I felt like I was going to pass out. There were nearly 300 people at the funeral and they all wanted to talk to me. I hadn’t eaten or slept in a week. Just hours before the memorial service I had said goodbye to Jon for the last time and then promptly wept on the bathroom floor of the funeral home until I had no more tears left. I was utterly drained. Exhausted. I wanted to sit down somewhere but the two people in front of me would. not. stop. talking. My back was literally up against a wall. I needed to escape. The church had put aside a room for me should I need to be alone but it was on the far side of the lobby. I would never make it across the sea of condolences. The edges of my vision started to blur and my knees felt like they were going to buckle. I needed help. Desperately, I scanned the room behind the people still talking at me. And then I saw him. Doolin. If I could get to Doolin he would help me walk through the chaos.

(I tried to make my way to him but was intercepted and rescued by another kind friend. *Thank you, April!* I honestly don’t remember much about the funeral, but that moment stands out clearly. Looking back, it was almost like subconsciously I knew that Doolin was going to be a place of refuge for me.)

 

 

I met Doolin a couple months after I graduated high school in 2006. I got a job working in recreation at Disney and he was one of the people who trained me. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I had a little bit of a crush on him at first but he was dating someone else so it faded. Crush or no he was one of my favorite people to work with. Not only could I rely on him to do his part, but he was a lot of fun and we always found something to talk about. When I saw I was scheduled with Doolin I knew it was going to be an enjoyable shift.

In 2007 I started dating Jon, and Doolin started dating the woman he would marry. At some point our friendship moved outside of work and Doolin became good friends with Jon as well. Both of us left Florida to move north in 2010. I moved to Tennessee and Doolin to North Carolina, both bright eyed and believing for a future full of love and happiness with the one we loved. Neither of us could have possibly known the pain and devastation that would bring our respective marriages to an end.

Through social media, we were able to keep in contact but other than an occasional comment or message we mostly moved on with our own lives. And then one day I watched helplessly from a distance as Doolin’s world was shattered. Out of nowhere, his wife left him for his friend. If that wasn’t bad enough, she took her son with her and refused to let Doolin have any contact with the boy he had unreservedly loved as his own.

 

2013 brought both of us back home to Florida. Doolin returned because he lost his family and Jon and I returned to start one. When I saw Doolin again my heart ached, the joy had left his eyes, he was broken and there was nothing I could do to fix him. Soon after moving back, Jon and Doolin started working together. I didn’t see him often but I’d hear how he was doing from Jon.

A year or so later Jon convinced Doolin to help him run a game night for a group of our friends. It was the first time I was able to hang out with him since moving back and I was so glad to see he was coming back to his true self once more. When Doolin decided to head back up to North Carolina for a seasonal job he had loved working before, Jon and I both were excited for him. He needed to do something that made his soul happy.

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Shortly after Doolin had moved back north, a mutual friend of ours called him and told him the news of Jon’s passing. The next day while preparing to drive back for the funeral someone slammed into the side of his car. Thankfully he walked away uninjured. He could have used that as an excuse not to come. Not only had he just moved states away just a few weeks prior, but now his vehicle was totaled. Instead, his first thought after assessing the damage was, “looks like I’m renting a car.” He didn’t say much to me at the funeral, just a sad smile and a quick hug. But I knew everything he went through to come to the funeral. His presence in spite of the obstacles touched my heart more than any words he could possibly have come up with to say.

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In spite of the fact that he had to return to North Carolina for work, in the months following Jon’s death Doolin became one of my strongest supporters. Through social media, he was a steady source of understanding and encouragement. While there are stark differences between death and divorce, he understood what it was like to be shattered. We both dramatically lost the life and future we thought we would have with the one we loved most. He understood the pain and loneliness that comes with such a loss. When I talked to him I felt a little less alone. Someone else had walked a similar road.

 

 

His constant encouragement did not go unnoticed by others. More than once I was asked,  “Do you think Doolin likes you?” My response was always, “Doolin does and says kind things because he is a kind person.” I also knew that Doolin was seriously crushing on someone else. He saw me as Jon’s wife, nothing more.

Though, deep in my heart, the place Doolin had already been residing under the category of friendship was starting to expand. It happened so slowly that I didn’t notice at first, but with every comment.. every conversation my trust and affection for him was growing. His name began to follow me around like a question. What if he did like me?  When my thoughts moved that direction I dismissed it. It was just loneliness. It was just pregnancy hormones. It wasn’t real. I couldn’t be real. Could it?

 

 

 I was going to try and put this story into one post but I still have a lot of ground to cover and this is a good stopping point. Don’t worry, Part 2 will be coming soon!

 

 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.

 

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