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Cheryl Dunn Jensen Whatley Chandler

Our story. I never thought I would understand so much.

With you, I experienced every single twist two women could ever live through over the course of 48 years; and I smile. Today you left this world. And I care that you did. And I cried about your passing from this life.

Even after the whole twisted, toxic, messed-up things you enacted; I feel you being your true self again. I’m truly without you in my life for the very first time in decades. In my awareness, you have always occupied a space. I still felt you there, even though we barely spoke, near your end. I look at your place now and all I see is darkness there. Now, you look at me from a different realm; and I am grateful for my sight. There you are feeling much better now, don’t you.

Once, I craved you beyond what was good for my well-being. You had me hook, line, and eventually, sinker. I was chemically addicted to you. Did you know I could see your true self this whole time? What you are now, is who I saw and loved.

You talked like you knew everything and wouldn’t allow anyone to get a word in edgewise; especially when you were on a mission to prove you are right and everyone else was wrong. When you talked, everyone else had to be quiet and listen. Too bad you never followed your own advice.

I laugh at some of your jokes. You’d say that instead of paying you to take off your shirt, they’d pay you to keep it on with a grin on your face. I remember line dancing and country dancing classes with you. We did have a lot of fun.

I believe you played the role of a one way “cage rattler”. You could certainly dish it out; but, wouldn’t hear our feedback from your own comfy cage.

When you were with me in private; I felt you and experienced your complete being. Away from me; all bets were off. Listening to you, I was never sure where you were headed; and, many aspects of you were obscured from my view.

You walked into Lum’s for coffee that night; and walked out with me. I was a married gay woman with children, and waitressing at that diner set major events in motion. My time became stolen moments just to be with you. I reorganized my life and I separated from my marriage. I climbed through your bedroom window one morning, not wanting to be seen. I allowed you into my life and I shudder at what it cost me. Ultimately, I made those choices and acted on the information I had at the time.

We dated, danced, and loved in secret because of my marriage status and the fact that being gay was a criminal offence. The most interesting thing was when I actually went through my divorce; I was with another woman.

You were with me the day I fulfilled the court order issued to me through divorce. Placing my children on a flight out of my life to their father; was an act of pure submission to the law of the land. You consoled me then. You wiped my tears. You picked me up, turned me around, and booted me back into life.

You were there. You witnessed what my marriage was like. You knew me. You knew him and my children. When I entered into service; we weren’t speaking on a regular basis.

My jaw hit the floor when I read your letter announcing your marriage to my ex-husband. My first reaction was one of disbelief. How could my best friend and lover marry my ex of all people? Knowing what she did about him, why? I read the letter a few more times; looking for clues. None.

A few weeks later, another letter from the both of you found me in the chow line and in it, demanded that I sign the enclosed form to relinquish mother rights to my children. My reaction? There is no freakin’ way. I answered with “You must think me stupid to do such a thing. They are my children and there is nothing that will change that fact! Do what you have to do.”

We met again in Germany. I travelled with you to Berlin on the duty train to see my children. Old times made new, again. This time, you were the one risking your marriage to my ex and I risked my military career. Did you give up my passionate letters to you to save yourself? I paid for our indiscretions in full via the military and still managed to be discharged honorably.

When you divorced our husband; you got legal custody of my children in the eyes of the law. You provided me with the means to be with my children. Once again, you wiped away my tears, only those were from joy.

I learned over time that where you were going, I just couldn’t witness it by your side. I experienced the whole separation like one being liberated from a prisoner of war camp. I couldn’t be there to watch you decline. No amount of begging, promises, guilt-tripping, and pleas for financial help, could make me enter your world again. And I kept hoping that somewhere, someone would be able to pick you up and it would really turn you around. I know so many who picked you up; but, you never even noticed.

I believe you were broken long before I met you. You expected everyone else to make your living. It seemed like you were incapable of actually making your own way. This life was a really tough assignment for you.

I heard about you. I heard you stopped wanting to care for yourself. You stopped trying to live for the good of yourself. You ended your life before your death in the hospital. For so long, you depended on others in life to take care of your needs and now physically became the burden. In a room, close to physical death, you got your lifetime wish. Others, who were not family, took care of your needs.

My tears are about you. My love I once shared with you provide me with the strength to see me through this final chapter. My beliefs allow me to honor your choice to depart the way you did. I hope somewhere along the journey, you found peace.

It is done.

by Steffie Rae S

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