Wednesday, December 06, 2023


This is the message Reg sent out to his 532 Facebook friends. I give it to you verbatim:

Decisions are sometimes easy, sometimes difficult and occasionally, impossible.
Tomorrow I must make a life or death choice.
The Doctors at [Hospital Name] have asked me to sign a "Do Not Resuscitate" waiver.
It's just a formality.
He does not even use Henry's name. With his every action, Reg reminds me that this tragedy is about Reg. Not Henry or those of us who love him. 
It was cruel for him to allow me to receive this news as I scroll through the cat videos and holiday hacks on my Facebook feed. I should know by now to expect nothing better from Reg, but he continuously surprises me. 

To make this even more inappropriate, Henry HATED Facebook and Instagram. Even before the accident, he refused to look at social media. He believed the artificial oversharing was as inauthentic and tasteless as reality TV. So it bothers me enormously that, since Henry's bike and that van collided, Reg has shared his husband's private information in a pubic forum. He knows Henry would hate it. His need for attention is greater that Henry's desire for privacy, I guess.*
So I guess this means Henry is going to die soon. I think of him, unconscious and head shaved, in a hospital bed surrounded by strangers. His recent hallucinations were all about his family in Puerto Rico. His mother, his father, his older brother, Raul. (Interestingly, not his younger brother.) While his English was perfect when we last spoke on November 22, he seems to have lapsed into Spanish exclusively. 

I think that means he doesn't belong here. Not on the mainland. He is longing for his island home.

I know Henry is a man of deep Christian faith. One of the great wounds of his life has been his rejection by the Catholic church, simply because he fell in love with another man. That was Enrique, an older man he met in school in Ponce on the southern coast. Enrique encouraged Henry to attend graduate school at Northwestern, to follow his dreams of higher education. No one had believed in Henry the way Enrique did. And so they came to Chicago. 

While Henry was working on his PhD and acting as adjunct professor, Enrique was diagnosed with AIDS. For reason he never understood, but was totally grateful for, Henry was spared. He stayed by Enrique's side to the end and, just as importantly, translated all the medical jargon for Enrique's mother in Ponce. For financial reasons, she couldn't get to Chicago and her son. Henry did everything he could to alleviate her confusion and grew very close to her. This was 1988 or 89. He was in his late 20s.

By the time I met him in 1992, Henry had abandoned Northwestern and was working as a Mac production artist at the agency that had just hired me. He pursued our friendship. Insisted on it, in fact. From the moment we met, Henry saw only good things in me. He told me all the time that I was the smartest woman he'd ever met and he couldn't believe I had no college. He had just recently taken up with Reg, who also has no degree. It amazed him that his life in Chicago, the city he came to for his Masters, was anchored by two people who had nothing to do with academia. 
I could do post after post about Henry's spontaneous acts of kindness to me and to others. About how he loved me and always, always assumed I had the best intentions -- even when I didn't. The love of animals we shared. His reverence for mothers, everyone's mother. My own mother led a very sheltered life, and Henry was both her first gay and her first Puerto Rican friend.

He was not perfect. He never met a conspiracy theory he didn't at least entertain. He could slide into persecution easily. He was massively stubborn -- as am I -- and that led to our clashes over the years. It is important to remember him dimensionally.

I love Henry. Just knowing him has been a gift. I am making my peace with the fact that I'm going to go on without him. 

*I sort of get that, because I vent here. But names are changed. No one who has ever met Henry in real life has ever read these words. I offered to help Reg set up a blog so he could work through his feelings in a more private forum, where he could keep his own identity and Henry's secret. That never happened. Of course not.


Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash


  1. I am sorry you are losing your friend Henry. My dad switched to Spanish the day before he died. It was strange to us because he spoke in perfect English. I feel for Reg. He is dealing with the loss of his friend in his own way. He is hurting too and making the decision to sign for DNR is so hard. I am getting reminders to update my final wishes with my medical insurance. Hold onto your memories with your friends.

  2. Oh, Gal, I am so glad you have a lot of good history with Henry. I love that he is the first gay and Puerto Rican your mom befriended.

  3. Focus on those good memories, on who you know the real Henry is...not the one created by his injury. As for the DNR, it doesn't necessarily mean death is waiting right around the corner. Given his condition a catastrophic event could happen any time so the doctors probably just want this legality in place while things are calm...and also given Reg's track record. Virtually all the residents in the nursing home, when I worked there, had a DNR in place and for most of them it was a looking into the future thing. Many had had theirs for months or even years.

  4. It is so hard to lose a friend. I know you have been expecting it for a while. Prayers coming your way.

  5. Hang in there. The letting go is hard. Take care of yourself during this stressful time.

  6. Anonymous6:32 PM

    I'm sorry about your friend. He sounds like quite a man.


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