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Dear Jeff:

Dear Jeff:

When I started writing these essays, we were still together. I was still in love with you, and I still believed we were going to live happily ever after.

You were the first, the only: To tell me you loved me, and mean it. To love me as much as I loved you. To love me more than I loved you, at the beginning. To tell me I was beautiful, and to make me believe that I was, if only in your eyes. To become a part of my family, not just my family-by-choice. To give me hope that we might just see forever together.

It was not for lack of love that our relationship failed. Love held us together through all the things I still gripe about, the things that I blame for it when I talk to others. Indeed, I think that in the end the biggest flaw was too much love. If we had loved each other less, any of those things might have ended it sooner. Instead, we loved each other so much that we gave up too much for each other. We both needed to grow, and instead we stagnated because we weren't willing to grow apart. You saw that first, and you were right.

I've heard people say that a love that doesn't last was never really love at all. On the one hand, I think that's crap - things change, but that doesn't make what happened before no longer real. On the other hand, when I think about it, I never stopped loving you, or indeed anyone else I've loved. The love changed, it faded, but it never went away altogether.

You are no longer my beloved. You are, and I hope will always be, my beloved friend. You are still a member of my family. There's no one else I could have asked to come with me to my grandmother's funeral. I could have taken someone else to my brother's wedding, but you're the only one who could possibly have been able to help my mom tease her sister and shame her into singing and acting silly in public. You know me, inside and out. You know the way I think, the way I write, the best ways to cheer me up and the best ways to calm me down. You know my history, my scars, my fears. You know my hopes, my dreams, my little joys. Of course I still love you. How could I not?

#35 in a series, beginning here and listed here

Coming tomorrow: The stunning conclusion to this project! I really do mean tomorrow. It's already written.