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When a love relationship ends, we all have different ways of coping.

What’s more interesting to me, is how love begins.

I want to tell you about Nate.

It was my freshman year of college and I was attending UNC in Greeley. I was heading home for Thanksgiving break and I was so excited.

After so many wonderful years of fun with amazing people from Bear Creek High School’s class of ’96, I couldn’t wait to re-unite with my friends and have some fun and share stories.

We gathered at Beth’s house and Dori and Beth had brought Nate home with them. He was from Washington State. We danced and drank and had a merry time and at the end of the night, Nate told Dori that I would be his.

She said, “Oh no, no way, she is with Jamie. They have been together for years, they are so in love, they’ll probably get married, no way.”

Nate said, “Yes, she will.”

I remember leaving that night, how he followed me out to my car, made his interest known.

Our affair began over email. Seemed simple and innocent enough at first, but day after day he would write me messages until it became the thing I lived for. I couldn’t wait to log on and see what Nate wrote.

One day, at lunch in the café, my boyfriend Jamie said he had a dream that I’d met a new guy and his name was Nate.

I said, “C’mon, what gives, how do you know that, really?”

He confessed he had seen a doodle I’d made on one of my notebooks. Oops. I was writing Nate’s name.

I shared with Jamie the truth of what happened and then broke up with him. I told him I had to see what was there with Nate. I had to.

That started an exciting time of my life. Every weekend became about traveling to Boulder to hang with our friends and a chance for me to be with Nate.

Desiree and Serena and I, my two friends from home, would drive into Boulder and meet up with our girlfriends and head out to college parties.

I can still remember my elation upon dropping into the valley and seeing the lights of Boulder. Boulder meant love, romance, sex, adventure.

When summer came, I took Nate to the airport only to cry my way home listening to “I’ll Be Missing You” on the radio.

He arrived in Seattle and immediately drove his jeep back to Colorado to surprise me.

I’ll never forget lying in my bedroom talking to him on the phone and realizing he was outside my door. The excitement and rush of young love lived well between us.

For three years Nate and I were together. Three drama-filled, tumultuous years as we navigated relationship from two different towns and all the temptations that come with partying and being young in college.

Eventually, Nate decided to leave Boulder, move away, head back to the Pacific Northwest.

Rumor had it that I was a large part of his choice, we had fallen out of love and into a mess and he was ready to depart and felt the only way he could manage was to get away from me.

He left a trash bag for me, full of everything I had ever given him.

I was heartbroken.

And that was the end of Nate. Mostly.

I mean, we are Facebook friends. So, from time to time we write each other sweet notes.

I called him once and apologized for any mistakes I made and asked his forgiveness and told him I loved him, even still.

He said, “I love you too.”

I suppose that’s how it goes, we love, and then we love forever. And then we look back and remember and wonder if we could have done it differently, but what did we know?

I guess it has been almost 14 years since I’ve seen Nate.

I live in Boulder now, and every time I come into the valley and see the lights, I think of that time, of my friends, of Nate, and of being young and in love and free.

In the end, we survive the loss of love because we keep on living. We heal, as the light inside knows how to heal.

We know how to carry on, face a new day, and birth new dreams. But mostly, we know that love never really leaves.

So, I grow, and I carry those I’ve loved in my heart, and when I think of you, I bless you with all the love there is and whisper my thanks. I am undoubtedly better because of you.

There is no beginning and no real end. On we go, ever looping, ever expanding and contracting, as we walk each other home. And really, I do believe in past lives, which means I believe in future lives, too.

So, we’ll meet again, somewhere, under the stars and dance our dance, make our waves, and see if we can’t do it better next time.

Until then, I’ll be missing you.