Monday, December 19, 2011

A Sad Pre-Christmas Anniversary

Yesterday, as most of my wife's wonderful family gathered at our home for our annual Christmas brunch, I looked around that crowd of terrific people with whom I've shared the holidays for more than four decades and realized what a very lucky man I am. Her three brothers are successful businessmen, loving husbands, fathers and grandfathers and just great guys. Each has their own set of three wonderful kids, some of whom are now blessing us with children of their own. As we shared our meal, gifts and good times, eventually my thoughts turned to those who were not there with us...

Eight years ago today, December 19, 2003, Larry Moore, my best fri
end since we both were five years old, passed away following six weeks in the Trauma Intensive Care unit of the University Medical Center in Las Vegas as a result of a motorcycle accident while he was returning home to Rancho Mirage after visiting friends in Vegas.

During the six weeks I was at his
side helping to make decisions to, hopefully, save his life, I had plenty of time to contemplate our lives together. He and I were like brothers for those 57 years together. And, because of nightly email updates I sent to mutual friends and, eventually, many strangers who were Larry's friends, I gained an even greater appreciation of what a wonderful man he was. You can read many of the posts I've made about him by typing his name in the search box above, if you wish.

Ten days later I stood at the alter of a church on an overcast morning a
s hundreds of his friends gathered to honor my friend and told them briefly of our lives together, and what he had meant to me. I've written about him several times since his passing so I won't write more about it now except to say that it's very important to let those you love know exactly how you feel. Don't wait, because you never know what kind of bump in the road awaits you.

I leave you with a commentary I wrote that was published in the Daily Pilot a month after my friend passed which kind of summarizes how I felt at the time. Standing in the doorway of his hospital room beside his doctor as she directed her staff, trying to bring him back to us one more time a after his magnificent heart finally gave out, I knew everything that could be done was being done. Finally, after several tries by her team and it was clear that my friend was gone, I placed my hand on her arm and asked her to stop. It was one of the worst days of my life...

Resolve To Share Your Love

By Geoff West

January 18, 2004

I hope your 2003 ended with days filled with visions of sugar plums dancing in your head, holiday spirit lifting you and the joy of loved ones surrounding you.

I ended my year standing before an overflow crowd at the alter in an unfamiliar church, delivering a eulogy for a man who had been my best friend since we were 5 years old. I stood before the throng, which included childhood friends and relatives, college friends, friends he had made during more than 30 years on the job, and more recent friends, acquired after retirement, and I tried to condense a lifetime of friendship into the very short time allotted to me on that cool, dreary post-Christmas day.

Before it was my turn to speak, I sat clutching my wife's hand, fighting back tears, as my friend's eldest daughter — from whom he had been estranged for nearly a decade at her request — spoke eloquently and passionately about her father.

She told us a story of how, many years ago, a cruel schoolmate teased her about his profession as a police officer. She had been taunted as a "piglet" — the offspring of a "pig." Her father explained to her that the term "pig" was an acronym for pride, integrity and guts.

She told us example after example of her father's pride, integrity and guts, both as a father and policeman. As I listened to this young woman speak, beaming with pride as she talked about her father, it was clear why she had chosen to follow him into law enforcement as a career.

My thoughts flashed back to the last few weeks of my friend's life — when he hovered near death for 44 days in a distant hospital after suffering horrendous injuries from a motorcycle accident on a lonely desert road early in November. By all rights, he should not have survived the crash, but a series of fortuitous events converged to save his life.

He was discovered almost immediately by a group of foreign tourists — strangers in a strange land — who summoned nearby railroad workers. They, in turn, summoned the rescue workers, stayed at his side until they arrived and insisted that he be helicoptered to the right hospital, where his life was saved.

For a month and a half, I stayed near his bedside and watched the staff at the hospital as they skillfully juggled procedures and medications — trying to find the right combination of treatment that would return my friend to us. It was a roller coaster ride for us all, but especially for my friend, who fought with all his considerable strength to come back.

Very early one morning in the last week of his life, a conscientious nurse turned off his sedation, which had kept him floating in and out of consciousness, to see how he would react to the change. The goal being to prepare him for release to a rehabilitation facility. Coincidentally, or perhaps guided by something else, his former wife and the eldest daughter — who had spontaneously decided to make that long drive across the desert to see him — arrived at precisely that time and ended up having a wonderful visit with him.

Even though he could not speak, he was able to communicate through the firm squeeze of his hand, the nod of his head, crinkling of his brow and tear-filled smiles. In the pre-dawn hours that morning, in the trauma intensive care unit in a hospital in a city far from home, he reconciled with his daughter. Having lost his father much too early, and feeling that he had left some important things unsaid, my friend made it a point to tell his friends how he felt about us. When he grabbed you in a bear hug and said, "I love you, amigo," you knew he meant it.

Later that week, as I stood in the doorway of his hospital room for the last 15 minutes of his life and watched his doctor orchestrate a dozen people trying — unsuccessfully — to bring him back one more time, I knew he left us with nothing unresolved.

I share this very painful, personal story with you today to remind you, as you prepare unattainable New Year's resolutions, that life is much too short. I encourage you to make only one resolution this year: to tell the people you love how you feel. And keep it. Remember my friend and his daughter, and don't wait until it's too late.

I wish a safe and happy new year to you all.

GEOFF WEST is a Costa Mesa resident.



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