My friend, Trey Lehman, passed away yesterday. He'd been in the hospital for five weeks recovering from heart surgery that went well; but, some underlying issues surfaced and became insurmountable.
I saw Trey two-three times a week during his stay. I spent hours with his mom and her tirelessly-supportive husband, Griff, and other family members. I was invited into a very sacred space and I saw one of the most beautiful acts of reciprocating love unfold that I have ever witnessed. I want to share it with you to affirm your belief about how kind and generous a man we all knew Trey was and to try and articulate the pure essence of his mother’s love.
Trey was frightened going in for this procedure but he left this world with peace. People who knew him were very aware of his fear. His fear caused anxiety among people who loved him, especially his children, his sisters, and mom. He was heavily sedated for a few weeks after surgery and was unable to readily communicate beyond hand squeezes; but, he was acutely aware of what was going on around him. What was expected to be a short stay with a long recuperation became a long stay with an unimaginable outcome.
Trey was extremely aware but only lucid for a very brief time about a week or so ago. What I mean by that is that he was awake and able to communicate using sign language, pointing to letters, and whispering speech. In that very narrow moment of clarity, he was able to share with his mom – specifically with his mom – that he was no longer afraid of dying. For anyone who knew Trey, it is easy to understand how important this was for him and for those who have loved him.
After over a month of living out of a suitcase and in a hotel close to the hospital, things looked optimistic and Trey’s mom and Griff were under the impression (as we all were) that Trey was showing signs of improvement. They decided to drive back to Lubbock to tend to a few necessary matters before returning to Dallas. They were gone less than a day and a half before they were headed back to be with Trey as the reports of his situation indicated that he was rapidly declining.
Trey’s mom texted me to let me know that situation had worsened since the evening before when I had seen him. I went to the hospital. Trey’s incredible daughter and her amazing husband were there. Lesli, his beautiful sister was there (Kim, Trey’s other lovely sister with whom I spent time, had been in a couple of weeks before to be with him). Doug, a co-worker from Utah, flew in that afternoon with his wife. He had tears in his eyes when he told me that he loved Trey and that they flew in today just to see him not even realizing the gravity of the situation. He just loved him that much and wanted to come and see him in the hospital knowing that he was having a difficult time. Lesli kept telling Trey that his mom was almost there. His vitals were falling but he held on. Tori, his daughter, had shown a love and maturity beyond her years and continued to show that yesterday.
I was able to go in and hold Trey’s hand and talk with him and touch his forehead and smooth his hair back. I told him how much I loved him. I told him how much each of you have loved him and how many people were praying for him, posting on his FB page for him, and how special everyone’s comments had been. I had already read many of the posts to him before and I reminded him of the voice memos everyone had sent that he listened to again and again on the playlist. I told him I was proud of him. I told him he was one of my Gladiators and I took my own necklace off and wrapped it in his hand. He gave me a light squeeze. I told him I was proud of the fight he put up and that it was okay to go as soon as his mom got there. He had lost his fear of dying and I could sense that he was ready but he held on, not for himself, but for others – he was always thinking of others first.
I was in the hall when his mom arrived. She went straight into his room to be with her son. I have no idea what she said to him but I can imagine. Lesli came out and said for me to go back in Trey’s room. His mom was in there and I just let myself cry over my own selfish sense of losing him. I told him again that I loved him and that I was so, so proud of him. I told him I was so grateful for his friendship and that he would always be my friend and I would always love him. I told him that all of his friends felt the same way and that I knew he was already aware of that because I had kept him up on everyone’s comments and posts. I let him know again that I knew how hard he fought and I knew he was tired. I told him again that it was okay to go. I kissed his hand, squeezed it three times for “I love you” and let him have his last moments with his mom and family.
Trey waited for the people he loved so he could help ease their pain - if just for that moment - before he let himself be free of his own. What he did was one of the most generous acts of kindness, selflessness, and love our Gentle Giant could have ever given. His last moments on this earth were filled with thoughts of his precious daughters, his beautiful sisters, his other adoring family members (Allison), and his mom.
His mom. She lovingly brought this amazing man into this world and was with him when he left. She loved him so much that her love had the strength to keep him with us until he could let her say, “Good-bye.” He loved her enough to wait until she arrived. She was that kind of mom who raised that kind of son who became the kind of friend we have loved so dearly and will always remember for his Bigger-than-Life spirit and Larger-than-Himself love and generosity. No wonder he has so many people who are grieving today. I love you, Trey.