It was Friday, March 15th, around noon, and by this time everyone had arrived at the hospital. His family: cousins, aunts, uncles, they were all there. My family came from Barrie. So while everyone was at the hospital, where was Steve? At the lawyers office. Why? Well there was an issue with Rob's will that had to be resolved. Rob and I kept putting it off and putting it off, we knew it had to be done but it just got buried under all the other things that were happening at the time. It needed to be sorted while he was alive and if it wasn't taken care of I knew there'd be trouble. Turns out that the time I wasted sorting that out with the lawyer instead of being with Rob was for nothing. It still led to trouble. Can you believe it? Probably not. There are so many horrible stories about families and wills out there that sometimes it's really more of a tragedy than the death itself. It really sucked that I had to deal with his will at a time like that. It was Rob's and my fault for not taking care of things properly before things got so out of hand. We were really stupid about that, but it was just not a priority and I paid for that ignorance after he died. Now I tell everyone to get a proper will - do it!! No excuses. It will save you so much unnecessary trouble and trauma.
As the day became night, Rob was deteriorating pretty quickly. I had sorted out the will issue and was back at the hospital with him. He was breathing with the help of a respirator. He was still very aware, but barely able to talk or do anything else. There were so many scares that afternoon. There was a time when his breathing almost stopped, and he was shaking and having seizures (I understand now that was his body beginning to shut down). Oh my God, he looked so shocked and scared when these things began to happen. I would have killed for him at that moment if he asked me to, if it would help him. Anything to help him. As the shocks and shakes began to subside, he was sleeping more and more. The last time he was awake, I told him I loved him, and with a swollen tongue he whispered I love you too, and that was the last time we spoke to each other.
Around 10:30pm, his brothers told me they wanted to stay the night with him, and for me to go home. Although at first I REALLY protested that idea, eventually I welcomed it. I didn't want to leave him, but I couldn't stay there watching him die anymore, I just couldn't do it. The self -protection bubble was deflating. Fast. So before I left, I whispered in his ear how much I loved him and that I will see him soon. Even though he was comatose at this point, I knew he heard me because he turned his head towards my mouth, the sound of my voice whispering in is ear, just slightly, but he heard me. I know he did. When I got home, I said good bye to my Mum and sister, I cried, smoked a joint, drank half a bottle of vodka, and passed out. This was becoming a rather scary routine over the previous five months while he was sick and in hospital. That, along with crying in the bathroom at work, and at home, but rarely in front of him. It was important to be strong for him. At the time and even now I called that coping. No excuses and no judgements.
It was around five or six in the morning on Saturday that I received a phone call. It was from one of his brothers, could have been Dave, or Steve, I can't remember, I think it was Dave. Anyway, he said, "Steve, Robbie has died, please come to the hospital". I was calm - very, very calm, and said "I'll be right there". I felt nothing when Dave told me. Nothing. Again, I was very calm, very collected. I got up, had a shower, got changed, called for a taxi and left for the hospital.
I don't remember anything about the drive there. I remember walking through the atrium in the hospital to the elevators, and it was so quiet. Usually when I would go to see him, it would be much later in the morning or right after work, so it was busy. That Saturday morning was so quiet. Or maybe I thought it was. I don't even remember if I paid the taxi driver! I took the elevator to the palliative floor, and as I rethink this, I can actually see myself kinda floating along to his room. His brothers were there waiting, I think I said hello and hugged them. I said hello to the palliative nurse on duty. I walked into his room and looked at the bed and there he was. I can't remember if his eyes were opened or closed. I asked his brothers what happened and I think Steve told me but I can't remember. I think I had asked why didn't anyone call me when it started to happen, whatever 'it' was that happened when people are about to die. I know I asked if he called out for me. I can't remember Steve's answer. I walked over to Rob, touched his face and kissed him - he was still warm. Then I left the room (I have to add that there were seriously unpleasant issues happening between myself and Rob's family during his illness which got worse as time went on, so any, and I mean ANY excuse I could find to get the f*ck away from them, I took).
I went to the floor where Robbie was first admitted to see the staff. We were so blessed to have had such an amazing staff at Princess Margaret Hospital. They took very good care of him, and kept me informed of everything that was happening. I will never forget that one of the nurses even came to his wake! On the day the priest came to his room to perform last rites, I swear half of the staff from that floor, including the cleaning staff, came to pay their respects to Rob. We are talking about a VERY special man here.
I told the staff he had died, and thanked them for everything they had done for him because they were, as I repeat, the best f*cking medical staff ever. Then I went back to the palliative wing. I sat in a chair, called my Mum, called my sister, called my boss and called a few friends to let them know what had happened. I made my way back to his room and that was when his Mother came. I don't remember if we hugged. I think we did. I do remember she was crying. She was saying things to Rob, I think it was prayers. I left the room again at that point because I just needed to breath. The rest of his family had arrived at that point. They called me back to his room and there we all were, in a circle surrounding his bed, discussing funeral arrangements while he lay there in the bed. Dead. I know right? If you're thinking that must have been extremely unpleasant, believe me it was and worse. Throw in serious tensions, sadness and anger and, well, I don't think I have to explain any further. What a conversation to have, especially at that time in that room. I could barely process his death and now we have to talk about funeral arrangements while he's just lying there?
Anyway, his family ended up taking over all of the plans for the funeral, and I agreed to everything. I left the room once the 'meeting' was over, and one of the nurses asked me to sign some paperwork to release him, and I did. Then she said we could spend a bit more time with him before they took him away. Did I touch him again? I think I did. I know I told him I loved him again. Then I left. His Mother was the last person in the room. I remember leaving all of his belongings behind in the room and never went back to collect them. I forgot. I think his family took care of that. It was a quiet walk out of the hospital, and I recall it being so sunny outside. Everything else that happened that day is a blur.
The final part is next.