Friday, July 14, 2017

My Friend Glenn


I haven't felt compelled to write in a little over a year. Mostly because nothing has pulled on my heart as much as the loss of my friend, Glenn. 

I was at his side when he took his final breath. Like a birth it was intense, painful and beautiful. I am less afraid of dying thanks to Glenn and even more determined to live.



Glenn and I met through work. He was sent to assist me with my property management duties and me, being a hard ass, control freak, incapable of taking directions, was convinced he was a spy.

Before knowing Glenn, I decided I loathed him. How dare he give me his opinion or try to curb, correct, or govern me.

My venom was fierce but being a true alpha feline, before inflicting pain on my prey I paused to study him. And when I did I noticed that Glenn was smart and witty, sweet and quirky, kind and compassionate. And on top of all that, he was a HUGE animal lover. It is impossible for me to strike down an animal lover.

I didn’t know Glenn as long as most of his friends, but I was there at the end and endings are very telling.

Glenn was relentless, courageous and unapologetic. Glenn never lost hope. No one, not even his doctors, could convince him that he was nearing the end of his life.

Glenn was a very private person and because of this, most of his friends did not know how gravely ill he was but he shared the reality of his merciless illness with me. I think to Glenn, I represented hope. "This is my friend, Shannon. She's had 5 cancers," he would say when introducing me to the hospital staff.

Glenn never wanted people to feel sorry for him, so he never complained. After a round of chemo I'd ask him how he was feeling and all he'd say was,"Oh well, you know how it is."

Glenn loved his friends. I know this because I heard the stories. There were so many unbelievable stories that I didn’t think most of them were real. They seemed larger than life - a famous Antique Road Show art appraiser, a master chef, a brilliant mathematician, gospel singers, actors, heads of corporations, even a group of nuns. Glenn spoke in great detail about his talented friends. People, he would tell me, that were almost as smart as him.

Glenn held many jobs over his lifetime, but what brought him the most joy was coaching tennis. Glenn spoke often about his students. To Glenn, each of them was special. He had the unique ability to recognize, nurture, uplift and promote the best in them.

During his last hospital stay, he told me about his friends Paul and Tom, and some guy who was the best kayaker on the east coast. He told me how they hiked mountains that straddled the Hudson River in NY. He showed me pictures of some of those hikes including Breakneck Ridge, Anthony's Nose and Storm King. This inspired me to go on a hike of my own. When I told him this he urged me not to go on challenging hikes because of the intense vertical ascent and steep rock escarpment. "I know you think you're in good shape," he told me, "but you're not." This was the kick in the ass that I needed. I sent Glenn pictures of myself and my fearless friend Yvonne on top of Breakneck Ridge - elevation 1,620 feet. With arthritis in my left knee, a grade three meniscus tear on my right, zero core strength due to major abdominal surgery 8 weeks earlier, no upper body strength and minimal aerobic conditioning, clearly I had no business being on a mountain of this magnitude. I never told Glenn he was right.




In the hours before he lost consciousness, I asked if I could stroke his hair and he said yes. Initially, this was an uncomfortable gesture because, despite our closeness, we never touched not even a warm embrace.

Later, I told him I loved him. Initially, these were uncomfortable words because, despite all we shared, we never spoke about our emotions. Despite our holidays together, our simple moments together our sushi dinners, our walks with my dogs, cooking, laughing we never expressed our appreciation for each other. But when I told him I loved him, I fully expected his reply to be… “Yes, Shannon, I love you too. I have loved you since the first moment I set eyes on you…”  Instead, he said, “that’s nice to hear.” 

Glenn never wanted to be a burden to anyone, so he never asked for help. But when he assigned me as his next of kin, he empowered me. In illness, we feel powerless. But when he held out his hand, he allowed me to pull him closer. This is the gift that comes from loving someone worth loving.

While in the ICU, Glenn asked me to steady his hand during his last paracentesis a painful gut draining procedure he endured multiple times during his battle with liver disease and cancer.  I think he asked this of me because he wanted me to witness his bravery. Glenn was very brave.

Glenn’s work ethic never faltered. Despite being in pain, weak and severely jaundice, he attended a board meeting with me on June 27th. Three days later he was admitted to Yale New Haven Hospital.  I was with him when he strutted out a few days later. He had two glorious days at home, one of which he spent at a Fourth of July party where he savored good food and friends. Later that day, liver failure and elevated ammonia levels in his brain caused confusion and he was taken to Bridgeport Hospital where, a week later, he passed away.

As most of his friends know, Glenn was a devoted son. The care and compassion he showed his mother throughout her life and especially during her decline, speaks to the soul of this man. And for a guy with no living family, no one who was obligated to care for him, he managed to surround himself with love. He was never alone. Whether it was his neighbors, his co-workers, or his amazing friends, no one turned their back on Glenn.

Glenn, you were truly one of a kind. I love you…


Glenn Baron 
8/8/63 to 7/12/17 

video

A Happy Birthday message to Glenn - Ireland 2016. Even the cows chime in.


3 comments:

  1. A beautiful tribute to your friend. He sounds like a helluva guy. My sympathies to you and all his other friends.

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  2. What an awesome tribute, Shannon. My condolences to you and everyone who has known and loved this man. -JC

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  3. This is a beautiful tribute to your friend Glenn. I'm sorry for your loss. But to me, this speaks more to your soul, to have the capacity to love like this. I am lucky to be your friend Monkey!

    ReplyDelete

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Shannon E. Kennedy

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