Thursday, May 28, 2009

"And Flights of Angels...

...sing thee to thy rest." We said our goodbyes to Witt today in a lovely, tasteful service in his beautiful family church in Georgetown, in the District of Columbia.

This is the first time we've seen Gary since Witt's passing, and the hug was that much harder and longer because of it. He's doing well, at least externally. He'd asked us to print a picture of Witt and put a signature mat around it to have at the reception, so we got there early so he might have a chance to see it before time for the service. This was something he really wanted for himself, and I'm so glad we had one handy for him.

A lot of things were very meaningful to me. Psalm 121 was read aloud by all of us, and it contains a favorite verse of mine, "I lift mine eyes unto the hills..." I used to never be sure which I needed more in my life, the beach, or mountains. I decided awhile ago that the beach is for relaxing, and the mountains for living. So this verse was poignant, especially since it was at the cabin in the hills that he loved to visit that Witt moved on from us.

What moved me most...and judging by sniffles I heard, others too!...was when Witt's doctor of more than 20 years stood to pay tribute to him. Dr. Kane knew Witt very well, and his words had weight because of it. He said the first thing one grew to know about Witt, once you got past the externals, was that he didn't suffer fools gladly. This drew grins; we all knew that. It was something that initially attracted Witt and I to one another, when I used that phrase about myself - I know you're surprised - in an early email exchange. When he found someone rude, or foolish, or ridiculous in a non-pleasing way (he loved the kind of ridiculousness that was pure fun), one eyebrow would go up, his face would grow even longer, and he'd produce a gimlet stare that quickly reduced any idiots to gibbering. I loved it. Wish I could pull it off.

Dr. Kane spoke of Witt's presence - not just his size which was 6'7" if you never met him, but the sheer volume of his personality. You could not only not miss Witt, you could never ignore him. You wouldn't want to. He was a magnet, and we mere iron filings.

Then Dr. Kane brought me to tears. He made the point that over the years, Witt knew what was important to him, and guarded it fiercely and loyally. Family and friends. Knitting. Peace. He winnowed away the non-essentials to live his life as fully as he could, in the way he wished, every day. And Dr. Kane reminded us that this meant if Witt gave his time and caring to you, that he valued you, and your friendship; that you mattered very much. Thinking of all the times we spent together, even just sitting over a cup of coffee or visiting his and Gary's apartment and talking for hours, I realized more than ever how honored by his friendship we've been. And I grieve that little bit more.

One worry laid well to rest - Gary was treated with the utmost respect as Witt's partner and chief mourner. One never knows how some clergy view gays, but the rector was kind and deferential toward Gary and the rest of Witt's family.

It gives you an idea of the esteem in which Witt was held that a daytime service, midweek, in the crowded District, was so well-attended that it took about an hour for everyone to pass through the three person receiving line. And that was even when a few of us didn't take up the space because we'd spoken to everyone in the family earlier. Over and over I saw laughter mixing with tears as people shared, often with strangers, how they knew Witt and the profound effect he had had on them.

We were one of the last to leave, speaking again to his mom, sister, and Gary. We had closed our studio until four, giving us plenty of time to get home. We were quiet driving back, both pensive. The DH mentioned an errand he need to run on the way, and we decided to stop for lunch. As we ate an appetizer, I remarked that I felt like we were playing hooky, now that the service was over, and I liked the feeling. I suggested that we do it more often; take a day where we had no appointments, leave SuzyG the receptionist in charge, and just take off. Do a mental health day.

After the man who really knew how to live, we've decided to call them Witt Days. We'll use them to look for both peace and fun, recover our wits, such as they are, and go on.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Touch

Most of you don’t know me, of course, but I’m a pretty pragmatic person. But something that defies my logic happened today which I think you might appreciate.

A few months ago, my loyal followers know, we were taking pictures at a farm that has many peacocks. We came back with a bouquet of tail feathers the owner gave me. I gave a small one to Witt and Gary for Mattie, their cat, to play with.

We’ve been shooting this week at a dance studio which we do’s a full week commitment to costumes, tap and ballet shoes, and adorableness. This morning was the end, with the Tiny Tots, and we were packing up our cars to take things back to our photo studio. It's exhausting, and it was hot out, not to mention lunch time, so we packed as quickly as we could.

Now, I had been the only person in my car this morning, and it had been locked at the studio. But when I came out, there was a small peacock feather on the passenger seat. It was not there when I drove in. I have no peacock feathers at the house. We hadn’t taken any of the feathers to the dance studio, nor were there any on any of the 30+ types of costume we shot. There is no logical explanation I can see, and I've never experienced anything like this before.

I spoke with Gary for quite awhile this afternoon; the first time we've really had to just talk, not discuss details of the service being held for Witt on Thursday. When I told Gary about the feather, he didn't seem surprised at all. Then he told me he came back from a walk today to find a tiny three-leaf clover laying on the center of his keyboard, waiting for him. We both feel Witt was saying hello, and being Witt, found a clever and meaningful way to do it for each of us.

I've been asked to read some passages of scripture at Witt's memorial service. Please offer a prayer that I may keep it together, giving him the honor he deserves, and providing comfort for us all.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

In Sorrow

Almost exactly two years ago, I saw a post on my EZasPi list saying that the poster lived in a town just a little south of my home. I said hello, mentioned that we were local to one another, and that, dear Blogees, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

His name was Witt, and he and his partner Gary had recently moved from the DC area. As we began exchanging emails, I found him to live up to his name - very witty, funny and playful. We were about the same age, and had a lot in common. I'm not a woman who makes friends easily, by my definition of friend. I have a lots of friendly acquaintances, sure. But for me, friendship is an intensely loyal and deep commitment. Sometimes, as in the case of my best bud in high school, someone I've known quite awhile breaks through in a moment of closeness, and stays there always. And sometimes, as with Witt and Gary, I never get a chance to throw up any of my habitual reserve, and they were in my heart right away.

A couple weeks after meeting online, the "Boyz" as they and we called them, showed up unexpectedly at our studio. We talked for hours. From then on, we would get together about twice a month, either for a movie or a bite to eat, coffee or just a chat at their apartment. Usually we'd pair off...Witt and I talking books and fiber arts, Gary and the DH whatever caught their fancy. We had that lucky friendship where everyone in both couples likes everyone else.

A year and a half ago, Witt and Gary honored me by asking me to officiate at their commitment ceremony. It was a lovely affair, just a dozen people at a favorite local restaurant/lounge. The DH did the photos, and they were beautiful too. The two of them completed one another in the ways I love to see in the happiest of couples, the way I'm lucky enough to have with my DH.

All the time I've known him, Witt's health has been compromised by HIV, and over that time, I've seen his energy levels go down. Anything we did together needed to be earlier in the day, because later he was too worn. A fever could spike out of nowhere. Meds needed adjusting. But I never saw or talked to him that his outlook wasn't positive and generous, that he wasn't full of laughter and love.

That light went out today in this world, and it's burning ever so brightly in another. Gary called this morning as we were on our way to work, and told me Witt passed on in his sleep. They were staying in a friend's cabin high up on a mountain side, as they did whenever they wanted to get away. They'd planned to go up today, but Witt pressed to leave yesterday, and that's where he left us. I can't help wondering if he had an inkling, or if he just wanted to be somewhere peaceful. He gave me a lot of yarn a few weeks ago, and that had me wondering if he wasn't feeling something then, too. The shock of hearing that he was gone so abruptly was beyond words. Witt was larger than life in so many ways, and the hole he's left behind, will never fill.

People sometimes say of a loss that they know how you feel. I can't imagine how Gary feels. I can all too easily imagine how I'd feel if I lost my husband, and the horror is more than I can bear. All I can do is try to be sure we're there for Gary, and help him take the one step at a time the way that he told me he was doing this morning.

You know that mascara that forms tubes on your lashes, won't flake or run, but washes off with plenty of warm water? Guess what tears are made of? Witt would have appreciated the knowledge. It really sucks that I can't call and tell him.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Health Care

We're at a crossroads in this country, sez I, and I'm sincerely hoping we take the right path. Specifically I'm hoping we take it in the area of health care, by passing the President's plan to cover everyone in America. Personally, I'd like to see the sort of universal health care that the UK and Canada enjoy, but I can live with the Obama administration's plan.

"Live with" being the important term. I can give you the big picture, maybe better than some folks because I lived in England for six years. Yes, sometimes you have to wait a bit to be seen for non-critical items. Like you don't have to do that here now? In spite of what a Big Bucks gentleman's commercials would have you believe, I don't know a single Brit or Canuck who wants what we have, and I know several.

I could also point out to you that we already have universal health care, and I lived under that too, when I was an Air Force wife. Yes, I couldn't always count on seeing the same doctor. But I got great care, and I didn't pay a cent. We made less than we would have on the economy as a trade off, but only having to pay for my meals when I had my two C-sections? So worth it.

So please understand, I do have a fair idea of what I speak. For that matter, I usually do or I don't open my mouth. :-) But today I'm going to ask you to support this health care plan for all our sakes, and specifically, share why I need you to do so.

As you know, the DH and I are self-employed. Yes, we struggle some in this economy. But we struggle far more than we should to provide health insurance for ourselves. In 2001, when we had to purchase said insurance, we found it excruciatingly difficult. We finally got Mega Life and Health through the National Association for the Self-Employed. Would seem to be an excellent thing, yes? A group plan for those of us whom we're always told are the backbone of America. Maybe we are, but I think we're losing spinal fluid at an alarming rate. In the 8 years we've had the policy, our premium has more than doubled. We had to raise our deductible to $7,500 EACH just to keep it as "only" doubled...and needless to say, we don't have anything like that if we were seriously ill. To be fair, during that time I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, but I'm very compliant and on the most minimal and generic medication there is.

And this policy covers almost nothing. One doctor visit a quarter is covered - with a co-pay; do you know any doctor that sees you for anything substantial then doesn't want to see you back in a week or two? I have to pay that out-of-pocket. I did physical therapy to avoid having to undergo anesthesia and a manipulation to unfreeze my shoulder, thereby saving them money, right? Sure did, because they refused to pay for the PT unless it was after surgery. All that, out of pocket. The prescription plan has a deductible, a co-pay, AND a cap of $1,000. With what the drug companies make in America, that gets eaten up FAST. I actually get my generic diabetes med cheaper at WalMart than I do in the plan I PAY FOR!

So we're now trying to get policy through Blue Cross Blue Shield. A very reputable company, which we now know Mega is not...they are dissed by everyone who is stuck with them. We went to an insurance broker, told him everything about us, and he got a quote for us. The underwriters quoted us at Tier 4. Middle-of-the-road, 1 being best, 7 being you're next to terminal. Based on the deductible we could live with, we'd be paying a little more monthly, but it would be real coverage, and we were delighted. We went in and did the official paperwork, hoping to have it in place by the beginning of the month.

A few days later, our agent called. They came back with us on Tier 7! Nothing changed, no new conditions, and he was as shocked as we were. I flat told him, absolving him, of course, that I felt this was fraudulent, a classic bait-and-switch. We asked what we could do to appeal. He didn't know, having never had this happen to him! We asked our physician to write a letter for us, and bless him, he did, stating that through my own efforts my blood sugar is well within normal, and I could probably even go off the med for it. He added that there was no reason I shouldn't be at a lower tier. The agent faxed that to his contact, and they came back at Tier 6. However, he also had us write a letter directly to BCBS Underwriting, giving us word for word what it should say, also including the doctor's letter. We've not heard back anything from that, and it's been about two weeks. Prayers are welcome.

A doctor recently told me that we were playing Russian Roulette, having the insurance (so-called) that we do, and he's absolutely correct. And folks, that shouldn't be. We work hard. We don't make much, and we're paying on health insurance about half what our house payment is. In this country, where we have so much, people working their butts off shouldn't have to be afraid of losing everything just because the insurance industry is greedy.

Do you know the majority of bankruptcies are due to health care costs? Trust me. I am afraid. One of us gets seriously ill, and we have to chose between treatment and losing everything. And we are very much not alone. So please, for the sake of all of us, let's get real coverage for all Americans.

I'd sure sleep better.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Just Because

A DJ friend of mine posted this on Facebook, and although I should know better, I have to pass it on.

Meanwhile, the SIL is at it again. I may have to verbally rip her a new one. I am SO good at that!