A lot has happened since the last time I wrote. When I sit back and think about it all, I can’t help but be amazed by all that God has done in my life. As of today, it has been three years, eight months, and nine days since my husband, SSgt. Javier Ortiz Rivera, was killed in action, in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.
“How am I really doing?” That’s a question I get asked a lot. I don’t think people mean anything bad by it. I choose to believe that people ask me how I’m “really” doing because they care. Over the course of almost four years, I’ve shared certain aspects of my life with people on Facebook and Instagram. I’ve been completely open about the events surrounding my husband’s death, and I’ve put all my feelings and emotions out there for the world to read about. So, I think it’s natural that those who have come to know of me and my story, have also come to care about me and my well being. So, I’d like to answer this question, in detail, not just to satisfy curiosity, but also because it is a testimony of the healing power of God.
As I sit here typing, thinking about how to answer this question, I can feel my baby moving inside of me. Yes! I am having a baby! Three years, eight months, and nine days ago, had someone told me that I would be having another baby, I would have been insulted. If I’m being completely honest, if someone had told me on November 16, 2010 that not only would I be having another baby, but I would be in love again, I would be insulted and enraged to the point of tears. My response probably would have been something like, “How dare you say that to me?! How could you ever even insinuate that my heart could love another man, much less have his child?! How disrespectful can you be?! Don’t ever speak to me again!” And it probably would have been followed by a push or a slap to the face of whoever said it. Its crazy how life turns out.
So, how am I “really” doing? Well, I am doing good. I am happy. There is joy in my heart. And, I can finally say all of that without an ounce of guilt. And being able to say I’m doing good without guilt is an absolute triumph for me. Yes, I have fallen in love again! Because this blog is public to anyone around the world, I will keep the details about him to a minimum, in order to respect his privacy. If you know him, you know that he’s caring, helpful, compassionate, patient, and extremely understanding. To be honest, I’ve asked myself a time or two how he puts up with me. I can be difficult, set in my ways, strong willed and entirely too independent. All that, and then you add the fact that my heart will never let go of Javier, and it would make anyone wonder how or why he chooses to stick around. He has shown nothing but honor and respect for Javier, and he helps me keep Javier’s memory alive, everyday for the kids. He’s not perfect, but he is exactly what the kids and I need. I love him. My kids love him. I know that he loves us.
Having said all that, I’m sure more questions are brought to a lot of people’s minds. “Do you still love Javier?” “Do you ever feel torn between Javier and the new guy?” “Do you feel guilty for moving on?” “How do you think Javier would feel about it?” “Do you still miss Javi?” “Do you still cry over Javi’s death?” These are all very valid questions, and quite honestly I used to ask myself these same questions before my heart was ready to love again. While I know that I don’t owe anyone any explanations, I would like to answer these questions because someone, somewhere along the way, opened their heart and answered these same questions for me. It helped me. I’d like to do the same for someone else.
Yes, I still love Javier, and yes, I still miss him. I will always love him and miss him. How is it possible to love two men? Well, the best way I can explain it is like this: when you have your first child, you are completely in love with that child. You can’t possibly imagine loving another child as much as this one. Then, when your second child is born, you are completely in love with that child too. You don’t love the first child any less, but you love the second one equally. Your heart expands to hold more love. And, over the course of time, you realize that each child is different. So, you love them equally, but differently. I know that a mother’s love can’t be compared to any other type of love, but that is the best way I could explain it. My heart expanded to hold more love.
Do I ever feel torn between Javi and the new guy? No, I do not. There’s a few reasons why I don’t feel torn. Some of those reasons are because I feel I allowed myself time to grieve. I let myself feel the sorrow and despair. I gave myself time to be angry and heart broken. In the depths of my brokeness, I did make mistakes, but I did not give pieces of my heart away to this guy and the next in hopes of filling the void. I always remembered what my pastor says, “Two broken people do not make a whole. Two broken people only make a pile of brokeness.” That piece of advice pushed me to make sure that I was whole again before attempting to be with anyone else. I knew that part of being whole again would be finding peace with Javi’s death. I had to accept it and every unfair circumstance that comes along with Javi’s death. The biggest reason why I don’t feel torn between Javi and the new guy is because, the new guy doesn’t make me feel like I have to choose. He doesn’t compete with Javi. He doesn’t try to be like Javi. He doesn’t try to replace Javi. He accepts that Javi will always hold a place in my heart and in our lives and he respects that.
No, I do not feel guilty for moving on. Although, I would like to point out that I don’t like the term moving on. I prefer to call it moving forward. I don’t feel guilty for a lot of the same reasons that I’ve already mentioned, but also because Javi’s death was tragic, heart breaking, and life shattering, but it was not a death sentence. As awful as this will sound, I don’t know how else to say it, other than to just say it…Javi died, not me. And even then, he didn’t truly die. His physical body died, but his spirit lives on in heaven, and he is rejoicing and happier than ever. So, just like Javi’s spirit has the right to live on happily in heaven, I have the right to pursue happiness for the remainder of my life on earth. I do not feel guilty. For two years after Javi’s death I watched everyone around me continue on with life. I watched people who knew and loved Javi get married, have children, move away, get new jobs, graduate, buy new houses, some even got divorced, but all continued with life. I’m not saying it was easy or that they didn’t think about Javi and miss him all along the way, and I’m definitely not saying that they stopped loving him or will ever stop loving him, but they did continue with life. I had to do the same. The biggest reason why I don’t feel guilty is because I know Javi would want me to be happy again. Which pretty much answers the question of how I think Javi would feel about me moving forward. Javier loved me. He wanted the best for me and his kids. He wanted me to be happy. That love that he had for me and the kids was so big that there is not a doubt in my mind that he looks down from heaven smiling at the fact that we are happy. Not only is he happy, Javi had a grateful heart. So, I know that he is grateful to the man who has accepted his wife and kids and all the baggage that comes with us. He is grateful for this man’s patience, because only Javi knew how difficult I can truly be. He’s grateful that this man has taught his son how to ride a bike, and that he’s taught his daughter that a man should open doors for her, and that he listens as his older son pours his heart about how much he misses his Papi. He’s grateful that this man has opened up his heart not only to me, his kids, but also to him. The new man in my life has opened his heart to let Javi in. He honors and remembers with us. He keeps Javi’s memory alive with us. If you knew Javi at all, you know that Javi is happy for us. More than anything, he is grateful.
Last but not least, yes, I still cry for Javi. Yes, I still have moments when my heart asks my mind if it all really happened. Yes, birthdays, holidays, and every day in between, my heart still feels a void and an ache for Javi, an ache that will probably never go away. And, that’s ok. I would rather live with an ache in my heart, for the rest of my life, than to forget Javi or his sacrifice. Javier Orlando Ortiz Rivera is forever a part of my heart and mind. I will always love him. Pain is the price I pay for love. I’m ok with that.
Three years, eight months, and nine days, ago I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to me or how I was going to survive without Javier. I was completely lost and broken on the inside. God is the only answer I can give those who wonder how I’ve made it this far. God’s grace was sufficient to cover every mistake. When my strength ran out, God’s strength carried me. God’s love filled the gaping hole and void that was left in my heart, and God has given me peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding.
There’s so much of my story still left to tell, but for now, I’ll leave you with this: I am doing really good…really!