To my ex wife
I never imagined you and I, out of all the people in this world, would go through something so devastating as we did.
Throughout the years, we created the most beautiful memories. We climbed all the way to the top together, only to slip and fall as soon as we got there. And though I may have contributed to that fall, I tried so hard to hold on to you.
My heart shattered into a million pieces. Eventually, I realized I couldn't save us.
I couldn't undo what had been done, and I let you go to find your true happiness.
All I ever wanted was my own family. Every day, I dreamed of falling in love with a woman, getting married, buying a beautiful home and one day bringing our own little bundle of joy into the world.
I guess it goes without saying that you made all of that feel real for me; you helped make most of those dreams come true. I wanted nothing more than to be the best husband, a romantic lover, the most selfless provider, and one day, the world's best dad.
Our relationship wasn't perfect, but I loved you so much.
All those things I wanted to be, I couldn't imagine with anyone but you.
Our life together -- it was like Disney World. We ran carefree in this theme park we call life. Holding each others' hands, we laughed, cried, loved, and we were in awe of everything we experienced. We were children with dreams, and together, we thought about the day when all of ours would come true. Eventually, though, those roller coasters stopped.
The music died down, the lights shut off, and our magical journey came to an abrupt halt.
You were gone.
Suddenly, everything that was so familiar about life felt so foreign. I was lost without you. All I had left were my memories and dreams of us that I knew would never come true.
There are a few things that I never had the opportunity to tell you ...
Every time I called you, I looked forward to hearing you answer the phone. You would say "hey" in this voice that sound so innocent and so loving. And it never changed. It always reminded me of the beginning of our relationship and all of the reasons I fell in love with you. Who would have thought something so simple could be so powerful? It's what made you unique.
Remember all the times you yelled at me when I was looking at you? You'd ask me why, and I would either laugh or get angry because you had this "sass" about you. You know what? I looked at you because I thought you were the most beautiful thing in the world. I didn't care what you were wearing -- whether you had makeup on. I'd look at you and get lost in your laugh and your smile. Whatever flaws you believed you had, I loved -- how you'd look in the mirror and always suck in your stomach; how you always analyzed every picture we took together and made me delete them, nine times out of 10; how you'd pace around on the phone when you were nervous. Or how about how you hated to be on video? I noticed everything. But I loved it.
How about Valentine's Day in Atlantic City, when we arrived at the hotel and got the keys to our suite, only to find out it was disgusting. You wouldn't even sit on the bed! We both laughed until we got our room switched. Once we got there, you started jumping up and down like a maniac (I have it on video), and then eventually, you crashed and took a nap, like you always did. I sat there on that cloudy afternoon, lights off in the room, and just watched you sleep. I kept thinking about getting to marry you one day and having the opportunity to enjoy that moment over and over again. You looked so peaceful, and it reminded me of the responsibility I had to protect you, always.
Then there was that warm summer afternoon in June. The commute home from work that day was the most exciting drive of my life (and the longest, too). I will never forget picking up the phone and calling you, asking you to get ready and meet me at the house so we could grab dinner. It was spontaneous, I know, and in hindsight, not very well-planned. I didn't care, though.
I wanted to ask you to spend the rest of your life with me, and I guess I just couldn't wait anymore.
Your ring had been sitting in my room for three weeks in its blue Tiffany box, wrapped with a white ribbon. Every time I looked at it, I would think back to that night in May 2004 when I first laid eyes on you.
I thought about us being kids, not having anything but each other. I thought about the dreams we shared, and how I was so ready to spend the rest of my life with you. You helped shaped me into the man I was becoming, and this was a representation of my love and appreciation for you.
I was so nervous walking onto that beach in Long Branch -- my hands were sweating, my heart racing. When I got down on one knee in the sand, I remember the look on your face. The sun was beating down, your hair was blowing in the wind. I could hear the waves crashing behind me. I'll never forget you putting your hands over your mouth, saying "YES!"
It was one of the happiest moments of my life. When I slipped that ring onto your finger, I was certain it would never come off.
That leaves me with our wedding day.
June 10, 2012, the greatest day of my life. I looked forward to that for 27 years, but I never imagined it to be as beautiful as it was. I was in awe of everything -- the cameras, the flowers, the people, the church, the venue. Everything was beyond my wildest imagination, but nothing could compare to the excitement I felt about becoming your husband.
I couldn't wait to make you Mrs. D'Ambrosio.
Here we were, two teenagers who met on the Seaside boardwalk eight years prior, with no idea about life, love, and where it would take us. We finally created this day. We had built our lives, our careers, our home, and now it was time to build our family.
I stepped out to the altar and waited for you. My heart was filled with so many emotions, but I just wanted to hold your hand for the rest of my life. When those doors opened, every dream, wish and prayer I ever had came marching right toward me, more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. You were my best friend. I wanted so much more for the both of us.
Sometimes, though, we have to accept the unexpected.
Our worlds need to fall apart, so we can put them back together the way they were meant to be.
There's nothing more important to me than your happiness, and knowing you have that means the world to me. Our lives took different paths, but that can never take away from the memories we shared.
As for me? I'm happy. I've found peace. I am busier than ever with work, I found a new passion with writing, and I've been rebuilding a life that was once in a million pieces. I still dream of having a family. I still dream of holding my own child. Of course, I still dream of falling in love and finding my true happiness.
I'm much of the same Anthony you knew, but so much different.
You see, too many people live with hate in this world. Those same people live with anger and fear.
I'm not one of those people.
I'm disappointed we never got to finish writing our happily ever after, but I'll never be angry. I'll never hate you, and I'll never be dishonest about my emotions. God gave me this amazing opportunity to love. It brought me to so many beautiful places, taught me so much about life and gave me memories I'll cherish forever. How can I ever be angry about that?
To your parents, sister, grandparents, aunt and uncle -- tell them I always loved them as if they were my own, and I'm sorry if I never lived up to their expectations. I knew how much they loved you. I knew what kind of man they wanted for you, and God knows, I did everything I could to make sure I was just that.
And finally, to you -- I'm sorry for anything I may have ever done to hurt you. More than anything, I wanted to spend forever with you by my side, and to one day add our own little peanut who would join us for the ride. Everything I did in my life was to ensure yours would be all you dreamed it to be. I wanted to give you the world.
Unfortunately, I fell short.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have held you tighter during our first dance and picked a song that never ended.
I'm not perfect, and I never want people to think that I am. I've made mistakes. I've done things I'm not proud to admit, and I've made decisions I wish I could take back. But I loved someone with every bone in my body, with every beat of my heart and every inch of my soul. It wasn't perfect, but I know for sure I loved with everything I had; I loved in such a way that your happiness was always mine. And I'm thankful for that.
I once told you I wish I could put into words how much I loved you and share it with the world; here's my best shot at that promise.
Losing you may have been the most painful experience of my life, but it made me stronger than ever. It somehow made life feel real.
While on paper I lost my wife, in reality I lost so much more.
I lost a piece of me that I will never get back.
Take good care of it.
All the best,
A version of this post originally appeared on AJD Publications.