in an antigay city and state." Those were the words
of the social worker at Miami's Jackson
Memorial Hospital as my partner, Lisa, lay dying just
steps away in the trauma center, behind locked doors. He
punched his code on the keyboard and walked away, leaving me
standing in the waiting room with our children --
Katie, David, and Danielle, ages 9 through 13. None of
us could see her.
Less than 30
minutes earlier, we had been on an RFamily Vacations cruise
ship set to sail to the Bahamas. For months, each of us had
been dreaming of white sandy beaches and blue waters
and spending some much needed vacation time together
as a family.
Lisa and I met in
1989. We dated, settled down, built our lives together
over many years. We supported each other through school and
while we established our careers. We adopted our
children when they were little. We had the perfect
Lisa and the kids
were on the top deck of the ship when she collapsed
last February. They were playing basketball as the crew
prepared the ship to depart. The kids managed to help
her down to our stateroom, where I had been unpacking.
As soon as they came through the door, I knew it was
something serious. Lisa, who was healthy, could not talk or
stand. I asked if she had hit her head, and she
sternly replied no in sign language, which we had
learned to communicate with the many language-delayed
children we had fostered over the years. When medics
loaded her into the gurney to transport her to the hospital,
she signed, "I love you." It was the
last time we would see her alive.
Lisa and Janice flank children Katie, David, and Danielle
as they board the RFamily cruise ship in February.
It may sound
morbid, but we had prepared for something like this: When I
was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, we took every
precaution, including signing advanced directives and
durable powers of attorney. We tucked them away in our
files in case my condition should worsen, but being
denied access to my partner in the hospital? This was
backward--this should not be happening.
wasn't allowed to see Lisa and her doctors, other
families went in and out of the trauma center
unfettered. I spoke with the receptionist, the guard,
and the insufferable social worker -- they all refused
to tell me of Lisa's condition or treatment. I even
had Lisa's physician call from home in an
attempt to get any medical information, and a friend
go to our house, get our legal documents, and fax them to
the hospital. Despite my best efforts, it was three hours
before anyone came out to talk with me about Lisa.
It was a
neurosurgeon, who told me that she had suffered massive
bleeding due to a brain aneurysm and asked my
permission to place a pressure monitor in her skull. I
consented, and then an hour later two different
surgeons came out and warned me that the rupture had
seriously damaged her brain. As they were telling me
this, they were paged, then stepped out of the room.
When they returned, they said her other pupil had
"blown" and that Lisa was likely brain-dead.
Shortly after, she was taken off life support.
was taken from my family that day, someone we can never
get back. Lisa was denied the right to be with her family
and to hold my hand during the last moments of her
This July, just
five months after Lisa's death, the kids and I
arrived in Miami for another RFamily cruise bound for
the Bahamas. I was seeking closure, drawn back to the
place that has haunted my children and me. And we
found some: We found Lisa's spirit, surrounded by gay
and lesbian families like ours, celebrating and
relaxing together in a safe place -- where we are