Bill's Gratitude List and How It Came to Be
Bill's last stay at the hospital was a rough one, but thanks to a good friend, it had its highlights and left us a treasure.
He'd landed in what he called "the Ritz Carlton with drugs" just a few weeks before his passing due to extreme nausea and unrelenting dizzingness. (Both his Hospice nurses and doctors strongly believe the cancer had finally taken hold in his brain, and these symptoms supported that suspicion.)
While he generally loathed and feared the hospital during his three years with cancer--I think because he was afraid he would die there, and he did not want that--this time was particularly hard.
He'd gone into the care of Hospice just 24 hours before we had to call 911 this last time, and the difference in his hospital experience was dramatic. No nurses coming in continually to check his vitals, no transport people showing up at all hours to whisk him away for another scan or test. All there was were drugs every six or ten hours, and otherwise...quiet.
In his frustration and confusion, he didn't think they were doing anything for him, which made his frustration grow more and more each passing day. He couldn't see that they needed to make sure he had just the right combo of new drugs before he came home and that monitoring his symptoms over time was necessary. He couldn't seem to remember that the quiet was because Hospice meant symptom-management only. It was hard to help him understand. He just wanted OUT.
In the meantime, we and the Hospice team were breaking the news to him that when he did come home, it wouldn't be to return to "Gary" (his RV home on our property). He'd fallen out there numerous times before this last hospitalization and was no longer able to take excellent care of himself. All of his caregivers agreed it was time for him to move into the house with Robert and me.
While he was at the hospital, Robert and I took a day to transform our guest room into "Bill's room." A hospital bed arrived along with all the other hospital equipment he'd need for the time he had left. We brought his favorite recliner from the RV, got brand new soft sheets for the bed and a new rug, and I hung his favorite Nugget pictures on the walls for him, anything to make the best of a hard situation and have it feel a little like "home" while giving him his own space.
And while we were doing all that, our dear friend Nancy Dorrier went to the hospital to spend the whole day with Bill. They had become good friends over the past several years as Nancy supported all of us through this process...the kind of hands-on thinking/ being/ doing/ seeing support that only someone who's "been there, done that" more than once can offer.
On that day, Bill was struggling to accept that his time out in Gary was complete. He kept telling (campaigning!) every Hospice and hospital worker who came into his room that he really wanted to stay out in the RV as long as possible. Finally, after witnessing several rounds of this, Nancy (who knew Robert and I were setting up his room in the house) had the clarity to say, "Bill, I think you should consider that you did it...you achieved that goal! You did an amazing job, and you have stayed out in the RV as long as possible." Brilliant!! And I think it helped.
To keep Bill's mind set on a positive direction, Nancy started wondering out loud about all the things Bill was grateful for. (After all, he'd dubbed himself the "luckiest guy to ever walk the planet"!) He started talking, and she pulled out her laptop. He let his mind wander, so what's below wanders, too. But I find it to be a beautiful list, full of love and appreciation for so many people in his life, for little things, for big things. I am eternally grateful to Nancy for capturing his words.
What's on your list?
Bill’s Gratitude List
Steph Curry is a good guy.
She is in her favorite place in the world. (At Laura and Robert's)
At the turn-off to go to Latta Nature Preserve to go swimming or when we were going towards Laura and Robert's, Nugget would be so excited in either case.
She jumped out of a moving car and didn’t get hurt.
She sits and waits for Robert all day long. She loves him so much!
She protects Laura from the cats (haha).
I'm grateful for Nancy's friendship.
All my friends constantly checking in with me.
My buddy Matt, a police officer in Las Vegas, called Saturday evening.
Fred and Ilene in upstate New York. Fred was my best friend in College, best friend ever since.
Buddy Peter’s house just burned down. He is in good spirits. He is okay and his animals and family are okay, Peter was a boss of mine, a sales manager. We did magical, cool stuff. His beautiful landscaping still is there; he will rebuild.
My half-brother Dave is coming for a visit at the end of the month, he and his wife and son Cal, from New Mexico. He went there when his mom moved there and married Bob, retired military. Dave took care of Bob when he was dying.
Another half-brother, Christopher, Chris, was an actor, on soap operas and in a movie, finally moved on from that and is an ultrasound technician. They have 2 daughters; all are well and healthy.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF should be on the ceiling here at the hospital.
Great-ful cookies, like fortune cookies.
Laura makes brownies out of walnuts, light and airy and fluffy, walnuts and cocoa powder.
I dreamed of my father and this math machine...he wanted to be a mathematician or a minister. He became a minister. He marched in Selma with MLK.
Daryl Davis does a TED talk, Why I as a Black Man attend KKK rallies.
Nugget was 5 or 6 weeks old when I got her.
Stacia and Bob Strong, who we got her from, have been great and helpful, keeping her at their house when I would travel for work. They are nice, nice folks. They have been really good with me and Nugget. They loved to keep her. She had so much fun there.
Ned, "not everybody’s dog," is her dad. He comes from a long line of guard dogs.
I would like to have them over at some point.
I can’t think of the mother dog’s name.
Bob used to be a large animal vet, then switched to smaller animals.
It will drive me nuts if I can’t think of the dog’s name.
Oh yes, Finley is the mama dog’s name!
Carol's [Bill's ex-wife] brother was a super good guy, Bob Swindell, a big galute of a guy who had a pituitary disorder, a big guy, the same disorder Tony Robbins has.
I never forget the day he called me. I was in Chicago. Aunt Myrtle had died. She was a neat lady. We shared Aunt Myrtle stories and would be in hysterics laughing. We stayed in touch. When he developed cancer and I got cancer, we had plenty to talk about, for a couple of hours on Saturday mornings, just chitchatting.
Starbucks and hospitals are a good match. I would get the chemo and have coffee. I don’t miss chemo one bit though. I didn’t get a chance to ring the bell people ring when they are "done" with chemo.
Mom still has a spark of her mischievous side. Liz wrapped up an ugly planter that she had given Mom as a little girl. Mom had given it back to her as a joke, and Liz just gave it to her for Mother’s Day. Mom put it in Liz's corner cabinet after dinner.
Larry lives here and I see him a lot.
Fred has a condo at the beach and comes here.
At their core, they are good people.
I wrote a story about Bob Swindell. He died two years ago. That was such a shock, his daughter sent me a message on the morning he died. It said, "We talked with Dad, and he was talking about people who had been a big influence," and he was talking about me. And he was that for me, too. I can’t believe he died.
They are all good people.
Peter whose house just burned down
Larry teaches English as a second language.
An old buddy from High school, I talked to for 3 hours several weeks ago. I am so lucky and so fortunate. I have had some good, good people in my life.
Like my buddy Josh, a young guy I met working at Lowe’s in Michigan. He died of a drug overdose. The military was a good choice for him, but he broke his back while he was in the military and started taking painkillers. So I always have felt guilty that I pushed him to the military. He was a tough friend to have
I wrote about Dan recently. I met him in Chicago when I went back to work at the software company. He was a friend of the family, a VP at Sprint when 9-11 hit. That wiped out middle management level of work there. He took a pay cut and went to work at Follett Software and I became his mentor. It wasn’t easy to be his friend, either. Always the wrong stuff came out of his mouth. I met his wife and daughters. He also died a year after I left Chicago. Our old boss called. She didn’t have anything nice to say but it was super sweet of her to call me and tell me. He and I had both lost jobs during 2007-2008. He lost his home; it went poof! I rolled with the punches and landed in a good spot. It turned out.
Circuit City Stores, most brilliant thing of my career.
Being the best man in Peter’s wedding
Willis Foley turned file cabinets into the internet. He retired from the AirForce in Vietnam, went to work for the Defense Intelligence Agency. Made drones in the 70s, liked fast things,
American Arabian Horse Association. He got killed on route 15 in PA changing a tire on a horse trailer. He was the sweetest guy. A truck came around the corner and took it wide. He pushed his helper out of the way. Within 5 minutes of sitting with him, I told him I was going to give him a million dollars of business.
I have had such a good life with so many great people
I talked to his wife after he died. He was an American hero. He was a good man. Nobody that I know knew Willis except Linda from Circuit City. She trusted him, it was a match made in heaven.
We need to find Linda.
I went to India 2 or 3 times. My favorite person there is a Hindu leader, Kranthi Gajjala. I stayed with him and his wife there in southern India, Hyderabad.
You don’t realize how wonderful the world is until you have been around it!