Ian Anderson 4 p.m., March 22
- Community Blog
- Postcards From the Purple Buddha
August Farewell (a recommend)
David G. Hallman is a master at his craft. I first heard about his memoir "August Farewell" on Twitter. Normally, I don't pay much attention to indie authors. Most of them have a lot to learn. But Hallman's video, describing his 33-year relationship and the subsequent demise of his cancer-ridden lover, moved me to tears and prompted me to invest in his profound love story.
On August 7, 2009, after months of medical testing with no definitive results, a doctor stood at the foot of Bill Conklin's hospital bed and said, "Our diagnosis is pancreatic cancer, stage four. There are indications that the cancer has spread from the pancreas into the liver, the lungs and the lymph nodes."
With surgery out of the question, both men agreed that Bill should spend his last days at home, thus beginning a sixteen-day downward spiral that not only took a toll on Bill, but David and their many caring friends and relatives too.
"I'm going to die soon," Bill told his long-time partner. "It's not going to be long, I'm sure. I feel sorry about leaving you, but my God, we've had a good life together. How many people have had the kind of love that we have had and for as long as we've had? We've been truly blessed."
"We've had a great run. Thirty-three years."
"We've had a really great run."
For days, the couple reminisced about spending Christmas in a snow-covered cottage and a big soiree at The Queen's Inn in Stratford to celebrate David's fiftieth birthday. The couple hung red decorations on Valentine's Day in Puerto Vallarta and saw Don Giovanni at La Scala in Milan, thanks to a scalper who sold tickets for three-hundred US dollars apiece. But perhaps the greatest of their adventures came when the couple traveled to St. Petersburg to explore the Winter Palace of Catherine the Great and the Hermitage, which houses one of the world's largest collections of European art.
"Thank you for the wonderful trip," Bill later wrote in an art book for David. "I know that you did a phenomenal amount of excellent organization and spent so much money and effort to make the entire trip an experience of a lifetime--and it was!!! This book is just a small thank you."
One morning, David woke up to find Bill laying still, his arm cold to the touch. Thinking the worst had happened, his eyes filled with tears. He dropped to his knees beside Bill's bed and bawled.
"What the f*ck are you doing?" Bill screamed. Not only was he still alive, he was also wide awake and "livid."
For Bill, the end finally came on August 23--just two weeks after his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. By then he had grown weak, was in pain and experienced hiccup-hacking-gagging spells. Butterfly ports installed in his abdomen administered medications to control these problems, but there was no way to control the fact that Bill, a former music teacher, had lost his ability to communicate.
"God, why don't you let him go?" David asked.
Seven days later, David was jolted awake late at night. He got up and found Bill taking loud, deep breaths for five minutes and then he expired, leaving David to plan a memorial service and to write a superb tale of sadness, laughter and love.