Arnie's last goodbye

I had second thought's about posting this, but after following his articles for three years, I had to post it if for nothing more than a tribute to him. We all live for something, we contribute and our lives DO MATTER, we do affect those around us. We live life as a flower in the field, grow and bloom a beautiful flower for all to see, but when the season is over it wilts and die's Live life to be remembered, this is the best we can hope for. and all we should strive for.

For you Arnie

Arnie's Rebounding World: The Final Chapter

by Merle Goodman

This is a special edition of "Arnie's Rebounding World." Many Beacon readers know that Arnie Goodman, who authored this column for more than three years, passed away last July. This edition of the column is written by Arnie's wife Merle, who has generously offered to share with the Beacon community the "Final Chapter" of Arnie's story.

I told Arnie that, when he died, I would write his final column.

It has taken me longer than I expected, however, as it was not as easy as I thought it would be.

I wanted to write the final chapter through his eyes and words because, after all, it is his story. But I ran into two roadblocks:

Number one, Arnie wasn’t a big talker about his illness from a feelings point of view. When he wrote his columns, it came very easy for him. He usually knocked out a column in an hour, maybe a little more. It was apparent to me that writing about his feelings and thoughts was a lot easier than talking about them.

Once he finished a draft, Arnie would immediately email it to me to read and proof. In reality, I believe that this was the way he shared a majority of his heart-felt thoughts, even to me. I always made a few grammatical corrections and marveled at and praised his writing.

So, although I always wanted to write his final chapter – especially as seen through his eyes – it became glaringly apparent that he hadn’t shared his final thoughts with me.

Which leads me to roadblock number two. Because I never knew Arnie’s inner thoughts about dying, this final chapter became my and my family’s final chapter, and maybe not so much Arnie’s.

But, at this point, I am ready and willing to share our experiences.

It was the week of July 21 last year, and Arnie was going into Moffitt for routine blood tests. His counts were low, so they gave him Neupogen (filgrastim) shots to bolster his white blood counts. Neupogen, though, didn’t seem to be doing the trick that week. The low counts meant Arnie was very susceptible to infection.

That Monday, while I was out with my daughter Dori, Arnie sent me a text telling me about his counts and said “This isn’t good.” Dori and I had heard this hundreds of times, so we kept doing our own thing. We were getting ready for a trip to New York, which was to be our last hurrah before she left for college. I was also getting ready to visit my dad for his 85th birthday.

Neither trip happened.

On the morning of July 24, Arnie took our chocolate Labrador retriever for a walk, as he always did. They came home early, as Arnie shortened the walk, not feeling up to par. I suggested I go to the clinic with him that day as he was scheduled for his Neupogen shot.

Arnie had no fever; he just felt punky. He got fluids and Neupogen, and we were told to come back on Friday for lab work yet again. After six hours in the clinic, we came home and, within an hour and a half, I was taking his temperature, as he was complaining about being cold in the middle of July in Florida.

By 9:00 that evening, I was driving Arnie with his overnight bag to Moffitt to check him into the hospital. I packed his bags with enough clothes for two nights. We had a routine for these after-hours hospital check-ins. This was a routine that we had done many, many times, I am so sorry to say. I dropped him off at the entrance to Moffitt hospital and he went ahead of me to check in. I always parked the car and brought his overnight bag in with me.

That night, as I was dropping Arnie off, he turned and looked at me and said, “Well, here we go again.” I nodded in agreement. Arnie said, “Nobody knows what we go through.” I nodded again. Nobody did, and, at that moment, we both realized we were a team, with a routine, and only we could relate to this.

By Friday, Arnie’s fever counts were the same, all not good. He had the flu, felt terrible, and was not getting better.

By Friday night and Saturday morning, I noticed he was having trouble breathing and was short of breath after doing just simple things. He was sleeping 80 percent of the day. I told anyone who would listen to me that I was concerned about his condition. They said Arnie had the flu, which had turned into pneumonia.

His counts were low, his kidneys were failing, and he felt terrible. There was talk about putting him on a respirator. I called my son, who lives in Washington DC, to tell him to come home, and spoke to Arnie’s parents about coming to Tampa.

Arnie initially wanted to be on a respirator. He thought maybe it would give his body time to heal as his counts came up. I wasn’t that optimistic, but, for a short while, I was willing to go with his wishes.

By late Sunday, things continued to spiral downward, and, by Monday, the doctor said we had to make a choice: respirator, or palliative care.

Arnie made the decision: oxygen and drugs to keep him sedated. At that point, all indications were that Arnie would not live more than a day or so.

Our family sat by his side all day. Arnie had felt bad enough Thursday through Monday that he requested no visitors. Friends were disappointed but understood. On that Monday morning, when things were getting worse, Arnie finally said people could come for short visits. Only a few people came, because of timing, not because they didn’t want to. Arnie had an oxygen mask on and was in and out of being “loopy.”

By 11:00 that night I was exhausted and I took Dori home. Sam, our son, stayed with him through the night and was with Arnie when he died. At 2:00 in the morning, Sam called me, and I gave the orders to turn Arnie’s oxygen off. I, too, was there for Arnie’s death. I wish I could say it was peaceful and beautiful. It was neither. Arnie never wanted to go.

Arnie spoke to Sam a little about things Sam needed to do when he died. For me, I brought some mail up for Arnie to look at. His response was, “Put it on my desk, I’ll take care of it when I get home.”

I will never understand if Arnie knew he was going to die. My guess is he knew, but just couldn’t talk about it with my daughter or me.

Arnie died 5:12 a.m. on July 29. My family’s world changed. Two weeks later, I took Dori off to college. Six months later, Arnie’s clothes are still in our closet. I was able to pack up his study. Baby steps, I still keep telling myself.

During the course of these six months, my family and I have gone from good and bad days to good and bad moments. Arnie’s presence is strong in our hearts and lives. We talk about him out loud and publicly, as well as personally among our friends and family.

We all knew Arnie was going to die from multiple myeloma. I had a secret wish that he would go the way he did — quickly and from the flu. For this, I am grateful. Knowing Arnie the way I did, I never wanted him to hear the words “Go home, tidy up your affairs,” because Arnie would have never been able to do this.

The last chapter of anyone’s life is so hard, but please know Arnie left this world very loved.

This is very moving, Rodney. Thank you for posting it.

May his soul rest in peace thank u