Thursday, June 12, 2008

goodbye mac

This is the time of year I can't help but think of my husband's friend of 35 years. Mac was an independent, cranky old fuck, 10 years older than my sweetheart. A carpenter all of his life, he'd made a decent living, had never eaten anyone's shit, and had survived most everything life can throw at a person. Crappy parents, yup. Juvenile delinquent, certainly. Problems with alcohol, drugs? Yes, but ancient history. Good marriage gone bad? Sadly, yes. Estranged from a child? True. Depression, even to the end, but Paxil actually did do some good and kept him out of the panic attacks that plagued him periodically.

Mac's end came a mere three months after his COBRA health insurance expired and four years before he was Medicare eligible. The colonoscopy he'd paid for the week before revealed cancer. Mac's independent spirit ~ that all American, up by the bootstraps, don't take nothing from nobody, I'll do it myself, ain't no help anyway spirit ~ would not allow him to depend on others. And in the end, for quality cancer care, there is no real other to depend on anyway.

Mac called the non-emergency number for the police department, asked them to investigate a man down at his home address. Then he stepped out into his tiny front yard, a few feet away from the watermelon patch he loved, and blew his head off with a shotgun.

Mac worked all his life in this country. He was, like many of us, deeply flawed. He was also kind and generous and loving, a crackerjack funny man I loved with all my heart. I can't forget him, and I can't forget that he died because he believed he was out of options, that there was nothing for him as an uninsured man with a newly diagnosed cancer.

Did his depression contribute to that decision to take his life? I'm sure it did, as did the sense of being absolutely alone with an insurmountable problem and the profound need to leave something behind for his kids and grandkids. He couldn't see everything he'd worked for all his life ~ a kickass gun collection, some incredible ancient and valuable bottles, some eyecups and a little piece of property ~ going on the auction block to pay for his treatment. He wanted to leave something for his children. In his mind, his decision was selfless. In my mind, it's a goddamned American tragedy.

My friend, the Bad American, with more on the American dream.

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Anonymous ewe said...

He sounds like he was a real nice man. It appears he actually did choose his last option too. I would like to be at a party of your friends someday but i insist you be there to protect me. lol

June 12, 2008 1:08 PM  
Blogger BigAssBelle said...

ewe, i adore you, honey. my friends are certainly varied. comes, i think, from being a recovered drunk/addict. my husband, too, was a bad ass little junkie/drunk before i met him. he met mac at work back in the '70s. he was one of the few folks mike stayed in contact with once he sobered up.

but yes, i'll protect you :-) even teach you to shoot, cupcake.

June 12, 2008 1:35 PM  
Blogger enigma4ever said...

really sad..and really nice tribute...this should not be happening..and yet I worry it is happening everyday...more than we know 47 Million without insurance ( that is the 2004 figure- I am sure it is 49 million now if you count job loss numbers of past 4 years), and then there is 25 million that are's shameful...

so sorry about your friend....thank you for loving him enough to share his story...

June 12, 2008 2:52 PM  
Blogger Dusty said...

BaB, it breaks my heart to hear about these kinds of stories.

I too have a friend who has worked hard all his life, owned a home and yet didn't have Health insurance, his company didn't offer it.

Jeff too is now dying of cancer, a type that could of been caught early enough to treat in his case, and I rail at the government for being at fault..those bastards don't care how many American's die each day because of a lack of basic healthcare.

Insurance that every other industrialized nation offers its citizens.

Mac was a wonderful man to be able to count you and your hubbie has friends that will always remember him.

But I still blame our government..they would rather spend billions on war than helping our citizens enjoy a basic quality of life.

June 12, 2008 3:36 PM  
Anonymous tater said...

This post has me crying at work. Fucking avoidable tragedy, brought about by for profit medicine, and medical insurance. We simply must stop the machine, and begin a national health care program. Richest fucking country in the world, and honest, hard working folks are making decisions like this everyday. It sickens me. So sorry about your friend.

June 12, 2008 4:12 PM  
OpenID badamerican said...

I'm flabbergasted and sad and angry all at the same time. I wrote my story before I saw this. And I all I can say is to echo what Michael Moore said in the movie "Sicko:" "What kind of people are we?"

What kind of people would allow people to fall into this situation? What kind of cold hearted bastard does one have to be to advocate a system that takes good people, chews them up and spits them out and literally, once done with them, takes every last penny they own for the 'right' to live? Or forces them to kill themselves?

Sadly I know people who would justify such a system as we have now. And they call themselves 'Christians' too!

Sometimes it's just too much to contemplate. All so fucking avoidable - just ask the Canadians. But then the right people wouldn't make a fucking fortune. That's the American Way. People are so expendable in our society - whether it be on their front porch by their own hand or in Iraq. But the right people make a fortune and that's all that matters.

June 12, 2008 4:40 PM  
Anonymous Al said...

Beautifully toned post Lynette.

Welcome to the state of health care in America. What we value and what we put priority into. So very sad.

It's strange, the point that sticks with me is Mac calling 911 to report a "man down". I can't imagine how alone he mist have felt at that time.

June 12, 2008 10:03 PM  
Blogger Doralong said...

That poor dear man.. how completely avoidable and what a tragic reminder of how badly health care is failing to deliver to a large percentage of americans.

Depression aside, I'm thinking he just wanted to go out on his own terms. Which actually in a perverse way I get.

June 13, 2008 5:59 AM  
Blogger Confessions of A Mississippi Mom said...

What a wonderful blog a tribute to a friend. Has me crying, it screams tragic. I will never understand this ending, b/c there is hope an rainbow of sorts after the rain. So I have a hard time to find that even in bad heath that some would make a decision to give up.

June 13, 2008 7:34 AM  
Blogger Jackie said...

What a sad decision for your dear friend to make. It says something about our country's priorities. Now, everytime I hear politicians speak on healthcare, I will think of Mac. We cannot afford to lose our kind, generous, loving citizens.

June 13, 2008 9:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

This tragedy is happening every day, all across America.

It's a national disgrace. Will it take a revolution to get decent health care in this country?

June 13, 2008 10:00 AM  
OpenID badamerican said...


It may indeed, take a revolution. The problem is that Americans don't seem to have rebellion in them anymore.

June 13, 2008 12:15 PM  
Blogger p.alan said...

Sad for you and anyone who loved him. Hooray for him, and knowing he could still control his own destiny. I cannot say I wouldn't have done the very exact same thing... even with insurance.

You said he took no shit off anybody, and he proved himself to be a gristly-tough man up to his end. He is indeed a man to revere.

June 15, 2008 8:04 PM  
Anonymous TedBear said...

I am so sorry your friend killed himself. It is horrible. His death is a story that should shame America. Instead, America will continue to feed the gaping maw of the heath insurance and medical industrial complex, while denying medical care for all.

We just went through the completed suicide of a dear friend a few weeks ago. We really need to talk. I will call Friday afternoon.

The suicide itself was awful. His mate discovered him. Cold. Horrible. Dead. Police. Ambulance. Hours of investigation. No answers.

Almost as bad was the funeral weekend with the family in the victims very rural home town. Did I say rural? I mean rural. I mean no WalMart rural.

It was a deep South rural funeral that combined 100 degree heat + 100% humidity + amazing comfort food + Antebellum Mansions + Southern Gothic + HBO's Six Feet Under + the inconsolable Mother screaming blame at the surviving mate for an hour + the mother making the worst primal genuine painful mourning crying haunting noises sounds of pure anguish that I hope I never hear again in my life + the mother throwing herself into her son's coffin at the viewing and again when they tried to close the casket before the funeral + the reading of the list of survivors after 2nd and 3rd cousins, where surviving husband is "and X, his special friend" + a nice eulogy from the Pentecostal preacher + closing the funeral service with a Pentecostal Altar Call. The Pentecostal preacher's homily was kind, and nice. But an Altar Call at a funeral? Are you kidding me? It was a wierd weekend. I am glad we were there to help the surviving Husband but it was totally surreal.

The mother and family were truly kind and lovely to us. The surviving husband isn't so lucky. The mother hates the surviving mate. The rest of the family is nice to the surviving mate.

The mother needs reasons for the suicide, and there aren't any to provide comfort. The mother channels grief into hate for the victims husband.

We need to talk.

June 19, 2008 11:27 PM  
Blogger Willym said...

I've been away from reading my friends blogs for a while and have so much to catch up on. Reading this I was struck by what a tribute it was to a real American - not a "look I'm wearing a flag in my label" American, not a "my country right or wrong" American but a man who represents what American should and could mean. Sadly the failure of his country to provide for him in his need is a bitter irony that makes me heart sick.

June 20, 2008 7:41 AM  
Blogger sexy said...









March 16, 2009 2:21 AM  

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