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Alantimes Day

This is the tenth chapter of Love Song by Julienne (ft Cancer). The other ones are listed below if you haven’t read them yet and chronological continuity is your thing.

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

Chapter 9 – Christmas, and a Chase

***

After our first race together, Julienne and I hurried back to the apartment, showered, scooped up Lewis, and headed to South Beach for a mini staycation. We got a hotel for the night and spent the day at the beach. That evening, Julienne wore the dress she’d gotten for our engagement photoshoot that she was still planning. There was a clock tower in Baltimore that she loved that was accessible from the inside, and it was a popular place for things of that nature. We were so giddy that day, just so happy to be together and in love. In the evening, we took a stroll on the beach and Julienne was so happy that she was literally leaping in the air. I had to get it on video so I made her do it again for me. It will always, to me, be the essence of Jules, so full of light and joy and exuberance.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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

Meeting Julienne

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.

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“Moving On”

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.

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Julienne

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.

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Cancer (Caregiver) Feelings: Yin and Yang

The other day I was talking to my wife about my struggles with writing. I wanted to submit some short stories for a publication but I was having trouble coming up with things to write about. She asked me a very sensible question: “What do you want to say to the world?” I thought about it, and only one answer came to mind then, and I still don’t have a better one:

I’m tired.

I feel drained, hollowed out. Not all the time, of course, but it’s my default state now. Some days are good, some days are bad, but the common thread through all of them is a bone-deep exhaustion. Not exactly the kind of thing that a reader is dying to pore over. There’s good reason for it, of course, just like there’s a good reason for the depression, the feelings of powerlessness, the nagging question of whether life’s mundane responsibilities like paying bills and worrying about a credit score is worth it due to an occasionally overwhelming existential crisis that’s part and parcel of our every day.

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