July 4th is approaching and to many people it means celebrating by watching a parade, having or attending a big cook out, or possibly a trip to the shore for some rays and waves. For me, however, the 4th of July is a day I tried to forget for the last few years. Pull up a chair, get comfy and I’ll tell you my story…
It was a day just as beautiful as every day in the summer. The sun was out, the trees were green and the flowers were vivid shades of reds, yellows, oranges and pure whites. The crape myrtles were swaying in the breeze and the butterflies were enjoying a feast in the yard.
My husband was getting the grill ready for his world famous ribs and chicken. The tables, chairs and umbrellas were awaiting the 30 or so guests that were invited to our annual July 4th cookout. The salads were chilling in the fridge; the drinks were in the cooler under the shade of the big old oak tree. At 1:00 PM on the button the guests, our dear friends, began to arrive and the party was on.
The kids jumped in the pool and adults made themselves comfortable in the shade. Chuck, my husband of 10 years and man of my dreams, tried to light the big propane grill. Unfortunately, he was out of propane and we had hungry guests. He grabbed the old charcoal grill from the shed and loaded it up with briquettes. The lighter fluid can was almost empty but he gave the coals a good soaking before throwing the match on top. The coals began to catch fire, but not fast enough. He tried to squirt additional lighter fluid on the coals. All I heard was heard Tim’s blood chilling scream as the fumes were sucked back into the can of lighter fluid and it exploded in Chuck’s face.
I can hardly describe the scene that followed. Someone called 911 while other people got the kids inside the house and out of the way. Our friends remained fairly calm, while I was quite literally in sock. That is what they told me anyway, I don’t remember much until late that night. Chuck was in the burn center of St. Joseph’s Hospital and fighting for his life. The doctors didn’t hold much hope for his survival. Thankfully, the pain ended for Chuck as the Lord took him home around 11 PM that night, Sunday, July 4th.
Much of what followed, including the funeral and the days after, are still a blur even 5 years later. The first two years I cried myself to sleep every night and blamed everyone in the world for my loss. I couldn’t forgive Chuck for doing such a stupid thing. Each night I screamed out loud, “Why did you leave me Chuck?”
Last winter things unexpectedly changed for me. I was feeling confident after a lot of counseling. I was doing well at my job and I had a lot of new friends. I had a zest for living again because I realized that Chuck’s death was an accident and he didn’t leave me on purpose.
I felt so good I started taking cooking classes at the local college where I met the most wonderful man. His name is Tim, or should I say Major Timothy Blaine, US Army Reserves. We have been dating for the last five months and I feel that I can love again and be happy. I know Tim loves me, he tells me every day. I haven’t gotten up the nerve to tell him how I really feel about him, but I will, when the time is right.
Today is the 5th anniversary of that July 4th tragedy. People are having cookouts, swimming parties and celebrating the day. I took time this morning to have a ‘chat’ with Chuck and I told him I still miss him and love him, but I also have to continue to live my life and be happy. I know he would want me to be happy.
I’m off to the July 4th parade so I can get a good spot. I can hardly wait to get there. Tim’s Army Reserve unit is starting off the parade and Major Timothy Blaine will be out in front of the unit, leading his men. I love this man, I do. It is only fair to tell him, and I am going to do that later this evening when we are alone. That will be the perfect ending for this July 4th celebration – a celebration of our love. This will be the July 4th I want to remember always.
Abby Greenhill’s mind