Thursday, April 8, 2010

Know in your hearts, he has peace.

Karlin here. I don't think I could ever be ready to write this entry, I'm really not ready to say anything yet, but it was important to me that people know how things were, and to have peace about his passing.

Charles has been surrounded by loved ones all week. Tuesday night it was just me, Charles' parents Don and Dee Dee, and his brother Jon. We sat with him for a long time. He knew we were there with him. He always did. Even when he became mostly unable to respond, he knew we were there. One of the only verbal responses I got from him that day, through his unmoving mouth was, "I love you too." We kept hands on him all day and talked to him and tried to make sure he was comfortable. After Charles' family left that night I set up my cot right next to his bed, spoke to Charles and held his hands, as always. I told him for the millionth time that day, we all loved him so much.

I turned out the light early since our previous two nights had been rather restless. Charles had a lot of deep congestion that night and his breathing was becoming quicker and he wasn't able to clear his throat like he had been in nights before. Still, he slept and looked peaceful. I would wake up periodically to check on him, or when the nurses came to check on him and he was always peaceful. No struggles like previous nights. I would touch his face and chest and hands, kiss him and tell him how much I loved him, I would ask him if he was okay. He would go back to sleep and I was able to sleep much better than nights before.

That morning I woke up early, around 6 or 6:30. I was tired but felt like it was time to get up. I sat with Charles most of the morning, just holding his hands and telling him again, I loved him. Though it seemed he was too tired to respond, he was looking into my eyes and listening. I opened Charles' curtains so he could look out into the trees. I saw him watching something out the window behind me and turned around to see a squirrel bounding through the branches. I think it came to his window just for him.

Mid-morning I told Charles that I wanted him to know that all we wanted for him was peace. I had felt like the last couple of days, Charles was hanging on for us, more than anything. I told him that we just wanted him to have peace and comfort, and that I knew how hard he had tried.

Charles got his sheets changed and new pajamas put on, and I ordered some breakfast. We put his bed in a more upright position and his congestion sounded much better, and he was breathing easier. I told him that morning that two of his dear friends planned to visit that day. I told him not to be worried about doing anything, that all they wanted was to see his face and tell him they loved him. I sat next to him eating breakfast, telling him again and again that I love him. I told him I just spoken to his friend Heather, who was going to come visit in a couple of hours.

I was almost done with breakfast when I looked up and saw Charles lift his head. His eyes were wide but didn't look frightened. He took a few deep breaths. Though it was a very different situation, being with my dad when he passed had prepared me for what was happening. I began to cry and shake, but I held Charles' face, and told him one more time, "I love you, ok?" He was looking at me and heard me. His labored breathing had stopped. His eyes had stopped searching. I called the nurses and held Charles to me and there were a couple more small rises in his chest, then he was gone. He was finally at peace.

Charles had expressed to me in his last night up at OHSU that he couldn't do it anymore. That's how I knew that he was hanging on for us. That's the type of person he is... and you all know that already. He asked me if I understood, and I told him that none of us can ever understand. I said that none of us will ever be ready to let him go, but when goes is up to him, and up to God. So, it's true. None of us could have been ready... I personally am still not ready. I'm not sure if it's real. But the relief and peace in my heart was almost immediate as he passed. He was as comfortable as we could make him. I don't believe that he was scared or worried anymore. He knew how deeply we all loved him, he did not struggle and he was not alone when he passed.

Charles has peace now. His mom and I agreed, now his spirit can soar. It makes my heart swell to think that he is happy and healthy again, probably running around throwing a football, and I'm pretty sure my dad is teaching him to fish.

I think he's probably doing some of these things too:

So, as so many have said in their wonderful comments, aren't we all just so lucky to have known him? His time here was far, far too short. I know I certainly expected to have him around forever, but the last 4 years of my life have been fantastic because of him and I would rather have them than not have them. We are all just so blessed to have met such a wonderful man. And I am so blessed to know many of you because of Charles. I have gained life-long best friends through Charles, as well as a second wonderful, amazing family that I would not have otherwise come to know. I could reflect for days on end, so I'll stop now, because that's not what this entry is about. This entry is about all of you having peace in your hearts for Charles. He's looking down at us now... and probably giggling.

Rest in peace, my love.


  1. I can't imagine where to begin with this, but I just want to ensure you that life, in all it's beauty, continues beyond the world as we know it. Loss in this world teaches us that there are better things ahead for us, a different world without hate, anger, pain, sorrow, etc. please be strong and know that Charles will live forever in the hearts of those who have had the pleasure of knowing him for him...

  2. Karlin,

    That was an incredible piece of prose, even had I been a stranger to you both. Though certainly sad, your words confirmed my impression that Charles would be comfortable and cuddled as he departed. I am so glad he had such a loving girl at his side! Merci beaucoup, Mlle. Johnson! Take your time to mourn, rest and refresh and your friends in Eugene will be waiting to romp with 'ya!


  3. Karlin,

    I love you because you are amazing and no doubt you made this easier on Charles.

    Hugs from all of us here, I'm sure everyone agrees with me and would like to hug you.

  4. Thanks for that, Karlin. Seeing those pictures made me choke up a little, too.

  5. Karlin, you are an incredible person. Thank you so much for the update, and while I'm extremely saddened to see him go, I'm very happy to know that he spent his final moments with so much love surrounding him. He truly has touched a lot of people around him, it speaks to the kind of person he was.


  6. P.S. I'm having a hard time believing it too. I haven't said the words out loud yet. I'm not sure I can.

  7. Oh, Karlin. I've said it many times and I'll say it many more... Thank you for taking such good care of my good friend.

    I knew Chuck was stuck on you from the first time he mentioned your name. I am so happy for him that you two shared so much and that you were there when he passed. It really means a lot, especially amidst such sorrow.

    Anyway. Thank you for this.

    And thank you Don, DeeDee, Daniel, Matt, and Jon and all the many Garretts. Charles had so many wonderful people in his life that I know he loved very much. Thank you for taking care of him and for keeping us in the loop - an unimaginably difficult task.

    Jonathan Westfall

  8. I am so glad that I was able to know Charles for the time that I did. It is hard to believe that, yet again, someone great was taken from us too soon.

    You are all in my thoughts and prayers.


  9. Dearest Karlin,

    Thank you so much for sharing this with everyone, I can't imagine how difficult it must have been.It is so comforting to know that you were right there with him and he wasn't alone when he found peace. Our hearts are broken, but we can lighten our sorrow with the knowledge that he was loved so dearly by you and your families. To know that you were there with him at the end, surrounding him with love, is a beautiful thing indeed. We were all so blessed to know Charles, and he was blessed to know and be loved by you, too.

    Stay strong and remember that we are with you in our hearts, always.
    much love,

  10. Beautiful Karlin, Thank you so much for sharing your last moments with Charles. It is such a wonderful thing that you were able to be there with him right until he departed. I am so glad to have known him, although not as well as I wish.
    Much love,

    Lee Ann

  11. dear karlin

    thank you so much for sharing your last moments with charles. the pictures you have posted remind me how charles was able to share his joy and zest for life with others.

    i admired charles for his unique ability to quietly reach out to others. charles was an intelligent, creative man with a terrific sense of humor coupled with compassion and a strong sense of responsibility.

    i thoroughly enjoyed the couple of years i worked weekends with him. the more i got to know charles, the more i admired him.

    i am blessed to have known him.

    my heartfelt condolences go out to you and charles'family.

    matt f

  12. Karlin, thank you for the wonderful entry about the last day of Charles life. It brought me a lot of peace and tears also when I read it. You are an amazing young woman and I'm so grateful for your kindness and tender loving care given to a wonderful man, Charles. He was a very lucky man to have you. I'm glad to know that you have peace. I'm looking forward to meeting you this weekend. Love to you, Aunt Pam