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.



42 comments

  1. I've been thinking about you since last weekend. I keep Jonny's name and the date written on my blog as a reminder, for me to keep you and Ari in mind and so everyone will remember him, too. Hugs and prayers for you, dear.

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  2. I can't believe its been two years. Rachel I must say, you are an inspiration to many many people. Thank you for opening your life up to us and being 'real'. I have not been through what you've gone through but I must say, you inspire me. I respect you, your an amazing young woman and mother.
    Hugs from Akron... yesterday, today, and always tomorrow.

    Leeann

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  3. Like I always say, you are such a beautiful writer. Your situation is terrible, yet you've shown so much maturity, poise, and grace while coping with it and getting through it. Jonny is lucky to have such a wonderful wife, and Ariana a father. You definitely have a guardian angel looking down on you.

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  4. God bless you, Ariana, and Jonny. It is amazing how people you have never "met" can become such a part of your life and your family. You are stronger than most women I know, and the way you handle yourself leaves nothing but admiration. He is so proud of you, every day. I'm sure of it. *hugs*

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  5. Wow. I am at a loss for words. You knew... you knew he was gone. I am so sorry lady, but I can say that I am happy to know that you have found happiness through it all and that Jonny is up there smiling down on you and baby girl!

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  6. Your post is heartbreakingly beautiful. I am so so so sorry for your loss. You are doing an amazing job for your beautiful daughter.

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  7. Love you. *hugs* - Maggie

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  8. Wow I can't believe it's already been two years.

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  9. As you described the scenario, when they cam knocking... my heart was racing so loudly I could hear it in my ears. I can't imagine yours in that moment, or the break this has put in it, but I am amazed each time that I visit your blog and read your words of healing and continuing love for Jonny, even after he has passed and I think it is so beautiful. You're a wonderful, strong woman Rachel. I just thought someone ought to tell you that today. *Hugs*

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  10. OMG, Rachel loved rading this post, even though it made me cry it was still beautiful to see the love that you have for Jonny. Hugs to you and Ari, and continue being the same person you have been throughout this, strong, loving and independent. Sending prayers your way.

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  11. Sending you love and rememberance from Bastrop, Texas..Thank you for your strength and compassion. Love,
    Patti

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  12. Mrs. P,

    From all of us at Soldiers' Angels, we are thinking of you today. Sending you love, hugs, and prayers.

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  13. I'm sitting here in my office cubicle fighting back tears. Every time you write about Jonny— every, single, time— I cry. I remember reading about this when it happened. It was just 2 weeks after my husband deployed to Afghanistan, when I was already a nervous wreck. YOU are the person who inspired me to start a blog... reading your story, your struggles, your bravery, your strength. Sharing your love for Jonny & who he was. I wanted to share that about husband too, and blogging allowed me to do that. I still think of you often, even though we've never met or talked. Have a beautiful day at the zoo with your baby girl!

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  14. Thinking of you and praying for you all today. You've come so far, girl.

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  15. your strength continues to amaze me. I know Jonny is so proud of you.

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  16. Dear Mrs. P.
    I don't really have the words. All I can say is that I am very sorry for your loss and honor you for your sacrifice. I don't know you but am very moved by your words. I too have lived with the fear. My warrior is now retired; when he returned to me from his final(8th)year-long deployment still intact I gave thanks to every supreme being I could think of. You are part of a Sisterhood-of-Arms, we understand. Please know that we all wish you to continue to thrive, that you and your beautiful girl are wished not just happiness but joy in your lives. Take care, be well, you are in many prayers.

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  17. I am so sorry for you loss and all the pain that you have gone through. You are so strong, even if you don't feel like it at times. You are such an inspiration and an honor to your husband. Your little girl is so blessed to have you for a mother and to help her know her father. You are in my prayers! Hugs to you on this day and always!

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  18. Oh sweety, my heart still breaks for you. I sobbed while reading this. I can't imagine the pain you have endured. Prayers going up for you today <3

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  19. I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. This was such a beautifully written post. His memory and legacy has been well preserved by you.

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  20. God Bless you and your daughter, stand proud!

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  21. Thinking of you and your little one today! Hope you are both feeling Johnnys love shining down on you to help you through these horrible anniversaries. hugs!

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  22. I'm so sorry, Rachael. So sorry. I'll tell my loved ones how much they mean.

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  23. Thank you for sharing a piece of your broken heart with such immediacy and eloquence. I found your blog linked over at Legal Insurrection. I am so very moved. God bless you and your daughter. Prayers for you both. And for your beloved angel.

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  24. your post brought me to tears. i always think of you when march comes around. i remember reading your post saying it happened and crying b/c you lost your husband and best friend and your daughter lost her dad that she never met. it broke my heart and it still does. i am about to send my husband off on his first deployment in a few months and we have a 4 yr old and a pregnant belly that needs to hold down the fort while he is away. and this is a huge fear, but we can't live in fear. i pray for you and your daughter everyday. i know he is looking down on yall..

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  25. Mrs P,
    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your daughter.

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  26. What strength and peace you have. I know that it comes from Jesus Christ. He is our faith and peace if we trust in Him. You're blog has really touched my heart. I found it last night while I was surfing the web trying to make myself feel better. My boyfriend is in the Marines and I haven't seen him in a few months and I miss him... I know you understand that better than anyone. Thank you so much for encouraging me. God bless you and your daughter!!

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  27. That was a beautiful tribute Mrs. Porto. Even though its hard, I enjoy hearing about your memories of Johnny & how you honor him to this day by loving him & being such a good mommy & lady. You will continue to go far. ---Therapist & mom

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  28. My God bless your family and may you find peace. Live in the present moment...love those in the past, but live for the now and future. Mr P rest in peace and Mrs. P continue living a strong, blessed life.

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  29. My God bless your family and may you find peace. Live in the present moment...love those in the past, but live for the now and future. Mr P rest in peace and Mrs. P continue living a strong, blessed life.

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  30. My God bless your family and may you find peace. Live in the present moment...love those in the past, but live for the now and future. Mr P rest in peace and Mrs. P continue living a strong, blessed life.

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  31. My heart goes out to you Rachel. This post really brought tears to my eyes.
    I admire you a lot for celebrating your husband's life and being such a strong person. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.
    All the best to you and your daughter.

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  32. Even though I did not know him, nor you, personally - you're the ones that I keep silently in my thoughts in prayers as a military wife. You're a strong woman, and I admire that. <3

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  33. I've been thinking about you this entire past week and I'm so proud to say that I have gotten to know you and meet you. You are such an inspiration to a lot of people out there and I'm so proud of you that you have gotten so far and will continue to go far as your life progresses. Keep it up Mrs. Porto and know that even though we don't talk that much, I'm always here to support you and I'm always praying for your and your little girl. <3

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  34. You are so strong, I will always think of your story whenever I need to collect myself and find my own strength. Thank you for sharing something so personal.

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  35. {{{Hugs}}} from Colorado. You are an inspiration to all of us.

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  36. Mrs. P,
    Your story is amazing. That was some amazing writing too. I sit here teary eyed after reading this. I am so impressed by that tribute to him and by how much you have gone through and still going through. You are truly an inspiration.
    I recently got married and my husband is a corpsman in the Navy. I'm still in college, but in Army ROTC, so when I graduate I will be in the Army. I can only imagine what you've gone through, but any advice on how to deal with a deployment (hubby deploys in December) would be greatly appreciated!
    -Linzee

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  37. I went through similar experiences when my husband was killed in war 45 years ago. The memory is still very fresh, but I have managed to build a rich, fulfilling live, and you will too.

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  38. Yesterday my oldest daughter and I were having a talk about how awesome our soldiers are, It made me think of you and I told her about your blog and your story. It's been a while since I checked in...please know that we remember and honor your husbands life and the lives of all our servicemen and women, those who come home safely, and those who don't. God bless you!!!

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  39. Rachel, You have such a way with words. I'm always glad I have my own office when I read your posts about your husband. I'm at my desk crying my eyes out. I pray for you and Ari all the time.

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  40. I don't know how I stumbled upon your blog but I just want to tell you how incredibly touched I was after reading it and I am so very sorry for your loss. Although I can't even imagine your experience, I lost both my parents 5 years ago at age 18 and know too well the feeling of thinking everyday you're living a nightmare. You seem like a very strong woman and your daughter is so lucky to have you. One day we will see our loved ones again in heaven. Keep smiling.
    xo Ashlee

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