[Warning: the beginning of this post contains emotional content unrelated to our continuing love story. If you’re just here for Part the Third and have no wish to hear emotional rambling from Yours Truly, skip down to the part below the cartoon. If you missed the first part it is here and the second part is here.]
Before I get started on the next chapter of our love story, I just want to give all of you a giant thank you. Writing these stories is very cathartic and healing for me. However, the process is very bittersweet and draining. Spending time rediscovering these old memories and stories is joyous, but the fact that I can’t hold her or be held by her or – well, the loss becomes more present after I leave the writing bubble. Doing this takes a lot out of me. But the response and support you all have given me throughout has made a real and tangible difference.
When Julienne died, I no longer had a purpose. I don’t mean that I had purpose as someone who took care of her as a person with cancer; I had purpose for the first time in my life the day we got together. My purpose was to be with this amazing person, to support her and her visions and dreams while getting support from her, to see every day and share it with her. After she was gone, I had nothing. I wanted to be able to write this story, all of it. I wanted to collect all of her writings on cancer, published and unpublished, and put them together so another young person afflicted by it could find it twenty years from now and see that they aren’t alone and gain a tiny bit of comfort. I wanted to do those things. But I had no idea if I was capable of doing it in a way that was good enough for her, the way she deserves them to be.
Meeting Julienne was a test of sorts. Could I tell this story in such a way that wasn’t just depressing, or boring, or cloyingly syrupy sweet? In short, could I tell it in a way Julienne would have liked to read? I’m grateful that I can say that I think it is good enough (barely – it should be better, but perfection wouldn’t be good enough). Your support has convinced me that it is. This week, I rediscovered my purpose in life, and that is to keep moving through it by telling her story, our story. She always said that if a blog post or Instagram story helped one person – just one – going through something, then the effort was worth it. I hope this helps someone today, and tomorrow, and ten years from now, and forever. I’m going to finish this, the whole thing from its fairytale beginning to its fairytale ending, as openly and honestly as I can, with all of the beauty and ugliness of love and cancer and life that I can put forth.
Thank you for helping me find my purpose. I love you.
This is a continuation of the post Meeting Julienne. It will make more sense if you read that first, but I’m not your supervisor. Unless I am and you’re reading this, in which case I really hope you aren’t reading this during work. I’m going to write this as if you read the other one, so any confusion is all your own fault.
Some cliffhanger, huh?
I hope it was as unsatisfying and frustrating an end as it felt to both me and Julienne at the time. Now imagine me waiting a year to post the second part of the story.
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.
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.
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.
I meant to post this in July, but I never got around to it. It helps explain where I’ve been.
Note: This was very hard for me to write, because he deserves better than the words I can muster, and this was the best I could do. I would need ten years and ten thousand pages to properly articulate what he meant to me and all the multitudes of people who loved him, and even that would never be enough.
He was my buddy. Not just my buddy, though. He was my ever luvin’ buddy, and also everyone else’s. That’s how he signed every email I ever saw: “Your ever luvin’ buddy, John” or sometimes YELB if he was in a rush. I sometimes referred to him as MELB for that reason. That sticks with me a lot, because it’s one of the truest things ever said. John Corradin really was your ever luvin’ buddy. No matter how annoyed he might get, no matter what horrendous decision you made in a game, one thing never changed: he loved you, he’d always love you, and he’d forever be your buddy.
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 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.
Last week’s podcast about A Quiet Place got Jules and I thinking – what makes a great horror movie for us? What elements do we like to have, or need to not have? We answer those questions and talk about our favorite movies, just to prove that fact that I actually DO like things. Then we shit on the ones we really hate because honestly it’s a lot more fun to do that.
Well, I violated the edict and name of the new podcast on the second episode, since we had absolutely no drinks before or during the recording of this podcast. But it is the first-ever Timely Movie Review on my blog, so there’s that! Join Jules and me as we discuss A Quiet Place, the John Krasinski and Emily Blunt movie about people shushing each other. We recorded it as soon as we got home, so you can tell there are feelings about this critically-adored film (95 inexplicable percent on Rotten Tomatoes!).
By the way, we spoil the shit out of this movie. Listen if you don’t care about what happens, or if you’ve already seen it and realized that there’s no point in caring about what happens.