I received a call earlier this evening from Kevin, one of Derek's brothers, and I could tell from the tone of the message he left that Derek was gone. While I was on the phone dialing Kevin's number, I received another call from Derek's childhood and best friend, Cos, which I allowed to roll to voice mail. It too was a message indicating that I should call back as quickly as possible.
Kevin had not yet arrived at the hospice when I reached him on his cell phone. He had needed to pick up his and Derek's father (we'll call him Bob), so he wasn't to the hospice and didn't have all of the details available.
What I do know is that Derek had spent his last day with his mother. Kevin indicated that they thought Derek waited for his mother and, once he spent the day with her, felt there was nothing left to do here.
I got off the phone with Kevin so he could get Bob into the hospice and to Derek's room. I then called Cos.
Cos and Derek go way back. They were childhood friends from very early on and grew up together. Although they had grown more distant over the last eight years (while Derek was living in Dallas), they had always been best friends and cared deeply for each other. This was evidenced by Cos' apparent tears when he answered the phone.
We talked briefly, me listening to him explain that he had heard just a few minutes before he called me. Still feeling numb from the news, he was lost for expression.
We agreed that Derek was better off now, not suffering as he had done for the last two years. We were happy for him. We understood that he had taken advantage of the opportunity to clear the air with his family; he had been able to address both his sexuality and his disease with a family who only wanted to help, to be there for their loved one, to provide for him in his need, to spend the last moments of his life with him. Derek had been able to resolve the last remaining vestiges of the secret life that had made him increasingly distant from his family.
We agreed on this. We agreed again that his passing was an end to his suffering, the most important fact to remember, and that he no longer had to survive the downward spiral of his health.
As I sit here writing this entry, the numbness has settled over me like a fog. I can feel it all around me.
I am touched by the memories that you leave behind. I am glad that your family had the chance to know you — the real you that I have known for these past eight years. I am sorry you had to suffer at all and am truly happy that you suffer no more.
I will miss your quick wit and your charm. I will miss your sometimes child-like behavior. I will miss your fierce intelligence. I will miss how outrageously funny you could be. I will miss your tendency to indulge your excessive preoccupation with politics. I will miss doing things together. I will miss watching you with The Kids and knowing how completely safe they were with you despite your taunting. I will miss a great many things now that you're gone.
You fought the good fight and you fought it well, but now the day has ended, my friend. Your difficult journey has come to an end. Know that Mom was right when she said that there will always be a special place for you in our hearts.
I miss you. And I love you.