This blog has been silent for a long time. The longest time since its inception, actually.
Because I recently experienced a horrific loss. A loss so vast, and so debilitating, that I have barely been able to get out of bed each day — let alone work or write.
But lately, the story has started to swirl around in my head; the words bursting out of my fingers, as they often do when you write for a living. So here it is.
On August 4, 2015, Bob Armlin died in a car accident. He was 29. He was incorrigible. Incomparable. Irreplaceable. And the love of my life.
A love begins
When I was 17 and quickly approaching the end of high school, I realized with a panic that I’d never ridden on a snowmobile. And as a respectable Central New Yorker, I also realized I couldn’t graduate without having this seminal experience.
A helpful classmate told me: “Ask Bob Armlin; he rides his sled to school.”
I knew Bob. Being that our grade had 74 kids (and was still the biggest to ever graduate from our public school), I knew everyone. Bob had moved to our tiny town during freshman year, and though we had almost all of our classes together, we’d never really hung out outside of school. All I knew is that he laughed a lot, and could, much to my annoyance, beat me on tests — without ever studying.
A few days later, he took me on a wild snowmobile ride to the Pizza Pub, a local institution.
Both of us assumed it was just a friendly outing, but between the wings and taters and terrifying acrobatics (yes, unfortunately, you can jump a snowmobile…), something magical happened.
It was February 19, 2004, and we’d just had our first date. We were as unlikely a couple as you could imagine, but something about us just worked.
We continued to date for the next three and a half years. I went to college in Michigan, and he in New York, but we managed to see each other about once every three weeks, and we lived together during the summers.
Though it was hard, it was worth it.
But entering our senior year, we started to get restless. We were 21 and had never really been with other people… Were we really going to get married straight after college?
I told my roommate, “I wish I could just freeze Bob until I turn 28 and am ready to settle down.” I think he felt the same way — but that wasn’t possible, so we broke up.
When I saw him at the bar over Thanksgiving break, I cried. Though I’d never been more depressed, I knew we wouldn’t last if we didn’t experience life as independent adults first.
I spent the next seven years exploring as many countries as I could, while he explored as many girls as he could. (The dimples made it easy ;))
We spent time together whenever we were home. Often just as friends; if we were both single, as more. The one constant: he could always count on me, and I could always count on him.
We fell in and out of love with other people; we changed jobs; we moved to different states; we lost friends and family members, but never lost touch.
A love lasts
And never stopped loving each other.
When we both found ourselves single at the beginning of this year, we started dating again. I went to Kentucky; he came to San Diego. We talked, we snapped, we laughed, we fell back in love.
I was 28.
At the end of July, I returned to Kentucky for five days. Then we drove to New York, where we planned to spend two weeks enjoying lazy summer days in our hometown. We talked about everything: the kids we would have, the trips we would take, the chickens we would raise. The future we would share.
On August 3rd, my 29th birthday, we decided to go “all in”: our way of saying we were officially back together.
That night, we got into a fight. He was spending time with his family and missed most of my birthday celebration. By the time he called, I told him not to bother coming. I will regret those stupid drunken words for the rest of my life.
When I saw him briefly the next morning, things were still a little tense.
A few minutes after he left, he got into an accident. The accident.
Six weeks gone
If you knew Bob, you’d know how hard it is to imagine him dead.
He was so full of life, so strong. And oh-so-handsome. He was a hard-headed pain in the ass who still managed to be friends with everyone — probably because he was loyal and generous to a fault. He could do your taxes and fix your car. He could shoot a bear with a bow and then cook it for you. All while laughing — a crazy, infectious laugh that came straight from his soul.
From his first plane ride to my first time hunting, the Eiffel Tower to the Pond Hops, prom to The Hourglass, sushi to ice cream, the Atlantic to the Mediterranean to the Pacific, and puppy love to adulthood, we shared so much.
He was not perfect; I am not perfect; our relationship was not perfect. We fought, we drifted, we broke up, we drove each other crazy. But it was good and real, and it was ours.
He challenged me, and he loved me — and I did the same right back.
Bob’s been gone over a month now. The days since have blurred together. It seems like yesterday; it seems like a lifetime ago. Not a minute goes by where I don’t think of him: of the life he lived, the life he had ahead of him.
Some moments, I feel okay; there’s just a dull numbing pain in the back of my heart. And the next moment, it literally feels like the wind has been knocked out of me, like there’s no possible way I can keep standing or talking or doing whatever I’m doing.
Through it all, though, I have had incredible support from our families, friends, and community. I am so lucky to have them all in my life.
I’m sure lessons will be revealed from this struggle eventually, and when they are, I will share them with you. But for now, I just needed to get these words out.
I don’t need you to pity me; I just need you to listen. To remember that life can change in an instant. To hug people more often. To stop assuming you’ll have time. To never wait to do what makes your heart sing.
As I said in my eulogy for him, these words from the author Cheryl Strayed (paraphrased) have brought me some comfort:
“Our grief is tremendous but our love is bigger. We are not grieving because his death was ugly and unfair. We’re grieving it because we loved him truly. The beauty in that is greater than the bitterness of his death.”
Deep down, as hard as it is to accept, I know she’s right. His life was beautiful. Our love was beautiful. If it hadn’t been, this wouldn’t be so hard.
And I will keep clinging to that truth until I am able to find beauty in the world again.
If you’ve experienced loss — as unfortunately, we all have — feel free to share your stories in the comments below. I think we all need to talk more openly about grieving. Let’s support and love each other.