With Shane, not only did I find myself plunged into my first real adult relationship, but I discovered that someone would value me for my authentic self, not the façade I’d built up for years. Shane taught me what it meant to be a true partner, how to communicate, and, indeed, how to love selflessly. He introduced me to foreign lands, to artists of all varied stripe, and to countless experiences far removed from my previously-sheltered life.
And when, after only two years together, Shane began his decline, I learned more about myself than ever before. I learned that I could face my fears, experience my darker emotions, and walk through the tumult to the other side. What had seemed insurmountable became conquerable, giving me a better appreciation of my own strengths and abilities. In loving and caring for Shane, I learned how to love others, and myself as well.
Today, I find myself worlds removed from that time of illness and fear, where death seemed to be around every corner. My partner Russ and I have two amazing boys, and our lives now are focused almost purely on living.
I’m often asked how Russ handles the ghost of Shane, given how much I refer to him. But Russ understands fully that, without Shane and his influence, I wouldn’t have become the partner, father, or writer I am, were it not for that transformational experience of loving him.
And so, this Memorial Day, I’ll pause and honor the many of my own troops who have fallen in battle. They may not have had the uniform or the recognition of our armed forces, but the wars they fought were just as valiant, and I, for one, am richer for their many, varied gifts and sacrifices.
In honor of this Memorial Day, I salute Shane, David, Jon, Edward, and even Howard, among countless others, lost far too young.