This Valentine’s Day, TAPS honors not just the love we have all lost, but the love many of our surviving spouses have found since their loss. TAPS has been the driving force on the Love Lives On Act, which would allow surviving spouses to remarry at any age and maintain their benefits — because being widowed should not penalize you from the possibility of finding love in the future.
The bill will be reintroduced later this month. Find out more about the Love Lives On Act.
Finding Love after Loss
When my husband of 23 years was killed in action, I could not imagine a future without him. Every dream I had for retirement, grandparenting, and travel ended. I turned 50 just after his death, and my life for almost 10 years became about consuming the moments with work, volunteerism, and running. I missed the companionship and the best friend, but I could not see a day when I could love another person like I loved Phil. I couldn’t navigate the dating world because I measured every date against the relationship I had with Phil, and I wanted what I had with Phil. I felt inadequate to modern-day dating practices, and I was afraid of trusting online dating sites or single men my age because dating in my late 50s was not the same as dating in my 20s. Imagine my surprise and wonder when a friend introduced me to a man who would become my husband.
I was at a very low spot in my life. Work was not a place to find distraction, yet I put on a happy face and showed up every day. One person noticed my eyes and called me on what she saw. She said she had a friend — a running fool like me — and she asked if I would want to run with him? I challenged her about trying to put the two of us together, and she guaranteed that he wouldn’t hit on me because she knew him, had dated him, and that even if I threw myself at him, he was safe.
I agreed to meet and run with this running fool, so I could learn new running routes. We began running together. Those initial runs were painful because we barely talked. We never traveled together, flirted, or lingered. As time went on, we began to talk about our moms and our children, but even as the friendship grew, it was only about running until five months later when my car broke down. Runner boy offered to fix it, but I resisted because I did not want to owe him anything. It wasn’t until the car-repair place failed three times that I allowed him to look at my car. He didn’t even know where I lived.
In exchange for fixing my car, I offered to make him dinner. At that dinner, we discovered we had a lot more in common than just parenting styles and running. We talked about everything. At the end of the evening, he walked my dog with me. I still wasn’t considering what was right in front of me until he leaned in to kiss me. Because he did not know how I was going to react, he misjudged and fell over. As he looked up laughing and I looked down laughing, I realized what was right in front of me. In that moment, I took a leap of faith that I have never once regretted.
That leap of faith meant trusting myself and Brian (aka Runner Boy) because I was slated to leave for Japan for work a few months later. Brian navigated the 16-hour time difference and called me every morning and evening when I could talk. He visited twice for two to three months, and would have come more often if Covid hadn’t shut things down. Our friendship and connection strengthened in those phone calls. Time gave me space to navigate my insecurities and to grow my trust in the relationship.
There came a day when I knew I wanted whatever time we had to be spent together. He proposed to me on his last trip to Okinawa, and we married just after my 60th birthday. I consider our love an unexpected gift. Brian doesn’t ask me to give up my past, but I find that I live in my past less and less because I am consumed with living our story. Our love is different, and it is more fierce because I know exactly how tenuous life can be.
Remarriage can be daunting, no matter how much one desires to be married. Combining two homes, considering finances, distributing time fairly between family visits, and merging schedules, routines, and — I could go on — are items that we still navigate. Our friendship, love, and grace have given these changes a cushion. It’s a reminder that Love Lives On.
Linda Ambard is the surviving Spouse of Major Phillip Ambard, United States Air Force
Photos courtesy of Linda Ambard