May 21, 2010

Remembering Mario

I took this last photo of Mario a few days before he died. He looked peaceful and content. He was looking forward to going home.

Mario, Tracy and I on the steps at Union Square. He'd call and ask me to meet him there and bring a toasted sesame bagel with cream cheese. Mario loved sitting out there watching everyone.

A happy snap taken sometime during treatment.

One of our many days at Union Square.

Today (actually yesterday) is the second anniversary of the death of my wonderful friend Mario. Anniversary sounds like a happy date as in "wedding anniversary". When you look it up in a thesaurus you also get synonyms such as commemoration, celebration even jollification. May 20th signifies nothing but sadness and loss for me. A day hasn't gone by since he died that I haven't replayed at least a part of the night and following morning we spent with him before he died. Truly the saddest day of my life. I hoped this feeling would have subsided more after two years but it hasn't. Perhaps I'm suffering some form of PSTD or maybe I'm too sensitive. After all, most everyone has suffered the loss of a close relative or friend. But, I think there is a difference here. Most people hear about a death after the fact. It may have happened the previous day in a car or a battlefield or the hospital. They rarely actually witness the persons passing. They get the unexpected call, they cry and feel the loss and then days later attend a sterilized church service glancing at a beautifully polished wooden box sitting like a piece of furniture covered with flowers in front of the bereaved friends and family. They pass the box and sometimes even place a hand on it. They drive to a serene parklike area and lower this beautiful box into the ground. There is a huge difference when you're there with that person at the end and you realize that there's nothing you can do to help them. It's the most helpless feeling in the world. That moment is completely out of your control. No amount of screaming, yelling or pleading with doctors can do anything to change that course. One moment the person you love is there, heart beating, breath going in and out of them and then suddenly the flame goes out. They don't look any different, they're quiet, the room is silent except for the sounds of the people around you crying. Then you suddenly realize that at that moment, everything in your life has changed forever. This is not sterile. This is brutal and incredibly hard to accept. There's a brief moment of denial and you find yourself wanting to reach over and shake this person you love and expect a response, a stir, an eye to open and glance your way.
I'm torn because one side of me knows it would have been so much easier to have gotten a call early that morning on May 20th 2008. The other side of me feels honored to have been there. Selfishly, part of me wishes I hadn't experienced the overwhelming sadness and the helplessness we all felt. I also felt guilty because I couldn't bear to watch the life leave his body and I walked out of the room moments before the machines stopped. I went back in minutes later and sat with his family surrounding his bed. Very little was said. The lights in his room were off but diffused gray light was filling the room as the sun was coming up. It was if we were all watching him sleeping. We stayed with him for a very long time and then finally one by one hugged each other said our goodbyes. I walked out of the hospital and stopped on the street to call my sister. She got that terrible unexpected early morning call.
I miss my friend very very much.

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