Seven Hundred Twenty

Apparently I've got a thing with numbers lately. 720. That's how many days it's been since he left this earth. That's how many days I've survived widowhood. Well, I didn't know I was surviving it until the 15th, but ...

I miss him so much. I feel like I'm being ripped from both sides. It's crazy how the simple changing of the clock can make pain so much more intense. What the hell. I mean, the pain is there everyday but there's something about the marker, the anniversary. That's why we celebrate anniversaries, isn't it? Because they mean something. And that's why anniversaries are so painful, too. Reminders. Once a year reminders.

I can remember this time so vividly. It's funny because the days after  are a haze but the days right around - permanently engrained in my brain.

I can remember March 13th into 14th. I went to get a matching tattoo with a friend (I use that term lightly these days, unfortunately those who were friends then aren't so anymore, who knew death would also steal friendships?) Anyway, we got yellow ribbons. I semi-designed it with the assistance of the artist. Yellow ribbon tattered to show the hardships of the military spouse as well as the support of the military. Even though we may be tattered and withstand a lot, we're still there at the end of the day. Mine was finished sometime around midnight on the 14th because we went right after a battalion ladies night at the habachi grill in town. It was a fun day and night. We'd gone to the beach that day and had plans to the next day, as well.

The next day, March 14th, I spent feeling ill. I cancelled my beach plans (an unbelievable fact at the time - I never turned down the beach) because my stomach was in knots, I felt off, and just down. I called the friend I'd gotten the tattoo with thinking maybe I had an infection. Like the great friend she was at the time, she laughed at me (that's what I needed to stop from being paranoid) and told me I was fine. I still had no idea why I felt so off.

That night I heard about an accident. Another friend's husband had been injured. Maybe I've told you guys about this before, maybe not. But either way, there was an accident and my friend's husband had been injured. I knew my husband had been with her husband, we'd just figured this out days before. A wife who's husband was non-deployable called another friend (it's hard to follow without names, I know, i'm doing my best) telling her there was a casualty. That friend called me worrying it was her husband. My stomach hit the floor. Jonny was with the injured guy... I knew that... there was a casualty... what if it was Jonny? I called my family and they did their job at reassuring me. We didn't even know anything, why worry? But something certainly felt wrong. I went to bed.

I went to bed praying. Praying so hard. Please don't let it be Jonny. Don't let it be *friend's husband's name* either, but please, please God don't let it be Jonny. Don't let my doorbell ring in the morning.
The next morning, well, let's say what I've been told by so many milspouses - my worst nightmare came true.

My doorbell rang. It was still dark. The baby was sleeping in my bed with me. She was 2 months old, it was March 15. I went to answer the door. I stumbled back to my room finding something to put on, I went to answer the door, back and forth. I flipped on the light of the porch. I peeked through the peephole. I saw the shiny chaplain's cover through the peephole. I knew my fears were about to be confirmed. I still hadn't put on clothes. I had to let them know I was there. I think I was yelling who is it, but I can't remember if that actually happened or it was just in my head. I put on sweats. I walked back through the house.

I walked, I walked. My two bedroom duplex hallway felt a mile long. I opened the door.
There they were. They stood there. This was not good. It was true. No, it couldn't be. Wrong house. Wrong house.

Are you Rachel Porto, wife of Cpl Jonathan Porto? blank stare maybe? head shake? Asked again. Asked again. No. No. No. No. I needed to confirm before I'd be told anything. Maybe a nod.

We're sorry to inform you....

It happened. He was gone. My love, my hero, my soulmate. He'd left the earth.
At some point I screamed. At some point I fell on the floor.
I had to get up, I had to get to Ariana.

Thank God for that little girl who made me survive through those early days. I had no choice, I had to take care of my little girl, his little girl, our little girl.

I had to survive. And so, I did.
I have.
Two years later, I'm still here.

That's the story. That's when I found out my life had been flipped. From that point on, everything would be different. Days would turn into struggles, pain would come from incomprehensible parts of my body for no reason, tears springing from nothing. I would lose friends, I would gain friends. I would join a family that no one wanted to be a part of but that was so supportive and would turn into my best friends and biggest cheerleaders for success. Friends who stuck by would become family and strength, more than I think they'll ever know, and more than I can thank them for.

Complete strangers would show their support. I found a bunch of cards and letters of support today. I never wrote thank you cards. Everything was just... insane... and I just never did it. I wish I had. I wish I could thank each and every one of the people who sent something, friends, family, and total strangers, who sent their condolences and their wishes for only the best for my daughter and I. The love and support from everyone, simply astounding. I hope at least some of those people read this. I'm sorry I never sent thank yous, I wish I could thank you each and I don't even know if I could find the words to accurately express how amazing you all are, but your love and support through these times has been beyond amazing.

To everyone who's been there, even those who are no longer, you made an impact. You helped me through.

Today, I stand. I cry, I remember. But, I stand. I am here, I am thriving.

I will never forget my love, I will try to honor him every day I live. I will remember him and I will nourish his life in our daughter.

Because our love was so strong, it has carried me through. On days like this, Jonny, I think of you. I think of the way you loved me, and I know it's not so bad. I had that love, I still have that love.
So, to my biggest support (even if you are the cause of all this, ya turd) thank you for your love. Thank you because I know you make sure I feel it from where you are. Thank you for loving me. And thank you, thank you for choosing me to be your wife, thank you for choosing me to be the mother of your beautiful child. I'd never change being with you, even if I couldn't change the ending, you showed me what true love is and I will always love you for the rest of my years on this earth and beyond. I know you hear me, I know you feel me. Know that I miss you, I love you, and you are my true love.

And with that, I am off to bed to be rested to spend a day at the zoo with our beautiful daughter tomorrow.

Remember to hug your loved ones. Tell them you love them and how much they mean to you. Life is short, appreciate it.


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