He led support groups, was constantly on the phone with people who needed help, was at countless bedsides as friends died, and he watched as countless others came to take their places in those groups and then watched again as they began fading away into walking skeletons. His life, for a time, was one memorial service after another.
But still, he persisted. He fought for life and fought for life and fought for life. Over and over again until, at long last, in January of 2000, his poor, defeated body just couldn't take it anymore. You can go here to read all the details as Gail, his beloved caregiver, stood by him through the worst of it all. But, I should warn you, it's tough reading.
At the end, he was in an endstage coma in his apartment. We had been out of town, so that's how Jim and I saw him when we finally got back. Then, a little miracle happened.
A couple of times he opened his eyes but they were focused on the ceiling. I had the feeling that he was hearing us but he couldn't really acknowledge it in any conscious way.
Jimmy took my place and began talking to him, reminding him of the piano he bought for me to practice on. Then he told Dickie I was going to go play
music for him. I went into the living room and immediately played "Save Me A Seat." I also played "Lazarus" and "When You Care," I think.
Jimmy told me that when the music started Dickie kind of rolled over and opened his eyes. "He was practically dancing!" Jimmy said.
The music! The music had gotten through! He was struggling to come back! And a little miracle happened:
Then this morning, Gail said she and Bob were in the room when suddenly Dickie spoke, "I want a popsicle."
This from a man who's been in a death coma for a week. They ran into the kitchen and got him a popsicle. He's now eaten about 10 of them. I just went over there to see it for myself, joyfully wishing and hoping all the way. I went in and made some joke about my new glasses, "Hey!" I said. "Like my new glasses? Aren't I cute?"
He said, "I wouldn't say cute."
He was MAKING JOKES!!!! We don't know what to think. Is that little son of a bitch actually gonna come out of this??? He can't really carry on a conversation. His voice is very weak and I couldn't really understand it when he tried to speak but he's awake and alive and I got to feed him two popsicles while I was there.
I also played the piano while Gail stood behind me holding me and crying. It was glorious.
I was so hopeful! Was he really going to live? What I remember most was kissing his feet and telling him how beautiful he was. But it wasn't to be. Shortly after that, he went back into his coma and then died peacefully. It's hard to say how important Dickie was to me. During the time Jim and I were separated, it was really Dickie who convinced me that I needed to get Jim back into my life. He saw how much I loved and needed him even though I was being stubborn.
I miss you, still, my friend. Every. Single. Day.