Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Dear Randy,

Two years ago today, I had to say good bye to you forever. There are some times when that day seems like a lifetime away, so much has happened since then. Other times, it feels like a giant wound that just keeps getting reopened. I don't remember everything thing about the 30 days you spent in the hospital. I don't remember every single visit, every step forward or set of steps back. But I remember every single wretched thing about the day you died.

On Thursday, January 26th, 2006 you had a great day. The following day, you began the downward spiral. By Saturday, your mother had requested all treatment be stopped except for a morphine drip. On Sunday, January 29th, I picked myself up and went to the hospital with the purpose of saying good bye to you. You were unresponsive and I knew that you would not have wanted me to put myself through the wringer every single day until you passed. So I drove the mile and a half from my home to Moffitt Cancer Center. I wore a maroon Polo shirt, blue jeans and brown leather sandals. Isn't it ridiculous that I remember that? I remember seeing you so small, so weak and so different from the man I knew. You were tossing and turning, but not aware of your surroundings. I held your hand, and said your name loudly. You turned and our eyes locked for the last time. I couldn't make out any recognition in them as I said "good bye" with tears running down my face. I went and sat down on the chair in the corner of that awful room to collect myself. I could see the nurses at the station across the hall trying not to stare, but I could feel their sympathy. I remember wondering how many times a day they saw this type of thing and how they kept their sanity.

After I managed to pull myself together, I drove home and tried to have a day. I didn't know how long we'd have to deal with you being partly here but mostly gone. That afternoon, Jill came over to teach me how to use my new sewing machine. We sewed pillows for my couch, which I had just bought new slipcovers for. We sat at my table, avoiding the obvious and just talked about nothing. Later we ordered a pizza and garlic bread, my treat for her helping. I asked Jill if she wanted to sleep over. I thought she might not want to go home to an empty house, but she surprised me and said she wanted to just be by herself.

Dean and I watched TV for awhile and then went to bed. I couldn't sleep but could hear Dean's steady deep breathing as my mind wandered to the inevitable. At 11:18 pm, the phone rang and I just knew. I answered it with a knot in my stomach to hear Jill say in the tiniest voice I've ever heard, "He's gone, Natalie."

Do you want to know the dumbest thing? It took me one and a half years to step foot in the Moffitt Cancer Center, even though passing through it while on campus is often much more convenient than avoiding it. When I finally stepped through the door the familiar scent from that day left me nearly paralyzed. But I went in and have done it several times since. I still think I see you sometimes when someone with your shape enters my peripheral vision. I dream of you often, sometimes in them I know you are dead, other times it's as if nothing has changed and I'm upset to wake up and remember the truth. Then there are moments that take me utterly by surprise because your memory catches me off guard.

One such moment happened when I was cleaning out the medicine drawer. When Allie was a kitten, she had a runny eye. The vet said it was herpes and that I should crush up a half of an l-lysine tablet and mix it in some wet food twice a day. I quickly learned that if I didn't crush the pill up well enough, she ate around the bigger pieces and left them. Since crushing the pills to a fine powder two times a day was difficult and time consuming, one day I took the bottle with me to the lab, planning to crush a few with the mortar and pestle and then use a small scoop to measure out what I needed from the powder. When you caught wind of my idea, You became excited about it because you used a mortar and pestle everyday and "developed just the right technique" for such a job. I remember watching you that day, your huge hands diligently crushing up pills for a sick little kitten and my heart was warmed. You loved my kitties (and everyone else's!) so very much. When I stopped just feeding the ferals and started doing TNR and kitten rescue, I couldn't help but think what a kick you would have gotten out of snuggling the babies. Maybe you would have even kept one for yourself.

So just a couple of days ago when I came across that bottle of l-lysine with some powder still in it, well I just couldn't bring myself to throw it away. Maybe in a couple more years I'll be ready. But right now I'm still taking my time.


Jeni said...

A very good friend of mine from childhood died 19 years ago this past September of cancer. He was a terrific guy - great husband, father, excellent friend. Knowing for several months it was incurable, his cousin and I spent many a long night, crying (literally and figuratively) in our beer over what we were losing. His death was a difficult time not just for his family and close friends but also for my kids who regarded him so highly too. It took me several years before I could talk about him without crying. And even after 19 years, there are times when it hits me all over again. Some losses are so deep, cut into us so much, that it seems to never go away and then, when you think about it another way, do you ever really WANT to forget? The pain, the suffering, yes, but never the greatness of the person.

anne said...

Thank you again for sharing all that. Thinking about you today.

hhboots said...

Tal... what a beautiful tribute.I am most postive you inspired him as much as he has you.
I know when I lost my friend Jerome to AIDS,it was one of the hardest things to deal with. Not so much loosing him because I knew my memories would forever keep him alive. But for me was the disease itself and how painfully aweful it is.And how it left him his last days.
I too sometimes see him through other people,situations, and of course the fashion world ( as he was a designer/buyer for Target) and the comfort is gives me I know he is in a good place.

greensunflowerRN said...

This brought tears to my eyes. Losing a friend can leave such a black hole in our lives. May you be warmed by the memory of him, and wrapped in his good person, as this anniversary passes

Dianne said...

Oh magnetbabe - you are such a deeply caring, lovely young woman. The more I know about you - the more I like you and respect you.

Take all the time you need. We each handle grief, loss, death in our own way, on our own schedule.

My sister died 21 years ago this October and I can still smell her perfume - I hated it :) - and most of all, I often hear her call my name - usually when I'm in an open space or when it's very windy. Used to freak me out but now I think of it as a small, sweet reminder from the universe.

Loving memories always win out over grief - they just need time.

dr sardonicus said...

It's hard to let go when someone touches your life like that. Over time the pain subsides but the hole in your heart never quite heals. You still have those memories to comfort you.

Le Petit Chic said...

Thanks for sharing such a painful memory with all of us. That was a beautiful post.

fermicat said...

I want to reach out and give you a hug. This was a beautiful post.

mom said...

i had only met randy twice, but every time i see tom's homie collection, i'm reminded of randy at the chinese buffet, eating mac and cheese and pudding. he had his 2 quarters on the table like a little kid just waiting to go to the vending machine to buy another homie. tom is still buying them, in a small way randy lives on in our house too.

Minnesotablue said...

Magnetbabe: What a beautiful tribute to your friend Randy. Know that he will forever be in your heart.

Jill said...

I read this the other day but I haven't had a chance to comment till now. I remember it similar to you and different at the same time. I was there in the Morning when the decision was made. And of course I was there to make that call late that night. What I really remember is the next morning. As I got to USF people knew why I was there. They just walked up shaking their heads hoping it wasn't true. But it was. We didn't know why but somehow that is where we were supposed to be. So this year I lit a candle, remembered him and reminded some friends that we shouldn't take each other or our health for granted.