Len Stevenson

Len Stevenson died Monday, Feb. 25, 2021. At least I think he did, because when I called to get him on the phone he didn’t answer; then the receptionist just said he was no longer a patient.

I asked her for the nurse’s station because he was having a hard time reaching his phone, and they could go in and help him. But she would not connect me to the floor. Told me they were too busy.

Desperate and mad, I called the hospital administrator’s office and tried to get something more, but instead of dignity and respect, they just told me they could not talk about any patients or former patients. HIPPA made it none of my business whether my buddy was dead or not.

I called and texted to some of Len’s friends, and they reached out to friends of friends, and then someone said they got word from someone in the know that he was gone. For awhile I had held out hope he might be alive.

Maybe transferred to a VA hospital like he thought they might do because he had spent four weeks in the Covid ward and it was costing a lot. On Friday Len had sounded real hoarse, but told me he was definitely feeling better that day.

We talked about car races and the odd love of Formula One we both shared, but I knew they would not allow him to take his oxygen mask off for too long, so I heartfully told him, “I’ll talk to you later. Call you soon.” He said the same.

He was 66, and if it makes anyone feel better, he had underlying conditions. A friend told me he had COPD. He had smoked years ago.

Len had a lot of friends — all kinds. Rich, poor it did not matter. What he liked was a good conversation. He seemed to know something about everything and everyone, and would have interesting things to say about them all. Any topic energized him. Do you know how rare that is?

The talk was not about him or you, it was about the subject — the beautiful topic to explore and discuss and wander through. I do so miss that. We all miss that. His honest inquisitiveness. You could trust him. Women loved him for it. He was a gentleman.

So, I write this not only to celebrate the passing of a priceless friend, but to celebrate the passing of a precious character.

A person we see so little the likes of these days. A kind person who would help both friends and strangers. A truly good man for whom society seems to hold so little regard, being more concerned with money and position and looks, yet it is this kind of person who is truly one of the best of us.

I think if he were reading this about himself he would be somewhat bemused. Embarrassed.

Those who know me know I am a cynic, and will find my effusive praise uncharacteristic. But Len showed me and others what a good guy meant. That people like him are still out there. That when they leave us they leave an irreparable hole in the fabric of our lives.

So I will not go on about all the things he did or did not do in life. Suffice it to say, he brought me and a lot of people some good manners and great acumen. We enjoyed seeing him and most of all talking to him. Kindness. Understanding. Humanity.

He was a bright light so soon and so unnecessarily extinguished. I can hear you, Len. We can all hear your voice. You are alive every day both in our hearts and in our minds. Like the lady said, you just are no longer a patient.