Thursday, May 1, 2014

The First 5 Days: Reliving the Past

 (On Saturday, March 1st, I received a call that my boyfriend of 1.5 years had jumped from his apartment window and was in intensive care in a hospital about 35 minutes from where I was. I would learn later that it was not in fact a suicide, and didn't take place at his apartment but at the time of my first post about it, I didn't know this. My relationship with Gareth was full of light and love and I was at times also a witness to his deep struggles. The complexities of this complicate the grief, for sure, and I used writing as a way, a very public way, of processing what was happening.

By 7:00 pm on March 1st, I was at the hospital, where I'd remain until his parents and brother could arrive on the following Tuesday morning. In shock and plunged suddenly into grief, I took to posting photos of us together, in almost a manic way. It was the only way I could stay tethered. Below and what follows are the posts from Facebook in the hours and days that followed.)

March 1, 2014

Sending love and light and prayers to anyone who needs them. The world is big, so I'm casting a big net.

March 2, 2014

There is no doubt my life in Korea was shaped by this man. The true love of my life.

We weren't shy about our public displays of affection, that's for sure!

Every girl should be so lucky to have a guy like this on the other end of her spaghetti. I love you, Gareth Lochhead.

Here. This. A moment of pure happiness.

Again with the kissing in public! I melted. Every time.

From my sister March 2, 2014

To my sister's friends in Korea: please reach out to her and support her. I am sorry for the pain you are all experiencing and for the loss of a talented young man loved by many. 

From my sister March 2, 2014 
Some of you have been friending me, Amy Hengen Hauser, Bridget's sister to be more in the loop, I imagine. That's totally fine. She is not in the shape to be posting now and I will try to keep you updated. I don't think if I tag her in something everyone gets it but if I put it on her wall you should.
From my sister March 2, 2014

Bridget is currently at the hospital waiting for Gareth's family to arrive. She learned a lot more about the story but that is hers to tell although I will say he jumped from a 4th floor apartment while 2 others were in the apartment but not Bridget. Bridget got the whole story from one of the people in the apartment at the time. She can only see him 20 minutes at a time twice a day and she is hanging out in the hallway near his room. She is devastated, exhausted and only 4 days into influenza. She is mostly alone but hopefully that will change as her friends in Korea come to the hospital. I hope some of her friends are with her as Gareth's family arrives. I will update on her wall as information comes in until she can do it. He is brain dead and on a vent.

March 2, 2014
The early days.

 Not often I meet someone as goofy as me.

But when he felt joy, he really felt it. Thank God. And I got to be a witness to joyful moments. How honored am I?


March 3, 2014

My sister is going to try to get some much needed sleep. (I woke her up with the call at 2am). I'd much prefer to keep enjoying pictures than to write anything at this time, but I will say this: I appreciate all of the prayers and kind words, even if I'm not up for replying. And, true, I'm alone at the hospital now, but that's by choice. I need to do this in the exact way I'm doing it. I don't feel alone in any way. Much the opposite.

Visiting hours here are fucked. There's no other way to say it. They are from 7:10pm-7:30pm and 11:40am to 12 noon. That's it. And during those 20 minutes, only 2 people are allowed in at any time. 20 minutes was not enough for me last night. I need to be near him, and the hallway outside of the siding glass doors to the ICU is as close as I can get, so that's where I'll stay until his parents arrive.

I am praying for his parents, who will make the trip from NZ today. For his coworkers who begin their new semester today- don't know how. For his friends and family who will learn of this in the coming days, and for everyone else affected.

I never imagined this being part of my life story. Although I never imagined or planned on meeting someone here and falling in love. I'm incredibly grateful Gareth's story is so deeply woven with mine. Not a lot of people get to experience a love like that.

March 2, 2014 

That was some hike, Gareth! I know that wasn't your idea of a great time (until this photo), but you sure hung in there. For my benefit.

Thank you for this, Aimee Anthony Snelling. Gareth is a gifted poet and he and I would have had a great time over a cup of coffee talking about this one:

This body is not me.
I am not limited by this body.

I am life without boundaries.

I have never been born,
and I have never died.

Look at the ocean and the sky
filled with stars, manifestations
from my wondrous true mind.

Since before time, I have been free.

Birth and death are only doors
through which we pass, sacred
thresholds on our journey.

Birth and death are a game
of hide-and-seek. So laugh with me,
hold my hand, let us say good-bye,
say good-bye, to meet again soon.

We meet today. We will meet
gain tomorrow. We will meet
at the source every moment.
We meet each other
in all forms of life.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

One floor below, a pillow cushioning my knees, I prayed here for a return to wholeness- both for Gareth and for us left with the harrowing task of passing through his empty spaces.

From my sister March 3, 2014

Just Face Timed with B. Her "Hadong Family," her friends from the first city she lived in Korea, have come to her new town (a few hours away) to support her. She was introducing me to these lovely people and we were even laughing a little. She seemed so much better than yesterday. And is feeling more recovered from the influenza she has been fighting.Gareth's family arrives in Korea about 5 pm St. Louis time today. I am glad she is gaining some peace and strength for what surely will be a very difficult thing for all of them. Please continue to think of her today. If you pray, she would love that too as she is a person of deep faith. 

March 3, 2014

Outside the sliding glass doors that lead to Gareth. Morning prayers come from the speaker and echo through the empty hall and my empty spaces. Gareth's mom, dad, and brother are on their way. I am not leaving you, Gareth. I will not leave. 

From my sister March 4, 2014

For Bridget's friends and our family: Gareth's family has arrived at the hospital from NZ. Obviously this is a tragic day for them all. I have no other news. If she does not share latest information I will post what I know as I realize many are anxious for updates. Thank you for your concern about Bridget, Gareth and his family. 

From my sister March 4, 2014

My sister just messaged me. She has met Gareth's family and is blown away by their kindness, acceptance and embracing of her. She is well supported now and they are bringing comfort to each other. I will let her share the logistics of this situation but know that your prayers and kind thoughts have resulted in her being taken in by this suffering and loving family.

March 4, 2014 

Doctors shared (with Gareth's family) that Gareth is definitely brain-dead. However, Korea will not allow the family to remove the breathing tubes, so unfortunately we're probably looking at quite some time with Gareth in this state until his heart (which is beating on its own) to stop. This was a shock for us all, and not welcomed news. But his family is handling it with grace. They've also completely welcomed me as their own and we seem to be a great sense of support for each other right now. I'll be sleeping on the floor of their apt for the next few days and doing what I can to help out. Continued prayers, please.

March 4, 2014

Gareth, thank you for gifting me with your mom, your dad, and your brother. You'd be so pleased to see how we've connected. Your dad made me promise never to blame myself, your mother asked me to join a photo ("...because you're part of our family now"), and your brother and I had a brief reprieve from the grieving while on a mission to find cell phones. I see you in them and I love them for it. They will hear stories of your joy through me. And, forgive me, but I may share a poem or two. 

(Gareth died March 4th at 11:10 pm)

Bless the soul of my sweet, dear one. He did it on his own. We just went to bed and got a call to come up to the hospital. You did it, Gareth. I'm so proud of you, babe.

From my Aunt Mary March 4, 2014 

Dear Sweet Gareth, thank you for waiting for your parents to come to say Good-bye, and for waiting until you knew Bridget would find comfort in their embracing arms and she could comfort them. Thank you for your love of Bridget and your family, and your choice to go while they slept--to spare them the prolonged, torture of sitting around and not being able to visit you much because of the hospital's restrictive visitation policy. Though I never met you, I feel a great deal of love for you. I'm sorry you were in so much pain and were not able to use or find the help you needed here on this earth. Good-bye, Gareth.

March 4, 2014 

Man, oh man, we were in love. So glad there were witnesses to that. Korea friends, please post below stories of how you witnessed that love. That would bring me joy at this moment.

March 4, 2014 

I was asked to meet with the police yesterday. It's important to share that while Gareth certainly struggled with dark times and dark thoughts, we are certain now that his fall was not a suicide. I don't feel this is the place to share all of the details, but my sweet love did not die in a moment of despair.

March 4, 2014

Love is secretly dealing your girlfriend this hand while she's in the restroom. Dang, you were funny and charming, Gareth Lochhead.

March 5, 2014

We're planning on a memorial for Gareth tomorrow at 6:30pm at the International Lounge on Dongguk University's campus in Gyeongju. No need to be there at a specific time. Just come by. Bring photos and/or stories to share. Maybe food? Potluck-ish?

March 5, 2014 

Gifts from Gareth continue: lots of time spent with his mom, dad, and 1 of 3 brothers. You have a beautiful family, Gareth.

March 5, 2014

 Gareth used to hold me from behind and press himself into me. "Why were we made with two separate rib cages?" he'd say. "My heart wants to be in the same cage as your heart." (He'd press his chest into my back harder.) "It wants to break free of its own cage of ribs and be next to yours." Babe, I believe it has truly done so. And my heart is aching, so bring yours close. 

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