May 17, 2004

The Extraordinary In Our Lives


One of the hardest things about leaving California has been leaving our friends and family behind. And the same has been true of leaving Cornwall.

I was back in California a couple of weeks ago to do some consulting, and saw quite a few friends, including my brother and sister and their families. It was lovely to see them all. Many of them have been reading this weblog, so they knew a bit about what we’ve been up to, and we’ve kept in touch with emails and photos and phone calls; and so for the most part we were able to pick up where we’d left off in September.

But it was also bittersweet. Because as I walked around Mill Valley and Sausalito and Palo Alto and San Francisco, I realized that what we were really missing by living half-way around the world were our friend’s “life events". Most people think of life-events as the big things, like births and deaths and weddings and divorces. But lately I’ve been thinking that the little things may be just as important, or maybe even more so. Things like birthdays, and holidays, and picnics, and dinners, and vacations. All of the things that build a friendship, and turn the people around us from the ordinary in our lives to the extraordinary in our lives.

I was thinking about this because I just got an email from our good friend Barney. Barney is English, and he and Rachel have been close friends since they were (practically) youngsters in the London ad industry. Barney wrote because a friend he’s been helping care for had just died. Barney’s an extraordinary person (one of the many things that makes him extraordinary is that he runs a non-profit that helps people with life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and AIDS, make their way through the ever-treacherous U.S. medical insurance industry). To make a long story short, Barney was present when this friend died, and he sent us an email just after the death that was very real, and raw, and stream of conciousness. I asked if I might include the text of the letter in this weblog. He graciously agreed, and so here it is (with some very minor editing).

And thank you Barney, for gently reminding us how important friends are.

Hi There,

Robert died Sunday, it had been an intense week ending up on Saturday after the Hospice nurse came by, with his asking me to take him up to a meadow on top of Mount Tam, overlooking Stinson Beach so he could show me his favorite spot and where he wanted his ashes scattered. Hot day, hard to get the wheelchair up the rocky paths but we managed it - he was so happy, fell asleep under the warm sun, then down to Stinson to have his favorite fish and chips at The Sand Dollar (he didn’t eat more than a morsel, but that’s not the point) where he nodded off and I thought he had died - but no (thank god), he was too tired to get up the stairs, even with help, to his bedroom so I carried him up, dog clambered up and went to sleep with his head on Roberts chest. (heartbreaking scene).

Robert slipped in and out of consciousness (I think he might have picked up a nasty cold that one of the stupid attendants turned up withone day about a week ago - I made her go home ( “I didn’t think it was important") andI covered the shift - he being so at risk for infection following the chemo.) I stayed the night downstairs (an attendant stayed up with him for most of the night,and woke at 5am Sunday morningand went to check on him - he had that “death rattle” breathing, sweating profusely, soI washed his face with iced water and put eyedrops in his eyes as they had gotten very dry from being open so long.A very nice and helpful (and one of the only one’s without a personal agenda) friend of Roberts’who had driven up from LA to see him, came in at 11and we laid on the bed with him for about an hour, and then he just stopped breathing and turned ghostly white, Eric thought he was dead but I checked for and found a pulse and faint heartbeat, then 5 minutes later it was over.

I am stunned that it happened so fast, but knowing Robert, once he made up his mind, that was it - he just let go.
I opened all the windows to let the spirit out (or something like that) and we dressed him in his favorite clothes and covered the bed with masses of individual purple orchid blossomsthat I had bought him (his favorite flower) and several hours later the funderal home came and collected him.

I am so happy that he left so quickly, on his own terms. It left me with a sense of tranquility and inner warmth that he came to embrace a real sense of peace and accomplishment just before he died……unfortunately, that did not last long, for now the “vultures” (as he called them) are circling, “Oh, I’m one of his closest friends” who had not seen him for ages, or called in weeks, were never available to sit with him, or run errands, empty his shit bag, or at least call him frequently to check in, or take him to medical appointments or collect him from the hospital - but now are bugging me to know who is getting what from the house….arrrggghhhhh the man just died, give me a break!

They can have all the stuff in the house, I don’t want any of it, but as executorI have to inventory everything for the attorney for probate requirements, maybe by the time his will is probated (6-8 months) they’ll have found another carrion to salivate over. Now I really get why Robert wanted me to be his Power of Attorney and Executor. My job is to make sure his wishes are fufilled, with no personal agenda, the same most definitley cannot be said of these slithery drama queens. (what a vivid description!)

Tirade over, must get back to finishing all the letters to clients…

Love to y’all, especially the boys.

Barn. XXXX

Posted by: Frank @ 1:14 am — Filed under:

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