Brayden was serving a church mission in South Africa when his cousins told me to write him a letter. I was new to Victoria, we hadn’t met yet. They thought we would be cute together, but I wasn’t interested at the time. I was headed to Brussels for the summer where my mothers were stationed, and then off to Spain for a study abroad program and couldn’t think about adding anything else to my plate. Eventually( and luckily !) I supposed,’ why not ?, ’ and decided to write one letter to him. I wrote the return address as my address in Victoria, and promptly moved to Brussels. On June 3, 2015, I got a message from my brother who had picked up my mail. I had received a letter from Brayden on my birthday! It was the funniest thing I has in the past read. So, I wrote a new letter addressed to him, but this time with my accurate return address. We wrote letters over the process of being 8 months. No facetime or phone calls, merely letters and an email once a few weeks. My happiest days were the ones a letter from South africans appeared in my mailbox.
We both moved back to Victoria, Canada, within a month of each other and were inseparable. We started dating in January, were head over heels for one another by February, and he proposed at the end of April. We were married July 15, 2016, on a warm summer day.
I had just finished my last university quiz for the semester when a family friend asked me if I would be available for the day to help her company set up for an event. When I arrived, the scene was already full of chaos. They were behind on setting up the huge event tent, and hadn’t yet set the walls up that would provide a roadblock from the intense gale. Dozens of glass fell and shattered, the balloons were all popping, and the coordinators were rushing to finish on time. One detail I recollect so clearly was watching 3 dames struggling to set a huge support pole into place. They hadn’t set it down on flat ground, but because the coordinator was helping them, I presumed it was on purpose. I urgently wish I could go back and say something about that, to show them how unsteady it would be in the wind.
I was tasked with decorating a table, and as I was hunched over smoothing out the wrinkles, I hear a gasp from the dames facing me. I didn’t have time to react before I both hear and felt a loud thumping, a audio I have re-lived over and over in my nightmares. I can still remember how it felt. My first thought was,’ Well…that isn’t good.’ I “d no idea” then how monumental that moment would be in my life. As I held my head in my hands, I looked around and insured that the huge pole had been pushed in the wind and had come down on my head. My memory is very fuzzy after the make. I recollect little things, like telling myself over and over not to cry. I wanted my mothers to come pick me up , not realizing they had moved to Brussels 3 years earlier. The world was spinning, at times it ran black. The next few weeks were spent in a complete fog.
My next clear memory is of waking up reasoning I was 17 years old, and not knowing who Brayden was. My memory of session, falling in love with, and marrying Brayden was gone. I remember waking up and considering Brayden. A hurry of panic took over my body, I couldn’t say a single word.’ Who are you ?!, ’ I wanted to scream.
‘Good morning, Laura! ’ He smiled at me. I was confused by how calmly this stranger looked over at me, and then went back to reading. My head was pounding, and I had to stumble to the bathroom to throw up. I watched my belongings mingled with his, our wedding album laying on the coffee table. I felt like I was stuck in a hazy nightmare I couldn’t escape. This wasn’t the first morning I woke up after the accident( I can’t even remember it !), this was just a normal daily occurrence for us. Virtually every morning I woke up gasping in anxiety. Sometimes I screamed, sometimes I cried, and sometimes I was lucky enough to remember I wasn’t in danger.
Over the course of the next two years I expended every waking moment in tear-jerking, white-knuckled pain. In addition to the TBI, the pole had caused damage to my spine which led to constant back spasms and never-ending tension headaches. Any noise, light, or motion caused me to cry out in pain. I recollect one night the pain was so intense I was scared I might die. Brayden rushed me to the ER where we waited for hours before the doctor shined a illuminate in my eyes and said,’ It’s just a concussion, go home and rest.’ Another doctor told me,’ It’s just a concussion, get back to work and you’ll feel better! ’ Every doctor seemed to say something different, but they all used the same dismissing tone. No one seemed to recognize the apparently inexplicable ache I was facing every minute of every day, or the awful memory loss. I had to leave university right before my final year and face the realization that I may never become a teacher. I lost my ability to read, write, and speak coherently. The company responsible didn’t step up and I was too sick to push for compensation, so I ran without much needed treatment due to finances. At one point Brayden reached out to them, but only received an,’ Oh no, hope she feels better soon’ type of text. I felt hopeless, misconstrue, and couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Due to my memory loss, I’ve had to come to words with the fact that I’m married to someone I don’t genuinely know. I went through a period of anger and depression; I felt like so much had been ripped away from me. I urgently hoped my memory would come back, that someday I would look at Brayden and remember everything. Regrettably that has yet to happen.
In some styles, the worst part of the accident was forgetting Brayden. At the start, I had completely lost my memory of him. Every morning my brain would reset to thinking I was 17, still living in my parents’ home in Brussels. I would wake up screaming as I “d no idea” who was in my bed. Brayden would wrap me up in a hug to comfort me, which merely constructed it worse.’ Laura, it’s me! ’ He would say over and over.’ Who is’ me? ’’, I always wondered. I cried almost every day for 2 years wishing I could move back home with my mothers, to the place and people I knew.’ I want to wake up in a room I recognize, wear clothes I recollect buying, live with people I know…I can’t keep living in this awful confusion !, ’ I wailed at Brayden as he wondered if he should try to comfort me or just leave me be. He still wasn’t used to me jumping in dread every time he tried to wrap his arms around me.
As the initial ache subsided, memories of him slowly started coming back. Unfortunately, the emotional connection to those memories was gone. I felt like I had just woken up to the marriage, and felt no attachment to it. I would stare at my bridal rings with nervousnes, resenting them as they represented something vital I couldn’t fully remember. I grew resentful, and felt trapped. I knew the right thing to do was to stay with him, but the thought of that pained me. I couldn’t depend on the days when memories of him were accessible, and dismiss the pain of the days full of fog. I don’t think Brayden has ever conveyed just how difficult this has been for him. He always wants to protect me from hurting more than I am, so he always find a route to spin the situation to focus on the positives. Even throughout our tearful discussions over how hard it was for me to be married to someone I didn’t truly know, he always reassured me.’ You may not remember me, but I remember you. I love you know matter what, and nothing could induce me give up on you, ’ he reminded me often. I am so comforted by how unconditional his love is for me.
We couldn’t survive long on one income. I couldn’t work a normal job, but desperately wanted to contribute. Before the accident Brayden and I dreamed of having a photography/ videography business. So, that became my passion project. I would wake up, grab my laptop, and learn about becoming a wedding photographer. At first, I could only concentrates for 15 -minute increments before I needed a 3-hour break. Those measly 15 minutes of focusing had the authority to induce me so ill I would cry out for hours. Once the tears were done, I grabbed my laptop again. I pushed myself until I could run longer with less breakings. At first it was the perfect task as I merely had to work out-of-home on wedding days and could edit from my bed, but then I fallen in love with the idea that I was capturing its important memories of my clients’ lives. I treat every wedding I shoot with such love and respect because I would devote anything to have a clear memory of mine. I’m so proud of the beautiful business I ran so hard to create, and I treasure my role in record these special memories for others.
I don’t give up on many things very easily. Around the two-year mark after the accident, I shot out of bed. The fog had begun to lift, and I was determined to get on with life despite the pain. I spontaneously enrolled in two university class, and forced myself to relearn to read and write in the process. When Brayden asked me how my first exam went, I told him,’ I studied 10 hours for this test, but when I woke up I had an nasty headache which took away my ability to read any of the questions. All of that work, and I couldn’t read a single question! The words were spinning on the page. Ultimately I merely answered as best I could, and proceeded to throw up the rest of the day.’ Taking those class was brutal and I cried so many tears of frustration, but I passed them. Ever newspaper I handed in, every exam I finished was a personal victory.
I eventually realized I had to make a choice. I couldn’t stay in a marriage that I didn’t recollect selecting. It’s really hard to feel completely devoted to a wedding when you feel like you only woke up to it one day. Even though I didn’t actually know who Brayden was, I saw how kind and patient he was with me. He was sweet and silly and quirky, and I wanted to try to make it work.
With my newfound energy, I took off my rings, approached my husband, and said,’ Brayden, I want to date you.’ He was sitting at the computer editing videos for our business.’ Um, okay ?, ’ he replied.’ I’m serious, Brayden. I want us to fall in love again. You know me, but I don’t “ve known you”. I want to know you.’ It took Brayden several months to understand what I be necessary for him. He knew that he recollected and loved me, so he didn’t understand why I needed to fall back in love with him. Eventually, I took charge of what I needed.’ Will you go mini-golfing with me ?, ’ I asked. We went, and by the third hole we were out of breath from giggling so hard. We started going out to dinner, going on long walks and drives, and binged style too many episodes of the Office and Parks and Rec. I would ask him the most random questions I could think of to learn about him, and he would patiently listen when I told him the same narratives over and over. He read me my favorite volumes before bed, and left me sweet notes each morning before he left for work.
One day, I realized that I had started missing him every moment we weren’t together. I was giggling at all his jokes, and bragging about how astonishing he is to whoever would listen. I started to love him again. The process took awhile, but it was so incredibly worth it. Brayden knew I truly mourned the fact that I had such a fuzzy memory of our participation and marriage, and felt a lot of pain surrounding that. He wanted to give me something I could remember, something we could both look back on together.
Brayden became my best friend, and then my crush, and then my love. I haven’t miraculously get my memory and all my old feelings for him back, but I have new feelings and new memories. I’ve learned that love is a choice, and I am choosing to love Brayden.
After a summer of dating, Brayden proposed to me( again ), and I said yes( again )! I’m so grateful for our new beginning and for the happy future we have ahead of us.
He took me to a beautiful overlook of the city, and handed me an envelope labeled’ 1. ’ He had decorated it to match the original letters we sent to each other, the letters I have treasured profoundly as the tangible records of the start of our relationship. The first letter was his perspective of falling in love with me, which stimulated me cry and feel so loved. Then, “hes taking” me to the exact spot he originally proposed. The second letter talked about the many hard things we have faced, and how happy he is we opposed through them together. After that, “hes taking” me to where we had our first date to read the third letter about the future we have in store for us. He get down on one knee to propose, and I could hardly see him through my tears. It was the most perfect, beautiful, astonishing moment of my life.
We have learned that love is a choice, and we are choosing to love each other, again. He has supported me through my highs and lows, and has shown me the meaning of unconditional love. We have turned the hardest trial of our life into the most beautiful blessing: the opportunity to fall in love with each other a second time.”