Grant Bertram, Rest in Peace

Grant Bertram, my former de facto husband and friend of many years, committed suicide on Thursday, October 16th, in the early hours of the morning in our hotel room in Lexington, Kentucky.

As anyone searching for Grant Bertram, watching the news, or in close contact with him, is aware – he was arrested on a fugitive charge on Friday, October 10th, in Lexington, Kentucky. He was unaware there was a warrant out for his arrest in Florida and he had been in no trouble previously. The charges against him, and I can’t stress this enough, were bullshit. It was simply a tragic case of a kind, sweet, good man being tricked by a girl he had been in love with for the past two years. I will not elaborate further; I just want people to know that he was innocent.

Grant was my partner for several years – we lived together in Sydney, Australia. I was struggling to support him as a writer, which is how I came to be an app developer. (He was unwell and therefore wasn’t capable of earning a living at that time.) I took care of him from the time I was 17 and even after we parted (amicably), I continued to send him money, we spoke regularly, and there was never any doubt we still loved each other very much – we were family.

Saturday, his big brother Dean called me to tell me the situation, and to let me know that Grant had asked he call me and tell me that he loved me and needed me to help him. Dean and I spent the day figuring out how to get the bond money his mother and step father had immediately gathered in Australia to us in America in order to free him. Everyone worked tirelessly to get him out as quickly as possible, including friends of mine who had never even met him.

I flew into Kentucky on the first available flight, and on Tuesday, as soon as the banks opened after the Columbus Day holiday, I got a cashiers check and went to the jail. Waiting for him to be released was the longest few hours of my life.

When he came out he was shaking terribly and clung to me, and he cried, and he told me “I knew you’d come, I knew you’d come and get me” – and I told him, “I told you, no matter what, I will always come for you.” – the relief I believe we both felt was amazing.

I took him to the hotel I had booked and we picked up some supplies. We ate, we smoked, we held each other and we talked until we fell asleep, cuddled up together, me making my best effort to ensure he knew he was safe, he was loved, and that his entire family were on his side. He truly appreciated everyone and their effort. In the morning, I opened my eyes a few seconds before him, we looked at each other, smiled, exchanged “I love you”s, then snuggled back down, grateful to be together during this trying time.

Wednesday was all about him – he was intensely emotional and at the time I believed this to be because of his few days in prison, scared. He was a gentle, sweet, little guy and that was not a place he should have ever been in. I got us smokes, our favorite rum from back in the day, put on the music we used to listen to during our 12+ hour drinking binges, and we talked.

He told me he was sorry for every wrong he’d ever done me, that I was the greatest blessing in his life, that he should have married me — of course, as I told him, as much as we loved each other, we hadn’t been in love for many years. I was in love with someone else, as was he – the girl who ultimately lied, betrayed him and caused his death.

He talked about how grateful he was for his family, his father, his mother, his step father, his big brother Dean, and me, his “Pugsy”. (This was his nickname for me. I called him “Leechy”.)

He talked about his love of this girl, even now, knowing what she had done to him.

He ate his candy and we reminisced while I helped him shave off his beard and mixed some drinks in the UK tumblers I’d bought, to match UK cap I got him. I kissed the tuft of hair near the front of his receding hairline. I used to say “tuftsy?” and he’d lean his head forward to allow me to kiss it. It was soft and fluffy; not unlike Grant.

He told me I was his best friend, that coming for him at the drop of a hat, he knew I would, he knew I would always be there. I’d always come for him. He compared me to a bulldog, in terms of my tenacity; he was happy I was on his side, in his corner.

He told me how somewhere, in the universe, we were back in our little house, drinking, smoking and watching movies, cuddled up on the couch together – that this was just one reality – and that in the others, he’d never let me go.

After many happy hours, a lot of cuddles, kisses, wonderful conversation, strong drinks and great songs, he told me he was ready for bed. I kissed him, held him tightly, and told him I had to go outside and make a phone call. This was at 5:30am in Kentucky.

He said “I love you Pugsy.” I said “I love you Leechy.” as I was closing the door to go outside and make my call, he said “I will see you later.” – he emphasized “will” but I presumed he was just tired and frankly, we were both a little drunk.

I returned to the room shortly after and I opened the door. At first I saw just his feet over the end of the bed, and I thought to myself, “I must get him under the covers.” Then I heard what I would later realize was a death growl.

Taking a few more steps into the room, he came into full view. My beautiful little Leechy, pistol still in hand, with a gunshot wound to the head. He had died moments earlier. No one even heard the shot.

I have had many people ask me how I felt, seeing the blood, the gunshot wound, the “gore”. I wasn’t scared of that, I wasn’t repulsed – what I saw was my little Leechy, my baby, the man I had promised to move mountains for; and lived up to that promise many times.

It’s funny what goes through your head in moments like that – I thought he’d be upset he got blood on his Jolly Ranchers by the bed. I thought I should give him a pillow because his neck would get sore. All these thoughts in half a second. I thought about how I would never hear his voice again, he’d never kiss my tattoo – and then I thought he was safe. No one could hurt him now. He couldn’t go to prison, he didn’t have to be afraid. This was his choice, his right, no one could take that away from him.

… After several hours with police, all of whom were kind, professional and courteous – even when I broke down in hysterics when his mother texted me during our talks – 6 cops in the room, a detective, a coroner and a forensics guy – she texted me telling me she loved us, that she looked forward to talking to us tomorrow… I broke down and they were patient, despite my wailing.

And I wailed a lot. I wailed when they brought in his boots. I wailed when they told me he died instantly and did not suffer. I wailed when they showed me the suicide notes he had somehow managed to write without my knowledge over the last 36 hours, in which he called me the love of his life and apologized for what he had to do, knowing I would be the one to find him, told me if something came next he would always look over me.

Grant Bertram was a beautiful, gentle, kind man.

Before I moved in with him, I visited him frequently from Melbourne – I still remember how funny he found it the first time I met his mother – it was a boiling hot day in summer in a house with no air-conditioning and I was sprawling on the sofa wearing panties and a tank top. She let herself into the house and not knowing what to do, I just jumped up, hugged her, and told her that I loved her son – and she’d be seeing a lot more of me – maybe a poor choice of words given how much she was able to see at that moment in time…

And as time went by, I called her “Mum”, something Grant loved. To this day, I still do. His family stopped being “his” and become “our” more years ago than I can even recall.

Every Christmas, I would buy him toys, Lego, cars, science related toys, video games – he would ask, like a child, what time he was allowed to wake me up. The last year I was with him, I told him 6am. I had terrible food poisoning and was running a fever and throwing up every hour or two, meaning I finally fell asleep that night at 5:45am. Come 6am I wasn’t waking up to his alarm, so he held his phone by my head and then quickly moved it, in his usual cheeky fashion, to pretend I had somehow naturally woken up. He was adorable and just wanted to rip into the mountain of presents and toys waiting for him. Then we would go and spend the day with his mother, step father, brother and the brother’s girlfriend Lisa – swapping more toys and gifts.

He loved his PJ pants – I bought him a Halloween (our favorite holiday) pair to wear at the hotel. His first pair in the time I knew him were mine. It was cold and he looked uncomfy in jeans, so I convinced him to wear my least feminine pair – blue and green – but they had ribbons. He said they were too girly, so I told him, “No Leechy, they’re manly, those are war ribbons!” – and from then on, that is what he called them, his “war ribbons”.

Every two weeks, on the day I got paid, I would buy us wine and we would watch movies and get drunk – we would end up singing along to loud music – he is, to date, the only person who has ever heard me sing as an adult. We would then stumble to bed and spend the next day cursing the cheap wine that had poisoned us the night before.

Our last Halloween, I gave him $60, and I said to him, “Leechy, buy candy, but buy some food, too.” – he came home with his back pack and slowly, one by one, removed bags of candy. He had bought nothing but candy and I wasn’t in the least bit surprised. He looked very pleased and proud of himself.

He was scared of rats, and in our little run down house, we had many. He would force me to check the kitchen, where they had a hole, before he went in. Sometimes he’d forget to ask and he’d squeal when a rat sprung from the kitchen table back into its hole – yet despite his fear, he was fond of them. We had to trap them as it was terribly unhygienic, although they were bush rats which are nothing like sewer rats, but while they lived, he secretly liked them even when they made him jump.

When I got sick, real sick, and briefly died on the table during surgery, several years ago now – he was in my hospital room all day every day. I had a PICC line in my left arm (for those who don’t know, I think I’m naming it correctly – it goes right up to by your heart) and many other tubes in my right, and I couldn’t eat well as a result. It didn’t help that the hospital food was atrocious. So, each day, he would walk and buy fries and he would feed them to me. He would help me shower and dry me off, knowing I wouldn’t want a nurse to do it.

During that time, despite the fact he was previously VERY squeamish about blood, even a little blood, he got over his fear. He did this because I had a large, very deep wound that required a nurse to come to our house daily after my release to wash it, pack it with gauze, etc. – he didn’t think they were doing a good enough job and he wanted to take care of me himself. He was SO proud of himself; but not half as proud as me.

When I traveled he would eat chili – but he’d always put newspaper down first – because he would always end up spilling that. That’s why he waited until I was away, he knew he’d make a mess. He also knew he’d get chili that was too hot, burn his mouth and feel yucky, and I’d take it away from him as a result.

When I used to get out of the shower, sometimes I’d leave soap on me – just a bit – because he’d dry me off by the heater when it was cold. He used to laugh so hard when I’d tell him “slick like an otter!” and fidget about, making it a challenge for him. I loved his laugh.

Grant Bertram was nerdy, smart, kind, soft and loving – and just as he considered himself blessed every day I was in his life, I consider myself blessed to have met him and shared so many years of my life with him.

It wasn’t always perfect – like any couple, we fought, we said and did things we regret, I put a hole in the bathroom wall at one point. But we always recovered – and when we separated we did so knowing we were no longer in love, but would always love each other madly.

I told him that day, and many days since, that I would be with him until the very end – no matter what – no matter how long we went without talking, no matter what he did, what changed – I would always be there for him.

It was my honor, my obligation and, although I had no idea what was about to happen and had no choice in finding him, if I’d had a choice, I’d have chosen it – to be there in his final moments. People have asked me if I’m angry with him, for doing what he did knowing I’d be the one to find his body, to call 911 – and I’m not – not at all.

We knew each other better than anyone, and he knew I would have wanted to find him. To identify him so no other loved one would have to do so – he knew I’d want to protect them from that, and it would ease his mind knowing I could cope with it.

I got to ensure his last 36 hours, despite believing he would have many, many more, were happy, that he knew he was loved, not just by me but by all of us, his entire family – I got to hold him and be held by him all night – and although seeing him at the end was hard, I got to know that he was safe, that no one could ever harm him again.

For his online friends, I am sorry that this is likely how you will find out – I can’t find you all – but you deserve to know – I know he was close to many of you.

I want to thank everyone who has provided their support over the past few days. One friend sent copious amounts of food to the hotel, knowing I wasn’t eating, and water, because I wasn’t drinking. Another drove down from Canada to help me box up the things we had in the hotel room because I was crying too much when I went to pack his boots, his tshirts, etc.
One of the women at the hotel, Samantha, hugged me tight and helped me move to a different room – it was the first hug I had since it happened and I didn’t know how much I needed it until I got it.
The air hostess today, Cindy, who knew something was up when I resisted being separated from my bag, knowing it contained his cap – she asked me about it upon seeing the dates clearly recently added under my old tattoo – and upon learning what had happened she ensured I was OK throughout the flight. Upon disembarking, she got my bag and got me off before the other passengers, hugging me, telling me she loved me, and handing me a note with beautiful flowers doodled on it and her number, in case I ever want to talk.
Robert and John, guests at the hotel, who gave me beer and smokes out in the parking lot, hugging me repeatedly throughout the two days following the event until I left to come home – making every effort to get me smiling, John by wolf whistling at me before I spotted him each time I went outside or into the hall and he was there, and Robert by making jokes.
The tattoo artist, who sweetly spoke to me while he inked in the dates under my existing tattoo, and made the friend who accompanied me feel comfortable, despite the fact a tattoo parlor is not a place she ever expected to find herself, I’m sure… the first thing I thought, seeing it in the mirror when he was done, was “I should send Grant a picture, he’d like this.” – it took me moment to realize I couldn’t.

There are many more people to thank – too many – so many people have gone out of their way to help me – including our families.

Grant’s family, despite dealing with the grief themselves, have been very supportive of me – and I have done my best to do the same. I honestly believe if he can see us now, he is happy and he is proud.

We ended the night with a few final songs, including “Origin of Love” from Hedwig and The Angry Inch, a movie we loved long before NPH really popularized the role recently – a movie in which Hedwig says, “I believe love creates something that wasn’t there before.” – Grant and I both believed that, and I believe he felt whatever that something was, it reached far beyond the bounds of mortality.

In his final minutes, when I was in the bathroom, he stole my phone and made a short video for me – telling me he loved me, he was sorry and that he was so proud of the woman I am today – and that sums him up. Sweet, thoughtful, even though I am sure at this time he knew what he was about to do.

I leave you with this – the hotel was by a highway. We hadn’t seen so much as a squirrel. The night after he died, I went outside to smoke and a rabbit appeared from no where, hopped over, looked at me, then disappeared into some nearby trees. Grant loved rabbits, and all small “critters” – and I took that as a sign; whatever comes after, I think he wants us to know he is OK.

“Pugsy” aka Peach Pellen

Below are pictures from the final 36 hours we spent together, along with what was one of “our” songs, referenced above, and my updated tattoo – a tribute I know Grant would love.  I hope these will bring some comfort to his friends, who will know that he was happy and content at the end, and that though his decision may be hard for us, he was at peace with it.

Update: November 9th, 2014

In the three weeks since Grant Bertram passed away, a number of things have come to mind that I would like to include in this blog. For loved ones to read, for therapeutic value for myself, and because when somebody is looking for “Grant Bertram” on Google, I’d like to make sure they find this page rather than some of the horrible lies out there. (Updates help the page stay up in searches.)

Firstly, Grant, unbeknownst to me until a week after his death, ordered me two gifts on the day he died. An iPod, and a phone. This is the type of man he was; even at the end, a time that should, by all rights, have been just about him, he thought about me, about what I would find comforting in the aftermath… and he was right, he knew me well – my phone is never more than two feet away from me, and every time I look at it I think of him. The iPod has led to me listening to a lot more music than I was previously; and it has really helped me. The nights I want to break down, I play some of our old songs, and I remind myself he wouldn’t want me to be sad. The messages with each, one engraved, one as a gift message, have brought me tremendous comfort.

The other thing to bring me comfort are the memories of Grant Bertram as he was the many years we spent together.

I remember how he loved his naps; when he was ready to sleep he’d come over to me and say “tucks?”, indicating he wanted to be tucked in*. I’d ask him when he wanted to be woken up, and he would never give me a simple time, he’d always say something like “Two and a quarter hours and a bit.” – then when I went to wake him and he didn’t want to get up, he’d request “another half an hour and a bit“. To this day, I don’t know what measure of time “a bit” is, but he was always very cute when requesting one.

*I hadn’t slept for several days when I collected him in Kentucky, and I lay down for a 20 minute nap myself. One of my favorite memories of that time was him tucking me in, blankets up to my chin and kissing my face. For all the time we spent apart, and the changes in the nature of our relationship over the years, we were always so natural together.

Then I recalled visiting him in Texas, the last time I’d seen him before this, in June 2013. I went to see him and to meet his father, who I had communicated with but never met, given he lived far away. Grant’s hair was long and messy; he hadn’t wanted to clip it himself and was very funny about who else he’d let do it, so he requested; “Please sheer your Leechy!” – of course, in Houston at that time of year it’s hot, and not wanting to get mountains of what we affectionately called “leech fur” in the family’s drains, I took him out into the yard, and sheer him I did. At one point, a postman walked past and looked at us like we were crazy – a shirtless Grant, me covered in his hair, and huge amounts of it blowing all over the lawn. To this day I’m sure there’s still bits of it hiding around the lawn.

Thinking of the heat made me remember the sweltering summers in our little “shack” in Sydney. We didn’t have an A/C for several years, so we’d go back two blocks to where his mother and step father lived, and jump in the pool. Grant called this “splashies”, which I always found cute. Once we were in the pool, we would joke that I needed to “scramble for higher ground”, which in reality meant me climbing him in the water. He always liked it; not just because it was fun, but because it made him feel tall. (He was a good bit shorter than me.)

I remember the day I left. We acknowledged we hadn’t been in love for sometime, but it was still very painful for us. My boxes were all packed up, and he was labeling them. He had a hard time writing, sometimes. He ended up writing what looked like “ftorge” on a box that should have said “storage”. He tried to pronounce it many times, and we ended up repeating “Fu-torge” many times at each other, laughing as though it was hilarious thanks to heightened emotions at the time, then we cried, and we hugged each other for a long time. That memory is bittersweet, but I like the underlying part that has always stuck with me – that even when we were ending that part of our relationship, a time when most people are at each others’ throats, we could still be so close and support each other through it.

To end on a funny one; one winter, it was freezing cold, and Grant’s hoodie was still wet from the wash. (We didn’t own a drier.) I gave him an army-green color hoodie a friend of mine had sent me; it had all sorts of “scribble” looking things on it in white, and one tiny white heart. The color made it seem at least unisex, it wasn’t feminine at all. He resisted because of the heart but I insisted he wear it as he walked to the local shops so he wouldn’t get too cold. Later that night he was in the kitchen washing our wine glasses, and from the main room I started laughing insanely. He came in and asked me what I was laughing at. I looked at a clothing tag on the coffee table, then back at him, back at the tag, back at him, and laughed again. He was like “Whaaaat? Are you laughing at Leechy?” and feigned concern. Then he picked up the tag, and read it out loud – “Ladies hoodie… LADIES? Leechy is not a lady! What if another lady had been wearing it too?!” – we laughed so hard. He refused to wear it again after that, except in the house, but it did it’s job and kept him warm, and we laughed over it for years after that.

These memories make me smile; the silly times we enjoyed together… and I expect I’ll be updating this again in the not too distant future as more comes back to me. I hope to gather some more photos as well; but for now I leave you with this one, from Christmas when I was 17 or 18. Back when I was working, writing, all hours to try and look after him as he was unwell, I used to look at this picture – and when I got tired and frustrated and just wanted to sleep, it would remind me why I was doing what I was doing, and to just keep going.

As more time passes, I know it will get easier – not just for me, but for all of us struggling with the loss. I genuinely believe he’d want us to try and be happy, as impossible as that seems some days.

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