How I Found my Forgotten Bank Account with a Million Bucks.

“And further, the thing put to rest–whether it be a loved one, a dream, or a false way of seeing–becomes the fertilizer for the life about to form.” ~ Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

There’s no man in my life right now, but I’m embracing love. I’m letting it rise in my body like the sun from behind the trees.

I was in love with life before I welcomed my friend Kevin to claim me, calm me, and call me into sacred love. We uncovered our deeper desires as I neared 50, after dancing in and out of a decades-long friendship.

Then, he died. March 4, 2016. Unexpectedly. In his sleep.

Losing him put me on my knees in prayer and sorrow.

A few people said things like “Kevin wouldn’t want you to be sad.” My response was a basic F*ck off!

Kevin wanted me to own all my emotions. We had a no bullsh*t zone. That’s why our relationship transformed into something each of us had only dreamed of before.

Sometimes I try to minimize the extraordinariness, as if that could dim the pain.

Then, some random 6:00 am morning, I open the drawer of my bedside stand to the letters he wrote, even as there’s a chant in my head: Don’t do it!

Handwritten letters starting in 2014, as rare and special in the age of text and email as our crazy, sexy, cool love was.

The one letter I allow myself this morning reminds me of the truth I know and try to let go as much as I cling to it: ours was no ordinary love.

It tasted as real as shared morning coffee, felt fun as the seven trips we took together in under two years, and opened as passionately as his smooth, swooping handwriting curving across lined yellow pages.

What follow are Kevin’s words from only one of the dozens of letters:

“Being with you, loving with you, and talking with you takes my emotions to places they’ve never been before.” With. He was so with me.

“Listening to you read last night touched me in a place I didn’t know I had.”

“You and I are unique in this love affair.”

“My devotion to you will not waver. I love you deeply more each day.”

He never wavered. Our relationship didn’t falter. We had no warning. He was gone.

I’m left with a drawer of letters mirroring the magnificent gift we somehow manifested.

We embodied Kevin’s last unfulfilled mission on earth: to love and be loved without walls.

How blessed I was to be his last love. Being involved and intimate with Kevin Lentz welcomed a pivotal shift in my life.

It’s one thing to believe that kind of love exists, but experiencing it was like the quench of water when I hadn’t realized my thirst.

Losing him was like the sun going behind the clouds and refusing to come out.

However, Kevin didn’t define me. He refined me.

I know and accept myself more completely since being loved by this man who knew, accepted, respected, and appreciated me.

His death made me starved for his affections. And yet, he never really left, as he reminds me: “I’m here, Icey! I’m here!”

Icey. I miss getting drunk on sound of his deep, masculine voice calling me Ice Baby and revealing to me the secrets of his soul.

I don’t doubt his words in my head, but it’s not the same as physical presence. In that, I’ve been ghosted.

On the other hand, imagine you’re struggling to pay your bills and you find a forgotten bank account with a million bucks and your name on it.

Yeah, Kevin left me a full account of love. Not only that, I’m the woman he fell for.

On the weekend that transformed our friendship into my favorite love affair, I was engaged with life.

I was in love with my writing dream and pursuing the publishing of my book. I was drenched in gratitude for my dog and sister and sitting in Kevin’s friend Big Daddy’s boat, soaking in the sun while we floated on Lake St. Louis.

I leaned back, looked up at the sky, and shouted, “I’m so happy!”

Kevin said, “With what, Icey?”

“With this moment. With my life.”

Yes, I was rich in love before Kevin and I became Fire and Ice. Fire filled my bank account to overflowing and never drained it.

I’m rich! All the love I had and all the love he gave lives inside me. I’ve been left full.

In fact, sometimes I think I could burst with the love I feel for my beautiful 10-year-old Black Lab companion. She’s a special creature, as anyone who meets her can attest. We share a beyond-reason bond, even getting sick simultaneously.

Once, when I went with Kevin to Florida, the kid who was watching Phoenix called with some bad news. There was something wrong with her. I asked him what he thought it might be. He nailed it: “Master Separation Anxiety.”

Every morning I give Phoenix a dog massage and tell her she’s the best dog in the world. We go for walks in the woods daily and I take as many pictures of her as new parents do of their baby. She’s got me captivated. Still.

And my sister? Don’t even get me started! When I moved in with her “for the summer” five years ago, I thought I knew everything about her.

We were close, even more so due to holding each other up through the losses of our only sibling, our mother, and Jayne’s husband.

Now, I think what I knew of Jayne just a handful of years back was like what you read on the spine of a book compared to what’s inside. We’ve learned so much more about one another, not just the stories we hadn’t had time or felt ready to tell, but the day-to-day way we walk in the world.

Jayne has taught me how to share a home with someone in a healthy, committed, communicative relationship. You’d think I would’ve learned that after two marriages and five decades on this earth, but what I’d learned was how to manage parallel lives. It’s as similar and different as water and ice.

My sister lost her husband of 33 years. She modelled how to rise after your favorite person dies, although neither of us imagined I’d need the lesson so soon.

My sister consistently speaks her mind and feelings and encourages me to do the same, as if she and Kevin were given the same lesson plans.

She puts present time experiences front and center and makes plans for us to spend time together, the way Kevin did.

Whether it’s grabbing a beer at Pies & Pints, riding camels in Australia, going down water slides in Orlando, taking road trips to Michigan to visit her son and daughter-in-law or home to Ohio from our childhood state of New Mexico, Jayne isn’t just riding along; she’s with me.

The way some people sleep on road trips, too many people sleep through their relationships. They’re missing out because there’s always more to learn about a person.

Jayne Gerlach is my sister and she’s one of my best friends. I’d say I couldn’t love her more, but I’ve learned love keeps growing.

And life, just like Kevin said, “It just keeps getting better.”

Even through the pain, I’m falling in love again—with life. Mine.

What do you love most about your life?

 

So, I drank too much wine and slept with a stranger last night.

So, I drank too much wine and slept with a stranger last night.

“The journey back to ourselves begins with wanting something to change.” ~ Jennifer McLean, Spontaneous Transformation

Sometimes joy rushes in like a child, “Mommy, there’s a pony!” Other times, she rises like steam from a hot cup of coffee.

Joy crashed my party last night, the welcome addition to friends swapping so many stories a line formed behind the laughter.

How did these friends weave their way into my world?

We met in a writers’ group and respected each other’s critiques for years before we started sneaking away for beers as a threesome after group. That’s when the conversations started to get good.

Then, like children lined up for spankings, we each got ours.

Death crashed like waves washing away all that didn’t matter and taking those who did: my beloved, Jeff’s brother, Sharon’s sister. Just. Like. That.

We formed a bond. We talked. We cried. We wrote. We listened. We laid off.

We struggled with our individual losses branding our hearts with sorrow. We admitted we weren’t good company and flipped off the angel of death collectively.

Now, over 12 months have passed since our latest loss. Our gaping wounds are healing scars. Our every conversation isn’t laced with tears and wretched sadness.

So, I invited them over to my place last night. Sharon brought her husband. I fell for him as easily as my Black Lab leaned into his long legs. The combination of Clint Eastwood looks blessed by a liberal bias, and one-liners that had me forgetting life isn’t the funniest joke I’ve ever heard.

Last night, it was. Roy was a hunk of authenticity and as comfortable as sweats on Sunday morning. However, when I say I fell for him, I don’t mean romantically or that I’m attracted to him.

It’s just that I don’t always dig my friends’ mates as much as they do. Of course, that’s ok. But Roy? He’s in the club. No application required.

In fact, I think I spotted a bit of a bromance between he and Jeff, as they talked about sneaking off together alone to share their well-developed music tastes.

But, hey, Jeff left me the Eliane Elias CD. Probably trying to expand my musical palette, which I appreciate.

It seems where the three of us had been holding the umbrella for each other, Roy showed up with the sunshine.

Suddenly, as if we hadn’t been saddled under grief, we swung on the laughter of life.

We’d planned a casual get together. It turned into a real party where I drank too much wine and slept with a stranger.

Her name is Joy. She spent the night, stayed for coffee, is still hanging around, and even planning our life together. You should see the smirk on my face.

How Grief Lives in our Cells.

“To be broken is no reason to see all things as broken.” ~ Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

I live with my sister. We’re both in our 50s, which means we’re perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves and we value communicating and checking in with each other.

We’ve learned accidents do happen and people we love sometimes die.

We balance these not-fun facts with our inclination toward optimism.

Last night, Jayne went out with a friend, which is also a treat for me, as I relish my time alone. I used it well last night.

I skyped with an advanced editing class from my old alma mater (Metropolitan State University, Saint Paul, MN). The students asked me thought-provoking questions about my blogging process and purpose.

After the meeting, I took notes about what I learned from them and how I’ll implement some of their ideas.

Inspired by virtually being in the classroom, I dove back into a book assigned in my first politics class: American Democracy in Peril: Seven Challenges to America’s Future. How far-fetched that felt in 2002!

After reading, hunger overtook me. I noted the time: 10 pm. My sister would be walking in the door soon.

I made cauliflower rice with sautéed kale and cabbage and plopped in front of the TV.

Around 10:30, I texted my sis just to make sure she was ok. It’s not typical of her to stay out late on a “school night.”

On Scandal, the old Olivia Pope had returned—or had she? The President was going down—or was she?

My sister still hadn’t texted back. Again, not like her. She’s an IT manager and the constant bing of work messages is her norm. She’s the prompt texter backer.

I told myself she was fine, as fear felt its way into my body, the kind that says saying things are ok doesn’t make them so if they’re not.

After all, the day my boyfriend Kevin was due to arrive but didn’t, when worry hung in the air, my sister’s boyfriend said, “It’ll be ok.”

I even tried to convince myself Kevin would burst through the door, larger than life, wrap his big arms that felt like home around me, and spin some crazy story the way only he could do.

But, we were wrong. He would not be walking through my door or anyone else’s ever again. He would never tell another story with his Lentz-man vocabulary.

Everything was not alright.

My beloved died in his sleep of a heart attack. That cruel fact cannot be overridden by my mind.

The news, the truth, the day my life transformed lives in my cells. My body knows.

So, until I heard back from my sister, I suppressed the possibility of a reality I’ll never be ready for.

I didn’t even know where she went to dinner, some Mexican restaurant. She could be anywhere in the city.

God, please let her be safe.

How would I find her if she didn’t respond? I could find her friend on Facebook.

Would I call her son, the cop in Michigan to ask him what to do? Or the one here, who called the police for me and got them to search the freeways Kevin intended to drive on, and then his home where they found him in his bed?

I wouldn’t want to worry my nephews without reason, but what if my sister was in a situation where time was of the essence and could possibly save her life?

Silly, these thoughts, I tried to tell myself. I’m not a worry wart, but my mind played the sport while I simultaneously resisted the churning in my stomach.

Until Jayne’s text: “I’m sorry. I’m good. Coming home soon.”

Ah, the message of peace. I crawled into bed unscathed, tired and happy.

This morning, on her way to work, Jayne apologized again. I’ve done it to her, too. It’s no big deal.

But, then I cried because I can’t bear the thought of going through that again. And because I don’t have to.

Not now. All is well.

My sister admitted she’s been pierced by grief’s arrow threatening the worst repeating.
After all, her husband determined to beat cancer, but that day never arrived.

Like our brother who didn’t make his destination from California to Tucson and died on the side of a desert highway (car accident).

Still, I believe in the power of prayer and positive possibility.

Beautiful memories like falling in love, dancing under the stars, and splashing down water slides also dot the map of my life.

I refuse to live in the worry zone, but sometimes I take a trip there, making me grateful to return home to my current safe and sweet realty.

 

How Big Alice Helped Little Alice.

We are two Alices.

She arrived on earth before my time.
Not a lifetime ahead of me,
Just a generous stride.
I’m not her namesake, although we hold
The same first and middles: Alice Ann.
Our parents married, but we’re not sisters. Besides,
My mother and her father have passed now.
We’re just two Alices.
I barely knew her as a child, but
I always knew of her: Big Alice.
(Which made me Little Alice.)
She had a job before I had a boyfriend.
So, I brought my friends to Pizza Hut
Where she made me feel special,
Not small like I did in the world.
I heard about the harshness in hers,
The wrong turns and sharp curves.
In college, I partied in her home once
And saw something I wanted to be,
But couldn’t articulate.
Grown up? Married? Maybe.
Years later, escaping my first marriage,
I met Alice for lunch in Las Cruces.
She glowed in love with a man named Jonathan—the one
Destined to teach her the third time is a redeemed heart.
I held to that ideal after leaving my second husband,
Landing smoothly into sacred love with a man I call Fire.
Yes, I thought, we’re two Alices.
We get it right on the third round.
Then, Jonathan died. (Cancer)
I cried for Alice’s loss, imagining all she endured
To arrive not just on solid ground, but home,
With him. Theirs was gift before the grief.
Then, reality demanded I follow in her footsteps and
Face the death of my favorite person, the one
I journeyed to find. My Fire
Went out in a night
Without warning. (Heart attack)
Now, I know what Alice knows.
I know why she writes poetry
That nestles into my heart like the smells
Of the New Mexico desert after a rainstorm
Or the sourdough pancakes my mom used to make.
Alice opens for the light. She takes on solo road trips
And hikes with friends in The Land of Enchantment,
Where she lives. She lets the stars on black nights
Remind her of the luminous mystery beyond.
Alice blasts beauty into this world through her eyes,
While belting a laugh that can only be called big.
I smile more than a little at the thought of her,
And me, and the mirrors life offers.

How to Own Your Destiny.

“We have to stop waiting to wake up.” ~ Sarah Entrup  (Inspired by 30 Days of Meditation)

I am my destiny. When I came into my mother’s womb, I restored hope.

I radiate the fullest source of my being. I always was my destiny.

I float in a lavender bubble and sparkle from within whenever I let my light shine.

When I almost died as a baby, but didn’t, I showed the world resolve. Even the nurses were amazed; I had a remarkable destiny.

I learned to ride a bike, color, climb trees, play hide-n-seek, spend time alone, and write stories about this crazy, beautiful world. I was always my destiny.

I wrote stories about squirrels, stole money, and broke rules by ditching Camp Fire Girls. I got into trouble for living my destiny and being free—and I loved it!

Later, I attracted men and love and left them to be my destiny, not my karma or drama. I had sh*t to do!

In my last life, I learned the price of contorting myself and playing it safe. Now, I live into my destiny.

I’m health and nature and joy.

I’m bringing sexy back over and over as many times as I like.

It’s my destiny, like laughter, the woods, words, and even getting hurt. Those are my growth spurts!

I am my destiny. I’m not resistance or stuckness. I’m F*ck yes! and Hello, life!

I’m knocked down; get back up.

I’m: here’s what I learned when I was down there, in there, back there, over there. Now, I’m here.

What? You say I look different? I sound different? No, baby, I’m the same. I’ve always been my destiny.

I dance with my history and lineage. There are no limits, only gifts.

The opportunity to shine into the full line of me.

You thought I forgot who I was? Ha! I tricked you! Tricked myself, too!

But, I’m back to my destiny, twirling and swirling and smiling.

Through all my lifetimes, I’ve screamed delight flying on the swings with my sisters.

And lovers? Boy, have I been lucky!

This time, I experienced the legendary love I longed for in my last life—the one I gave up my life force for, back when I went dark.

I had to make a choice then with what I knew and the times I lived. That’s when and how I made a vow to my divine destiny.

The me that I kept hidden away behind the protocol of that time protects me now.

When I walk down yesterday’s path or slip into somebody else’s destiny, mine whispers, “Not that way, this way.” Suddenly, where I was once unsure, I’m certain.

I am my destiny, not my habits or quirks. That’s just personality.

I’m royalty walking as a commoner, kissing the sweet sunshine of freedom. Incog..neato!

I breathe deep. I do Downward Dog, Upward Dog, and Destiny Dog.

I’m my destiny the way my Black Lab Phoenix is the full loving expression of herself without apology, pretense, defense, or need to analyze.

I know people need love, light, laughter, and listening. Hello, destiny arriving! No problem. Pure joy. No inconvenience. And if it is, I’ll tell you to get the f*ck out.

My destiny is not to be mean—even to myself. I’m kind and cool and lean into joy.

I let sadness flow through me when it comes, knowing it’s part of my destiny to fall and rise and realize new insights about myself and life.

This is my nature: to be transformed, shaped, and radiate today’s femininity.

Beyond definition. The divine feminine ignites birth, braves motherhood, raises people, owns beauty, and beholds grace. She makes way for messy blood and medicinal hugs.

Feminine spirit is raw, as destined as the apple seed to the apple.

She respects and dances with, but will never bow down to masculine musculature.

Because she’s not supposed to! That’s not her destiny.

That’s not my destiny. I am my destiny. My destiny is change and transcendence.

My destiny is growth, wisdom, and light. If we have to light this world on fire with hope and spirit and compassion combined with sisterly and motherly love, so be it.

We are here. This is our destiny.

We are the firefighters of our time.

We are willing to burn for better things.

We’ve been here all along. Oh, you just noticed? Well, welcome to the party.

Destiny is always on time, even when she’s late!

I am my destiny. I am words and footsteps, connections and creations.

I’m poetry and art, travel and speaking, books and teaching.

I’m as loud as hawks squawking, quiet as sunshine, and vibrant as a song called Life.

Destiny is as undeniable as the color purple, as heavy as gravity, and as well-designed as a hummingbird.

She is me and I am nature.

I smell of lavender and sway my hips like a front porch swing. I sell you truth smoother than Tennessee whiskey and make you forget time before you knew me.

I am destiny. I arrive with the current of the ocean and all the treasures within. You can pollute me, but never contain me.

I am my destiny. I am fulfillment.

I’m stories told for generations and values held by women around the world.

I’m education, expertise, respect, and truth.

I shall not yield. I need not fight. Watch me rise.

I am destiny. Unstoppable.

I storm in like winter and blossom like spring—just when you thought I was in the ground.

I am life. I am death. I am peace and anger. I am hope and happiness.

I’m the first time I roared down a dirt road alone on a four-wheeler, dust everywhere and a grin so big I caught bugs in my teeth.

Nothing you say matters, but I hear it all. Clearly. So clearly now.

I am destiny. I always have been.

 

How to Bring Crazy, Sexy, Cool Back.

“Your heart is the conduit and radiator of your multidimensional self.” ~ Sarah Entrup

One moment I knew joy, light, laughter, and the peace of a clean house and freshly rearranged bedroom.

On Friday March 4, 2016, my sister and her boyfriend, my nephew and his wife, and I awaited my boyfriend’s arrival and anticipated a night out at The Melting Pot.

After his non-arrival and numerous calls completed with the final words of the officer explaining unresponsive meant dead, I shifted into a sh*t storm of sadness so deep it felt like living below the earth.

I twirled, swirled, fought, and finally gave into the mourning. The tears shocked me with shrieks and howls fit for an animal.

I was an animal in pain.

I lost my will to live as quickly as I learned of my beloved’s death.

I had to live for my sister, who’d experienced the death of her husband just four years prior. I couldn’t intentionally inflict this pain on anyone, but my choice would’ve been to go to sleep and never wake up, like my boyfriend Kevin did (heart attack in his sleep).

Often, people who’ve lost loved ones worry about them in the afterlife. That’s never been my concern. Not with my brother, mother, brother-in-law, or beloved.

I know they’re in a better place. Not la-la-la harps and angels, but beautiful beyond our imagination. I believe the afterlife multiplies everything a person loves.

Like my brother Bill can ski soft, deep powder, fly off jumps, and never break skis or bones the way he did on earth. I envision my mom sewing costumes for better-than-Broadway plays. Tom Gerlach, my brother-in-law owns all the cars he wants, and the 50s car shows he felt so fond of here are bland compared to the ones on the other side. As for Kevin Lentz? Rock-n-roll means musical ecstasy and star showers are light shows.

I also believe our loved ones go on with other purposes in the afterlife.

However, these beliefs only make me jealous and crave to be with them even more.

I gave way to the whirlwind of grief. I let it spin me, slap me, pound me. Over time, my grief transformed from a tornado I was caught in to an ocean in which I tried to swim.

I may have looked cute in my suit, but I always wore the grief. It engulfed me.

Until it didn’t. I’m not saying I’m over it, but maybe I’ve moved my blanket to the sand beside the ocean. I see both the power and beauty.

I respect grief’s strength and don’t delude myself that I can control it any more than I could fend off my loved ones’ deaths.

There will still be days when grief arises and surprises me like high tide takes down morning sand castles.

I’m on the beach of life, the land of the living. Storms exists. Affirmations don’t dismiss.

Yet, we each decide how we’ll engage our days on earth.

Looking down the beach at the crowds, I’m far from alone in what it’s taken to get here, back to appreciation and celebration of my own heartbeat.

I’m not referring to the positive platitudes we say to make ourselves feel better.

No, it’s magical metamorphosis, the beautiful beyond that calls us to crack out.

Before Kevin’s death, I studied self-development, personal growth, positive thinking, and pop psychology religiously. I was a believer.

After, it all felt fruitless.

The whole you can get anything you want if you just affirm, believe and work at it doesn’t apply to bringing back the dead (although I still try).

Life felt like a rigged game, as random as roulette.

I felt ripped off—after numerous relationships didn’t fit and then finding ourselves blessed with the deepest fulfillment either of us had known—our crazy, sexy, cool was cruelly snatched by sudden, unexpected death. WTF?!

Now, two years later, I’m reminded of a trip years ago, (before the time I went with Kevin). When visiting Wrightsville Beach, I was told the waves were strong: Watch out!

Nevertheless, my sister and I stood in waist high water chatting—safe with our feet solid on the sand.

In a blink, a big wave knocked us both on our butts. When I came up, my Maui Jim sunglasses were gone.

Just gone. Like Kevin.

Now, I’ve come to respect nature’s power and know I’ll lose both sunglasses and people in my life. Doesn’t mean I like it!

Maybe I’m a little wiser now. For years, I resisted getting another pair of expensive sunglasses because I despised the disappointment of loss. I went for dozens of pairs of cheap sunglasses.

Recently, a friend gave me some high-end super spectacles. Just putting them on gave me a case of coolitis. My vision is sharper. They fit like a favorite pair of jeans. Wearing them makes everything brighter.

Of course, I’m careful not to lose them.

Maybe I’ve done the same thing with love—been afraid to invest, or even believe in, having the high quality again.

That’s no way to live. Not for me.

When my road ends, I intend to be able to repeat my grandfather’s experience and words: “I’ve had a lot of loss, but I’ve had a lot of love.”

So, I’ve booked another trip to the beach. With or without Kevin, I’m bringing back my crazy, sexy, cool… self.

How I Came Full Circle with my Grief—and my Coffee.

“Once our bodies die, we are–I am–never far from you. I’m always around everyone I ever loved.” ~ R.A. Diane, Coffee with my Brother

Grief is a spiral staircase.

I’ve climbed higher than I once was.

I look back to my beloved’s sudden unexpected death in his sleep two years ago and see the staircase corkscrewed below the ground into a darkness I wish on no one.

But, in the depths is where he spoke to me from the beyond.

Impossible? Crazy? Sure, maybe, but it’s completely Kevin. He and I converse.

Fresh into my grief one morning, I go to grab my coffee, to drink out of the one striped cup with a chip on it that I took from his home in the aftermath.

He says, “Come on, Icey,” (his nickname for me), “Drink it black. Taste it. I want you to know how it tastes to me.”

I’ve been drinking coffee since third grade. I’m in my 50s. I know I don’t like black coffee.

But, in this instant, I’m talking to my insistent (just like when he was alive) dead boyfriend.

“Fine,” I say to appease him.

The black coffee settles on my tongue like his kiss. It’s appealing. New and old familiar flavor swirls inside my mouth and mind. I’m tasting it the way he did.

It’s different than black coffee I’ve tried dozens of times in the past. This time it’s smooth and hot and manly. I know why he drank it black. It tastes good.

From that day on, I drink my coffee black. This one thing is better than it’s ever been and offers me one less thing to worry about—the recurring panic of running out of some sort of cream to feed my morning addiction. I like the flavor and the freedom.

I know what black coffee tasted like in my boyfriend Kevin’s mouth, the way it now rolls into mine, the way we spooned in bed.

Over the following weeks and months, Kevin has me experiencing how things felt for him—in his body.

One Friday afternoon, I feel a physical quiver in my heart. It’s unnerving, attention getting, but not painful.

He tells me that’s what it felt like for him; it didn’t hurt; it was just a quiver; he didn’t know.

Cause of death: heart attack.

That Friday evening, I attempt to explain my strange beautiful experience to my sister.

After asking, “What time was that?” she proceeds to tell me at that same time, about 3:30, she felt a sharp pain in her heart and was short of breath to the point of fearing she was having a heart attack and considered calling 911.

My sister is the furthest one could be from a hypochondriac. She’s never called an ambulance for herself or even gone to the ER. I bet she can count on one hand the number of times she’s called in sick in four decades of employment.

Yet, on this day, shortly after Kevin’s death, she seriously thought she might be having a heart attack. Just when she decided yes, she should call an ambulance, the pain subsided.

Somehow, she knew the incident connected to Kevin, although neither of us know what it means. We just chalk it up to weird.

When someone you love is alive and healthy one day and gone the next, everything becomes surreal.

A few days later, I’m struck by intense pain in my heart, like being squeezed by someone’s fist. I fall to my knees on the floor in my kitchen.

“Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” I say through tears, “Jesus f*cking Christ!”

I feel Kevin’s presence, to which I say, “I thought you said it didn’t hurt!”

“It didn’t,” he says. “That’s what it felt like every time I hurt you. I’m sorry. I was trying to save you from the pain. But, I was saving me. It hurt me so much to hurt you. That’s why I didn’t tell you. I’m so sorry, Icey.”

I’d just found out he’d maintained a relationship with his ex-girlfriend after vowing to never speak to her again.

She and I connected after his death. Then, she revealed they’d stayed in contact. She said, “We were just friends. I promise you. He loved you so much, Alice.”

I knew it was true. I understood how their relationship had evolved into friendship. Now, I even get why he didn’t tell me.

I might have a small jealous streak that revealed itself as a walkaway woman before this woman understood the new boundaries.

After Kevin fell in love with me, it was only me.

Still. I’m furious that he lied—again! The one thing I hate the most. The reason for a few of our arguments. I despise being lied to!

Getting the truth from her is a gut punch. Mostly, I’m mad that my man is dead and I can’t even have an all-out argument with him!

So, Kevin lets me feel how much it hurt him when he hurt me. I physically experience what he says he experienced.

I believe him. It’s his truth.

Another day, I’m just walking down my street when I feel a pop and excruciating pain on my Achilles tendon, like a rubber band stretched too far, and snap! I sit down on the sidewalk in front of my neighbor’s house, grit my teeth and try not to cry. WTF?!

Again, Kevin is present. He says, “That’s how it felt. Remember I told you about that?”

It’s the agony he felt when, as a college basketball star (long before I knew him), he tore his Achilles tendon.

He says he wants me to know how it felt to be him.

I don’t need to feel everything he felt, but he needs me to know.

Sure, I want him to know how much I hurt in the wake of his death, but not to actually feel the soul-gripping intensity of my grief. Not that he feels pain where he is.

Besides, Kevin knows how wretched grief can be; we grew closer while he made his way through his after his mother passed in 2012.

In too quick a time, he’s with her and I’m drinking my coffee black out of one chipped cup, the kind we drank from side by side every morning I stayed with him in his home.

Why didn’t I take two cups?

Now, it’s going on two years since he’s been gone (“just in another room,” he says).

Full circle somehow, I no longer enjoy drinking my coffee black. It began to turn my teeth brown and I returned to my own taste buds.

So, was I fooling myself? No, I was gifted with knowing, feeling and experiencing what Kevin wanted me to.

I tasted black coffee the way my boyfriend did, just as delicious as my grief was wicked.

I’m reminded of a time I texted Kevin a sexy picture of me and he said, “Don’t do that, Icey. You’re wicked!” with a smile in his voice.

Higher on grief’s spiral staircase, more memories like that make me smile and I have fewer conversations with my deceased beloved.

Although I no longer drink my coffee black, I’ll never forget how good it tasted.