Our friend Donald was quite the guy! Early in his life, his whole family was killed in a horrific car accident. Maybe that was why he lived life to the fullest. In the early 1960s he met his soul mate, Ronald. Together they moved to St. Petersburg from Rochester, New York in 1967. The couple went on to be very well liked and known in the local LGBT community.
Every year they hosted a very popular Christmas Party. In 2001 cancer took Ronald away from us. That year Donald said he was not going to have the Christmas party. We strongly objected and said “Yes, you will”! So the parties continued. There was a very wide range of people at these parties. From old friends to newfound ones, politicians to businessmen to social club leaders. Many of us would only see each other at this party. Every year we would notice who was not at the party and had passed or moved away that year.
Then Donald came to us over 10 years ago and said he was outliving most of his friends and would we become the executors of his estate and medical affairs. Of course we said yes. The annual Christmas parties went on. Donald then become our favorite traveling friend. Together we visited New York City, Las Vegas, the Bahamas, Costa Rica and around the state of Florida. Then about seven years ago Bryan Chant, owner of “The King & I Thai Restaurant” and “The Queen & I Thai Restaurant” in St. Pete, came into Donald’s life. They hit it off fantastically right away. Together they made one very interesting couple. Suddenly Donald’s life was full of loving people in the Asian community. He became known as “Grandpa” to so many.
About six months ago, after having knee replacement surgery, Donald had a couple of very bad falls. He went into a rehab center. There were countless trips from rehab to various hospitals and back. All the time Bryan and family were at his side everyday. We made dozens of hard medical and insurance decisions. Donald was very positive but was concerned about this year’s Christmas Party. We told him that if he was still in rehab we would bring the party to him. After all the party tradition must go on. Then on Monday, December 23rd, the sad decision was made to send Donald to Suncoast Hospice Care Center at Bayfront Medical. The next morning at 6:30 a.m. the call came; Donald had passed away on Christmas Eve. Together with Bryan, the three of us went to the downtown hospital. The hospice wing was very different than the other hospitals. The lights were dimmed lower, It was much quieter and very calm. The wing was all nicely decorated for Christmas.
As we walked down the long hall I noted there was one door closed. At the nurses’ station they told us we could visit with him before they called the funeral home. Behind that closed door was Donald. He looked at rest and content. We jokingly said that he must have moved the Christmas Party to Heaven with Ronald this year. As we left we noticed on the outside of the room’s door was a Christmas stocking with poinsettias. Merry Christmas Donald.