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Our Finest Hour

8 years ago today on the 90th day of his travel visa at 11:59pm Matt flew out of America for England. He was going home because his travel visa was up, literally, down to the last minute. That’s the last time he saw England. My heart hurts thinking about it, but he never got to go back home.

We spent the whole day in bed that day. We ordered delivery for all of our favorite things. We cried, because in what life is it fair that you can be so happy and have to say goodbye to someone? This is also how I feel about his cancer and his death.

We stood in the Atlanta airport by international departures and just clung to each other and cried. I was pregnant with Quinn and he was so worried that I would hurt “bump” by getting too upset. He tried to calm me down, and before he walked away he said “I’ll be back to you Cyndi, I swear. I promise swear. Bible, Brooklyn Bridge.”

Watching him walk away was the hardest thing I had ever had to do. I was terrified he wouldn’t come back, that he would get back to England and all of his friends would tell him he was crazy for uprooting his whole life and moving to America. I was scared I would raise a baby alone. I was scared that for one reason or another, America wouldn’t let him back in. I loved him so much I just wanted to beg him to stay, but he couldn’t.

The next several weeks were filled with sadness for both of us. We hated being apart. On both ends of the earth, we went to work and came home. That was it. Our conversations and FaceTimes were full of tears. I told him I was scared he wouldn’t come back and, for the first time in our relationship, he hung up on me. He made me promise to never say that again. He promised he would be back.

We had the best summer of our entire lives that year. We went everywhere. We made a baby (accidentally, on birth control and with a broken uterus that was never supposed to be able to hold or birth children).

Matt fell in love with America and America embraced him. He loved our culture, and he loved me. He loved me in a way I had never been loved before. He loved me exactly as I was, he didn’t try to “fix” me. I can not describe how it felt to have someone love me that much, other than to say once you have it, you can’t settle for anything less. Once you know it’s out there, you long for it.

We lived every minute of that summer. I thought the feelings I had and the excitement of the relationship and all of the wanting each other like crazy would go away. It didn’t. It only got better, even after he got back 6 weeks later and I was in full cranky pregnant woman mode.

Life with Matt was as close to perfect as it could be. He never made me feel that feeling of dread about him leaving again, until the day he took his last breath. I knew he was dying and I knew he didn’t want to, but his body was tired. He had fought so hard to be here for Quinn and I. I knew I had to say goodbye but I would’ve rather just gone with him. This time, there was no promise of return. This time, there was no “I’ll be back to you Cyndi, I swear. I promise swear. Bible, Brooklyn Bridge”. He knew he was dying, and he spent the weeks prior telling me how much he loved me, telling us all all the things he wanted for us and wanted us to do. I’ve never seen anyone so brave. He had to say goodbye, but slowly and agonizingly. He did it with all the grace he carried through the rest of his life. No one watched Matt die that didn’t know exactly how he felt about them. He wore his big, beautiful heart on his sleeve.

Letting go of my person was the hardest day of my life. Holding his hand until it was cold and dead is a memory that I cannot shake. By the end of his fight, we were begging God to take him. He was in pain and he was ready to go home.

I’ll carry the memories forever of that first summer. All the laughter, excitement, tears, and even goodbyes. When he returned to America just like he said he would, he hit his knees and kissed my growing bump. He told me he would never leave me again. In the last weeks of his life, he told me he was sorry for having to leave us and sorry for making a promise he couldn’t keep. He promised he would see me on the other side, and I hold tight to the promise of Heaven because I know that somewhere in the clouds, he’s there. He’s free of pain, free of cancer, and living an eternal life that’s better than anything we will ever have here. Heaven is more beautiful with him there, because he was the most beautiful person inside and out that I had ever encountered.

It was a whirlwind of a relationship and not ever conventional not even for one second, but it was our finest hour. And when the clock ran out for us, it left me broken and missing a part of me that I’ll never be able to repair. Life without Matt will never be the same. He was a bright light in a dark world. We don’t know how to live life without him. Every day brings a new “hard”. We just push forward until we see him again.

Once upon a time, we were happy. Once upon a time, we were whole. Once upon a time, I was loved by a man so strong and so solid and so genuine. The years with Matt are frozen in time in my head and I remember everything about him in vivid detail for the rest of my life, until we meet again.

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