My Love Story Chapter 18 ~ Oceans Apart

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{If you are new to my love story, start here}

After the email I got from Matthew, I went home happy, but quite confused. Did he really feel that way all along? Why didn’t he tell me before we parted ways? How do I tear down the wall I built around my heart? He was several states away, and I was leaving in less than 24 hours to fly across the world to Jerusalem. I spent the last day in the U.S. with my roommates, friends, brother, and my best friend Natalie who brought me treats and a magazine for the plane ride. I knew Matthew was planning to call me back in the evening, and I was excited to talk to him. Anxious to hear his voice tell me all the things his typed out words told me hours before.

Preparations were made for my departure in the morning, and I was ready. My nerves wouldn’t settle as I waited for the phone to ring, and when it finally did, I holed up back in my bedroom. This was it. This was what I’d been waiting for, for months: To hear that he loved me. When we first spoke, it was just storytelling and jokes just like it had always been. I kept thinking that the next awkward pause he would transition into what I wanted to hear, but it didn’t so much happen this way.  After an hour of light hearted conversation, I broke the ice, “So what was it that you wanted to talk to me about specifically?” He then repeated a lot of what he said in the email I read earlier that afternoon. He said he didn’t expect me to just drop everything for him, nor did he urge me to stay. At that point, I wasn’t looking for that anyway. I then relayed to him all of the uncertainty, heartache, and frustration I had experienced over the last few months, and that it was difficult to process. It felt good to finally be open and honest about how I felt—both the highs and the lows. I told him that I had trained myself to shut my heart to him, and though it felt amazing to hear him say that he loved me, it was hard to fully trust. He told me that he’d never felt so sure.

When we ended our phone conversation, I felt good.  We decided that we would write to each other while I was in Jerusalem, but realized we probably wouldn’t be able to talk much. I said goodbye, feeling hopeful about “us” for the first time in 6 months. I felt actually grateful that we would be apart, able to sort out our feelings for each other, and not needing to make any decisions either.

Tuesday, April 27th 1999

My awesome roommates woke up with me at 5:30am to drive me to the airport in the pouring rain. After a year and a half of rooming together, things would be very different after I got back. Amy and Hali were graduating and moving back to the mid-west. Our eyes were teary as we joked that the 7 weeks I’d be gone, they’d pretend I was just “in the bathroom” and not on the other side of the world.

my roommates

I flew from Salt Lake to New York City, and ran into Jenn pretty early on. She was the former roommate of my sister in law, Alayna, and we’d met a few times before. We latched onto each other as we transitioned airports, and introduced ourselves to other kids we saw with the blue backpack. This backpack was issued to us at our intro meeting the day before, and it was a great indication of who was in the Jerusalem Near Eastern Studies program along with us. Since there were over 150 of us traveling for the program, we were kind-of on our own (without directors) in getting there. I guess they trusted us as college age students to figure it out!

Whenever I’d see the “sign of the backpack” I’d introduce myself to others.  We were going to be spending nearly 2 months together in a foreign land, might as well get started on getting to know each other.  Common questions:  What’s your name? Where are you from? What year in school are you? Dating or engaged?

I had to make a decision on the first day. Where once before, I was excited to find a cute boy to tour the Holy Land with, and help me forget about the torture of the past few months, all of a sudden, I was less interested. Since I knew I didn’t want that, I figured the alternative was to say I had a boyfriend, so that’s what I did. It felt so weird—but I just went with it. No one knew my history or my heartache, and I was pretty happy about that. I said the word, “boyfriend” that I hadn’t uttered in a very long time in association with myself, and wasn’t quite sure how Matthew would feel about that.

On a 5 hour layover in New York City, I grabbed a few postcards for my roommates and him. It felt strangely natural at that moment to let go of the pain, and just trust in what I had wanted all along. I was trying to analyze my feelings, and it was hard to conclude anything with him not being there with me. I knew I loved him, it had just been suppressed for so long.

After many, many hours, attempting to sleep on a crowded airplane, and nice conversations from people who lived in Jerusalem, I arrived!

I was assigned to bus #4 for the entire trip, and together the 35 or so weary travelers crammed in, for a ride to the BYU Jerusalem Center, where we would live for the next 6 weeks.  I was glued to the windows as I felt like I traveled back in time winding through the old city streets. Upon arrival at “the Center” as we called it, we walked through a breathtaking flower garden to the top floor of the 8 story building. I’d seen pictures before, but nothing could do this place justice.

The Jerusalem Center

{postcard I purchased-the pipe organ is on the top floor on the left, close up below}

Nestled on the hill overlooking Jerusalem, (next to Hebrew University on the left) we could see the entire city. The Dome of the Rock, the Old City wall, and everything in between.  The modern building itself was crafted of white limestone and lots of windows providing gorgeous natural light. To say I was awe inspired is an understatement. We were guided into the chapel, where we would have church each Sunday, and it also had a magnificent pipe organ similar to the one in Salt Lake that accompanies the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The panoramic windows in this room showcased the beautiful city before us. There are no words for the sweet spirit felt in this room.



Down a flight were the classrooms and eating hall, then down another flight were the dormitories. I was on the 4th floor and had 3 roommates with our own bathroom, and a personal balcony that looked out onto the city of Jerusalem.

My first night I tossed and turned due to jet lag. I hated that I couldn’t sleep. I could always sleep—anytime, anywhere!  Of course my thoughts turned to Matthew and analyzing how I felt. How solid were his feelings? In January he told me he had feelings and in February, he told me he “didn’t know.” Do I really just jump in with my whole heart? How can I truly know until we are with each other, as boyfriend/girlfriend. It all seemed so unreal and frustrating.  In my mind, it felt so unclear.

That first day, I walked with 2 friends from the Center into the Old City. It would be a daily occurrence for the rest of the trip. How amazing to walk from our modern building into the City where the Savior walked and taught so long ago. Our first stop was the Garden Tomb which came to be my favorite spot because of the reverence I felt there along with the well kept and simple grounds.

garden tomb

We then walked into the Old City which was surrounded by a giant wall, through a stone arch.  Because of the crowds, we were urged to slide our backpacks to the front and hug them, to avoid pick pocket-ers. Inside, hundreds of merchants were selling anything from food to t-shirts to pirated music CD’s.  They could spot the BYU students from our standard blue backpack—it had been nearly 10 years since the center was built and students came year round—and the locals would simply say to us, “Hello, BYU!”

chapter 18 love story

{Top left is the view we had from the BYU Center of the city, right, dancing in a T-shirt shop with the owners, bottom left is a crowded entrance into the Old City, the Garden Tomb, and writing in my journal on my balcony overlooking the city.}

I became good friends with a guy named Justin. He knew a little more about “my story” than anyone else. We had a common friend, Matthew’s brother Sam and he were really good friends. He knew I dated Sam nearly a year ago, and that I was now “with” Matthew….well, I had to tell him the story.

friends in Jerusalem

{Justin, Jenn, & I playing drums in an Old City shop}

Once back at the center, I got my email all set up, and found there was a new message from Matthew. It had been 3 days since we spoke on the phone, and I was now Oceans apart from him. I felt a tear trickle down my face as I read, “For some reason, it took a step aside or 800 miles (UT to CA) for me to realize how much I really do love you.” It felt strange to read the words “I love you” from him.  I just couldn’t tap into my emotions. I knew they were there. I knew I loved him, too, but needed to talk things through with someone else—a third party. That always helped me make sense of things. But I couldn’t call trusted friends, and I didn’t want to get into it with my new friends.  I emailed my roommate and dear friend, Amy with the confusion of my heart details.  I wrote in my journal that day:

Matthew Duke is the most amazing person, I love him so much. If I could marry him, I would be so lucky, so happy. Could it be that he really, truly loves me just as much? I hope I can let him in again.


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