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My first summer in Alaska was… like every other human story: it was the best of times… it was the worst of times. I am not here to garner sympathy or be a victim. I am here to tell a story. I am no different from anyone else with a heart that hurts and eyes that weeped until there was no salty juices left to muster. I met Lee the first weekend that I moved into my house in Alaska. We met on a dating app called “Bumble.” He said, “My friends are having a house music party, would you like to meet me there?” I said, “Yes.” At the party a lovely duet played : Natalie Cressman & Ian Faquini. It was trombone, guitar and singing in Portuguese. We were all nestled in a home in Palmer, AK and all the kids were upstairs having a blast playing video games, tag and screaming–as kids do. Scout, my 8 year old son, has asked me so many times to go back to that house, play with those kids. Lee sat near me and I could feel him looking at me through out the concert. We talked afterwords. He invited me to his hot tub the next week. I declined. I said, “I know your type and the answer is no.” Lee was an avid fisherman and he was good at catching. It was game on. One of the Iditarod racers was at the party, we met him and his partner and the next day Scout and I watched the dog sled ceremonial race in Anchorage. Our time in Alaska started with some pure magic.

Lee became my friend.

Lee knew about “all things Alaskan.” He told us where to go to sled, where to fish, where to hear the best music, majestic and magical places to camp.

One day Lee, Scout and I went to the Anchorage Museum. I’ll never forget how he stopped and looked at an exhibit about Cartography. This one piece had the state of Alaska and every pedophile priest labeled in the area where he had done his damage.

I don’t like to think about Lee and the love affair that developed and ended prematurely.

I don’t like to think about it at all because it still hurts.

What I can say about Lee is that he taught me how to fish for salmon. He gave me advice on smoking said fish. He advised me. He mentored my son. He loved without regrets, without criticism, he accepted my body and loved it as it was, he opened my mind to the concept of freedom and to letting go of past hurts. I am different from having known him. He was exactly what I needed when I needed it.

After his passing… I just couldn’t. Yet, I did. I didn’t want to keep moving forward, keep living. I filled my life with everything difficult and time consuming like becoming a set netter fisher on Kasilof Beach…. like remodeling the first floor of my house. I threw myself into work. Above and beyond my art work… I was pulling in nets, putting up a ceiling, stacking wood. I had several friends who talked me down from my darkest heights. Thank you. But, I kept moving–to survive.

The tragedy is… when you’ve waited your whole life for someone to see you, to love you… “as is”–and he dies.

I started making art with the name “Mostleeok.” Around the state I started using a spray paint tag, “hilee.”

September is National Suicide Awareness Month. I am launching my MostLeeOk product line. I don’t want to forget Lee. He didn’t commit suicide. But, I felt like I could. So the self care wearable art… is more for me and my well being. I want him to know that his friendship meant the world to me…. that I still think about him a lot. So if you need some self care, self love, a hug… please consider buying a shirt or tote bag or minky blanket to remind yourself that you can do this and that you can keep going. You can find the items in my Shop section under “MostLeeOk.”

Lee said he wanted to move somewhere where the butter melted on the counter. I hope he’s in a place where the music is good–according to him that wouldn’t be anything popular or on the radio–and the beer is craft. I hope he is catching all the fish. Thank you for your time that you gave to me. All I wanted was your time.