotional periods of graduate school. We realized often some of our best memories were just talking and laughing at night for a few hours after an exhausting 18-hour day. In fact, the majority of our time together was spent at our cubicles, the basement of the law library, or the health sciences library. We studied, rather than went on real dates, but loved (nearly) every moment. We absolutely never grew tired of each other under so many stressful circumstances. Our chemistry naturally allowed us to be so patient with each other. During any time we could take off, we tried to take it together and had a no-more-than-three-days-apart rule. I guess being around someone so many hours, day after day, time apart was absolutely devastating. We never grew tired of each other, which constantly amazed us. We traveled together during a few breaks and have wonderful memories of our adventures.
Few have the opportunity to spend nearly every hour of every day with their best friend. For the first 25 months of knowing each other, we estimated that on average, no more than four hours per day were spend not by each other's side. What a blessing I have been given to have been able to live so much with him during such a short time.
We agreed from the day of his diagnosis we would fight as a team. His soul is so precious, I couldn't do less than fight this battle as hard as I could with him. We still had happy memories, like relaxing walks in the Foothills, dancing to the great songs suggested by his supporters, discussions about economics, and nighttime talks. During these ten months, we tried so hard to find good and stay positive. I would ask him often what happiness he found that day. Especially the past few months, I would ask him before going to bed, hoping he didn't find any day unimportant or uneventful, but we always found moments of success and
happiness existed in every day. A few hours before he left us, we kissed during a moment he was feeling overwhelmed, and after our lips locked he said "That was a good one!" That was a gift Steven shared with many of us -- staying calm during a rough situation. These past ten months were more brutal than most could imagine; yet all of us who saw his suffering also saw him never complain.
I found my soul mate, so I don't feel I said goodbye to Steven tonight. I had to let Steven physically go, but I was so fortunate to lay by his side with his amazing parents, sister and brother. Steven was a special gift to me, but his entire family has been an extra blessing for which my gratitude and love can't be expressed. I feel so lucky to have that big fireball of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandma, parents, brother and sister in my life.
A song by Michelle Featherstone, titled "I'm there too" has always been in the back of my mind for the past ten months. I recall he and I lying on the bed, discussing these lyrics in detail. How would our souls still be together when we were physically apart? We talked about this often. We never could have imagined this parting could be ten months away. Once he was diagnosed, we mourned the life we very likely wouldn't have together growing old. Later, we mourned the likelihood we might not have children. But I never imagined ten months. I haven't wanted to listen to this song since his diagnosis, but now, a few hours after Steven has left me physically, I yearn to hear the words:
I see myself in you
In everything you do
And when you’re all alone at night
You know I am by your side
Cuz I’m there too
I see me in your eyes
And I’m the tears you cry
And when you fall apart
And are dying from a broken heart
I’m there too
I see your footsteps in the sand
As you journey on across this land
But if you should fall on your way
Then I will carry you that day
Cuz I’m there
I’m there too
Yeah I’m there too
I see your face in mine
And I know there’ll come a time
When you will take my hand
And I will understand
That you’re there too
When you will take my hand
And I will understand
That you’re there
You’re there too
I love you Steven.