My Favorite Boy

In my 20 years of church ministry, I participated in a lot of funerals and delivered several eulogies. The experience made me realize a couple of things; one being I don’t want any kind of formal memorial service when my time comes. Another, which is the reason I don’t care to burden my family with one, is that funerals are for and about the living, not the dead.

My Best Friend of over 30 years and my Favorite Boy is dead. Three years ago, before either of us knew that we knew he was dying, he told me that if he went first, he wanted me to deliver his eulogy as the person who knows him best. One year ago, fully aware that we were only a matter of weeks away from the reality we’d somehow always sensed was coming, I told him I would have nothing to do with his funeral. I am a truth seeker and a truth teller, and the truth I know didn’t belong anywhere near his grieving family…at least those with the capacity to genuinely grieve. But I did promise him when the time was right, I would write and share the best story I could muster to convey ALL THE THINGS we were to each other over a lifetime.

Make no mistake, this is all about and for me – the one still living. My perceptions. My memories. They’re all I’ve got. My life experienced with My Favorite Boy is my own story to tell, and I choose to tell it now as a gift to myself and to our wide circle of friends who adored him.

My Favorite Boy and I were both born in March 1971 just a few miles apart in Los Angeles. It would be another 16 years before Fate/God/Reality/whatever would bring us together in Thousand Oaks, California. He had no memory of the day we met, but I certainly do. Now I should warn you before I begin, that there are a shit ton of boys to keep straight in this story. My Favorite Boy was a guy’s guy. The first time I saw him I was actually being introduced to his best friend who was about to become my first serious boyfriend. Even though the focus was on the boy I was being set up with, I vividly remember my first impression of his tall, swarthy side-kick, “Who is this 30-yr-old man and why is he in high school?”

With that first boyfriend with whom I had zero history or emotional connection, I would experience the hormone high of “first love” and subsequent heartbreak of being abruptly dumped only 2 months later. To that boy I want to say in all sincerity and love – THANK YOU. Thank you for recognizing that you and I weren’t a thing that should be a thing and having the courage to just say it and move on. It set the stage for everything to follow. Thank you for being our Favorite Boy’s cradle-to-grave friend. There’s a reason he chose you to be the one to break the news of his passing to his closest friends. When we came to the end I didn’t know how I was going to find out. I was cut off and blocked as soon as he went on hospice. When I received your unceremonious DM 3 days after he’d slipped away…it was perfection. It was so HIM to have everything meticulously planned out and in place to make sure everyone was taken care of in the context of supreme loyalty with you, his longest-time friend. He loved you and trusted you to do that for him. I love you. Thank you.

Even as a teenager, our Favorite Boy had a paternal, protective yet inclusive vibe about him. There are reasons for that. He was the first-born son and cousin within a very large and connected Armenian family. From birth, the mantle was placed on him as the leader and keeper of that connection for his generation. He carried that sense of responsibility to create and maintain a safe space to hold everyone and everything together through every aspect of his life; school/work, friendships…but ultimately, it was always family that would take precedence.

Loyalty was My Favorite Boy’s defining characteristic…to an absolute exploitable fault. Sincerity is mine. From the very beginning and all the way through to the very end, we were effortlessly good together. In the summer of ’87, after making sure the first one was cool with it, My Favorite Boy made his move to be my next boyfriend. I myself was cool with it, thinking we’d keep it casual. He was generous. He was fun. We talked and laughed easily and had spent enough time around each other by that point to actually be friends. It was everything but casual for him. He was instantly head-over-heels, first-love trippin the way I had been just a few months earlier over his best friend, but with a lot more substance. I recognized it right away and was incredibly conflicted. I loved how I felt and who I was with him but could not stand the thought of being dishonest about the discrepancy in our emotional states. Just a week or two into the beginning of our junior year, though I hated the thought of causing him even a fraction of the pain I’d felt in my first breakup, I knew I had to do it then versus stringing him along and making it worse later. The poor guy was DEVASTATED. By default, because I’m an empath, so was I – for him – and I poured myself out to comfort and reassure him over the breakup I’d initiated. And then we’d still hang out and do everything together and be fully invested in wanting the best for each other, whatever that was.

That was us. It’s how we started and how we were with each other for 34 years until death did us part. Our relationship and love for each other transcends time, space and labels. Whether we were off or on again romantically, the spiritual bond we shared was a constant and it was powerful and palpable and obvious to everyone who knew us both.

After the initial not-really-a-breakup, we did end up being very much on again for the bulk of our junior year of high school and had a reputation for being the golden couple. My parents adored him, his parents adored me, and we loved spending time with each other’s families. We were never possessive with each other and we encouraged each other to be generous and free in all our relationships. That didn’t stop others from being jealous of what we had together. We knew there were people with mad crushes on us both, but we played it cool and politely brushed it off. One boy in particular, the Lost Boy, refused to be brushed off, politely or otherwise. Prior to meeting him as my lab partner towards the end of that year, I’d never seen or heard of him as he wasn’t in the initial circle of friends that I’d come to know. Suddenly, he was all up in our social scene vying for a spot as my Favorite Boy’s best buddy. I really didn’t think much of it at the time.

Meanwhile, My Favorite Boy and I had grown deeply serious in our relationship. The summer before our senior year, my emotional discrepancy alarm was blaring again. This time I felt I was the one farther in and that My Favorite Boy was not on the same page. In a very vulnerable moment, I mustered up the courage to tell him I wanted everything – with him. He responded out of fear with condescending dismissiveness that crushed and humiliated me. But like the good girl I was conditioned to be, I didn’t express any of that to him. I mean, hell…good girls aren’t supposed to want what I asked for, so I got what I deserved, right? A few weeks after that, I broke up with him again, determined to make it stick and spend some time being truly single and figuring out myself for myself for a while. He was sweet about it and said he understood, though I know he expected I’d come back around and fall into his arms again. I did too.

And thus we began our senior year, no longer the golden couple. My Favorite Boy did give me the space and respect I’d asked for…sort of. We still hooked up on occasion. We still hung out every day and on weekends in our friend group, which somehow had begun to heavily feature the Lost Boy. The Lost Boy centered himself even more in the group when he started dating one of my closest friends, Beatrice. It didn’t matter if we weren’t officially a couple, there was someone who had an intense interest in being seen with us as one.

I think I hit my single stride for the whole month of January 1989. I chose to go to Senior Ball with My Favorite Boy as my best friend. We had an absolute blast without hooking up. I felt so connected to myself and my friends in that sliver of time and space. We had a ski trip planned a couple weeks later. We were just a few months away from graduation and launching into freedom and adulthood. Life was brimming with possibilities and excitement about the future for all of us.

And then we went on that fucking ski trip. I’ve fantasized way too many times over the years how life could have been different for us all if I’d never gone. I won’t go into detail about what happened for fear of giving the Lost Boy too much attention. But to sum up, I ruined his plans by daring to assert myself in what I did and did not want, which to the narcissist is the ultimate insult for which you will be made to pay. It’ll take a book to describe how he did it and I’m not going to attempt it now, but just a couple weeks later on my 18th birthday, a day My Favorite Boy and I were definitely not together and barely speaking, the Lost Boy struck me hard right under everyone’s noses. Suddenly, I was dating his newest bestest friend, a boy I had just barely met before the ski trip, a boy I never wanted to be with. That in and of itself was not the end of the world. It sucked. It wasn’t fair to him. It wasn’t honest. We had no history or substance. It was a shitty way to end the last months of my senior year of high school, but I figured it was easier to just wait until we all got off to college to break it off with him to avoid any further conflict.

I never got the chance. Just a week before Thanksgiving break when I had planned to break up with him, the boy I never wanted to be with fell asleep at the wheel and died on the way back to his college after surprising me with an uninvited visit to see me at mine.

We all came together two nights later at a friends house. I don’t remember much other than I desperately didn’t want to be there. I was sitting on the floor, near comatose, unable to speak, unable to move…until the Lost Boy got right up in my face and started making lame jokes trying to get me to smile. At that point, I blacked out. I have no memory of it, but My Favorite Boy ended up carrying me out of there a screaming hysterical mess. The next thing I remember I was in my living room with my parents standing over me looking terrified as I sobbed over and over, “I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to be alone.”; at which point My Favorite Boy scooped me up again and put me to bed saying, “You won’t be. I’ll stay right here with you all night.” And that he did on the floor next to me. My mom brought him a blanket and a pillow. It would be the only night we ever slept in the same room. There were multiple opportunities before and after, as recently as 3 years ago, but we never took them.

Immediately after the funeral and Thanksgiving break, we all scattered back out to our respective colleges as if nothing had happened. At least that’s how it felt from my perspective. It was like a magic eraser had wiped everything clean. I felt…great. The next few months of college were the most fun and free of my life. On my 19th birthday, My Favorite Boy made the trip out to San Diego to spend the day with me. I showed him around campus. We sat on the beach and talked then went to Horton Plaza to see a movie, Driving Miss Daisy. There’s a scene at the end where Hoke visits Miss Daisy in her nursing home and tenderly assists her in eating her Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. We had the theater to ourselves as the movie had been out for a while, and it was there blubbering and holding each other that we made the pumpkin pie promise – that we would be there and take care of each other always to the very end, and that whoever went first would never have to fear going alone.

This was just a few weeks before the next tag team of Lost Boys came out of nowhere for the kill, irresistibly drawn by the trauma and vulnerability I was hemorrhaging. By the next Thanksgiving I was engaged, having been proposed to on the one-year anniversary of my previous boyfriend’s death. I secretly got married in Vegas on my 20th birthday, 6 months before the “official” wedding.

From there, it took me two years of chaos and misery to reach the point of breaking bad when I finally figured out my husband was a wannabe Walter White. All my family had moved out of state and had no idea of the trouble I was in and I was too ashamed to tell them. My few college friends had graduated and moved away. I was completely isolated. There was only one person I ever considered calling for help. I knew if I did, My Favorite Boy would drop everything to come scoop me up and carry me out of there the same day. He ended up calling me first to share his own news. He’d met a girl and was in love. I could hear it in his voice that he was, and I was so happy for him. There was no way I was going to risk sabotaging his relationship and his happiness, so I kept my troubles to myself and told no one.

And then came the next magic eraser. My husband knew he’d broken me beyond all use and that I was a threat of exposure and failure if I left him, so in true narcissist form, he did a 180 pivot to completely reinvent himself as a God Bro in his hometown, where to this day he is accepted as a god and exempt from all accountability. It was there that he would “give me children” and I exhausted myself being the ultimate good mommy to the whole community, feeling responsible to meet everyone’s dysfunctional emotional and spiritual needs. Meanwhile, my husband jacked off and played rock star every Sunday while neglecting and exploiting me and the kids in every way, all while being hailed as the golden ministry family with such beautiful children.

Why, you may ask, am I telling the backstory to my shit show of a marriage and what that has to do with our Favorite Boy? My story is his story. We were twin flames trapped in separate dumpster fires. We spent the better part of 20 years trying to lift each other out to freedom and safety. I barely escaped mine only to have to watch him die in his.

After we were both married with kids we kept in touch with birthday calls and Christmas letters. In the early years, we tried getting our young families together on a semi-regular basis, but the spouses had a talent for making things deliberately uncomfortable and frustrating, so we stopped trying. To say My Favorite Boy worked a lot and traveled a lot is a massive understatement. Once or twice a year he’d pop in for a quick visit if he was in town, always making sure I knew it would go easier for him if no one back home knew about it. Every time, he poured his heart out to me about how desperately lonely and miserable he was behind the perfect family fa├žade.

Then dawned the age of social media and Facebook that blew my world wide open. I was very active on it as an introvert writer’s playground. As our high school friends were all joining, My Favorite Boy briefly played with us in the beginning. Facebook was a completely different animal then, but at the time people were posting and tagging friends on a questionnaire of likes, dislikes, life firsts and such. He did a few with several inside jokes and jabs just for me. He got serious at one point answering questions about his daily life and thoughts on his future. He was worried about his health, physical and mental, and he was struggling. I could read between the lines and feel his pain and despair as if it were my own…because it was.

Thirteen years ago, sitting at my computer I had a complete emotional meltdown having for the first time allowed myself to entertain the unthinkable…

What would I do if My Favorite Boy died? How could there even be a life that made sense without him in it? How could I function, live, breathe if I lost the connection that he was to my own soul? We would later come to see it as an act of mercy, beginning to prepare us for the coming reality. I was going to have to be the one to feed him the pumpkin pie. We made the most of any time we had together despite every obstacle, and there were many.

His online activity, even his phone calls, texting and emails were strictly monitored and policed. He’d caught hell for even that much engagement with his own friends. He didn’t post anything ever again after that, but he did use Facebook to keep close tabs on me as my horror story unfolded out loud for everyone to see. By 2015, he could read between the lines to understand everything that was going on, things I couldn’t yet admit to myself because it wasn’t safe to do so. On his last visit with me in Visalia we had a precious few moments alone. He asked me point blank, “Jen, are you OK? Do you need help? Do you need MY help?” Before I could figure out how to answer, my husband walked in the door and we all went out to dinner.

Just a few months later, my world blew up. The next two years were consumed with the fight for my life and the lives of my children. There is no safe or civil way to leave a narcissist, especially if children are involved. It is savage warfare in which you have to be prepared to do anything and lose everything in order to reclaim yourself. During that time I didn’t have much contact with My Favorite Boy. He knew I had the support of my family and that all he could do was stand by as I did what I had to do.

By the start of 2018, I had won my freedom but was reeling from the trauma, frozen and shell shocked with no idea how to move or begin to make a new life for myself as I’d never had one. Everything had been eviscerated to dust and ashes out of which I felt powerless to rise on my own. The spark that would ignite the phoenix was the birthday phone call from My Favorite Boy. Though we were physically 2000 miles apart, our spiritual connection and oneness was stronger than ever. Something he said made me belly laugh, something I hadn’t done in years, yet in talking to him for 5 minutes was free and effortless. Upon hearing me laugh, he started to choke up, “There you are, Jen. There you are. It’s been so long. I’ve missed you so much.” Those words were like a defibrillator shocking me back to life. I had to go back 30 years to before I lost myself to the only person who ever really knew and truly loved ME to remember who I AM and how to BE her again.

It was the exact same for him as he confided in me the true extent of his misery. He had been having anxiety and depressive episodes for years that he’d powered through but he was ceasing to be able to cope, especially when traveling for work alone. After decades of experiencing neglect and contempt in his own home and self-medicating through food and overwork, he was severely overweight and diabetic and having active suicidal ideations. He had been lost to himself in the same way I had for the same reasons and for as many years, although he’d been acutely aware of his own and feeling helpless to do anything about it for much longer. He told me then that he felt like he was dying, to which I wholeheartedly agreed he was. I then predicted with 100% accuracy, down to the last detail, how it would play out if he died while still in captivity.

It was at that point in the conversation that my Favorite Boy insisted that he wanted to see me. He knew I had a trip planned to the west coast to meet up with my online support group. He offered to extend my trip on the back end to meet him where he’d be on business. Now that I was suddenly free and clear from my abusive marriage, it had given him reason to hope for something different; reason to fight for himself and the love and respect as a man for which he had been starved in the shadows for decades. We had no agenda for what we would or wouldn’t do or where it would lead, we both just KNEW we had to see each other face to face and figure it out together, and we went big. The two least likely people on the planet to engage in anything that would even hint at infidelity, secretly hooked up in Vegas. 27 years earlier I’d risked and lost it all in that place. This time, I had nothing to lose, but my Favorite Boy stood to lose everything if he couldn’t get clear on what he wanted for himself. I was determined to help him do that, whether or not it meant a future with me.

I saw him first as I descended the escalator in the Vegas airport. He was holding flowers and looking around nervously. As soon as he caught sight of me, he burst into tears, and as I reached him, scooped me up into a massive bear hug, sobbing “There you are! God, I’ve missed you so much!” From there I was whisked away for 3 days of pampering in a penthouse suite at the Mirage. True to form, he’d planned out every detail, and went all out as his hopeless romantic gentleman self that had been denied free expression for so long. Together alone, we were freely and fully ourselves. We did and said ALL THE THINGS to confirm what was real between us without violating either of our integrities and nothing we couldn’t walk away from. After 3 days of cocooning together in that desert oasis, we emerged and flew our separate ways.

There would be no magic eraser this time. No toxic self-preserving delusions, romantic or otherwise. There was only Reality and whatever was best for our respective lives and the lives of our children. My Favorite Boy had to save himself for himself apart from me. I was fully committed to waiting for him to join me in freedom, but he would only truly be free if he figured out his own path in his own time.

Another year would pass before we had the opportunity to see each other again for our 30th high school reunion. Once again, we had 3 days and this time we were going to have to share it with a lot of people, so I set a firm agenda. I needed to make sure everything got said and done so that by the end of the trip we’d have a definitive plan for which way we were going with our lives. I was also determined to make peace with myself and my history of boys while there in the town where the history was made.

Day one began by being enveloped in another sob-fueled embrace in the lobby of my hotel. I’d asked him to give me 2 hours alone to go over our history together from my perspective. I’d done a furious amount of writing in the weeks leading up to the reunion to process and make sure ALL THE THINGS got expressed, especially my experience with the Lost Boy and the boyfriend who died, most of which My Favorite Boy didn’t know.

Day two was the day of the reunion. My Favorite Boy and I met that morning together with Beatrice to visit the parents of my boyfriend who had died, as we had for every previous reunion when we were in town. Favorite Boy brought flowers for the mom, because of course he did. While we were there visiting in what I knew would be the last time for me, Lost Boy texted Favorite Boy to say he was going to be a no show because it was just “too hard for him” emotionally.

Then it was time for the reunion itself. First priority for me was to get Lost Boy out of the way so I could enjoy myself. There was a cordial hello and even a hug, which I gave sincerely, while Favorite Boy hovered a few feet away monitoring my reaction and ready to step in if needed. Lost Boy, Beatrice and I chatted for all of 2 minutes before the conversation became all about him. I simply smiled and walked away without another word to him the rest of the night and forever, at perfect peace within myself.

It was a beautiful night with so many beautiful friends, many of whom I trust are joining me here in eulogy for our Favorite Boy. Those of us with the capacity to be humbled had been around long enough for life to kick most of the shit and pride out of us, leaving more space for compassion and connection. It was Senior Ball all over again for me, full to bursting with love and appreciation for my friends and excitement about the future. As we were all so openly affectionate, I don’t think anyone questioned how close My Favorite Boy and I held each other as we danced to our class theme song, Forever Young by Alphaville. Anyone who saw us witnessed a sacred moment.

The third day would our last together in this life, and we acted like we knew it was. First stop was the cemetery, which we agreed would be the last time for both of us. We talked about how many visits we’d paid to this grave over the years and how uncomforting it had always been. I placed some yellow roses and knelt down and prayed a prayer of forgiveness for us all, “Father, forgive us as we don’t know what the hell we’re doing.”

On the drive over Kanan Dume Rd to Malibu, we listened to a custom playlist I’d made and we talked…mostly about death. He wasn’t afraid of it for himself at all. As earth-shattering as my boyfriend’s death had been at 18, the more time passed and the older we all got, he became less the tragic figure and more the lucky one. My Favorite Boy admitted he didn’t feel sorry for him. His parents, certainly, but not the boy himself. In another 50 years, no matter how much any of us suffer, none of it will matter. Another 100 years, there will be no one who directly remembers us. All that matters for anyone is the here-and-now and how we treat the living. Once we slip out of time and space and this earth suit…nothing matters.

We made it to Zuma Beach and sat for an hour or two watching the waves and talking about our family history, mostly our relationship with our parents. I also mentioned how epically my milestone birthdays had sucked and vowed we’d have our shit together by our 50th and do it up right. Then it was on to my hotel by the airport where we had one last hour alone before he had to leave to get home. In that last hour, I made my final pitch for what a life together could look like. We danced one last time, after which he told me to close my eyes, and…we stopped talking. Even so, we didn’t do anything we couldn’t walk away from, and it was time for him to walk away.

We had agreed not to contact each other in any way for the next 6 months while he implemented the necessary changes in his life to free himself while prioritizing the wellbeing of his children. I would wait until the next birthday call for an update and we would reconnect from there. My brain had every reason to believe I would see him again, and when I did it would be in euphoric consummation of our life going forward together. But my Spirit knew the Reality. As My Favorite Boy turned to leave, it was all I could do to stifle a wail of grief that welled up in me as he disappeared out the door. Everything in me felt like I was saying goodbye forever.

It was September 2019 and Reality was at the doorstep and coming for us all. COVID-19 was already among us, though not yet detected or recognized…as was his cancer. Six months later, we were all in lockdown and My Favorite Boy was exhibiting the classic symptoms of his illness. He suspected right away that it was cancer and even what kind, but he would have no support or concern at home and was dismissed by his doctors. He wouldn’t get an official diagnosis until November, and by then the cancer was stage IV and a certain death sentence. The prognosis was 6 months to a year with aggressive chemotherapy and only 2 months with no intervention.

He waited until December to tell me. November already held enough trauma history. It also gave him time to organize and get his affairs in order so that everyone and everything was taken care of. It’s what he did best. By the time he was ready to tell me, the chemo schedule was all set. Family pictures were being taken, including the one of himself that he knew would be used at his memorial service, and all focus was on spending as normal as possible Christmas with his kids.

My Favorite Boy broke the news I already knew but now had to acknowledge and feel through a Facebook private message and set up a FaceTime call with me the next day. He looked…great. He found comfort and strength in immersing himself in the logistics of the situation and his role as provider for his family. Now the question was, what did he need from me in this Reality? His answer, “I need you to be strong, Jen. You’re all I’ve got for emotional support and the only one who knows…everything.” And so we set up a schedule to talk every two weeks when he wouldn’t be feeling the worst of the chemo.

I asked My Favorite Boy what he feared most about the process of dying. Without hesitation he said he feared being a burden to his family. One of the hallmarks of narcissistic abuse is being conditioned to deny and dismiss your own needs and desires by being punished for expressing them. It’s a dynamic with which I’m intimately familiar. My Favorite Boy believed he himself was a failure and a burden if he couldn’t do everything for his loved ones or was dependent on them to do anything for him. My first task as spiritual advisor and death doula was to cut straight through that bullshit, and I wasn’t gentle.

A burden implies a weight that can be placed or lifted. Aggressive terminal cancer was not a burden. It was a catastrophic landslide. I used my best colorful words to persuade him to name and cast off the real burdens that were never his to carry. I took an even stronger tone based on my own experience urging him to identify whatever unhealthy burdens he was responsible for placing on his children and to use whatever time he had left focused on helping to unburden them.

I had no more advice to offer from that point on, only my presence and a listening ear as he wanted and needed. I didn’t press him for information and let him reserve his energy for whatever he needed me to know. March 2021 was a low point for me. I pulled away from social media for several weeks to silently just get through my 50th birthday. The last birthday phone call from My Favorite Boy was excruciating for us both, but after passing that marker we’d been dreading, we found it easier to lighten up. As he adjusted and responded to his treatment regimen, we were becoming progressively more unburdened in ourselves and with each other. He felt well enough between chemo rounds to travel to be with his mother for Mother’s Day last year. Staying the night alone in a hotel was a familiar and welcome respite where he felt like himself again, free for just a few hours from the cancer or anyone else dictating his every move.

My Favorite Boy was a bit vain and didn’t like to talk or be seen when he was feeling and looking rough. He’d only talk to me if he had enough energy to put on a strong game face and voice. Even then, he’d only ever FaceTime with me when he was in his car and out of the house. There were reasons for that, none of them about us having anything to hide or be ashamed of. It was next to impossible to be allowed access to him inside that house that wasn’t strictly monitored and censored, but I found a way. Upon him finishing the last round of chemo, I sent him what looked from the outside to be a lovely card. In reality, it was dirty, dirty payback on a 30-yr-old inside practical joke. I won.

The next phone call would be our last, and though we didn’t know it, once again, we acted like we did. We laughed like drunk fools over the gift I’d managed to get to him. We could not stop giggling until we started crying. This time it was my turn, “There you are. There’s My Favorite Boy. I’ve missed you so much. I will love you forever.” We talked very briefly about his plans for a memorial service. He told me he intended for it to be small with only a few hand-picked friends and select family and that there would be a separate private Armenian family gathering. We ended the call with him promising that he’d make a way for me to come see him when it looked like he was nearing hospice.

He sent me a text the day of our next scheduled call saying he was too weak to talk and the doctors were stopping all treatment and setting up hospice. Right up to that point I’d had the freedom and flexibility to hop on a plane on a day’s notice and be there within 24 hours. But this was happening the week of my kids’ going back to school full time post COVID and I couldn’t leave them. I answered his text, telling him to check his Facebook private messages when he had the emotional bandwidth to do so and not to expend any more precious energy towards me.

It was through Facebook that I said my final goodbye and released him to do what he had to do. I walked him as far as I could to the door. The time had come for him to step through on his own. I’d been grieving his loss in some form for over 20 years, and now that it was here, I felt at total peace. My Favorite Boy was going to leave his suffering and take his place among the lucky ones where none of it matters.

I saw the notification that he or someone had read the message. Two days later I was blocked. I had no idea how I was going to find out when and how he died, though I felt it when he did…or rather, I noticed for the first time I couldn’t feel him.

I’ve spent many hours over the past few months talking and weeping and even laughing with my Favorite Boy’s mother. She wasn’t at his memorial service either for the same reasons I was not. We both know the full extent of what he suffered and why. The truth we know didn’t belong anywhere near the narrative that needed to be presented at that memorial service.

I last checked in with her on My Favorite Boy’s birthday, our first without him. She still doesn’t know what was done with her son’s ashes. Her emails and texts have been ignored. We don’t know if his wishes have been honored that there be no shrine or urn or marker of any kind. And you know what? None of it matters. He’s forever alive in the story he created in his time and space with the choices he made and in how he treated the living. He entrusted me to tell his story. As I’ve labored in the last few weeks to do it, I can feel him again…and he’s laughing. Our connection is as Real as it ever was, more powerful than it’s ever been. I am empowered and free to LIVE and make the most of every moment and every relationship, because – here – now – it ALL matters.

It is finished. Into your hands I commit his spirit.

Dear Me

Dear Me,

You are loved. You are wanted. You matter simply because you ARE. Beyond just existing, you are a one-of-a-kind, never-before-seen and never-again-to-be-repeated-in-all-of-space-and-time dynamic miracle, endowed with immeasurable power and worth.

 

Dear Toddler/Early Childhood Me:

You are not inherently whiny and lazy because you’re not in the mood for an adult hike and are being coaxed up the next hill with Oreos…you are a very young CHILD. You don’t have a memory of this, but it’s pretty much the only one anyone else seems to remember of you at this stage, other than you cried a whole lot when you were an infant because of chronic ear infections and were a late walker.

Child, hear me now – YOU are not lazy. Your feelings are valid. You are allowed to honestly express what you like and do not like, want and do not want without judgment. You are allowed your honest emotions and their free expression.

Dear Early School-Age Me: 

Oh sweet girl, you belong wherever you go, whatever you do. You’ve already experienced the greatest defining, transcendent, mystical moment of belonging all by yourself, wholly independent of religious indoctrination…just you and Whatever God There Is who made Themselves real to you. I know you already feel like the outsider trying to figure out the magic formula to make people like you and accept you as one of the herd. Sweetie, you already belong. You always have. You always will. Hang in there, lovely girl. Whether it be those closest to you or the entire herd of thousands that cannot see it, it doesn’t affect your inherent worth. This is going to be the roughest part of the road throughout your life. I’m so very proud of you every step of the way.

You are allowed to fail. You absolutely MUST fail. You are going to be as careful as you know how to be on the ice for the first time and you are going to fall anyway. Even when those closest to you in authority stand over you in condemnation as you lie there in pain with the wind knocked out of you, criticizing you for not being careful enough…Girl, there is NO shame in falling. You will get back up despite being shamed and denied comfort. You are 7 and you are a badass. You’re also going to survive a terrifying hospitalization for respiratory issues around this time. Did I mention you are a badass?

You are also WICKED smart. You absolutely don’t think so and you’re going to spend these significant years and many more to come figuring out how to conform to arbitrary standards as “proof” of your abilities…but darlin’ you have no idea how brilliant and extraordinary you are. There’s a reason you are struggling to meet the arbitrary standard. You are so much more.  How I wish you could see it.

Dear Middle School Me: 

Don’t rush it! Adulthood and all its excruciating disappointments will come soon enough and cloud enormous chunks of your life…but not yet, not You. Don’t be so eager to experience things for which you will never be ready. Embrace who you are NOW…a lovely, sweet dork. Oh how I wish I could go back and be you again, before tragedy and cynicism took their toll. You are so sweet. So naive. So safe. You have no idea how safe. Savor these years, sweet girl. You can’t wait to get through them, but you will one day look back on the you that you now despise with great fondness.

Dear Teen Me: 

Oh honey, it’s a good thing you don’t yet understand how much power you wield. Though you’ve managed to clean it up on the outside, you are still very much a clueless sweet dork at heart. Without that, you could do some serious damage to both yourself and more than a few boys. As it is, there will be damage to both, but you know what? You have nothing – repeat NOTHING – to regret or reason to feel shame. Do you hear me? Nothing. You are not stupid and weak because a boy broke your heart. Most importantly, YOU are not responsible for the feelings or actions of any boy who shows interest in you, and your self worth is NOT tied up in his actions towards you, good or bad or even devastatingly tragic. I need you to understand this now.

You’ve already made a calculated decision as to the type of guidance and support you’ll give your future children based on your experiences. If only you’d see yourself worthy of that wisdom and grace even decades later. You are not a manipulative slut for being a sexual being. You are no man’s self-effacing whore. No, Woman, you most definitely are not.

Dear Early 20s Me: 

If I could choose any past me to visit, it would be you. I ache to physically hold and console you. You are drowning in isolation, disappointment and shame, unable to comprehend how you descended into such chaos, betrayal and devastation. You can’t figure out what you are being punished for, what you did to deserve this. Sweet, sweet, wonderful, faithful, girl…I see you. I see you. I see you. More importantly, They see you. Your salvation is near. Hold on. I’m with you there now. Truly.

Dear Mid 20s Me:

See? I told you! Oh, these are most glorious days! Such relief. Such fun. Such fulfillment. You totally think you’ve got life figured out at this point and have arrived. You totally haven’t, but you are in a crucial restorative time and are savoring every bit and taking nothing for granted. You were made for this and you know it. You’ve never felt closer to your God and your family. Sigh…enjoy this magical oasis, Mama. These are beautiful days and your miracle children will rise up and call you blessed. I’m praying for echos, ripples of you to cycle back through again. But you, now? Soak up every second. It is truly your salvation.

Dear 30-Something Me:

Holy shit. You are giving up nirvana, totally convinced you are doing the “right” and honorable thing. Full time ministry. I mean, if you follow all the rules God will bless you, right? BAM! Crohn’s disease. A church “family” whose love is most conditional. You double down on being the good, compliant girl and you are literally sick and lonelier than ever. Oh dear…what was that about being no one’s compliant whore? Lovely Woman, again, no regrets for you. You ARE doing all you know to do and with all the integrity you can muster. Don’t beat yourself up for these years or declare them wasted. They are anything but.

Dear First-Half of 40-Something Me: 

You think you’ve already endured the hardest things you’d ever have to face. Nope, nope, nope, nope. You are finding out just how strong you are. You are taking the biggest risk of your life and all your greatest fears and weaknesses are being challenged..and you know it is right and good…that it is God. You are simply holding on in the hope it won’t always feel like death and terror. I am so FUCKING proud of you. *This* is what everything has been leading up to your entire life. Every bit of your dorkiness, sincerity, smarts and tenacity is being put into play and utilized.

Dear Present Me: 

You amazing, beautiful, woman…I love you beyond words and you are worth everything. Look at you getting out of bed and keeping young humans alive and thriving day after day even though you are scared shitless and feel more lost and lonely than ever before in your 45 years of breathing, living to witness your oldest as adults beginning their own terrifying, ridiculous journey. What a fabulous gift, knowing more of what you don’t know than at any point prior! Everything you thought you knew and were taught to depend on has vanished. You don’t get any more of a clean slate than this. You are all of every girl you’ve ever been and more. You are more. 

You are more.

You are more.

You are more.

You are infinitely more.

Dear Future Me: 

You are loved. You are wanted. You matter simply because you ARE. Beyond just existing, you are a one-of-a-kind, never-before-seen and never-again-to-be-repeated dynamic miracle, endowed with immeasurable power and worth. See ya tomorrow.