The memory I cherish is Miles smiling broadly (with his brand new teeth that he'd been given that very week) and waving in recognition as we shouted his name from the sidelines of the Gay Pride Parade just two short years ago. He was finally leaving Omega House after more than a year of residency, leaving healthy -- a rare feat at a hospice -- and had been asked to ride in the car that served as the organization's parade entry. He had the "homecoming queen" wave down pat by the time he got to us. We all beamed.
Miles was self-care for most of my acquaintance with him. We love "self-care". No diapers, no baths or showers to assist with, actual conversation with coherent points connecting A to Z -- that's self-care. Usually, all we provided was a cup half filled with coffee and half filled with Ensure, a nutritional supplement that gave him a mocha lift with his cigarette.
Miles wasn't supposed to live at Omega House -- in the sense that he pretty much set up residency and everyone tended to look the other way when he continued to improve and his stay extended waaaaaaay beyond the six months usually allotted for folks who come our way. He had a shelf of bric-a-brac and plants that defied the decorator's impersonal lavish designs for the rooms. He had his cigarettes. He was home.
We almost felt a friend was moving away as we waved at Miles in the parade. I remember tearing up.
About a year later, Miles returned to us. The streets and poor choices had him back to the poor health that needs continued monitoring. I kept waiting for the famous "Miles comeback tour" to begin again. It didn't.
Miles died this past weekend. His body was truly skin and bones (in this case, I'm not using hyperbole). He'd long since stopped wearing the teeth. When I was last there, he didn't even make it to the patio for one of his beloved cigarettes.
But I'll not remember that Miles. My Miles is waving, smiling and waving, and this parade has no end.