From: (Brent Davies)
Newsgroups: soc.motss
Subject: My Friend Michael
Date: 21 Apr 1994 02:36:04 +1000

I have been absent for awhile. One of the main reasons is detailed in
these journal entries. I wanted to share them with you.

Just wanted you to know I'm still here, and looking forward to my visit
to SF and NY in June-July. I'm due for a break.

Love to all,


Saturday, 12 March

It's the usual visit with Michael at his flat--but 
tonight, I feel uneasy.

Hazel is there; she says Michael has been vomiting and 
has fallen over a few times. She's on the phone with Gary 
when I arrive. I speak with Gary, who is going on 
holidays next weekend and asks me to take over the Sunday 
and Monday visits. I assure him that I will.

Michael tries his best to lean in so he can hear Gary--
he's gotta know what people are saying about him. Well, 
who can blame him? It's hard to keep from laughing as I 
talk to Gary, though.

When I get up to leave at last, Michael, for the first 
time ever, doesn't come with me to the door. "He doesn't 
want you to see how bad his legs are," says Hazel. I see 
myself out, then, and frown all the way down the lift.

Something's different. I've got a bad feeling about this. 
I'm scared.

Thursday, 17 March

Gary rings to say that I needn't worry about taking over 
Sunday and Monday visits--Michael's been admitted to the 
Alfred and will probably be there "over the weekend, 
maybe into next week."

Maybe into next week. Hm. Am I stupid to be so worried?

Saturday,19 March

I visit Michael, who seems in pretty good spirits, 
considering that he's flat on his stomach and too sore to 
move because of all the lumbar punctures they've been 
doing. Poor thing--he's exhausted. He's glad to see me 
anyway and squeezes my hand. God--I can't wait till he's 
out of here; he's so keen to get back home.

Monday, 21 March

I visit Michael in hospital again. He's free-associating 
today... I walk over to the Alfred from my work during 
lunchtime, since it's nearby. I'm wearing a blue shirt 
and tie... and straightaway I'm one of his mates from the 
Army, and he's resting in his bunk after a late night on 
duty. We talk for forty minutes. He's animated and 
cheerful, and describes to me how much he's enjoying 
duty, talking about the new recruits' marching and 
drilling skills... and all the while, of course, he's too 
weak even to stand up. There I sit, reliving these old 
memories with him, thinking to myself, "Now, keep up, 
Brent; stick with him; these are happy memories; help him 
relive them." In the end, we're both giggling at the 
antics of this new recruit or that--and it really does 
stop being prentending after awhile, because he's a good 
storyteller: it's like I really was there in the Army 
with him. I hug him goodbye and then walk back to work--
chuckling to myself, but frowning too. My friend is 
slipping away from me. God, I want a little more time. 
Just a little more time.

Tuesday, 22 March

Dear Lord, do we ever stop talking about the Army? That 
time must have been very important to him. I've gotta 
take my tie off next time I see him. Perhaps that's 
what's triggering these memories. 

Whenever I go in these days, I get the same greeting: 
"Oh, hi! I gotta have a piss, that's for sure!" There's 
the IV bag, dripping away. How long has he been waiting, 
while all that fluid goes into him, for me to come in and 
save him from having to ask a nurse for a bottle to piss 
into? I close the door and help him sit up and fill the 
bottle. Who else does this? I have no idea. I notice that 
the urine is almost brown. What the fuck is happening?

Thursday, 24 March

Yesterday--was it yesterday? Tuesday? I can't remember--
John is in hospital when I come by at lunchtime. He's 
sitting in the wheelchair, looking heartbroken--but still 
there is the banter between them:

"Don'tcha feel sorry for me, being the guinea-pig?" says 
Michael, "Or maybe, I should say, the guinea-pig-ess?"

"Nup," says John.

"Jeez, you're good to me, Boo-boo," says Michael. There's 
a big grin on his face. I love the bond between these 
two. It's old and wise. They're very lucky, I find myself 
thinking. There's a lot of history there, and a lot of 

Friday, 25 March

Michael's IV alarm goes off every five minutes--he figets 
so much. He moves his legs constantly. "They feel very 
busy today," he says of his legs. I try propping them up 
with pillows, pinning them down with pillows, separating 
them with blankets, laying them down flat--nothing seems 
to help, and he winces when he moves them: "Ooh!" he 
says, or else he sucks his breath in between his teeth. 
Michael doesn't whinge. He's in pain.

As always, there's the request for the bottle. And as 
always, recently, there's the constant litany: "Well, 
guess I'd better get dressed," and then he pushes the 
covers down. I'm no idiot: he wants to go home, that's 
for sure. What do I do? I can't bring myself to tell him 
that he can't, so I say: "Don't worry, sweet-pea. There's 
still time, if you wanna rest." 

"Oh, yeah, I am feeling pretty tired," he says, and then 
settles back into the pillows. Phew. Another lie avoided.

I'm up in the country tomorrow and Sunday; back Monday.

Monday, 28 March

In these measly two days his dementia has progressed to 
the point where he has begin pulling out his IV. The 
decision has finally been made to halt drug treatment.

When I go to see him today, he is so vague that he can 
only string a few sentences together, and his voice is so 
faint that I can hardly hear him. He responds to my 
voice, and to his name, but he can't make much sense of 
what's happening, especially when he's lying down, 
because then he tends to drift away. Yet when I kiss him 
goodbye, he smiles faintly and squeezes my hand, so he 
knows I'm still here. I go home afterwards a cry for a 
long time.

Tuesday, 29 March

I visit Michael this evening. The nurses have placed him 
in a chair to eat his dinner--sort of wrapped him into 
the chair with a bedsheet so he won't try to get up, 
because he's still so independent that he'll sometimes 
try to stand up if you don't watch him, though his legs, 
the way they are, wouldn't hold someone half his size--
and somehow, when he's sitting up like that, focussed on 
something--like his meal--he's more alert, and we chat 
for three-quarters of an hour, though about what I can't 
say, because he can't keep his thoughts together at 
all... we talk about people I've never met, places I've 
never seen, all sorts of random memories from his past 
that I can only pretend to be privy to. But strangely, 
and happily, there are still flashes of the old Michael. 
At one point, he takes a coffee-cup from the tray and 
tries to drink from it, and when nothing comes out, he 
looks down into it... and then says, "Oh, it's ICE 
CREAM!!" And sure enough, it is: the ice-cream has been 
served in a coffee cup, and he's been fooled. He looks at 
me and rolls his eyes, like: "Jeez, how dippy have I 
gotten!" I start to laugh, and then so does he. 

And when the nurse comes in to remove the tray, Michael, 
suddenly thinking he's in a restaurant, asks the nurse, 
"So, when do you close tonight?"

"Oh, dear, we're open all night," says the nurse, with a 
wink at me.

"Aw, that's pretty good," says Michael, and I chuckle.

"So, you're in party mood, eh?" I say to him.

"Oh, well...", he says, smiling back... "Maybe not 
tonight. I'm feeling a bit tired."

I lift him back into bed, and then comes the usual 
request for the bottle. I shut the door, help him get his 
PJs down, and then position the bottle for him, something 
that--unlike only yesterday-- he seems too confused to 
do. Then, once he's finished, he looks straight at me and 
says, "You know, I've had just about enough of this." I 
stare back at him. I feel like falling over myself. I've 
never heard Michael say anything like that.

"Fair enough, sweet-pea," I say. "That's your decision."

I help him back into bed, and almost at once he begins to 
drift. "Wow," I say, "you do look tired."

"I am feeling sleepy now," he says. "You're welcome to 
stay here as long as you don't talk." I have to laugh. 
Another bit of the old Michael. It still peeks out from 
time to time, and it's a joy.

Wednesday, 30 March

When I come in today at about noon, Hazel and Graham are 
there. Hazel greets me, and I shake Graham's hand as he 
stands to say hello.

"It's good to see you!" says Hazel. "Now," she says, 
after I've greeted Michael, "Tell me: how is Chrissy?"

I give her the most recent update. She seems to take it 
in for a long while.

Then she looks at me. "Just remember:" she says. "Take 
this one day at a time." And then she smiles. The 
kindness is real. I am touched.

They're awaiting the ambulance--Michael is being 
transferred to Bethlehem today, a move we've been 
expecting as soon as Bethlehem got an empty bed. "Perhaps 
I should come back later," I say. "At Bethlehem. After 
the transfer."

They won't hear of it. "Stay," they say. "Help see 
Michael on his way."

I stay for the next hour, until the ambulance arrives, 
chatting with the three of them and watching as Michael 
converses with his parents, reminiscing about his 
childhood, about how my suburb was in the '60s and '70s. 
At one point I say to Michael, "I live in Elwood, you 
know"--something that his old self knows very well--and 
then he makes a face at me and says, "I know that. Some 
things still do stick, you know," and we all laugh. ("My 
God," I think. "There's more of him there than I 

The ambulance eventually comes, and after they've lifted 
him onto the stretcher, I reach out and stroke his cheek. 
"See ya soon, sweet-pea," I say.

"At the flat?" he says. And then they're out the door. I 
walk back to work with a lump in my throat.

Thursday, 31 March

As I walk past the nurses' station at Bethlehem, the head 
nurse looks at me with concern. "He's agitated," she 
says. "He's not the same as he was yesterday."

I go into his room. Michael looks at me and rolls his 

"They won't leave me alone," he says. "Look." He points 
to a strap that's been tied between the bed-railings, a 
strap that's been attached to a hand-bell.

"They're afraid I'll try to get out of bed," he says. 
"They've been hovering over me all day. It's really 
pissing me off."

(No wonder he's agitated, I think. Loss of independence 
is the worst of all, and the nurses aren't remembering 

I untie the strap. Several times he does make a move to 
get out of bed, but each time I simply say, "You don't 
have to get out of bed yet if you don't want to, sweet-
pea. There's still time." And each time, he looks a bit 
relieved and says, "Well, I am a bit tired," and then 
settles back into the pillows.

I have to fight a crazy urge to smuggle him out somehow. 
I'm glad I don't have the keys to the flat, or I just 
might be tempted to try.

Good Friday, 1 April

I visit Michael shortly after noon today and make us cups 
of coffee... he's very tired, though, and asks to be 
allowed to have a nap, so I give him a peck and tell him 
I'll be back in a couple of hours. Then I go to a nearby 
shop to buy him a big chocolate egg... then on to my 
friend Veronica's, who lives nearby, where I spend the 
afternoon helping her dye Easter eggs. With the 
assistance of wax sticks, I manage to make two coloured 
eggs with designs on them.

About 4:30 I traipse back to Bethlehem to present them to 
Michael, whose face lights up when he sees them. He turns 
them over in his hands.

"Oh, wow," he says. 

Heh. Vintage Michael.

Then comes the chocolate egg, which he shares with me, 
and we have more coffee. I'm there for a couple of hours, 
chatting with him about this and that... I've found that 
if I shy away from recent stuff, and concentrate on older 
stuff--such as earlier times in his life, old friends, 
likes and dislikes, long term memory things as opposed to 
short term memory things--he not only can carry on a 
coherent conversation, he actually becomes quite 
animated. I adjust his bed, massage his feet (which he 
loves), and sit on the bed with him as we talk.

He begins to tire, and his eyelids start to droop... "You 
wanna take a nap?" I say. He nods. "Maybe I should piss 
off then and let you sleep."

He shakes his head. "No, I want to take a nap, but I 
don't want you to piss off." He opens his eyes and smiles 
at me. "Don't wanna lose my bodyguard," he says.

I understand perfectly. He's been feeling "hovered over" 
by the nurses, feeling his loss of independence very 
keenly. When I visit him, I shut the door, and the nurses 
leave us alone to have our quiet time. He feels safe with 
me there. He feels that I really do guard him against 
some of the unpleasantries of the hospital.

I sit there with him as he dozes for quite a long time, 
until he shows signs of wanting to "spread out" a little 
in the bed, and then I get up, and he awakes. "Now it is 
time for me to go, isn't it?" I say, and he nods.

"Yeah." he says. "Come back a little later, though." I 
promise I will.

"See ya in the morning, sweet-pea," I say, and give him a 
peck--and he grins, reaches out, and pats my stomach. It 
does my heart no end of good. He appreciates what I'm 
doing, and he wants to make sure I know it.

Saturday, 2 April

Michael is very grumpy today--feeling like everyone is 
hovering over him, but that's understandable. When I walk 
in this morning, he says, "Just got here?" I nod. He says 
something that I don't quite catch, then as I stand there 
looking at him, he opens his eyes up wide and says, 
"Well, MOVE!!"

"What do you want me to do?" I say.

"Just leave me ALONE for five minutes!!" he says.

"Okay, fine," I say, and duck out. I go and make myself a 
cup of coffee and come back in five minutes--and he's 
perfectly pleasant. This is Michael.

Jane visits at hospital tonight, and I tell her about 
this incident. She recounts a time last week when she was 
visiting with him, and he was listless and vague, and 
moving himself about in the bed... then when I came in, 
according to Jane, Michael brightened up, became more 
lucid, and suddenly "needed help" to move--to turn over 
and such. I remember the visit, how he kept asking me to 
move him. Jane laughs about this. "It's obvious he really 
likes you," she says. It makes me feel great.

Easter Sunday, 3 April

Today I've lifted him twice into his wheelchair so he 
could wheel himself out onto the balcony for a smoke. The 
nurses say he's been wheeling himself around the ward all 
morning. Mind you, he goes about a foot a minute--but at 
least he's mobile. At one point, he insists on being 
wheeled to the end of the balcony, and then back to the 
other end. Then he begins to splutter--he's frustrated.

"What's wrong, sweet-pea?" I say.

"Where are the stairs?" he finally says.

"Oh, well, there are no stairs on the balcony," I say.

"Now he tells me," he mutters. 

He wants out. I know that, and there's not a fucking 
thing I can do about it.

Donna and Maria come to visit, and Michael asks us to 
wheel him around the ward. He directs which way we should 
turn--and all the time, we avoid the passages that lead 
to stairs or lifts. Now I'm really beginning to feel like 
a warden.

The three of us leave together once I've put Michael back 
to bed, and then they drive me back to Elwood, where we 
go to visit the Gordon Street house, which is right down 
the road from me. "That window," Donna says, pointing--
"that was Michael's room when we were growing up."

Once they've left, I go back and stare at that window for 
a long time.

Monday, 4 April 

I bring a block of chocolate in today, something that's 
become a bit of a ritual lately. "Look what I brought!" I 

"Oh, wow!" he says when he sees it. "Brilliant!" He 
usually insists that I have some too.

He's still pushing the covers off and saying, "Well, 
'bout time I got dressed." He still wants to go home. He 
does this several times today. One time, he picks up the 
catheter and stares at it curiously. Then he tosses it 
back on the bed, sinks back into the pillows, and covers 
himself up again.

"No way," he sighs.

I've grown to hate that catheter. It's become like a sign 
that he'll never leave, like a tether holding him in this 
place where he doesn't want to be.

Tuesday, 5 April

When Michael decides he wants to go out for a smoke 
today, I lift him into his wheelchair, put his jacket on 
him, and take him outside. He starts to nod off a few 
times in the chair. At one point, I say, "Maybe you'd 
like a little bit of a nap, eh?"

He reaches for my arm and looks at me. "Nup. Don't wanna 

"You don't?" I say.

"Nup. I lose you when I nap."

I'm immensely touched. "Aw, sweet-pea, don't you worry. 
I'm not going anywhere."

Then comes the inevitable push around the ward. "That 
way," he orders. I go that way. "That way now," he says, 
pointing, and I do it. Once again, he's looking for the 
way out. I know that. I know the way out, goddamn it, and 
I can't take him. Fortunately, he never asks me to wheel 
him in the direction of the exit, or I don't know what 
the hell I'd do. I know what I want to do: pick him up in 
my own arms and carry him down to a taxi.

Of course, eventually the time does come for him to get 
back into bed, so I lift him back in: as usual, he hooks 
his arms around my neck, I get him into a sort of a 
bearhug, then hup! up we go, and over onto the bed. But 
this time, Michael doesn't seem to want to take his arms 
from around me, so the sister has to wait until Michael 
is through with his hug--and I sure hug him back, but 
very carefully, lest I hurt that bony body of his. At 
last I lay him down, pick up his legs, and arrange them 
on the bed, while he grins at me. Then I step back to let 
the sister position the catheter bag. Well, as soon as I 
step away from the bed, I can hear him say softly to the 
sister: "Is he in a hurry?"

She giggles. "No, Michael, I don't think so." She looks 
around at me. "He really likes you. You're very good for 

It makes me feel great. This really does mean something 
to him.

Wednesday, 6 April

Michael's developed thrush so bad in his throat that, so 
claim the nurses, he can't swallow and can have only 
liquids. So, through lack of food, he's been growing 
weaker and weaker. He essentially stopped feeding himself 


Hazel told me that Michael loves Milo on ice cream, so 
tonight on my way to hospital I pick up a tin. His dinner 
arrives about the same time as I do, and I look with 
dismay at the fish and the mashed potates and the 
vegetable soup... not the thing for a boy with a throat 
full of thrush--but there is ice cream, so I sprinkle 
Milo on it, crank the bed up into a full-sitting position 
(which gets his attention), and hold out a spoonful. I'm 
not sure that Michael will allow me to feed him, but he 
eats that spoonful, and points to his mouth once he's 
swallowed. I give him another. And another. He finishes 
the whole bowl. I run out and get another bowl and cover 
the ice cream in Milo. He eats the whole second bowl. By 
now he's definitely awake, jabbering (between mouthfuls) 
about trucks and the Army and driving and visiting his 
parents and having barbeques and seeing friends and 
fixing cars and on and on, as I spoon in the ice cream. I 
take a risk: a forkful of fish. He eats it. He eats the 
whole fish. And the mashed potatoes. And half the bowl of 
vegetable soup. And a THIRD bowl of ice cream, and two 
glasses of orange juice--he asks for Bundy in them, by 
the way--and a glass of water too. (When I go out to 
request that third bowl of ice cream, the sisters just 
shake their head in disbelief.)

A little later, I wonder: Is it wise to start feeding 
him? Would that be prolonging things?

I make a decision.

As long as Michael wants to eat, I'll feed him. If he 
wants me to stop, he'll let me know somehow.

Thursday, 7 April

Michael has been spending most of his time in a semi-
conscious state these last few days, breathing heavily, 
eyes half-open... but the sisters have pointed out that 
hearing is the last sense to go, so I talk to him 
constantly, especially in the evenings.

Tonight, as he lies motionless, I spend several hours 
sitting beside him, stroking his arms and face, massaging 
his hands and feet, and describing for him some of my 
travels. Well, I'm right in the middle of central Mexico 
when a Sister comes into the room with an orange juice 
for him, and he wakes up--something he sometimes does 
when a new person enters the room, even if he only stays 
alert for about a minute. She sets the juice down and 
leaves, and then, before he can lapse back into semi-
consciousness, I look at him and say, So--where were we?"

He looks right back at me. "In Mexico," he says.

So he hears. He hears. He listens.

Right, I think. I can take advantage of this.

The rest of the night, as he continues on in that semi-
conscious state, I tell him about him--how much we love 
him, how good he is, what a fine person he is, how proud 
we are of him, how well he's doing, how glad we all are 
that he's through the worst of it and that it all gets 
easier from here on in... and, before I leave, how well 
he'll sleep, how rested he'll feel in the morning.

He comes fully awake when I stand to say goodbye. "I'm 
gonna go get some sleep," I say. "And you'd better do the 
same, cheeky boy! It's bedtime."

"Okay," he says, then reaches out, weakly pats my 
stomach, and tugs a couple of times at my shirt. "Come 
back later, okay?"

"You bet I will. I'll see you in the morning, sweet-pea." 
He's still tugging at my shirt. "Hey, you like this 

"Yeah," he says. "It's really stylish."

"Well, ya can't have it, it's mine," I say, and he smiles 
and gives that little snort of his... then, within 
seconds, his eyes have drooped, and he's back asleep.

It's weird. I still get these flashes of Michael, the old 
Michael, in between the semi-conscious periods... it's 
just that they were coming every fifteen or twenty 
minutes on Tuesday, and now I have to wait hours for 

Friday 8 April

My days have been full of Michael; I seem to live at the 
hospital, only going home to sleep. I've rearranged my 
work hours... I nick off for two hours during lunchtime, 
which means an hour-earlier start in the a.m., then leave 
to be with him at 4:30 p.m., which means another hour-
earlier start... so my day goes: 7:00-11:30 work, 11:30-
1:30 hospital, 1:30-4:30 work, 4:30-8:30 or 9:00 p.m. 
onwards, hospital.

This morning, I ring in from work. "How's Michael?"

"Had a really peaceful night!" says the nurse. "And even 
says he slept well--and wants to know where his breakfast 
is!" I laugh and tell her to make sure he knows I'll be 
coming in at lunchtime.

I visit at lunch, then again in the evening, when there 
are more massages of his hands and feet, and more sitting 
close, stroking his forehead and hair and arms, resting 
my hands on his shoulders and chest, telling him how we 
love him, how well he's been doing, how the worst is 
over... the same as before.

What else can I say? I think. Then I get an idea. Money. 
Money means a lot to him--who doesn't know that? A few 
times this week he's sat up in bed--or tried to--and 
said, worried, "How much is this all costing?" Maybe I 
can put his mind at ease about money.

"And you know, sweet-pea," I say, "you don't have to 
worry about a thing. This is costing NOTHING. The rent is 
all paid. The bills are all paid. You're on leave, and 
the paychecks are flowing in. You're a rich man. You 
don't have to worry about anything. Nothing to be afraid 
of. Nothing to fear. Nothing to worry about."

What else? I think. What else can I suggest?

"Do you know how much we all love you, sweet-pea? We love 
you. We admire you. You're brave, and you're a fighter. 
You're a bit of a hero, you know."

Semi-conscious as he is, he rolls his half-open eyes and 
turns the corners of his mouth down--that sort of 
scoffing look that he pulls.

"But sweet-pea, it doesn't matter what you think. This is 
what we think. You're the best. We all think so. We all 
say so."

(The scoffing look again.)

"Dammit, geddit through your head, sweet-pea: we love 
you, we admire you. You're an example to us all. You've 
changed all our lives. We've learned from you. Isn't that 
what you wanted? Isn't that why you've taught and 
lectured? You've done it! You've changed us all. None of 
us will ever be the same. We're so fucking proud of you. 
You are a hero. You've done everything you set out to do. 
You've succeeded. Our world will never be the same 
because of you."

There's a long pause. He doesn't move. 

Then, although he doesn't open his eyes or make a sound, 
I watch his mouth form the words: "Oh, wow."

Got him!

"Yeah, we love you, sweet-pea. We're always talking about 
what a wonderful friend you are. We're really lucky to 
have you in our lives. We wanted you to know that. You've 
gotta let us tell you that. You've changed us. We're so 
proud of you. You're our hero. We'll never be the same. 
Everything you've set out to do, you've done. We love 
you. We all love you."

("Oh, wow.")

This goes on for about an hour--I just hold his hand, 
stroke his arm, and talk to him as he lies there, not 
moving, but listening, and responding more and more often 
by mouthing "oh, wow" rather than giving me the scoffing 
look. I talk about us, our love for him, how well he'll 
sleep tonight, how well he's doing, how all the bills are 
paid, how the worst is over... on and on and on...

Around 9:00 one of the sisters comes in, and Michael 
actually becomes completely conscious for a moment. He 
smiles and reaches for my hands.

"Rent's all paid?" he says. Well, I just about drop my 
teeth, but I nod.

"And you'll sleep well tonight, eh?" I say.

He smiles, rolls his eyes, and makes a snoring noise. 
Now, who hasn't seen Michael do that?

"Yeah, just like I said!" I laugh. Then, on some sort of 
impulse, while he's still fully conscious, I bend down 
and say very clearly, "I love you, Michael."

"Huh?" he says.

"I said, I love you, Michael. I just wanted you to know 

Now, you're lucky to get a grunt out of Michael in 
response to statements like that--I know that very well, 
but it somehow felt really important to say it while he 
was still fully conscious, before he drifted off again. 
What happens next, then, astonishes me. 

He looks up at me, smiles very tenderly, and says, "Thank 
you." Then he reaches out with his right hand, pats my 
stomach, and says, "I love you too, Boo-boo."

I almost faint. John! My God, he's saying this to John!

What am I supposed to do now?

I bend down and kiss his cheek. Still smiling, he brings 
his hand up and taps his mouth with his finger. I bend 
down again and kiss him on the mouth. I can still see him 
looking up at me. His eyes are full of love.

I try not to think. I try to do what my heart tells me to 

I reach out, lay my hand alongside his cheek, and say, 
"Goodbye, Boo-boo."

Still looking at me with those eyes, still smiling, he 
puts his hand up and waves goodbye at me, very slowly. 
Then, he pulls the covers all the way up around his neck, 
closes his eyes, and quickly drifts off to sleep.

I grab my bag and almost run past the nurses' station, 
choking back the tears. I'm not sure what just happened, 
but I can't help thinking that, through me, Michael and 
John have just said goodbye to each other.

Saturday, 9 April

Michael's growing more and more difficult to understand; 
the thrush in his throat has affected his ability to 
speak clearly even when he can speak, so I have to put my 
ear to his mouth to make anything out. 

And yet, he still calls out for people occasionally--
usually for "Mum," "John", "Donna", or "Brent". It's not 
panicked. He'll just suddenly say out loud: "Mum?" or 
"John?" It doesn't happen often; his voice is croaky from 
the thrush, so it's probably pretty uncomfortable for him 
to raise his voice like that.

This morning, he calls out, "Brent?" as I'm massaging his 

"Hey, I'm right here, sweet-pea!" I say. He looks at me, 
a little startled at first, then rolls his eyes, smiles, 
and gives me that look that means, "Boy, am I dippy!"

I laugh. "I know who you meant, sweet-pea," I say. "You 
meant John, didn't you?" He nods and smiles. "You see, 
sweet-pea: I really can read your mind these days, eh?" 
He grins and smiles again, and nods at me. "Well, don't 
you worry, sweetheart. Don't you worry. He'll be in soon. 
I promise."

Sure enough, John arrives within the hour. After what 
happened last night, I've been expecting him. I've 
started to have the strangest feeling, almost as if the 
three of us--Michael, John, and I--are all the same 
person. It's hard to explain, but it's very, very real. 
At times, for instance, Michael seems to think of my body 
as his: he'll say, "Are your medications working?" or 
"Your legs are sore, aren't they?" And then there was 
last night, and now the strong feeling that John is on 
his way. And then, suddenly, John is here, just as I knew 
he would be.

John stands over the bed, saying nothing, but I only have 
to look at his eyes to know what he's thinking. At one 
point I offer to let him take over the feeding. He smiles 
and shakes his head, and in that smile is gratitude, and 
appreciation, and grief. I give another spoonful of soup 
to Michael, and when I look back at John, he's wiping 
tears away. I have to fight to keep from losing it 
myself. "Don't worry, John," I think. "I've got a very 
important message for you. Straight from your Boo-boo." 
But I can't tell him now. Not now. Later.

Michael's still eating reasonably well; proud as he is, 
still independent, he insists on holding my arm as I feed 
him, so that he can feel like he's doing something for 

But there are other problems. Even yesterday, when the 
sisters turned him every three hours--he's got very bad 
bedsores on his back by now--he didn't complain... but 
today, when the sisters come in to turn him at about 
3:00, he howls as they turn him onto his side: "You're 
HURTING ME! YOU'RE HURTING ME!" It damn near breaks my 
heart. Michael doesn't complain, even if he's in great 
pain, so for him to howl like that, even through the 
morpheine, he must be in absolute agony. As they get him 
into place on his other side, I lean close and ask, 
"How's that, sweet-pea?"

He looks at me, curls his lip, and says, "SHITHOUSE!!"

I ask one of the sisters if she can give him more 
morpheine, which she does. At last he stops grimacing and 
seems more comfortable. It takes a long time for my heart 
to stop pounding.

The evening consists of more talking to him about love 
and comfort and safety. He's drifting very far away 
tonight, it seems. At one point he begins whispering 
something over and over, VERY softly; only when I put my 
ear near his mouth can I make it out:

"'s like falling into nothing... like falling into 
nothing... falling into nothing..."

As soon as I get my breath back, I change my tack. My 
talk to him now includes: "You'll never fall. You might 
slip, but there's always someone behind you to catch you. 
Always someone there with arms out to catch you. You're 
safe. We love you. I love you. You're very brave, and 
we're very proud of you. You're doing really well. The 
worst is over; you'll be better soon... There will always 
be someone there to catch you...You're safe, sweet-pea... 
you're safe..."

Sunday, 10 April

Hazel and Graham arrive mid-morning from Wonthaggi, just 
in time for lunch. I barely get the ice-cream down 
Michael, let alone the soup or anything else; he keeps 
drifting off before he's swallowed his mouthful, which is 
dangerous. His parents are off to the flat shortly 
afterwards, and I go off to lunch with friends.

When I get back at 2:00, he hasn't moved from the 
position in which I left him. His breathing is shallow 
and rapid--about 60 per minute--and his pulse is around 
140. I can get no response from him at my greeting, which 
is new--not even a semi-conscious flicker of the eyelids. 
As the afternoon wears on, he seems to grow more and more 
distant... and then, in a flash, I am reminded of 
something. Back in 1987, I spent some time with a good 
friend in Tasmania during the last weeks of her 
pregnancy; I was actually there on the day she gave 
birth. And I noticed something strange on that day. In 
the morning, hours before any sign of labor appeared, she 
began to grow vague, and there was a feeling of a bubble 
around her about six feet in diameter, and everything 
outside that bubble was invisible to her. You had to 
approach within a few feet to get her attention. And as 
the day wore on, the bubble seemed to shrink down to the 
size of her body, and then labor began. It was as if she 
were drawing within herself, marshalling her strength for 
the ordeal, for the birth to come.

That's exactly what I realize I'm now feeling with 
Michael--that there's a shrinking bubble around him, that 
he's drawing within himself, marshalling his strength for 
the birth to come. I find that, by 5:00, I don't feel 
that I'm really with him until I'm about six inches from 
his face, that he doesn't really hear me until I'm about 
that distance from his ear.

Inga comes in at 6:00 and is massaging his feet when his 
dinner arrives. I crank up the bed into a near-sitting 
position, and as I do so, Michael opens his eyes and 
looks almost panicked with fear... I don't know whether 
he thinks that the sisters are going to move him again, 
or whether it actually hurts him for the bed to be moved 
at all. I do know that when I offer him a spoonful of ice 
cream--when it touches his lips--he makes no move to take 
it, but simply looks at me with those big, blue, 
immensely tired eyes, and those eyes say, "No more. 
Please, no more."

I'm shaken. Inga sees it all. I crank the bed down flat 
again and kiss his cheek. "I'm sorry, sweet-pea," I say. 
"I understand you, sweetheart. I won't do that any more."

I turn to Inga. "Did you see that look on his face?" I 
whisper. She nods. 

"I won't be sitting him up again," I say. "I knew that if 
he wanted me to stop feeding him, he'd tell me. He's just 
told me."

The rest of the evening I play the music tape I've been 
playing for days, the one with the rainforest sounds and 
restful music whose tunes I've come to know by heart. He 
seems to really like it; he calms down when I play it, 
and his breathing slows, and his face looks calmer. 
There's a lot of birdsong on the tape too. "Hear the 
birds, Michael?" I ask him when it comes on. "Hear all 
the birds?" Sometimes he smiles and nods. Tonight I lower 
the bed and sit very close, so that my face is right in 
front of his and his ear is only six inches away, and I 
talk to him for the next three hours. Now my talking 
takes on a slightly different tone.

"Eveything's fine, sweetheart. Everything's as it should 
be. You won't fall. You can let go now, and you won't 
fall. There's always someone to catch you. No need to 
worry. No need to fear. You'll see. I'm right, sweet-pea, 
I promise. There are loving hands all around you, so you 
can just let go now and let them catch you. Fall back 
into all those hands and let them catch you, and you'll 
feel wonderful, you'll feel better. You'll see. I'm 
right. I promise. You'll see. You can let go now. You're 
safe. Nothing to fear. You're safe. You can let go now. 
You'll be caught. You're safe. You'll be all right. 
You'll see."

A sister comes in at about 8:00 to administer morpheine. 
"He's changed in the past few hours," she says. "His 
colour is duskier."

"It's true," I say.

She puts her hands on my shoulders. "And how are you 

I look at Michael. "We're getting there," I say.

She nods.

I sit, I touch, I talk. And, knowing the tunes, I begin 
to sing to him, something I haven't done till now but am 
somehow moved to do. I hum the tunes into his ear in 
between the talking, and occasionally--for the first time 
all day--his eyes flicker from time to time. And once, 
only once, at about 8:45, the faintest of smiles steals 
over his face as I sing. I see it and laugh out loud. 
"Yes, you are still here, sweet-pea!" I say. He opens his 
right eye a little, and in that eye is unmistakable 
recognition. I seize the moment. "Michael, listen to me 
now. We love you so much. I love you so much, sweetheart. 
then his eye begins to close.

When I get home, there is a message from Hazel on my 
answering machine. I ring her.

"I don't know why, Brent," she says, "but I got the 
strangest feeling this evening. I know this: YOU MUSTN'T 

"I won't, Hazel," I say. And I recount for her the look 
that Michael gave me at dinnertime, how he's already told 
me, without saying a word, that it's time to stop.

It's an emotional moment. "It's always been this way," 
she says. "My son was letting you know our wishes. We've 
always been connected, Michael and I, and now you seem to 
be on the same wavelength. I'm so glad that you've been 
there for him... it's almost like you came from the other 
side of the world just to care for my son, and I'm 
grateful for it. It won't be long now, you know."

"I know," I say.

Monday, 11 April

This morning there's a rainstorm, then a hailstorm, the 
likes of which we haven't seen since last winter. I wake 
up to thunderclaps, when it was bright and sunny only 
yesterday. I go to work, packing a change of clothes for 
the hospital this afternoon.

The hospital rings at 10:20 a.m.; Michael died only five 
minutes ago. I am out the door and there at 10:40, twenty 
minutes before anyone else.

It's exceedingly, unexpectedly difficult to describe the 
sensations I have as I sit down beside him in that room. 
I'll try my best.

I sit. I look. I pick up his hand, his arm--and at that 
moment, a jolt goes through me: "Oh my God, there's 
nobody here." That's the overwhelming feeling: that the 
room, aside from me, is empty, or that, perhaps, I'm 
looking at someone I've never met. I stare closely at his 
face. There is simply nobody there. There is nobody there 
in his eyes anymore.

Now, of course nobody is there, because Michael has died, 
but... well, I think of the stereotypical movie scene of 
throwing oneself on the body and crying out, "Oh my dear! 
Come back to me!"--well, an image comes into my head: A 
bird lives in a cage, and one day the cage door comes 
open and the bird flies out, and then the owner of the 
bird flings himself on the CAGE and kisses it, crying, 
"Oh my dear bird! My dear bird!" Strange, no?--the cage 
is not the bird; the bird is gone, and now the cage is 
irrelevant. So it seems with Michael's body.

I cry, of course. I cry, but not over that irrelevant 
thing in the bed--rather, over how much I miss what has 
left it. The absolute lack of grief I have over the shell 
itself takes me quite by surprise. It isn't the sight of 
his body that brings the tears--it's the sense of 
separation from my friend who has only so recently lived 
in it, the friend whose life-force has so recently given 
it the warmth that I can still feel in his face, a warmth 
like an afterimage of a bright light.

In time, Hazel and Graham arrive to say goodbye to their 
son. We keep vigil over his body for several hours as 
friends come to kiss him, and weep, and go.

In the end, I go to meet Hazel at Michael's flat, where 
she's gone to sort her son's things and decide what to 
give to a few close friends; the bulk of his possessions 
Michael has willed to the Victorian AIDS Council. In her 
searches, Hazel has come across a few good photos of 
Michael, notoriously rare because he loved spoiling 
photos of himself by pulling faces, the cheeky boy. The 
ones she found are good; when you look at them together, 
you get a pretty good look at Michael. I'll treasure the 
copies she's having made. They show him as he was when I 
met him, the way I'll always remember him.

One of the photos shows him in that leather jacket that 
he loved so much; in fact, he was wearing it when I first 
met him. Hazel gave me the jacket, and I couldn't think 
of a more meaningful gift. She's also asked me to care 
for Michael's silver goblets--the small ones for his 18th 
birthday and the two large ones for his 21st--because, 
having given them to him, she couldn't bear to take them 
back, yet she didn't want them going to strangers. He 
loved them; he showed them to me with pride long ago, and 
so they're articles whose history I've had from his own 

The funeral will be in Wonthaggi on Friday morning.

I go directly from Michael's flat to have dinner with two 
good friends, then arrive back home at about 9:00. I put 
on Michael's jacket and walk down the block to the Gordon 
Street house, the one he lived in from his birth in 1963 
until 1985 when the family moved to Wonthaggi. There's a 
small triangular park just in front. I sit on the ground, 

I reach into the pocket of the jacket. Something there.

Michael's hanky. Slightly used.

Then come the sobs. As I press the hanky to my face, my 
God--he's there, I can smell the scent of him. Michael, 
my dear friend. Now gone.

Soon after that, a door opens in the flat to the left of 
Michael's old home, and a man comes out, about my own 
age. He goes to get into his car--then, he sees me across 
the street.

"Is that someone sitting there?" he says.

"Yes," I answer.

He walks across to me. "What's wrong?" he says.

"A friend of my died today," I say. "He grew up there, 
next door to you. I'm just sitting here thinking about 

"That's bad news," said the man. "I'm sorry, mate. That's 
rough." Then he's in his car and gone.

I sit for a moment and look up at the night sky, now 
clear, the storm clouds now hours-ago gone. Jupiter 
shines brilliantly in the east, bright and yellow-white. 
It catches my attention particularly.

"Fly well, sweet-pea," I find myself saying. "Fly well, 
dear friend. I've always loved the stars, and here you 
get to see them before me, lucky boy. Maybe when I get 
there, you'll give me a bit of a tour, eh? Meanwhile, I'm 
gonna miss you like hell--I just wanted you to know that. 
And when it comes my time to fall... I'd be very happy if 
you'd be one of the ones there to help catch me. Would'ya 
mind, sweet-pea?"

Tomorrow is the 12th--one month exactly since I sat with 
Michael in his flat, joking with him and laughing. One 
month. One single month. How can that be? It seems 
impossible that he's gone. 

When I get back to,the flat, there's a message on the
answering machine from Di Perry of Mid-South Support.

"Brent, there's a lovely young man just down the street
from you who has just had his first AIDS-defining illness;
he's decided that it's time to form a Care Team. We'd
be very happy if you could join..."

The fight goes on.

Meanwhile, pray, pray for an end to the war.

                           * * *

             In memory of Michael Barry Spruzen
                 14 Oct 1963 -- 11 Apr 1994

 _--_|\    Brent Davies                Internet:
/      \   Aust Centre for Unisys SW   Voice:     +61-3-522-3773
\_.--._/   574 St Kilda Rd
      v    Melbourne, Australia 3000
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