You can’t plan the way your life unfolds. Oh, sure, you might think you have an idea, but you never know what tomorrow will bring. The wind blows in a different direction, and suddenly you are living a truth you never planned. You are face to face with something you never let yourself imagine. You find yourself dealing with a loss so great it is unfathomable.

You walk around in a fog. The days unfold slowly one by one, and your plight is multiplied by the existence of COVID and the reality it has created for all of us. In many ways, we are all living a reality that we never would have let ourselves imagine.

Each of us thought we had a path planned for the future, but that path is gone. That’s how 2020 unfolded for many of us. It’s how it unfolded for me.

It was like a storm that came out of nowhere. I never imagined it or saw it coming. How did I miss the signs? They must have been there. They had to be. How did they get past me? How did I go wrong? What more could I have done?

There’s guilt. The guilt of not seeing. The guilt of not knowing. The guilt of surviving. The guilt of being the one still here.

I honestly didn’t see it coming. I didn’t want to see it. He was young and healthy. Surely, he could beat something, especially if it wasn’t cancer. It wasn’t cancer. My hope continued.

Because of COVID, only one visitor was allowed at the hospital and I had to leave by 6 p.m. The nights must have been so very long for him, too full of too much time to think. He must have been so alone and so scared.

There are things I wish I would have said, conversations we might have had, but that would have meant I knew it was possibly the end, and I understood he didn’t want that to be my reality. So I held his hand and sat by his bed.

Even though I think at some point he sensed the truth, he didn’t want to share it with me because he knew I’d be devastated.

I am devastated.

Yet, I have hope because he isn’t gone. Not really. Oh, sure, he’s no longer walking this earth as a physical human being, but he is by my side.

He is everywhere and nowhere. He surrounds me; sometimes, I swear I can feel him holding my hand. He used to playfully call me a squirrel because of my tendency to flit from one thing to another. I talk to him often and have reminded him about the squirrel. I believe my future will be full of squirrels scampering across my path, and I’ll know exactly who is behind that clever joke.

Sometimes, life is hard. But it isn’t over. It is possible to overcome adversity, even if that is with a tiny flame or perhaps even a spark. My fire will burn again, or I will die trying.

Sometimes, losses in life feel overwhelming, because they are. I have lost you here on earth, but I haven’t lost you. I never will. Our love is something created by something bigger than either of us. It was a love for all time. It was sweet. It was true. It was never questioned. It was as unconditional as you can get in this imperfect world. And now, we are separated, but our love bonds us forever. It continues to grow despite of and because of our separation.

We were imperfectly perfect, but we did it together, and somehow, that made it perfect. We loved in a way many never will know. We still do. Our love still exists, every minute of every day. It’s just that you are there and I am here. But our hearts are forever intertwined. I believe we planned it this way. There is a greater purpose to this love, to our temporary separation — as vast as it seems right now.

We will see each other again and we can continue to love each other now. I believe that unconditionally.

Until that time, wait for me, albeit impatiently, my dear, sweet, beloved Thom. I miss you every minute of every day.

But you already know that.

— Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

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