(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.
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*
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
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
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.
[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.
This is a continuation of the post Meeting Julienne. It will make more sense if you read that first, but I’m not your supervisor. Unless I am and you’re reading this, in which case I really hope you aren’t reading this during work. I’m going to write this as if you read the other one, so any confusion is all your own fault.
Some cliffhanger, huh?
I hope it was as unsatisfying and frustrating an end as it felt to both me and Julienne at the time. Now imagine me waiting a year to post the second part of the story.
Today I was debating what to write about. I’ve wanted to write something, but the last couple of weeks or so were tough. Tough in a slightly different way than the last month has been, at least. See, the day after my last post, Labor Day Saturday, was the day Julienne and I regarded as our anniversary (because we got married on Labor Day Saturday and a three-day weekend is a great way to celebrate our love together) and it was the day we renewed our vows every year afterwards. The next day, September 1st, was the five-year anniversary of when we got together. A few days later, on September 4th, was the anniversary of when we were legally married in front of a judge in a courtroom. The next day, September 5th, was the actual date we wed in front of our family and friends in a small (by today’s standards) ceremony full of love, joy, and hope.
That was a brutal run to go on for me. I missed her presence, her touch, her smile, her laugh, the way she would lean her head into my shoulder when we hugged or sat on the couch or in bed, the smell of her hair, the feel of her hand fitting into mine, the way she would greet me every day when I got home, the way her eyes looked into mine…. Well, everything. I missed it all more intensely with every day that passed. I still do. It hurts inside in a way that I cannot describe. I would also do it all over again, without question, because no matter how bad I feel right now, Julienne made every day a great one. Every day. Whether we were at home, in France, in a hospital room for chemo, in the woods, wherever, every day was a great day because I saw her first thing when I woke up and the last moment before I slept, and in between she made sure I knew she loved me and I did everything I could to make sure she knew that I loved her more intensely than anything in multiverse. I still do.
So it took me a while to get to the point where I could contemplate putting words down again. I thought about writing about grief, the way it feels, the things I’m going through. But during this time of complete depression and utter anguish, I had a therapy appointment. Going to therapy once a week was one of the things I promised Julienne that I would do, along with cooking at least once per week, as part of a list of things she made me draw up and sign, and she added legalese and witnessed it. She’s a lawyer through and through.
My therapist saw me on Labor Day itself, when I was feeling wrung out and empty and hollow. We talked for a little bit about my abject sorrow, and then she pivoted. She told me to tell her the story of how I met Julienne and our whirlwind romance. So I did. For 45 straight minutes (I had to skip through a lot. Everything I have to say about that will take a long time to say). And even though I’d been thinking about that a lot, it helped to express it not as something torn from my life, but a way to revisit the intense joy of it all. It didn’t help right away, but gradually I thought more about the past as a comfort rather than an open wound. And because of that, I decided instead to write about meeting Julienne. And here we are. I imagine this will be a little easier to read than my original idea.
Here we go.
A phrase I hear a lot now is a variation of “there are no words I can say to you right now.” I completely understand that sentiment. There really aren’t words that we can use to convey the depth of sorrow, empathy, sympathy, loss, love, and common human togetherness that we feel when someone, whether it’s one we know and love or a complete stranger, is suffering from the loss of a loved one. In a way, those words convey all of these feelings, like the phrase is a magic spell to bind emotion into language, itself incapable of conveying it, in a short, succinct, and meaningful way. I appreciate it when people say that to me, because there are simultaneously no words and not enough words that can truly soothe a suffering heart.
Of course, it’s a real shame that there are no words. Every human being who has lived in the history of this planet is either dead or will be. We should probably have come up with words by this point. But I understand the difficulty, especially now in an age when “thoughts and prayers” is a phrase that conveys a complete indifference to the actual suffering of people. (Fun side note: I received a card from coworkers after Julienne was in the hospital for two weeks with her second collapsed lung. All but two people used the phrase “thoughts and prayers.” The other two? “Prayers and thoughts.” What a world.) Both no words, and not enough.
Julienne Gede Edwards left the world on August 8th, 2019, just before 11 am on a bright morning as she lay in her bed. It was where she’d wanted to be at the end. As it happens, despite having a lot of people in and out of the house during her final days, she and I were alone. I was holding her hand and reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane aloud, her favorite book and the one she’d asked me to bring to hospice with us to read to her. I checked her oxygen levels as I did periodically, to make sure that she was getting enough to her blood. The last week of her life required a lot of oxygen so she wore her nasal cannula as she’d done for over a year by that point, as well as a mask that she hated over her nose and mouth to give her additional air.