|2 years ago :: Nov 27, 2010 - 11:53PM #1|
Dearest Fellow Grievers,
Celebrating Thanksgiving ushers in the most difficult time of the year for me.
On December 9th it will be 4 years since I lost my partner to AIDS, and the grief at times is stilll overwhelming.
There isn't a single day that goes by that I don't think about and miss Ron.
As a gay man who has lived in both NYC and San Fran, I have lost numerous acquaintances to this killer disease. However, I never dreamed that God would ask me to walk my partner and the best friend I've ever had down that road, but God did and that journey is now part of the cross I pick up daily when I attempt to deny myself and follow Christ.
I recently rejoined Beliefnet after a long absence and I thought that this year I would share my sorrow, loss, despair, disbelief, shock and abiding love and hope publicly as a memorial to Ron.
Ron Tibbitts was a quadruple Cancer for those of you who know anything about astrology. He was the kindest, most honest, loving, nurturing, caring, "give you the shirt off his back" man I've ever known. No one has ever loved me the way Ron did and no one will ever replace him. No one.
On December 6th, I will order the traditional bouquet of white "memorial" lilies that I get every year in his memory, which I place in a clear glass vase next to his urn, which sits on a shelf in a bookcase in my bedroom. He is with me always and goes wherever I go. I was very fortunate that his brother and sister allowed me to have a portion of his ashes.
What are some of the things I remember most vividly about Ron?
I remember our last Halloween when he was too ill to help me pass out candy, but despite being nearly blind at that point, he still carved a jack o' lantern.
I remember our last Thanksgiving when he was too ill to even leave his bed and have a morsel to eat. He slept all day and I remember standing in the kitchen alone with a piece of pumpkin pie and really realizing and admitting to myself that my dear friend and partner was upstairs in his room dying.
I remember the morning I passed by his bedroom door, which was open, and seeing him lying on his bed with his legs over the edge, his head turned toward me and his almost sightless eyes staring in my direction. He couldn't move or speak.
I remember saying to him at that moment, "Ron, I know you don't want to go to the hospital, but I'm calling 911 because I have to do what I have to do to save your life." Even in that moment as I dialed the EMTs and heard the ambulance siren in the distance, I believed that it wasn't too late, that there was still hope that he could be saved.
He spent three days in the ICU and was then transferred to a private room. And I remember the day his doctor called me and said he had less than a month to live. I was so numb I was unable to go to the hospital until he was out of the ICU and I ache now to think that I was unable to show up for him at that point, that I left him alone.
I remember helping him make an "X" instead of his signature on the application for Medicaid because he couldn't see or hold a pen.
I remember the last day he was lucid and will never forget the day that he slipped into permanent sleep and no longer ate or spoke.
I also remember whispering in his ear that I would get him out of that "nasty, old hospital" no matter what it took. Ron had a terrible fear of dying in the hospital and of hospitals in general.
I remember one of the hospice nurses calling me and telling me that if I wanted him home, it had better be that very day.
Before his arrival, a hospital bed was delivered and several large oxygen tanks. I quickly made the bed up with his favorite sheets and soon the ambulance was in the driveway and Ron was being wheeled in a gurney (he could no longer walk he had "wasted" so much) down our front hallway.
As the EMTs wheeled the gurney past me, Ron suddenly opened his eyes and turned to me and I bent down close enough to his face that he could perhaps see just the shadow of my face and I said, "Welcome home." Almost as soon as I'd said those words, he closed his eyes and turned his head away from me again. It was the last time we ever saw each other. He never awoke or opened his eyes again.
I remember one of the hospice nurses telling me in the privacy of the dining room (Ron's bed had been set up in the family room) that he would probably die that evening or the next day. I had hired a care giver to come in at night and stay with him while I caught a few hours of sleep.
I remember the last words I whispered in his ear. They were, "Honey, I'm going up to bed for a few hours, but I'll be down again soon."
I remember awakening shortly before 4 a.m. and hearing the care giver standing at the bottom of the stairs say, "I think he's gone."
I remember running down the stairs and looking at him and saying, "Honey, did you slip away?" There was no pulse and I reluctanctly turned off the oxygen machines and then I removed the silver crucifix I'd given him several years before from around his neck and putting it around my neck. I have worn it daily since then.
I remember...I remember...I remember it all. The experience changed me for life.
I remember sobbing on the phone with a hospice nurse trying to explain to her that no one had prepared me for what it would feel like afterward, like I'd been sucker punched every single day.
I remember lying in our bed alone and sobbing and crying out to the walls, "Where are you? Where are you? I just want to know where you are and that you're okay."
I remember the following Spring, maybe 4 or 5 months after Ron passed away looking out the picture window that gave onto our back yard and being startled beyond words. There, behind a huge shrub, was a beautiful Easter lily in full bloom with three blossoms on it.
I recalled the day the Easter before when the plant was really quite lifeless and Ron took it out to the back yard and planted it. I snickered, like Sarah behind the door of the tent when the angels told Abraham that she would bear a son, and then just as suddenly my thoughts turned to one of my favorite Gospel verses: "I believe; help thou my unbelief!"
The Easter lily was the sign I needed to know that Ron was at peace and okay. I believe that he sent it to me because it never bloomed or grew again. It was just for that one time when I was still in utter devastation and so alone.
I don't think that the grief one feels when losing someone close, especially a partner or spouse, in an untimely way is a grief that one ever "gets over". One just becomes more and more used to that person not being physically present.
A dear friend said to me not long after Ron died, "What is remembered lives."
I will never forget those words.
I will always remember.
I love you, dear. Rest in eternal peace and perpetual light.
|2 years ago :: Nov 29, 2010 - 12:48AM #2|
And once again I see why I was nudged to check all of the support forums instead of going to what for all intents and purposes has become a combination group therapy and family on the Depression forum where we deal with many causes of depression. It is one of the most supportive, caring groups of people I've met and if you check out the front desk you'll get an idea of who we are.
But that is for later, on a day that you are up to it. We recently got a "new" contributor--she'd been reading posts for over a year before she got up the nerve and trust to post.
Thank God for Hospice. My Grandma had just signed on 2 days before she died. Because of that, we got to spend time with her after she had passed and weren't rushed out.I was the one who noticed she hadn't taken another breath in and had to say the words, to watch Mother listen for a heartbeat that wasn't there. She was over 100. And I still miss her dreadfully even though I was lucky to have her into my 50s. She was still living in her own home when she turned 100.
Mother had her medical and legal power of attorney because Grandma really couldn't write well by then. She and Grandma had talked for years over neither of them wanting extraordinary measures to be used to stay alive. Yet when it came time to sign the papers Mother had a lot of trouble doing it. She felt like she was signing her mother's death warrant. After the fourth time Mother rephrased it and asked again, Grandma finally told her to just sign the damn thing. The hospice worker said they certainly had no doubts about Grandma being sure of what she wanted. By that point, she wanted to stay in that room, with those nurses.
We'd taken her upstairs to have her nails done, and she'd been in the wheelchair longer than we'd expected. Her legs were more swollen and horribly painful. She said she was afraid the reason she'd lived so long was because she wasn't good enough to make it into Heaven. (And Mother and I looked at each other with the same thought--if she couldn't get in, we were in big trouble...) A few nights after this, she dreamed that she was at a party with all of the people she had loved and missed. After awhile, she realized that the room was so large and the colors so magnificent that it could only be in Heaven. She wasn't that thrilled to wake back up in her worn-out old body the next day, and she died a few days later. One of the nurses had come in to say good-bye to her and warn us that the process had started and she would be dying that afternoon.
He couldn't have told you about that party, but I know in my soul he got to see it. The nurse told us that it had become a signal to the staff that someone was nearing the end when they had that dream. It comforted Grandma, but it also made me see just how few the strings were tying her with us compared to all the people waiting for her. She kept trying to surface that day and couldn't...but when I went to sit by her and held her hand, she was able to squeeze my hand and that gave us all the chance to tell her how much we loved her, were proud of her, and how much she'd meant to us all our lives. When Mother talked to her, Grandma cried. We told her it was all right to let go and go back to her party. She was gone an hour later.
Grandma died of congestive heart failure--she wore a size 8 when she went into the nursing home and we buried her in a size 18. Mostly her body was just worn out. Her skin was like tissue paper before she started retaining water. But she was at the one place in town she had ever wanted to go to if she had to go into a nursing home/assisted living.
You brought your love home and he didn't die in the hospital as he'd feared doing. When you helped him sign that form, you were saying "I'm getting you out of here. You won't die here." And I'm sure that on some level he knew it. We would never have known that Grandma was consious those last hours if I hadn't gone over to take her hand. I don't know how she was holding on--her body was ice cold and it was the same temperature then that it was at visitation. It had always been the 4 of us--Grandma, Mother, my sister, and me. When I had gotten in town, the first thing that Grandma told me was that she could go now that I was there to take care of Mother. My sister had moved back to town and their new home had room for Mother if she needed a place in her old age. Grandma just had to be sure that Mother would be all right. (Let's put it this way--my grandparents usually rented a condo in Florida during the winter months. Grandpa needed it for his heart, but Mother had been ill. I had to promise Grandma that I would rat out my mother and tell her exactly how she was really doing so she wouldn't be worried the whole time they were down there. I felt guilty, but I couldn't tell her no. I did warn Mother about it......)
Even if he couldn't see, he could smell that he was at home and not in a hospital. The pillowcases and sheets smelled like home. And when you got close to him, he could sense you were there and absolutely could feel your love. As for the ICU...don't beat yourself up about not being able to be there.If you had been, he would have been trying to surface to worry you less and it wouldn't have helped either of you. I'm so glad that his family shared his ashes with you. My family knows that I want anything that can still help someone passed on and where I want at least part of my ashes spread. If anyone wants some of them, fine. It means that when everyone wants a piece of me at the same time, I'll finally be able to do it.
Did he make the flower bloom? of course. When a dear friend died very suddenly, she came to my sister-in-law twice in very vivid dreams to tell her that she was just dead--she wasn't gone. I had an anniversary card from her fall out of cookbook shelves about 2 years ago...and I don't put cards there. I had sent her husband an e-mail after the funeral to lend support.Not for him as much as for her, because he was being a real ass. I had the screen flash blue, and then tell me my message had been sent with her full name. I didn't know what her middle name was until after she'd died; it wasn't in the computer at all. Being an ass was talking about getting rid of all of her things and putting them in the dumpster before she'd been dead a week.
My contacts seem to be more physical--I had Grandma put her hand on my shoulder and squeeze it when I was in the hospital. The only way a person could have done that would have required having the IV pole coming out of their head. I was wide awake since the fire alarms went off at 3 AM. I had figured that as long as the nurses weren't concerned about it I didn't need to be. The next time we were trying to pick up the house before our son's in-laws to be came here the first time. I'm handicapped, and I tire out easily. Grandma had always been an immaculate housekeeper. I have a picture of her on my mirror, and I told her that I was only going to lie down for an hour. that I'd set the alarm and then get up and do her proud. What happened next really surprised me. I was sitting on my bed. The door is 6 feet away. the door slammed shut, the lights went out, I got pushed back on the bed, and I slept for 2 hours. In fact, my husband had wanted to know why I'd slammed the door and it wasn't me.
But the best contact was with my son. He'd fixed supper, promising me that he'd do the dishes afterwards. I kept waiting, and he ended up going up to bed and leaving them for me. I was finishing up the 3rd and final sink of dishes when he came into the kitchen to get a drink. By then I was leaning against the sink to hold me up and dripping wet. He left, then came back in with an odd expression and asked me if I'd like him to finish the dishes. I said it would be wonderful and left. The next morning he told me he had almost made it to the stairs when a thought came into his head. "Did you see all the things you left in the sink for your Mother to do?" He asked me if that had been Grandma and it absolutely was. Especially since he's always called me Mom instead of Mother. Nice to know that I was still being taken care of.
If the phone rings and no one is there...a special song comes on--even license plates with his initials..he's around. When we think of those who have crossed over with love, they know it. His love for you is no longer filtered through sickness and pain but is deeper and brighter than ever. Who we are and whom we love survives death. When my father died I had just turned 19 and I was terrified by it. I still had both sets of grandparents, so I hadn't really experienced anythng that intense before.
One afternoon I felt myself wrapped around in love that was unmistakenly my Grandpa.I got the phone call telling me that he had died about 10 minutes later, 150 miles away. He told me goodbye and let me know that love survives death.That was a very special parting gift and I haven't been afraid of death since then.It wouldn't surprise me if it took a little longer with your life partner simply due to all the pain he went through. That's the worst part of lingering deaths....we don't want them to be in such pain but we don't want to say good-bye, either.But the instant he left his shell behind, the pain was finally gone and he got to see colors so beautiful that they made the ones here look colorless.
I hadn't planned on getting over to the support forums tonight, and usually I would have gone straight to the Depression forum. Instead I was scrolling on to the end of the support groups and saw that there was a recent grief posting. So I'd say I got a fairly large nudge in your direction, so that you would know that someone else out there had heard you.
Pain dies. Love doesn't. I'm sorry that you had to lose such a wonderful man, but he died knowing that you loved him so much that you didn't leave him or make him suffer alone. That takes a lot of love and a degree of committment that is too rare in this world. Needing to sleep here and there wasn't not being there for him. When he was getting worse, you didn't bow out. A lot of people have run out on those they claim to love for situations that didn't compare at all to what you went through. He loved you, and you truly deserved his love, you know. I'm sorry that he's dead, but it seems that you were both fortunate to find each other.
"You are letting your opinion be colored by facts again."
'When I want your opinion, I'll give it to you."
these are both from my father.
|2 years ago :: Dec 10, 2010 - 7:13PM #3|
My dear unknown friend,
I just read your response to my post and was so moved by it. Thank you.
Yesterday was the 4th anniversary of Ron's passing.
I listened to Mozart's "Requiem" in his memory and shortly before dusk, the UPS truck delivered the huge bouquet of white Memorial Lilies I had ordered.
I carefully cut each stem before putting them in a clear glass vase with some sprigs of eucalyptus. Then I brough them upstairs and placed them on a high visible shelf. Next to the vase I put Ron's urn.
I so enjoyed reading your story about your Grandmother and your words of condolence and comfort to me.
Yes, miracles do happen, don't they? I feel so blessed to have read the ways in which people you loved let you know they were okay, just like Ron did for me.
Your story brought me great consolation, comfort and a deep sense of peace. Christ's peace.
Thank you so much for sharing with all of us, but especially with me. It was no accident.
Peace be with you, dear one and thank you again. XO.