You died last night. You were only 43. We met when we were younger. I was in my 40s. You said you were in your 30s. We were both at the edges of those still youthful but actual adult decades. I was leaving mine. You were just entering yours yet we found a place, a safe haven in between ages to meet.

You told me that you were in town to help your cousin run his business. Your fathers were brothers; you were their only sons. Your mutual grandfather had stumbled out into the road after drinking too much and had been hit and killed instantly by a fast moving, log- laden semi, in a one-horse mountain town.

We met at an audition for the local community theater in another one-horse town, in another Western state. We were cast as a married couple. We sang off-key duets and danced and play acted our parts. When the play was over and our characters took their final curtain call, we kept on acting married.

For three years we kept at it. I knew it was not going to be a forever kind of deal. You wanted children and my last child was graduating from High School that June. I was not going to stop you from being a parent. Being a parent had been, and still is, one of the greatest joys of my life. I loved you enough to urge you to leave me, find another woman to marry and start the family you desired and deserved.

You did leave. Your last words to me echo in my memory’s heart like it was yesterday. It was a decade ago. You did marry and have a family. And then you got sick. You died last night surrounded by your wife and very young children, your parents, your sister and your cousin; completely surrounded by love.

When we were together, we loved each other. I loved you more than my words can express or explain.

Those days with you are a treasured gift. My memories of our life together will continue to be a safe haven, and there, I can always return, to remember the gift of being completely surrounded by love.

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