Two years ago, I went to my old boyfriend’s funeral. I milled around with old and old-looking friends and colleagues, talked to his nieces, now adult women, with whom I’d spent several Christmases so long ago, and every now and then glanced over at the urn that sat on an unadorned table. There was no picture there – no montage of photos from a long happy life. His siblings were furious at him for what they said he had put them through. After so many attempts and threats, including several when I knew him, he had finally taken his own life.
A middle-aged woman standing alone was pointed out to me as his girlfriend. Thinking I should offer my condolences to the closest thing that he had to caring family at the moment, I introduced myself. She launched into a quiet explanation about why she, alone, was responsible for his death. She’d just ended their relationship because of his violent behavior, she wasn’t able to help him. “And now look what happened.”
It was in that moment that it hit me. In the many years since Des Moines, I had fallen in love and married someone else, moved into a big old house and raised a family of four children, started a business, had friends. If I died, there would be a lot of pictures.
He had circled back and started over. If the length of our relationship was a predictor, he probably had four or five more serious relationships, all ending the same scary way.
If all the women who’d known him sat in a circle, we would tell the same story, make a quilt with identical squares. And the quilt would be very large.
This man, to whom we had all been attracted because of his gentle heart and fun-loving spirit, never intended to hurt anyone. Whatever trauma or damage he had in his early life that would explain his violent episodes, no one really knows.
I do know it kept him from having any pictures at his funeral.
This series is dedicated to The Alma Center’s Men We Love campaign. The Alma Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a nonprofit organization that works with men involved in domestic violence to help them identify and address the trauma in their own lives so they can learn to become good partners and decent fathers. Look for the Alma Center and Men We Love on Facebook.