You're Going to Die

A 501(c)3 nonprofit bringing diverse communities creatively into the conversation of death & dying, inspiring life by unabashedly sourcing our shared mortality

A Piece of Pie for Paul

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Several years ago, I’d visit a hospice patient every Wednesday through my volunteering at Hospice by the Bay. Paul. We would sit together & watch the horse races. And if those weren’t on, maybe we'd try our guesses at an afternoon game show. Or the TV would cycle through the black & white archives of the long gone, but still broadcast artifacts of Hollywood. AMC & Turner Classic Movies - the channels of old cinematic history, airing films I know just enough to talk about, but more importantly, films I have enough uninformed nostalgia for that I’ll eagerly listen to a new old friend talk about them like they were among the most favorite memories of his own personal life.

And his was a home where your presence was cared for like you were being made into one of those precious personal memories, too. "Eat this. Drink that. Take these. Have those..." It was as if he’d ask his sweet, grinning Filipino caregiver [more a friend than a medical professional] to stock the fridge with what he thought was my favorite drink & additionally top me off with all the leftovers of so many other visitors’ tastes & preferences.

And as we met every week, when he reviewed his life, like the convertible car accident when he bashed in his teeth or the cushy decades-long USPS career delivering mail in the airport neighborhood of SFO, while he explained exactas & trifectas or talked about mudders & all the trainers or jockeys he ever got the chance to meet [& maybe even slyly mock, depending on his confidently informed & applied opinions], as he recalled Bella Lugosi's best films or we raced one another's guesses watching Chain Reaction, or sometimes when I’d just sit with him while he slept... during all those months, as his body slowly quit him, however we spent the time, we became friends. And I was happy for our time together. And I like to think, during the last days of his life, I made him happy, too. I wanted to...

So, one day, not long before he died, he told me his favorite pie was apricot.
In December. Not exactly thriving apricot season.
But I only had one place to check: San Francisco’s Mission Pie.

Hey guys...

I sent this through your website form, but thought I'd try it here too. I know this is a long shot, because I'm pretty sure apricots are out of season, but it's 100% worth a try, so here's the deal:

My friend is dying. His name is Paul. He's 73 & he has ALS. Today he asked me for an apricot pie. And I'm pretty sure this is going to be one of the last things he eats. That's how close he is. But he's still very alive mentally & an apricot pie is what he asked for...

So, I figure, no better people to ask than one of the best pie makers in the city he grew up in. What do you guys think? Can you help me pull this off?
Call me if you can.

Sincerely & genuinely...

Ned Buskirk


They called me back.
And while they agreed the request was off-season,
for whatever reason, sitting in the quiet corner of one of their freezers,
they just so happened to have an unused bunch of frozen apricots.
A little handful of apricots just waiting for Paul.
Enough apricots for one small pie.
A pie they did not charge me for.
And likely the last pie Paul ever ate.

This is for Paul.
This is for Mission Pie, which closes its doors forever today.
This is for all the ways we've known cities & people.
For all the life to which we have to eventually say goodbye, all the things that die.
And for the work it takes to make room for both the letting go AND the "why do I have to say goodbye"s.
And for the grief & the gratitude & the archive of black & white flickering memories with which we’re always inevitably left...

Oh. And this is for that night I ate too much of a pot brownie, walked from the Castro to Mission Pie, somehow ordered my pie a la mode & sat down to eat it before I completely lost my mind & dissolved into the dark oblivion of an SF night, never quite sure how I got home, but absolutely positive that I loved that goddamn piece of pie.