Christmas, and a Chase

This is the ninth chapter of Love Song by Julienne (ft Cancer). The other ones are below. I’ve added the post that I did after she passed as a sort of prologue. I may keep it that way, I may not.

Prologue – Julienne

Chapter 1 – Meeting Julienne

Chapter 2 – Finding Julienne

Chapter 3 – A Kiss, and a Confession

Chapter 4 – Of Spaniel Day Lewis, Parents, and Dothraki Love
Nests

Chapter 5 – Brioche French Toast

 Chapter 6 – Halloween with Becca

 Chapter 7 – A Ring, and a Conversation

Chapter 8 – Her Woods

Sorry for the delay between chapters. After my last post about Hope (or the lack thereof), I fell into a weird state of disconnection from my emotions. It was as if writing it overloaded my emotional center, or it released something that had been swirling in my mind for so long that I was left as a drained, empty husk. It’s probably a little bit of both of those things. Or a lot of both. Either way, being in a state where I felt nothing has been alarming and uncomfortable and I hate it. I decided to make myself research and write this to reconnect to my feelings, even if it hurts, rather than drifting along in a near-fugue state that makes me feel like an automaton. I hope it works. We’ll find out.

***

Christmas with the Gedes in 2014 formed the tradition we would continue for each of the five years Julienne and I were together. After we celebrated our engagement Christmas Eve night, giddily checking our Facebook posts for congratulatory comments from friends and reveling in the fact that it was finally public, we settled in to celebrate the holiday old-school style. We snuggled into her old bed, Lewis curled up with us, and read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Incredibly, I’d never actually read the story before, and like so many things – from gingerbread houses to Muppet Christmas Carol to homemade egg nog (Sharon’s egg nog is the best drink the world has ever and will ever produce) – experiencing for the first time with Jules made it so much more special. It was the first time I read aloud to her. Reading to Julienne, feeling her snuggled up next to me listening, her head on my shoulder, was (and still is) one of the most comforting and loving moments we ever experienced.

(As time passed, reading to her became a more regular activity, especially after she was placed on oxygen and we knew our prognosis. Her anxiety made it hard for her to fall asleep, so I would read to her at night. Sometimes we would alternate reading, but when she read to me I usually fell asleep in just a couple of minutes and she’d have to wake me up when it was my turn. I don’t recall being read to as a child, other than when my brother was forced to read me Jehovah’s Witnesses books after school, so it was a new experience, one I found incredibly comforting. The night before she would end up going to hospice, she was terrified to fall asleep. She’d had a terrible dream the night before and she was scared all the rest of the day. When we went to bed I read to her, then stopped when I thought she was asleep as usual. She immediately woke up and asked me to keep going. The cycle repeated a couple of times until I realized that she’d only stay asleep while I read. I read to her until 10 o’clock in the morning, when she finally fell asleep on my chest. A few hours later we were on our way to hospice. I read to her there, the book she asked me to bring [The Ocean at the End of the Lane, her favorite] and later when she was back home. I didn’t quite get to finish before she left us, so I did while she lay in honor after everyone had gone to bed. I still read to her now, at her site, and it brings me comfort and makes me feel her presence, right there, her head pressed against my shoulder and her hand on my chest.)

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Lewis Break. This is the only picture we took on Christmas Day. Lewis splooting is a delight.

Christmas morning didn’t start too early, which is good because Christmas Eve generally meant a good amount of wine and/or spirits. A nice leisurely morning of Café du Monde coffee and warm French pastries with her parents as we sat in the living room, each of us with the presents to us by our seat. We’d go around the room and open gifts one by one, enjoying the act of watching a loved one get a gift they liked (fun fact – I HATED opening gifts in front of people. Still do, actually. I feel a sense of stress over opening something and not being able to display my appreciation enough and making the gifter feel bad. Christmas with Jules and her parents actually kept that feeling at bay). Lewis would sometimes help open presents because there is few things he enjoys more than shredding paper. It was such a fun, joyous experience. And every year, Julienne would have a gift that was super thoughtful and loving and make the recipient cry, which is exactly what she wanted to happen. She won every Christmas.

(She claimed I won last Christmas, because I hid a ring that she wanted and had earlier given her a different ring that she also wanted but not as much, then pulled it out after all the gifts were done. She still won, even though I used an underhanded trick to try to compete.)

That Christmas, and each one after, is the closest thing I have ever seen to the Hallmark Movie Channel ideal of a family Christmas, but it was never saccharine. It had enough realistic grumpiness and occasional drama, but, for me, it was wonderful. Julienne shone bright with her joy of the holiday and with the deep, intense love she has for her family. After present time with the parents, we got to do the same afterwards with the extended family, complete with a big Christmas dinner. I’d never really experienced anything quite like this in my life. Julienne gradually transformed me from a Grinch to Tiny Tim proclaiming his blessings to the world. I think copious amounts of egg nog helped with that, but still, it was – is still is – another of those magical things she pulled off. She made me believe in Christmas and all it stood for.

We had a wonderful long break together, extending all the way through her birthday in January. We went to a New Year’s party at the house of a friend of mine and had a great time. In fact, it was after that party that my absolute favorite Jules story took place. It’s a tale best told in person, so I won’t even try to tell it here. Sorry to leave it out, but I’ll be happy to tell that story in person any time you ask. Especially over a drink or two. It’s a good one.

We were also trying to figure out the new living arrangements we were trying to find together. We were discovering that finding a place that had a six-month lease available that we liked was proving to be a near-impossibility. We came close – there was a former gatehouse on an old Dupont estate that was available, and the second we walked in we knew it was haunted. It was perfect for us. I knew the main problem was not going to be figuring out the lease or other logistics. Oh no. No, the main problem was going to be the door in the hallway, just outside the bedroom. See, the house was super old, small, and with incredibly narrow, dark hallways. Outside the master bedroom there was a door, about half as wide as a normal door. Inside was a set of stairs that disappeared up into the night-black darkness of the attic. After having seen Insidious last Halloween (I hadn’t seen it before, and it’s one of Jules’ absolute favorites), the idea of this little door swinging open as I returned from the downstairs kitchen for a glass of water was an inevitability (also proof that my brain loves nothing more than trying to come up with things that will scare me. It’s very dedicated to this). We wanted it so badly.

But some things were not meant to be. We eventually decided that just staying at my apartment was easier than all the hassle we were going through, plus worrying about signing a year-long lease and then subletting if we couldn’t get a shorter lease. We decided early in January to just make my apartment our place until we left for Los Angeles. The California bar exam was taking place at the end of July, so we knew we’d be out there either just before or soon after. So we started making my cookie-cutter hotel-room-equivalent apartment our home. We planned to start moving her stuff up slowly until May, then we’d pack up the rest after graduation and drive up to start our life together in Delaware (that’s where I lived, in case I hadn’t mentioned that ever) for a couple months before the big move to Cali.

In the meantime, though, there was a wedding to plan.

Like I said before, she’d been working on this already, first with Pinterest ideas before we met, then as a break between studying for finals. Now that the ring was firmly on her slender finger (her hands always delighted and fascinated me. She had petite slim hands that looked so small in my own. I miss how they feel nestled in mine), it was time to begin doing some real planning. Like, shop for dresses real. She and Savannah made plans to go bride and bridesmaid shopping (after all, each would be the other’s bridesmaid). On January 5th, she sent me a text as I was working:

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I wanted to be there but, as I told her later, the first time I wanted to see her in a wedding dress was when she was walking down the aisle. It was only later, after we were married, that I got to see the pictures. Some I’d never seen until recently. She had shown me a couple online that she was thinking of, including this one from Reem Acra that she was obsessed with. I could see why. The site had a video with the model walking in it, and the bottom of the dresses flowed and moved like water. It was gorgeous, and the idea of seeing Julienne in that dress was just so… incredible? Impossible? It was hard for me to imagine, even though we were engaged (and had been since October), that Julienne, this unbelievably beautiful soul, this brilliant and funny and charming goofball would be wearing a dress like that to marry… me? Who even am I? What is this life?

Julienne talked about how surreal it was to try on wedding dresses, for real, knowing that she’d found somebody that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with and she wasn’t just playing pretend anymore. She did try on one she liked on that January 5th trip. I didn’t see these pictures before the last month or so. She is just, in every way, perfect in the dress. She wasn’t ready to make a commitment to one, though, not without some more shopping. It would take a little more time to decide.

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It’s a good thing I didn’t see this before the wedding, because I would have died from anticipation.

One less fun thing about wedding preparation was the getting-in-shape portion of it. Sure, we had 20 months before the wedding, but there were engagement photos to do, and an engagement party, and some good reasons to try to stay generally fit before crunchtime. So I started doing the one thing I swore I wouldn’t do, not unless my life depended on it.

I began to run.

Now, I had done a little running during my separations with my ex, but I really hated it. I liked to run fast, but I did not like running for a long period of time. Especially treadmills. At least running outside meant that the scenery changed, that you could see something in the distance and tell yourself I can run to that then before you get there choose something else to run towards. I could understand that a little better. I still hated it, though. I had always said that I would only run if I was being chased.

That is a fine sentiment, especially the running outside bit, when it isn’t cold outside. But since it was, I decided to try the treadmill thing. I hated it even more than I thought. Then Julienne taught me a thing she’d used to run the half-marathon: running in intervals. The idea was, you ran for two minutes, then walked at a quick pace for one minute, then rinse and repeat. It was like she’d done some kind of magic spell that made running easier. It changed everything for me. I could do that. So we started running together. We committed to doing the half-marathon in Disneyland at the end of 2015, since we’d be in California then. It was a superhero-themed one too, so I was super stoked to be able to dress up AND run. She was already signed up for a half-marathon toward the end of January, so from November through the holidays we tried to run to help get her ready.

Wellllll….

We enjoyed ourselves over the holiday a little too much and ran much too little. As she was getting ready to go back to school, she switched her registration over to do a 5k instead. I flew down with her for the weekend when she went back to spend her birthday with her, then had to go back. It was incredibly hard on both of us. We had to be apart for ten days, and getting onto the airplane I texted her that it already felt like ten months. It was torture, after having been together for weeks in a row. I couldn’t handle it, and flew down a day before she was due to fly up. Even 24 hours was too much for me to wait.

(As I write this, it’s now been 70 days since Julienne passed. 70. It’s a surreal number, and the fact that it will only continue to grow and grow weighs on my heart. I read something about grief a couple of weeks after she died. The author said that, after having their loved one die, the world just continued on, and it was a comfort knowing that. I do not feel that way. I rage every day deep inside me that the world continues to turn, uncaring, and people move on and go back to lives they had before she died while I sit here, with the world that I knew and loved running like sand between my fingers as I try to hold onto it and fail, watching as it all slips further and further away, and the world moving on is NOT a fucking comfort, it will never be a fucking comfort, and I will always carry this kernel of rage inside that was born on July 28th, 2015, a knot of anger we both carried with us every day since we found out that everything we thought our life would be was a lie.)

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This is a “kill everything I see” break, which can be helpful sometimes.

The reason why we’d have had to wait for another day was because on Saturday the 25th she was running the 5k. She was happy for me to come down, of course, as long as I was OK waiting while she ran. Unless… (she paused dramatically) I was willing to run it with her. Now, I hadn’t run over 2 miles at a time by this point. It seemed daunting at the time, but I mulled it over. I always said I wouldn’t run unless I was being chased, but what if I was the one chasing? In any event, doing my first actual race with her next to me was all I needed to get my ass into gear. I agreed. I was going to run a 5k.

Now, what they don’t tell you before you run a race is how fucking early you need to get up for it. We were up at like 5:30, which is a time I was more likely to see at the end of a long fun night than I was getting out of bed to confront, especially on the weekend. I was my usual quiet surly self in the morning, but Julienne had a way of breaking through my normal grouch-mode routine and we laughed and joked as the goddamn sun came up in Miami. We ate our bananas and drank some water and made our way to the milling mass of people willing to run for no particular reason on a given Saturday. Julienne had a new hat she’d gotten the previous summer, and had created a new tradition for herself: every year, she’d get a new hat, wear it when she ran, and record her race times on the bill. It was her charm, her talisman, a symbol of her commitment to doing the one thing she wanted most, working with her body to do things that at one point in her life she didn’t think she could.

It being Miami, there was a DJ playing club music as we waited for the thing to start. I’m fairly certain I saw clubgoers from the previous night making their way to cars as we stretched, but it’s Miami so they may have been going to church in their neon-lime-green minidresses for all I know. We got in the back of the pack at Julienne’s suggestion, because I wasn’t sure I wasn’t going to collapse and die 200 feet in, took a couple of pictures, and waited for our chance to pound the pavement.

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Spoiler! We finished the race. Also, if I’d sucked in my gut any harder, my spine would have been visible from the front. Note the fact that my eyes still aren’t open.

Then the race started! And we stood and waited for the billion people ahead of us to move for like 10 minutes. Finally, though, it was our turn. Julienne had an interval timer on her phone, and she said she’d run next to me and encourage me. We had earphones in one ear so we’d hear each other when we (meaning I) was having trouble, and we ran.

I loved it.

Running next to her, trying to keep pace, then getting her hand signal that it was time to walk, catch our breath, then the signal to start again – it was like so much of our time together. Working together, keeping an eye on each other, giving encouragement, facing the challenge together. It was a joy doing that with her. We celebrated every mile marker with a smile and fist bump (back then it was a terrorist fist bump, according to Fox News) and she dutifully stopped every time my shoe came untied (I have a real issue with keeping my shoes tied and have my entire life. It’s odd and embarrassing).

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I’m huffing and puffing and dying, and she’s got a goddamn smile on her face. I love her.

When we finally came to the marker that read 3, I looked over at her and said let’s run. I mean, we were running, but I had developed a habit when I ran that, towards the end, I would give it everything I had. I liked running fast much more than running long, so if I sped up I could a) make sure I’d left nothing in the tank, and b) the running part would be over a little faster. She agreed, and off we went, running as fast as we could go. The finish was in sight (and I hate races that hide the finish line behind a last-minute curve. Seeing the end of a race ahead is everything to someone who is huffing and puffing and whose feet are leaden and aching, and those who hide that glorious sight are assholes who deserve a good sharp papercut) and we sprinted as much as we could. As we approached the line, Julienne reached out and grabbed my hand, and we finished our first race together that way, hand in hand, proud and happy and in love.

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She recorded her best 5k time to that point on that day. Stronger together. (Also the time showed is from when the race started, not when we did, haters)

(We finished every race but one that way. We didn’t get to run as many as we wanted to, but I cherish the memory of every one, and feeling her hand in mine as we crossed every finish line felt like a triumph, especially after her diagnosis. I started running again a couple of weeks ago, because it is on the list of things she made me sign and agree to do after she was gone. It’s not easy, because doing it makes me think of her and those races, and sobbing in the middle of a run, which I do most of the time at some point, makes it quite a bit harder to do. But I’ll keep doing it for her, and for us, and for all the times we crossed a finish line hand in hand, whether it was in a race or in the course of the life we were lucky enough to have together. Hand in hand, baby, forever and ever, until the last finish line. I love you.)

***

(I started this yesterday, worried about my emotional disconnection. Today, I cried hard as I left her grove, feeling the loss and pain and love we share. I’ve never been so happy to be so sad. I spent this morning crying nearly the entire time I wrote this. In the middle of it, I received a beautiful message from someone I’ve never met, telling me that reading these helps them, and I cried harder because, as much as this world can be a real pile of shit, people can still be beautiful. I’m glad to say that writing this worked. I love you guys. *finger guns*)

(Post) Cancer (Caregiver) Feelings: Hope

This is not going to be a happy, uplifting, or fun thing to read. This is not part of the ongoing story of our love. The next chapter of that will be out next week, once I can make myself write it. Before I can do that, though, I need to write about this, like leeching some poison from my blood or letting off enough steam before the pressure builds too much. I just want you to know what you’re getting into. This is very likely to be a dark and disheartening look at grief and loss.

I wrote once before about my feelings on this cancer journey. I wrote it in May, 2 months before she would be placed on oxygen and we were given the news about how much time we had left together. These Cancer Feelings posts were a very big part of Julienne’s blog. She wrote well and beautifully about her emotions throughout her treatment. I’ll link them below if you’d like to visit them. They are worth it.

Anger

Fear

Gratitude

Isolation

The Dark Side

Parting Wisdom

Nervous

Round 2

Positivity

I didn’t plan on doing another one of these, but here we are. I’m going to talk about something that was important to us both.

Hope.

Read the rest of this entry

Her Woods

This is the eighth chapter of Love Song by Julienne (ft Cancer) (another maybe working title) which is the love story that Julienne and I lived for five glorious, amazing years. In case this is your first time, the other chapters are listed below in case you’d like them in chronological order.

Chapter 1 – Meeting Julienne

Chapter 2 – Finding Julienne

Chapter 3 – A Kiss, and a Confession

Chapter 4 – Of Spaniel Day Lewis, Parents, and Dothraki Love Nests

Chapter 5 – Brioche French Toast

 Chapter 6 – Halloween with Becca

 Chapter 7 – A Ring, and a Conversation

***

The ring was ordered. The parents were in support. Now we just had to wait patiently.

I coined a phrase a few years ago. I said it lovingly, because I love them very much. It is this: “The patience of a Gede.” It is meant to be an ironic phrase, because if any of you has spent any amount of time with a Gede, you generally will notice that patience is not one of the many, many virtues they possess. A long line? No. A delayed response for an important matter? No.

And, in Julienne’s case, an extended unknown wait for an item she really, really wants? Not just no. Not just hell no. I’m talking are you fucking kidding me with this right now? Is it ready now? How about now? Now?

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She already wanted to call our jeweler Christina on the Monday after we’d ordered the ring to see what progress had been made. I knew and understood the feeling and had already reached out. After all, I was planning to take the Gede name myself. I have slightly more patience than Julienne, but it is only to a small degree. I hate going to any place with a waiting room, even if I’m there two minutes. Doctors, dentists, oil changes, hair stylists – I avoid going for longer than I should because I hate sitting and waiting more than just about anything in the world (with all of the doctor’s visits and chemo trips Jules and I did over the last four years, we eventually got a little more used to it, but not very much. Any delay was met with a rapid rise in anger and annoyance).

Read the rest of this entry

A Ring, and a Conversation

This is the seventh chapter of A Love Story, by Julienne & Alan, ft Cancer (working title, maybe?) which is the love story that Julienne and I lived, if you couldn’t guess. In case this is your first time, the other chapters are listed below in case you’d like them in chronological order.

Chapter 1 – Meeting Julienne

Chapter 2 – Finding Julienne

Chapter 3 – A Kiss, and a Confession

Chapter 4 – Of Spaniel Day Lewis, Parents, and Dothraki Love Nests

Chapter 5 – Brioche French Toast

 Chapter 6 – Halloween with Becca

(Before we launch into the next part of the story, I want to share a couple of texts from after Halloween about Becca’s backstory, It was something churning in the back of her mind for a long time, and it just cracked me up.)

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***

Read the rest of this entry

Halloween with Becca

This is the sixth chapter of the as-yet untitled (suggestions welcome) love story that Julienne and I lived. In case this is your first time, a) I’m sorry and b) the other chapters are listed below in case you’d like them in chronological order.

Chapter 1 – Meeting Julienne

Chapter 2 – Finding Julienne

Chapter 3 – A Kiss, and a Confession

Chapter 4 – Of Spaniel Day Lewis, Parents, and Dothraki Love Nests

Chapter 5 – Brioche French Toast

(A brief note before we get started. I indicated in yesterday’s post that the last bunch of days have been very hard. That hasn’t changed. I’m hoping that I can not only write this, but that I can feel a little better by doing so. It may be a fool’s errand on both fronts, but I’m going to try.)

***

Halloween season, I would come to learn, starts in February. That would be the first time every year that Julienne would ask me what I was planning to wear for Halloween. See, the traditional holiday season would occupy her mind, especially Christmas, all the way through her birthday in January. After that, though, Halloween Season officially began. I would never know what I’d want to be by then and she would look at me in such consternation at my lack of forethought. Every year I’d remind her that the thing she told me in February that she was going to be would never end up being the thing that she actually was for Halloween. Every year she would tell me that it wasn’t the point.

Halloween is serious business for Julienne. Read the rest of this entry

The Song of Derenemyn, With Notes

(Note: this is not one of the chapters of our love story [for which I need to figure out a title]. It’s been a really hard past few days, harder than usual, so I haven’t been able to write the next chapter just yet. Saturday I woke up crying and basically didn’t stop, so I decided to just lean into the sorrow completely since it wasn’t abating. I sat and listened to the songs that she recorded throughout her life on repeat for hours, crying and missing her and remembering her and grieving hard over the fact that I can’t see her or touch her or converse or – you get the idea. I posted some things on Facebook to share her singing, including a bit from The Song of Derenemyn. I wanted to repost it again with some details about the song. A lot of it can be gleaned from the story I’ve told so far, but I wanted to add some notes about some other details. Love you all.)

The Song of Derenemyn is a gift in many ways, but also a literal one. For my birthday in 2016, Julienne gave me a CD with this song along with the lyrics printed on old-timey parchment-like paper. She’d written and recorded it for me, telling the story of us and our first year together in a way that was as magical and beautiful as she. It is my favorite song in the world. I have a daydream where the music she created for it gets turned into a full-blown instrumental to match her singing, but as it is, the song is perfect for me, just like Julienne is.

Read the rest of this entry

Name Change

Just a note to… well, note that I’ve changed the blog name from Me and My Shovel to Winter in Derenemyn. This affects nothing and no one but I just thought I’d mention it if you’re one of those people used to the old name. I’m more than happy to explain why, where the original came from, what the new one refers to, etc, but I’m pretty sure no one gives a swut. Love you guys. *finger guns*

Brioche French Toast

This is the fifth “chapter” of the fairytale love story I lived for 5 glorious years with Julienne Gede Edwards. It helps if you read the other ones first, probably.

Ch 1 – Meeting Julienne

Ch 2 – Finding Julienne

Ch 3 – A Kiss, and a Confession

Ch 4 – Of Spaniel Day Lewis, Parents, and Dothraki Love Nests

I do want to give fair warning, though. This one has a lot of unfiltered expressions of pain and loss. And if I’m warning you about THIS one, and not any of the previous ones, then you know it’s going to be pretty raw. It’s hard to think and feel these happiest of times so clearly and not suffer the backlash of sorrow and devastation of the present, so be warned. I’m not apologizing for them because I’m not ashamed of them, but I imagine this stuff can be rough to hear sometimes. Hence the fair warning.

As always, thank you for the love and support. It honestly helps more than I can express. I love you all, and also *finger guns*

You’re the best.

***

After Dothraki Love Nest Weekend, a couple of things became clear. First, that I was going to struggle to compete with this level of imagination, thoughtfulness, love, and execution of vision going forward. How do you buy a Christmas present for someone after this? What would be remotely in the league of romantic gestures? (Fun fact: a couple Christmases ago I suggested that we set a budget of $25 for each other’s presents to reset the standard, because we’d gotten on an ever-escalating scale of gift-giving like it was retaliatory nuclear strikes of love. The withering look she gave me was all the answer I needed. The Gift War would continue apace. She always won.) Read the rest of this entry

Of Spaniel Day Lewis, Parents, and Dothraki Love Nests

This is the fourth part of the fairytale I’ve lived for 5 years. The story went in directions we didn’t expect or want, but it was still our fairytale.

That weekend with Julienne were the best and happiest days of my life up until that point. Since she’d come up on a Thursday, I had to go to work the next day which was brutal and took forever to end. But it was worth it for the sight of her when I got home. It’s an image that seared itself into my brain like my memory used a cattle brand. I can pull it up anytime that I want it:

I come down the short hallway inside my apartment door and she’s standing there, waiting, like a femme fatale from a black-and-white noir film. She’s in a long black satin robe that almost looks like a wrap dress. Her blonde hair is parted on one side and wavy. She’s got on a beautiful smile that looks like the promise of an oasis after a decade in the desert. In each hand she’s got a glass of bourbon. “Hi baby,” she says, the words as soft and smoky as the liquid in the glasses. She holds out a drink and I take it, then I set it on the counter. She’s in my arms and we’re kissing and right then I know that all I want out of life is to come home and see her every day for the rest of my life.

It’s been five years and eleven days since that moment. It was my real life. It happened to me. I felt like I had to be in a dream then, since the real world could never be this good. It feels like a dream now, too, all of it does, a dream I was so unspeakably lucky to live through, all the greatness and joy and wonder and happiness that life had to offer was right there in my arms for 5 years. The pain and sorrow that is now my every day is worth it, because in September 2014 I became the luckiest man alive. We found each other.

Read the rest of this entry

A Kiss, and a Confession

[Warning: the beginning of this post contains emotional content unrelated to our continuing love story. If you’re just here for Part the Third and have no wish to hear emotional rambling from Yours Truly, skip down to the part below the cartoon. If you missed the first part it is here and the second part is here.]

Before I get started on the next chapter of our love story, I just want to give all of you a giant thank you. Writing these stories is very cathartic and healing for me. However, the process is very bittersweet and draining. Spending time rediscovering these old memories and stories is joyous, but the fact that I can’t hold her or be held by her or – well, the loss becomes more present after I leave the writing bubble. Doing this takes a lot out of me. But the response and support you all have given me throughout has made a real and tangible difference.

When Julienne died, I no longer had a purpose. I don’t mean that I had purpose as someone who took care of her as a person with cancer; I had purpose for the first time in my life the day we got together. My purpose was to be with this amazing person, to support her and her visions and dreams while getting support from her, to see every day and share it with her. After she was gone, I had nothing. I wanted to be able to write this story, all of it. I wanted to collect all of her writings on cancer, published and unpublished, and put them together so another young person afflicted by it could find it twenty years from now and see that they aren’t alone and gain a tiny bit of comfort. I wanted to do those things. But I had no idea if I was capable of doing it in a way that was good enough for her, the way she deserves them to be.

Meeting Julienne was a test of sorts. Could I tell this story in such a way that wasn’t just depressing, or boring, or cloyingly syrupy sweet? In short, could I tell it in a way Julienne would have liked to read? I’m grateful that I can say that I think it is good enough (barely – it should be better, but perfection wouldn’t be good enough). Your support has convinced me that it is. This week, I rediscovered my purpose in life, and that is to keep moving through it by telling her story, our story. She always said that if a blog post or Instagram story helped one person – just one – going through something, then the effort was worth it. I hope this helps someone today, and tomorrow, and ten years from now, and forever. I’m going to finish this, the whole thing from its fairytale beginning to its fairytale ending, as openly and honestly as I can, with all of the beauty and ugliness of love and cancer and life that I can put forth.

Thank you for helping me find my purpose. I love you.

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Me too, Edgar. Me too.

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