The following letter from Luther's life partner Rocky Brown was received September 11, 1997.
Thank you -- each and every one of you -- for your messages and conversations about Luther. And thank you for your donations to the Benefit Fund, and for the flowers, cards, and positive thoughts. I read the e-mails and cards to Luther while he was in the hospital...all of them. The absolute love and appreciation that all of you expressed touched his soul and helped him through his journey. Thanks to Beverly Howell and all of Luther's electronic friends, Luther's web site will keep us in touch with one another.
I want you to know that Luther loved his life; he relished every moment, right to the final days. After the diagnosis and during radiation treatment, he took time to do what he truly enjoyed; he fished (he caught several dinners of blue gills -- his favorite), went to the casino with Gail and Jim Solberg (he was a slot machine man), visited with friends, talked to other friends and family on the telephone, and received cards and e-mail. He was particularly happy about receiving e-mail because it represented yet another "step up" in this electronic age that is so far in time and space from the cotton field where he was born. Luther used to laugh and say "Fax me!" to people who asked for his address or telephone number. He thought that was way cool! You can imagine how he felt about having a web site!!!
Luther had a positive attitude about getting well. He followed medical orders; he took his pills and tried to eat healthy foods even when the medications and radiation changed his taste (things tasted too sweet -- he even gave up eating SNICKERS). He wanted to live a long time; he had many plans and was still making plans for the future, but he wanted to live a "quality" life. But the cancer was so aggressive and unrelenting that this was not possible. Every treatment the doctors devised to combat the cancer and its symptoms was met with a more aggressive reaction from the cancer. He wanted to do a commercial for the American Cancer Society -- "I had it all -- but I could have lived without cigarettes."
Through the course of his short illness, Luther remained Luther. Characteristically, he made new friends everywhere, including the Southern Wisconsin Radiation Center where he underwent treatment. He enchanted the women who worked there; he also introduced them to the Blues, of course, AND managed to sell them CD's. He took time to talk to and encourage other patients at the Center. He had a gift for cutting through the mundane and directly touching the heart. He had the ability to affect people profoundly. When he entered the hospital, he touched all those who cared for him, from the housekeeping staff to the doctors and nurses and aides. Even though these people knew him for only a short time and under vastly different circumstances from the rest of us, they enjoyed his brief stay and grieved his passing. Please be reassured that he did not suffer and that he died peacefully and with dignity. I miss him so.
Luther had a gentle respectful spiritual acceptance of death. He spoke many times and to everyone about "crossing the river and meeting his maker"; he said, "what is going to be will be." He told Miki that yes, it was indeed hard for him to prepare to meet his maker, but that we -- the rest of us -- should all go on; he would still be on tour but in a different way. And, by the way, we should be sure to keep his name out there. As you know, Miki and Luther had a very special relationship, and they shared a huge love for his "merchandise." He was giving her new directives and suggestions for new merchandise the last time they talked -- so don't be surprised when you see a vast array of new "Luther products."
He wanted everyone to be safe and happy, "to keep on keeping on." He wanted Blues to remain alive, not be placed in a museum and dissected and analyzed to death. He wanted people to go out and support live music wherever and whenever they found it -- especially unknown and lesser known talent. His deepest wish was for all of us to live together and love one another -- to cut out the racism, sexism, age-ism, classism. Luther was by no means a saint when he lived here -- he made mistakes, he got angry, he was stubborn -- yet he touched all of us because he loved each of us unconditionally. He was happiest playing guitar and especially playing to an audience (no matter if it was one person or one million). I always knew that he did not belong to me alone that I shared him with all of his fans, his guitars, and his music, and I feel good about that.
Please, if and whenever you see me, please let's share a story about our Luther. He wants to be kept alive in each one of us. Be good to each other. And buy a Luther CD for a friend.
The last six years had been especially good to us, and the last four years were like a crystallization of all the work he had put into his life. We had the opportunity to see and visit with old dear friends. We repaired bridges that had been damaged by the difficult trials of life -- economic, distance, procrastination, and human nature. I always referred to our first years in Europe as Luther's cocoon stage, from which he emerged as the beautiful butterfly he was meant to be.
We were lucky to have had this time -- but the last month went by so quickly. Luther was able to talk about lots of details -- sometimes I didn't want to hear -- sometimes I told him that we don't have to talk about that now -- we have time -- but he was right. We had no more time. The greatest gift that he gave me was that we were able to discuss important health care decisions and mandates in advance. We talked specifically about the treatments and life support vehicles that he wished for and did not want. He signed a health care directive and Durable Power of Attorney. I was able to implement his wishes because he had told me exactly how he felt about death and dying; he told me what kind of funeral he wanted and where he wanted to be buried.
Just a word about Luther's health insurance situation because so many of you have been so generous. Luther did have health insurance, but it was set up on the French socialized medicine scale of reimbursement. (Remember what Hillary Clinton was talking about?) The French insurance company would have covered he cost of hospitalization and medication in France, but in the USA, which has privatized medicine, the costs are far greater. We are still waiting for all the billing to be completed, and then we must learn from the French company what percentage they will cover.
We thought we were healthy -- and would always be healthy. Please take this experience as a life lesson and talk now, hug now, live now.
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