The Serenity Prayer or Neibhur’s Prayer starts with an almost universally recongized:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
My friend Grant wrote that being a twin isn’t always easy, but he wouldn’t trade it for anything. I replied that that was true for most worthwhile things.
Losing my identical twin to drunk driver was very difficult and took me years to recover from. Yet, I wouldn’t trade being a twin for not having to go through all the pain and grief losing my twin brother caused me—because the joys of being a twin and being able to do things like pretending we were just him when talking to his girlfriend on the phone, or taking exams for him in high school… were too priceless to give up.
Being with Shelley after she was diagnosed with leukemia and helping her through her battles with that illness was very difficult, especially given our youth. But, in many ways, it was Shelley and dealing with her cancer that taught me what it meant to be committed to someone. Shelley also taught me much about what I know about unconditional love—both through loving her and seeing her love for me. The experience also proved invaluable when Gee was diagnosed many years later. In many ways, cancer is cancer, and what I learned about how families deal with it with Shelley made dealing with Gee’s illness so much less difficult.
After Gee’s death, when she finally lost her battle with pancreatic cancer, as we knew would likely be the case when she was diagnosed, an acquaintance asked me if I would do it all over again… For me, there was only one answer—“Yes.”
If I had to do it all over again, even knowing that I would lose Gee the way I did—I would do it all again because every day I spent with her was a gift to me—rare, priceless and unmeasurable. Having known her, having been blessed with her in my life was amazing.
It is hard to imagine that someone I knew only 23 months and one day would have such a deep and lasting impact on my life. Even though she has been gone for almost 11 years, six times as long as we were together, the changes she made in me still continue. My hope is that by the time I die, I am able to be one-tenth as gracious as the beautiful woman I married 12 years ago.
In many ways, losing Ellie parallels my losing Gee. Both were lost to illnesses that I could do nothing about. I had asked both to marry me before they were diagnosed—and both were most likely ill when I asked them to marry me. I think that the impact Ellie has had on my life does not seem as great as the one Gee had for several reasons.
A lot of the reasons why Ellie’s impact on my life has not seemed as great is because of how long I have known her. I have known her almost 20 years—so the impact she has had on me has been spread out over a far longer period of time.
Second, it was only in the past seven years that Ellie and I had become very close friends—much before that my relationship to her was more distant. Only when she grew older, and outgrew “THE BITCH” phase of her childhood, were she and I able to really be friends on our own terms.
Finally, much of what I could have learned from Ellie, I had already been taught by Gee, Shelley and my twin.
Unlike Gee or Shelley—most of my time with Ellie was not spent as part of a committed couple. In fact, she never did answer my proposal—not directly, probably because I confronted her about her drinking before she got a chance to see the ring I had bought her. It seems pretty clear to me that what she had done meant that she was at least seriously considering it as I have mentioned in previous posts. My commitment to her was based on her words and actions during the week following my asking her to marry me.
I have been asked if what the last eight months have cost me has been worth it—if my commitment to Ellie despite her addictions was worth the pain—emotional, spiritual and physical—that it has caused, and the price—financially, emotionally, spiritually and physically—it has incurred. While the answer isn’t as clear cut as it was with Gee, Shelley or David, I would still have to say yes.
While I do not know the final outcome yet—if all that I have tried to do for Ellie, including telling her how my feelings for her have grown and changed, help Ellie find the strength, will, and courage to beat her addictions—to return to being the incredible woman I love so much once again—it will have been worth it.
“You’ve changed so much. I guess that’s what happens. I wish you knew how much you changed me. I wonder if I changed you, if your life is different because of me. Because mine’s different. My God, you taught me so much, and now we don’t even talk to each other. I guess that’s what happens.” -anon
Unfortunately, most of the changes in Ellie, at least from my viewpoint, aren’t good ones. They have been caused by her succumbing to her addictions and are slowly destroying everything there was to love about Ellie. I hope that I have had some effect on Ellie—that somewhere deep beneath her addictions and lies—she still exists and the love we share has made a difference.
I love Ellie enough to want her to be healthy, happy and whole, even if it means she isn’t a part of my life any longer. I love her unconditionally, and having her in my life is a condition. I love her enough to let her go. I guess this anonymous quote, which I’ve edited slightly, says it all.
“Yes I love her. I love her more than anything else in this world and there is nothing that I would like better than to hold on to her forever. But I know it’s not for the best. So no matter how much my heart is going to break, I’ve got to let her go so she can know just how much I love her. Maybe if I’m lucky, she’ll come back, but if not, I can make it through this.”
I hope she knows that when I said I love her, I meant for forever and a day, because forever just isn’t long enough. I have no regrets about making the decision to move on. Just because I am moving on, it does not mean I have broken my vow to her or the promises I made her—if she should ever return to being the person I made those vows and commitments to, I will keep them. If she should want me back in her life or need my help—she knows where and how to find me and what she needs to do.
May God watch over her, bless her and protect her, even from herself. May God grant her the strength, courage, and will to fight her illness and return to being her true self. May God grant her the wisdom to see the truth—both about her illness and about us.