A Gift of Love for a Long Distance Romance
● By Brandi Barnett
Roman HolidayFebruary 2007
By Melissa Gulden
Imagine being away from your loved one for years. Now imagine he or she is in one of the most dangerous parts of the world. It isn’t imaginary for Tom and Diana Sears; they live it every day.
But Tom thought of something unique to keep the romance alive—he had a picture of his wife painted by an artist in Baghdad and surprised her with it in Rome.
Married 16 years, the Sears are extremely close. So when they decided that Tom, a retired police lieutenant, would go to Iraq to set up and equip Iraqi police stations, they knew it would be hard on their relationship. Gone since June of 2005, Tom has only been home three times since. “Most of our relationship is morning and evening phone calls and e-mails,” said Diana. “It’s tough.”
Because of the nature of Tom’s mission, he is often in danger and has already lived through one car bombing and several other narrow escapes. “You have to buckle down and carry on,” she said. “I can’t fall apart; I have to make sure everything is running smoothly here so he can focus on what he’s doing over there.”
Well focus he did—on a photograph Diana had sent him “just for fun.” She had business photos taken and sent him one in black and white, her hair blowing in the wind.When he saw it, it blew him away. “Being that we’re 98 percent male over there—the men don’t see their wives or any women, for that matter—of course I showed off the picture,” recalls Tom fondly. “They couldn’t believe I was so lucky.” He happened upon a local artist in Baghdad and showed him the photograph.The artist created a painting with which Tom surprised Diana when they met in Rome for a vacation last March.
“I thought it was just another painting he had bought,” said Diana of seeing Tom approach her
carrying the art. But then he pulled out the masterpiece and she was awestruck. The one and only portrait she had ever had done, the painting now hangs in their bedroom. “The amount of love he obviously has for me… it’s probably the most incredibly romantic thing anyone has ever done for me,” said Diana.
The couple knows they are beating the odds. They also know how lucky they are to have one another. “You have to let your partner live their dreams and live the dreams with them as a couple,” said Diana. “Don’t be so quick to let diversity divide a marriage; instead, come together.”
The Sears will never take for granted how lucky they are to have each other, even when they are miles apart. “To know we can face something like this and still come out on top says a lot about our marriage,” Diana said. Adds Tom: “If I lost everything else, I wouldn’t want to lose that too."