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My Son-in-Law Is Dead

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

They found him near a homeless encampment in the city. He died the day after Christmas.


We didn't find out until February 10th.


Daughter and I like to imagine that he sat down to take a hit of something, sat down with homeless neighbors, sat down to smoke or shoot or think and that after the drug hit his system, he just closed his eyes and went to sleep. We don't have the tox report yet so we don't actually know what happened but this is the best death we can imagine for a homeless and deeply schizophrenic man.


Daughter is devastated. She is now a widow, which was on no one's bingo card. My grandson's father is dead and he is not unhappy about that. Logan didn't like the way his dad treated Daughter and neither did I, but I don't think any of us wished death upon him. On the contrary, we wished he'd recovered and rejoined the family. Like I did.


I'm burying the lede. No, there are two--I just haven't been able to write about his death publicly because it hit me in a particularly stunning way and for obvious reasons but let me state it for the record.


Today I have been clean and sober for 29 years.


You've heard me say this before but it bears repeating: if life were fair, my child would have been putting flowers on my grave for the 29th year in a row. Now she has to put flowers on her husband's grave except he is being cremated and will be brought home to live with her forever. She finally gets him back. He will never be alone again.


They still had his body at the city morgue. We went to view it. The viewing was way more dramatic than I could ever have imagined and we didn't even see what was left of his face because he was too decomposed even after having been stored in a freezer for the last six weeks before we learned about him.


The friendly and compassionate staff member led us to what looked like the waiting room at a doctor's office. After talking for a few minutes she asked if we were ready. We'd been there the previous Friday to collect his belongings, which consisted of a wallet and a butter knife, probably for protection. When you're homeless, off your meds, and out of your mind, a butter knife is better than nothing. You both are not your sharpest but you've joined forces as best as you can.


You know how on television, the family of the deceased stands tableside, the coroner herself rolls back the sheet to the shoulders, and the always-freshly-dead body is revealed, rosy cheeked and napping? The man nods once, solemnly, to the coroner and the woman covers her mouth, boohooing and turning away?


Because he was too far gone and even though I wanted to see his face (Daughter did not), the staff determined that wasn't a good idea and, in retrospect, I completely agree. We weren't even going to be in the same room with him because of his decomposition. Daughter wanted to see his hand instead.


The staff asks if we're ready, places her finger over a button, and I imagine them ringing the bell, we're led down the hall into another room, and then we're allowed to see him though separated by glass.


"Are you ready?" she asks again. "Look over there," nodding gently to a large picture window with a curtain over it. Okay, I'm thinking a man in a white lab coat will pull back the curtain slowly for the big reveal. She pushed the button.


Instantaneously--and I cannot stress this enough--a dead body covered with a clean white sheet appeared on the other side of the glass, blue and purple veined skeletal hand exposed to the forearm, the only color in the otherwise clean white room that framed the whole scene. We started. We stared.


His appearance was so startling that it took us a few moments to really understand what we were seeing.


Even in death, his hand was recognizable.

 

The last time I saw him, I was attending a conference in the Castro in early October. They had a nighttime mixer on the street and as I was heading down the block I spotted a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk. You may or may not know this about me but I always look at homeless people and if they're looking at me, I always speak. They are just people.


He was dirty and unshaven but I recognized him instantly. He saw me at the same time. I came over and sat down. We talked for a few minutes. He was deeply off his meds because he'd stare down blankly and every few seconds look up to ask me if I had any money. I gave him a few dollars and eventually took him to that Walgreens on the corner to buy him anything he wanted. He chose some kind of soda, maybe some junk food, and a bottle of shampoo. His hair was very important to him and I chuckled to him about this. Neither a pot to piss in etc., but he wanted his hair to look good. Everyone is afforded some dignity, after all.

 

Today my anniversary is the same age as I was when I got clean, which seems positively unreasonable. I often forget that 29 was a relatively young age to quit all drugs and alcohol and it technically qualifies me as a "young person" according to recovery lore.


I got clean during my Saturn return, which is as fitting a transformation as anything I could have imagined at the time. Well, I didn't even know what a Saturn return was. Now I do...and it occurred to me this very moment that I'm entering my second one on both a recovery and a chronological level.


A side note, or a third lede however you want to look at it, is that my agent has sent my book proposal and her pitch letter to major publishers and we're waiting to hear back. Perhaps this will be the year the book comes out (not really, because these things take about a year but a butch can hope), makes its own ascension on my Saturn dimes, and helps families avoid the type of phone call my daughter got on Friday February 10th.


Daughter and I text each other regularly, talk periodically, and see each other occasionally. These are precious times for me because even if I hadn't died, there was no guarantee she'd want to have anything to do with me after I got clean given my behavior, but she says she's just always been grateful to get me back. Her texts the other day devastated me:


"You did it, Mom. You went through the hell of treatment, and you got yourself back, and you gave me my mother back. Thank you, so dearly for that. <3 <3

I am lucky. I got you back.

There isn't a day that goes by where I don't give thanks for you being safe and healthy.

Thank you, Mom.

Daniel loved Logan, but Logan never got him back. I acknowledge how lucky I am.

I got you back. I got back my Mother so I could give you all of my love. All a child wants to do, is Love their parent(s).

Thank you for letting me love you, Mom. I wish Daniel had let me love him the way I did."


May Daniel Scott Moore be resting comfortably in God’s arms, knowing he is forgiven and at peace, at last.







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Ame Gilbert
Ame Gilbert
Mar 25, 2023

so beautifully written--full of humanity and love. Blessings to you and your daughter and grandchild, and may your son-in-law rest in peace.

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