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To Be Loved So Much


My heart has been gripped by a love story that happened during the Hungarian Uprising in the 1950s.

There was a young couple who had only been married for a couple of years. They were newlywed sweethearts in the age of the Cold War, and they decided to flee Hungary in a revolt against communist slavery and Russian control.

They could not flee together, only apart, because if they were found together, they would be charged as co-conspirators. The penalty for conspiring was far greater than fleeing of one’s own accord, so they planned their escape separately.

She would leave in the cold of the night, along with her mother. Five days later, he would follow the same steps, and the plan was to meet in a safe city on the far side of Yugoslavia.

But at the border, she and her mother were caught by border officials. They were sent to a prison camp – not a death camp, but a prison nonetheless. They were held captive against their will.

The young bride was despondent with the discovery that she would never see her husband again. She walked the fence, pacing and weeping, her life over as she knew it. A guard took pity on her and passed a note through the fence, asking how he may help her.

She took the note back to her own barracks, and she wrote a reply. She told him, My husband is in the safe city. He waits for me, but he does not know where I am. Please tell him I have been captured. Please tell him where I am.

The next day, she walked the fence in the same place at the same hour. The guard met her there again, and this time she passed the note to him. She had no way of knowing if he could help her, would help her, or if anything would come of her marriage in this day before long distance communication – let alone within a prison.

Somehow, some way, the guard delivered the word to the young husband. And at the first word of his bride’s capture, he left his own safety to return to the Hungarian border. He turned himself in. He chose a prison camp instead of a sanctuary, shackles instead of freedom, because he loved her. She was his definition of life, and he wanted life.

My heart groans when I imagine the reunion, the two of them together as prisoners in a home that wasn’t their own.

You may or may not have met my husband. Four years into my life without him, fewer and fewer people know him. Knew him.

Let me tell you, he loved me fiercely. And he would have done anything in the world for me. Anything.

Okay, he wouldn’t turn off baseball to watch yet another episode of Friends. He wouldn’t let me wear his Ohio State sweatshirt, a conviction that has led me to feel like I’m still violating some great marital code when I wrap up in it to this day. He wouldn’t eat onions. And he wouldn’t join the occult of Apple iProducts. But he did spend more than a decade eating pan-crust pizza when he really preferred thin crust. And that isn’t nothing.

Robb was rigid in many ways. And sometimes I felt suffocated in a boned corset of cherished love. He held me tightly. His convictions were fierce, and he did not step back from them. Ever.


I listened to the story of the Hungarian refugees, and I began to weep. I didn’t cry over their story, although it is worth crying over. I cried over my own story because I knew that I knew that if he were faced with the same decision, Robb would have relinquished his freedom and become a prisoner of war if it meant life with me.

And then I realized that the parallels are many even now, given where he is and where I am. He is in the city of safety; his bride has been left behind. He cannot come back for me, but I know that he would. I know because I watched him try. In the moments when his light was fading, he lost consciousness but then he fought to see me again. He didn’t go without a fight.

Of course, the parallels are not perfect. Robb knows where I am. And he knows I’m coming, and that I am teaching our children the same map to the destination we’ve agreed upon. I know he knows I’m coming. And I hope he thinks of me every day.

Sometimes, in my honest moments of greatest truth, I have asked Jesus to forgive me because he is not the first one I long to see when I get there. But, as I’ve confessed to God, it’s only because I don’t know how to want what I have never had.

I have never known eye contact with Jesus. I don’t know what his eyes look like when he’s listening. I don’t know the sound of his laughter. I don’t know the feel of his cheek or the sound of his heartbeat as he is holding me. I don’t know what his love feels like.

I know Robb. I knew him, know him, and continue to learn him. His absence is a very real, palpable, emptiness. I only know what I know, and my heart aches and breaks again because this story is still so very mine.

Jesus, may you continue to give me grace to know you more, to believe you are as real as the man who held my hand. It is not lost on me that You are the One who truly left the city of safety, who chose prison and shackles, because you loved me that much.

Tricia Lott Williford

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  1. Tricia,

    I found myself in a pool of tears, and hadnt even realized I’d been sobbing until I’d finished reading your most beautiful, poignant, and painstaking entry. I thank you for allowing the vulnerability of your very soul to be open, out here for people such as myself, to read and with an open heart, in full support of you, all you do, and who you are. I feel incredibly privileged in being able to read your most precious and cherished thoughts.

  2. Beautiful Post! Where did you read the story, if I may ask,Tricia?

    • I am studying Hebrews through a Lifeway study by Lisa Harper. She shared the story in the video session.

  3. Thank you for your honesty. I knew Robb and I have not forgotten him. I knew him at OSU in college together and I remember him and his protection of us Rookies my first year in the band. I can picture him as you write about him.

    I also loved your honesty in these words:
    “Sometimes, in my honest moments of greatest truth, I have asked Jesus to forgive me because he is not the first one I long to see when I get there. But, as I’ve confessed to God, it’s only because I don’t know how to want what I have never had.”

    Thank you for being vulnerable with us and instilling within each of us the desire to be vulnerable with others so that others see our real selves. I hope we can meet someday.

  4. I knew him, I remember. I remember how he spoke of you and his eyes would light. What a treasure to be loved so well and deep that it becomes a part of your soul, never forgotten and always with you. He gave you his heart to keep next to yours, until you meet again. It’s a beautiful story Tricia, one that gives hope for the rest of us.

  5. Wow. That is the best written thing I’ve read in a very long time. It painted vivid story boards in my mind. I identified with your confession. It made perfect sense. This needs to be published and published again. And again. And some more.

  6. I think we married the SAME exact kind of man Tricia. We were both blessed for the time we experienced life and REAL love with these men. I could have written these words almost to a tee (if I could write as amazing as you perhaps:) Thank you again for ministering to this heart. My faith is taking such a hit and I need all I can of soaking up truth.

  7. I know him. His laugh. His gentleness. His tender care for you and the boys. I remember. Much love to you on this day.

  8. Those words flew off the page and cut deep into the soul!

    • It did!! As it always does. You’re so gifted and i long for May to come when I will embrace your next book.
      Do you mind sharing what story you were referring to, what book?

      • I am studying Hebrews through a Lifeway study by Lisa Harper. She shared the story in the video session.

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