Six months ago today was Jay’s last day alive. It was a beautiful day – prefect Northern California sunshine with a breeze from the Bay that ran right through the house because the front and back doors were propped open. Until then, for his final month, we relied on a home-made sign hung beside the front door to keep people away – largely because Jay had lost interest in hosting the onslaught of death-pilgrims and he (we) needed quiet time together. But that day was different. Food Rescue harvested in the morning, collected from the Farmers’ Market in the afternoon, and filled the house with a happy buzz of people for most of the day. Dear friends were on hand to take their turns with Jay (who was no longer responsive but whose spirit was still present). I even spent a luxurious uninterrupted hour downstairs chatting with wonderful people about things completely unrelated to what was transpiring upstairs! One of Jay’s most beloved friends, Teresa, whispered in Jay’s ear as she heard me laugh downstairs “You hear that, Jay? That’s Adrienne laughing. She’ll be OK. You can go.”
There wasn’t anything particular about Jay’s condition that day than hadn’t been true for many days before, but for some reason (probably because it was a Saturday, or maybe because he called them) we had a lot of visitors – the door was open and the sign was down, and they came with ease and joy in their hearts. The last visitor was another dear friend of Jay’s – Mara. She arrived long after the afternoon visitors had come and gone, leaving at midnight.
I had enjoyed a lovely day-off in many ways. Most of our last month together I spent staring sleeplessly at him from the foot of our (now my) bed, not wanting to miss a single moment with him, but that day I was allowed a break. When Mara left I stayed downstairs for another hour, enjoying my solitude and the comfort I had been afforded by so many loving people. And then at 1am I found myself walking upstairs without having made the conscious decision to do it.
Jay’s breathing was shallow and fast. I gave him his scheduled doses of methadone, phenobarbital, liquid ativan and morphine, and though his breathing calmed down I knew it was time. I went downstairs, got my bottle of wine, came upstairs and settled in next to him. His spirit was already gone, but tethered to his body like a weather balloon high in the stratosphere. I stared at the tumors protruding from his chest and rib cage, his breathing still strong despite a year’s worth of lung surgeries, and I hated his body for the first and only time. It no longer housed my partner, it was just an elaborate petri dish for cancer. I can’t remember what words I spoke to Jay that last hour of his life, but I was ready and so was he. Jay died at 1:58am Sunday March 23, but really – for me – it was at the end of a long Saturday filled with love and a breeze from the Bay.