How History Helps Us Endure Grief.

“Acknowledging and letting go of these feelings brings us up to courage and, with that, finally acceptance and an inner peacefulness, at least as it regards the area which has been surmounted.” ~ David R. Hawkins, Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender

I’ve fallen into grief’s pit again. I know; I’ll crawl out faster this time.

It’s temporary, but this is the place I miss him the most. Grief is a gross comfort.

In grief’s grip, no matter how magnificent my daily life, it pales in comparison to any moment, memory, or experience shared with my now-deceased beloved.

Before Kevin stepped up into the role of boyfriend, he hung around the sidelines of my life ever since my first career opportunity, where we met, and my first marriage, which I left.

Yep, Kevin was there decades ago as I burned rubber out of both.

He seemed to pop up in every chapter of my life, while I gave him little thought, took our friendship for granted, and tried to set him up with my girlfriends.

Actually, I thought him a bit of an ass. I had no desire to impress him, which allowed me to feel free in his presence.

He wasn’t trying to win me over, either. So, I benefitted from the safety of a man by my side, like a brother.

Back in 1989, Kevin took me to his friend Ed’s party out in the country, close to St. Louis. Although I didn’t see Kevin much throughout the weekend, I felt his presence as we each mingled with other people. I knew he had my back.

The physical safety a man can offer came automatically with Kevin’s 6’3 stature. But, there’s another kind of safety.

Like when I said something I feared I had to wrap in an apology or explanation, his reaction proved the wrapping unnecessary.

I once said, “I’m not trying to judge you, but…”

Kevin said, “If you want to judge me, that’s ok. It’s on you.”

He showed me what it meant to be non-defensive, which I wasn’t used to, and non-judgmental, which I, like many people, longed for my whole life.

Best of all, Kevin embraced the gifts of my words, opinions, feelings, ideas, stories, and even my anger and fears.

It’s a whole new level of safety when a man loves a woman the way her dog does—not trying to change, impress, prove wrong, scold, compete with, or rescue.

I’d had enough of all that.

Finally, I didn’t have to or want to feel or say anything but my soul truth.

I didn’t have to work so hard at being happy or understood.

Amazingly, I saw Kevin the way I wished I’d see all the men who I’d shared chapters of my life with, but never quite managed.

He knew my sh*t. I knew his—and loved him even more for it, the way I wanted to love the other men, but didn’t.

With Kevin, I saw the quirks and flaws I’d normally judge—his loud mouth and undeniable ability to be politically incorrect, but I felt within me a new level of understanding and compassion, which felt oddly natural.

Here was a man full-on present in a way I’d never known a man to be.

Our experience flowed, rather needing to be reasoned around.

Sure, we had our moments. When I exploded with anger or jealousy (because he showed me it was safe to feel and deal with both), we got through it together.

Early on, I told Kevin I wanted nothing less than authenticity—because I couldn’t handle any more lies or disappointment—after my last three strikes with men, which he knew all about.

Like an old-fashioned gentleman, Kevin put his promise in a hand-written letter and mailed to my home: “As we go down our path, I pledge to give you the authenticity you crave and deserve. I want to have it all with you, Ice. Will you let me?”

Ice. He called me Ice. I let him melt me. Thank God I did, but damn, who could say no to that?!

Well, me—the gal who said no to or walked out on plenty of men who offered their hearts. It was just never enough for me.

Until Kevin. He was far from perfect, but he was real.

I’d have paid any price to take the ride we took together.

I relaxed and became my full self in his arms. He grew and awakened in my presence.

Our deal was divine.

Now, he’d dead—physically. (Heart attack in his sleep.)

This fact challenges me more than anything ever has.

My losses and lessons before couldn’t prepare me for this one.

This grief is like a gal with math anxiety learning calculus.

I face confusion, vulnerability, and some days, despair.

However, history says I’ve worked my way through before.

History says: love comes around again.

 

 

 

Grief is my Advantage.

Dear New Man,

If you want to be with me in this chapter of my life, it’s a package deal. Some women have children. A man needs to know that going in.

Well, know this about me. I have a boyfriend; he just happens to be dead.

If you tell me to put the past in the past, you communicate a lack understanding and compassion for the depth of my love, the richness of my relationship that was ripped away from me, or the ongoing agony of grief.

Maybe you’ve been dealt the death of loved ones, too. So had I before I lost my beloved. I’d experienced the deaths of my brother, mother, and brother-in-law. This is different.

Maybe you’ve been in love before. I, too have been blessed with that heart-expanding experience a handful of times, including two marriages.

However, the kind of relationship I craved to create out of each of those previous relationships never came to pass.

Until Kevin. As I neared 50, I found everything I’d been looking for.

Not that he was perfect. And I was the other part of the equation. So, you know, not perfect.

Yet, somehow we shaped a world in which the two of us danced free, passionate, happy, open and engaged.

That relationship continues. He’s the Fire inside me that never goes out.

Some people think it rude to talk about previous partners once you’re with a new one. I say, until someone can convince me of the benefit of holding back, I’ll continue speaking Kevin’s name.

If you listen, you’ll hear my soul speak, loud and proud and feminine.

If you want to fall for me, take all of me.

Grief isn’t my baggage; it’s my advantage.

See, I’ve inhabited that space where wondrous, life-enhancing love exists. So, I know I can go there again. I just can’t tell you when, how, or if it will be with you. There’s much I don’t know.

I see you standing before me, saying you want to walk with me. It may be a hard road for you, as it may never be just us two.

Kevin is my constant, still. He’s the music in songs, the flavor in foods, and my mind reels with memory like the ticker tape running across the bottom of the TV screen.

Here’s the breaking news: I have no desire to dismiss my past.

The reality that I’m with another man—any other man—feels foreign to me.

It’s not that I feel I’m cheating on my beloved. It’s that a part of my heart lives outside this world and a part of Kevin’s remains in me.

It’s—to quote Glennon Doyle Melton—a brutiful thing. You can wish the brutal away or deny its existence. You can even disappear for fear you can’t compete with a dead man.

Trust me, there’s no competition. And no, I didn’t put him on a pedestal in the aftermath. I rose into love like a bird swoops on the wind.

Better than fantasy. it was my reality.

Good. Pure. Right. Until his lights went out. Out of this world.

You tell me not to dim the lights on us because of my past. I refuse to pretend to feel any more or less than I do.

How dare you accuse me of wallowing? Oh, not that you did, but that’s how it feels when you seem to insist I’m letting my past get in your way.

I honor my grief and if you respect me and want to get me, you will too.

You’ll understand Kevin’s love for me is an essential ingredient that goes into making me the woman you want to make yours.

Here’s the cool thing about my boyfriend being dead: I can take on another man if I choose. I can take on you.

I can take your hand and your kiss. We can date and I can appreciate your presence, even while missing him every single day.

A while ago, I would’ve told you I miss him every moment. So, progress!

It’s like this. When I was in junior high, my friend’s dog bit me on my face. I was rushed to the hospital for stitches. It left a scar on my lip, one which people felt compelled to comment on for years.

A boss once assured me I could get my scar fixed by a superb surgeon. When he saw me wince, he tried to convince me it was hardly noticeable.

As if I didn’t see my scar every time I looked in the mirror. As if I couldn’t see people staring and suppressing the question: What happened?

Now, it’s been decades and people rarely ask this adult woman, What happened to your face?

This happened: I got hurt. It left a scar on my lip, just as Kevin’s death left a scar on my heart.

Do you know scar tissue is stronger than the original skin?

I think Kevin knew. Only one scar shows on my body, but Kevin loved them all. By doing this, he made way for me to love what I once considered my inadequacies. He insisted they were all a part of the ICE (his nickname for me) package—unique and beautiful.

His love opened the door for me to be more of who I am.

I’m the woman who you, new man, now claim to want. And yet, you want me to close that door?

Not happening. I’m still healing. The scar forming on my heart doesn’t need to be fixed. It needs to be seen.

If you really believe I’m the one for you, see my scars. See the pain, but look for the beauty.

This scar sews together the seam between where I got hurt and where I need to be loved.
My dead boyfriend isn’t an obstacle or a hurdle to leap. He’s not your competition. He doesn’t stand in the way of anything you and I might create.

My grief is a gate.

It opens to all of me—my wisdom, resilience and feminine essence. It lives in my heart. Do you have the courage to go there?

I promise only this. I offer you no less than my real self, the scar upon my broken heart and the sagacity born from my soul’s searching.

So new man, don’t be afraid of what happened to me yesterday. Lean in. Love my scars.

 

Be Like Kevin

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Call. And call again. Take the calls—even when you’re driving to dinner with your girlfriend and looking for a parking space. Take the call, especially if it’s your dad. Not because he’s 85, because he’s your dad.

Connect with people. Laugh. Let your funny be infectious. Don’t be a hater. Speak your mind. Apologize when you screw up. And mean it. Move on.

OWN your anger. Be forthright, but be gracious. Love women. Really love them. And music. Listen to music-LOUD! Especially the 80s. Hard rock. KISS.

But take Etta James and the candles. Yeah, bring that old boom box to the beach. Play the game Washers.

Read. The Bible when you feel nudged. Take pleasure in reading. Find your guy. Kevin’s was Lee Child, but he also read Mark Twain, JR Moehringer and Alice Lundy.

Give people nicknames. ICE! ICE! ICE! Let it be your way of honoring them.

Pray. Out loud. In the morning. While drinking coffee and watching birds with your girlfriend.

Say, “I LOVE THAT!” often. Say, “I love you.” Write it. Write letters. Send Valentine’s Day cards with love to everyone.

Enjoy good food. Make memories, like taking your gal to Tony’s, where you used to go with your mom. But, also go to dive bars. Bring home Taco Bell sauce packets that say “Marry Me” and present them like a bouquet of flowers.

Seek love. Be romantic. Be real.

Follow your passions and applaud others. Take care of your business, but don’t be so serious. Make work fun. When it’s not, refocus. Readjust. Decide what you want and go for it.

Change. If you want to. Become better.

Be at peace with yourself. Take care of yourself. LOVE YOURSELF. And especially, BE YOURSELF. Kevin was totally himself, not imitating a soul.

Be emotionally courageous. Say: This is how I am. I have a temper and I can be selfish, but I’m the man for you. Yeah, be a man—in the best sense of the word.

Support your team and Diva’s team and your people. Show up. Be on time. And have some style!

LIVE your life. If it ever comes to your door, kick cancer’s ass!

Speak a different language with your brothers—one your girlfriend couldn’t understand if she wanted to. Make your cousin a brother and make the word BROTHER mean something. Make friendship and family mean something.

GO ALL IN. Whatever you’re doing: sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, sales, wooing a woman, loving your mom, hanging with friends, frying fish, developing relationships, telling a truth, listening,… damn, Kevin could listen. I know he could talk, but he could really listen.

Open doors. Pull out chairs. Hug. Hold your partner tight through the entire night. Kiss too hard and love like this is your last chance and you want to get it right.

Buy little gifts. Don’t expect so much from others. Give because it makes you feel good.

Tell stories. And make them good!

Hang with your boys. Be wild when you’re young, but never grow old. Get out of the house, but spend time hanging at home, just chillin’.

Be like a kid. But be a man. Face life head on.

Be like Kevin, but you can’t. There was only one. So, be like you—the one Kevin loves. Still.

 

 

Awash in Love

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He loved the scar on my lip.

And my tiny little tits.

He loved the way my hair fell on my face.

He petted my eyelashes!

He made his shoulder my pillow.

When I left the bed to let the dog out, he hollered,

“Come back, Icey! Come back!”

He wrote me epic love letters and recently claimed a song of

Van Zants’ as his own. When I put the Fire to the fire over that,

He said it felt like his because that’s how he feels about me.

I look back now at songs I thought he wrote early on because they had “ICE” in them. The songs weren’t originals, but Kevin was.

For me, he was like the original man. I know it’s crazy, but he

Washed away the sins of all the men who came before and

He washed my slate clean. He LOVED me and freed me from

The chains of my past. I cannot explain it. I only know it’s true.

Kevin Lentz blessed me and if you knew him, he blessed you.

 

 

The Best Lives On

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My brother-in-law Tommy and I didn’t always get along. I thought he came along and stole my sister. He did. He might say he rescued her from me.

He made her his wife, in a way that I could never make her my sister. She just was.

To get my sister to be his wife, Tom had to win her over: think her both beautiful and smart, be loyal and kind and gentlemanly. He had to be committed. And funny. He had to be respectful and tenacious and the kind of man she’d trust to raise her kids.

Tommy was all those things. He won my sister over. Then, after all that, he gave her unconditional love—not necessarily pretty or perfect—but the thing we all crave—unconditional love, Tommy gave that.

And not just to Jayne. You should’ve seen the parade of people and random acts of kindness Tom attracted into the last chapter of his life. So many people, in so many ways, stepped up to say, “I love you, Tom.” Damn, if he didn’t love that.

Almost as much as he loved his boys. His last Christmas, I asked him if it was hard to say good-bye. “It is,” he said, “but I’ve been fortunate. I got to see them grow up. I think we’ve raised some fine young men.”

Yes, my nephews are fine young men. Through them, best parts of my brother-in-law live on.

Woman

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I’m not a toy

To be played with

And tossed aside.

I’m not a showpiece

To be displayed

On your arm.

I’m not a prize,

Inflated proof of your

Self-created success.

I’m not a pet or a doll or

A possession of any kind.

I walk by the sight of my soul.

There’s only one man I

Follow in this world.

He’s here and he’s not.

I don’t need your permission

To walk behind you.

I was born from your side

To be by your side.

If you can’t abide by

The beauty of nature,

Mine and yours,

Faults and vulnerabilities too,

Just remember, I got us into this.

Me, and that damn apple, but you

Damn well better believe I—

By the grace of God—

Will get us out.

I Am a Woman

 

Phoenix isn’t just a dog to me. She’s my baby. Maybe I wasn’t meant to have children. Or I was too scared or whatever. But, I am a woman. I’m carried by a feminine desire to nurture, care for and love. Phoenix is a sensitive soul in a black lab body. She teaches me how to love. When men push me away, Phoenix follows me like Ruth to Naomi: “Where you go, I go.” She gives me loyalty and devotion. I am her chosen one.

That’s what I want to be for a man. I’m nobody’s back-up anything. So buddy, you better back up. I don’t want to be anybody’s back-up wife, other woman, or just for fun.

Oh, I’m fun. And funny. And articulate. I can be stunningly beautiful — physically and spiritually.

I can touch you in places you didn’t even know existed.

I am a woman. A blessing. A gift.  If you don’t want to be open to that gift, not a problem. Move along, wish you well.

I’m not starving for affection, attention, or connection. Oh, I’ve walked down those roads; don’t get me wrong. I get that there are some things a man can do best.

However, not all. See, I know how to please myself. I’m perfectly capable of loving and nurturing myself. Anyone who thinks a woman can’t be happy without a man isn’t paying attention to all the women who are. Or has a dull grasp of the power of love from dogs, sisters, girlfriends and family, not to mention male friends. If you need back up, phone a friend.

By the way boys, men, if friendship isn’t your bottom line in hanging with me—as in honesty, intimacy and connection, which will require multiple conversations in addition to the romance and rocking sex, just keep walking because even if you send your best representative, there will come a day when I will walk away. So, why don’t you just save us both some time?

Gentlemen, I’m not 20 years old and you trying your plays, your ploys and your downright lies is downright insulting.

You know that women’s intuition exists.

I don’t have to prove it to you. I can see your false fronts as clearly as you can see a 14-year-old’s fibs. You standing there denying what I know to be true is as foolish as me telling my father in high school, after I drove into a pole and made a perfect indentation, “It must’ve been a hit and run.”

Just because I don’t say anything and you don’t think I have the proof I need doesn’t mean you got away with something. More like you let something special get away due to your disregard and disrespect.

Yeah, I get hurt, but I get up. I did not get up to get in the back of the line or to be your back-up girl. I got up to create a full and fulfilling life.

If you’re looking to be anything less than real, I’m real sorry, but you simply don’t qualify.

Maybe you could be my back-up boy or my boy toy, but while we’re playing and you think you’re the player, remember: I am a woman.