Happily Ever After….
A year ago it did not seem possible. A year ago time seemed to stop and life seemed so long to Carrie. There was little hope. There was little joy. Life just needed to hurry up. Time needed to hurry up. There was no hope for Happily Ever After. At least not for Carrie.
But what a difference a year makes…
Once upon a time there was a girl who fell in love…twice. The first time was to her high school sweetheart. The second to her friend of twenty years.
But to get to that part of the story we have to go back 21 years.
It’s 1994 and Carrie’s family moves from Atlanta to North Carolina where she would finish high school. The family would forge life long friendships. Kelly and Greg Garvin. Adam Lowe. Greg Brown. Aaron Poppe. And many others…
These are friendships that have not only withstood the test of time but distance as well.
Carrie saved for two years to get back to Atlanta and Travis. They get married and start Hemma. Her parents move to Atlanta as her dad helps Travis make Hemma what it is today. Her brother soon follows. And soon after, his best friend Aaron Poppe, recruited by Travis, to work for Hemma as well.
Over the years Travis and Aaron grew close and became best friends. There was weekly movie night…Madden Football…and nights out. Soon Aaron wasn’t just Carrie’s brother’s best friend but one of Travis’ as well.
As the kids were born, Aaron became the “unofficial backup babysitter”. Usually refusing payment and just wanting to be a part of their lives because of the love he had for them and their parents… particularly Travis.
When the bottom fell out and the diagnosis came in Aaron played the role of keeping normalcy in Travis’ life. Movie night continued and Madden Football was a regular occurrence. Aaron was realistic about his buddy’s diagnosis. Meer weeks before Travis’ death, while playing Madden football, Travis simply said “You know I am going to die right?” And Aaron simply responded with, “I know buddy.”
And they continued playing.
The weeks and months following Travis’ death felt like years to Carrie. She was adamant she would never love again…let alone marry. She surrounded herself with a few core friends and focused on her relationship with God to get her through her grief while walking her children through it as well.
And there, in the background and yet at the forefront as well, was Aaron.
There for every birthday party for the kids. All of Trey’s basketball games. Santa at Phipps Plaza. There as the “unofficial backup babysitter” when Carrie simply needed a girl’s night out.
And then something started to change.
It was January. And suddenly there were…feelings.
They talked about it…and talked about it…and talked about it. Hours were spent on the phone. They knew they had to proceed with caution for so many reasons.
There was a grieving widow. There were children involved. And, let’s be honest, there would be judgement…
Don’t you think it’s a little soon???
But, by the end of January, they decided to go for it and went on their first date.
After all…if there was one thing they had learned through this journey…life is too short.
They went on dates like they were teenagers all over again. They attended 12 weeks of Grief Share together. They had fun times and walked through the hard and painful times…together. He laughed with her and held her as she cried.
And while every counselor has said there is nothing magical about waiting for the “one year mark” to begin a relationship they decided to keep the news of their relationship among their family and closest of friends for a few reasons. The main reason being to ensure the golf tournament, in Travis’ honor, received the proper amount of attention and respect it deserved and that the spotlight, that day, was on Travis and not their new relationship.
The response to the news of Carrie and Aaron being together has been met with excitement and tears of joy by the vast majority. Carrie’s and Aaron’s families are over the moon. And the kids? Well the kids are the happiest of them all. That’s what matters most.
Here is a woman who lost her spouse at 37. Faced raising three young children alone. And went to sleep in an empty bed night after night.
She faced what seemed to be an insurmountable amount of grief one year ago and is now facing…