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Yesterday, I saw the BareBones Halloween show with perruche_verte. The rather surreal show seemed to be about the journey of the dead to their final rest. There was a part of the show where they invited the audience to call out the names of people who had died, to honor and welcome their spirits and encourage them on their paths. I called out Tom's name. Then everyone walked a path to the river with tin-can candle lanterns, making a stream of little lights, and there was a firedancer show, rafts, and a lovely song. Hmm, I guess you'd have to be there.

After that we walked to a shrine to the dead, and we lit candles and I wrote a little note to Tom, which I put in a box with other people's notes to their dead loved ones which will be ceremonially burned (the notes, not the loved ones) to travel to their recipients. I don't know what exactly I believe in, if anything, but these rituals are nice.

Then we listened to a gamelan band and then, getting rather cold at this point, went back to perruche_verte's place. A bit later, he asked me about Tom, about how and why he died so young, and I couldn't bring myself to say much right then. I think I said it was complicated and a bit of a mystery, and then I just went silent and let him hold me. Today at work, as I was putting together little folders, I tried to put my thoughts together, and now I will try to write them down.

This is not about who Tom was. There was so much more to him. This is about his pain and his death.

Background circumstances:
Tom was born prematurely with some birth defects, caused by a Dalcon Shield IUD his mother had gotten pregnant in spite of. He had an adverse childhood and lived on the streets briefly in his late teens. He was troubled by muscle pains and other symptoms which fit the description of fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome. He self-medicated himself for this with various drugs (including "street" drugs and prescription drugs bought from overseas on the internet), whatever he could get at any given time which would help the pain. He also seemed unusually vulnerable to getting bronchitis-type illnesses, getting sick like that more often than most people.

None of this is anything that should have killed him at the age of 26. But something did.

What happened:
Late one hot, ordinary June evening in 2001, Tom went to his friend A's place to watch a video. He and A's boyfriend B shared a small amount of opium and went for a walk, to pick up some things from the corner store for A. Then Tom, B, A, and A's roommate watched the video. During the movie, Tom started coughing badly.

After the movie, it was late and Tom said he didn't want to try to go home, he just wanted to go to sleep. It wasn't unusual for him to stay the night there. He and B both stayed the night. Tom's wheezy breathing could be heard by everyone through the night.

B woke up first in the morning and was reading a magazine when he heard Tom make a strange noise, and then go quiet. B went over to see if he was okay, and was unable to wake him up. He sat Tom up and red fluid gushed from his mouth. He had A call 911 and started doing CPR on Tom, who wasn't breathing.

Paramedics came and tried to rescuciate Tom with no luck. He was dead, and no one knew why.

Many tests were done, finding very little of any significance. There was an autopsy. Eventually it was declared a drug overdose, even though that doesn't really seem to make sense with the circumstances. Drugs were involved, but it doesn't seem so clear-cut. I could say a lot more about that, but it would be a digression to put it here.

I tell myself that it doesn't really matter how or why. Dead is dead. But still I wonder about it, especially because people ask, and I try to explain it, and I can't really explain it, and I get into useless discussions of theories. So, more often, I say, "I don't like to talk about it."


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 2nd, 2005 02:59 pm (UTC)
wow. I have no words.
Nov. 2nd, 2005 04:32 pm (UTC)
I don't know what to say to it, other than that I read it. I hope you find your peace with it.
Nov. 2nd, 2005 05:19 pm (UTC)
I was so glad to share that night with you, and to be quiet with you, and to let you be silent if you needed to be. Thank you for sharing this now.
Nov. 3rd, 2005 12:33 am (UTC)
It was delightful welcoming in the Celtic New Year together with you.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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