Copyright © 2004, 2005 by Roxanne L. Green. All rights reserved. You may archive a personal copy for your own use, but you may not send it to anyone else, or post it on any other site, regardless of whether it is a pay or free site, nor may you make any other use of this story without my express written and signed permission. Posted by the author on May 15, 2005, to StoriesOnline.net.
Parts of this message are from my husband, Stan. He wishes you well. He thanks you for your prayers and good thoughts over the past nine years, and he wants you to know he is happy, and at peace. Stan died in March, a few days after his 39th birthday. I don't know if there is any special meaning to the day of his death, but he died on my 38th birthday. The people closest to me all seem to die on my birthday or a few days after it.
This was going to be the first, and only, public message from me. Stan and I worked on this together in January. We talked about what he wanted me to say. Some of these words are his. Several days after he died, I was writing to a close personal -- real life -- friend. I put ten words together at the top of my message. Then I cried for a long time. It was cathartic. So I shared those words with a few electronic friends; people I'd been close to since the bulletin boards shut down, and everybody migrated to the World Wide Web. Once I did that, I decided to share my thoughts with the rest of you. I wrote:
I wasn't ready
I know he was
Once I laid that grief on you, I felt better. You've been most gracious in your comments, both public and private, but now I'm embarrassed to have taken up so much bandwidth on an off-topic message.
This is a message of great joy, and a message of extreme sadness. I'm sad for a life cut far too short, and I'm eternally grateful to have had my best friend in my life for almost 36 years. I've waited a while before posting this, because I wasn't up to it when it happened. I haven't been around here as much as I was before; I have checked in and tried to take care of business, but probably not very well. In January, Stan cleaned out his computer, and he said some good byes to those close to him. I don't know if he got to everyone that he wanted to. He gave me his passwords, and I helped him with his correspondence, with increasing frequency, beginning in February.
He asked me to check his e-mail for a while, so I've done that too. I've had occasion to communicate with some of you since he died. Towards the end, and for a while after, until I posted my ten words, I answered your questions about how he was by saying he was doing fine, or that he was resting. That is true. His long and often painful struggle is over. For that blessing, he and I are happy. He wants you to be happy about it too.
I started to lie about his condition late in January, or early in February. January 21 was when the doctor said it was hopeless.
I can't say enough wonderful things about Hospice. I really can't talk about Hospice at all, except to say they are the most wonderful, caring, helpful human beings I've ever met. They explained to Stan, and to me, and to my dad and his girlfriend, what was happening, and why it was happening. People go through fairly predictable stages as they die. They made Stan's last job on this world much easier. He was fortunate, in that he didn't need many drugs for the pain. He was clear-headed most of the time.
Stan had liver cancer. In 1995, he was one of the lucky people who had a liver transplant. Last year, we learned he survived longer than 90% of all liver cancer patients who had transplants in 1995. Things went well some of the time, but he spent a lot of time in the hospital after the transplant.
He made a list of things he wanted to do, and places he wanted see. As we accomplished the things on his list, he added to it. We checked off every thing on the list, except for his desire to visit Eastern Russia, from where both of our families hailed, two generations ago. I probably will not make that trip without him.
The next-to-last thing on Stan's list was his desire to see Petco Park, the new ballpark in San Diego. I tried to get us in for a tour, but couldn't do it. A few days before he died, I rented an ambulance and a crew for the evening, and we went to the first baseball game played there. It was a college game, between the University of Houston and San Diego State University. About thirty-three thousand people were there, including Stan, an attendant, and I. It shattered by 50% the previous record for a college baseball game. We got there early, and I wheeled him all around the stadium. We tasted a lot of the food, and he walked short distances and sat in several seats. We only saw about three innings before he got tired, and I phoned the ambulance crew to come get us. He must have thanked me half a dozen times in the next three days.
The first part of 2003 was especially difficult for Stan. He spent much of the time in the hospital, and in rehab, at a skilled nursing facility. The drugs, which prevent the body from rejecting a transplant, also can wreak havoc on the body's immune system. Opportunistic infections and skin cancers were problems. Stan got better the last third of 2003, but he began to deteriorate again right after New Years. At first, his doctors thought he could be helped by another transplant. Stan adamantly refused. He lived a long time with a borrowed liver, and it was clear to him he wouldn't survive a long time with another one, as he had other health problems at the end. He didn't want to take away someone else's chance, by removing a liver from the too small inventory of cadaver organs.
We had some marvelous talks in the last month. We said all the things we needed to say to each other. He might have suffered some, just before he died, but he took no drugs in that last hour. We were talking. I was holding his hand. He squeezed my hand, said "I love you," and his hand went slack. His chest stopped moving. His eyes went dull. He was gone.
There was no sign of pain on his face. The doctor said his heart stopped.
Some of you knew the story of my nude photos. This is not the time to rehash the story, but I kept my promise to him, and put the whole set into his hands, just before I closed his coffin. When he was sick last year, he asked me to print the set for him, so I had them in the house. I never did show them to him. He didn't ask to see them; he only asked me to remember my promise to cremate him with them.
One thing was very important to Stan that I say here; he asks you all to sign organ donor cards, and to tell your families that any parts left over after you die should be harvested and donated, so others who need them can have them. Thousand of lives are saved annually by organ transplants, but there are far more people in need of organs than there are donors. More than 25 different organs and tissues can be transplanted today. Your decision to become an organ donor is truly giving the gift of life!
.... There is more of this story ...