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January 21, 2002 - Sing With Me If It's Just For Today...
If I should fall behind, Guyster, wait for me.
guysterrules
guysterrules
January 21, 2002
I woke up about 8:30. Billy wasn’t in bed. I thought maybe he got up early and went upstairs to work on eBay. Or maybe he just fell asleep on the couch last night. It’s happened. Bob and me padded up the stairs to the guesthouse. I opened the door.

Billy was lying on the couch. The blanket had been thrown back. His shirt was off. His left arm was down by his side. His right arm was in a relaxed salute. His eyes were closed. He was white. Whiter than anyone should be. At the bottom of his body was the dark purple. Gravity brought his blood there. The purple.

I heard myself screaming. I had never screamed like that before. I ran the few steps to him and pulled him into my arms. His body was ice cold and stiff as a statue. Nothing moved on him. I heard myself screaming his name. Over and over and over.

I ran to the phone and dialed 911. I looked over and remember Bob jumping up on the couch onto his legs. I screamed, “My lover is dead, my Billy is dead,” into the phone. I had never called 911 before. I remember the woman telling me to calm down and check for a pulse. “You don’t understand, he’s dead,” and then a man came on the line and started to yell at me to pull it together. I gave them our address and hung up. I went out onto the landing of the guesthouse and screamed for Stephanie, our next-door neighbor. She sleepily came to her back door and I screamed it again, “Billy is dead!”

I went back to Billy and cradled him and rocked him in my arms. In that very moment, I knew everything.

I don’t know how much time passed but the police and EMT burst into the door. One was yelling for me to back off. Another was screaming at me to “Get the fucking dog out of here!” I led Bob out and then the police wouldn’t let me back in. For the moment, it was considered a crime scene.

I called Russell from downstairs. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, he said he would be right there and hung up. I went back upstairs to get Billy’s phone book. I knew I had to call his family and his friends. The police would not let me in but I saw Billy through the crack in the door. I described his phone book and asked them to look. They found it and gave it to me.

I went back downstairs and called Mickey, our girlfriend, who lives a few blocks away. Stephanie was there and had let in the police earlier. Soon Mickey was there. I started calling anyone with the name Ledbetter in his book. I was trying to find Dixie, his sister, but I couldn’t remember her married name. I found his cousin, Paula, who started to cry. I called Gene and David, his closest friends.

Pretty soon, the house was filled with people. His friends. My friends. Our friends. Word spread quickly. I was in out-of-body hysterics. I had people rubbing my back and talking to me but I couldn’t hear them. All I saw was the purple at the bottom of his body. I went into the bedroom and grabbed the picture off of the bedside table at my side of the bed. It was a silver framed picture he had given me when I moved to NYC a month before him to find our apartment. It was a picture of him in his Navy barracks, no shirt, huge smile. He had “I’m Missing You” engraved at the top of the picture frame. I sat in our chair and hugged the picture, and rocked back and forth.

About an hour later, the Coroner’s examiner came down to speak with me. I asked everyone except for Russell to please leave. The examiner seemed like a kind woman but she kept repeating, “Take a deep breath.” She asked me questions and I gave her the answers.

Someone had called my doctor and tracked him down. It was a holiday, MLK Day. He prescribed Klonopin and Adivan. Someone went to pick them up. I asked someone to go get a pack of cigarettes for me and I started to smoke. And smoke.

One of the police came down and quietly spoke with Russell. Russell said, “Come with me. You don’t want to see this.” He put his arm around me and led me around our corner onto our cross street. They were bringing Billy out.

I sat on the sidewalk and wailed. I didn’t care who saw me or heard me. It was the last thing on my mind. Russell said I was going to go back to Santa Barbara with him for the night. He didn’t want me to be alone. I later came to realize it was also a suicide watch among my friends. The truth was, all I wanted to do was be with Billy anyway I could. At that point, and for a few months afterwards, suicide was not off the table.

After Billy was gone, we went back into the house. I gathered up some sweats, my silver framed picture and Bob’s blanket. A year earlier, Billy had saved enough Milk Bone box tops and ordered a monogrammed red blanket that read “Bob Slobbers,” in white scroll.

The drive to Santa Barbara was endless. When we got there, I went into one of the bedrooms. I laid out Bob’s blanket on the bed and together we cried. Bob’s Daddy was gone. My Guyster was gone. I knew everything and I knew nothing. And the purple. I kept seeing the purple. I started taking the Klonopin. I didn’t feel it. I took another one.

I hadn’t eaten. Russell tried to get me to eat something but I thought I was going to throw up. The idea of eating was repulsive. I took enough pills to fall asleep a little around midnight. I woke up in the middle of the night, saw his picture and started screaming and crying again. I took another pill, smoked another cigarette and fell back to sleep with the TV on.

My Billy was in a body bag. My Billy was in the LA Coroners morgue. My Billy had to have an autopsy. I mean this was BILLY. My baby. My Guyster. I couldn’t grasp this reality. There are many times when I still cannot accept it. Billy. Guyster. The purple.

The Coroners report came two months after Billy left. It said he died from an artereoscloratic heart attack (valve blockage). The time he left was between 1am and 4am. I think I had fallen asleep around 12:30 the previous night.

I ask God for some kind of answer why Billy had to die while my back was turned. Why couldn’t it have happened two hours earlier or four hours later? Why did he have to leave when I wasn’t looking? My doctor later told me a heart attack of that nature lasts between 30-60 seconds and the pain is extreme. Had I been there, could I have saved him? Possibly. If not, I could have said good-bye. I could have told him how much I loved him. I could have given him one last kiss.

Current Mood: empty
Current Music: Save The Best For Last

24 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
among_the_stars From: among_the_stars Date: January 21st, 2003 10:38 am (UTC) (Link)
*hugs*
This made me cry. I can't even imagine.

I could have told him how much I loved him.
He knows...absolutely. He knows.
But I understand that feeling.
among_the_stars From: among_the_stars Date: January 21st, 2003 10:40 am (UTC) (Link)
And here's an excert from one of Sylvia Browne's books. I've posted it in my journal before. I love it. This helped me a lot:

A common source of pain among my clients is their regret over unfinished business when a loved one dies. "Our last conversation was an argument" ... "I never got to tell her I'm sorry" ... "I'm afraid he didn't know how much I loved him" ... "I didn't get to say goodbye." The words vary, but the nagging ache of remorse is the same--and needless. Don't forget, there's no such thing as not knowing on The Other Side, no such thing as negativity in that dimension infused with God's unconditional love, and no such thing as unfinished business in the blueprint your loved one composed themselves before they were born. But if it eases your heart and helps you heal, tell them now whatever it is you feel was left incomplete--they will hear you.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: January 21st, 2003 01:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have not read Sylivia Brown although I know she is a sage in this field. Your choice of her quote is the thing I have been hanging onto for the last year. I have come to know this is true and Billy continues to surround me with love. I also know he knew how loved he was. It's just..........................you know what I mean : )

Thank you. It does help reading that quote and it saves my life to believe it.
From: inkprincess Date: January 21st, 2003 12:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
how heart wrenching!! :( i'm so sorry you had to go through all of that/this. (but i couldn't help but smile about the saving Milkbone box tops for the blanket)

my heart is with you today. ***hugs***
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: January 21st, 2003 12:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Billy loved saving box tops and getting all kinds of stuff in the mail. We've gotten tents, camping gear, a radio, a clock radio, cereal bowls, the list goes on. He said, "It gives me something to look forward to!"

Hug Megan for me...and Billy : )
wonderboynj From: wonderboynj Date: January 21st, 2003 12:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
*HUGS*

I'm so sorry, I know today is hard for you.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: January 21st, 2003 01:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah it does suck. I deluded myself into thinking it would be just another day but this whole week leading up to this date has sucked. After our anniversary, all of the holidays, both birthdays and all that, this was the last one of the "firsts." I'm not sure what that ultimately means. I just know that writing it down helped a little. Thank you for reading it and thank you for your compassion : )

Return *HUG*
among_the_stars From: among_the_stars Date: January 21st, 2003 02:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
this was the last one of the "firsts."

I know exactly what you are talking about.
That part really hurts. And I remember doing the "it's been one week since I last saw him...one month...2 months....1 year," and with every day you feel like he's further away. :( At least, I hope that's what you're feeling...otherwise I just made your day worse. :\ I'm feeling that anniversary starting to creep up for me already this year... But it gets easier. All of it does. I know you know that and I know it doesn't help to hear it either.

I'm here.
If you ever need to talk, I'm always here.
*hugs*
fabulist From: fabulist Date: January 21st, 2003 01:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
I lost someone in my family in a horrific, nightmarish circumstance. For a long time, I could not stop remembering the horror, the stupid, pointless insanity of it all. Everything brought it back and I was there all over again, feeling that crawling, indescribable sense of not being able to get away from panic and loss and that out-of-body experience of watching yourself reeling, of being outside of the world. I spent the first month sitting on the kitchen floor in my underwear, unable to even leave my apartment, watching my savings spinning away as I avoided a world full of landmarks that would just bring back that day, that fucking wretched, ruinous day when everything that made sense disintegrated.

In time, I went broke, and had to go back to work. Everything hurt, every familiar scene, every memory, every date and time and moment that could be remotely linked back to the instant that things went wrong, and I spent the first year alienating everyone I knew and turning so angry and unpredictable that being around me became a chore that no one would even bother. Every morning I'd wake up and would barely be able to crawl out of bed because I didn't think I could do one more day of it. What made it all unbearable was the fact that my memories had been poisoned, had become so bitter and painful that even the happy things brought me nothing but misery in quantities I'd never imagined existed.

Somehow I got by, and as I forced myself to sleepwalk through the days, the horror moved further and further into the background, until it became a part of the background noise of life, and then only the biggest anniversaries and the most conflicted memories brought back the anguish. I gradually came away from those days like an amnesiac drifting back into his own history, and the joyous memories started to radiate warmth again--reminding me that I'd had something wonderful and always would, because it was all there, here, living in my head and in my soul and in the person I'd become for having known him. The day I really started to believe that was the day I knew I'd be all right.

Last friday, I was walking around my neighborhood and fell on a patch of ice, wrenching my ankle so severely that I ended up having to crawl two blocks home. I hit the couch and was prepared to sit through the pain until my ex showed up and insisted that I let him take me to the ER. I hopped in on one foot, filled out my paperwork, and was put in a wheelchair and wheeled to a small room off the lobby, which I realized, as I sat there waiting to be wheeled to x-ray, was the very room where an ashen-faced doctor came to my family to give us the news we already knew was coming. I sat there in my wheelchair, leafing through an old magazine, reflecting on the past, wondering why I was more curious than distraught to be there.

That's when I realized I'd truly had been revived, and that misery has to fall in the face of warmth, and that the whole agonizing path I'd followed had taken me somewhere I needed to be--right there, right then, invested in myself and in that moment, and more interested in reveling in my luck at having had someone so good in my life for as long as I did than in the anguish of having lost him. Echoes of pain and horror and loss fade away in time, but love and joy only get stronger.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: January 21st, 2003 01:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
This was so beautifully written and so unbearably true. I have started to smile at memories rather than writhe in pain at them. I have found comfort in a newly formed spirituality that guides me through the day and allows me to be productive. I know what I can never have but, more importantly, I know what I have to be thankful for. I thank God every night for letting me have Billy for so long. I thank God for letting Billy teach me lessons I will always use. I thank God for allowing Billy to make me a better person. "Time heals" is one of those phrases that I have heard countless times in the last year. It is not until very recently that I have come to actually believe that. Time gives the perspective to be grateful. It doesn't take away the sadness but it helps give balance.

Thank you for letting me know it will, somehow, morph into something bearable. There have been many times in the last few months that I have seen "progress." It's just the last few weeks have really sucked. I know today's frame-of-mind will pass and I can climb back into the comfort of perspective.

I'm not sure how you stumbled onto my post today but I cannot thank you enough for sharing your experience. I know it must have been difficult to read my post and perhaps more difficult to respond to it.
explosivo From: explosivo Date: January 21st, 2003 02:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

"Time Heals" - Todd Rundgren

If you're bleeding,
Then everyone can see you're bleeding
They can call for the doctor,
Who'll provide what the diagnosis says you're needing
Then he'll take away your pain
But if your heart,
Your heart has been broken
And you don't wear it on your sleeve
No one can tell,
Your hell goes unspoken
But there's one thing you must believe

Time heals the wounds no one can see
Time heals the wounds that no one can see

If you're crying
Then everyone can see you crying
And they all sympathize
But it just doesn't matter
Though they may be trying,
They can't feel the hurt inside
You can't go on,
You've gone to the limit
And your life seems to slip away
You're on your own
Alone you must face it
And tomorrow's so far away

You got to hold on baby
Got to give it time to heal
Time heals the wounds that no one can see
You must believe what they say is true
It do's wonders for ya, yeah, yeah
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: January 21st, 2003 02:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: "Time Heals" - Todd Rundgren

These lyrics are beautiful and so true. They are especially meaningful coming from you, Marc. You've been a great friend to me for 24 years. You've really risen to the challenge of being my friend over the last year (well, except for one blip : ). I never really thanked you for coming to the wake last year. I know how hard that was for you...and you and Jeff were there. Thank you. I love you, Marc.
fabulist From: fabulist Date: January 22nd, 2003 07:02 am (UTC) (Link)
I'd have to say that the phrase "time heals" has been less accurate for me than "time rebuilds," which I guess may sound like a semantic difference, except in how I've seen it. In 1998 there was nothing left of me to heal--I'd lost two family members in one week, my savings, my house, the family's business, our family's 200 year-old farmhouse under giant oaks, and my (misplaced) sense of the world being fair. In my mind, healing applies to scars, scrapes, broken bones, and other lesser injuries--some losses constitute total spiritual dismemberment, and you don't so much heal as build a new you from what's left.

In retrospect, having to pull myself back from the brink made me stronger, wiser, and more compassionate than I had ever been before, though there have been many, many times when I wished I could go back to being weak, dumb, and selfish again--to have what I had and the comfort it brought. Life's a one-way trip, though, so the best you can do is keep going and make the best of it.

I'd have to say I was often envious of people who had a theology to help them out--I'm a pretty firmly entrenched agnostic who doesn't specifically disbelieve in a higher power, but can't really get invested in looking to one for help, either, so I had to take a different spiritual route. In my case, I "practice" (for want of a better word) a secular form of taoism that borrows much from buddhism and unitarian-universalism, so I picked a bumpy road for myself, but one that's been immensely rewarding in the long run. I was lucky to have a therapist at Whitman-Walker (the gay clinic in D.C.) who was on the same wavelength as me, and was doubly lucky to serendipitously turn up the book "The Wisdom of No Escape," by the buddhist nun Pema Chodron, ended up being the single most useful tool I had in getting up and out of despair. I won't ramble on about it at length, but the essential point of it, that you should let yourself really feel everything, good and bad, is one of the most singly most important things I ever learned. I'd be happy to send you my copy if you like (this is about my fiftieth one I've had--I keep giving them away), as long as you don't mind that it's a bit wrinkly from being rained on on my windowsill.


On another note, I turned up your journal around Jan 1st, and stayed up late reading backwards on Jan 2nd. I wrote about what happened afterward in my Jan 3rd LJ entry. I find your story compelling mostly because it's interesting on its own merits, but partly because there are so many odd resonances with my own life, and also because my first year of aftermath is more or less lost to me--I can hardly remember any of that year's events, because I was in a haze most of the time, living two-and-a-half degrees outside of reality and lost in my own memories. Lately, a lot of it has been coming back, and some of it's strangely amusing, like when my friends couldn't get me on the phone, broke the chain on my door to get in, and found me sleeping, fully dressed, under the couch. Recovery's one long, strange trip.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: January 22nd, 2003 11:24 am (UTC) (Link)
For a self-described agnostic, you certainly chose a interesting and complex path toward spirituality. I have long been fascinated by Taoism and Buddhism. I wold love to read the book but I would hate to take your fifth copy. At some point, you're going to want to keep one.

I am thankful you found my journal interesting and moving for you although I didn't mean it to cause any sleep diorders. I also have, and always have had, a sleepwalking habit. I eat in themiddle of the night. I have no idea what I have eaten the next morning but I always keep a booty of food I like during the middle of the night (donuts, pizza, cheese slices, etc.).

I have allowed myself to feel everything during the last year and I probably will continue to do that. I'm not sure how to operate any other way. I know many of my friends wish I would somehow "move on" but that phrase is pretty hollow to me. My move forward can be measured more in the frequency than the intensity. I have happy moments now. I can remember something and smile. I can function at work. But when it comes, it is Square One-time.

Thank you for a really thought provoking post. I will take you up on your rain-soaked copy of "The Wisdom of No Escape," but would also be happy to Amazon it. I'll let you know if I have any trouble finding a copy. Thanks again.

I would love to add you to my friends list so if you don't mind, I am going to be peeking in daily on you : )

I hope your ankle/shoulder/crutches party is thinning out and your recovery is swift. Thanks again.

among_the_stars From: among_the_stars Date: January 21st, 2003 02:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
the person I'd become for having known him

reveling in my luck at having had someone so good in my life for as long as I did than in the anguish of having lost him

Those are the two things I clinged to in order to save my life during my grief.

lapalomita From: lapalomita Date: January 21st, 2003 04:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
You made me feel this entry & I just ache for you right now. I think I would have behaved very much in the same way. It must be one of those awful points in your life when you feel like you're clinging to sanity, clinging to life by the very tips of your fingers. I've said it once & I'll say it again. You're brave. You have the heart of a lion.

I have one question. When you say you held him & you 'knew everything', what did you know? I would be lying if I didn't mention that I'm kind of scared to hear your reply.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: January 21st, 2003 04:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's interesting you ask that particular question because that is a key point for me. I am not sure how articulate I can be. All kinds of things went into that "everything" from the largest parts to the most mundane. And it happened in a second.

I knew I would never make love to Billy again. I knew he wouldn't be by my side when we had to put Bob to sleep. I knew he wouldn't be able to take his sewing classes I had bought him for Christmas. I knew I would never hear his voice. I knew we would never spoon again. I knew he wouldn't get to hear Madonna's new music. I knew Billy's dreams were gone (and that's the hardest one to know for me).

The list goes on and on. It's like that second lasted an hour. It's hard to describe and that second haunts me. It has gotten better and eased back but in the last few weeks, it kicked up its dust again. I know it will recede and then, most likely, come back. Non-linear thought is very hard for a very linear person.

Thank you for asking that. It made me analyze it more. And thank you for your continued compassion, and telling me I am strong because I sure don't feel that sometimes.

explosivo From: explosivo Date: January 21st, 2003 05:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
...almost 17 years ago, a heavy handed pathologist called my work number and brusquely told me I had 6 months to a year to live...

for a good portion of that time i walked around in a complete daze, all consumed with the knowledge that I was marked for certain death (of course we all are, but this was a slightly different feeling :) )

My one thought was that I would not live to see Dwight Gooden enshrined in Baseball's Hall Of Fame. 17 years later, I am still alive, and alas, I will definitely NOT live to see Dwight Gooden enshrined in the Hall Of Fame.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: January 21st, 2003 05:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah but you will for Pete Rose : )
lapalomita From: lapalomita Date: January 22nd, 2003 08:23 am (UTC) (Link)
No need to thank me, b/c it's the truth. As I said before, it takes a strong person to not allow their heart to become embittered by tragedy.

I completely understand what you mean. I understand what my human brain will allow anyway. When someone experiences a death, they straddle this invisible line, they peek behind a curtain of sorts. Sometimes what we glimpse beyond that line & behind that curtain is just too much for us to process. Have you seen The Mothman Prophecies or Signs? These two films touch nicely on this subject.

I heard this song by Leonard Cohen (have you heard of him?) yesterday & it reminded me of you.

The birds they sing
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell
On what has passed away
Or what has yet to be

The war
It will be fought again
The holy dove
She will be cut again
Bought & sold
And bought again
The dove is never free

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in....
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: January 22nd, 2003 11:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Leonard Cohen is extraordinary. I have not heard that song but I now must go download : )

My earthbound brain sometimes has more than it can handle. That moment was my greatest fear coming true. After that, there is a certain bullet-proofnesss I feel. There is nothing that could ever happen to me again that will be as horrible and difficult. Nothing. Maybe that's the well of strength from which I draw.
lapalomita From: lapalomita Date: January 22nd, 2003 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can understand what you're saying. When I had my accident, I wasn't shaken by it at all. I had brain surgery for goodness sake! But I just thought to myself, "How do I get out of this?" Now if the shoe was (G-d forbid, knock on wood) on the other foot & Iggy was in my position, I would have been having a holy gospel fit in that ER. Nothing, nothing I imagine would be worse than losing him. I think that's partly why I admire you so much. B/c you're handling what I consider to be THE worst thing (losing a loved one so suddenly) to happen to someone with so much dignity.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: January 22nd, 2003 03:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gosh you are kind of the first person to actually say that out loud and understand it. Maybe because you were in a near-death accident, you understand what it might feel like to be left behind. I figured out I have three things in play and three things I lost.

In play is the shock, the loss and the discovery. The last part will probably never happen to most people. Juggling those three facts is, um, a challenge.

Lost is seeing Billy live out his earthbound dreams, the loss of who I once was, and as importantly, our relationship, which had a life and language of its own.

Iggy is safe in your arms. You are safe in his. That is a wonderful thing. It is beautiful to see you truly understand that.

I have recently befriended someone online who is going through a horrible loss similar to mine but with different elements (that part should go unsaid - every situation is different). I feel lucky to be able to help her in some way from my experience and she has helped me in so many ways from hers. That, in a dark murky soup, is a nugget of hope.

dabroots From: dabroots Date: October 29th, 2003 08:48 am (UTC) (Link)
My father died, somewhat that way, thirty years ago when I was seventeen and he was sixty. I have never lost a lover. My ex-wife has been occasionally suicidal, including quite recently, but it hasn't happened.

One of my older brothers has lost three of his boyfriends: one getting hit by a truck while riding his bike, and two others of various AIDS diseases. My brother is 55, now. He's HIV-positive and has been since the mid-1980's. I am amazed at his resilience, both for those of us in his family and for the hundreds of students he's taught at a college near San Francisco over all of those years.

Thank you for telling this story.
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