, , ,

This next guest post comes from a sweet young woman who knows a lot about love and loss. Her story is far too complex for a simple introduction so I’ll just let her share her journey.

Young Wifey

Finding Love a 2nd time

I did not sign up for this. I was completely happy and lucky with having found love once. I liked my boring love story: High school sweethearts marry after college and start a life together. And they live happily ever after. The end. Case closed. Done and done. Easiest blog entry ever. But, that was just the beginning. And since Young Wifey asked me to write about finding love a 2nd time, that’s clearly not how my story ends.

Initially, I was very eager to write about my story. It can be a very powerful story and I thought it would be nice if even one person could get something good out of it. But, once I started sitting down and writing it, I realized how difficult it was actually going to be. I found myself reliving many of the repressed emotions from the painful circumstances that I have tried so hard to put past me. My story is not only about finding love a second time, but getting a second chance on life, love, and happiness. So buckle up, this is going to be a bumpy ride—you’ve been warned.

My journey began back in 1983 with two loving and caring parents and an older sister in suburban Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I was your typical 80’s child—many lazy summer days spent playing with Barbies, Trolls, and Legos. When my younger sister came along when I was ten (planned, can you believe it?), I traded in the role of the baby of the family and reluctantly accepted the new role as middle child (and live-in babysitter). I was your typical all-American, goodie-two-shoes, well-behaved kid. I grew up going to a Christian church and it was there that I accepted Christ into my life. Church was a big part of my life. I was involved with the youth group, volunteered in the nursery, and went on mission trips. It was also there where I met my first love, Corky Dengler. He was funny, handsome, and very tall. I fell hard for him. I was fifteen and learned to throw the rule book away, relax and have fun. We went to proms, Yankees games, and each other’s graduations. We spent our summers poolside, beachside, and just side by side. We had such a strong connection. I felt complete with him.

Through our college years, we had our struggles. Not with each other, but with adapting into becoming adults. We both took full advantage of our newfound independence and minored in partying. Thankfully, I was still able to keep my grades up and actually graduated at the top of my nursing class in May of 2006. Very shortly after, we were married with all of our friends and family at our side.

Ashley & Corky

Ashley & Corky

From the outside, I had it all; a house, a great job, passionate love, and hopes of adding to our family (gotta include the pups!).

Ashley, Corky & the Pups

Ashley, Corky & the Pups

On the inside, we still struggled with balancing partying and the responsibilities of being an adult.  Things started to get out of control yet we continued to deny there being a problem.   Rock bottom happened in March of 2009.  Corky was hospitalized with complications from a drug overdose.  We spent nine months in the hospital; him battling infections and injury and me battling insurance companies and stress.  It was hell. The fear of him not getting better and me being alone was too much to imagine.  I was literally on my knees, begging God for a miracle.  However, on December 1, 2009, Corky passed away.

I struggled with rationalizing that God has a perfect plan for everything.  Corky was such a great guy and had so much to offer; why did He allow him to die? Couldn’t He have found a better way?  Was this really necessary?  I may not see the entire picture now.  I may never see the entire picture or have the answers to my questions. And that’s tough for me.  I want to know why I had to go through all this pain, anger, depression, loneliness and confusion.   The only way I’ve found peace is by focusing on the eternal picture.  I must trust that God will use my problem to fulfill His purposes.  I have found that I need to focus on God’s plan—not my pain or problem.   I need to remember that God paints on a large canvas and sometime I can only see a small portion of the painting.  I take comfort in knowing that Christ loves me SO much and He is still working in my life for His glory.  So, I try and focus my energies on the important issues.  I cherish the good time Corky and I have shared and the important lessons he has taught me.  I can still hear his voice telling me to slow down and appreciate all the good things I have.  Like, my loving family and friends who supported me during this difficult time.  Corky will always share a part of my heart.  He has molded me into the person I am today.  I miss him so much.

Deep breath….it gets better, I promise. 

At Corky’s memorial service, Corky’s best friend, Ryan promised to take care of me.  That meant so much.  Knowing that I was not alone in all of this was so comforting.  Despite him living 3000 miles away in California, we stayed in touch.  We relied on each other when going through difficult times.  He had lost his best friend and I of course lost my husband; this common bond made our friendship stronger.  As the months passed, we started to communicate more frequently.  He helped me as I re-entered the dating world.  And, my-oh-my, things were a lot different as a 26 year old widow (btw, an awful word; can’t we come up with something more comforting than a killer spider??).   He consoled me during my first traumatic break up.  Ryan and I would meet up whenever he came back to Harrisburg to visit his family.  It was hard to deny our friendship was changing.  But holy-moly, we couldn’t admit it.  That would just be too weird! Could it be that I was having feelings for my late husband’s best friend?

Ryan and I had talked for a while about me coming out to Los Angeles to visit him and see the city. We finalized plans for December of 2011 for me to come and visit.  This made me scared and excited at the same time.  Would we confront these feelings? If he didn’t feel the same way, would we still be able to be friends? What would my parents think? Or his parents? Or Corky’s parents? When I was on the plane to go visit him, I had decided I was going into the weekend just hoping to have a fun time; to explore the city, to spend time with a good friend….and, if anything else might happen, it would be a nice bonus.  No expectations = no disappointment. Luckily, Ryan went into the weekend with different expectations. He navigated through the awkward conversations of “I can’t help but notice our friendship seems to be changing.” When I agreed to going on a date with him the following day, we both breathed a sigh of relief and at the same time worried how things would go. Luckily, the next day was magical.  Best. First. Date. Ever.  We hiked a popular trail overlooking the Hollywood sign, followed by dinner at sunset. We finished the romantic evening with a stroll on the beach and a Ferris wheel ride.

Ashley & Ryan

Ashley & Ryan

More importantly, we had a connection. When I came home after that first weekend, I was giddy.  He came back to Harrisburg three weeks later for Christmas where we admitted to our friends, our family, and Corky’s family our feelings for each other.   We were surprised how willingly everyone accepted our confession.   My mom said Ryan put the sparkle back in my eyes.  We admitted to ourselves and each other that we were in love, on Christmas Day.  The next few months were a whirlwind of excitement and hope for the future.  In February of 2012, I began the process of acquiring my California nursing license and finding a job.   By June, I had packed my bags and dog, rented out my house, and moved to sunny California.

Ashley <3 Ryan


Two months later, Ryan asked me to marry him and the following April we were married in a small ceremony on the beach.

Happily Ever After

Happily Ever After

It has been a crazy few years…full of the most extreme highs and lows.   I still struggle with guilt.  It’s hard sometimes for me to admit that I’m happy.  That it’s okay to be happy.  To realize that moving on does not mean forgetting.   I will never forget Corky.  He was my first true love.  I still have tough days and it’s so comforting to have Ryan’s support on those days.  To be able to talk with him openly and for him to understand my loss and pain means so much.  It was our shared love for Corky that laid the seeds for our own love to blossom.  In my heart, I know Corky supports this relationship.  And that gives me peace.  It turns out that next to the darkest corner of my canvas, God painted a bright, shining ray of hope.

How did I get so lucky in love twice?