This is me, Melody…I am one of the founders here at Brave Girls Club. This is my husband Marq and I. We just celebrated 25 years of marriage. Lots of our marriage has been absolutely amazing and wonderful….lots of it has been downright terrible, traumatic and horrific. We are on the other side of a battle that we won both together and separately….I am going to tell you some of our story. It’s pretty personal, but it is important.
I want you to know that normally I like to keep the most sacred things in my life as sacred, especially when it comes to my children….so I want to tell you that the reason I am sharing this is because after we gave each other marriage awards & battle awards at this special ceremony that we created from scratch with our friends, after our children gifted us with the most beautiful tributes and blessings…….we knew that we needed to tell the world about this so that maybe you will feel inspired to give each other medals too. Because life is hard, and we don’t celebrate the victories enough. We don’t celebrate each other enough. We don’t celebrate LOVE enough. We don’t celebrate family enough…and I mean all kinds of family. (I am going to talk about all of the different kinds of family in parts 2 & 3 of this series….)
But this is the family that Marq and I created together……we have 5 children. 3 boys and 2 girls. They are spectacular human beings and they are really our whole world. I don’t talk about them much because I want to protect them, I want them to be able to live out and tell their own stories. But….here they are. That old photo down there. That photo is about 13 years old………a photo that was taken less than a year before Marq had a horrible accident that gave him a traumatic brain injury. This little family had no idea what the next decade would hold for them. Those 2 little baby boys lost their dad for nearly 6 years. Those big kids had to become adults way before they should have. That 32 year old woman was about to watch her whole life go up in flames….in long and drawn out and cruel ways, some were of her own doing-some were beyond cruel and senseless ….but she was left to figure out how to hold things together by herself. That young husband and father was about to be taken captive by the craziness of brain injury…..
Before I begin, I need to tell you that miraculously, Marq has had a complete recovery from his brain injury…but it took years and years and years. We try very hard to never take this miracle for granted……we try to enjoy and appreciate and LIVE every minute of our lives…especially when we are together. This has not been an easy road. We ended up losing EVERYTHING, and in every way…except for each other. We lost the life we had built together…and it was a pretty fabulous life that we built with our blood, sweat and tears for those first 14 years. We lost all that we had, and more than we had too. All we had left when all was said and done was each other, and our story….and whatever it took to make that happen….to cling tight to each other….it was worth it.
Marq and I are both lovers of FUN. We love love love to have fun, we love adventure. We love to laugh, we love to kiss, we hold hands everywhere we go. He is a type A and I’m a type rainbow……we balance each other out. I drive him crazy because I don’t often have a plan but I do have an idea…and that idea usually includes lots of work from him. He drives me crazy because he always has to know the plan and I just want to have faith in the idea. He keeps a tight ship….I decorate the ship and make sure the music is right. We are very different, but it works. We both LOVE people….and we love to love people. Life was so good before the accident…….and then it was SO BAD, so hard, so heartbreaking and grueling and sad……and now it is good again. But man, it has not been easy…..
We got married when I was 18 and he was 22. This was after I swore I would never marry before I was 30. He was like no one I had ever met and I didn’t want to spend any more of my life without him. He was fascinated by my free spirited wackiness and my big dreams. We were wild about each other and there was no stopping us. We decided we wanted to build a life together…..so we did it. We had 3 children before I was 25 and he was 29……and that year we started our first business together. We worked our booties off and put everything we had into it…..with babies on our hips…we did it all together. We built the life we dreamed of from scratch.
We had 2 more babies after we built our business and life was SO GOOD.
In 2004 when Marq was 37 and I was 33…….and our kids were still so little……..Marq had an accident at the lake that took him from us. It was a frontal lobe brain injury. It completely changed his personality and took him from us. He was gone for nearly 6 years. He spent those years locked in our bedroom, or at Elk’s rehab…and with a big old slew of doctors, psychiatrists and rehab specialists. I missed him every day. Every minute of every day. I hated what that sickness did to him. I fought hard every day for him to heal and come back to us.
I was left to take care of our farm (which I failed miserably at) to take care of our business which was now a big international phenomenon….and to take care of our family. I was Marq’s caretaker. I didn’t tell anyone how bad it was. I hid him away praying that he would get better before anyone had to know how bad it was. I did okay for a few years….and then I just couldn’t hold everything together anymore. I had to choose our family and let everything else go. This is a simplified version, it was so much more complicated than that. It was horrible and messy and I sucked at it, I really did. I made a lot of mistakes. I made a lot of bad decisions. I trusted the wrong people. I was careless. We lost everything. People lost jobs and people got hurt. I can not begin to tell you how awful it all was….for everyone involved. I still want to puke when I talk about it. On top of his brain injury, a lot of other horrible things happened….I mean like one horrible thing after another…unspeakable things that novels are made of. I will not even begin to type all of it out…..it would make me tired and sad and I don’t even know if you would believe it all. I still can’t sometimes. 🙂 What matters is….we made it. And it is a miracle.
Well, this is our family 12 years later. What you can’t see are the battle scars, and that is ok. We are older. We have grandchildren!!! We have an amazing new daughter in law and son in law. Our family is growing…..it is the best thing in the whole wide world. These are our beloveds. They made it…we made it. We are together. This is a big deal. We did it. That little group of people down there in that photo….that is a miracle right there…..
We have been rebuilding our life. We did it once, and we have done it again. We might even have to do it again someday. Something that has been very difficult for me is that Marq can’t remember much of those years. It is merciful and difficult at the same time. Some of the things that happened over those years, I am the only one who knows….I hold those memories alone. I have had to come to terms with that. My body fell apart and I had a bit of a breakdown that lasted the last few years. Once Marq was better, my body fell apart. My adrenals crashed….I developed a chronic hive condition that left me covered in disfiguring welts. I lost my energy and my vitality and gained 40 lbs and let me tell you…….that was not the big after-battle ceremony I was expecting.
Marq and I have battled one thing after another separately and apart.
When our 25th anniversary was coming up, we wanted to plan something special. We wanted to have a new beginning…but not just that…we wanted a real, true ENDING to the battle. We needed it. My friends had the idea that we have a celebration and a ceremony and finish line. It was more than I ever could have dreamed.
So…Marq and I gave each other medals. We celebrated that the battle was over……….we honored each other for making it through….and we told each other just what we thought about each other….and just what we wanted for each other…and just what we promised to each other…
Here’s a photo of us both with our medals on after the ceremony…but I want to tell you a little bit about that sacred, incredible, blessed, beautiful, miraculous evening…where we sat in a circle at our beloved friend’s ranch…..where friends flew in and drove in from all over the place and showed us, reminded us of exactly what love looks like…..what love feels like….what love does….
We had our ceremony at Soulodge Ranch in Redmond, Oregon. I will tell you so much more about this place and about Pixie in parts 2 & 3….because it’s another big legendary love story…..but for now…look at these beautiful photos. We all slept in tipis and had our ceremony in the yard…..it was perfect….
These are our friends who put this all together. What I will tell you is that the way that each of these people came into our life, into our family’s life….each encounter that brought us together was so divinely orchestrated that none of us can ever deny that we are meant to all be together on this life journey….for really important reasons. We are of different backgrounds, different ways of faith….so many differences……but you know what?? We are of the same soul. We were brought together in such strange and incredible and sacred ways. We are soul family. This little soul family is a legendary love story that I will write all about in parts 2 & 3.
And these are the sisters that I met in person the first day that I had those hives that lasted for nearly 3 years. They midwifed me through my recovery….through my breakdowns….through the dark nights of my soul. They came into my life at exactly the right time, through that last leg of the battle that almost killed me….and now we get to grow to be old old old women together. We have been part of each other’s lives this way for just about 4 years now. This whole ceremony was their idea. It is one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given. That is Pixie on the far right…..a big giant force of nature in a tiny little body…..and Pixie hosted us as well as led up our ceremony with her beloved man, Sky.
That picture up there was right after we all walked out into the field and sat in a circle and they each gifted me with the most beautiful treasures and gifts…..treated me as a queen….a queen coming home from a battle. I will talk more about that in another post….I have so much to say about that time in the field.
Right after that dreamy time in the field with these sisters….we walked back and got ready for the ceremony. I decided to wear a little white cotton dress. It is my I SURRENDER flag, my blank canvas…my clean slate.
So we went and got ready…..then…
Pixie asked Marq and I to go on a walk for 25 minutes. She asked us to be back at precisely 7 o’clock. She asked us to spend 1 minute talking about each year of our marriage….remembering, honoring, thanking. The sun was just starting to set. Marq of course remembered just about everything down to the day that it happened….he’s like that. I remembered feelings……I remembered what we built……how we planned, how we worked. He remembered when all of our children were born, down to the hour….when we moved from our little trailer to our first house….and our second….he remembered where we traveled to and what we were doing…..until we got to 2004….and that’s when he had his accident…..
…so we talked about the miracles. The kids….the things that got us through…….we walked and walked on Pixie’s magical property…..the sun was golden and the whole thing just felt really surreal…..
He stopped several times and wrote things down in his little book…..things that he wanted to remember to say to me…….he was taking this all so seriously. So was I. This was a big deal to us. He’s a guy….and I know he was digging deep to put his feelings into words, I had no idea what was coming….
We turned back and made it back to the circle by 7…..and there everyone was waiting…sitting together….so quiet. Our beloved friend Chad greeted us with a sacred prayer of love and protection before we walked into the circle….and Pixie and Sky were sitting at the front waiting to greet us…holy moly I love these people. You will not meet 2 better people than these 2 people….
First Pixie spoke…about Anam Cara. About love….about fighting for love…….she knows me. She knows Marq, she knows love. She knows what we’ve been through, she believes in us. She knew we needed this. She made this happen. She has been a true sister to us both…she’s been a warrior for our union….she sees us, she loves us…she knows our children….she is our beloved sister in every way……Pixie is mighty and noble and wise and brave and strong and direct. I have never met a woman who has so many of the attributes that my husband has. That God would send Pixie into my life was one of the most merciful gifts I have ever been given…she quickly became a part of our family…she is auntie Pixie to my children and grandchildren…….she spoke with love and power and truth to us…to us all…
Then Sky spoke. He has been a brother to us. The best kind of brother. In every way. Sky had a brain injury once too…he recovered too. That God would bring us all together to help each other through life is a tremendous miracle. He has been such a true friend to Marq, and Marq to him. The words he spoke were golden like the light that shined from the sky that magical evening. We believed him when he said beautiful things to us. His wisdom runs so deep and so wide and so bright that when he speaks, your soul shakes. He talked to us about the kind of love that sustains us through battles…a love that is not of this world…..a love that performs miracles.
He read from The Bible and honored the role that Godly Love played in our miracle. He told us how that same love saved him too. He had a captive audience of every age, every kind of faith, every brother and every sister. It was beautiful and pure and legendary….
Then Jen and Kolleen spoke. We, of course were all a big bucket of tears by this time. Jen read the lyrics to a song that means everything to Marq and I because it is our story….it is called Til Kingdom Come by Coldplay.
and the way she read it, I will never forget…none of us will. Jen has saved my heart more times than I can count over the last 4 years. She is our glue in so many ways. Kolleen did a reading about love and love and love…..Kolleen is my soul twin…..she gets me. I get her. I met her 5 years ago at Brave Girl Camp and we have been inseparable since then. These are the sisters who have seen us through the last leg of our battle….especially me. These women are made of love. I can not believe that we get to have them in our life…
And then then then….wow…..
Each of our children spoke. I can not think about this without my face dripping in tears. Our 3 oldest children told us what it meant to them that we made it through…..that we stayed together….what that miracle has meant for them….the words that were spoken to us from our children will sustain us for the rest of our lives…..it was all worth it.
And our two little boys who aren’t so little anymore….Pixie asked them to each give us a blessing….something they want for Marq and I….and let me tell you….there was not a dry eye….the words these children spoke…..
There just are not words in any language that can describe the feeling in that circle…but that big ball of golden light that was shining down on us does a pretty good job of interpreting it….
Then…when everyone had said their words TO us……it was time.
It was time for those words that Marq and I had both written for each other…….our hearts were already busted, expanded, absorbing and exuding……and now this…..these words we finally got to say to each other….
What I want you to know at this time is that even though Marq’s accident was 11 years ago…..we have never honored it to each other. We have never spoken of the things that happened. We got busy rebuilding our life and we continued to hold on tight…..but we never talked about it. I don’t know if it is because it is too painful, or because we were too busy rebuilding, or because it just didn’t matter anymore……but there was never any real closure. I yearned for some closure. I yearned for a finish line. There were things I wanted and needed to say from him and there were things that I absolutely ached to HEAR from him.
We spent a long time working on the words we would say to each other….and neither of us knew what the other wrote…
I got to go first…..ladies first, it’s his rule.
I told him he was my king, my hero, my soldier, my warrior, my man……….
I told him it was all worth it. I told him I wanted to support him in his dreams the way he has always supported me in mine. I thanked him. I forgave our life. I promised the rest of our life would be as fun as possible if it was at all in my power….
…and I said a lot of other things that I am just going to keep between he and I and that magical night…
And then 11 years of pain and sorrow and wondering and bleeding from every speck of my soul was wrapped in healing salve with the words he said to me….
….he said it all. He knew things that I didn’t know he knew. He saw things that I didn’t know he saw….he noticed things I didn’t know he noticed. He pointed out things that I didn’t know he believed about me.
….we told each other the truth…the whole truth. The whole big pure truth. All of it.
This was a long time coming. We had forgotten to stop and say HEY!!! WE LIVED!!! WE MADE IT!!! YOU DID SUCH A GOOD JOB! YOU WERE SO AMAZING! THAT WAS SO HARD! …….YOU LEAVE ME IN AWE…..YOU WERE WORTH IT…WE WERE WORTH IT.
So then….we gave each other awards. Medals. I made Marq a medal from scratch with the help of metal worker extraordinaire, Stephanie Lee…and leather worker extraordinaire Sky Sharpe. I gave Marq the award of “HONOR IN ALL THINGS” because that is who he is……….the most honorable human being I know…in all things.
And then my manly manly manly man….who does not speak the language of feelings…….he gave me the award of SoulMate…..or Sonuachar in celtic. He looked up the celtic word for Soulmate. He said I am his Anam Cara but I am mostly his Sonuachar. He said I am his queen…and gave me a medal fit for a queen…
and then the hugging started and it didn’t stop for the rest of the night….it all became one big hug fest and cry fest and love fest…….we were all hugging. I have so many photos from that night labeled….”more hugging”…”so much hugging” …….we were all pretty much overcome with love and gratitude for miracles that love brings…
We bought each other special blankets……we wrapped each other up in them. This was something special and sacred between the two of us….
And the new, restored and renewed Marq and Melody was presented to our friends…….
and then we went to our tipi……. 🙂
Here’s what I want you to know. When I met Pixie and all of her people way back when…..I was awestruck at the way they honored life….and the different parts of life. At the way they thanked and honored God and all of creation for every single thing….every stage of life. I was moved by the way Pixie gathered her people in a circle to honor each other and honor the miracles and honor the blessings and honor the gift of having each other……and I was moved by the way these honoring times healed, changed and helped everyone involved. Pixie taught me how important it is to do things the way they did in the old ways……the way that villages used to gather around and make a big deal out of life…..honor it. She is teaching me and I want her to help me teach us all. We need to be celebrating life more, celebrating each other more…celebrating the miracles more. We need to be thanking God more. We need to be noticing the miracles more. Life would be so much more joyful…we would all feel so much better….healthier, more present….we would see each other, we would feel seen. I want this for everyone.
This healed things that were still bleeding in our family. This made us better and stronger and happier and ready for the next thing. It shut the door and opened a new one.
Ok…here is the medal I made for Marq with the help of Sky……Sky made the sheath for the knife that I found for Marq. It is made of obsidian. A knife carved from rock! Sky put 5 nickels on it…for 25 years. I made the medal with the help of Stephanie.
Their souls stood loyally together through thick and thin…they were everything to each other forever
see more of Sky’s work at warponysaddlery.etsy.com
And this here…this is the medal I was awarded. I have never felt so proud of any award in all of my life…and guess what….I earned it. I did. And God brought me through it. It is a miracle. It was worth it.
Here we are…ready for the next 25 years….and the next………
photos by maria simpson and jed simpson…our beloveds 🙂
Make sure you stay tuned for parts 2 & 3……there is so much more to this story….
‘Til Kingdom Come
Steal my heart and hold my tongue
I feel my time, my time has come
Let me in unlock the door
I never felt this way before
And the wheels just keep on turning
The drummer begins to drum
I don’t know which way I’m going
I don’t know which way I’ve come
Hold my head inside your hands
I need someone who understands
I need someone, someone who hears
For you I’ve waited all these years
For you I’d wait ’til kingdom come
Until my day my day is done
And say you’ll come and set me free
Just say you’ll wait you’ll wait for me
In your tears and in your blood
In your fire and in your flood
I hear you laugh, I heard you sing
I wouldn’t change a single thing
And the wheels just keep on turning
The drummers begin to drum
I don’t know which way I’m going
I don’t know what I’ve become
For you I’d wait ’til kingdom come
Until my days my days are done
Say you’ll come and set me free
Just say you’ll wait, you’ll wait for me
Just say you’ll wait, you’ll wait for me
Just say you’ll wait, you’ll wait for me
a song by Coldplay