"Home is a shelter from storms, all sorts of storms."
-William J. Bennett
You were my first love here, in this new place where I didn't know anyone and where everything seemed so foreign. You held me close, yet allowed me to branch out and to find my way. You sheltered me during the storms that waged outside and always provided me with a warm place to return. When I was alone at night, you helped me to feel safe and secure, and you greeted me each morning with the shining welcome of the rising sun.
You have protected those closest to me and have given them a place to live, play, grow, learn, and explore. You've been there as Iko navigated the difference between chew toys and Mom's slippers, as Brandi sailed down the stairs, as Bennie discovered quiet napping spots, as Alla chased balls and squeaky mice across the floor, and as Gator lounged on the deck. You were there to welcome the newcomers into what was likely their first loving home and family, and you beckoned Eli back home at the end of every day full of outdoor surveillance. And, when time and fate caught up with one of my pets, you gave me the space and the privacy to care for each as I needed to and to say good-bye when all other options were gone.
You've supported me through my own evolution. Since we've met, I took on a job working with sex offenders, something I never would have considered before, and I've learned volumes about myself and about others. I've finished my undergraduate degree and have determined the future educational path I'd like to follow. I've forged closer relationships with several friends and family members, while watching other relationships end or suffer from great strain, and you've been there through it all. Perhaps your steadfastness even played a part in my decision to marry my life partner after 10 years together. In any case, you sent me off with your blessing and welcomed me back with your congratulations.
And, now I prepare in my heart and mind to leave you behind. I don't love you any less today than at any point in our nearly 4 1/2 year relationship. In fact, as the deep snow and thick ice of this winter melted away and the grasses, trees, and flowers of spring came into bloom all around you, I felt myself loving you more. I love you so much that I would bring you with me if it was an option. I love you so much that I want nothing more than to find someone new to love you before I go. I dream of someone loving you so much that they give you things that will make you more beautiful. I hope that they will care for you lovingly as you age and that they will appreciate your imperfections as marks of character, instead of flaws. And, I hope that they will feel as happy to love you as I have felt all this time.
Though we do not know how much time we have left together, I will wake each morning and go to sleep each night loving you. I will reserve my good-byes until the time is imminent, but I want you to know how I feel today and what my thoughts about our future are. I want to cast away any doubts that might linger amid my frustration over forces beyond my control. Yes, I want very much to move on to another place, but this has nothing to do with how I feel about you. I'm grateful that we met and glad that I chose you as my own. And when I leave, I will remember you fondly, even as the years pass and I am unable to spend time in your presence.
It has been said that home is where the heart is, but I believe that you are a house with a lot of heart of your own. I know that all who have stayed here with us have felt that heart, and I pray that the next place I call home will share that attribute. I thank you for all you have done for me, for all that you have represented to me, and for all that you continue to do for me during this time of uncertainty. Thanks for being my home.