March 15, 2022
"Beware the Ides of March" was something I always thought about on March 15th of every year since I was a child. My love of history and my fascination with Roman history started this cycle of my yearly acknowledgment of this seemingly innocuous event. This year was different because I actually forgot that it was the Ides of March. When the doorbell rang, jerking me back into the real world, I glanced at my phone and discovered it was March 15th. "Beware the Ides of March", I said to myself as I walked to the front door. A glance through the peephole let me know that it was my past neighbor, Joan standing at my door. I opened the inside door to see a familiar woman who was now framed in the glass of my storm door. She looked horrible. This was not the same woman that I knew at all. Joan and her husband Stew had lived next to me for nearly 25 years. Last year they decided to downsize and they moved into a smaller house about a mile away. They were a few years younger than me. They had moved in as my boys were growing into adults. I helped both of their boys grow into men. They loved my kites and my stories of times past from the '60s. I was Uncle Lar to them. Both were now far away working jobs in distant cities. Joan and her husband Stew were now empty nesters. They were good parents. They raised their boys right. They were deeply committed to their faith and served their God as all good Christians should. I had helped them move into their new house. We had talked on the phone occasionally since they had moved. I had been to their house many times for dinner. Joan was a wonderful cook and was concerned about my nutrition or lack thereof. She always wanted to "get a good meal in me" because I lived alone with my dog and only cooked sporadically on my grill.
But on this day, the Ides of March 2022, the Joan that stood before me was a mere shadow of the attractive vibrant woman I once knew. She was very pale and looked as though she had lost weight. I had not seen her or Stew for almost a month. I tried to call them a couple of weeks ago. I left a message to call me back. I had heard nothing back in return. I thought that they were traveling to visit one of their boys. Joan's hair looked unwashed and disheveled. Her face looked like she had been crying. I immediately knew that something was wrong. The first words out of my mouth as I opened the door were, "What's going on Joan?". "It's Stew, Uncle Lar, he's dying", as she burst into tears. I held her in my arms as she wept uncontrollably. My mind raced with images of Stew. We had been neighbors and friends for almost 25 years. He was like a brother to me. And now he was dying. "Tell me what's going on Joan, why is he dying?" I said after Joan's crying had subsided. As our embrace ended she tearfully replied, "He has cancer and it's really bad. You have to come to the house and see him. He is asking for you. He is in a lot of pain. He moans and cries all the time. Today he told me to come and get you. You have to come now".
My mind was racing as I closed the car door behind Joan for the quick trip to their house. Maybe there is something I can do? I am not a Doctor but maybe I can help. I tried to think of anyone I knew who would be able to help. Perhaps I can get him to see a doctor? There are only a few doctors left and both of our hospitals might as well be closed. You have to "know" someone who knows someone to get looked at by a doctor. Then it is really hard to get any medicine. The pharmacies need armed guards to protect the staff and keep the drugs from being stolen. There are a lot of people who blame the pharmacies for what happened. They were part of the killing machine for sure but the living still need them to function.
As we pulled into Joan and Stew's driveway, I was greeted by a scene completely different from the usual well-manicured yard that Stew was famous for. The yard had not been mowed in weeks and trash was piled up in and around their overflowing garbage bin. Nothing had been done here for quite some time. Why hadn't they called me? I could have helped. I stopped the car and opened the door for Joan. I put my arm around her shoulders as we walked toward the door, trying to comfort her. She felt frail and unsteady as we neared the front door. The door was unlocked, so we walked right in. Their little Chihuahua, Sparks greeted us. He was happy to see me and jumped for joy before I grabbed him and hoisted him into the air. I smiled and looked at Joan, "He still loves me" as Sparks licked my face with reckless abandon. Joan cracked a little smile, "Yes he certainly does".
The inside of their house was a disaster. Nothing had been cleaned for quite some time. The carpets were filthy and the house had a distinctively bad odor. This was not the house that Joan used to live in. She prided herself on keeping everything neat, ordered, and very clean. From the back bedroom, I heard Stew cry out, "Is that you Joan, did you get Uncle Lar"? Joan called back to him, "Yes it's me honey, and Uncle Lar is here". "Thank God, bring him in to see me."
I felt the weight of the world descend upon my shoulders as we walked toward the bedroom where Stew lay. I was a problem solver and they knew it. They could always depend on me in a pinch to fix what couldn't be fixed like it was no big deal. I had to at least offer them some hope. I didn't think there was a real chance that I could help in any meaningful way. But at least I was there for them in their great time of need. It's what friends do and I was their friend.
Since the middle of February, things had gone from bad to worse to horrible. The vaccinated started to die in large numbers. At first, people refused to believe that it was happening. But as more and more people began to die, it became obvious that the vaccinated were in deep trouble. Stew and Joan had gotten the Pfizer vaccine in July of 2021. They also got the 3rd booster shot at the end of January 2022. We never talked about any of this. They knew that I was an "anti-vaccine" person and they apparently didn't want this to get in the way of our friendship. This was just fine with me since I had already lost some good friends because I had refused to be vaccinated. Now there were more dead and dying than there were places and people to bury them. Some people had started to bury their loved ones themselves. Back yards and empty lots were becoming cemeteries.
A really bad stench hit my nose as I approached Stew's room. It was the smell of impending death. As I entered the room, Stew was lying on his back in a bed of stained sheets looking out the window. He turned and looked at me slowly raising his hand to shake my hand. "Thank God you are here Uncle Lar, Joan and I need your help." "OK" I said, "But what can I do to help? It looks like you really need some immediate medical attention and I am not a doctor. I can try to get someone here to look at you but I can't guarantee anything nowadays". “I don't need a doctor at this point Uncle Lar", as he lifted the sheet covering him. “This soccer ball that I have been growing inside me is way beyond anything a doctor could fix now." Stew's stomach had a huge lump rising up from it that was purple and blue. "I can't eat anymore and I am having trouble breathing. I am in a tremendous amount of pain. All the pain killers we had are gone." I immediately went into my fix-it mode, "Ok I will see if I can get you some more pain killers then. I know someone I can call".
Stew smiled at me, "You are something else Uncle Lar, but I need a different kind of pain killer. I need a permanent pain killer". I knew immediately what Stew was talking about. He wanted me to assist him with his suicide. I looked back at Stew, "Hey buddy I can't be part of killing you man. This is just not in my DNA. There has to be a better option". "Look at me, I am not surviving this shit and the pain is driving me and Joan insane. I need a way out. We need a way out. I want you to provide me a ticket to heaven. You just need to give me the ticket and I will get it punched." I knew Stew was serious at this point. The smell in the room was almost making me gag. "Ok, Stew what do you want me to do?"
Stew began to cough and spit up vile looking stuff into a bowl next to his bed. "You know that little 3 80 that you have that you bought a few years ago before you got your conceal carry permit? I want you to show Joan how to use it. Once you are sure she can use it correctly, she will dispatch me and you can bury me in the backyard." I was in shock at this point, "You want me to train your wife to kill you and then assist her in burying you? OK, but I do not want to be here when she does this". Stew smiled again at me, "We knew we could count on you, it's the only way now, I can't stand the pain anymore, I just want it to be over".
I picked up Joan the next day to take her to my house for training. She had showered and was dressed quite nicely for a weekday excursion to learn how to kill her husband. The tears were gone and she was focused on learning how to use my firearm. I think the prospect of ending her husband's suffering had lifted her spirits. After a couple of hours of talking about old times and a few minutes of training, I delivered her back home with one in the chamber and a full magazine in my automatic pistol. I rolled down the window as she walked toward her house with my gun case in her hand. "I will be back tomorrow at this same time with both my boys to bury Stew. You take care, Joan.”
The next day my two boys and I arrived at 10:30 am with a pickup truck and three shovels. We had recently helped one of my boy's friends bury a relative in a nearby field. We were by no means experts at digging graves but we had the basics of it pretty well under control. All of us hoped that we would be digging in decent topsoil and not the wet clay that existed nearby. I had spent the preceding 12 hours thinking about Stew. The past times we had together flashed before my mind's eye like outtakes from a movie. Now I would have to enter my friend's house and place him in his final resting place. I had no idea how I would feel about seeing him like this. I tried to imagine what it would be like but I knew that reality would be much worse than my imagination. So I braced myself for the horror that I was about to encounter.
To be continued….