On May 29, 2015, my husband and I will celebrate our ninth wedding anniversary. This may not make headline news in the world, but in Heaven it is a cause for huge celebration. Let me tell you my story, so you might understand why.
Rewind to 2009. It was a bitter cold winter in Passaic, New Jersey. My husband David and I lived in an apartment with our 16 month-old twins Lauren and Andrew. We had been married just shy of three years. David emigrated from the Ukraine to the United States in the late 1990’s when Communism fell. He was thirteen at the time, and though as an adult he would become a physician and live a middle-class lifestyle, the memories of living in poverty in the early years of his life in America would not leave him. I grew up in Long Island. My parents were far from wealthy and struggled during most of my childhood to pay the bills. Still, during my childhood and adolescence, I lived in more comfort than David.
Our clear cultural and background differences made the transition to marriage difficult. Though there was certainly love between us, it became clouded by real-life stressors. Our twins had developmental difficulties that required much attention and care. Both David and I worked long hours at busy, stressful jobs. In addition, there were too many problems to count with our apartment. During that bitter winter, our marriage was on the verge of collapse.
One Saturday night in January 2009, the winter sent its chilling temperatures into the pipes of our apartment, causing them to freeze. The temperatures dropped so low, that a pipe burst and sent freezing cold, dirty water into the apartment and set off the fire alarms. We were forced to grab whatever belongings we could and flee from the apartment. For the next week, David, the twins and I lived in a hotel. We found out that many of our belongings had been ruined and that the apartment was wet and unsafe to live in. Our home insurance company put us in a temporary apartment to live in for the next two months while the apartment was cleaned up and damage assessed.
The stress was too much for us. After less than six weeks of being displaced from our home, I contemplated divorce and asked David to leave. David found a small room in the basement of a local family’s home and lived there until June 2009. Having nowhere else to go with the twins, I begrudgingly packed our belongings and moved back to the apartment.
During the time that I was in the apartment with Lauren and Andrew, I began looking for a divorce lawyer. I envisioned moving back to Long Island with my children and starting life over. I would apply for my old job in the NYC Board of Education. I would move back to Queens, where I had lived when I was single. Eventually, I’d date again and maybe find happiness in another relationship. I was depressed and in deep despair. I had been through so many relationships in my dating years that fizzled out so quickly. I hoped my marriage would be different. I had two children. I felt like a failure and the thought of starting my life over again frightened and saddened me.
Then, G-d sent two angels with wings into the picture. Friends, who we now think of as family, stepped into the picture. *Wendy listened to me cry into the phone until the wee hours of the morning for weeks, complaining about my husband and all he had put me through. She and **Jim validated and supported me, while also begging us to try therapy. I remember bits of the dialogue that would change my life forever:
Wendy: “If you get divorced and you don’t try therapy, how do you know you won’t bitterly regret it and that it couldn’t have been worked out?”
Me: “Oh Wendy, we’ve tried therapy. It didn’t work. There’s nothing to save.”
Wendy: “Maybe you’re right, but how do you know if you don’t put the work in? Oh Tami, please don’t be like the rest of our society, throwing away people and marriages like tissues.”
I remember laying in bed, heart thumping, when I heard these words. Clarity hit me like a bolt of lightning. She was right. How could I truly know after only two years, whether my marriage could just be a mistake? I had been drawn to David for a reason. I had to give it a try.
David and I spent the next few months in both individual and couples therapy. Tears were shed. Confessions were made. Painful realities faced. Being separated during that period of time made us miss each other and gave us the space we needed to focus and reflect on where we wanted to go with our lives. After four months, we reconciled. We also decided, based on the phrase “Change of place, change of fortune,” to move to Rockland County, NY and rent a house for a while. Our third wedding anniversary that year might not have been. While that’s a juicy part of the story, there is a juicier part with a happy ending... and new beginning.
In June 2010, David and I were blessed with the exhilaratingly happy news that we were expecting our third child. When we found out we were going to have a boy, we decided to name him Joshua, the Hebrew version of the name, Yehoshua, means “G-d saved.” We also gave him the Hebrew middle and surnames Aryeh and Simcha. Aryeh in Hebrew means a lion, and the name heralds the trait of loyalty. Simcha in Hebrew means happiness. True to his name, Yehoshua Aryeh Simcha, now four years old, is a beacon of light to all who know him. Had I taken the alternative route, he might not have been. I could never imagine my life, or the world, without this child. He was born in the winter of 2011, a winter where the sky did not stop erupting with snow until the day he was born in February. Suddenly, the sun came out, the snow began to melt, and there was a break in the bitterness of winter.
David, Lauren, Andrew, and Joshua are my life. The children are our lights of purity and goodness. The light though, began long before any of them entered into the picture of David and me. We went through a very difficult period and there were many differences between us. But guardian angels were always sent our way to help us bridge our marriage closer. I did not know what a true best friend was, until David.
As devastating and painful the experience of our near-divorce was, it made us stronger and closer. We have learned that marriages require work. No marriage is perfect. We have learned that short memories produce long, happy marriages. We are still learning the art of agreeing to disagree in ways that are healthy and productive, the art of communication. Every time I look at Joshua I look at what life has given me, what might not have been, but thankfully is! Now you know why they are celebrating in Heaven on May 29 of each year. Our anniversary marks accomplishment, and forging of a union of the highest nature: the family that was and will continue to be forever!
*Name is changed to protect the privacy of the individual
** Name is changed to protect the privacy of the individual