Last night I dreamed of Paul.
He's never far from my thoughts--not a day passes when he isn't with me--but he hasn't been in my dreams until now. It's ironic, I suppose, that he should leave me, because before I close my eyes I fantasize about what it would feel like to have his arms wrapped around me. As I drift off to sleep I pretend that my head is resting on his shoulder. Unfortunately, I will never have the chance to be with my husband again, at least not in this lifetime.
Until last night, if I did happen to dream of Paul, those dreams were long forgotten by the time I woke. This dream, however, stayed with me, lingering in my mind, filling me with equal parts sadness and joy.
When I first learned that Paul had been killed, the grief had been all-consuming, and I didn't think I would be able to go on. Yet life continues to move forward, and so have I, dragging from one day into the next until I found I could breathe normally.
I'm in my new home now, the bed-and-breakfast I bought less than a month ago on the Kitsap Peninsula in a cozy town on the water called Cedar Cove. I decided to name it Rose Harbor Inn. "Rose" for Paul Rose, my husband of less than a year; the man I will always love and for whom I will grieve for whatever remains of my own life. "Harbor" for the place I have set my anchor as the storms of loss batter me.
How melodramatic that sounds, and yet there's no other way to say it. Although I am alive, functioning normally, at times I feel half dead. How Paul would hate hearing me say that, but it's true. I died with Paul last April on some mountainside in a country half a world away as he fought for our nation's security.
Life as I knew it was over in the space of a single heartbeat. My future as I dreamed it would be was stolen from me.
All the advice given to those who grieve said I should wait a year before making any major decisions. My friends told me I would regret quitting my job, leaving my Seattle home, and moving to a strange town.
What they didn't understand was that I found no comfort in familiarity, no joy in routine. Because I valued their opinion, I gave it six months. In that time nothing helped, nothing changed. More and more I felt the urge to get away, to start life anew, certain that then and only then would I find peace, and this horrendous ache inside me ease.
I started my search for a new life on the Internet, looking in a number of areas, all across the United States. The surprise was finding exactly what I wanted in my own backyard.
The town of Cedar Cove sits on the other side of Puget Sound from Seattle. It's a navy town, situated directly across from the Bremerton shipyard. The minute I found a property listing for this charming bed-and-breakfast that was up for sale, my heart started to beat at an accelerated rate. Me own a bed-and-breakfast? I hadn't thought to take over a business, but instinctively I realized I would need something to fill my time. As a bonus, a confirmation, I'd always enjoyed having guests.
With its wraparound porch and incredible view of the cove--the house was breathtaking. In another life I could imagine Paul and me sitting on the porch after dinner, sipping hot coffee and discussing our day, our dreams. Surely the photograph posted on the Internet had been taken by a professional who'd cleverly masked its flaws. Nothing, it seemed, could be this perfect.
Not so. The moment I pulled into the driveway with the real estate agent, I was embraced by the inn's appeal. Oh yes,...