am a 39-year-old gay man. Robert, my child­hood sweetheart, and I came out as gay at the age of 13. The purity of that relationship, juxta­posed with the trauma of his death, far too young (the result of what today would be called a gay bashing), have doubtless shaped who I am today.

I define my marital status as widowed, principally as the result of the death of my lover, Ken, in 1994; his death brought to a close a relationship which had spanned close to seven years. The cause of death was heart failure, the result of a congenital lung condition. Soon after we started dating, he told me of his health condition and of its eventually fatal consequences. He did so not to scare me away, but to prepare me for what lay ahead.

One of my greatest regrets was my inability to place my lover on my health care plan. He was self­employed and found premiums prohibitively expensive. When his health declined to the point that he required around-the-clock care, I lost my job. My employer in­formed me that a leave of absence would not be


granted as care for a dying lover failed to meet guide­lines for such consideration. Survival necessitated liqui­dating, one after another, all of my assets. Upon his death, the estate being insolvent, household items were sold to cover just debts. For those who’ve experienced the death of a legally defined spouse, if you feel that my relationship with my lover does not equate to the loss that you’ve sustained, let me tell you this. I remember every restless night, waking up screaming, trembling, and crying; I’ve lived with the overwhelming loneliness associated with birthdays, anniversaries, and the count­less private rituals now remembered only by one; and I can state, unequivocally, that the worst part of widow­hood is sleeping alone again—and it has nothing to do with sex—it is literally just sleeping alone again.

The one thing that no one can take away are the last words that Ken spoke, some 20 minutes before he breathed his last, addressed to me, "My beautiful boy, I love you very much."

Source: Author’s files.