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When the Love of Your Life Disappears Forever

March 3, 2020 10:30a

Hello Neighbors,

When a loved one dies we all have a huge hole to fill in our soul. It could be a beloved animal, a dear friend, or in the case of my neighbor Lisa Roma, the love of her life. I was touched to see my neighbor so eloquently describing her husband Reggie who passed away in 2018 in an article that was published in the peer support community’s publication City Voices.

I thought to myself, this is the perfect tribute to a man that I saw from time to time in my building and around the neighborhood. He was always well dressed and emanated kindness and love. I also thought using writing, such as Lisa’s, is a great way to mourn our loved ones that have passed on.

So join me in celebrating the life of Reggie in this amazing story of triumph, personal resilience, and true love so wonderfully written by his beloved wife, Lisa. A true testament our loved ones may not be here, but the memories will last our entire lifetime.

Sincerely,

Joshua Parkin

Founder of helpNYC

When the Love of Your Life Disappears Forever

Reggie, aka True Love, My Diamond in a Coalmine

By Rev. Lisa Roma

True was my husband. We were in love. I knew his strengths and his vulnerabilities, his joys and his sorrows. I knew his accomplishments and his challenges. I knew the cheerful optimistic face he put on for the world to see. And I knew his inner heart, his sadness. I knew his depression. I knew his laughter, his humor, his gallant, helpful, protective nature, and I knew his carefree, childlike, fun nature. I knew his fears and his dreams. We had many dreams together. Some we had begun to build, while others were in the planning stages. We shared a sensitive spirit and artistic nature. We were true soulmates who deeply understood one another.

True was a brilliant and talented man in every way. He was a writer, a poet, an amazing portrait-artist, an inventor who saw some of his ideas created by others before he had the chance. He had gotten his CASAC license and was studying to be a counselor. He had begun to fulfill another dream by enrolling in college last fall and had completed his first semester as an A student. My True Love was a motivator who inspired others of all ages in every walk of life.

True was a kind man who always wanted to help those less fortunate than himself. He developed compassion, having had a rough start in life, growing up in a ghetto in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn during the 1960s. He lost his mother (who suffered from alcoholism and depression) at the tender age of five, and never knew who his father was. Although surrounded by love and extended family, raised by his older sister and beloved by his aunts, cousins and niece, he witnessed violence as a child, and suffered from PTSD all his life.

True struggled with anger and depression; he virtually grew up in foster care, group homes and prison (incarcerated for a crime he did not commit but was never exonerated for). At seventeen, he won awards for architectural drafting and was a star student. At 17, he discovered Akbar, a cultural community enclave where he learned the spiritual principles and wisdom which governed his life, and he took on the moniker “True Love.” As an adult, he worked as an architectural draftsman on the South Street Seaport, and in prison he began painting portraits and writing. In 2010, he won a first prize OASAS Award for his multimedia portrait of Mother Teresa.

When I first met True, I was facilitating a writing workshop for newly released parolees at a downtown Brooklyn community organization. I will never forget the way I felt when he first entered the room and we saw one another. It was love at first sight, but we were both cautious, shy and respectful, and maintained a professional demeanor. He came right up front to sit close to where I was putting up notes and poetry, inviting the small group of men to write and draw. I was demonstrating haiku poetry. I had crayons and paper, notebooks and pencils on our big table in the center of the room near the big window, with various poetry handouts and spiritual books by contemporary authors such as The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

“I have read some of these books, too,” True told me as the class was wrapping up for the day. True stayed longer to talk to me. He told me about a book manuscript he was writing. I told him I was an editor and would like to read it. The next time he came to the writing class, he brought his manuscript. We wrote up a contract and I began the process of editing it. That process solidified the love that was growing inside my heart for True. It was how our professional friendship had begun. That was during the spring of 2009. Little did I know that I would end up marrying this man.

True and I made a happy home together with our kitty cats and our music. He worked hard on his studies, still struggling with his depression, but thrilled and excited about being a college student. His professors and students admired him. He was the oldest student in the class, but a model one. I worked away from home all week-long doing live-in eldercare, and would usually come home exhausted, but glad to hug my baby and start our weekend together. We cooked, shopped, enjoyed one another, loved and laughed; we were best friends.

He was a sharp dresser, even when he wore his sweatpants and T-shirts. Everything matched. If we had an argument, it ended up as a comedy skit in our apartment, with me laughing so hard I almost peed. We loved our children and our grandchildren. True spent a lot of time with his grandson Matt and took him to play basketball and watch the pro games when he could get tickets. We loved music. We danced around the apartment and sang. We always expressed our love verbally. We hugged a lot. He would tell me, “I love you forever, no matter what.”

We enjoyed Christmas Eve together not knowing it would be our last, sharing gifts, love and laughter, taking lots of photographs and little video snippets of the cats in his new guitar-case. He seemed a bit subdued, but happy. The next morning, Christmas Day, we were both a little anxious. I had to go to work for the week, and he was depressed about it, I could tell. He walked me to the Metro North train station, as he usually did, wheeling my suitcase. We took selfies and videotaped ourselves singing a silly song, the light from the late morning son illuminated his face and head, partially obscuring his face in one image. I had my third premonition, that he was symbolically “going to the Light soon.”

I felt an ache in my heart, but dismissed it. We hated to be apart, but this was a necessity. It was our life. He was a student and I had to work. But we always kept in touch by phone and made plans for occasional lunch meetings. Somehow, this last week of his life would be different. That Christmas morning was the last time I saw my True Love.

Friday morning, December 28th, I called home but True did not answer. We had last spoken Thursday night. He had been depressed and told me he was feeling hopeless. He had shared with me an intimate secret he was holding for many years about his childhood. A terrible incident of sexual abuse he experienced, but never dealt with in therapy. I encouraged him to stay strong and we would get him help when I returned home the next morning. We expressed our love and he vowed not to cause himself any harm.

From Friday morning onward, True never answered the phone when I called. I arrived home to my worst fear. I found my husband in our marital bed, his body cold and still. I never believed something like this could happen. His heart had taken enough sadness and gave up. It was his choice. My beloved husband, the love of my life, my creative partner, lover and best friend, had gone to his heavenly repose.

It has been a difficult journey losing True, but I do feel his spirit communicating with me at times. He is my guardian angel and I know he is watching over all of our children. Our bond of Love cannot be broken.

When I spoke to my husband’s therapist, in retrospect, he said that if Reggie had shared his childhood experiences much sooner, he could have gotten the help he needed, including a survivor’s group for victims of childhood sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is a leading cause of PTSD, low self-esteem and depression in victims.

It is important for people to seek help and reach out for the right kind of medical and therapeutic care, no matter what age or culture they are from. Abuse is never acceptable. Abuse is not a form of love. It never was and it never will be. Get the help you need before it is too late.

God bless you, Reggie True, I miss you so much, but I love you forever, babe, no matter what. Thank you for gracing our lives with your amazing spirit. I’m putting your first poetry book together. You’ll see it from heaven.

Reprinted with permission. “When the Love of Your Life Disappears Forever” by Lisa Roma, originally appeared in the Summer 2019 edition of City Voices: The Newspaper for Peers & the Peer Workforce. Brooklyn, New York. Dan Frey, Editor in Chief of City Voices.
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