|"See you on the Flip Side!" Photo by Ben Foster|
Tue, 03 Dec 2002
Dear pals, sorry for this bad news, but:
For the majority of you who don't know, I have cancer in my mouth.
It's particularly well developed and aggressive and the standard treatment
of combined surgical, radiological and chemo would leave me 25% of who I
now am, or a mere shadow of my former self, as it were, without the ability
to speak for the rest of my life and as a weathered and decrepit skeleton.
It's just not worth it for another 15 years of active fieldwork and river
trips, which it wouldn't be if I had the conventional therapy. So I
rejected the conventional therapy.
The tumor went ballistic on me last end May but I feigned it off
preferring to work in Uganda. On my return in July I finally had it
diagnosed and I have been using alternative therapies which have not
reduced the tumor but have made life bearable and allowed me to work China
in September. Because this thing is in my mouth and not in a vital organ
it will kill me by continually growing and then simply either choking me or
prohibiting me from swallowing thereby starving me to death.
Now, because the tumor has now developed to this monstrous extent
and is now without a doubt killing me, I am forced to hurry to find a
beautiful place to put myself down instead of slowly choking or starving.
Now listen guys, put yourself in my place, wouldn't you also do this too or
would you prefer going down slowly in some fucking hospice bed with
respiration tubes in your trachea and feeding tubes in your stomach (gross
to the extreme). I already tried a suicide once in mid October when I had
a choke scare (but it was just a scare and the thing deflated again., but
the suicide attempt didn't work and I can't figure out why as I wolfed down
over 20 valium, 15 codine, and a fifth of whiskey. Then woke up on top of
a mountain at 3:00 am in subfreezing weather, whereupon I scrounged around
my first aid kit for a pack of matches and lit a fire to figures out what
to do next. When I asked one of my primary MDs why my suicide cocktail
didn't work he said it was because they just don't make whiskey the way
they used to.
But this time my condition is not merely a scare but the real thing
and I must and will succeed by using mechanical means instead of chemical.
I am now for the first time in my life the owner of a .44 revolver (shit, I
forgot to join the NRA). Watch for Murphey's laws here. I sure hope I
don't fuck this up or it will be a real mess (I can see the forest rangers
in the distant future now. "Look at this jerkoff Melvin, he had to try
three times before it worked.") It's OK I can take a joke. I don't plan a
messy corpse to be left lying around in public or even to be found in the
I don't have time to dispose of my furniture. Who knows, maybe
someone would like to turn the place into a bed and breakfast.
Anyway, enough of the gruesome details, Halloween and Thanksgiving
is past and I want to convey to all of you that you have enriched my life
simply by your company and I cannot conceive of a better group of friends
and colleagues. The things I've done with most of you are unmatched in the
experience of human history. Incidentally, there are a number of close
friends who are not getting this message first hand. If you see them,
please tell them I didn't exclude them from this mailing intentionally and
I appreciate them just as much. You know what I mean. I'm doing this on
the fly and don't have time to slowly go through all my correspondence.
Please also believe that I'm not abandoning you but merely
transporting to a different realm and thus I promise to always be around.
Really guys, from now on just consider me your guardian angel and when
things get tough, just call on me (how does that song go?). The really bad
news is that you are all not as far behind me as you may presume (except
for Derek and Allison, you kids you). . Man am I sick of talking like I've
got a dog's dick in my mouth and at this point I can chew NOTHING, not even
a banana. This is going to be such a relief, truly. "To sleep, perchance
to dream." OK kids as an added bonus, guess the attribution of that quote
and you'll be the first in line for dream visitation by yours truly. TA
Dada. (And don't forget, there's plenty of free parking where I'm going).
So anyway let's not get depressed, we each and every one of us is
going to have to face this moment in life and my moment just happens to be
now. Consider me the leader of the charge.
And just think, when you also finally get to the flip-side, I'll be
there for the biggest fucking party we've ever had.
Fri, 6 Dec 2002 Sister Naru For the second time now, the cosmos, or whatever runs it, has intervened to maintain my existence here. At this point, I am now merely going with the flow. I enter the hospital tomorrow to begin conventional diagnoses under the guidance of three exceptional surgeons. When Coconino County Sheriff's Dept. found me at the last minute in the forest at sunset it was truly Kafkaesque. They essentially said put down the weapon you have pointed at your head or they'd shoot! I was so dumbfounded and confused it became comical. So as I said, I now merely follow the path you and the rest of my friends are guiding me through and we shall see what is ordained for me. I love you,
His sister Karen Downs and Dave and Teresa Elliott took care of Will from the time he sent these email messages until he moved on to the "Flip Side" on December 30, 2002, a day after his brother's birthday. Many friends from all over the world flew to Flagstaff on short notice to visit him in mid December. He was cremated, and his ashes have been or will be spread by his friends in the many places he loved.