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She held my hand tight and started to cry. We knew this day was coming. It was cold outside and the sky was clear. The sun was bright and the grass was brown. Inside the car was cozy as all six of us left the small town headed for the ranch: cozy and eerily quiet. Eighteen miles until we arrive. We had gone into town to get some last minute supplies before we left. Our stomachs began to turn. Eighteen miles until it became reality.

As we parked near the cabin the family quickly went about our business, each grabbing a handful of bags and transporting them into the cabin. It was a quaint little cabin, the newest on the property. A one-room hideaway equipped with a bathroom, a sitting area, a microwave and mini-fridge along with all the furniture you’d expect in a room. About 600 square feet or so, just enough for one person to focus on the reason for their stay. The girls unpacked the bags and organized the wares. Then suddenly, far too suddenly, there was nothing more to do. No more excuse to linger. No reason not to leave. We had been working toward this moment for weeks, even years, and before we were ready it had arrived.

She looked at me with the deepest sadness I had ever seen in her eyes. “I don’t want you to go,” she said. She buried her head in my shoulder and I embraced her with all of my being as her tears turned to wailing. “I’m sorry,” she cried. “I’m sorry I’ve done this. I’m sorry I’ve put you in this position. I’m sorry I’ve hurt you. Please, I don’t want you to go.”

She kissed each of the children and professed her love. They tried to hold back their tears, but they met with failure. They filed out to the car one at a time to prepare for the long journey home. And then it was just the two of us. For the first time in our marriage I would be away from my wife for an undetermined amount of time. For the first time in twenty years my wife would not be in bed when I awoke. She would not be cooking when I arrived home. She would not be tending to her children when I noticed her missing. For the first time in twenty years we were going to live apart from each other. Suddenly this was all very real.

The tears began to stream down my cheeks. I grabbed her face in both hands and looked directly into her eyes. I assured her I would take care of the children. I assured her we were doing the right thing. I assured her my love is faithful and true. Then the lips I’ve kissed a thousand times, I kissed for the first time. And turned around and walked away.

This is how healing begins.