Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Goodbye, Walter

It was about this time last year that I got one of THOSE phone calls. Our friend Walter had driven himself to the hospital (?!?!) because he suspected he was having a stroke. They checked, and no, it wasn't a stroke, it was worse. It was brain cancer. His right side wasn't responding because the tumor had wrapped itself around one of the nerve centers in his brain.

The hospital he was in didn't have a lot of brain cancer experience, so we worked to get him transferred to KU Med - a premier treatment center. They did more tests, and went in to see what they could see. What they saw was bad - the tumor had spread far enough that it couldn't be completely removed. They took out what they could and woke him up to give him the news.

He was completely shocked by it, and never really recovered - the news put him into a tailspin. They tried a second operation to see if they could get any more of the beast; radiation, chemo. He spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in the hospital and in rehab. We visited several times a week - bringing what food was allowed by the diet they had him on. Often when we came, his other friends were there. Walter was on a dark path. We knew we couldn't walk it for him, but wanted to be with him so he didn't have to walk it alone.

Walter was one of those who lived his life in compartments. In thirty years, I met his family just once; at his mother's funeral. His people lived in different worlds, and he took care to keep them separated.

Shortly after the New Year, his family started showing up more often - one sister in particular started to take charge of his care. Walter was supposed to call us on Tuesday to let us know he was ready to get picked up and taken home. The call never came. She checked him out, took him to her house, and I never talked to him again.

I hate how this story ends. All year, I tried to reach him via text and phone, but he never responded. Yesterday, came the news he is beyond reach.

Walter is one of those friends who came with my marriage, one who I kept when we got divorced. My kids called him Uncle Walter. He had an loud, booming, infectious laugh. He loved the Chiefs and the Royals, dancing, art, getting out of the city into the woods.

I'm sure his sister took good care of him as his world narrowed. My tears this morning are for us who are left behind to mourn his passing from our lives.

I can't cry for him. He is free now. Free from the prison his body had become; free to cheer on his sports teams; to draw and camp and dance the two step once again.  Somewhere, I can hear him laughing again, as I haven't heard since he woke up from his first operation. His laugh is big, boisterous, free. Free!

Go in Peace, Walter.
I will miss you.

1 comment:

  1. When I seen his obituary and the big smile on his face that's what I missed the big booming laugh. I miss and love you Walter!