On Monday, February 18 at 3am in Bangkok, Thailand (Sunday, Feb. 17 at 12pm PST), we lost our beloved father, husband, friend, colleague, mentor, teacher, ajarn, and neighbor. It was so sudden , and still so recent, we haven't had time to comprehend. We all thought we had so much more time.
He wasn't feeling well, presumably something he ate. As the stomach bug ran its course, he felt uncharacteristically weak, so weak that his wife, Tim, summoned an ambulance. He was weak but walking and lucid, even signed himself into the hospital. Around 11pm, he and Tim decided to get some sleep so they said "goodnight" to "Superman and Wonder Woman," respectively, and Tim went to sleep in the room next door. She awoke two hours later to alarms and doctors and nurses talking loudly. Dad woke up, vomiting, and went into cardiac arrest. In the chaos, Tim didn't understand what was happening, he'd seemed fine when he went to bed. The doctors tried everything they could. Sadly, a massive pulmonary embolism stopped his heart and septic shock set in, making it impossible for the doctors to bring him back.
Tim reached me, his daughter Catherine, as I was hiking with my dog in Forest Park in Portland, OR where my sister, Rebecca, and Tim's daughter, Kitty, also live. It was confusing for both of us but I eventually got a doctor who spoke enough English to realize that Dad was not coming back. He wouldn't want to stay on machines for life support longer than necessary. He also had a living will and healthcare directive which he'd discussed with me many times in recent years; I knew it was necessary to say "goodbye." The last thing he wanted was to suffer at the end of his life. The doctor said, "He can't stay here in the ICU. What do you want me to do?" Thank goodness we had those precious extra minutes to make sure he wasn't alone and to pour out as much love as possible for him, from each of us and on behalf of so many more, until we knew he was gone.
Tim held his hand, kissed him, and told him it was OK to, "Go be with Buddha now." I told him over and over, "Thank you for everything, we're so lucky, we love you so much." According to Tim, after they unhooked him from the machine and as we were pouring out our love for him, he opened his eyes and looked at her. She laid her head down on his chest and listened to his final heartbeats as they faded. Just moments after everything became quiet in his hospital room in BKK, me in the middle of the woods half a world away from my dad and Tim, my phone got disconnected. Somehow I was given half an hour of crystal clear reception in the embrace of a quiet and loving forest. Thank you, Dad.
My sisters and I have been working ever since to help Tim navigate this difficult time from afar. In the past three or so weeks since all this happened, we have figured out a great deal with the hospital, US embassy, Tim and extended family throughout Thailand. We held a ceremony from March 7-9. Dad was cremated in Wat Bang Peng Tai in Bangkok on Saturday, March 9 and his daughters, Rebecca, Kitty, and I, each spoke to a group of friends, family, colleagues, and students of his in attendance. I will do my best to post photos and transcripts of our eulogies as soon as possible but am dealing with a great many challenges here in Thailand on top of my own grief so please be patient. We will do our best to keep everyone posted as we learn more. In the meantime, please share your stories, photos, and well wishes here on this site and with your loved ones near and far. Tell them about his enthusiasm for learning and his long list of ideas and projects for "retirement." Maybe book that trip you've been putting off, call the person you're afraid to, pitch that wild idea, show up for someone in need, or tell someone you love them.
His ashes will be brought back to the states where he asked to be scattered from his favorite fishing pier on Benewah Lake in Idaho.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we grieve our loss and sort out complicated legal and financial matters as is typical when a US citizen dies abroad.
We appreciate all the offers of help and well wishes through this most difficult time. Please keep asking, keep offering, even when we don't know what we need or how to ask. My dad did that for me so many times and it has made all the difference. Khorb khun mak ka, Dad.