I’m devastated to have to deliver the news that so many of you know — thanks to Instagram, Facebook and word-of-mouth.
But in the event you haven’t heard — my beloved David, soulmate for over two decades, died at home on November 7th.
I know it’s been a while since I posted here, but it’s been a blur of activity and worry. David was put on hospice early October but up until that last week in early November or so we thought we had more time.
As David grew weaker (as the pneumonitis worsened and the esophageal cancer started to multiply in his chest) he stopped going to his office and for weeks left our bedroom only to use the restroom. But still, my husband was still his usual self– pragmatic, loving and with a steely resolve– and he encouraged us to do things to things we needed to do. Schoolwork. Errands. Phone calls.
Of course everything is different with COVID but some joys needed to be preserved at all costs.
So Halloween was fully celebrated and all the neighborhood kids were encouraged to come by for safe candy dispersal.
I had a carpet of treats leading up to my porch (books, Star Wars trading cards and action figures, Lego bags, mini-Playmobile sets, craft supplies)
and there were full-size candy bars and snacks up on the porch which I threw to all the kids and parents twenty feet away.
My sister flew out around this time to be with us
— and spend some time with an ailing David — but we had no idea that within a week of this Halloween celebration he’d be gone (even his own oncologist talked to him Monday, November 2nd, the night before the election and told David that he might still yet have weeks or a few months — not just the few days we had left with him).
In that last week of his life, hospice was wonderful. David was struggling worse with each passing day but from David there were no complaints, no woe is me. He was barely eating at this point but the night after the election he did manage to consume a few Brussels sprouts and a half slice of this, my favorite pizza in town.
Turns out a few bites of this Bianca pie from Scottie’s was the last thing he ever ate. (How terribly appropriate.)
The day after he ate this, his health took a deep nosedive. It was believed by the hospice staff that perhaps David suffered from a pulmonary embolism and so we were in full-crisis mode. The last 36 hours were a blur of activity as a hospital bed was quickly ordered for our home, a pain pump was attached to my beloved, and hospice workers came and went as we attempted to keep the worst of the pain and agitation at bay.
Problem was — David didn’t want to go. He loved all us too much and he didn’t want to leave the family he loved so dearly.
David also leaves behind Daniel, his son with his ex-wife Anita, (look at this pic she took of the two of them as his adoption was finalized in Colombia three plus decades ago)
his 96 year old mother and his brothers,
and so many brothers and sisters-in-laws and nieces and nephews.
Also missing him right now are dear friends Dan, Julie and Joe and countless other friends spread across the globe.
What can I tell you about the very end?
What happened that last day and a half was an epic struggle between his mind and heart desperately trying to stay alive (he kept saying he didn’t want to leave us) and a body collapsing by the minute, the cancer and the lung inflammation and perhaps the embolism all working together to shut down his organs.
David had been in scrappy situations before but nothing as critical or perilous as this one.
I think about those last hours still a bit shell-shocked but now a new image has coalesced out of the devastation that was the end.
Imagine Moby Dick — or perhaps a modern day version. A man on a hundred foot long luxury power motor boat sits in the middle of the ocean with all the tricked out, state of the art electric tools of a big game fisherman. He has the advantages of horsepower, electricity, technology and communal wisdom and physics. He also has the advantage of time; he can sit comfortably in his white leather swivel chair, comfortable in the knowledge that almost all of his needs are attended to and his safety is amply ensured.
From deep underwater comes an 800 pound tuna, a beautiful glistening beast that’s lived decades in the icy, largely untouched waters and, up to this moment, has enjoyed a life of freedom and speed. In one fateful moment though that fish nibbles on the luxurious treat at the end of that hook only to learn too late the origin or repercussions of the offered nibble. It appears that the die is cast.
What ensues over the course of the next hours is a magnificent yet bloody dance between the two. At any one moment it would appear that the man will overtake the fish. At others the fight in the fish is so great — and the will to survive so ferocious — that it seems as if somehow the tuna will figure out a way to extricate from the barbaric hook and swim smugly away — exhausted but exhilarated from having survived the mightiest of struggles.
Cancer was the man on the boat — the one with all the advantages on its side, the one destined to win from its very first reveal on my birthday twenty months ago. David was the 800 pound tuna, the force of nature with the will to live so strong that he kept in the fight far longer than most.
It also meant that in the end, seeing him suffer so terribly, I had to plead with him to leave my side and let go.
Yes, I had to beg my husband, my soulmate, my constant companion for over 21 years, to die — even though I knew that it would break all our hearts and leave my kids without a father.
Finally, David’s breathing changed from ragged and wet to more intermittent and relaxed, and then I felt the man who gave me the happiest day of my life
also delivered to me my most sorrowful.
And then the business of passing became even more real. I washed his face and gave him one last kiss. I made sure that he was dressed in fresh clothes and then the mortuary service arrived within the hour. They carried him out of our house in a zipped bag in a gurney.
Afterwards the house felt empty and so different.
Anyone who’s walked on this journey and been a front chair witness to the horrors of unchecked agony knows the difficulty.
My beloved sister was there for his passing (he died in my arms as I curled up in his hospital bed and kept telling him how much we loved him) and my equally cherished brother arrived just hours later.
They both helped me immeasurably in the bewildering, staggering days afterward.
My brother Dave and sister Polly are the most loving, generous, and compassionate siblings on the planet and I’m eternally helpful for all they did for me and my kids this month.
I’m also gobsmacked by the generosity of the community that has surrounded me in the bleakness of our days.
My friend Mary Ann organized a surprise candlelight vigil for us the day after David died and I walked out of my front porch to a stunning image– over 150 people (half with candles, half without) awaiting my arrival in respectful silence.
It was so surprising and so stunning a visual that I wept openly in front of this crowd that had organized with just a few hours notice.
Rarely in life do we encounter true wonder — to me, a time in which the divine kisses the mundane.
This vigil was a wonder, stretching from one end of the block to a few houses past mine. When my friend, a former opera singer, led us all into a rendition of Amazing Grace, I felt weak-kneed with gratitude.
Before I knew it, both my sister and brother had to go back home. They both had done such a wonderful job of helping me before, during and after David’s demise, and the overlap in their visits felt like one superlative runner passing the baton to another. But they too had families and work that needed them so I brought them both back to the airport. It was time.
Ever since, I’ve been happily deluged with even more treats and surprises.
A Sign Up Genius sheet was also started for me and instead of casseroles and completed dishes, I’ve just asked for simple things: espresso, wonderful breads, fresh flowers, produce, small gift certificates at New Seasons (my favorite grocery store) and the occasional bottle of red wine.
My friends, neighbors and local IG-ers have been dropping off treats almost every day.
A friend also started a GoFundMe account for my kids’ college fund.
My husband was a meticulous planner but as a journalist and consultant with no job security, it was only recently that he was able to start saving for their college (hence we are behind the eight ball with that).
The irony is that he himself was just a high school graduate but he had a brilliant mind and a fierce curiosity, enabling him ultimately to master so many different fields and disciplines without the benefit of college or traditional introductions. He was a self-made man who went on to write numerous books for such esteemed publishers as Harvard Press (among others), start a PR firm with friend Dan, land on the short list for a Pulitzer for his war reporting, sell a screenplay and later become one of the world’s top Intellectual Property consultants.
The financial wherewithal to attend college and possibly graduate school was his dream for his kids, but he simply ran out of time. I’m just so grateful that friends, family and Instagram buddies have chipped in to help with that. Every little bit helps and I know somewhere he’s looking down on us with that half smile and intensity that was his hallmark.
I wrote an obituary for my supernova husband/bad ass
and I’d be honored if you took a gander
(and if link doesn’t work just look for “klinestrong”).
And so there you have it.
I know that in the long run we’ll be okay but right now it just feels like absolute heartbreak. We were together all the time and tethered to one another — even when he was at work we’d check in on one another almost hourly. As regular readers can attest, we enjoyed being together so much. The kids miss his steadying presence and wisdom and competitiveness, and even Porter seems out of sorts with his master gone.
And now, I’m off to plan a burial a little over a day from now. It’ll just be the three of us for now; one day we hope to have a celebration befitting the magnificent man that he was, but now’s not the time.
Wish us luck, include us in your prayers and for God’s sake, please stay safe and remain healthy.
With love and gratitude, Sarah.