“There I was, scouring the racks of Belk for baby boy clothes, 8 months pregnant. My mom on one side, me on the other, trying to find anything we hadn’t already purchased for the arrival of my sweet Declan. That’s when I saw him.
At 6’2, he’s hard to miss.
His features were slightly different. His hair was different; no longer full of a gallon of hair gel, sticking up meticulously on top of his head.
Time had started to etch itself onto his face. That once clean-shaven boy now had more scruff than I remembered, but all the same, it was him.
He and his girlfriend were doing the same as me, only searching the baby girls’ section. She was about to pop, due any day.
I had often thought about what would happen in that moment. The moment I saw him in his new life.
That boy who I, at 19 years old, was so in love with.
The boy I was so desperate to spend my life with.
He had walked out on me 8 years prior.
I still vividly remember that night. Me sobbing on the cold, linoleum kitchen floor in our little 2-bedroom condo as he told me he was leaving me for someone else and walked out that door, never to return.
In that moment I thought I would die.
Honestly, I felt like I had. The ache in my heart, the sickness in my gut. Emotionally I was destroyed. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I became a shell of the person I once was.
For months, I lived in a fog. Home, work, sleep-it’s all I could do. I felt empty inside.
How had I not seen it coming? He seemed happy with me. What changed? Why didn’t he love me anymore? Why wasn’t I enough?
He had wounded me deeply all those years ago, leaving me hurt, angry, confused.
But in that moment, he wasn’t the boy I remembered. No longer as beautiful as I recalled him to be. It’s possible he still was. But it’s funny how our hearts change our idea of beauty when we so deeply love another. No man’s face feels like home quite like my husband’s.
He smiled and said ‘Hi!’, and we hugged, offering congratulations to each other on our upcoming arrivals. It was awkward, but eerily familiar. Like being in the presence of an old high school friend you haven’t heard from in years.
I chatted with his girlfriend who seemed so sweet, and probably felt terribly out of place in such a strange situation. She was nervous about becoming a first-time mom. I assured her that she would know just what to do and not to worry.
We asked about each other’s families, caught each other up on our lives, and before we parted ways, my mom bought them a gift for their baby.
Our first encounter since beginning our new lives and it had gone better than I ever imagined.
I walked away that afternoon hoping that the boy I once knew was as happy in his life as I was in mine. That he still felt like walking away from me was the best decision he ever made.
His choice was so much bigger than the two of us. It paved the way for new lives. New beginnings. A future for us both.
I often go back to that night that changed the course of my life. That night that left me broken.
I came out on the other side of it stronger; surer of myself and the decisions I was making.
He couldn’t have known it then, but he did me a favor.
That night gave way to the opportunity to meet my now husband. A man who some days infuriates me to no end but has never shattered my heart in two.
At 19, I didn’t know this kind of love existed. A love where two people give their all for the betterment of each other. A love that grows deeper with each passing day.
A love that has given us two beautiful, healthy, happy children who bear witness to our eternal commitment to each other.
As we drove home that day my mom asked me how I felt at seeing him. ‘I should have thanked him’, I replied. ‘Walking out on me was the best gift he could have ever given me.’
And I mean that with everything in me.
I couldn’t understand it all those years ago, my vision clouded with what I thought I wanted. In hindsight, it was a blessing in disguise.
When your heart is breaking,
When your soul is crushed and you cannot imagine how you’ll ever survive without him,
Just know that you will.
You will be okay.
Eventually, the pain will subside.
The anger and resentment will recede.
Your heart will heal.
It will open up to someone new.
You will love again.
You will trust again.
And one day, many years from now, you’ll see that boy you once thought hung the moon…
And you’ll smile, and whisper a silent ‘thank you’ towards the sky…
Because you’ll have found the man of your dreams. A man who will never leave you sobbing on a cold kitchen floor.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Four Norths in the South. The article originally appeared here. Follow Jade on Instagram here. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories here.
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