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Do you need a little inspiration to start dating again? Think you’ll never find love again or it isn’t worth the effort to even try? Do you believe in finding love in unlikely places?

If you’ve made the excuses, rationalized the hell out of every reason you aren’t entitled to a second chance at love, and promised yourself you’ll never be vulnerable again, the story below is for you. I wrote it because I felt the conflicting feelings, too. I rationalized. I made excuses.

But in the end, I believe we are all worthy of extraordinary love. Over and over again. However many times it presents itself.

My story, The Promise, is from Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Miracle of Love. I’m reprinting it here with permission.

I highly recommend buying the book because the 101 stories included will give you ample reason to believe in the miracle of love. Bring out the Kleenex. You have been warned.

Story by Kimberlee Murray, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Miracle of Love. (c)2018 Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC. All rights reserved.

THE PROMISE

Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.
~Zora Neale Hurston

Before my husband Mark died, he shared explicit instructions about how I should go on living without him. His terminal brain tumor diagnosis gave us a short window, but we talked about things like money, work and family obligations. He suggested ways to handle our older son’s determination and stubbornness and how to continually stoke the fire of our younger son’s dreamy, creative side. We took a deep-dive into our consciousness, and no topics were off-limits.

“Promise me you’ll date again,” he said. “You need someone to take you out and spoil you. You need some fun in your life. This is the biggest thing I want for you. Please don’t close yourself off from love. Promise?”

“I promise,” I said half-heartedly. One should tell a dying man whatever he wants to hear.

Finding love again wasn’t even a blip on my radar. Watching my husband take his last breath and enduring the horrific grief process that followed left no room for romantic thoughts. He knew this about me. He knew his death would leave a gaping hole in my heart and paralyze me. He knew I would make excuses.

“You’re young and attractive,” he had said. I was only forty-four. “You have too much to offer, and you shouldn’t spend your life alone. Don’t stop living while you’re still alive.”

Two years after his death, the heartache and pain continued to overwhelm me. My anxiety reached an all-time high, and I didn’t know how to claw my way out of the grief abyss. The excruciating holidays passed once again, but February—the bleakest of the winter months—suffocated me with its ugly memories. Mark had been diagnosed on Valentine’s Day and died one year later on Super Bowl Sunday.

Yet somehow through the brutal winters and never-ending tears, Mark’s words echoed: Promise me you’ll date again. You need some fun in your life.

I joked with my neighbor that she should introduce me to a doctor at the hospital where she worked—preferably an anesthesiologist who logged fewer hours but made good money. We laughed at the thought, but she didn’t have a doctor in mind. She already knew someone else she wanted me to meet.

My heart stopped. “I’m just kidding,” I said. “I’m not ready to date.”

After several days, my neighbor gently brought it up again. She really wanted to introduce me to her husband’s co-worker. “He’s a good guy. Really sweet. A class act.”

I thought about Mark’s words. You need someone to take you out and spoil you.

Should I just get the first-date-after-the-death over with? I could bow out gracefully if things went south. I mean, I had a valid exit strategy in place, with the debilitating grief and all.

Tom called to introduce himself, and we talked for over an hour. He asked insightful questions about Mark’s death and didn’t change the subject during the darker moments. He seemed genuinely interested in learning everything about our family. We met for coffee. February didn’t seem so bleak after all.

During our second date, I learned we were both born in Flint, Michigan. We are both fire signs. His ex-wife’s name is Kim, too. We had so much in common that every other topic we talked about included a “Me, too!” or “I feel the same way!”

We even both love Dachshunds. Our Dachshund died the same year as Mark, but Tom’s was just a puppy. That was another weird similarity. My husband was a single man with a Dachshund when I met him. What were the chances I’d meet another single man with a Dachshund?

The coincidences kept piling up. Mark liked vintage signs and old things like pinball machines and jukeboxes. He always talked about buying an antique gas pump, but we never got around to decorating our finished basement the way he wanted. When I spotted the jukebox and vintage signs in Tom’s basement, my goose bumps got goose bumps. I almost fainted when I turned around and saw the old gas pump in the corner.
What were the chances I’d meet another man who liked old gas pumps?

It occurred to me that meeting Tom was no fluke. It was almost as if Mark, working through my neighbor, put Tom directly in my path and conspired with the universe.

Don’t stop living while you’re still alive.

Tom is a fantastic human. He is kind, compassionate and thoughtful. He’s adorable, funny and genuine. He’s also a great kisser. His kisses remind me I am still very much alive, which is something I kind of forgot over the past few years.

Tom asked me one day if I ever felt guilty about dating after Mark’s death. I said no, because Mark made it crystal clear that I shouldn’t feel guilty about enjoying life. I shared a dream I had with Tom.

I stood in the middle of the road. Mark was on one side, and Tom was on the other. I couldn’t understand why the pull to Tom’s side of the road was so strong because Mark was still alive in my dream. But I kept inching closer and closer to Tom as if he was a magnet with a force too great to ignore. The more I resisted, the more the magnet pulled me closer. Mark understood my confusion, smiled and nodded to Tom’s side. “It’s okay. You can go,” he said.

I woke up surrounded by a sense of calm I hadn’t felt in years.

Please don’t close yourself off from love. Promise?

I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever find love again. Who was I to think I could have another shot at the kind of relationship that makes the soul sing? But I heeded my dear husband’s advice and didn’t shut the door on love. When I met Tom, I didn’t know what to expect from a divorced father with adult children, and he didn’t know what to expect from a widow with young kids. But two fractured souls took a leap of faith.

Tom and I still talk about Mark sometimes. He’s never asked me to “get over” my husband’s death or to stop talking about my past. He understands it is part of who I am. But our conversations don’t dwell on the past as long as they used to. We like to talk more about what our future together looks like. It’s so much brighter there.

When people ask Tom and I how we met, we tell them my neighbor introduced us. But I always like to add that we had some divine intervention assisting us, too. We both know we didn’t really “find” love.

Love found us.