Brittany Pickering – Love Stories

Behold Brittany’s tale of learning the definition of love at Tenx9’s February event “Love Stories”. 

“Defining the Undefinable”

To begin, I want to say that since I grew up here in Middle Tennessee, I did have to change a few names in my story to keep the people anonymous and keep my embarrassment at a minimum. J

There are many of us that define the word love by all the things that we see in the media. Some of us are even blessed enough to have had parents that loved each other greatly and see that as a definition of love. Unfortunately, the former was true for myself for most of my life, until I thought I had reached an age where I could truly define it based on experience. There are a few things I know to be 100% true in this world. The first one is that no one and nothing on this planet will ever love me more than my dog, and the other thing is that love is completely undefinable.

When I was in the second grade, I was convinced that I loved one of the boys in my class. His name was Ryan. I loved Ryan. He was so cool. When we were on the merry-go-round, he would always push us the fastest, and he was friends with everyone even though the other boys were starting to realize that girls were very different and started to separate themselves. Ryan also happened to be one of my best friends, so that was even better. The fact that I was aware enough to not tell him my feelings probably said a lot about my knowledge of the social hierarchy in elementary school, but internally, I was sure that one day, he would feel the same.  To proclaim my feelings  to my entire family, I wrote “I love Ryan” on my wall…..and got in a lot of trouble…. All in the name of love. We were soulmates….well at least until middle school.

In middle school, I was somewhat of an ugly duckling. I hated doing my hair and absolutely hated anything that fit too closely to my body. Not only was I in the marching band (super cool) , but I also played softball. So I guess that set the standard for my love life in middle school….I didn’t have one.

In high school, things changed…well somewhat. The summer after my freshman year, I got my very first boyfriend. His name was Jared. He was so nice and sweet and I loved talking to him and we went go-cart racing and to the movies and it was an amazing month. I thought, “ Oh, this is what love is! He likes me a lot, and he thinks I’m pretty and I think he is cute and super cool…. We will be together forever!”…well forever lasted until he kissed me when I didn’t want him to and I ended it with a “let’s just be friends”. (I’m quite the heartbreaker)

The summer after my sophomore year brought another heartbreak. We were moving. We moved away from the sleepy little town I grew up in, the people I had gone to school with since Kindergarten, and moving to some place in the foothills of the Appalachians better known as Menifee County, Kentucky. My mom, who was getting back together with her childhood sweetheart was uprooting us and taking us to where him and his family lived.

Now, even though I was devastated about the move, I didn’t realize what an opportunity this was! I could reinvent myself! I cut all my hair off, learned how to wear makeup and invested in some clothes that showed that I wasn’t a boy. The first day of school, I realized what being the new girl in a small school was like. I was the talk of the school and I loved it. I stayed single (ya know, playing the field, which really means pretending to play the field) until February of that school year when I met Jason. Oh, Jason, with his blond hair and blue eyes and mediocre basketball skills… I was smitten.

Jason and I had quite the romance. I thought everything he did was wonderful. He was a year behind me so other than the one class we met in, we didn’t have any classes together, but we spent all the free time we could together. He could draw and write poetry and he was sweet and could express his emotions. Something that I thought was an excellent quality to have at the time.

My senior year of high school and Jason’s junior year, I was still head over heels. We were one of the “it” couples of the school and I was so proud. When I went on my senior trip and left Jason behind, I secretly loved the fact that he wrote me sappy love letters for every day I was gone. When I got back, he was waiting for the bus at 3 in the morning with roses and the letters. Now this, this was true love. This was the love that I had only read about. I thought that we were going to be together forever. I mean, why wouldn’t we? We were crazy about each other and in my mind, that was all that mattered. I mean, sure, there were other girls in our school that were giving their boyfriends a little more than I was willing to give mine and they seemed happy too…but we had real love, so that stuff didn’t matter. We could wait….he could wait…I could wait.

My freshman year of college, Jason and I were still together, but something was different. He was in high school and I was in college and it felt different. I didn’t do a lot of social things at all on campus that year because I didn’t want Jason to feel left out or that I was abandoning him. (He was sensitive you know). When Jason went on his senior trip, I wasn’t quite as devastated when he left because I trusted him, and we were in love…and nothing was going to happen. Until it did. Jason discovered  someone else and I discovered that maybe, true love didn’t mean sacrificing everything for the other person…including your social life.

A few years later, after I had my fair share of dating, partying, and enjoying my college experience, I met Ethan through a mutual friend at church.  Ethan was the best looking guy I knew and everything about him was perfect to me. In my mind, I had a checklist, and he met all the requirements. This, to me, was really love. I had found the perfect person for me.  I just knew we were going to be together forever. Truth is, we weren’t. 3 and a half years later, we broke up and what I thought was the perfect relationship was nothing but a reason to leave Kentucky…so I did.

In the time since I have moved, I have accomplished many things personally and one of those was an understanding. Many people put love into a box and sell themselves short when it comes to their experiences. I do have friends that say they don’t know what love is because they have never been “in love”, and I myself will occasionally say “I didn’t know what love was then, I was in high school,” or something along those lines.

The truth is I have only been in love a few times, but I have loved more than I can count. We confine love to that of a relationship between you and a significant other and you sell yourself short when it comes to feeling it. As corny as it is, I love “love”. I love that when I look at my grandparents, they love each other after 50 years just as much as they ever did. I love that my mom loved my sisters and I enough to be brave enough to move hours away from everything we had known for many years. I love that I love my dog like a child, and that’s okay! All those relationships and heartbreaks taught me that it wasn’t that I didn’t know what love was because I hadn’t reached a certain age, or time in my life to know the meaning of what love was, they taught me that love evolves and it is different for each and every single person. It is the accumulation of all of our experiences with everyone from our parents, friends, and significant others. Don’t limit yourself by defining something that is undefinable.

Jacques Sirois – Love Stories

Here is Jacques Sirois’ story on hospice, death, and the sacred words, “I love you,” and “goodbye.” Told at February’s Tenx9 event. 

Michael sent me a text yesterday asking me what my story was about? I answered: “Death, ask me no more questions.” His reply was “ OK..”

My favorite movie in 2013 was “The Book Thief” in which I fell in love with a character that you never see but only hear his voice, his name was Death.

In 1955 there was a song written for a movie with the same name and was last recorded by Ringo Starr in 1998 on his album called “Sentimental Journey”, the title of the song was “Love is a many Splendored Things”.

Let me combine these two facts and tell you about my love story and what it has to do with death.

My love story starts my involvement with Hospice, an organization I have been a part of for the past 14 years. It’s a love story not of watching someone die, but the privilege of being on sacred ground when you’re in the room with a love one as they pass.

It all began in 1982 when my father lost both his legs due to diabetes leaving him wheelchair bound and depending on my mother and myself to aid him with some basic tasks such as dressing, bathing, and turning around in bed during the night.

Growing up, my relationship with my father was not the greatest and things like hugs and saying I love you was not a part of everyday life in my household.

After losing his leg and having to depend on me more and more, my father taught me to  how to say “I love you” and he made sure to say it every time  I assisted him in the simplest task that he was not able to do alone.

One night in March of 1985, my father had a bad cold and I was awaken hearing him cough. I went downstair to see if he needed anything and he said my mother already gave him cough medicine, he felt tired and most likely would fall asleep soon. As I proceeded up the stairs, he called out my name and when I respond he told me that he loved me. Those were his last words he spoke , he died that night. 29 years later I still hear his saying those precious word like it happened this afternoon. I believe hearing those simple yet powerful words that night, was the best THANK YOU for my years of service to my father.

In 2000 I became a volunteer for Hospice, a position  I feel honored to hold to this day. Hospice has taught me not to be afraid of death and to be that helping hand with family members as they participate in the dying process.

A couple of years after my father’s death, unbeknown to me, my mother invited her sister to come and live with us. It started off good but in a short period of time it turned sour and I was stuck in the middle, my aunt had no other place to go. This woman was not a happy person which could make being in the same house with her very uncomfortable.

My aunt was 90 yrs. old and in great health,but one morning while turning off the stove her nightgown caught on fire. She had a bathrobe over the nightgown and the flame smoldered up her arm and down her back until my mother threw water on her to put out the fire. I was with her the day before she died.

She woke up long enough to tell me that she was afraid that she would not go to heaven. I asked her if I could pray with her to put her mind to ease, which she agreed and I could sense a peace that came over her. I not only prayed for her, I forgave her and I said goodbye let her know that I was going to be there for her until she passed on. She died the next morning and there was a sense of peace as she passed..

The sad part was my aunt was a widow, had no children an had 3 sister that live in the area, my mother was in the same hospital at the time and would not come up to see her. I have always felt that my mother and her sisters were never at peace with Aunt Julie’s death and a lot of it had to do with the fact they never forgave her and never said goodbye.

In 2008, at the age of 94, my mother had a stroke and was in rehab for 2 months. During her time in rehab she fought hard to get better so she could come home, I believe she worked hard so she could come home and die. She lasted 4 day after coming home.

Less than 24 hours before I realize she was dying, I called all 12 of my sibling telling them they better come home. It was then that my years of Hospice work kicked in fast. I not only made sure my mother knew she was not alone, but was able to teach my sibling the importance of saying goodbye, something none of us had a chance to do for our father.

One stipulation we established , was if anyone wanted to be alone with our mother, everyone had to leave the room out of respect  for that sacred time with her. Some sat and held her hand, others prayed with her, one of my sister actually climbed into bed to be with her. I imagine some asked for forgiveness and forgave her.

The privilege I experience was the one time I was alone with her. She opened her eyes and said thank you for taken care of her for 32 years and that she loved me. Again I was the last one in the family to hear the final words “I love you” from each of my parents. What a gift!

When my mother died there were 10 of her 13 children in the room. Two massaging her hands and 2 massaging her feet. Each one of us felt the loss in our lives, but that day  we all remember the love that filled the room. A side note: my mother died in the same room she was born in 94 years earlier

My last love story with death happen in November of last year. My brother, who just turned 67, had a stroke , fallen and not found until 6 hours later. He had fluid built up around his brain.

His children made difficult decision collectively to take him off life support, knowing that was a decision he had discussed with his sons before any of this happened.

No knowing for sure if I would make it home in time to see my, I called my nephew while he was in the hospital room with his father and asked if he would put the phone to my brother ear so I could talk to him. Hearing is the last thing to go in the dying process.

I told him goodbye, that I loved him, I asked for forgiveness for anything might between us, lastly I told him it was ok to die.

Once my sibling heard what I did, each of one that lived a distance  away, took the time to call to say goodbye and that they loved him. Those that lived in the area made sure to say those precious words every time the entered or left the room

An important lesson I learned from Hospice  was to always make sure to say  goodbye when we have the chance. I believe that saying goodbye and making peace with a loved one takes the sting out of death.

A quote from Martin Heidegger :“If I take death into my life, acknowledge it, and face it squarely, I will free myself from the anxiety of death and the pettiness of life- and only then will I be free to become myself”.

So yes, Love can be a many Splendored thing, even in death.

Nichole Perkins – Love Stories

Enjoy reading this story from Nichole Perkin’s at February’s Tenx9 Nashville, a story of falling in love with romance novels. 


MuhDeah, my great-grandmother, was a domestic worker, and as such, her employers would often give her things they no longer wanted but thought she’d be grateful to have. They’d once given her a breakfront filled with books. MuhDeah couldn’t read but I guess she kept the books as is for company’s sake. She passed away when I was around 8 or 9, and my mother inherited the china cabinet.

We tucked it into our hallway, and I was fascinated by it and its contents. Behind the glass was a picture of my mother from her high school graduation—not quite black and white, not quite sepia. My mother used to be young! I stared at her face several times a day, searching for pieces of myself. I looked like my father and had reached a point where I was tired of people telling me that, but that’s a story for another time.

By the time I was 8 or 9, staring at the picture and the books in the breakfront, I was already a voracious reader. The cabinet held hardback books from Reader’s Digest. Their multicolored spines with gold writing were hard to resist, but I only remember two books with any specificity. The Black Poets, edited by Dudley Randall, sparked my interest in poetry and taught me parts of my heritage I’d never get from school. And the second book was The Flame and the Flower, a historical romance novel by Kathleen Woodiwiss that launched a lifetime obsession with love stories.

Let me give you a summary. Heather Simmons is an English country beauty who’s being raised by a greedy aunt and henpecked uncle. The aunt’s brother takes her into the city to give her a job at his dress-design shop, but on the first night in town, he tries to force himself on her. Heather stabs him, and, thinking he’s dead, runs away and gets lost near the docks. A sailor mistakes her for a prostitute, as you do, and takes her to his captain, the strapping American Brandon Birmingham. Heather thinks Brandon is a magistrate who will punish her for her crimes. Always respectful of authority figures, Heather submits to Brandon’s close inspection until he moves her to his bunk. Heather begins to fight, but it’s useless. He has his way with her, all the while thinking she’s a lady of the night. After Brandon falls into a sated sleep, Heather escapes and returns home.

Fast forward about 6-8 weeks. Heather’s aunt notices some unmistakable changes in Heather’s body and demands to know who’s responsible. Somehow she tracks down Brandon and forces them to marry. The two set sail for Brandon’s home in Charleston, South Carolina, where Brandon is a business tycoon with a plantation full of slaves who love him for his caring and generous treatment. You see- Brandon may have raped Heather but he’s handsome, smart, resourceful, and kind. Brandon thinks she’s a gold-digging wench, working in cahoots with her manipulative aunt to catch a rich man, but she’s so delicate, so feminine, so beautiful. Maybe the two of them will be able to find love in each other after all.

This book, The Flame and the Flower, was published in 1972 and is considered groundbreaking for its explicit sex scenes, including rape. And please don’t think I’m making light of such a heinous act. For a long time, the only way women were able to enjoy sexual situations in literature, without guilt, was to portray the heroine as a victim first then have her grow to adore the man who victimized her. This particular book is also seen as the godmother of contemporary romance novels, and there I was, 9 years old, reading it with wide eyes. As a child, I didn’t fully understand how awful the start of this love story was. It fell in line with the soap operas of the time, from Young and the Restless to Dynasty, which showed men and women slapping each other before falling to the floor in a fit of passion, but I’d never come across anything like it in print. I even went so far as to do a book report on it, and when my teacher pulled me aside and told me to stick with subject matter more suited to children, I was even more hooked. I’ve been reading romance novels ever since, and for a long time, I was ashamed. I used to keep all of my Serious Literature showcased on my living room bookshelves but keep the romances tucked away in a closet or on shelves in my bedroom.

I’m a feminist. I want equal rights for all people in all things, but reading about men who risk their lives to save the women they love just fills me up. And I felt so girly, so foolish, but as I grew older, I discovered more and more women with secret addictions to romances. I felt safe to be more vocal about my own love for them. My tastes in romances have changed over the years. I tend to avoid historical romances that feature women of unparalleled, feminine beauty or men who force women.  Now I read thrillers and paranormal romances that showcase women who kick ass, who often have to save their men, and men who… well, the men have pretty much stayed the same- catlike reflexes, strong, broody, possessive, and magnetic.

So what happens in a romance? Well, the two main characters meet and are instantly attracted to each other but don’t want to be. Maybe it’s because they already have a past where one left the other or maybe someone has a smart mouth and is a jerk. Regardless, somehow they’re forced to work together, either to solve a series of crimes or because they’re trapped in a snowstorm with no cell service. Something happens to bring them in close, personal contact. His eyes… her eyes… They’re interrupted before things get too serious but now the air is charged between them. Soon there’s another layer of danger. The criminal they’re hunting gets too close. Someone from the past shows up. Someone gets hurt. Someone gets jealous. As the other person tends to the wounds,- of the flesh or of the pride- they both decide to give in. Then there’s the hot sex. The man always goes down on the woman first and it’s amazing. She’s never experienced anything like this before. She doesn’t even have to reciprocate before he’s putting on a condom he just happened to have even in dire circumstances and giving her yet another series of earth-shattering orgasms that unlock her heart. And he realizes he’s in serious trouble because loving her only puts them both in danger. He has to protect her. He can’t be distracted by love. They catch the bad guy or escape the snow cabin from hell and now what? Was this all the result of adrenaline and danger? Of course not. Their love is real. The book ends with a kiss or a smile.

So that’s it. The meet-not-so-cute, the adventure, the sex, the resolution, the declaration, the happily-ever-after. Why am I a sucker for this formula? I have no idea. I know I don’t really want most of this to happen to me in real life. I mean- I’ll take the great orgasms, sure, but I get stuck in some kind of demon attack in order to find the great love of my life. Love is risk enough as is. In the meantime, I’ll keep reading romance novels, and I’ll no longer hide them. Just like me, werewolves and FBI agents need love, too.

Michael McRay – “On Dementia and Wonder”

Here’s a story for “Love Stories” from the host of Tenx9 Nashville, Michael McRay, on witnessing his grandmother care for her dementia-suffering husband, after 57 years of marriage. This story immediately followed his grandmother’s story, which can be viewed here