In a few hours I’ll be boarding a plane for Dallas to attend Gary’s funeral. One week after he passed away in a UCLA hospital room.
He’d fallen unconscious and was suffering multi-organ failure. After a futile attempt to save him with one last dose of chemo, the doctors told his parents that that their only child was beyond saving. It was around 10pm Thursday, and his parents, being devout Christians, gave the hospital permission to remove the respirator at midnight. It would be Good Friday.
After the respirator was removed, and the morphine was injected, they took turns saying good-bye. When it was Gary’s father turn, he leaned over and gently patted his son’s hand.
“You go,” he said. “And daddy will follow.”
A handful of us kept Chin company over the weekend. Hugs and comforting words help a little, but mostly you just listen. The words flowed out as easily as her tears. Most of them were her memories of Gary. Sad memories. Happy memories. Funny memories.
Memories were now all she had: whether they were stories or his possessions that filled his one bedroom apartment. At one point she found a strand of his hair, and cradled it in the palm of her hand as if it might contain a small trace of his soul.
The guy did have a lot of stuff. Boxes filled with climbing gear, fishing gear, camping gear. If there was a gear for something, Gary basically had it. Just helped to show that the guy had a passion for living. But death doesn’t care who it takes, or how badly good people suffer because of it.
Grief is the one emotion that can kill a person. It took my grandmother from us not long after it took my grandfather from her. The thing about loving someone is that there may come a time when that person is taken from you. And the pain will grab your world by its very seams and tear it all down.
Many years ago, before she even met Gary, Chin had a discussion with a coworker about this. She’d just read a book called “My Sergei” – three times in fact - about a Russian figure skating couple, Katerina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov. They’d fallen in love early, and were inseparable ever since. Then during practice, Sergei suddenly collapsed from a heart attack and died. He was 28.
The question Chin’s coworker posed to her was this: Would you rather find your soul mate and risk having him taken from you prematurely, or would you rather spare yourself and never find your soul mate at all? Without hesitation, Chin said finding your soul mate was worth the risk.
She repeated this story for us Saturday night with a weak smile on her face. In her hands she was tightly clutching a pair of his socks.
And there wasn’t a thing any of us could say.