We met in a very unexpected way, on a day that I needed to meet a cute boy more than any other day in my life, and we quickly connected. I found him intriguing and mysterious, yet completely open. He was different than any other man I had met before, and I longed to learn as much as I could about him. He was kind, considerate and absolutely adored me.

But there was something about him I could not quite figure out.

Love or Something Else

Our relationship started fiercely as we both dove in headfirst. We dropped the L-Bomb a mere three weeks into it, recognizing pretty quickly we had found a special bond. Things made sense with each other. Until they didn’t.

There was a moment in mid-August where I began to wonder if everything was all it seemed to be. We had spent the evening hanging out with friends, talking and drinking into the night. I faded into sleep long before anyone else, knowing good and well I couldn’t and shouldn’t be partying like I used to in college. While I slept, he and our friends partied into the night.

I woke up the next morning feeling uneasy. We behaved like kids, and we knew better. I tearfully talked to him about how I was feeling. Maybe we were not on the same page. People had told me everyone has a wild night now and then. So what was the big deal?

I could not put my finger on it, but I knew something felt strange. I was looking for a different kind of relationship, one full of adult decisions, one where God was first. I wanted a man that might pray aloud with me. I had never had that in a relationship before, and it was something I desired. I hadn’t expressed that to him, and I continually prayed God would guide me through the steps ahead.

Later I apologized to him for being guarded. I told him I was simply trying to make sure I was listening closely to God because I had been known to shut Him out and do what I wanted. I wanted to make sure I was being obedient. He responded with understanding and respect. Then he said something that made me catch my breath and praise the Lord.

He said, “I have also given some thought to something that I have never been one to do, but I would like to try it with you—if you want. I would like to pray out loud with you. I would love to hear the desires of your heart and for you to hear mine as well.”

God so beautifully confirmed that I was right where He wanted me. So I hung on.

Love and Something Else

After that, things seemed normal until one weekend in September. There was a lot of alcohol, some arguing, shamefully sitting at my parents’ table with my whole family waiting for him to show up, an elaborate story to explain why his apartment was trashed, him not showing up at my house when he was supposed to, and me not being able to get in touch with him.

But all that chaos ended with a few text messages that crushed my world.

“I am going to treatment for a while. I will be gone for a couple of weeks. I am so sorry, darling. I know this is confusing, but it will all make sense soon.”

I texted back: “What? I am so confused. I don’t even know what you’re talking about. What’s going on?”

He responded, “I am an alcoholic, and I need help.”

Patience, Learning, and Leaning on Him

I got to hear his voice for the first time in days 72 hours later. (Kudos to rehabilitation centers that make patients wait three days before they can call anyone—it really is a smart move.) He was there for 17 days, and we talked every night for approximately 20 minutes, getting as many questions and topics covered as possible. It was hard, but it taught us patience.

I learned more about this demon he battled daily. I learned he was a binge drinker. He did not need alcohol to function in daily life, but he had a hard time deciphering when enough was enough. I learned he was the one that made the decision to go to rehab. I learned he knew he needed to do something to get help before he lost all of the relationships he had worked hard to rebuild after past mistakes.

During those days, I learned a lot about him and about his strength and heart. But I learned a ton about myself as well. For the first time in my life, I did not want to seek out advice from every single person I knew. I did not want to share what I was going through with the world. I wanted to share it with as few people as possible because I was unsure of what to think, feel or do. Everyone had their own opinions on the decisions I should make, and I was not sure who was right.

I began to lean on the Lord more than I ever had in my entire life. I was truly understanding what it meant to trust in God, to have the feeling that the only person I wanted to communicate with was the One I could not even physically see, and getting down on my knees and begging God to tell me what to do.

And He did tell me what to do. He commanded me to stay with my boyfriend until He told me it was time to go.

The next four months were spent constantly praying, constantly trying to understand what he was going through, encouraging him to a fault, and being as supportive as I could while still processing that my boyfriend struggled deeply. It was as ugly as it was beautiful at times: sadness, love, panic, joy, confusion and questioning.

But God always answered my prayers with, “Stay. Stay by his side. Not forever, but for now.”

Obedience to the End

Exactly four months from the day that he went to rehab, he died.

Not from an overdose or poor decisions made in the throes of alcohol. In December, he started having back pains that never went away no matter what he did. Two days after Christmas, he went into the hospital for severe chest pains. Two long weeks after that, we finally learned he had acute myeloid leukemia. Twenty-two hours after his diagnosis, he was gone.

“Stay. Stay by his side. Not forever, but for now.”

The years since the Lord took him home have been a time of growth, grieving and gratitude. They’ve been the hardest years of my life as well as the most life-changing. I have learned more about my God in these few years than I have in my entire life—about His love for me, His grace and His guidance.

God placed this extremely unconventional angel in my path for a short time to display how I am loved, and to show me how I should love others.

My boyfriend would hate that I wrote this story about him. He did not like people talking about him. He did not want strangers knowing his business, but I can’t keep this story inside of me. It was meant to be shared. He was a godly man who left an incredible legacy that changed my life forever.

And I will be eternally grateful the Lord chose me to spend his final days with him.