You died at 4:47 A.M. on a Thursday, which is when Stephen called me at my hotel to tell me you had left us.
He told me you had finally let go, while being gently enfolded in his arms. I was glad he was there.
I both wish i had been and glad i was not. Seeing you without the spirit of life in your eyes….
well…..not sure its something i want in my memory. In fact, I know I do not want that. So i remember you with the light of life in your beautiful brown eyes. Those last days, you were in pain and there was fear too, but at least you were alive as long as I was there to be by your side.
A small group of close friends and relatives took turns comforting you, rubbing your body, turning you over,
and sitting you up. The laying you back down again. Sitting you up, then laying you back down again. Over and over, until you’d finally fall into some sort of restful slumber brought on by fresh doses of morphine.
Stephen kept worrying he was administering too much morphine. He didn’t want you to be in pain.
I told him not to worry about inappropriate dosages. No pain was the better choice.
At one point, i held you in my arms and sang “I’ll Be Seeing You”, a favorite of yours.
You kissed me twice. The kisses were tender, like in our early days. That was our goodbye, i believe.
This was taking place in the dimly lit space of the bedroom you and Stephen shared, all pillowed up and rearranged to make room for your final journey away from us. Pillows, blankets rolled up for leverage,
more pillows, not a hospital bed, but rather the comfortable bed where you and Stephen shared so much.
Sometimes we had low Buddhist chanting playing; sometimes low piano jazz, which seemed too jaunty, and in fact, finally offensive, so soon, no more jazz, only the soft rumble of Ram Dass and kirtan.
So, it was you and Stephen at the final moment..
His stories of what ensued over the next few hours are both comical and horrifying, as he invited all the necessary strangers into the house to prep for your departure. You had fallen gravely ill so rapidly, there was no time to book the proper hospice care, so Stephen was learning as he went along, who to call, and why to call, and what to do. I applaud him for that. Im pretty sure i could not have handled that. In fact, you and I would still be sitting together in that room, you decaying in death, me rotting in sorrow. But Stephen did all that was necessary. The EMT’s wanted to test your corpse for signs of life and Stephen held them off with his furious and indignant protests, telling them that if indeed you were still alive….well, had they ever taken a biology class? I get a laugh from that. Stephen kept holding you,
Hours later, after your were gone, i got to the apartment and walked in to see Stephen shampooing the rug in the bedroom, all the sheets and pillowcases whirling soapily in the washer. At first i was offended , but for only a few seconds..how could he erase you so fast?
But then i understood, and i was glad for it. It’s how Stephen copes: getting the next thing done.
Stephen then poured us both a shot of whiskey, and we sat in your wonderful colorful living room – those golden yellow walls, that delicious apple red suede cloth sofa -and we held each other, crying and laughing til the next set of visitors arrived.
The room in which you died was dark.
The room in which we toasted your life was bright and colorful.
You’d have loved it.
That’s why you always chose such bright and mouthwatering colors: to celebrate life.
I will celebrate yours til my dying day.