We met on Capitol Hill, working as congressional aides. It wasn’t instant romance. In fact, he was dating my best friend. But, it was an instant bond – a rare and inexplicable connection that began with a conversation about books. He recommended that I read White Noise by Don DeLillo and I recommended Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. I never became a fan of DeLillo but I became a fan of Chris.
The friendship that developed between us was easy – but grounded in important things. He was struggling with whether he should stay in politics or return to writing. When he e-mailed to ask my opinion about whether he should accept a job offer in Arkansas writing for a newspaper, it broke my heart to write back and tell him yes.
After he moved, we stayed in touch. I’d send him e-mails about day-to-day happenings in Washington and we’d discuss ideas for his next editorial. We exchanged more book titles and even read a few books together. When he casually suggested that I come down to visit him – because Arkansas is lovely in January – I immediately said yes.
The first visit resulted in buying a plane ticket for a second visit. And then a suggestion to meet in his home town of Savannah for St. Patrick’s Day. Despite a tropical storm that was converging on the city, I was instantly charmed by the place and the people.
The evening after St. Patrick’s Day we trekked down River Street, whisking from one bar to another, trying to find a dry, quiet place to sit. Chris seemed oddly distracted and unable to find a suitable restaurant. I was mystified since any place indoors seemed preferable to returning outdoors. We finally gave up on River Street and moved to a beautiful old Mansion called The Pink House. In the basement was a wine bar with a big roaring fire. The perfect place. When he asked me to marry him – without hesitation, I said yes.
As we approach the anniversary of that day, I think back on the years that we spent together. The joys of a true partnership, of welcoming two beautiful daughters into the world, professional successes, and most importantly – so much laughter.
And of course, I think of the sorrows. An emergency room diagnosis of kidney cancer that seemed unthinkable just moments before. A CT scan showing metastatic disease in his lungs. Five years of treatment, hospital rooms, a relentless search for a cure. Five weeks of unbearable watching and waiting. Holding his hand as he took his last breath.
From time to time – I think back and relive those moments. Playing them again in my head as we all do in life. Some are harder than others.
But when I replay that moment in Savannah, knowing everything that I know now, my answer is still always yes.