I got word yesterday that one of my dearest friends in sobriety is in hospice. I knew he wasn’t well, but I didn’t realize it was this bad. It is this bad.
When I signed in, I looked at all of the other names before mine, almost everyone on the sheet had come to visit Ed. Some of the names I knew, some I didn’t. I said something about the number of visitors to the people at the front desk. They said he has had a lot of visitors. I told them I wouldn’t be here today without him. They looked up at me and told me every single other person had said the same thing. They said he must be a very special person.
Oh my God, you have no idea.
I sheepishly walked into his room. His cadaverous body was laying on the bed. His toothless mouth was gaping as he very slowly breathed. I said “hi,” but he slept. I sat down and prayed the Rosary. As I prayed, the most random memories of him would pop into my mind, and I would cry. His story about the dog who ate the foam stuffing out of his weight lifting bench, only to have it expand, and his graphic description of the dog “blowing up.” Now, I don’t think that story could have been true, but it was a great one (I guess unless you find stories about dogs dying disturbing). He would say the craziest things and do the most bizarre things. I remembered many of these as I sat and prayed.
I remembered when he first asked me “out.” We were having coffee and he asked me to go back to his house to “watch rassling.” Of course, I thought he was joking. But he wasn’t. There were six months of these crazy invitations, until I said to him one night “OK, Ed, I call your bluff. Give me your address and I will be there in a half hour.” He stuttered and stammered, but he gave me his address, and I showed up. That was the beginning of the most amazing and bizarre romance of my life. Oh, how I loved him. He wanted to love me. We were really good friends who should never have gone where we went. But we continued that on and off for 10 years. He was the worst boyfriend in the world, but he was the best friend a person could ever ask for.
He was the type of man who would do the most generous things and seldom did anyone know it was him. He laughed and told me about a woman who shared at her first AA birthday that she had never needed to fill up her gas tank for that whole year! She thought it was a miracle, and I guess it was. It was the miracle of Ed. He would bring a gas can to her parked car and fill it up. Who ever heard of anyone doing that?
He was big on groceries on the doorstep. A couple of times I found them at my door, and I was always grateful. Also envelopes with cash in the mailbox, no card, no hint whatsoever that it was from him, but I always knew. One particularly slim Christmas, he showed up on my doorstep holding a Christmas tree. He was adorable. I took it in and he left.
I made him Sunday afternoon dinner every Sunday for many, many years. He would make fun of the food, but he always ate it all up. He was funny. I would serve him beautiful salmon, and he would say it was carp from a local very polluted lake. Obviously, his humor was not everyone’s cup of tea. He always made me laugh.
Tonight, I sat and prayed the Rosary and looked at what’s left of his body. Here’s a guy who is a former Heck’s Angle (sorry to misspell, you get the idea), who has been the victim of multiple gunshot wounds, who has had more accidents on his Harley Davidson than anyone should ever survive. He has even shot himself (accidentally). And yet, it looks like he will have a peaceful death, probably with someone he loves at his side. We do not get to pick the way we die. I know he wouldn’t have chosen this way. But it is what he gets.
I am so grateful to have known him for all of my sobriety. He saved my life so many times. More importantly, he saved my daughter’s life.
As I was getting ready to leave, a young man came in and sat down. He introduced himself and told me Ed is his sponsor. I told him he was a good one. We sat for a while.
I took leave of my friend, just a simple “Goodbye Ed, I love you.” That’s it.
That’s all there is to say in the end.
I love you. And goodbye.