It took us over a month to find a place to live in Honolulu. We looked everywhere. Staying in a hotel for a week is fun, for a month is torture. I still remember our first Christmas in Hawaii. We were in our hotel room. When you looked out the window, you could see Diamond Head, and the beach was not far away. We tried to make it feel like Christmas, but it was hard. We went out to a card shop and bought a fold out aluminum tree, and pinned it to the curtains. The “tree” was probably 10 inches long. It was funny, but we put our gifts to each other “under” it, and opened them on Christmas Day. I can remember liking out the window thinking “what have I done”. Julia later said she would look out the window and cry, wondering who this stranger was that she was living with. We were early in our first year of marriage, and it was hard and getting harder. If you had told me then that we would be together 38 years later, I would have said you were crazy. Julia had to put up with a lot. My days at work in pilot training always used to end up at the Officers Club bar. I thought that was normal. Julia didn’t understand why I didn’t want to come straight home after work, why I had to meet the guys at the bar. We both had a lot to learn about marriage. I wanted to keep my life. I didn’t really know, or want to know how to share my life with her. I was selfish, and so was she. Most of the time we were at an impasse, and we were not having much fun.
We finally moved into our new home. It was a two bedroom duplex in Waipiau. It was basically in the slums, and definitely not what we had envisioned. It was after the first of the year, and we were beginning to settle in and exist together. I stopped going to the bar everyday, and began to come home at night. It still wasn’t great, but Julia was persevering. Vietnam was going strong. The North had invaded the south. The US had a push in the air war, and needed more search and rescue pilots to fly missions. I volunteered and surprisingly I was selected. So I was off to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. We were based there flying into South Vietnam for our missions. I did this for about 4 months. It was fun hard rewarding flying, but I left Julia in Hawaii by herself. Leaving her like that was probably one of the most selfish things that I ever did. I wrote her every day (no email back then). I wa doing my thing, and she was doing her thing. Julia has always been a strong woman. Once she makes her mind up, look out. Well, she decided that if I was gone, she was going to get on with her life. She went out and got a teaching job, made friends with the neighbors, and went on living life.
As I sit here writing tonight, I realize that she wants me to press on, to continue, to keep on living. Both of us were always about living life to the fullest, and I know that she wants for the kids and me now. I guess the question is “what does that look like?” I am no busier now than I was before her death, but it seems like I am. That’s probably because she isn’t here to talk to, to tell me about her day. You see, contrary to that first year, we were best friends. I had much rather come home to be with her than go out with the guys. Now that friend is gone. Last night was my hardest night yet. It was the first time when going to bed was very hard. As I crawled into bed, I just got this ache in my body. It was like an actual pain, the loss felt so great. For about 5 minutes I just ached and hurt like I never have. I didn’t know an emotional pain could hurt in my body so much. Finally through an act of my will, I began to focus on good memories, and then on the goodness of God. I wa able to bring myself back to a joyful state, and went to sleep in peace. I slept very well.
So what did I learn, I learned it’s OK to hurt, but you also have to will yourself to come out of the pit. You have to focus your mind will and emotions on the good, and then eventually on God, resting once again in His goodness.
Today was a good day. Work went well, and I got home in time to go for a run. It’s still early, and I’ve got time to do laundry and watch a little TV. It is really nice to be home for the evening. It probably won’t happen again until the weekend. As I look back on last night, I can still feel the pain. But I can also still feel the joy. The key is feeling. We must never be afraid to feel. But as we press into all that God has for us, we must never forget His goodness, and His grace. As I’ve said before, it’s His grace to enjoy and His grace to endure. I know that I will feel His grace in many ways this next year.