He remembered the day he proposed to her as if it happened just yesterday. She was waiting for him on the train tracks where they met one fine summer day. As he approached, holding the wild flowers behind his back, she turned and smiled that smile that melted his heart. She looked beautiful in the sundress and her hair fell in thick, dark tresses down her back.
Slowly, his heart racing, he walked over to her. Still holding the flowers behind his back, he leaned down and kissed her. Then, he held out the flowers. “Happy birthday, Emily Rose.”
Her eyes lit up and she took them. “Thank you,” she exclaimed, reaching up to kiss him in delight. She breathed in the sweet, fresh fragrance of the flowers. “They are beautiful.”
“I have something else for you,” he said. He reached into his back pants pocket and kneeling down on the dry leaves in between the tracks, he produced a red, velvet box and opened it. He saw her eyes widen. “Emily Rose, I have loved you since we were children but that love changed to what it is now. You are the love of my life–my soulmate. You are my heaven on earth. When I look at you, I am amazed not only because you are the most beautiful girl I know but because everything I have ever wanted or dreamed is right in front of me. When I look at you, I believe that God really loves me because He blessed me with you. I want to spend the rest of my life loving and taking care of you. Emily Rose Carter, will you make me the happiest man on the planet by saying that you will marry me?”
Emily was crying now. In between sobs, she managed to gasp, “Yes, I will marry you.”
After he slipped the ring on her finger, he stood up and picking her up, he swung her around, making her laugh before setting her back down on her feet. He cupped her face and kissed her for several minutes. “Let’s celebrate over dinner,” he murmured after raising his head to gaze down into her radiant, tear streaked face. She nodded and they walked, arms wrapped around each other to their favorite eatery. It was a balmy afternoon.
Over dinner, they planned the wedding which they wanted to take place as soon as possible. They didn’t want a long engagement. They decided to have a fall wedding which was about three months away. Arrangements were made for a vintage country wedding in a church hall. The weeks went by quickly and the day which seemed a long way off was nigh. Then, the unthinkable happened…
Emily and her roommate, Rita were driving home from Emily’s bridal shower when a car ran a red light and slammed into the passenger-side of the car. Emily died at the scene but Rose was taken to the hospital in critical condition. When he heard the news, he was devastated, inconsolable and he lashed out at God. Emily was only twenty-five–in the prime of her life and looking forward to their future together. How could God have allowed this tragedy to happen?
It was the first day of Fall, just a couple of days before what would have been their wedding ceremony, was Emily’s funeral instead. He sat there, stone faced still bitter but no longer angry with God. He had reached the place where he could seek God in prayer and ask him to help him with his anger.
After the funeral, he went home where he remained until the next day when he forced himself to get up and go to work. He went through the day like an automaton, trying to keep it together but a couple of times, he had to go to the washroom and pull himself together as waves of emotions swept over him. He missed her so much. How was he going to function without her? Her beautiful, expressive face filled his thoughts and her winsome smile tugged at his heart strings, making him ache for her.
It was during one of these meltdown moments that he decided that he had to leave New York and move to another state where he wouldn’t be reminded everyday of his loss. It took months for him to get everything sorted out and before he left for Seattle, he visited Emily’s grave where he left fresh wild flowers.
Moving to Seattle was the best decision he made, although, it still took five years for him to recover from his grief. Teaching at the university, going to church and making new friends helped tremendously. His friends invited him out to different venues and he went. It was better than being cooped up in his apartment. However, he made it clear to them that he didn’t want to get fixed up with anyone. The idea of dating didn’t appeal to him. He was quite content to be single.
They say love finds you when you’re not looking. And it did one afternoon when he was walking in the park. It was a pleasant day. The sun was high in the cloudless sky and there was a slight breeze. He went to the lawn flanked by trees and sat on the bench. There was a group of young people playing Frisbee and he watched them. They seemed to be having a great time.
The Frisbee landed close to where he was sitting and one of the young women ran over to get it. She looked to be about twenty or twenty-one–attractive with long chestnut hair which streamed behind her as she ran towards him. She was dressed in a white tee shirt and denim shorts, exposing long defined legs. It was obvious that she worked out.
She stooped down and picked up the Frisbee. When she straightened up, she paused. For several minutes she just stood there, staring at him, making him uncomfortable and then, she approached him, an inquiring look on her face. When she stood in front of him, she asked, “Daniel Miller?”
He nodded. “Yes. Have we met before?” This close, she looked vaguely familiar now.
She nodded. “Yes. We met at my brother’s barbecue.”
“What’s your brother’s name?”
“Mark Brown. I’m his sister, Cheryl.” Just then her friends started yelling and waving.
“Oh, yes. I remember now. You were in charge of the bean darts.”
She laughed. “Yes, I was. And you got the highest score.”
“I got lots of practice from throwing darts. Um, I think your friends are trying to get your attention.” They were yelling and waving.
She looked over at them and then back at him. “I’ll be right back,” she said before bounding off.
He watched as she gave the Frisbee to one of the guys, say something to the group before walking away. It seemed that Cheryl would rather talk to him than continue playing Frisbee with her friends and for some reason which he couldn’t quite understand, that pleased him immensely. When she sat down, he asked, “Are you attending university?”
“Yes, Seattle Pacific University.”
“How long have you been attending there?”
“This coming semester will be my second year.”
“What are you studying?”
“Applied Human Biology. I’ve always wanted to find out how the human body works and why it works the way it does. Plus, I’m thinking of doing a therapy doctoral degree program after I graduate.”
“It sounds like you have your future well planned.”
“Yes, as far as my academic future is concerned. When it comes to my personal life, well, that’s a different story. What about you? What line of work are you in?”
“I’m a director of Communications and Marketing at Companier.”
“You’re from New York,” she remarked suddenly, startling him. “Sorry, don’t mean to be nosy. It’s just that I recognize the accent.”
“You’re right. I’m from New York. I moved here to Seattle almost six years ago.”
“How do you like it here?”
“I like its natural beauty, mild winters and the people. I have more friends here than I know what to do with.”
She smiled. “All very good reasons,” she said. “And I heard that it’s cheaper living here than in New York and other cities.”
He smiled. “That’s true.”
“Are you doing anything later?” she asked.
He shook his head.
“My friends and I are going to the Amusement Center to play their Ultimate Real Life Escape Games. This is my first time. It’s supposed to be a lot of fun. You get to solve real puzzles. Afterwards, we’ll grab a bite to eat. Why don’t you come with us?”
The idea of hanging out with a group of university students, most of them probably ten years his junior, didn’t appeal to him but he wanted to see her again. He enjoyed talking with her. She was so easygoing and he felt completely relaxed with her. “All right,” he said.
She looked pleased. “Great. We’ll be there for seven. I’ll wait outside for you.”
“I’ll be there.”
They talked for a while longer and then she returned to her friends. Shortly afterwards, they left the park. As he watched them go, he felt a flutter of excitement in his stomach when he thought about seeing her again that evening.
True to her word she was waiting for him and he couldn’t prevent the smile from spreading across his face as he quickly closed the distance between them. She looked great in a floral top and jeans complete with low heel sandals. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, making her look even younger. Her face lit up when she saw him and grabbing his hand, she took him inside to meet her friends. They turned out to be a rather nice bunch and he enjoyed interacting with them.
There were two games and they chose the Bourne Mission. The object of the game was to recover the documents and get out of the abandoned bunker undetected. No one should know you were ever here and if you got caught, there was no rescue mission. They had a blast even though they fell short of completing the mission. They made plans to try the Bio-Hazard Room the next time. They went to a family run Greek restaurant nearby where they enjoyed generous portions of delicious food. Lively conversation and laughter flowed late into the night.
Daniel offered to take Cheryl home and she readily accepted. On the way over to her apartment building, they talked animatedly about different things and by the time he walked her to her door, they had arranged to see each other the following day. It was a beautiful sunny day so they decided to go to Woodland Park Zoo where they spent the entire day. They bought food from the food truck and then went for a walk in the Rose Garden. They lingered at the Reflecting Pool and Sculptural Fountain. It was sunset by the time they left.
As they stood outside of her apartment, he knew that he was ready to be in a relationship again. “Have dinner with me tomorrow,” he said and she nodded. He gently brushed her cheek with his knuckles before he walked away. They began dating.
One evening, they took the ferry to Whidbey Island where they planned to have dinner. As they stood on the Deception Pass Bridge as it ran suspended over the swirling water, Daniel turned to Cheryl. He cupped her face between his hands and gazed down into her face. “Before meeting you, I never thought that I could ever fall in love again,” he said huskily. “We may not be each other’s first love but I want to be your last and forever love.”
Tears sprang to her eyes. “You are my first love,” she told him. “And my last and forever.”
“I love you, Cheryl,” he whispered.
“I love you too, Daniel.”
He smiled slightly before he lowered his head and kissed her. When their lips touched, he felt a fire stir deep inside him. He felt alive again. He had heard about people feeling fireworks when they kissed that special someone but when he kissed Cheryl, her lips set his whole heart on fire.
That night over dinner, he asked her to marry him. Five months later, they got married in the Woodland Rose Garden witnessed by family and friends. As he gazed into her shining eyes as they danced their first dance, thinking how true the words, God wants to restore everything that’s been stolen from your life. He wants to heal every hurt and every pain. It took five years but God had restored his life and now he was experiencing love and inexpressible joy once again. Very few people could say that they were twice blessed but he was–first with Emily Rose and now with Cheryl.
Image by © Jamie Grill/Corbis
Sources: Seattle Pacific University; The University of Western Australia; Lake Union Movers; City-Data; Livestrong; NameLix; Trip Advisor; Flee Escape; Woodland Rose Park; The Culture Trip; CBS Seattle; Feels Like Home