Friday, March 21, 2008

Richie Hass 1952-2008

Apparently the relapse hit Richie way harder than we thought it would...the blow was lethal. The fight is now over and Richie went as a warrior.

This morning, Richie and I said "see you later" as he went out to City of Hope to get his chemo. He drove there, he drove back, and I got to talk to him when he got home as I was on my way to an important meeting with a specialty employment agency. If it weren't for cellular phones we probably wouldn't have talked then. I was glad he made it home safely...Richie's weakened condition always made me nervous. That was 1pm. At roughly 1:30 he called me to remind me that I needed to pick up some nutritional drinks for him on the way back...I think he called because he wanted to hear my voice one last time, and it was good to hear his voice too. I was totally unaware that he really was hearing my voice for the last time.

After the meeting, which was highly promising, I called to let Richie know how well it went. I got the answering machine. I called back a few minutes later, thinking that perhaps he was just answering nature's call. Answering machine. I called a few minutes later, hoping that maybe I just caught him sleeping deeply. Answering machine again. Oh SHIT.

I told the answering machine that I was going straight home to check on him, that I'd go right back out to get the "boosts" (we had fallen into the habit of calling nutritional supplement drinks "boosts" generically after the particular name brand "Boost.") after I had made sure he was OK.

Got home. Not OK. Not there anymore. I got on the horn to 911 immediately, and within a few minutes (911 is not a joke in Panorama City, thank you Fire Station 7, thank you Mission Division LAPD) the paramedics were there. They confirmed what I already knew, and what I was trying to tell the 911 operator who was trying to lead me through CPR. That ship had sailed.

However, it is very important to note that Richie went HIS WAY. He didn't want me to see him die. We had watched together as my mother passed painfully and fearfully from end-stage colon cancer. He didn't want to inflict that on me. He didn't want to die in a hospital, not even one as inviting and hotel-like as Helford Clinical Research Hospital at the City of Hope.

I don't believe in an afterlife anymore, no matter how inviting the concept is, but I think there was a little of his essence hanging around as I made it abundantly clear to all family members who I talked to that no, Richie didn't want to have a Jewish funeral, he didn't want people to sit shivah for him, he didn't want to be buried at Mount Sinai with the rest of the Good and Klein clans, he just wanted to be cremated, and have half his ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean and half scattered on the Hudson River, within view of the coastline of the New Jersey of his youth. He felt like half of him was East Coast and half of him was West Coast and that somehow he would be present on both coasts in his passage. Amazingly, nobody objected. They objected mightily when I told my family that I didn't think that my mother wanted an open casket to see her emaciated body after her year of battling colon cancer, and they had an open casket over my objections. This time they acceded to my wishes, and most importantly to Richie's wishes.

So he has passed out of existence his way. Unfortunately it was way too early and way too young but at least he did it on his own terms. There is a hole rent in my heart now that will never heal. It's like why gangbangers tattoo tears on their faces...they have tears that will never dry and so will I from here on out. However, to make this death not be in vain, I pledge the rest of my life to work towards supporting research to find cures to all blood cancers. All of them. Myeloma sucks and so does Acute Myelogenious Leukemia. So do the other varieties of leukemia and lymphoma. They all must be terminated with extreme prejudice. Richie is gone but there are thousands and thousands fighting this battle too. Saddle up, lock and load. Blood cancer is the enemy, and the war isn't over.