Barry’s Memorial

Barry’s memorial was this afternoon.  There on the sidewalk on 16th Street at the spot where he died in January a modest crowd gathered, enough to fill the wide sidewalk for some distance on either side of the makeshift shrine built there by his friends the day he died.

As Barry’s friends go, i’m a relative newcomer, since some of them go back decades.  At least two people besides me have written about him on their websites – Paul Quin and Roy McKenzie.  I found the comments on McKenzie’s first post on Barry wonderful, partly because they showed the different views many of us had of Barry while at the same time they highlighted the aspects of his personality that we all saw.

It was also interesting to compare the written accounts in the above links with my own experience.  In both of the accounts (including the comments) a mention was made of Barry having died with a fistful of money that people had stuffed into his hand as he lay dying, and on first blush that sounds rather horrifying.  But let me explain.

One thing i got clear on from reading the links and that was reinforced at the memorial was that all of us knew, with varying degrees of certainty, that Barry was dying and all of us desperately wanted to do something to ease his passage.  I hadn’t yet understood that he was too sick to move on Wednesday, but it was clear he was real sick when he agreed to let me bring him some coffee from Peet’s.  Extra sugar, of course.  And on Thursday i talked him into letting me bring him a Mediterranean wrap from Rosenburg’s.   And then on Friday when he’d refused coffee and food, he said he could use some cigarettes, so i brought him a pack of his favorites – Red Marlboro 100’s.  And when i brought them to him, he had money clutched in his hand and tried to peel some off for me.

I wrote in a previous post that it was just then that i had my Aha moment over being clear that he would soon die and that i was not going to defy his repeated demand that no ambulance be called.  Later i realized that he was probably at that point too sick to even open the pack of cigarettes but that my need to do something for him, anything he would accept, was so strong that i had to bring him the cigarettes.  And after reading two accounts about how he died with nearly a hundred dollars in his hand i realized that in the hours between my last visit and his death, others who visited him had been so profoundly struck by the same need i felt that they stuffed money in his dying hand.  Every bit as useless as my cigarettes, but it let them do something.  And we need that.

One thing i discovered at the memorial was that a couple of people had broken down and called 911 behind Barry’s back and had watched at a discreet remove as he drove the medical crew away, fully articulate and rational, saying he didn’t want them.  Good for you, Barry, and rest in peace.  A man should be allowed to pull his own plug, and it is my ambition to pull mine as effectively as Barry did his.

I know most of my friends would not have believed this, but there is clear evidence that until January 18, 2014, a man who was as stubborn as i am walked on earth.

Here’s my floral tribute to him:

Pyracantha....or something like it

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  1. David
    Posted 24 February 2014 at 14:47 | Permalink

    Your closing discussion about one’s right to pull one’s own plug reminded me of my dad. He suffered some kind of respiratory collapse when my sister found him on the floor of his duplex. She called 911 and he was taken to the nearest hospital, a couple of miles away. There he lay in ICU, plugged in to a respirator. There were family visits and conferences with medical staff, and as the night wore on, everyone eventually left his room. At which point he reached up and pulled out the respirator. Done. I’ve always respected him for that last act of courage.

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 24 February 2014 at 17:19 | Permalink

      Thank you for telling me that. Makes me like your dad even more, although i’d not have thought that possible. My dad pulled his own plug, too. The day before he was due to go back into the hospital for good, he checked to make sure the neighbor who’d been on the Bataan Death March and had seen everything was at home, developed a great hankering for a food item for which my mother would have to go all the way across town to get, and as soon as she was out of the house, went out in the back yard so as not to spatter the inside of the house, and shot himself. He’d already been hauled off before my mother returned, so she didn’t have to see him. Spared both her and himself a long, slow death. I sure do admire the way he pulled it off.

      • David
        Posted 25 February 2014 at 11:52 | Permalink

        Both men worth lauding.

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