Dear RJ

Eight years ago today, I was in Loxahatchee, Florida. I was staying at my friend Jeannette’s “spare” house. She bought it to renovate and flip. My father, brother, cousin, and a family friend came over and were barbecuing the day before. They spent the night and Jeannette and I went Spanish dancing. You were in North Carolina. As usual, we spoke many times that day. Right before we went out, you called to ask if I would mind if you went to a party. I said, no, I don’t mind. I told you to be careful and that I loved you. I wished so many times I would have told you, “No, don’t go to that party”.

The next morning, my phone rang. It was your dad. Immediately, my heart sank. As I answered the phone, I ran outside to try and get better reception. I already “knew” what he was going to say. In my mind, I begged and pleaded to God, “please let him be in the hospital. Please let him be in jail”. I could live with that. Instead, I fell to my knees as your dad told me that you had passed away. My heart broke into so many pieces that I never imagined it would ever be whole again. My happy, fun, carefree spirit instantly left my body. I was a shell.

When you walked into my life, it was like breathing for the first time. As if all my life I was gasping for air and you were my oxygen. You showed me unconditional love and kindness. Your heart was so pure. You were so full of life. You were the other half of my soul. There are so many things that I am grateful to you for. You stood by my side no matter what was thrown at us. You held me and kept me safe in any and every way you could. You taught me so much about life and love. I loved you wholeheartedly. I will always love you.

Over the years, days have come and gone. I remember November 1st, the day we met. November 3rd, the day you asked me to be exclusive. November 16th, your birthday. December 16th, the day you proposed. Many days in between here and there… and April 1st, the day you died. We didn’t get to spend our lives together, but I did get to spend the rest of your life with you. We didn’t have years of marriage and memories, but we had a beautifully tragic love story. Regardless of how many times people would tell me that I would “get over” you and find someone new, there was nothing to get over. What we had was real and it was beautiful. I will always remember the moment I laid eyes on you when you walked through the doors of the Marina Cafe. I will always remember the first time that you told me that you loved me. I will always remember when you walked me to the beach and got down on one knee to ask me to spend our lives together. I will always remember you and your beautiful sunflower eyes, green with gold specs, that glimmered every time I looked into them.

This year, I have been more anxious than I have been for a while, as this dreaded April Fool’s Day approaches. You see, I am in love with someone new. He is completely different. Where you were the male version of me, he is my counterpart. He challenges me. He keeps me grounded at times when I could just drift away, being the free spirit that I am. He is the one and only person that I have been able to see a future with since you. I don’t know how things will turn out, but I know this… Right now, in this moment, he shows me love and he makes me happy. So why have I been anxious? Because I don’t know how to honor you while honoring him. It’s something you rarely hear anyone talk about, if ever. There is no manual or rule book for that. There are many books written about dealing with loss and grief and all of that, but there is nothing, that I know of, that tells you how to deal with loving someone new after you’ve lost the love of your life.

After you died, I watched a ton of movies. Many about death and loss and heartbreak. There was one movie I saw that had a quote I will always remember. The movie was Things We Lost In the Fire, with Halle Berry. The quote was, “I have a new life, so I have a new love of my life”. Back then it didn’t make much sense to me. I mean, you’re supposed to have one love of your life, right? That’s why it’s so special. It makes sense to me now. My life, while you were in it, is a lifetime ago. I have grown and changed and I have a brand new life. If you were alive, then you would be in it, but you’re not. If you were, I wouldn’t have him and I really do love him so much. I can’t imagine my life without him. I feel fortunate and torn. I don’t know how things will evolve with him, but I am hopeful. I don’t think God put him in my life by accident. He is a really good man. He drives me crazy sometimes… a lot, but he makes me smile. I feel safe in his arms. He brings out the best.. and sometimes the worst… of me, in the best ways. If that makes any kind of sense.

RJ, I want to thank you so incredibly much for loving me and for allowing me to love you till death do us part. You were such a blessing in my life. I know you kept me protected over the years. I want you to know that I am in good hands again. I am strong and I can and I have made it through so much, but I can walk on my own now. If I should fall, I will fall into his strong and loving arms. I am safe. I am protected. I trust him.  You can rest in peace my darling. I will always love you.

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