If you really don’t feel like maudlin or depressing diaries, steer clear from this one. I am getting drunk, and I am angry and heartbroken for my friend, so don’t expect much prose or coherence. It will be what it will be. I need this out of my system, so damn be to diary etiquette or protocol.
Tonight, surrounded by his family, my best friend Kenneth took his last assisted breaths in a hospital known for its “compassion and care” in the area. His family held his hands and whispered their loving goodbyes while the life slipped from his body and he went to his rest. A sudden heart attack claimed him.
But someone was conspicuously absent…
In the parking lot, Bob, his partner of 26 years, said goodbye to a photograph. It was a photograph of he and Kenneth on vacation celebrating their honeymoon 6 years ago after having been “married” in a ceremony that meant nothing more than symbolism to a society that was, at turns, benevolent about the whims of a few gay folk, yet smirking about his love for another person of the same sex. “Have your fake ceremonies, for what they are worth, but don’t get obnoxious and ask for anything actually bordering on legal or realistic.” society told them. But Kenneth & Bob took it, because validating it to one another was really what counted. But tonight, it ended up needing to mean so much more.
Bob carried that photograph in his wallet as a reminder of his relationship and what it meant to him. Tonight, he said goodbye to a smiling face in a picture because he had no legal right to be present to say goodbye to his loved one in person. So Bob sat in the parking lot in the passenger seat of my car and wondered the fate of the man he had given his love and life to. He held the only thing at that moment Kenneth’s family could not take away from him – that photograph.
The hospital, at the behest of Kenneth’s family, had banned Bob from Kenneth’s room, or seeing him in the hospital at all. 26 years treated as though they were mere passing acquaintances or work colleagues. Simply because Kenneth’s family could never accept their son’s orientation (NOT “lifestyle” as some refer to it).
Tonight, a nurse sympathetic to Bob’s situation and in violation of the hospital policies, came to the car window and delivered the news to Bob that Kenneth was gone. And Bob said his goodbyes and wishes of love and peace to a picture. A fucking photograph. Held to his chest as though he were holding his loved one in tears. Because that was all he had.
His partner is gone and his partner’s family took away the dignity that Bob had a right to as Kenneth’s lover, confidante, and lifemate to say goodbye. His husband. There, I said it. HUSBAND. WAS THAT SO SCARY YOU HOMOPHOBIC BIGOTS?????
To his family:
You took away Bob’s right to say his goodbyes because of your own misguided fears, but you can never take away his love or his memories. Your son deserved to hold his partner’s hand as he went away, knowing Bob loved him and was there to see him to the other side. You heartless bastards…I hate you right now. You may laugh at our relationships and dismiss them, but your God weeps for your ignorance and cruelty.
You will never take Bob’s devotion to Ken away from him…or the smiling photograph of he and Kenneth in happy times.
Ken, tonight, we say goodbye to your photograph. But we know you understand and forgive us.
You will be missed.
UPDATE: I am sorry for a hit and run diary. In the cold light of day, nursing a hangover and finally having the tears come, I admit to being a bit shamed by this rant. I don’t know why I posted it outside of needing some release, but I do know that I am not at all surprised by the compassion shown here. This why we call ourselves a community.
Some people have mentioned legal papers as a form of protection from this sort of thing. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly, as did Bob and Kenneth because they had them drawn up. But what happened last night revealed a chink in the armour regarding that form of “protection”. Bob did not have access to those papers, because he was with me and not at home. Long story, but Kenneth spent each Sunday afternoon with his family, but Bob was not welcome there, so he would spend it with my partner and myself. Kenneth tried, right or wrong, to straddle two divergent worlds – the one of his family and the futile need for their acceptance, and the one he created for himself with his husband and his friends. Kenneth’s sister was the one who called Bob to let Bob know that Kenneth was in the hospital, and for that we are grateful. There was no time, nor presence of mind under the circumstances, to race across Phoenix (a sprawling place for those who know) to get a piece of paper to wave in front of some administrator so Bob could be afforded his legal rights. It would have been too late anyway. It isn’t the hospital’s fault either. They are not there to referee family issues, simply to offer care. I am not angry with them, and I am certain Bob isn’t either.
I couldn’t cry last night. I was too angry. Reading some of these comments however has allowed me to “let it go”. Now I can’t stop. Like I needed to make this hangover headache worse!! It is too painful to respond to everyone right now individually, but please know that each and every one of your comments mean something to me. I know they will to Bob as well. Although it is much too raw right now, I intend to print this out and give this to Bob as a reminder that not all is cruel and unjust. There are people that love him, care and respected his relationship, even without a marriage certificate. Who knows what the next few days will bring, but I do know Bob is alone at the moment by choice, and I need to go to him. I take all of you in spirit with me.
Ken would be proud.