Easing suffering…

The very worst of circumstances ­– my dearly loved life partner was in the ICU in critical condition – found me at St. Mary’s Hospital in early September when “Hitchhiker” John (Golembeski) was brought in by life flight.

I first met John in Durango back in 1994 where he was a frequent guest at the Durango Hostel, and I noticed him on the streets here in Moab shortly after I made this place my home in January of 2000.

When I saw John was in the ICU, I told the doctor I knew him. I was able to tell her that he had, shortly after getting his retirement social security, arranged and paid for his own cremation and for the return of his remains to his beloved home in New England. We were able to make sure his final wishes would be carried out. When I wasn’t at the bedside of my partner, I would go talk to John. Although he was in a deep coma, I hoped he could hear me. I told him that many people in Moab loved him and that he wasn’t alone. I told him he was about to go on the best hitchhike of his life and not to be afraid.

John lived on the streets for decades. A brilliant man, recent years told the story of the toll street life and beer can have on a person. Many of us knew he was ailing recently, but he refused to see a doctor. John has inspired me to add a new layer to our work – finding and paying for a doctor to go out on “street” calls to assess someone when we feel they are in real need of medical attention.

John was found lying in the dirt, here in Moab, with flies going in and out of his mouth. That very well could have been his end. Instead, he was lovingly tended to by the nurses, aides and doctors of St. Mary’s. Although they knew he had only hours to live, they did everything possible to ease his suffering and to make his ending a peaceful one. The nurses spent over two hours bathing him, and he was kept out of pain.

There is a lot of suffering in the world and a lot of love to help ease that suffering. The great folks at St. Mary’s showed me that and then some.

—Sara Melnicoff