"I know for sure I don't live today. No sun comin' through my windows, feel like Im livin' at the bottom of a grave." -Jimi hendrix, "I don't Live Today" (Are You Experienced)
Linda had been living with me since Ralph died. She and Charlie had been the eighty six year old man's caretakers for years. His elderly daughters had never liked Charlie, and threw her out as soon as Ralph went in the hospital. They didn't want any of his furniture and stuff, so it wound up in my basement and garage when Linda moved back in with me.
Linda had given birth to her abusive husband's thirteen children before she left him. One of her children drowned at age eight.
Linda had been staying at Ralph's since she'd left her husband, with the exception of the few months she lived with me before I found that her divorce hadn't been final.
Her husband found another woman to beat on and filed for divorce. One bright Sunday two weeks after Ralph's death, I took her to visit her daughter's grave. Linda had been angry with God for taking her daughter away, for over a decade.
"You need to make your peace," I'd told her. "Or you'll not wind up where she is."
"I already have," she said. This gladdened my heart.
Then we went to visit Ralph's grave.
Linda had been complaining of stomach pains for months, but none of us could talk her into seeing a doctor. Finally the pain got so bad last November she went to the emergency room and was admitted immediately. She had a tumor on her gall bladder bigger than the gall bladder itself, and more tumors in her intestines. It was inoperable, and the doctor gave her four to six months to live. A year after she had gone to prison for a drug charge she was condemmed to death. Of course, we're all condemned to death.
Most of us are also condemned to live with the death of loved ones as well. And I had loved Linda; she was a dear friend, and before I found out she hadn't been divorced we were more than friends.
If you make love to a woman you don't know is married, I wonder if that counts as adultery?
I visited her in the hospital nearly every day. One day when I went up there, there was a "no visitors" sign. The nurse told me it was ok.
"It was my ex husband," Linda said. "That son of a bitch came up here demanding that I sign the divorce papers. Here I am in the hospital dying and that asshole wants me to sign papers! I told him 'fuck off' and he raised a stink. They banned him, he can't come here any more."
"Holy shit," I said. "Why in the hell... HOW in the hell could anyone do that?"
"He doesn't want to get stuck with the hospital bills. If I die before the divorce is final, he's obligated to pay my bills." She smiled at that thought.
And here I'd been trying to help her get the divorce finalized, before she'd found out about the cancer.
He continued to harass her, through her children. He threatened to not let the children see her unless she signed.
The last time I spoke with her she could barely talk. That was about three weeks ago.
Then Amy called. "I tried to call Linda, but they said she wasn't in the hospital. I'm afraid she's dead!"
Charlie called Thursday afternoon, but I missed the call. Amy heard from another friend that Linda had been transferred to St. John's Hospital. We couldn't figure out why, maybe because it was a Catholic hospital and Linda was Catholic (which is why she had all those kids).
Friday morning there was a message on my work phone from Charlie - Linda had been in a coma for a week. She was in St. John's because they have a hospice.
A place to die.
She called back that morning, and I told her I'd pick her up after work and visit Linda.
It wasn't a happy visit. She seemed to me a warm, breathing corpse. Both Charlie and I thought she felt like she had a fever. We cried, and we prayed, and we went to Felber's to have a drink in Linda's honor.
Saturday I went to visit friends in Columbia and Cahokia, and while down there my phone rang. It was Charlie, and she was crying. "Linda died. She passed away at 12:45 this afternoon".
Then Connor called with the news. I could hear Amy in the background, bawling her eyes out. He'd taken her to see Linda, but by the time she got there Linda had already died. They let Amy see her anyway.
I shut off the phone, and after I got home I went into hermit mode for the rest of the weekend and didn't bother turning the phone back on. Charlie had left a box of tissues when she'd stayed there last, and I used them all.
We all miss her very much. But at least she's no longer in pain.
And her ex husband is now a widower who owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Linda had the last laugh, getting her revenge on her husband's abuse from beyond the pale of death itself!