Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Insignificant and Iconic Item that Made Me and Bruce Kurland Laugh Laugh Laugh

I count the days since he died.
It was a Wednesday.
Every Wednesday now I have a ritual of barely sleeping, waking at about 5:00 a.m. and rushing to the suburban big box gym where I sweat, pushing myself through pain.
December 11, 2013 was a day of glossy hard function; I made it through the day before I could hurry back to him.
I used a lot of Rescue Remedy–that day and many since.
The first time I walked into the low Hospice building on Maple Street in Buffalo's Fruit Belt neighborhood I stopped midway on the walkway to the door and thought 'There will be a moment when it will be the final time that I leave this building.'
I did not know that that first time would be the first time of six trips entering or exiting: he was there for five days, and I visited for three. 
One of his doctors, who is a friend, and his ex-wife contacted me that Sunday to let me know that he was in Hospice, they did not know themselves until he had been there for a day or so.
I was one of his two health care proxies, a position that I took on with a sense of protectiveness. And when he tried to thank me from his hospital bed during his two month-long stays for this role I always said that he did not need to thank me, that I know that he would do the same for me. And he would have. And we both knew that.
I replay what happened that Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday–it is all so clear and I know that it will remain so.
It was the conversation and the ferocious ILOVEYOU's on the telephone, the visit with the two of us talking for hours and laughing and apologizing and laughing and more Love (his final lucid conversation), the actively dying day of holding onto his hand and having a breakdown and speaking privately with a Hospice nurse at a dining room table about what was happening to his body, and the last day of quiet and nearly-silent breathing and talking to the others in the room who came in for their goodbyes.
And my goodbye with touches and words of Love.
I thanked him, I told him how much I love him, I said that I hoped that he wasn't afraid.
The visit on his final lucid day he said that he wanted it to be over with: something I had to respect, but which felt like a knife being plunged into my heart. We had talked a few other times about him letting go, about how his final two years of his five years of cancer were not about living but surviving.
When it was time to say fare well before he drifted away into the good light, the dying part of what was happening seemed such a part of life. From my perspective. The release.
I nearly drowned amid swells of water in Lake Erie one teenaged summer and, after struggling and gasping for air amid an undertow, was ready to let go as I was exhausted. It was peaceful and quiet but I heard a voice say that it wasn't my time and then I did not die. Because of that moment I imagined him having that same Peace after that series of groundswells that they call active dying in the Hospice world.
His last lucid night he said to me "All you can hope for is to be happy."
He wanted to know if I was happy, I know that he was hoping that I was happy.
I told him that I am happy. He asked about different people in my family by name, he wanted to know that everyone was alright.
All the days and weeks and months that he had been in a hospital room those last two years he always asked about others, maintaining an interest in others, a voracious learning mind still connecting to Life: an eternal inspiration.
The night that he died I needed to cook, to find order in something, to focus my mind on something that was familiar as my heart turned to gelatin, set with bright red chunks of pain. I sliced vegetables, I don't even recall what I cooked or if I ate anything. I doubt that I ate. The night that Brucey died he came to my house, his energy engulfed me as he made his way to the good light.
I believe he lingered for a while.
He came to me and said "Live, Live, Live."
His voice sounded serious, it was an order.
The next morning I left for an already-planned and paid-for trip to the Shiney Apple to see a performance at Park Avenue Armory.
The timing was perfect, to leave for two days to be in the city that we both love, to get swallowed up by Art, to make Art.
I add here that that Monday night, Lucid Monday, I thought that I wanted to talk with him, share with him, thoughts about being fifty, thoughts about aging. Him dying and me aging (but also dying) and needing his wit, always, to understand Life better, to have a perspective about everything that is funny, and wise, and useful, and real, and kind, and Artful. That was the scenario. That will, in part, be the scenario.
He would have said something funny and helpful about being this age and I'm straining still to hear his words. 
Today as I was organizing things in an area of my home where I have mementos – and mementos mori – I came upon this object pictured above. I have realized that there are pieces of him all over my house and in my life.
This object was acquired by him at a truck stop and I think maybe it may have been where he trooped off to buy cartons of cigarettes every month or so.
This plastic object is a lighter in the dual shape of a pager of yore, and also a more classy lighter. When flipped open there were once ultra-bright chaser lights that, upon first flip, were quite shocking.
There was a clock on the side that stopped working long ago.
We loved the absurdity of this object.
I can hear his uproarious laugh that I will miss (and need) the rest of my life.