Wednesday, January 30, 2008

No longer searching for Bobby Fischer

This morning I met with someone from the university Chess Club to donate several of Chris' chess sets and his chess clock. Although he never joined, he had expressed some interest in the club and talked about maybe checking out some of their events to see if it was a group he might find appealing. I think he'd be happy knowing that his sets will be enjoyed by fellow lovers of the "King's Game". Right now, I like to think he's picking up tips from recently departed chess legend Bobby Fischer.

Coincidentally, Fischer also died of complications from kidney failure. Apparently he refused ongoing dialysis therapy and chose to let nature take its course. While many people may view this as an extreme choice and question Fischer's capacity to direct his own medical care, it is a legitimate option that some kidney patients decide on for any number of reasons.

Another interesting coincidence is that the last years of Fischer's life were spent in chess-mad Iceland where he lived a reclusive and increasingly paranoid existence, occasionally making news with outrageous rants against Jews and/or his country of birth, the U.S. Fischer's remains were buried in a small church cemetery near Selfoss, 60 km south of the capitol of Reykjavik. I don't remember Chris mentioning that he knew of Bobby Fischer living in Iceland but knowing Chris' wide-ranging knowledge of many seemingly unrelated bits of information...

I guess we won't be searching for Bobby Fischer any longer. Hopefully, he's found the peace that eluded him for most of his troubled and controversial life. Maybe he can learn something from Chris.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Intimacy in the closet

There's something incredibly intimate about sharing a closet with someone you love. Having someone else's clothing hanging beside your own in your bedroom - where you sleep and get dressed and dream - makes it 'official'. You're not just giving them a drawer or a shelf for weekend sleep-overs. You're sharing your lives, your ups and downs, your fears and hopes. Seeing our clothes, our toothbrushes, our mementos intertwined together in our home always made me smile. I loved and I was loved. Call me old-fashioned but it was lovely.

The closet where I moved Chris' clothes after he died is empty now, except for his wedding suit. I've packed up the last of his things and they're piled up in four large green garbage bags by the door, ready to donate to charity.

His many variations of blue plaid short sleeved sports shirts; his many variations of long-sleeved dress shirts in every beautiful shade of blue from vibrant royal to dove grey-blue like his eyes; what seems like the entire Eddie Bauer men's collection from the past five years; soft, warm sweaters slightly worn at the elbows; the huge fuzzy terry-cloth bathrobe I gave him for Christmas several years ago (he gave me a matching one the same year); ties and belts... and shoes.

It was time to pack up his shoes. He won't be coming back. He won't need them any more. His feet won't get cold.

As I slowly go through things in the apartment and give them away or shred papers or throw them out, there's less and less of a 'couple' presence in our apartment. Despite the remaining books and CDs and photos and mementos and cooking gadgets that Chris brought into my life and into our apartment, his shirts no longer hang beside mine; his toothbrush no longer nuzzles against mine; his shoes no longer wait for walks beside mine; our clothes no longer mingle in the laundry basket together; the daily intimacy is gone... forever. Only the memories remain, and they are so happy and so sad.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Paying it forward

In recent months I've been germinating two pet projects in memory of Chris that I've been hoping would come to fruition. I'm delighted to say that both have received full approval from the 'powers that be' in their respective arenas and will be moving forward over the next year.

The first is a graduate scholarship fund at the library and information science faculty where Chris and I met as Masters students and where Chris was a PhD candidate at the time of his death. We created many wonderful memories during our time there - we were often affectionately teased as one of several 'librarians in love' couples. I hope that this memorial scholarship will help successive generations of library science grad students fulfill their dreams for many years to come.

The other project will be a more hands-on labour of love combining my librarian skills as well as my experience and interest in consumer health information and patient advocacy. I will be working with patients and staff at the university hospital Chris attended to create, in his memory, a patient and family library for kidney disease and related resources at the new dialysis unit currently being developed.

His passion for patient self-advocacy and education was born of his own experiences as a person with a chronic illness but one of his key coping mechanisms was to educate himself about his health condition so that he could be an active, informed participant and decision-maker in his own care. I want the new library to be a place of enquiry, reflection, learning, and empowerment for kidney patients and their loved ones, but also for healthcare staff - for we can all learn from each other.

Giving back or 'paying it forward' was very important to Chris and has become even more so for me since his death. During the past several years I learned more from my parents and Chris than I would ever have thought myself capable of. Not of intellectual knowledge or facts, but in the seemingly boundless capacity of the human heart and mind for compassion; for patience; for nerves of steel and steady hands; for tender care of messy situations; for protecting a loved one; for truly living life in the moment.

I will continue to write about these projects as they develop and keep you posted on their progress. Thank you to those of you who have helped me bring them to life and continue to give your support, your time, and your expertise. Thank you for ‘paying it forward’.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's about the behaviour, not the orientation!

Last week I was so mad I could have spit. I probably did when my jaw dropped open in stunned reaction to the belated news that Health Canada had released new standards for organ donation in December. The department announced that, among other things, men who have had sex with another man within the past five years will not be considered as organ donors!

Did I just wake up in 1988? Are we still having this conversation? In the early dark days of the AIDS epidemic gay men were the primary figures in that war. As the epidemic cuts a swath of death across the world, we now know that it is not sexual orientation that makes a person an HIV carrier or more susceptible. It is a person's behaviour that makes them at risk for HIV and AIDS, not their sexual orientation!

Behaviours such as promiscuous and/or unprotected sexual activity and shared needles; behaviours about things that we don’t talk about in ‘polite’ society. The HIV virus loves our shame and our dark secrets, our extra-marital philandering, our little junk habit, our secret thrill of riding ‘bare-back’. Meanwhile, all gay men are once again being singled out by preposterously archaic assumptions in poorly written medical guidelines.

The reaction has been vocal, swift, and broad-based. Most transplant units across Canada have announced that despite these new guidelines, they will continue to assess organ donations based on behavioural risk-assessment guidelines. Given the ever-increasing shortage of organs needed for transplants, Health Canada should have given this issue more thought. Shame on them.

Toronto Sun - Letter of the Day by Ontario Minister of Health, George Smitherman
Toronto Star - "Most gays ruled out as organ donors"
Globe & Mail - "New organ donation rules don't exclude gay men"
CBC News - "Sexually active gay men no longer allowed to donate organs"
CBC, This Hour Has 22 Minutes for a refreshingly satiric perspective on Health Canada's guidelines [This Week's Video Highlights > select Jan 15 > scroll down and click on "Organ Donor Policy"]

A gift worth the odds

Today will be a sad and difficult day for a very dear friend of mine and her extended family. Her uncle passed away on January 4th from complications following kidney transplant surgery.

For those patients who are eligible and interested, organ transplants from a living or deceased donor can offer a new lease on life. For some, like liver or heart recipients, organ transplants may be their only chance for living. Organ, tissue, and blood donations are literally a gift of life.

My friend's uncle had lived with kidney failure and been on dialysis for over 25 years. He was a difficult match for organ donation but because of recent improvements in technology and research his wife was finally able to be a living kidney donor for him. Many would agree that she gave him the ultimate gift of love.

Sadly, due to a series of complications, the transplant never fully 'took' and my friend's uncle struggled to recover in the hospital for several months before passing away from heart failure.

All of us who are part of the organ donation world know the risks and possible complications involved. Organ transplants are not a cure. Organ transplants do not last forever. But organ transplants can offer many people with life-threatening or chronic conditions very good odds of living a more 'normal' life. A life where they can work full-time, play with their children, go on vacations, eat and drink a wide variety of foods, walk half a kilometre without resting. A life where they don't have to go to a clinic three days a week or spend weeks in intensive care. A life that most of us take for granted.

In memory of Gary and Chris and the thousands of people still waiting for organ transplants, please consider organ donation, sign your card, and - most importantly - discuss your wishes with your family.

Rest in peace Gary.



On January 4, 2008 at the Toronto General Hospital, Gary Stephen Logan, loving husband to Marisa Logan, succumbed to complications related to a kidney transplant at the age of fifty-three.

A memorial service will be held at 1:15 p.m. on Tuesday, January 15 at the Cemetery Notre-Dame-des-Neiges to celebrate his life. Our family wishes to thank everyone for their kind and supportive words and gestures.

In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to the Renal Transplant Research and Education Fund at the Toronto General Hospital.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A memory in the palm of my hand

Yesterday I was going through some of Chris' clothes that I still have to pack up. I paused at his wedding suit, smoothing the fabric, staring at the faded dry boutonniere still pinned to the lapel.

I found two tablets in the inside breast pocket. At first I thought they were prescription pills of some sort because Chris took medications at different times throughout the day but these pills had no markings and they smelled... well, minty.

Suddenly I realized what they were: tic tac breath mints.

I stood there looking at the two little white tablets in the palm of my hand... 're-living' a moment in the past that I had never experienced; a moment when Chris thought of kissing his soon-to-be new wife and slipped breath mints into his jacket pocket.

How funny to find such a seemingly trivial little thing tucked away, as if waiting to be found, waiting to unexpectedly reawaken moments of a life.

Looking at the tic tacs, I was suddenly reminded of a photo I took of Chris holding our wedding rings in his palm the day after he kissed me as his wife for the first time.