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Saturday, October 13, 2007

In Honor of Janice and in Memory of Lisa

I have never met Lisa or her partner Janice. That is my loss.

I intended to post this story as soon as I read it back in July. I looked and couldn't find it in our archives. With Janice's encouragement, I'm posting it now.

I've read many horror stories about the mistreatment of same sex couples in this country. All of them anger me; this one left me in tears. It still does.

Yesterday was the 16th anniversary of their union. They'd been together 18 years. I won't reprint her entire post. I hope you drop over and read it along with her other posts. She'll be speaking at an affair at the Hotel Roosevelt in Los Angeles tonight and has promised to post the text of her speech once it's delivered. I'll update then.

Two sentences jumped out at me.

This:

I can’t tell you how much lisa was there for me all the years since my MS diagnosis and how I feel like a failure for not being there to hold her hand when she died. it haunts me even tonight - and tomorrow I will have to tell a room full of people how I failed Lisa, how the”sytem” fails many families every day.


And this:

She wasn’t in her death, as I explained to Kelly - Florida listed on her death cert.. she was “single”.. the only other choices are married or divorced.. not even a box for “other” - would take that for now, no nothing to count our 18yrs together, it is gone with the swoop of a pen in all official government records that SHE counted, that WE counted.
Janice and their children did not fail Lisa. We as a country, Florida as a state, the uncaring hospital, and the homophobic bigots in this country failed her. By his action yesterday, my governor failed the "Lisa's" of California.

Janice, if you're reading it wasn't my intention to turn this into a political rant but somehow my words got away from me. I'm letting it stand.

Afterthought (right after I posted of course)

When my daughter was in the terminal care facility, no one questioned me - ever.

When my husband was recovering from his recent bypass surgery, no one questioned me - ever.

It isn't fair and I can't begin to say how wrong it is that I take for granted the rights they are denied.

Lisa or Janice could be my children. They could be yours. We must speak out against the injustice.


Here, from Family Equality Council (formerly Family Pride - I must fix our sidebar) is Janice writing for Family Week An article was published in The Advocate as well.



Triumph over Tragedy

David on Jul 19th 2007

Today, we bring a very touching guest post by our friend Janice Langbehn. She lost her partner, Lisa Pond, while they were waiting for the February Rosie Cruise to depart. In her own words, here is her story:

On February 18, 2007 my partner, Lisa Marie Pond, died from a brain aneurysm. On that day, our family was dreaming of white sandy beaches and blue waters as we were getting ready to set sail on the RFamily Vacation cruise out of Miami to the Bahamas. Instead, Lisa who was very healthy collapsed while watching our children play basketball on the top deck. The kids were brave souls and carried Lisa down to the stateroom where I took one look at her and knew it was very serious, she couldn’t talk at all and had no ability to stand. I will always have to live with the memory of the trauma our children endured by watching as their “other” mom was dying before their eyes. Fortunately, Lisa and I knew sign language because we have had many foster children who had language delays. So I signed and asked her if she hit her head and she replied very sternly in sign language “NO”. That is when I thought it was a stroke or some other serious brain event. The ship porters helped me get her to the Ship’s doctor who called for Miami Fire and Rescue.

The kids and I packed all our belongings and hurried off the boat while Lisa was intubated and taken to local trauma hospital in Miami . The kids and I waited and waited for word about Lisa, finally when someone appeared nearly 2 and ½ hours later – Dr. Garnet Fredrick, a social worker, was very blunt in telling me that I was in “an anti-gay city and state” and that I would need a health care proxy before I was allowed to see my partner of nearly 18 years or know of her condition. After getting his fax number I immediately called Kathy Bowen our closet friend in Olympia who went to our house, found our legal documents including our Power of Attorney, Living Will and Advance Directive allowing me to speak for Lisa in the event she couldn’t. Kathy went to our house within minutes of my frantic call, faxed our legal documents to the hospital in Miami. I then waited and waited – going on three hours when I finally called our family physician at her house in Olympia. WA on a Sunday and asked for her help because I was being barred from seeing Lisa and still was being denied the information on Lisa’s condition. Halfway through the call with our family doctor a neurosurgeon appeared to tell me that Lisa had suffered a massive and fast bleed in her brain and they needed to place a pressure monitor in her head and that other surgery may be needed. I consented. It was only then I realized that they had received the documents Kathy had faxed to them nearly an hour ago, yet I was still not being allowed to see my partner. I also never saw that social worker, Dr. Frederick again. He never came to me to say that he was sorry for his comments or that he received our legal documents and they were sufficient.

Another hour passed before two more neurosurgeons appeared to talk with me and Lisa’s parents who were listening in via my cell phone. It was during this meeting that they initially said that one of Lisa’s pupils was fixed and not responding but there may be a chance. Seconds later, the surgeons got a page, stepped out of the family room and then re-entered to say that both of Lisa’s pupils now were blown and she was essentially brain dead and they would do the flow study in the morning to confirm. It was only after this meeting that I learned that our Lisa was essentially gone, that no surgery could save her brain from the massive aneurysm. After the doctors left the room, I brought our children in to tell them that their “other” mom had died and that she was in Heaven now. I explained that we would keep her on a breathing machine so that she could donate her organs so that others could live just as Lisa wanted it.

More than one tragedy occurred that February day in Miami: I lost my partner, my love, my life, our kids lost their “other” mom and what makes all these tragedies more horrible is how I was treated by the Social Worker and receptionist at that hospital in Miami by telling me I couldn’t see Lisa nor make important decisions about her care. In those 3 hours, desperate for information about Lisa, I paced and watched other families being brought back into the trauma center, yet my family waited, with no word about Lisa’s condition. Our children Danielle, David, Katie and I all lost the ability to be with Lisa in her last moments of consciousness, to hold her hand and to say goodbye and that is something that can never be given back to our family. When I finally was allowed to see Lisa it was with a Priest to perform her Last Rites.

So our family grieves for what was. We grieve for the immeasurable loss of Lisa and we grieve for all the other GLBT families who face discrimination on a daily basis. Lisa and I never set out to change the world or change how others accept gay families, we just wanted to be allowed to live equally and raise our children by giving them all the same opportunities their peers have. I believe we achieved that and in no way deserved to be treated the way we were in Miami. To this day, I am unable to receive Lisa’s death certificate directly from Miami or the State of Florid. Instead I have to ask the funeral home to request them for me because we were not a recognized couple. This may seem insignificant but without a death certificate, our children’s social security and life insurance benefits were held up. In addition, I have been unable to receive her medical records from Miami though I have requested them numerous times. I also filed a formal complaint about 1 month after her death regarding the Social Worker, the receptionist and our family’s treatment – yet I have heard nothing until this week past week (7/10/07) when the hospital said that they had “lost the complaint”.

There was brightness in this tragedy of how we were treated, when the organ donation individuals took over – who are separate from Jackson Memorial Hospital. The air in Lisa room turned to one of love and light. They allowed me to sign all the consent forms to donate Lisa’s organs – just how Lisa planned it. They allowed the children to visit whenever and for as long as they could and allowed me to stay by Lisa’s side until organ matches were made. We are thankful for the many individuals who have been there for our family over the past several months including Rosie and Kelli O’Donnell, the incredible individuals at RFamily vacations including Gregg and Colleen, Cindi, Ross and Adam from GLAAD and most importantly Kathy and Bob Bowen who have taken me and our children under their wing to see us through this horrible loss.

Shortly after arriving back home after Lisa’s funeral Mass in her home state of Connecticut , I wrote this in the memory of Lisa. Thank you.

OUR LISA
Her smile and love of life is left with all who knew her
Her simple wish was to be a mother and A Girl Scout Leader
She was both and so much more
As a mother she nurtured so many
Some for only a few days
Four became her forever children
They now look up to the heavens to see her star shining
As a Girl Scout Leader her troop swelled to over 30 girls
She never said “no” to a girl
Wanting to help as many as she could
Even the adults who “discriminated” against her
Her loss is felt now by too many to measure
Her sons, her daughters, her partner and her friends
Even in her death she gave to others
By giving life through organ donation - as young as a 12yo
She left this earth happy and content
Dreaming of blue waters and white sandy beaches
Signing “I Love You” to her kids in their palms
when she could not speak
She was a partner, a beloved mother to many,
troop leader to many more
She will not be forgotten

by: janice

COMMENTS:

The Future Was Yesterday said...

I don't know as there ever will be a uniform change to recognizing same sex couples' life long devotion. I hate to say that, but I think the Florida's of this nation will prevent any change other than hod podge and vague. And it's not just Florida. Start with them, and go down the entire coast...(: A five year old was recently sent home (here) by his school, for "evaluation", for kissing a male playmate and friend, on the cheek.

Saturday, October 13, 2007 9:38:00 PM


Worried American said...

A heart rending story but unfortunately not the only one of its kind. It has happened many times, to the shame of our society.

It is also a shame that the innocent show of affection by a 5 year old is seen as wrong by narrow minded adults. When they are toddlers we ooh and ahh about how cute it is for the little ones to demonstrate affection. Then a few years later certain adults attach a sexual interpretation to it. Fie on them.

Sunday, October 14, 2007 12:03:00 AM



2 Comments:

  • At Saturday, October 13, 2007 9:38:00 PM , Blogger The Future Was Yesterday said...

    I don't know as there ever will be a uniform change to recognizing same sex couples' life long devotion. I hate to say that, but I think the Florida's of this nation will prevent any change other than hod podge and vague. And it's not just Florida. Start with them, and go down the entire coast...(: A five year old was recently sent home (here) by his school, for "evaluation", for kissing a male playmate and friend, on the cheek.

     
  • At Sunday, October 14, 2007 12:03:00 AM , Blogger Worried American said...

    A heart rending story but unfortunately not the only one of its kind. It has happened many times, to the shame of our society.

    It is also a shame that the innocent show of affection by a 5 year old is seen as wrong by narrow minded adults. When they are toddlers we ooh and ahh about how cute it is for the little ones to demonstrate affection. Then a few years later certain adults attach a sexual interpretation to it. Fie on them.

     

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