subject: Re: Rich Fuchs
Oh, Michael. I am so, so sorry. What a blessing that you had one last (seemingly very lovely, from the photos) visit over the holidays. But still, he was way too young to go.
All my love,
subject: Re: Rich Fuchs
Hiya, you. Thank you for your wonderful message. It's a bit cliche, but the general outpouring of support and love seems to be the conspicuous upside to all of this. So your note, and your love, definitely count. (Especially yours.)
You're right that he was too young. The man got up at five in the morning to play basketball with guys a third his age. And he never did seem to get old - and never will now. He should have lived another 30 years. He deserved the time. After supporting everyone forever, he deserved some time for himself. I occasionally go through this anger stage, where I'm mad at medical science for not being able to help him, and mad at the universe for operating this way. He definitely deserved better. And of course, all of the rest of us were short-changed.
But you're even more right about the Christmas. "Blessing" seems like a loaded word to me - but I keep coming back to it, for Christmas, and for Rich's life. I can't tell you how grateful I am to have gotten to spend that time. And I was incredibly lucky, too: Just before I got there, he'd been in the hospital, where a few days of painkillers and sleeping pills and no eating had left him pretty out of his head. He kept trying to leave in the middle of the night. There was wrestling involved. Everyone thought that might be it for him, as, like, a conversible human being.
But by the time I got there, only hours later, he was totally himself again. Just the man I remembered. And, later, literally only hours after I left, he started to deteriorate very rapidly. When I went in to say goodbye - more on which in a second - he held my hand so tightly . . .
Christmas Eve, he insisted that Erin and I take him out for last-minute Christmas shopping. He decided he hadn't gotten enough stuff for Debi. Also, my luggage had been lost, and he wanted to take me to his favourite men's shop. We put him in a wheelchair, and wheeled him around on this shopping epic. Erin and I were exhausted; but he wasn't quitting until he was done. He barked at me when I hamhandedly jostled his wheelchair on curbs. It was him to a tee - completely generous (and slightly cranky) until the very last. Oh, goodness, I thought I was done crying (at least at work) for a bit.
After the 10 days I had to decide whether to leave. Erin was staying. However, the hospice nurse said he seemed strong, and it might be another 4-6 weeks. Frankly, I'm a sole breadwinner at the moment, and with the government shuttering much of itself, I might be out of a job shortly, and have two months left on this contract that I really kind of needed to work.
However, what that meant was that I had to go in there and say goodbye to my father - for what was definitely the last time. You try keeping your voice steady for that one.
But the nice thing about cancer is nothing need be left unsaid. So I spent much of the time saying everything - thanking him for everything, reassuring him that my life was pretty awesome (thanks due mainly to him) and that we were all going to be okay, and even giving him a blanket pardon for a couple of things (like not staying together with my mother, for which he still suffered some guilt and regret). That last afternoon, I hit the main points again - that I love him so much, that I'm so grateful to have had him around all this time; and he told me to be happy, and to not only appreciate Anna when it was too late (he really loved Anna) - and then I walked out.
Monday night I was reading and having my evening frappé. Anna suggested that I really ought to call - the girls had literally been standing vigil for a couple of days - and I did so. He had stopped talking by then. They had me on speakerphone. While I was chatting with Erin, Debi saw that he didn't seem to be breathing. Everyone, voices quavering, told him how much they loved him - and that it was okay for him to go now. And that was it.
Except for everything that comes after.
I fly out tomorrow, and the funeral's on Friday.
I'm so grateful for your friendship and your love.