by Brandi Reyna
March 9, 2010 was the day that my life changed forever; the day that our life together changed. It started out like every other day. Greg and I were putting the final touches on our wedding which was set for May 29, 2010; we were planning to spend the rest of our lives together as we felt the Lord wanted for us. That morning on his way to work, Greg was involved in a car accident when he was exiting the freeway and was blinded by the sun. He rear ended a flatbed 18 wheeler. Greg never made it. He never had a chance. I have lived with the “what ifs” and all the “wishes” that one could have when they hear their loved one is involved in an accident. Not only do I wish that I was there, because I didn’t want him to die alone, but I also find hope that he did not suffer and feel pain.
Greg and I had our own fairytale romance, full of the ups and downs that fairytales are made of. My hope is that this article will reflect the love we shared and the guidance the Lord had in our relationship.
September 20, 2009 is a day that will forever be engrained into my mind. I had recently moved back to the area to attend seminary and work on my Master’s degree in Counseling. Greg was working for a local company as a field engineer. Within the first month, I had found the perfect church. I had prayed and prayed and from the moment I sat in on the church service, I knew that this was where the Lord wanted me to be.
Sunday September 20th we met for the first time. We both attended the young adult’s bible study group at our church. Greg had been attending for years and this was my first time. If I had not listened to the spirit telling me to go to this specific church and to be involved in this bible study group, Greg and I would never have met!
Initially, any form of interaction that resembled a conversation was difficult since Greg was shy and getting him to talk was like pulling teeth! I’ll never forget what he was wearing. It was a cool and windy evening so Greg had on his leather jacket and Dallas Cowboys cap with a large size Dr. Pepper in tow. Greg was addicted to Dr. Pepper. The kid was in desperate need of some type of 12-step program to get him off of Dr. Pepper. He drank so much Dr. Pepper; I’m surprised that it wasn’t flowing through his veins instead of blood!
For the rest of September through October, Greg and I saw each other at bible study almost every week and talked here and there. In early October, Greg brought his dog into the vet clinic, where I worked, for an annual checkup. Greg did not remember that I worked there and I did not know that his dog was a patient. Greg did not remember names of places, so he didn’t put two and two together until that day. I was embarrassed. I looked awful. In scrubs, no makeup, hair in a ponytail, not feeling well for several days and stressed from work and school. I remember thinking, “Greg just had to come in today of all days. Why couldn’t he have made the appointment for another day?” This was the first time we had run into each other outside of bible study. Greg was very shy and it was a very awkward conversation. Weeks later, Greg told me that on that day he knew he was meant to be with me. Seriously? Greg spent the next month and a half asking God for direction and searching for God’s will for our friendship and eventual relationship. He asked our mutual friends and his family for their guidance and prayers. We continued seeing each other in bible study and talking to each other online until the second week in November. That’s when my Greggie made his move.
One evening, we were chatting and discussing movies. I told Greg that I never seemed to have time or the extra money to go to movies and Greggie said he had time but no one to go with. Movies ended up playing a large role in our life together. Once we became a couple, we watched a movie almost every evening. So we planned for that weekend to go to see The Blindside. The following two days I was invited to various Thanksgiving social events with some of our mutual friends and I asked them if it was ok if I brought Greg. They loved it!
Everybody loved my Greggie. Although at this moment in time, he was not “mine” yet. While we thought of ourselves as friends when we attended the movies and social function, our friends were already putting us together as a couple. No pressure, right? While Greg and I were taking time to pray and seek the Lord’s guidance for our relationship, our friends were already seeing what was right before their eyes; two people in love with Jesus and with each other. It was at one of these Thanksgiving get-togethers that a friend of ours took the first picture of us. Insert 1st picture
Greg and I continued to pray about our friendship and sought out the Lords guidance. Neither of us wanted to be in a relationship that didn’t have the Lord’s blessing.
Two weeks later, on November 28th, 2009, Greg and I went to a park out by my father’s house. One thing we shared was our love for nature, and our love for the outdoors. We often went to a park close to our homes; it was a peaceful and relaxing place to be. He had the perfect romantic opportunity to finally tell me what he thought the Lord had told him about us and to ask me to be his girlfriend. I remember sitting there at the park by the lake. It was cold outside and I was freezing. Greg, having spent years in Oklahoma and Arkansas, was not the slightest bit cold and laughed at how I was shivering. But there we sat underneath the stars, watching the ducks swim by in the water probably freezing as well. Greg had the perfect opportunity and he blew it. He would tell me later how he knew he blew it and how he got shy. What did he think I was going to do? Say no? Come on. He said that he knew he missed it and I told him I would never let him live it down.
November 29th, Greg took me to what became known as our spot and told me how he felt the Lord had brought us together for a reason and had blessed our relationship. Greg asked me to be his girlfriend. Of course I said yes!
Over the next few months, our love for each other and our love for Christ as a couple would continue to grow. We would teach each other many things during this time and we would help each other become the person God had created us to be.
The day after his birthday, January 17, 2010, Greg proposed to me. Greg asked me to wear the beautiful dress that we had purchased a few weeks earlier for this special occasion. After bible study, he drove us out to our spot. I asked him where we were going because he had told me previously that he would ask me a few times to wear this dress before he actually proposed, so I didn’t think he was going to do it this night. Greg told me, “Just wait, my love, you will see”. He put on a CD of some of our songs. It was so incredibly cute and romantic. I remember Greg asking me to marry him. He was so creative and romantic and I loved how he lifted me up and spun me around. I remember how happy we were and so much in love.
I gave Greg back our promise ring to wear until we were married. At first, I think I might have hurt his feelings, but after explaining to him why I wanted him to have it, he understood. It wasn’t because I didn’t want it anymore. I was giving it back to him as a reflection of my love and my commitment to him and to us. Just as the engagement ring was a reflection of his love for me and his commitment to us. Greg proudly wore that ring every day until the day we buried him. I almost buried the ring with him, but I decided to keep it because, as his dad said, “It is too important and means too much”.
Greg and I spent the next two months planning our wedding, picking out dresses, tuxes, invitations, flowers, decorations, showers, bridal pictures, the honeymoon, etc. We fell more in love with each other and grew in our relationship with Christ. We were planning our future together after we were married; where we would live, where I would go to graduate school. We had our difficulties; communication was a large issue because Greg was shy. Problems with my in-laws seem to have always been an issue. But we prayed and worked through our difficulties. Greg, always the optimist, believed that with time everything would work out and his family would love and accept me. I always looked forward to the Sunday dinners with his large family around the dinner table, laughing and sharing life together.
One thing that Greg and I did on a monthly basis was celebrate our monthly anniversary. Greg, ever the romantic, would always try to make these dates special for me. We would put life aside and celebrate us by going to our favorite restaurant and seeing a movie. It was so romantic. We would get all dressed up and laugh and have a good time together. I really miss those dates. February 28th, 2010 was the last time we celebrated our monthly anniversary. Nine days later Greg would be gone.
Since we got engaged, Greg and I joked around about going off and getting married. On Sunday, March 7th, we were working on our couple’s devotional. Greg paused in mid-sentence, as he was reading the lesson out loud, and said to me, “Why don’t we get married tomorrow”. We could keep the official ceremony and reception for May 29th, but get married now. Greg and I wanted to be married. I do not think Greg wanted anything more intensely than to be married to me.
Instead of saying yes, like I wanted, I put others before us; before Greg and before myself. I do not blame anyone but myself for that. I thought about it and took a deep breath. Never imagining that Greg would be gone in less than two days, I told Greg that I did not think that my mom could go through that again because my brother and sister-in-law had cancelled their entire wedding just the year before. It had devastated her. I knew our plan was different, but at the time, I thought I had two months to discuss everything with her. I didn’t know that I would have just two days with Greg. I have learned that I will never put others first again. I denied Greg something that he really wanted in order to save our parents from being upset or having their feelings hurt. Even now, I wish I had done it differently.
March 8th was an extremely difficult day for me. I was so emotional. I had so much going on in my life: I was working full-time, doing an internship in women’s ministry full-time, leading women’s bible study, and planning a wedding among other things. In the midst of all of that, I feel as though my spirit already knew what was going to happen at 7:09 the next morning.
Everything upset me that day. My mother-in-law refused to give me the list of people she wanted us to invite to the wedding, my sister-in-laws were upsetting me, and work was upsetting me, not to mention that I had been sick off and on for months. Poor Greg must have felt like he was being pulled in a million directions, with all the women in his life emotional for one reason or another. Instead of stressing out, like most people would, Greg and I watched two of our favorite movies that night.
One of my last memories of Greg is one that I will always cherish because it shows his gentle heart and loving nature. As I shared earlier, I was very upset and Greg cuddled me in his arms and talked softly to me and started singing to me the hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul”. Then he told me, as he had many times before, that he was here for me, to protect me and love me and guide me. Eight hours later, he was gone. Thinking back to that moment in time gives me hope and peace knowing that Greg’s spirit was at peace when he left this earth.
March 9th was the day that our relationship on earth together ended. My father-in-law had told me that Greg had taken a different route to work that day because he was picking up an extra check for a hazard pay from a recent job. The reason why I wasn’t told about it was because he was saving it for us.
March 12th, Greg and I should have been on our way to my parents’ house in Houston to finish our wedding invitations. The last huge thing we had left to do. I am a planner and other than the invites, my bouquet and reception table centerpieces we could have gotten married that day. Instead of finishing the plans for our wedding, I was with the rest of our family burying the love of my life, my soul mate, my best friend, the man I planned to marry in two months and 20 days. The man I planned to share the rest of my life and eternity in Heaven with.
I first fell in love with Greg’s heart. He loved others with his whole heart. He never met a stranger. His love for others was one of his best qualities and one of the things that I admired most about him. Greg not only believed in Christ, he put his beliefs into action. He took up his cross daily and followed Christ. He LIVED OUT the fruits of the spirit on a daily basis. Do not get me wrong, Greg was no saint by any means. He had his flaws, he had his struggles, he had his sins that he struggled with every day, but he let his humanity share Christ with others.
Greggie and I did not have a lot of time together by worldly standards; but the love we shared will last a lifetime. I would not change our time together for anything. I wouldn’t trade Greg for anything. Often people thought that our relationship was moving too fast; in fact, that is what caused much of the discord between Greg’s sisters and me. None of that kept us from following the path that we felt God had called us to.
In retrospect, if we had not met, became a couple, got engaged, would Greg have been the man God had created him to be? Would he have been able to accomplish in life what God had called him to? Greg and I were destined to be together and to love each other, regardless of the amount of time that we shared together on earth.
In the time that Greg and I shared together, we taught each other so much about faith, love and life. We taught each other about living how Christ wants us to live, taking up our crosses daily and following Him, living out the fruits of the spirit, the struggles of life. We taught each other about trust, love and sacrificial love. How I love others today is influenced by the love Greg and I shared and what I learned from him. It was romantic watching Greg develop into a spiritual leader. How God used me to help mold Greg into the man that God needed him to be in order to take Greg home. It has always been my honor to be Greg’s girl. In my heart, I feel as though I carry on Greg’s legacy. In my opinion, his legacy was in how he loved Jesus, how he lived out the fruits of the spirit and how he loved others.
Who could possibly have known that none of that would matter to society? No one, including me, could have known the effects of not having a marriage license, not having that piece of paper, or the second wedding ring would affect how people viewed my loss or my grief. Nor could anyone have known how the added secondary losses and how society views my loss would affect my journey.
Who could have known how my loss would be pushed aside and belittled, not only by society at large but also by Greg’s family and some of our friends? It has been 32 months since I lost my Greg and I look forward to sharing my journey as an unwedded widow with you.
Brandi’s story will be continued in the February issue of The Road Less Traveled newsletter.
About the Author: Brandi Reyna holds a Bachelor of Science in Sociology degree and a certificate in Gender Studies from Texas A&M University. She is currently working on a Master’s degree in Counseling. Ms. Reyna has completed internships at several churches within women’s ministry, as she feels her calling is in ministering to women so that she might walk beside, support, encourage, counsel, shepherd and offer hope to women in need. Since the loss of her fiancé Greg in a tragic car accident in March 2010, Ms. Reyna also has a passion and heart for helping others who are grieving the loss of someone they love.
Ms. Reyna is actively involved in the grief and bereavement community and offers support and encouragement to those who are experiencing loss.
Ms. Reyna is the Founder of Unwedded Widow Support, an online grief support community for widows and widowers who lost their boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé or life partner prior to marriage. As an Unwedded Widow, (a widow who was not legally married to her beloved) Ms. Reyna’s vision is to advocate for and bring awareness to Unwedded Widow/ers everywhere so that she might shed light on their unique journey and to let other Unwedded Widow/ers know that they are not alone.
She is the facilitator of Unwedded Widow Live Chat on Widdahood and has previously facilitated a roundtable discussion for those who are “Widowed and Not Legally Married” at Camp Widow, an event founded by the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation. She also helps other Unwedded Widow/ers on Widowed Village, an online support community for widowed people also founded by the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation.
If you would like to read more of Ms. Reyna’s work, she is a published and contributing author to the Open to Hope Foundation, an online support community for individuals looking for hope as they rebuild their life after experiencing loss.