This will be long. I need to get this out of me.
I watched my close friend die a slow death after a stroke from Thursday February 9 – Sunday February 12 when at 8:04pm he was finally allowed to be taken off of life-support as would have wished, could he express himself at the time. I’ve never felt so powerless and useless in my life. All I could do was sit there and make sure he never spent a minute alone in the hospital room. I remember feeling scared for him – so scared that he could stay paralyzed if he lived, so scared of coming to know a world without him if he died.
I stayed in the hospital for 27 hours Saturday – Sunday – the moment he was moved from his room to ICU to be intubated until the moment he took his last breath. I don’t know what compelled me to stay either, other than love. I was not needed. He didn’t know I was there. But I just couldn’t leave, had no desire to go home.
When I finally forced myself to leave just to change my contact lenses out, I was faced with a bitterly cold South Florida morning as I went to my car. I was dressed for warmer weather from the Saturday evening I had come in on. I couldn’t believe how cold it was. Suddenly, without any warning, my mind flashed to a scene of flying closely over the water of the Keys. I recognized it. I knew that instant that my friend was dead. And if there was such thing as a spirit, his was free and no longer trapped inside of that body that lay 2 floors up in a bed with a machine forcing him to breathe. I went home and could not stop crying. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t think. I just went straight back to the hospital.
I went back to support and be supported by his family. This was my family as well for the years I was Omar’s girlfriend. I came back to make sure he would be allowed to die humanely and to ensure that his wishes be honored. I couldn’t make those decisions for his wife, but I could be one of many voices that reminded her of who he was, and that his worst nightmare was happening to him right now. He was Atheist and didn’t believe in spirits. He never wanted to grow old and fall apart. He lived every day to the fullest. He brought humor, creativity and so much love with him wherever he went. He made people feel special just by hanging out with them and listening to them. He didn’t deserve to die this way. He didn’t deserve to have a bunch of Christians (his wife’s friends and family) so hell-bent on making believers of us all that they could ignore the fact that he had been brain-dead since the day before, ignore what he specifically wanted, speak with utter disrespect to his family, and cause a scene in the waiting room. He didn’t deserve to be surrounded by strangers forming a prayer circle around his lifeless body while his family waited for a turn to go in.
When he was finally allowed to die, when it was finally finished, an eerie silence fell over the very full waiting room as we wept together. He was a talker, a storyteller, but most of all – he had this electricity about him that I never noticed until he was gone. Even if months passed since we spoke, his buzz was always humming, and you knew he was making his usual mischief or doing something amazing. There is no more hum. Our ears have all gone deaf from the silence.
I spent the following week absolutely destroyed and stressed out waiting to hear if his wife would honor his wishes of being cremated or if she’d have his dead body put on display for all to see. She did both. I wish I had never looked at him that way. That was a face he’d never make. Death is scary and ugly when you see it in this light.
But his family found a way to make it beautiful the following Sunday. This man was such an integral part of the family that we will never recover from this loss – ever. He was so loved that 38 of us coming from England, Colorado, and Jamaica piled into 10 cars and drove down to the Keys to send his ashes back to the sea he loved so much. It was finally done, and I could stop worrying about him now. For whatever reason, it was essential to me that I see him through to the very end.
And now I feel horribly alone. Despite having rekindled closeness with Omar’s family – I feel alone. My fishing buddy is gone. My trickster, joker, dancehall loving, camping partner in crime, friend when I needed him SO much is gone. The only solace I know is in going down to our spot in the Keys and visiting him.