First and Last

There we are my love.

So young.

My seventeenth birthday, April 16, 1981. You were fifteen. The first time I celebrated my birthday with you, Wen, my love.

My heart breaks looking at that photo. You loved me back then. I loved you, too, but not in a romantic way. We were best friends, spending hours on the phone talking after school. Not even three months later I had to return to Germany, my time as an exchange student up. That was the first time I had to say goodbye to you. We had to say goodbye to each other. I remember the countless tears we shed at the airport. I remember how devastated I was. How devastated you were. Both our hearts broken. We promised to keep in touch and for a while we did. Then life got in the way.

It wasn’t until spring 2004 that we’d find back to each other and finally be together again. And again, we celebrated my birthday. This time in Germany. This time my fortieth. And this time both of us so much in love with the other. Full of love. This time you had to return to the U.S. Both of us devastated, heartbroken, and in way too many tears to count as we had to say another goodbye to each other yet again at the airport. We didn’t know yet how to carry our love forward. Didn’t dare to plan too much.

And then you did the most amazing thing ever.

You didn’t even unpack your suitcases. You turned in your 2-week notice; decided to leave Richmond, Virginia, after more than twenty years at VCU. Without thinking it through you, the one who absolutely hated spontaneous decisions, decided to give up your life in your home country. So that you could be with me. This time you didn’t let me get away. Didn’t let life get in the way. Took the chance. Risked everything. For me. This time our love so strong that it pulled us together across the ocean separating us.

The next eleven birthdays were ours. The decade of our forties the best of our lives. We often said so. Little did we know that indeed our forties would forever remain the best decade of our lives. That you would die at fifty. That we would have to say our final goodbye way too early. Forever goodbyes. (And, of course, we never actually said goodbye. Couldn’t go there.) That my fifties would turn into the most devastating time of my life. That I  would be forever heartbroken. That I would shed waterfalls of tears. And this time we had to say goodbye without any chance of ever living this together-life again. That my birthday would turn into a day of mourning.

I look at Ms. Yin, the purple dragon, you got me for one of my birthdays. I loved this present so much. Loved that you found an artist who turns pink flamingos into awesome garden art. Loved the quirkiness of it.

I look at the boat with the two froggies. Your last birthday present for me. April 16, 2015. You joked how, of course, you’d be the one sipping the drink while I row. The two froggies are talking with each other. They are at ease. Just enjoying this leisurely moment of being with each other. I will forever see us in those froggies. I will forever miss the many easy, leisurely moments that we shared with each other – talking endlessly, just enjoying each other’s company.

Whenever I look at Ms. Yin and the boat with the froggies, I think of you, us, our together-life. And my heart breaks – over and over and over again – because we will never have that again. Ever. As much as I wish. As much as I’d give anything to get our life back again. This time not life but death got in the way. Tore us apart. Till only death can reunite us again.

My soul yearns for you.

First and Last


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