Preface

This is written by Roy’s wife, but it is about him and so the choice was made by the editor/widow to keep her name in 3rd person as if from his perspective, even though it is ultimately from her memory (and some crowdsourced fact-checking) of what he told her. Electra = me the editor

 

The Why for this “real” version, separate from the “Legacy” version, is because Roy is very good at masking. It has been hard for people who aren’t Electra, who held space for his secrets and worries and pain, to understand why he died a few weeks before his 45th birthday.  The proof-readers and fact-checkers who are assisting in this crowdsourced abbreviated true story of Roy have responded with mixed emotions and that is fine. Please give yourself space to feel some feelings. (Actually, give yourself space and time: This obituary version is around 12,000 words.)

Electra has three main emotions about his death: grief of missing him and not being able to share her joys into the future; gratitude for the beautiful community we built/attracted together; and peace-acceptance that Roy’s life had reached the exact pivotal moment when staying alive longer would have shifted the balance: the joy, brilliance and healing he beamed outwards would become predominantly fear, distrust, pain and sorrow; also peace-acceptance that he had a good death.

Electra has two main emotions about his life: awe-admiration of how he alchemically transformed bitter experiences into beneficence, and deep anger at the systemic persecution of people in larger bodies and deep anger at the Reagan-era “personal responsibility” method of demanding that hurt people somehow boot-strap their way into “success” and then sweep under the rug all the the ugly choices and sacrifices they make to do that. 

Grief, gratitude, acceptance, awe, anger: All are welcome, and any other emotions as well. Hold them all at the same time. Roy was a complex being.

Introduction

Eyes: hazel which change color depending on his mood and shirt choices

Smile: rosebud, cheerful, loving

Sun sign: Sagittarius; Chinese Zodiac/BaZi: Fire Dragon

Favorite animals: lucky frogs, house cats and corgi dogs, but specifically our house cats Nii and Nyan and his deputy director’s dog Skye

Favorite colors: tussling with his wife over who likes green more (she wins every time), but also down for some blue and purple, sometimes brick red and pink

Favorite activities: playing video games that involve world domination or human connection, long walks in the neighborhood or on the beach, and spending a joyful time singing or laughing with friends

Basic nature: a beautiful non-denominational humanist saint who helped thousands of people and changed millions of lives, but like many saints, he lived a life of great pain and tribulation.

 

He is survived by his wife, Electra L. Allenton, and their two cats. He is also survived by his beloved older brother Colin B. Huggins, his newly reconnected older sister Anna Morris, his nephews and niece, his wife’s extended family who adored and welcomed him, and his business partners Brian K. Smith and Liathana Dalton and the PCT crew, his fellow Grinnell alumni, his ALT buddies, his counseling cohort, and the rest of his immense and diverse community of colleagues and friends, too many to list. 

 

But let me tell you more about his life and death.

Childhood

Bret “Roy” Huggins was born December 12, 1976 in Palo Alto, California and died November 19, 2021 in Portland, Oregon. He was honored to be named after his grandfather, Roy Huggins, a Hollywood screenwriter, and pretty bothered to be named after the father who abandoned him, his mother and older brother, when he was two years old. The only people allowed to call him Bret are health care front desk staff who read the name off of his insurance card and didn’t know better.

 

Roy grew up largely in Hermosa Beach, California, after his family moved from Santa Rosa, California after being homeless for several years following the above mentioned abandonment. He does remember being supported off and on by aunts and cousins, but the theme of the behind-the-scenes life of Roy was desperately striving to never be homeless again, and how most help comes too little, for too short a time, and with no follow up. Not to mention that he and his brother had birthdays in the same month as Christmas, and so he grew up never expecting to be particularly celebrated or cherished. Holidays were a chance to get basic necessities like shoes and clothes from relatives who otherwise didn’t have the resourcing or inclination to get through his mother’s problems to take care of him and his brother.

 

Elementary and middle school didn’t leave much of an impression other than being randomly punched by people yelling slurs about him being fat, and trying desperately to be loving, cheerful, funny, helpful and smart in order to avoid being punched again, or seen as threatening for being big. People become “gentle giants” for a reason, and not a pleasant one.

 

A salient memory of being a child in a beach city is that, Hollywood beauty standards aside, the ocean water would Hold Him.  Floating in water, even chaotic water, was a feeling of peace and safety and acceptance. Interestingly, he never learned to swim.

 

Another salient memory from childhood was that when he was around 12, one of the school-mandated screenings discovered his blood pressure was, shall we say, not technically compatible with life. He got some pro bono workup from professionally puzzled physicians, but other than discovering, then in childhood, that he had an enlarged heart that was probably failing a little (which they wrote off as being necessary for and adapted to his larger body size), they had no answers for why a child would have a resting BP of 210/190. [editor/widow: the ACEs study had yet to be published and taken seriously, and his mother has his same body habitus.] Before he even reached puberty, he started blood pressure medication… when he could get access to medical care. 

 

Another salient memory was a teacher showing him how to program small games and designs on his graphing calculator. No simple delight in 58008 for this kiddo, he was off to write computer programs and make the world a happier and better place.

 

At home, his mother tried hard to be loving, and to always have basic ingredients for a sufficient meal in the house, and –after the brief period of homelessness– to always HAVE a home to live in, but another reason he didn’t have friends to lean on was because of her psychosis.  Voices or delusions would tell her that Roy’s friends or people at her workplace were psychically attacking her, and because as the parent she decided on what reality was, they would change social groups or move frequently. At this time, Bipolar with Psychosis was not a known diagnosis, and she went from inappropriate, unhelpful and intolerable medication to medication, and then often quit them all. He tried the usual adorkable interests like joining 80s and 90s D&D groups, but her psychosis pulled him away.  He got solace in reading and writing sci-fi and fantasy stories, especially the Cyberpunk genre.  Little Roy: crafting worlds, developing his Voice, often on his own or tagging after his brother.  Not until late in high school and Grinnell College did he have any friends or a stable place to live for more than a few months at a time. 

 

He remembers his brother Colin, only 4 years older, working exhaustively to find the resources they needed to survive: to clean the house, to cook food, and to work.  His mother also stole his brother’s identity as soon as he was old enough to have a credit score and maxed out all possible credit, and Colin worked very hard to prevent that fate from falling onto Roy. He is forever grateful for Colin’s effort, but also knows that no child or adolescent should ever be put in that position.

 

Roy attended first Redondo High School [not enjoyed], and transferred to the private Chadwick School on scholarship, and shared the joy of playing football and singing in choir with his brother Colin.  Finally in football, his size was appreciated and he was given the attention and patience to be a part of a team and a group of friends. And in choir, his size was an asset to his range and volume. He cherished and was humbled by the generosity of the Chadwick parents in how they would, almost magically, make sure his fees were paid, his uniforms purchased, and the school trips authorized. And Chadwick, unlike other Southern California public schools, set up their students to matriculate into excellent colleges. He wasn’t interested in the Ivy League ones, but was thrilled that Chadwick was a feeder school for a circuit of small liberal arts schools and discovered Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa.

College

At Grinnell, away from his mother’s chaos, he finally began developing deep friendships. Despite his larger body, he was quickly adopted by caring people; for example, a friend who he cherished to this day (Thanks Sarah!) made sure that the Hermosa Beach boy with the hand-me-down shorts and sandals had sufficiently warm jackets, pants and winter boots, as he had no concept of snow –let alone midwestern blizzards. 

 

He started off in biology and genetics (his mother worked as a temp in biotech when she could work) and has always loved the life sciences, but realized quickly science was far more about pipetting 1000 wells and watching a Western Blot scooch along with the current, than the excitement of discovery. So, he switched majors and leaned into his love of music. His instrument was his voice, and computer-based music producing (thanks, calculator games)!  He proudly performed “Broken Ground” (composed by Jonathan L. Chenette) as a Bass/Baritone in Grinnell Singers in May 1996 to celebrate the State of Iowa and Grinnell College’s Sesquicentennial in Carnegie Hall, New York City, the first year he was in college. And nearing graduation, he did a semester “abroad” in Chicago with his best friend Ed, with an internship in the music producing industry with the dream of scoring movies and videogames…. and learned that the cut-throat capitalism and exploitation seemingly required by the music scene was Not His Bag. Around then, he learned his best friend Ed didn’t like to sing because “he couldn’t” and Roy said, “Everyone has a right to sing, and to sing out loud and in a loud and joyful voice. Everyone.”

 

In his years at Grinnell, he founded and led a Dagorhir-affiliated sword-fighting group which has persisted decades after his graduation, and was an avid member of table-top role playing clubs and LARP groups, delighting in flexing his creativity and voice and leadership and ability to hold safe spaces. He also joined the Pagan Alliance and was able to playfully explore spirituality and ritual and connection, finding his deepest affinity to the Greek goddess Eris, of strife and discord and making the sort of mischief that fucks with entrenched systems. His friends from these myriad interests helped to shield him from ever returning home, taking him along during holidays or summers, where he learned that parents could be kind and grounding instead of chaotic and fearful. He also joined his brother in Kansas briefly to work at a convenience store during the period when his brother and sister-in-law attended McPherson College. And he had his first relationship with Vy, a mentor who awakened the concept that he could be touched, loved and adored.

 

He also discovered alcohol, specifically porters and stouts, one of the only things that made him feel safe and nourished, second to or perhaps superseding the safety found in floating in water.

 

In his last year of college, he and a group of friends went on an “epic spring break road trip” which introduced the group to many habitable cities of the west coast (e.g. Portland), connected with diverse families including his brother, and saw a lot of the western United States. It ended in tragedy/opportunity however.  One of the caravan of cars dodged a small animal dashing across the road, flipped over, and injured all the occupants. [editor/widow: despite the juxtaposition, alcohol had nothing to do with this accident.]  Roy went head first through the window glass; he consistently believed that if he had been wearing a seatbelt he would have died, being crushed and rolled by the car. [editor/widow: Don’t get me started on how ableist and unsafe seat belts are for larger bodied people or female-bodied people.] Instead, he lost most of the vision in his left eye. After being treated in the hospital, the various car and health insurances gave him a settlement for lost potential future earnings, and this was enough that he could pay off all undergraduate debt, pay for medical care for one of the first times in his life, have enough of a buffer to start a business without desperation coloring the outcome, and even invest a little. He often joked that if you had to trade a body part or function for the ability to Not Suffer Under American Capitalism, vision in one eye (or perhaps hearing in one ear) is a decent trade.  Because of his vision loss, and some later shoulder surgeries, he learned to drive a bit but never got his driver's license.

 

He stayed in Grinnell, Iowa for two more years after graduation to co-found and operate with friends one of the small town’s first web development firms. It would be the first in a series of successful businesses. While there, he finally got medical care at around age 22 and 23 for his enlarged and failing heart, and a wound on his leg that hadn’t healed for years.  The internist took him seriously and, after the usual “just exercise and lose weight through diet!” recommendations failed utterly, realized that heroic measures were needed.  “Luckily” (in that there is both good and bad luck), the hospitals and medical clinics in Grinnell, Iowa hosted one of the cutting edge developers of bariatric surgery.  Roy was added to the schedule between folks in their 70s and 80s for this then highly experimental intervention.  Just as in most medical advancements, the doctors and scientists tried huge full-torso surgeries removing entire organ systems and prescribed horse pills, only to later realize what they can do with laparoscopy and tiny nudges or milligram doses.  So Roy got one of the first ever Roux-en-Y bariatric surgeries. Unlike today’s versions like a lap band, a Roux-en-Y surgery removes all but the top couple inches of your stomach and the first ⅓ of your small intestine: basically saying, We Cannot Trust You With Nutrients And So You Get None Forever and Ever Amen.  The bottom portion of your stomach is where you kill the bacteria/viruses/etc in your food, make the compound that allows you to absorb vitamin B12 (necessary for blood and also psychological wellness), and have the acidic environment to absorb a good amount of other vitamins and minerals as well; the first ⅓ of your intestines are where the food is mixed with pancreatic enzymes (for starches and proteins) and bile (for fats and fat soluble vitamins…. And this is foreshadowing).  These things were literally cut away in Roy’s body.  They also recommended a restrictive diet, any restrictive diet, so Roy chose the Atkins Diet. Because, 90s diet culture. And because he literally couldn’t eat fiber any more, so why not choose a diet plan that doesn’t have any.

 

Roy promptly lost fully one half of his entire mass, as well as most of his hair, in one year. It is a miracle based on his robust early-20s constitution that he rebounded from the surgery fairly quickly, but he had a permanent full torso scar.

Suddenly people, not just his closest friends, were treating him with respect and interest. Suddenly he had authority and competence, instead of derision or bare tolerance. 

It was a heady experience even though he was starving in every literal sense of that word.

 

And of course, now that he had lost weight and had approximated the acceptable Look to be not stigmatized in the US, and his skin had closed from the surgery, doctors assured him he needed no further follow up other than compression stockings for his unrelated wound on his leg. He had finally gotten medical care after nearly a decade without, and though he got an intense life changing body altering experimental surgery that probably did provide several more decades of life, in the end, he got too little, for too short a time, and with no follow up.

Mastery

In Portland, having transitioned from Hermosa Beach, LA to the Hollywood District of Portland, he continued a successful solo career in web development, while living with friends. He learned data security and law compliance backwards and forwards because he was the developer for an online gambling site directory and other sites that handled credit card info. He felt like he was honoring his grandfather’s lineage, as Roy Huggins created the Maverick series and wrote a book about blackjack.  He also, following the hit musical number “The Internet Is For Porn”, briefly launched a pornography site with a colleague using those same skills, until ethical compliance was legislated into inoperatility.  During this time and with another friend, he also launched a news aggregate site that would only show happy or inspiring news stories.  This was very hard to do, as there aren’t many of those stories disseminated by news organizations.  He recently described this period as “just routine self-sabotage” in an interview.

 

Roy realized in this time that he was so successful not because of coding but because of how he could coach and guide his clients and be the interlocutor for their other service providers, talking down crises and negotiating through miscommunications. Tired of how exploitative the tech world was, and reeling from the loss of the remainder of his vision loss settlement from the Dot Com Crash, he thought constantly about changing careers. He talked once with Electra and one of her mentors about perhaps being a lobbyist, to enact change. Really he wanted to end up being a sort of patriarch in the village sense, where he could beneficently provide resources and protection to, watch over and support, a group of people he treasured. He also wanted people to pay him to travel!. But how to do that? Not sure. 

 

Then he had a moment where he desperately wanted to help a friend who was in crisis, but didn’t know how. He looked up, how might I do that in the future? And discovered psychotherapy. He set about obtaining his Masters of Science Education: Counseling from Portland State University, class of 2007, through its 3-year accelerated program.  Here as well, he made a tight-knit group of amazing friends from diverse backgrounds, all bonding over their attempts to tease apart their family of origin stories and heal their attachment injuries just enough to function, before they started to see clients.  Naturally, a good number of these new baby counselors used to be other “counseling” professions such as bartenders, and so this group bonded at bars and pubs around the city. He brought together his Grinnell community with his PSU community in jovial house parties and events. Another tick in the Pro column of how alcohol could create a sense of safety, community and bonding.

 

During his training, he was required to do a genogram, which is a drawn family tree with all the drama and hardship written next to the “begots”. He got in contact with his estranged father (who had married again and fathered many more children) and learned that he had an older biological sister. Prior to marriage to Roy’s mother, they had birthed a daughter but had to give her up for adoption. Then they married and had Colin and Roy. Roy was able to learn a bit more of his family history, but had received enough mental health training to realize he had to put barriers up against his father again because of some toxic behavior traits. 

 

Throughout this period of courting Electra and attending his Master’s program, he also found the time to do solo travel to Europe and Canada, and went with Electra on a whirlwind trip to Japan where they both fell in love with the differences and similarities of humans there.

 

Electra graduated in December of 2005 and they married in 2006; the wedding was practically a PSU and Grinnell Reunion. Their hearts were even so expansive that he brought his mother and father there to see him in his joy, with a lot of boundaries and careful separation of the two people, and his brother.  Boundaries are important to health.  Their wedding in the end wasn’t actually a happy memory for them, because some of those boundaries were violated, but they were so happy to be married. They honeymooned in Japan as well, but to save money they did it in the monsoon season and so their honeymoon is more bitter than sweet. But they started their marriage off with couples counseling and learned how to tearfully talk through all of their conflicts. 

 

In his last year in the PSU program, and while Electra worked various jobs, they both applied to the JET Programme, and were accepted after the year-long process. They moved to Portland’s sister city Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan, in late 2007 and stayed for three years. Roy further cemented his love of karaoke bonding, and nomihodai all-the-booze-you-can-drink-in-90-minutes prepaid plans, which is how the Japanese people do stress reduction.  In the final year, he also discovered a proper bath. In Japan, he once again found a way to float at ease in water, where even the bathtubs in the Projects were spacious enough to let him float and be surrounded. Electra and Roy frequented onsen (hot spring-based luxury spas) in nearby mountain spring areas of Hokkaido where they could book a private room away from the ogling eyes of tiny Japanese people and just float in a cedar tub larger than US-style jacuzzi. Sometimes he went with trusted friends to the local gender segregated sentou (neighborhood communal bath house). Mostly he read manga in Japanese in the bathtub in the apartment, gently floating with several inches of hot water on every side. (He had learned business-level fluency of written, read and spoken Japanese in 2.5 years because communication is vital to his survival.)

 

He also found many friends both among the other ALTs and CIRs, and also Japanese teachers and college students. He yet again found a tight-knit group of chosen family, now on both sides of the Pacific. So many that he’s even officiated at least four weddings, three in the US and one in Japan!  It had its stressful times, and probably gave Roy stage 1 liver cirrhosis, but it was an amazing experience.

 

While teaching elementary school and middle school kids, he realized a deep conviction: it is so easy to love any child, and he cared so much for his students, but he had no internal drive to have his own offspring, especially with his health and his family drama.

 

A few years later, when Electra brought up a tentative idea to have children, they talked about this. It coincided with a consequential Rolling Stones investigative journalism article about how oil company’s profits are entirely based on the future of petroleum products being extracted from the ground and not from sales of current stock, and Electra realized that in this late stage Capitalist Settler Colonialist Exploitation culture, there is no way those oil companies would ever change unless forced and who would force them, so there would probably not be a worthwhile future to raise children in without immense stress. They came to an agreement: if they ever chose to have kids, they would foster or adopt; they would help those who are already here. Not to mention, she had her own health and family drama history.  They both enjoyed a meme that goes “We don’t want children. ⇒ boring, easily attacked by nosy family //  Our cursed line ends with us ⇒ dramatic, displays clear conviction and courage!”  After all, they could make decent substitute parents given all their mental health training and the work they’d done to understand their patterns. 

[editor/widow: This whole paragraph is foreshadowing.]

 

Upon return to Portland, Roy was invited back to his alma mater PSU to teach Ethics and Intro to Psychological Diagnosis yearly, while Electra dug into the medical school that grants Doctor of Naturopathy and Masters of East Asian Medicine and Acupuncture (two four year programs stuffed into 6 stressful years). He also served as a member of his professional licensure board’s rules advisory committee for several years, guiding policy on technology use and internet security in the field of mental health. He provided expert testimony for civil and criminal cases regarding counseling technology, and authored several textbook chapters. He was hired to develop content for the Zur Institute, a renown continuing educational content company.  He loved teaching college students, just like he loved teaching English in Japan. And from the international perspective he’d gained in the sometimes xenophobic, previously Imperialist Japan, he also tried to keep up with inclusion and accommodation in his lessons and his teaching orientation, especially where Counseling/Psychotherapy as a profession was concerned.

 

However, academic teaching was a side hustle. His life’s work and deep purpose was found in two realms. First, in his multinational (Japan and Oregon, US) bilingual (but technically mostly English) counseling practice where he focused on being the therapist for geeks, with focus in Internal Family Systems therapy and in Emotion Focused Couples therapy. Having a counselor who understands a couple who have vastly different backgrounds and personas made him very valued by his clients, many of whom work in the tech fields with other international employees.

 

Second, he found immense purpose in building a thriving and nationally respected consulting company, Person Centered Tech (PCT), which assists single providers and small group practices reach HIPAA compliance with technology and devices. He began building it with a simple partnership with his friend Brian, because Brian got an MBA, was a fellow tech nerd, and needed new work, and Roy had noticed that all his counseling buddies just Did Not Grok internet privacy and security, and frankly neither did the big organizations who the smaller solo practices and group practices would look to for guidance.  This 2 person partnership grew little by little as Roy and Brian kept to their strong values and ethics of being a well-paying employer who found great people who needed an opportunity and then trained them up into expertise. The first person they hired, Liathana, started with part time work as Roy's right-hand assistant while she considered whether to complete her PhD in Religious Studies, and became co-owner and a security compliance expert. They did a similar thing with several more people. Here again, his big, strong, kind leadership created a chosen family of business partners and treasured employees.

 

Throughout, Electra has been able to attend his trainings, either by volunteering with the logistics of his 6-hour in-person trainings, or because her school hired him to lecture on HIPAA compliance with devices, or her ethics teacher assigned Roy's essays for her class reading, or her workplace hired him to discuss ethical approaches to money and technology. He has recorded more than 200 episodes each of two podcasts, and there are hundreds of hours of small group “office hours” or official continuing education videos. Not to mention all those essays and emails to clients. All that writing in middle school and college to create his Voice paid off, as he had a unique style of playful humor with deep and broad expertise [he truly did read all the words of the HIPAA and HITECH acts and their white papers, and understood all the ”pipes” of the Internet], He had an approachable tone and an ability to counsel people out of crisis and fear. 

 

Roy was so well known professionally that his sister, the one who had been put up for adoption, was able to find him, and they met months later in 2019. She had attended their father’s funeral after trying to reconcile with the man, and revealed layers upon layers of personality disordered behavior. Roy was always right in keeping him hundreds of miles away, and never chasing the man who had abandoned him. 

 

At the beginning of the pandemic, mental health providers found PCT integral as a trusted resource for securely transitioning to tele-mental health, because Roy’s experience from counseling in both the US and Japanese his co-owner Brian’s expertise in lighting and framing had inspired PCT to develop telemental health set-up courses long before every healthcare provider needed it in one harrowing week. Through PCT, Roy came to be beloved by tens of thousands of members of the counseling, social work, psychology, and related professions across North America for –again– his kindness and ability to make complex topics like ethics, infosec, and the Internet understandable and applicable. Those first two months of the pandemic are what Roy called “Bananas Season,” when he was working 18 hour days, drinking three to five cups of coffee, and barely leaving his office.

 

Despite the outward success of his counseling practice and businesses, despite his stellar reputation as a beloved guide and teacher, Roy was constantly struggling with that Striver Part [IFS terms] who felt he was always 2 steps away from homelessness and impoverishment. He leaned heavily into drinking alcohol to cope when he got a negative review from a presentation, or when a miscommunication or delay had created some customer service issues at the company.  And, because of the way the US social scene is set up, there was no way to entice his friends to hang out unless drinking was involved. For example, while in Japan, Karaoke was a few bucks for an all-night hang out with friends, and a few more bucks for some fries and one drink to nurse, spontaneously available as you walk home with your friends from the afterwork party but aren’t ready to go home yet; whereas here in the US our booth karaoke is a hefty investment and requires a quorum of attendees and a steady bar tab.

 

Also, when you are chronically stressed, your body pumps out cortisol at a steady level, and you can end up with a form of Cushing syndrome.  The signs of Cushing syndrome are large amounts of adipose tissue around your upper abdomen; it pushes on your organs like your stomach, your intestines, and your lungs and makes it hard to breathe and to sleep.  It also redistributes fat out of your limbs, and makes your skin fragile, so with your thin arms and legs and fat abdomen and little skin tears, you look extra unappetizing to the biased people of society, even doctors.

 

Speaking of doctors, let’s discuss yet more medical neglect.

Insider Knowledge

He was often stymied from getting healthcare because first, he had taught ethics or coached HIPAA compliance to most of the counselors and psychologists in Portland and psychotherapists are very careful about dual relationships, so he couldn’t get counseling. Second, any doctor or nurse he went to just said, “aaaaand lose weight. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got for you. Here’s a very expensive milkshake that might help you this time, unlike the last 5 very expensive milkshakes that didn’t do it at all before.” He physically couldn’t. He was malnourished already. His body couldn’t handle any more restriction, and it damned well was done with losing weight. [editor/widow: This is 95-98% true of all repeated restrictive diets for all humans. Roy was not in any way abnormal.]

 

After the nadir of the post-bariatric-surgery extremely low weight, his body did what every single body does after those surgeries, and gained much of the weight back. Since those first heady days of experimentation, bariatric surgeons have learned that people become very malnourished when they, you know, can’t use their stomach or intestines.  Patients nowadays are connected to a specialized dietician; patients are given supplements that are carefully created to dissolve in the alkaline environment of the lower parts of the small intestine instead of the acid environment of the stomach like normal supplements; patients are connected with support groups, and have follow up. Roy got none of this.  And because bariatric surgery is touted as easy and low-risk in its conceptualization, no one talks about those extra requirements, even to other healthcare professionals. Electra learned of all these extras in a continuing education class in 2020, 5 years after she graduated from her ND medical school.  Roy got his surgery around 2000-2001. That’s 20 years of vitamin and mineral deficiency, of macronutrient deficiency. That’s 20 years of always guessing what to eat, but if you eat too fast or the wrong thing, you throw everything up. But why would a doctor need to know anything about organs of digestion being removed when they consider caring for the rest of him with a diet plan? Why would that be relevant???  It never once came up in his treatment plans, which included eating high fiber diets (he physically could not eat that), even though Electra made sure every one of his doctors knew about the surgery in his medical history.

 

More medical neglect: He had a scare in 2013 when heavy drinking at a wedding reception caused him to go into intense gallbladder inflammation and gallstone blockage, after all those years of his bile ducts not being connected to his intestines. Electra had just learned abdominal exams in school that term and she performed one that night when the terrible pain started.  All the pathognomonic signs [editor/widow: this means, if these ABCDE symptoms and signs are here, this thing is pretty much certain to be XYZ condition] were there for gallbladder attack; but the 24 hour nurse hesitated to recommend the ER.  And then, because Roy is kind and jovial and in a fat body, even though we went to Urgent Care as soon as it opened that morning, and acupuncture the next day because Urgent Care had said No Big Deal, and his integrative primary care doctor [editor/widow: “holistic”? Really? No.] twice in that week did more check ups and acupuncture, it wasn’t until a full week (7 full days) later that we were recommended to go to an emergency room. It’s because not a single one of those providers did an abdominal exam or ordered lab tests that would have shown them (1) his gallbladder was palpable [editor/widow: a gallbladder should never, ever be palpable] and (2) his white blood cells were through the roof. No one touched his fat abdomen, nor listened fully when Electra listed in order all the classic signs that pointed straight at gallbladder inflammation and the results of the abdominal exam she had done. That first urgent care PA just rubbed his back and said, “There, doesn’t your deconditioned weak back feel better?” until Electra glared at him and told him to touch his abdomen, which he poked and that was all. The poke was enough to reveal he was in critical condition, and he begrudgingly ordered imaging which he misinterpreted. Roy's PCP even joked with her, the medical student wife who was trying to politely and unobtrusively beg licensed providers to provide medical care while not sounding above her station, about how minimal a physical exam you could get away with and still get insurance coverage. 

 

Roy almost died. Once we arrived in the hospital’s emergency room, he blew through triage because his blood pressure was so high it caused his whole body to jump with his pulse. He was delirious with fever. It took a full day of IV antibiotics in the emergency department until he was even safe for surgery. The surgeon [who was the kindest and most unbiased person to have treated him in Electra’s history of knowing him, probably because she treated cancer] found that the wall of his gallbladder was 1cm thick in every direction (should be millimeters), was so full of gallstones and bacteria that she was in there for several extra hours, and she was worried she hadn’t even gotten them all because they might have gotten up into his liver out-flow ducts and up into the pancreas.  Roy’s gallbladder had been on the verge of bursting and spilling all that bacteria and bile into his abdomen, which would have killed him. He almost died.

 

It took those 4-5 separate providers a week, even with a fever of 102-104°F and rebound tenderness from day one [a terrifying sign, among medical providers] because Roy had been trained up to always seem charming and easy going when asking for help, because if you’re fat and not those things, people won’t see you at all. And if you’re cognizant enough to be charming, how could you possibly need any help?  And, really, why would they ever want to touch his abdomen, even if that’s where the pain is?

 

More medical neglect: In 2019, we also went to a cardiologist associated with a hospital system. We waited months for the referral after another urgent care visit because of a worsening of his chronic heart failure. Roy expressed to the doctor, who barely looked at him, that he was incapable of walking any distance without feeling like he was on the verge of dying, and the doctor said, “yeah, ignore that feeling. It’s wrong. Just keep walking, go on a diet and lose weight.” Then prescribed him ¼ of the dose of appropriate medication even for a thin person, and scheduled no follow ups.  Since we had no follow-ups, the low dosage was revealed 2 years later by another cardiologist’s puzzlement.

 

These are just two life-threatening examples of how doctors simply focused on weight and weight loss and diet despite Roy LITERALLY NOT HAVING A STOMACH OR ONE THIRD OF HIS SMALL INTESTINE [editor/widow: yes I am screaming this at the computer; let it flood your eardrums and cause a ringing sound; imagine me flipping your desk over and throwing a chair through the window], and despite the fact that weight cycling is cardiotoxic, and despite knowing and telling them that his heart had been in mild to moderate failure since adolescence.

 

Strangely, the only consistently good care we got was literally for his body. It started in Japan, where the clinic Roy went to most frequently was where he could work with the leverage-wielding tiny Japanese female physical therapist; his size didn’t matter; she could get him into a stretch or into an exercise, and he would feel real relief.We also got real care after Roy –who used to be an avid bicycle commuter in Portland– turned left a little too sharply after getting his brakes replaced, flipped over the handlebars, and ripped his shoulder tendons up. He never broke any bones when he fell, any of the times he fell. He just lost mobility in his left arm. He had shoulder surgery once a year for three years, and rehab PT in between surgeries and off and on after. Orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, and personal trainers were some of the few medical and health providers on earth who took his History (report of what happened) seriously, used accommodating equipment for larger bodies, and celebrated how capable his body was! We are forever grateful for his orthopedic surgeon, his Japanese and American physical therapists, and his rehab yoga fitness instructor. Respectful care is possible, people. 

 

Even with those bright respites, we struggled to get care for his health throughout all the years of our marriage, just as he had struggled in childhood.

Decline

The great national COVID shut down came upon us all. Roy had one harm reduction method of not drinking too much alcohol, and that was being out at a coffee shop or being at his workplace downtown and getting coffee there. But suddenly, there was nowhere to be out in public for any longer than 5 minutes. Then when Roy settled into his office even more full-time, Portland’s riot cops began tear gassing [editor/widow: oh, I’m so sorry. I meant CS gassing; let’s be accurate] protesters and tourists and residents alike, he couldn’t even make it to and from his downtown workplace without risking being gassed for existing. 

 

And Bananas Season came, where every talk therapy-based mental health provider and the agency that hired them came to Roy’s company for assistance to begin therapy remotely, ASAP.  Everyone felt the dire need to provide this, and any mistake or miscommunication or bad review hit him in the solar plexus like the swing of a wrecking ball.  But, Roy had finally noticed that drinking was making his heart (real and psychic) feel much worse.  He finally found a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner who he hadn’t trained and he felt comfortable going to. She helped him with talk therapy, medication based alcohol cessation, and psychotropic medications to help with his intense anxiety and depression about his health and how he was failing all these mental health providers by not being a little bit faster, a little bit more thorough. And, it did help. But guess what a common and nearly inevitable side effect of psych meds are:  …… No, I’ll just tell you. It’s weight gain.

 

Roy’s nigh unflagging faith in human’s ability to be collaborative or at least to negotiate –the belief that has driven him to become fluent in Japanese in a few years because surely he could talk through any crisis– was starting to falter, given the political polarization into authoritarianism and fascism. This made it even harder to tolerate when his PCT clients were a little irrational in their fears of technology. It made it a little harder when his PSU students were extra twitchy with anxiety-driven performative wokeness and would verbally attack him for not addressing something that, had they waited they would have seen, was discussed on his very next slide.  It was hard to be a tall, larger bodied, white man who was truly the opposite of toxic masculinity, in a world where other white men were pretty much ruining everything, including his future. It was becoming time to step aside and let other people teach and lead. Just a few more projects to complete though. 

 

But entropy and chaos weren’t done with him just yet.

In March of 2021, Electra’s father, who lived near and provided childcare for his grandkids and Electra’s nephews, reached out in a panic to say that Electra’s sister’s husband had assaulted her sister’s son and had accused that step-son (Electra’s biological nephew) of being a sex offender.  Police arrested the nephew, not the abusive step-father.  If the kiddo, who was 14 at the time, was released from juvenile detention, he was definitely kicked out of that home and needed a place to stay, pronto. 

 

Electra and Roy talked intensely about this. They had decided long ago that fostering or adopting would be one way of caring for children, and this seemed The Moment.  They called Electra’s sister and offered to take in Electra’s nephew while the case proceeded.  Everything seemed fine at first. The sister agreed; Electra drove up to Pierce County where he was being held, and the two families plus Electra’s brother (witness and possible second option for housing) met, carefully reviewed the guardianship documents, both before the nephew’s release and after when he signed them too. Hugs and smiles and photos all around. The kiddo had not been arraigned because there wasn’t much evidence, and so the parole officer said he was free to go back to Portland to live with Electra and Roy with no restrictions. They got him enrolled in school, took him grocery shopping and bike riding, and watched movies together.  Things were alright… until the step-father realized that Electra and Roy had no interest in being an agent of his abuse.  After a harrowing and confusing week of recrimination, paranoid hacked-together legal documents being sent late at night by Electra’s sister, accusations that because Roy and Electra are both skilled and experienced mental health practitioners and mandatory reporters, they are somehow absolutely disqualified for caring for an abused child in legal trouble because… um… Not sure why not. It’s irrational.  There were also a lot of calls to a lawyer.  Anyway, after that awful week, Electra’s sister demanded that she and Roy return the kiddo to the sister’s (his mom’s) care but also that Roy and Electra move to adopt the kiddo…. but either immediately within a week (legally impossible) or only once the mother and step-father had coerced his self-incriminating testimony and he was successfully convicted as an adult for serial rape (with no evidence), so… after 3 years?  This began months and months of a legal fight; Roy and Electra, who truly cared about her nephew and wanted to save him from the sort of too little, too late life that Roy had experienced as a child, were always on the verge of either the courts deciding to grant them guardianship, or some ex parte negotiation maneuver maybe resulting in the kiddo being returned to their care, but also being absolutely devoted to never violating their own ethics, their professional oaths, and standing up to abuse and neglect of children. The response they got was irrationality and irrationality and irrationality. Paranoia and fear and impossible demands. Roy was stressed by money, as all the quarterly tax payments and any final money that he had made during Bananas Season were going to the legal costs, and Electra was so stressed by dealing with the child abuse and expectations of perpetuating that abuse that she couldn’t practice medicine.  And, at 40 years old, she discovers she’s had ADHD her whole life, which would explain a lot of things like dyscalculia and a lot of difficulty running a business. Stress upon stress upon stress. How to keep this child safe from afar? How to not give up even though they’d only gotten to care for him for three weeks at most? How to deal with the schism forming in Electra’s family?  Roy’s health went to the back burner, but they reconfirmed time and time again that Roy would not let this child get too little, for too short a time, and with no follow up.

Then news came that the sister was lying to Electra and Roy about the kiddo’s whereabouts even while demanding they adopt him in return for unethical and illegal concessions: the nephew had been reunited with his biological father in a completely different state!  Bio-dad reached out, and despite being described as distant and abusive by Electra’s sister, he turned out to be a thoughtful and attentive father who had done a lot of therapy.  Nephew was doing splendidly in his care. Hope was possible. But Roy and Electra’s lawyer was still necessary because the guardianship case provided the kiddo with his own lawyer and a Court Visitor (an attorney doing investigation on behalf of the child), and bio-dad hadn’t gotten his own lawyer for the new parent custody case.

 

Somewhere in that harrowing time of trying to protect this kiddo, Roy began telling Electra that not only did it “feel like dying” when he went for a walk longer than a few blocks, but his body was telling him that he was dying.  Electra’s special interest on top of mental health is death preparedness, so they began to talk about quality of life.  Roy had very little.  It was hard to breathe or sleep with the cortisol-shaped adiposity under his lungs, and it was hard to eat any food. It was hard to be with friends because COVID made all gatherings difficult, and he couldn’t drink alcohol and social gatherings were a trigger for alcohol use.  It was hard to travel, because his heart and limbs couldn’t tolerate being in a car, let alone a plane, for more than an hour. It was hard to work, because things were so stressful in the family and with Electra’s skittering mental health and inability to work and new diagnosis and new medications messing with her, and Roy‘s medication and conditions basically forced him into three hour naps every day. It was hard to believe in humanity, when the autocratic fascism of the political scene mirrors the irrationality and abuse of our family dynamics. It was hard to Be, when we were experiencing a pandemic with a larger body [editor/widow: because you just know they’ll let you die if you get sick], and the smoke of myriad forest fires, and oppressive heat domes, and political unrest and police violence….... It is hard to Be.

 

And, it’s likely that he will continue to become more and more disabled. This is fearful. Electra cannot lift him, cannot move him. They’ll need to somehow afford a team of CNAs and assistants. They’ll have to move, because their apartment isn’t ADA accessible. What will they do, if his health should get worse?

 

Electra had learned in her medical school that maybe heart failure could be turned around if the doctors would just medicate him appropriately and would get him into cardiac rehab, a type of physician-monitored exercise therapy that can rehabilitate the heart muscle. Could he try that? Exercise and safe movement is a stress reducer and helps with mood. Exercise and safe movement helps with mobility and lung capacity. Exercise might be the answer. Diet certainly wasn’t. So they made a deal. He finally agreed to start some very gentle rehab yoga with a trusted personal trainer that Electra had worked with for years, and Electra would manage all the appointments and referral-chasing phone calls to get him in front of a physician who could maybe get a referral for cardiac rehab.

The End

Autumn 2021 comes along.

 

Electra and Roy spend almost every morning sitting across from each other at the coffee shop. Roy has a wet cough; Electra teases him about coughing into the Terry Pratchett  book he’s reading instead of his arm, and then entices him into doing a crossword puzzle with her. But she also knows about the handout they got from the doctor about what a wet cough means to someone with heart failure.

 

Electra brings Roy out to see the horse that his deputy director and PCT co-owner Liathana bought/adopted in the last year. Horses love Roy, even though he only learned this in the last years. They nuzzle him and let him scritch them. He feeds them apples. Then the three of them go to the cemetery / dog park which Liath likes to take her dog Skye to, and the three of them talk and talk while the moon rises and her dog Skye runs and frolics and chases squirrels in the dusk and darkness. Electra says, “That was lovely and we should do it every other week.” Roy just smiles at her, not answering.

 

Electra notices something precancerous and worrisome on Roy’s face and mentions he should get it checked out, and he gently brushes her hand aside and smiles at her, not answering.

 

Roy and Electra are able to get to one friend’s wedding where they reconnect with another friend and talk for hours; the site is about 1 hour out of town. It is lovely, and he says, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do something like that again. He sleeps most of the way home, exhausted. 

 

The nephew’s biodad is stepping up, getting his own legal counsel and making sure the nephew makes it to all the criminal assessments and hearings, and is refusing to go along with Electra’s sister’s bizarre restrictive parenting plans. Biodad mentions that no new evidence has been sent by the prosecutor; they’re really struggling to find any evidence at all for that criminal case. Roy says, finally, our nephew seems safe.

 

Electra is able to get Roy to a cousin’s big family birthday dinner about 30 minutes out of town, with a movie after. It is lovely, and he says, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do something like that again. He sleeps most of the way home, and has to rest the next day.

 

We are short on money because of those last legal maneuvers, but instead of her mental health making it overwhelming, Electra goes through the finances and writes a budget and grocery list for the rest of the month despite her dyscalculia, and talks about what work she’s going to maybe apply for next month, or there are possible jobs that could start in January. Medication is helping. She feels productive and organized. Roy says, beaming with love, “you’re doing great! I’m so proud of you!”

 

The cousins invite us to travel with them to Ireland for 10 days in mid November, and Roy stutters something about finances in front of them, but tells Electra at home, I’m pretty sure I would die on the plane, and I don’t want to be that uncomfortable when I die.

 

Person Centered Tech launches the automated app that has distilled Roy’s guidance into something the PCT team can execute or the therapists can do on their own, which was a multi-year process. He is ready on the day of the launch for questions and concerns, but the team has got it covered, and interest is building slowly. He steps back to rest, puzzled and a bit let down. But he feels more and more secure that it will work and will be helpful once people know what it is.

 

Thursday, November 18th, 2021. While Electra house-sits for the cousins who are in Ireland, she convinces Roy to use their hot tub as explicitly permitted, and he finally agrees after declining for half a year of their invitations. She needs to drive him the three blocks to get there. They do enjoy it, talking together, floating in hot water. His shoulders look at ease. It is lovely, and he says, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do something like this again.

 

Then on Friday 11/19/2021, Electra races home from housesitting to join Roy’s latest cardiology appointment. The second one with this doctor, who had said there are at least 10 etiologies for heart enlargement and failure, and the last one he lists is obesity, which is clearly the one he’s thinking of, even though Electra pointed out –yet again– that Roy has had an enlarged heart since doctors had looked at it in childhood.  The cardiologist also says that cardiac rehab is not possible, because Roy has to have been hospitalized for his heart to qualify. Roy asks the doctor after being prescribed one new medicine (but not up to the correct dose of three he started last month), “What will I feel? How will I know the medicine is working?” and the cardiologist cheerfully says, “You won’t feel anything. No lab tests will show anything. We’ll only know it’s working in a year when we repeat your echocardiogram. In the meantime we’ll just change one at a time.”  This was despite Electra talking, yet again, about how poor Roy’s quality of life is and how limited he is. And then the doctor mumbles a recommendation about losing weight. Electra puts on a brave face about how no one seems to notice how bad his quality of life is, and hopes that the friendly personal trainer can maybe get trained in cardiac rehab in record time (as she had offered to do so).

 

Electra and Roy talk a bit about politics in the kitchen after the appointment. The Rittenhouse trial just completed, and the white supremecist teen who traveled across state lines to cause trouble has been acquitted.

Roy seems down, and distracted. Humans are just so terrible. Usually she is the angry one and he asks her to ease up a bit, but today he says he’s angry too. She tries to cheer him up by mentioning some positive news, that Sec. of Interior Deb Haaland is removing racist place-names from national parks. He pauses, noticing Electra just regulated her own emotions out of anger and fear. He smiles at her. She knows he is thinking that phrase, “I am proud of you.”

Electra talks about how she needs to pack for a trip to see her brother tomorrow in Seattle. Roy is stricken. “That’s tomorrow? So soon.” he says in a quiet voice. She doesn’t notice his face when he says that. She is trying to be brave for him.

 

They hug, as they usually do, for at least 20 seconds. He goes back to work. She goes to buy those super cheap budgeted groceries and pick up his new medicine which won’t feel like anything.

 

Roy talks to his deputy director, Liathana, about the launch, but she asks him about the appointment.  He looks down, not meeting her eyes through the webinar camera. They end the call at 3:40pm, after Roy told her to make sure to keep meeting with Electra to hang out with her horse and to walk in the cemetery. Liath says, Of course, but you’ll be there too. He doesn’t answer. 

 

When Electra gets home at 4:10 or so, her groceries drop to the floor because the cats are rigid and quiet, staring into the hallway.  Roy’s body is in the hall, mostly face down. There are medical signs that he has died, but Electra has never actually seen a real dead body, and when she flies to his side, he is still warm.  Nothing in the apartment is out of place. Nothing is disturbed. He’s just there. Maybe he fainted? But the signs... She starts screaming, No, no, no, baby no. Roy, wake up. Wake up. Help me help you. Somebody help me, please! even while part of her retreats into her mind, saying to herself, he is already gone.

9-1-1 dispatch recommends getting a neighbor to help because, as she feared, she isn’t strong enough to turn him over in the hallway, as his back keeps hitting the wall.  Neighbors she has only met once come immediately.  And, as she feared, she is unable to give him CPR because he is so strong and sturdy. His head wobbles with no muscle tone when she tries to give him rescue breaths, and there’s no diaphragmatic resistance. She’s still screaming. And shaking. And crying. The husband of the neighbors tries, but he’s never been trained. The wife of the neighbors has only learned to do it on children, so she goes to the door to guide the paramedics/EMTs into the apartment.

Eight men take over CPR on Roy’s body. They move him out of the hallway and Electra is guided to the kitchen. She is still shaking and shuddering. One liaison paramedic gets her to tell what medication he is on, which she can recite exactly, thanks to that cardiologist appointment an hour ago. The liaison offers for her not to watch, but she has to watch. The neighbor hugs her.

She looks up into the kitchen, near the light fixture. She hadn’t felt very “intuitive” at all in years, but somehow she knows that Roy’s soul is there, invisible, near that light. She asks him if he could maybe stay, for her. He points out that his body is dead and unable to be inhabited. The EMTs are still working on him, and if they didn’t declare it too late, who is she to do so, but she can’t ask Roy’s soul to go into a dead body.  Out loud, she thanks the men for working on him.  

She calls Liath, who might be able to watch the cats if she needs to be in the hospital for a while. Liath’s voice sounds absolutely wrecked when Electra stutters out that Roy has collapsed, and Electra almost says Never Mind. But Liath agrees to come.

She calls her brother. Harder to speak now. Explains that Roy has collapsed, has no pulse. Going to the hospital. Can’t visit tomorrow. Has to repeat herself.

She calls her aunt. Please come. I am alone. I need help. Roy has collapsed. Meet me at the hospital. She has to repeat herself again. Her aunt and uncle leave immediately to meet her. 

 

The liaison catches her attention and asks if Roy had a DNR. Her eyes widened because Roy had intended to get one, but we never got around to it, so she says No. They watch the CPR for another interminable time. He approaches again and says, “You have made all the right choices. He is getting all the same care, the same medicines, that he would be getting in a hospital, but I need to talk to you about the rates of survival with CPR.” She says to him in a steady voice, looking him straight in the eyes, “I’m a physician and trained in CPR. I know what the survival rates are.” Which is to say: very, very, very low.  He nods. He looks back to the people doing CPR. He tells her, “You made all the right choices.”  He gives her his name and says a crisis response volunteer is going to meet her at the hospital. Does she want to ride along in the ambulance?

She says, “I have to find my cats. They might have gotten out. If they are hurt or lost……… I can’t even…… I can’t lose them tonight, not when…..” so her neighbor says she’ll drive Electra to the hospital.  The paramedics check three more times if she is coming before they leave. But Roy’s soul doesn’t leave. And she has to find the cats, who were his only companions when he died.

Liath arrives when Roy’s body is carried to the ambulance.  He is not being neglected, here.

 

Liath and her neighbor help her find her cats who were safe and hidden in the apartment, and feed them, and get to a safe room, and pick up some medical detritus and take out the trash, and then drive to the hospital. While caring for the cats, Electra had noticed Roy’s phone was just lying on the counter top in the bathroom, a few feet away from where Roy fell. She also noticed that the cat litter box looks like it had just been cleaned but was dropped a few inches. The neighbor will drive Electra, but Liath wants to drive herself in case she needs to come back to take care of the cats. She promises to drive safely. Electra can’t lose anyone else tonight

 

The hospital calls on the ride over, tells her how and where to get in. She is met by two social workers and the crisis response volunteer; the security guards say that only one person is allowed in per party, and the social workers tell them, Let Everyone In. Barriers fall. Electra is in a room with Liath and her neighbor, and soon her aunt and uncle, and two social workers, and the hospital administrator on call. But for a moment, she’s alone with just friends and family. Liath asks what happened. Electra says, I think Roy was dead before I even arrived home. I’m 75% sure of that. But 25% not sure. I simply can’t say he’s dead unless someone tells me he’s dead. Then we are joined by all the staff, and now three physicians. Electra recognizes the format the resident is using for the talk. It’s called SPIKES and it’s for delivering bad news.

 

They ask her what she knows, and she explains with medical jargon the signs she saw when she got home that he was not alive, and the signs during CPR that he was not alive.  The resident nods, and declares his time of death to be 5:15 which is when they stopped trying.

Electra asks if they have any ideas about his cause of death. She has to know if it was sudden, like a blood clot, or longer, like if he was choking or something where he suffered. They tell her that they don’t have any ideas at all. [editor/widow: This is foreshadowing.]

 

Electra works with the hospital administrator to authorize an autopsy. She has to know not just about a cause of death, but potentially whatever all those neglectful doctors missed when they told him to just lose weight. He gives her other handouts about what her next steps are. Her aunt stands beside her, and Liath holds her hand.  The administrator leaves and she cries for the first time. Not screaming, just crying.

 

In a few minutes, his body has been prepared to be viewed. Her aunt goes with her and stands in the corner.  His hands aren’t tense any more from typing and gesturing, and his nails are clean and perfect. His forehead is relaxed, his eyes are still clear but won’t be soon. His neck and shoulder muscles aren’t tense any more from struggling to breathe. His favorite shirt that made his eyes look green is bunched underneath his torso, and she’ll never see it again. His wedding ring is in a medical urine sample bottle, tossed between his legs. She steps into the hallway and is escorted back. The crisis response volunteer gives her a little magazine of resources. Liath, who had been working by his side for 6 years, goes to see Roy’s body in repose as well.

 

The attending doctor wrote on his death certificate that his cause of death was obesity. They asked too little, spent too short a time, and had no follow up questions. But Electra wouldn’t learn this for two more weeks.

 

Electra was put into a chain of custody: first her aunt and uncle stayed with her into the evening; her brother drove down that night from Seattle and stayed the weekend instead of her going to see him, and then her cousins flew back from Ireland; their first plane had taken off on the day Roy died, and he had known he would have died on that plane.

 

While her brother is in town, they go for a walk and Electra starts piecing together all the things she noticed and immediately remembered. Based on the state of the apartment (nothing out of place), his body’s position and state, the phone placed on the bathroom counter, the litter box being slightly disrupted, and the conversation Liath told her about after the visit with the cardiologist, this is what Electra thinks happened. 

 

November 19th, 2021 3:45pm was the pivotal moment when Roy’s future life would be so overwhelmed by pain, by untreated disability, by increasing poverty and insecurity, and by his growing contempt for what humanity had in its future, that it would have overshadowed the brightness and light and strength he had brought into the world. Electra is ready, his nephew is safe, PCT is as self-sustaining as it can be. She will be home in a few minutes rather than a state away for a whole weekend. 

The only thing that is needed now is that the cats need some care. 

So he set down his coffee cup and secured his work computer, used the restroom himself, then emptied the cats’ litter box. As he knelt to replace it in the hallway, his soul simply stepped backwards out of his body, and his heart and breath stopped. 

It doesn’t matter what the autopsy says about the actual cause of death. He died a good death, quickly and without pain, before things got worse. His soul stepped away when all the things he worried about were still limned with hope, and when he and Electra had made all the right decisions and could have no doubt that though his death could have been different, it couldn’t have been better. 

 

Electra’s brother helped her find a funeral home which could facilitate aquamation, or alkaline hydrolysis.  Roy loved baths, and the ocean. Now most of him will be one with the ocean that held him as a child, just water salts and proteins and fats, phasing back into new life or perhaps becoming the bedrock sediment layer of the world to come. Maybe that part of him will become some shimmering bioluminescence, light as a gesture, swirling in the night. As water, he can hold up other children. He never needed to learn to swim because he became the water. 

 

It almost didn’t happen because his recorded weight was right at the machine’s tolerance cut off, but the funeral home we chose made sure it would happen. 

 

Finally he got enough, for the right amount of time, until the end.

Epilogue

Though Roy’s life was full of pain, uncertainty, neglect, and anxiety, his life also had so much meaning.  He brought so much good into the world, guided thousands and thousands of people with kindness and patience, was a model of a true “patriarch” and of scientifically accurate alpha masculinity, and kind leadership. After Electra's passive Facebook notices of his death while in the thick of it, Liathana and the PCT team sent the next notice of his death to 26,000 mental health provider mailing list subscribers, who on average help 20-30 additional people at a time and maybe some hundred over a career, so it is no exaggeration to assume that through his guidance on ethical, considerate and wise behavior, he has made more than 500,000 to 2,000,000 individual lives better in this world we share. He spent 20 incredible years of love and curiosity and understanding and support in his marriage to Electra, who will never forget him because his partnership shapes so much of her thought and action even now that he is gone.  One of the clients who barely even saw him present nevertheless wrote that she will ever have a “Roy Introject” guiding her actions, and that is absolutely true of Electra too. 

 

Roy and Electra formed a sort of binary star system with each other. They held each other’s secrets and fears and solar flares where others saw the beaming light of competence and strength; they circled close with a warm embrace. And when Roy’s star went supernova long before hers went out, as they always knew it would, she was not left in the dark. She looked up and saw the expansive galaxy of the community that she and Roy were a part of, that they had drawn close with Roy’s gentle gravity well.

 

Roy changed the life of almost everyone he met, causing them to slightly reorient their trajectory, sometimes a little and sometimes in entirely new and exciting directions. Roy was big, strong, and kind, and he brought security to the world. As his friend Brian said at a private ceremony a few days after his death [recorded, will be shared], Roy gave of his heart twice as much and so used it up in half the time.

 

His Celebration of Life will be held Sunday May 29, 2022 at Cheatham Hall, World Forestry Center in Washington Park, Portland Oregon. The live-streamed version details will be provided shortly.

Use this form to join a mailing list for updates about the celebration.

 

Please sing aloud to any song in remembrance of his joy, and hug the people and pets you love.