Loving a soldier isn't easy. Christina gave me permission to post this account of her long distance love affair. In fact, she was so open that she said I didn't need to change her name, but I did.
Dear Kate and David,
Although I'm sure you have an abundance of fan mail to read, I feel the desperate need to share my story and to thank you.
I am a Canadian (32-year-old!) girl who is madly in love with a British soldier. The love story that Mark and I share is quite incredible, really, as we met as 16-year-olds on my final night in England and fell instantly in love. I had to leave for Canada the next morning and, standing at the bus in the rain, I speechlessly shoved a crumpled piece of paper with my address on it into his hand and boarded the bus, unable to comprehend the overwhelming sadness and physical pain I was feeling inside. The next five years brought a constant exchange of letters and vows to never love others and to see each other again as soon as we could. But the university years and, I imagine, 'growth' and maturity led us in different directions and the letters eventually ceased altogether. After 7 years -- quite tumultuous ones for me -- of no contact, I found myself thinking of him often, wondering where he ended up and where his life had taken him. I took a chance on his parents' address that I had from 12 years earlier and penned a short note and dropped it in the post. Within two weeks, I'd received an aerogramme in return and - to use cliche after cliche - we've never looked back... the rest is history. We have been a blissful (although separated by an ocean!) couple ever since.
3 weeks ago, Mark was ordered to go to Afghanistan. He was given 2 weeks notice. I flew to England for the 1.5 days he was given to settle his afairs and to say goodbye to his family. I had only hours with him to tell him face-to-face all that he has meant to me, all of the happiness he has brought to my life. But what could I possibly give to him to take with him? What gift would be portable, practical and purposeful, yet most of all MEANINGFUL and representative of US...? Then I found "What I Love About You".
In short, I want to thank you. Thank you for giving me the gift of expression. As an English teacher and avid reader and writer, I feel I am gifted with words. However, I would never have been able to cover all of the ground that your book allowed me to, especially in the time constraint I was suddenly under to tell him all I could before he left. I am good at telling Mark over and over that I love him, that I miss him, and that I am blessed to have had him come into my life, but your prompts and checklists allowed for creativity, humour, and the chance to recollect things I might not have. You should also know how therapeutic the process was for me. I was not coping well, to put it mildly. I was sad, terrified, unbelievably angry, and your book helped soothe me, reassure me. It put things in perspective, and reminded me of what is so important in life: the 'little' things, and love, and knowing that no matter what happens, I will always have him in my life, in my heart.
Thank you also for helping me to give Mark a constant reminder of how much he means to me; while his safety is of the utmost importance to me, a near-second is reassuring him that I am always thinking of, missing, and wishing for him. Our contact is so limited, but I've received two messages from him and in both he thanks me for the book... He says it's the nicest gift he could ever have received and is cherishing it. I am quite confident that it may give him some peace at the end of not-so-peaceful days, and that it reminds him of what he has to look forward to when he feels a little low. Most of all, I believe that your book is the only true connection we'll have in these next 6 months; we are in two very different places, but that book holds all that brought us -- and will keep us -- together.
I really can't express my gratitude, my appreciation and my admiration for what you've done. Just as there sometimes aren't words to describe my feelings for Mark, I could never articulate for you all that your work means to me.
Causes Kate Marshall Supports
Project Second Chance, an adult literacy program run by the Contra Costa County Library system in California.