Love Never Dies

Author: Anna Steg

"You are not physically here to live your life, but I am and you are a part of me." 

Journal Entry: September 30,  2019

Mornings are always difficult. I usually wake up feeling well-rested, but then reality slowly starts to sink in. I roll over to cuddle you, but you are not there. I then look around the room and realize I am not in our townhouse. Instead, I find myself in a bedroom at my parents' house, packed with our belongings and many reminders of you. You are gone and this is my life now. I take a few deep breaths and avoid getting out of bed. Our pup starts whining and reminds me that, whether I like it or not, life is going to go on. You are not physically here to live your life, but I am and you are a part of me. I will always fight for you, be strong for you, and continue to carry on your legacy. As hard as mornings always are, I promise you I will get out of bed every day and live for the both of us.

Anna holding photo of her late fiancéPhoto: Alyse Michelle Images

My fiancé, Staff Sgt. Ben Hines was killed in action in April 2019 just one month before he was set to come home from Afghanistan.

Ben was my soulmate, my hero, and my forever. In addition to being my fiancé, he was also a son, a brother (he was one of seven siblings), a grandson, a battle buddy and a friend to many. He wanted to be a Marine since he was little and followed his dreams after high school, joining the Marine Corps Forces Reserve in 2006. He was caring, selfless and always put the needs of others above his own.

Ben had the ability to make everyone laugh and smile. His goal in life was to put a smile on everyone’s face. Ben was the most patriotic man I know and would do anything to protect our country. He often wore a blue star-spangled blazer to social events to show his love for our country. It was his favorite blazer and I ended up wearing it to his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.

Thankful for the Memories

One of my favorite memories was meeting Ben in Germany and Italy for his R&R during his last deployment. I loved traveling the world with him and we had planned on many more adventures in the future. Little did I know that the trip would be the last time I saw Ben.  

Journal Entry: September 16,  2019

One year ago today was the last time I saw Ben in person. Unbeknownst to us, we had our last hug and our last kiss. I remember standing in line at the airport, crying and not wanting to go home without him. I was having a really hard time leaving him there after the amazing week we had just spent together during his R&R. We had just finished up our trip of a lifetime to Germany & Italy and I am so thankful we had this one last trip together. I remember on my flight home thinking how lucky I was to have Ben as my life partner & travel buddy and looked forward to many more adventures to come. 

Anna with dog on blanket picturing her fiancéPhoto: Alyse Michelle Images

I think the most challenging thing to deal with since losing Ben was the fact that we were only six months away from our wedding date. Ben and I had been together for almost four years and we decided this would be the perfect time for him to deploy, before starting our family. Not only am I grieving having lost my life partner but also the children we had anticipated having once he came home and we had officially become Mr. and Mrs. We had also planned on buying our first home this spring. Instead, I bought a townhouse on my own. It’s definitely hard seeing everyone else hit these life milestones that were unfairly robbed from us, but I remind myself to keep fighting and being strong. 

Many activities and people have helped me get through. Journaling has been one of my favorite ways to express my feelings during my grief journey. I also write and share stories about Ben and our love with friends and family.

Fitness is another way to escape and re-energize. Each workout helps lift my spirits, and I escape my reality without Ben. He always gives me the extra motivation I need to get through a tough workout.

I am also so thankful for my massive support system: family, friends, the Marines, his deployment buddies, military spouses, other fiancées/widows, co-workers, acquaintances and, of course, my TAPS family. These people have all been there for me in different ways – for venting, crying, checking in, hugs, and helping me carry on Ben’s legacy.

Strength I Never Knew I Had

Anna holding a folded flagPhoto: Alyse Michelle Images

Losing the love of my life has been the most heartbreaking and painful experience I’ve ever had to go through. It’s changed me as a person and has exposed strength I never knew I had. When we love deeply, we grieve deeply. Losing Ben has put me on a journey toward recovery, growth, and hope for more love and happiness to come. Thanks to my amazing support system, I was able to survive this past year.

I’ve been going to monthly TAPS Care Group meetings and plan on attending my first TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar this spring. It’s helpful to hear about others’ journeys who are further along than I.

My heart is broken, but I find comfort in the fact that love never dies. I am a true believer in this. I know Ben will always be with me and wants the best for me. I keep living for the both of us. I truly think that Ben will hand-pick my next great love.

Our loved ones will be a part of us forever. Although they are no longer with us physically, they will always live in our hearts. We must continue to live. I find comfort in knowing I will be reunited with Ben again one day. That gives me hope. I know Ben will be right by my side in spirit. But most of all, I am so thankful that I got that one last kiss.

Anna Steg is the surviving fiancée of Staff Sgt. Benjamin Scott Hines, U.S. Marine Corps