Friday, October 25, 2013

Horrible Nights, Wonderful Nights

As I try to accept my dear friend Raul's impending death, I also celebrate my youngest child's struggle as an (almost) 15-year-old girl in high school. Her birthday is Sunday. Not to mention my youngest grandson's second birthday, today. Happy Birthday, Oliver! (far left, in his birthday suit)

Julia is upstairs at this hour, babysitting a little guy called Elliot, not yet one year old.

Life celebrates life. Our babies grow up and take care of other babies.

Our dearest friends pass away, one by one. And we cry. It is an essential part of living that we understand our dying.

I am an old man now. I have been losing friends for years and I know I will lose many more if I live long enough to hear the news. One by one we are all going away. On some sweet day not that long from now, my friends and family will also lose me. And then my voice will become silent, so for now I know I need to keep posting. These messages matter.

My heart is so heavy tonight, because I (selfishly) do not want to lose Raul. He is one of the very few who has been there for me when it really mattered. He loves me and I love him. He is a great man, a wonderful human being, and also a gay Cuban immigrant from a dysfunctional family, a great journalist, a kind person with a heart bigger than anyone else I have ever known.

I do not want to let him go. And I also know that I must.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

As we all say goodbye to one another

I had the honor to spend yesterday and last night with my old and dear friend Raul Ramirez, who is dying of cancer. He had requested that I come to the rehab facility where he has been the past few weeks. He had been getting stronger and feeling better after a brutal month of setbacks, and felt well enough for a visit. It was supposed to be a happy visit. But before I got there he got some troubling news -- a CT scan had identified an arterial aneurysm in his abdomen. He was urgently taken by ambulance to the ER at Kaiser in Oakland, where surgery would be considered. I went there as well with two of his other friends, plus Tony, his partner. (They were married last weekend.)
There, the doctors told us that the situation is dire and that there is nothing further they can do for Raul, surgery is too dangerous, plus the combination of problems he has now are too complex to be solved by any kind of medical intervention whatsoever. All they can do now is mitigate the pain.
As fast as possible we are now trying to arrange hospice care. Raul desperately wants to return to his home and die there. Today I signed as a witness to his will, we discussed his wishes for cremation, he instructed that he is not to be resuscitated once his heart stops and many other similar topics.

Then, something kind of wonderful happened and this is so Raul. We decided to have a little party. I had brought over some fruits and cheese -- a nurse brought some crackers and juice and there in the Kaiser ER we had a picnic. Raul was very much the life of the party. We all laughed (and cried) and ate the snacks. All I can say is Raul really loves strawberries!

At this point, it will be day to day. I am on call to go there whenever Tony or others request. I know he would love to hear from any of you through whatever channel you choose. When he feels well enough he checks email. He even takes phone calls. He opens cards. He listens when friends relay messages. He is very frustrated and angry and sad and I think also still somewhat scared but he also seems strong and resolved to handle this his way. He refuses pain medications so his mental acuity is intact. He is in terrible pain and so thin it is hard to see but his mind is active, playful and inquiring. He's really still the same Raul we've all always loved so much.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Family Gathering

A week ago.