At 23:55 on March 19, 2014 I held the hand of Chris Leonard-Barkley as he passed from this life to the next. The following morning, I awoke from a short and fit-filled sleep full of anxiety about my future and full of questions. What about the plans we made-will I continue on with them or make new ones? Will I be able to carry-on? What just happened? That was the biggest question looming: What just happened?
It seemed like just yesterday we were holding hands to begin a life together. Our mission to fight against hate changed to fighting for life as he began to get sick.
The 55 days in the hospital became routine, in spite of the chaos—the new normal. Making the guest bed in his hospital room, hoarding extra pillows and blankets and perfecting folds and tucks to make the 50-minute naps more comfortable—between vital checks, medication dosages and other nursing interruptions through the night. Getting to know the hospital staff and nurses responsible for his care. Memorizing the medical routines and drug dosages. Tracking the ups and downs of his O2 levels and blood pressure. Knowing the hospital security guards’ schedule and finding hiding spots to avoid them during quick smoke breaks on the hospital grounds. Winning the daily battle to let me help him poop and clean him up afterwards to avoid skin infections; all the while respecting his pride and wanting desperately to help him preserve it.
I’ve always prayed, but prayer happened more. Crying took the place of the stress relief that the gym used to provide. A good cry at 0500 along with a sobbing, snot-filled prayer became my ab routine-followed by cleaning up and facing the day with as much gratitude as I could fake. Could I continue faking it?
I wasn’t alone.
Trey, Drew and Catherine became masters of these routines along with me. And all of the others that sat with me for those nights and days near the end—waiting for the end. Julie took care of Hunter for me. Even Hunter had friends to help him deal with the loss of one of his daddies.
Those thoughts led to forming #BarksBrigade. We had just experienced what AIDS does – together. Unfortunately, so many others do not have an “us” to lean on while they fight to survive. Become a part of the “us” that can make a difference.
Join #BarksBrigade today.