A Funeral and a Marriage: How I Found Love and Myself Again After Loss
My ex-wife and I had really tried to find a way back together. We went to couples counseling for five years. But after 32 years of marriage, we sadly and mutually came to the decision we should divorce.
An interior designer friend took me shopping for furniture, rugs, lamps, artwork, dishes. When we signed the legal separation and financial papers, I had a home all set to move into.
Except it wasn’t a home. It was just me in this big empty king-size bed, which I called the Virgin Bed. I would look over to the other side and wonder who, if anyone, would someday lie there. I tried to imagine her.
So it was a home, except it wasn't. A couple of times a day on my way somewhere else, I would drive by my old house, which was her house now. I really wasn't being nosy what my ex was up to—well, maybe a little—but I felt drawn to my former home, as if I had left something behind. I was always calling and going over to get something I had forgotten.
Months passed but I couldn't quite get my new life going. Then, after many years in a nursing home, my father died, which changed everything for the better. For him and for me.
At the lunch following a graveside service, I sat down next to the Lutheran minister who buried him. Her name was Viktoria Halmagyi, and she was from Budapest, Hungary. After lunch, I left my father and the woman I would marry 18 months later there in Illinois and returned to Virginia.
I emailed her. She emailed me back. Then I thought of other reasons to email, and she thought of other reasons to answer—probably because she thought she was counseling me. I asked if she would go out to dinner. She wrote back that I was grieving. I said, "I am not grieving. I am flirting." I had grieved for my father years before.
She said that she was my pastor and couldn't possibly get involved. I told her she was not my pastor; she had to be asked to be my pastor and I had not asked her. That one stumped her a bit. And there were plenty of other reasons why it would not work—age difference, cultural difference, long distance, jobs.
But sixteen days after the funeral, we were having dinner in Chicago.
We had each wanted total honesty and had told each other our secrets and vulnerabilities. Without intending it, the result was that when we met we felt secure in each other's company. The real question was whether we would feel the spark that we had felt emailing. For some reason, we had not talked on the telephone, which increased our anticipation.
The infatuation did not let up after meeting; it only increased. I was most worried that I was on the rebound after the divorce. How could I trust what I was feeling? Shouldn't I date more? She told me to date as much as I wished and asked if she could do the same. Suddenly, I didn't think dating others was that important.
My friend Maria asked me how did I know it wasn't a rebound. I never did know, but after a while I just didn't care.
Before the collapse of the marriage, I had started seeing a therapist. When I asked her about these things, she recommended that Viktoria and I "stay in the moment." Staying in the moment was great advice. No past. No pressures for the future. And it gave us time to realize we wanted the moment to last forever.
A year into our relationship, a week before we were going to announce our engagement, my horse fell on me and I almost bled to death internally. Her congregation had come to know me by then and understood when she came to be by my side for two weeks. She washed me and emptied the plastic urinals. My face was gray and my body was gaunt, and she still loved me. She still wanted to marry me.
In Hungary, men and women wear their engagement rings on one hand to let people know they are taken and in a committed relationship, then switch the rings to the other hand when they are married. I loved wearing the ring on my right hand. Maybe that is when I knew for sure it wasn't a rebound. I love wearing the ring on my left hand even more.
We married this last November in the church where I was baptized, where my parents were married and where Viktoria until last month was pastor.
I think what I have learned most is to grieve what should be grieved, like the loss of a family and life as you knew it, but to be open to the possibility of something very different but no less meaningful and wonderful.
Landon Parvin is a ghostwriter who has written for three U.S. presidents, their wives and many other well-known public figures. He and his family, which includes his wife, Viktoria, and his son, Max, live in Virginia.