Two years ago today Hurricane Hanna plunged into the eastern seaboard, and Jillian and I got married. The hurricane (and the wedding) was something that we knew was coming, and that we had been able to mentally prepare ourselves for. In fact, we had taken drastic measures to try and prevent the inevitable from happening. I walked into the sketchiest religious store in Northern Virginia, made sure not to look the drug dealer behind the counter in the eyes, and bought a rosary. The night before the wedding Jillian and I hung it on the branch of a rose bush at the venue where we were to get married, where it was supposed to bring good weather, it was supposed to blow the storm away.
The next morning it appeared that we were the fools, as the clouds poured buckets of water on everyone, including the rosary on the rose bush. Flood warnings had guests reconsidering the drive, and the outside ceremony was most certainly scrapped. We arrived at the venue, I finished writing my vows, and we got dressed for what was going to be a very wet wedding. Until it stopped. Just 15 minutes before the ceremony was to begin, the clouds found their water buckets empty, and with nothing left to do, decided to leave. The ceremony was still held inside a tent, but for the rest of the evening it was clear and beautiful. At the time we considered it a miracle.
A lot has happened over the past two years, some of it expected, and some of it not. For one, if you would have told me when we got married that we would celebrate our first two anniversaries in Haiti, I would have punched you in the gut and said, “Don’t give Jillian any ideas!” But seriously, it’s a little wild knowing that our marriage has been defined in so many ways by this country. While we are creeping up to our six year anniversary of being together, the last two years seem like a blur, but have made us grow more than the first four in a lot of ways we can’t define.
I would be lying to say that our second year of marriage has been the best, it’s been a trial harder than I had ever expected it to be. For the first five months, Jillian lived in Haiti by herself, with me visiting twice before moving down. We were given 10 days to live together in Haiti before the quake hit, and for the following seven months we’ve been trying to work through what has proven to be a life-defining moment in many ways.
After the earthquake many people would mention how nice it was that Jillian and I had experienced the earthquake together, “it must be great to be able to understand what each other is going through,” they would say. But it turned out that what we had gone through was so incredibly different that any connection involving our experiences was hard to come by. For Jillian, she was trapped for an unbearable amount of time. For me, I traveled through the quake-ravaged city on my way to get to her. While we met in the middle and evacuated together, our residual fears and memories from before that moment just don’t match up.
At first this was incredibly frustrating, the one person that we wanted to connect with was not able to plug in. It was as if 24 hours of our lives had crumbled 6 years of the foundation that we had built so carefully together (pun fully intended). So we moved on, knowing that life had to keep going, but moving on hasn’t made things much better, and the past 7 months have just sucked. Bottom line is, it’s just harder than it used to be, and that’s no fun.
But during your anniversary you look back and collect all the good memories to remind yourself why you love the other person. For me, I found that it was a bunch of memories that I hadn’t conjured up in a while, which was sad. It’s driving back and forth to WVU every weekend just so that Jillian would date me, it’s painting our first apartment in DC together, it’s bawling my eyes out as she walked down the isle. It’s knowing how proud I was of her when she got the opportunity to come to Haiti. It’s the sense of relief that I had knowing my best friend was alive when we pulled her out of the rubble. I need to not let these feelings just go by the wayside, I need to hold on to them so when that connection’s not there I know why we continue to fight.
For me, this anniversary has been a nice wake-up call, a way for me to not forget the reasons why I fell in love with Jillian, because those will never change. While we have changed as people, and will continue to change as people in the future, deep down she is the woman I married because I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life with anyone else.
So this afternoon we got together with Olie to take a family picture, an updated shot on our second anniversary that we could share with all of you to show that we are OK. What resulted was an eerily accurate portrayal of what our life has become over the past year…
We’re out of focus, and Olie is uncontrollably attacking one of us, but deep down we’re happy knowing that we are together. Because sometimes you can’t just put a rosary in a rose bush in preparation for the next disaster, you gotta just know that we can ride it out as a team, and everything will eventually be OK. I’m nervous, yet excited, about what the next year will bring, because let’s be honest, we don’t exactly have the best track record. But 10 years from now we’ll look back at this and think how wild a ride these first two years have been, and know that we are closer because of them.