28 January 2010

The perception of perspectives

It's weird how a few days can change everything in your life. Sunday January 10th was one of the best days in recent memory. Wednesday January 13th was the worst day of my life.

On that Sunday, Murad was feeling down both physically and emotionally, so I gladly spent a relaxing day snoozing and cuddling with him in his hospital bed, giving him a massage, watching movies and talking. It was a wonderful day that made us both happy. He had lost his appetite again so fed me his hospital food when it came into the room.

His condition didn't change much on Monday, but on Tuesday Murad turned yellow as his liver started to shut down and the medical staff suddenly became a lot more alarmed about his condition. He began to get disoriented (originally attributed to his dosages of Delotid painkillers and the effects of his non-functioning liver). I spent the night with him in his room on Tuesday night, but was so distraught by his pain and wandering around the room plus the stress of still trying to make appearances at work, I had to leave the hospital in tears around 4am in order to get a few hours of sleep. I was back at his side at 8am, alarmed that things had taken such a sudden turn for the worse. It was at this time we discovered he was no longer producing urine, and his kidneys we no longer functioning. I decided not to go into work until his catheter was replaced (they were trying to eliminate the possibility that something had become blocked) and his bone marrow biopsy was done. His sister Anissa was back from Miami so she sat with him during the afternoon while I went into work around 2pm for a few hours in the afternoon. I was back at the hospital by 5.

From 5pm to midnight on Wednesday, I could only watch as my lover fell apart before my eyes, powerless and angry that I could do nothing for him but hug him, hold his hands, caress his head and try to comfort him. At the time I couldn't conceive that this would be our last day together. In the evening he was in so much distress, all I could do was support him while he tried to stand up and sit down to relieve his pain. We had several long long hugs. I was very upset that he had broken into a cold sweat and was becoming more visibly distressed by the hour while trying to swat off the lab rats who were showing up in the hospital room what seemed every 15 minutes for more blood samples from a body that had no more blood to give. I didn't realize it at the time but I think he knew he didn't have much time and was hugging me goodbye. Just before he was wheeled down to ICU we gave each other one last long look. It was going to be the last time I ever saw him as living Murad, the person I loved. He was no longer able to communicate verbally but we could tell what the other was thinking by what the eyes were saying. He was very scared, so was I.

I am still trying to figure out what Murad was thinking at that moment - was he scared because he knew he was going to die? Was he scared because the future was uncertain? Was he distressed, mentally impaired, or overly disoriented by that time? As someone pointed out to me later, maybe he was scared because he realized he was going to lose me and everything else that had meaning to him in this world? Maybe all of these crossed his mind at the same time which would seem a reasonable assumption. The speculation will haunt me forever without any answers, obviously, but I will never ever forget that final look in his eyes as he looked at me for the last time. It was terrifying.

The doctors came out of ICU around 2am and told us that Murad had basically quit breathing on his own. There was a strong possibility of brain and heart damage. When we got into ICU to see him at 2:30am, he was completely hooked up to machines and unconscious. His open eyes had broken blood vessels in them, and there was one tear rolling down his face...something I remember vividly. The machines were breathing for him, his body would shudder with each inhalation/exhalation cycle of the respirator. I went into complete shock after realization of the gravity of the situation hit me.

Thursday, the day he died, was physically more upsetting than mentally. I was so distraught and sleep-deprived by Thursday morning that when the call came from the SPH social worker at 8:30am stating that Murad had only hours or minutes to live, I already knew he wasn't going to survive the day. Reality hit me as I collapsed into a pile or tears on my apartment couch while trying to get ready to head to the hospital for one last day. I made the difficult call to Doug and Ian to meet me at ICU as soon as they could. I had wanted to spend the night in the ICU waiting room but the family convinced me to go home since there was nothing more I could do for him. We still dropped his belongings at his apartment on the way home at 3am; I was still convinced that I would be going back there to pick them up for him soon once he was out of ICU again. I was still prepared to be by his side no matter what shape he was in once he got out of this situation. How quickly the perspective changed.

He wasn't under the influence of any drugs at this time but was unconscious. His eyes were closed. We took turns talking to him. I rubbed and scratched his head over and over again. He was so cold. His sister Tasnim sang to him after she arrived in the morning, and his falling heartrate sped up for a period of time after she would sing to him. Bastions of family members shuffled by his bedside paying their last respects to him. I'm not sure how much of all of this he was able to sense. Many still prayed for a miracle. I was willing to try anything to save Murad, so I prayed along with his family.

Murad died at 3:35pm while the family and I were in conference with the ICU medical staff. His blood pressure had fallen so low there was no way his body was going to be able to maintain itself. He was so full of toxins from his faltering kidneys and liver the dialysis machine he was hooked up to couldn't keep up. His father and sister had only arrived at the hospital less than an hour before. Doug and Ian were at his bedside when his heart stopped. They told him that none of us wanted to see him go, but if he was ready that would be okay.

I've been sort of in a fog ever since. It's been two weeks since he died and a week ago yesterday was the funeral. I've been out to the cemetery three times in the past week (it's only a 15 minute walk from my office), and helping to clean out his apartment four of the last seven nights. It was difficult to move all of his stuff out and do the final checkout on his apartment....last night was the last time I'll ever be at his place. But I am glad that his friends got to claim the best of his clothing and belongings....his fabulousness will transcend his physical self when others are spotted wearing his bold styles and marvellous footwear! I'm also glad that almost all of his furniture will be used by a new immigrant family from Kenya to set themselves up in Vancouver. I managed to hold onto some of his boldest outfits -- the ones that personify Murad most elegantly, IMO, in addition to a few of his favorite pieces of art. Unfortunately we never got to find a good home for his bed and futon, we simply ran out of time. Hmm, running out of time...

I've noticed over the past few days I haven't cried as much as a week ago and I'm starting to feel a bit more level. I still feel such a huge chunk missing from my whole and I haven't quite figured out how to even go about starting to mend it, and I also haven't had much energy or incentive to do much else than drag my ass into work this week and spend the evenings at home on the couch, just thinking and looking at pictures. I've felt the need to talk to others but not the initiative to pick up the phone. Why would I burden people with no vested interest with such upsetting conversation? Why would anyone want to listen? Why would I want to repeat myself over and over again? Typical thought from last week...."I can't call anyone right now, it's 1am and I'm collapsed on the couch but everyone's asleep."

Why won't someone call? Guh. What's the point? I've barely replied back to anyone. There were so many that called and wrote; I just couldn't muster the energy to respond. A week or so ago, all the people that tried to contact me was overwhelming and I couldn't cope with it. Now, no one's trying to contact me and I feel completely alone. This death thing is very strange and complicated, indeed.


He had been sick basically since the beginning of December and I know at the time I was angry, frustrated and upset that the holidays, my birthday, and New Years were going to be ruined because Murad was in the hospital.

Despite all of his pain and stress, he hosted an amazing birthday party for me on December 18th, the same evening the blood vessels in his skin irritated and rashed and only three days before he was admitted into the hospital for the last time.

In my imminent selfishness I was angry that he was going to be in the hospital for the holidays -- all those great plans quashed for this year. Of course, I put on my best face and spent as much time at the hospital as I could. I know this situation completely and utterly sucked for him and in addition to being physically sick, he was also mentally stressed and I wanted to make him feel as comfortable as possible. He kept apologizing again and again and again to me for what he was putting me through....I can't even imagine how he felt, despite my reassurances that nothing mattered more than him recovering and getting the hell out of the hospital.

Being with him was all that mattered despite the impact it might have on me. There were moments when I felt I couldn't cope with the burden of caring for him in the hospital as his entire family was in Florida for the holidays. At one point I asked him to have someone cut their holiday short and come back to help with what was going on. I went back the next day and apologized for being so selfish. He and I could do this together. If only I knew then what I know now.

On New Year's eve, despondent that I was going to be spending my birthday and the New Year's celebration with Murad at the hospital, I came into the ward in the evening after work to discover two dozen red roses there that Murad had arranged to have delivered to the hospital for me. His niece had arranged the drop off but had forgotten to bring a card to attach to the vase. Murad, in his typical creative form, fashioned something to write on by using a strip of medical tape to attach to the vase. On it, he wrote, "Bubu you are the best thing that has ever happened to me. Happy birthday. Love your Mumu".

Despite this being a horrible couple of months, my perspective of the hospital time has changed a lot after everything has unfolded the way it did. Instead of looking at at those three weeks in the hospital as a regrettable experience, I am now looking at it as a very special moment in time, a unique opportunity to spend uninterrupted time with this remarkable man that I fell in love with. It was during the holidays; nothing was open, there was no one around, there were no distractions. There were several days between Christmas Eve and New Years when Murad was very unwell and in ICU (25th-28th) that I spent 16 or 17 hours at the hospital with him each day. I will remember those days forever.

Through some of the stuff I'm reading (god knows my friends that have lost lovers or spouses have been an essential source of help for me to date), I've realized that grieving is the last act of love we have to give those who have died. It seems so final and dramatic, and certainly all that has happened is, I guess, both. I've been very sad the past couple of weeks, but I know that I will/must grieve positively because it is the best and only acceptable way for me to honor an amazing man who gave me so much in so short a time.

When going through a his stuff at his apartment with his sister and niece a week ago, I looked through a bunch of his old photos from the 90s and earlier part of this decade and fascinated at his life. I said to his sister Nafisa, "I'm so jealous that you got to witness Murad's life...I only knew of his last year and I wish that I knew the whole man. We met so late. I only wish I had had more time."
She replied by saying, "You know what Reid? We're jealous of you. You got share his life with him for a short time, spending the past six months with him and the last three weeks in the hospital with him. You got to share his final days, something that the rest of us wish we had but only you had."

Nafisa's response gave me a moment of clarity. We can wish and hope all we want, but all that really matters is the now. Things can change in an instant and if you don't say and do the things you want to say and do today, you may not get the opportunity tomorrow. Funny how perspectives can change so quickly, eh?

I'm trying not to shut myself off from the world that continues outside unabated but it's hard. For the first time in my life, I opened myself up completely to someone. For different reasons, I believe we were both at a point in our lives where we were open to any experiences and possibilities, and were prepared to make ourselves vulnerable in order to find love. It is something that I'd never done to such a degree before and it was quite the experience. Who knew you had to make your self susceptible in order to let someone in? What a concept! I am devastated by the fact that I exposed myself so fully to someone in such a short time, completely assured that we would have all the time in the world to grow on our knowledge of ourselves and the lessons we would learn...and then he disappeared forever. Now that's all gone. I still can't believe it. It doesn't seem real. It certainly doesn't feel the least bit fair.

Regardless, I am trying to approach this in a more constructive way. Even though I only had six months with Murad, the lessons he taught me about love, life and the strength and fragility of both are things that I will have with me for the rest of my life. I am working to integrate these into my being...the worst thing I could do is to ignore or forget these things and live life as if I never learned a these important lessons from this wonderful man.

I still believe it was fate that I met Murad - we had things to teach each other, and we had an intense love to share with each other. We were both open up to the possibilities at the right time. It was a marvellous six months that I will treasure forever. I will eventually get over the fact that it's gone now and respect the experience for what it was...

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