“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  –Martin Luther King Jr.

If I were to get a tattoo (which I’m this close to getting), I would get these words tattooed somewhere on my body: I am better off healed than I was ever was unbroken. These words depict my journey precisely.

My mom always told me that you love people “in spite of…”. You love your husband in spite of his annoying habits or irritating mannerisms. In sickness and in health, am I right? But what do you do when your husband starts with physical, psychological, and emotional abuse from day one of your marriage? What if he refuses to do anything with your family, because once you are married you are nothing but property? What do you do if your husband cuts off all bank accounts and hands you a $5 bill every day before he leaves for work? What if your husband abused alcohol every night and then used his inebriated state to lay his hands on you daily? The list is never ending and I know I am not alone. As hard as this is to write, I do it because I want to reach out. I never want anyone to feel as I did –  alone and embarrassed of myself.

I have been judged and asked many times, “Why didn’t you just leave?” Well, if anyone has been in a similar situation or has had the privilege of working with domestic violence victims, control from abusers is no joke. The cyclical nature of the abusive relationship is quite debilitating, no matter how educated or on top of it you think you are. As a mother and being raised religiously, you don’t get married thinking that it will end before your first anniversary. When you have a newborn, it makes it even harder. You hold onto the idea that your family will make it somehow and that he will magically change for the better. Also, with $5 daily, it’s quite hard to get your bags packing immediately. Put simply, there is no simple answer because no one should treat others so cruelly. But my own answer is simple: when the abuse carried over to our son, I was done. I was with this man for 7 years. He was my first everything. The day I left, I lost a part of me. From that moment, I never saw or heard from him again.

After a year of attempting to date and process, I met my second husband on an online dating site. We communicated back and forth for a couple of days before we met. We dated for 2 years and when I learned that he was undocumented, I decided to have an open mind about it. I thought, if we were in love, what couldn’t we face? As 2 years flew by, I found myself engaged, again, and hoping for a family. But I guess my life’s tragedy was not destined to end there.

His parents promised to pay for the entire wedding, almost as a gift for me giving their son his legal status. One evening, as his parents spoke about our wedding plans, they said they would love to take us to China right after the wedding. Because the wedding was scheduled to happen a year later, his parents suggested that we first get legally married right away. Thus, we began preparations to obtain our marriage license. Despite the preparation, I realized that I still wanted a ceremony prior to obtaining the license. We rounded up our closest friends and held a small ceremony at this small chapel in Los Angeles. It was a cheesy, make-shift, Vegas style, chapel wedding but it was awesome.

But it all went wrong shortly after. Once we submitted our marriage license, his parents refused to pay for the wedding. To this day, I still have not figured out why they decided to break their promise. Arguments ensued and finally, much to our dismay, our wedding was cancelled. His parents stopped their financial support and we were left with nothing to pay for the rest of the wedding. To make matters worse, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoid leukemia a month after our original, scheduled wedding date. Our cheesy, make-shift, Vegas style, chapel wedding was all we had to remember.

I cannot express the emotions that I was feeling as I sat in the emergency room chair. The ER doctor explained that he had an abnormally high white blood cell count and needed immediate cancer treatment. It still seems so surreal. All I remember is all sounds meshing together. I sat there paralyzed and in shock. I thought to myself, when it rains, it really does pour. This is legitimately the story of my life. My husband was admitted on a Monday afternoon. On Thursday,  his brain and brain stem were flooded with blood. We were told by doctors that there was no hope – he had essentially become brain dead.

He passed three years ago. As his wife, I had to give permission to unhook him from his respiratory machine. As his wife, I had to make sure all of his friends were informed of his passing and memorial service. As his wife, I had to plan his memorial service. As his wife, I had to take care of my belongings and contemplate next steps. All things I didn’t care to think of when trying to process my husband dying.

As I worked to rebuild the life that I imagined I would always have, I continued to work through a post masters program that helped me get my Special Education credential. Due to my late husband passing, I was not able to finish the program. The special education intern credential was initially revoked.  But it was soon reinstated when I decided to finish my final course last November.

It’s funny how your life turns out the complete opposite of what you thought it would be. I never dreamt that I would be a divorcee and a widow before my mid 30s.

Well, like they say, I guess 3rd time is a charm. As many of you know, I am engaged to be married this summer and feel beyond blessed. Although my life has managed to turn itself around drastically, I can’t help but think, why me? Why all of this? Why my son? As I continue to process and count all my current blessings, I pray that I retain the strength to overcome and work through any other lemons life throws my way. Looking back, you learn from all of your mistakes and that’s really all I can do moving forward, right?

Again, I am better off healed than I ever was unbroken. What about you, friends?