“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?