Sunday, February 20, 2011

When An Atheist Dies, Where Do They Go?

{Originally written on 2007-May-04 @ 23:33}

But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. ~ Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Life is pain, anyone who says differently is selling something. ~ William Goldman (from The Princess Bride)

This has definitely been one hell of a day (pun very much intended). When I got up this morning I didn't know what I had planned, but I'm pretty sure that the events that transpired weren't on the list at all.

So most of you know now that Don is dead... he died 2 days ago in Lakewood Hospital. I don't know exactly how, but I would imagine that his body simply gave out under the strain from the cancer, his inability to keep enough solids and fluids down regularly and, last but not least, trying to come to terms with his own mortality.

He had been in the hospital since last Saturday ~ he was escorted (for lack of a better word) by EMS to Lakewood Hospital. Jon had notified them that Don's regular hospital was Metro, but was informed that Don may not make it to Metro, so they took him to the nearest hospital, which is about 5 minutes away from our house. (For those of you who know me really well, you know my opinion of Lakewood Hospital, but for newbies: It's a loooooooong story, but ~ that place fucking sucks!) Sometime later on that night, someone (a social worker? a nurse?) calls and asks Jon if we were Don's family, if we knew if Don had a living will drawn up (if so, where is it?) and if we knew how to reach Don's next-of-kin. Needless to say, we are not family, and we didn't know the answers to the latter questions either. Don has been estranged from his family for a long time, for reasons unbeknownst to us. We do have our theories, but those are just that ~ theories.

First thing Sunday morning, we get another phone call from another hospital representative, asking the same questions as the night before, only this time the word "living" was dropped out of the phrase "living will" and she mentioned that he was in Critical Care, in poor condition ~ she couldn't tell us much else.

Well, when we didn't hear from Don by Sunday night, we knew something was going on. In the past, if Don was admitted into the hospital, he would call us within 24 hours to let us know where he was, that he was okay and how to reach us. So, in this circumstance, no news equaled bad news.

Monday we basically just sat on our hands, unsure of what to do next.

Tuesday night, after much prodding from my MIL (and me), Jon went down to the hospital to personally speak with either Don's doctor, a nurse in charge ~ or even a social worker ~ just to find out what the hell was really going on. Don's doctor was not available to speak with Jon, and the nurse in charge of that floor refused to come down to speak with Jon face-to-face, so he ended up having to speak with her via phone (which he could have done at home, for cryin' out loud!) and afterward he was informed that a social worker could call him the next day to speak with him about everything. That is just one of the many examples that prove that Lakewood Hospital really is run by a bunch of dee-dee-dees on crack. So Jon gave them his work and home phone numbers, and then returned home to inform me of everything. The only tidbit of news he had for me is that the nurse told him that Don hasn't signed a "consent for treatment" form yet. Since he had been there for almost 3 days now, we took that as a verrrrrrrrrrrrry bad sign, indeed.

Wednesday came and went with no contact from the hospital. The social worker either didn't get the message to contact Jon, or that hospital is still living up to their shitty reputation. I'm willing to bet on both. We didn't know it at the time, but sometime on this day, Don died.

Thursday... nada. I was starting to really get annoyed, worried, etc. I tried to just keep the house running like normal, but my nerves were beginning to get frayed from all of this tension.

Finally, today was Friday. And I simply had enough of the hospital's non-communicativeness (it's a word now, Grammar Nazis!), and at around 11-ish this morning I decided that I would force someone, anyone ~ to tell me what was going on with Don.

First, I called Lakewood Hospital. I was informed that no patient by that name was there anymore.

So, I called Metro Hospital, assuming that maybe he was transferred once he proved to be stable enough. Wrong. They didn't have a patient by that name there either.

Naturally, I began to panic. But from somewhere I got the idea to call the non-emergency police number for Lakewood before completely flipping out. I talked to a very nice woman, who transferred me to an officer (I think), who was also very nice to me... gruff, but very helpful nonetheless. She suggested I call the Coroner's Office. Duh ~ but it seriously hadn't occurred to me. I thanked her a million times, said something to the effect of "See, that's why I called ya'll ~ cuz I knew ya'll would know more than I would on what to do!" or something... I'm sure they could hear the Hicksville all over my voice, but I didn't care at that point. I was finally getting somewhere.

Riiiiiiiiiight. The Coroner's Office didn't have him either. But, before I could breathe a sigh of relief, I was told that not everyone ends up at the Coroner's. Gee, thanks, lady ~ just when I was about to relax for a moment. Back to annoyed and worried.

After I took a couple deep breaths, I called Joanne. Joanne is one of my mentors, who I met through Don. Joanne works at a church in Tremont, and she is one of the sweetest mentors anyone could ever ask for (all of my mentors are, actually). She's been going through a lot of health-wise stuff herself, but she sounded like her usual level-headed self. So I told her everything that has been going on, Readers' Digest style, of course. Very calmly, she told me what to do: to try calling the hospital again, this time requesting to speak with a social worker or a Pastoral Care representative (ironic much?) instead. If I'm still getting the run around after that, then I would need to file a Missing Person's report in order to get any information. With the new HIPPO laws, not even the police can get information on a hospitalized person without some kind of investigation case or whatever. Meh. I did not want to go that route, so I figured Option #1 was worth a try.

So, after gathering my wits and thoughts once again, I called Lakewood Hospital again. After filling the social worker in on the whole sordid tale, she cut in.

"I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this (the most generic phrase ever), but Don passed away yesterday."

I must've looked like a balloon popped by a ceiling fan.

"What? Oh, fuck. Oh, fuck." Suddenly my speaking faculties became similar to a broken record, because I kept repeating those words like a mantra for what seemed like 5 minutes or so.

She did her best to console me, and after awhile we ended our conversation.

I called my friend Caitlin and quickly told her what was going on. I think she heard the panic in my voice because she told me that she would be on her way as soon as possible.

At this point, Natey noticed me struggling to hold in my tears and asked me, "Mommee, why you crying?"

I told him, "Mommee needs a lot of hugs right now, babe."

With that said, he instantly hopped into my lap and wrapped his lil arms around me. His tenderness was too much... I began sobbing uncontrollably in my son's arms. It's bringing tears in my eyes again just remembering that moment.

After I calmed down some, he asked me where Don was. I tried to explain it by telling him that "Don went bye-bye forever." I know he doesn't understand at his age, but he accepted it fairly well and didn't ask me any more questions. He probably won't remember this insanity anyway... at least I hope not. He's had a rough enough life so far as it is.

Not even 10 minutes later (I'm not kidding), the Law Director of the City of Lakewood called to inform me of what I had just found out. That was when I found out that it was not yesterday, but Wednesday that Don died. Whatever, it didn't change much anyhow... Don was dead regardless. He requested my assistance in trying to find any of his next-of-kin because he was having difficulties on his end trying to figure out who Don was. Usually this isn't that much of a daunting task for someone in his position, but this was a special case due to the fact that a bunch of aliases kept popping up for Don and the poor guy couldn't figure out if they were all Don or just one name, or what. That gives a really nice picture of the kind of person Don was, eh? I never wrote about about Don's shadiness ~ a lot of it I thought was just him weavin' tales to try to impress us or something. That and I've always found that truth was more entertaining than fiction, especially when it comes to my life! I told Mr. Law Director that all those aliases were indeed Don (as far as I knew anyway), and that I would do my best to help with whatever I could. I figure that if I help them, it'll make me look good in the City of Lakewood's eyes. And, considering the problems I've had in the past with the State of Ohio, I need all the kudos I can get in that department.

While I was on the phone with Mr. Law, Caitlin arrived. I filled her in on everything and she began to help me with the information search. She found who we think (with almost 90% confidence) is Don's ex-wife. And for nearly the whole day now, she's been trying to call the phone number the search generated, only to constantly get a busy signal. Gah! But Mr. Law called back some time much later and I informed him of our search results and gave him the address and phone number Caitlin dug up. He thanked me profusely and then requested for me to call him first thing on Monday, and we would continue with this endeavor then.

So... that's about it, for now.

*deep breath*

I really didn't think I'd be able to get all that out, but am I glad that I did now. I just hope that Jon & I can get this mess taken care of as soon as possible so that we can get on with our lives the way I've been wanting us to do for a looooooooooong time.

The only good (but twisted, I know) news of this is that Don has finally moved out. In every sense of the word.

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