Thursday, March 25, 2004
It is with deep sorrow that we announce Audrey H. Edgett's death. Yo passed away at eleven p.m. Sunday, the seventh of March, 2004. Her death was peaceful. Her two sons Peter and Bucky were with her when she died.
A Warning To the Reader
The description of Yo's death that follows is graphic, in the sense that it is as full and complete as a lay person, not familiar with the precise physiology of dying, can make it.
Some readers have expressed dismay over this, claiming it is disrespectful to Yo's memory to publish such intimate details that portray her as less than dignified.
During the third week of February, Yo was sick with a chest infection. Lots of people at Carroll Lutheran Village were sick, so many the hall doors were being kept closed, and signs warned to "enter at your own risk" on account of the prevalence of the infections.
"Don't they know to open the windows and air the place out?" Bucky asked Yo.
"Then people complain of the cold drafts," said Yo. "I remember once when we had the same problem at Keswick. I argued and fussed at them to open some windows. In the really old days we would have done it as a matter of course. People forget the old wisdoms."
Yo was very sick for a few days, but her antibiotics soon took hold, and by the first of March she was much better.
"We'll work on your taxes this week," said Bucky.
"Oh, that would be wonderful," said Yo. "I'd like to get that done before you and Loie go away, but if we can't, it can wait until you get back to finish them."
"We'll get a good start," said Bucky, "And then we'll see what we see."
Yo was up and dressing herself that week, and she had many visitors now that she was getting over her infection. She gave Bucky lots of directions for the tax work, and they made good progress. One day, Aunt Syl Chisolm came for a lunch visit, and Yo was proud to explain how handy her new ink jet combination machine had turned out to be.
"We made all our copies right here," said Yo. "My new machine is a color printer, a scanner, a copy machine and a fax machine. But we don't have it hooked up for faxing." Aunt Syl Chisolm was impressed with Yo's modernity.
Yo and Bucky had finished finding and sorting and marking all her papers by Thursday. Friday, the fifth of March, Bucky called Yo to tell her he had delivered the papers to her tax preparer.
"Oh," said Yo, "That's a big relief. I'm so glad that's all done."
"Pretty handy having that new printer to make all the copies right in your room," said Bucky. "Piece of cake."
Loie and Bucky had a busy weekend, and did not get to talk to Yo. Terrie called Saturday afternoon, asking them if they wanted to come over to watch the Looneytoons movie. Terrie knows Bucky loves cartoons.
"Hey, I know what," said Bucky. "Loie," he called upstairs, "Do we want to take our pizza kit to Terrie and Pete's Sunday night and make pizzas and watch a movie?" Loie said sure, so that was a plan.
Saturday evening was a visit with Father. Sunday lunch was at Loie's parents, to celebrate her upcoming birthday. Then Loie and Bucky, Alyssa and Terrie and Pete enjoyed pizza and the movie Sunday evening. Just as the movie was over, and everyone was trying to decide whether to have cake left over from the birthday lunch, the phone rang.
It was a call from the nurse at Caroll Lutheran Village.
"Your mother's had a bad day," said Nurse Sarah. "She's been having panic attacks, and we've given her morphine to help her breathing. She asked me to call her sons to see if one of them can come be with her." Bucky and Pete set off for Yo's room. Pete drove them in Terrie's Big Red Machine, her Jeep Cherokee.
They arrived a little after nine, and though Yo looked drawn, she was sitting in her wheelchair, still awake and aware. But she wasn't dresed, she was still in the hospital gown she had been wearing to sleep in the night before. A damp washcloth was draped over her forehead; it seemed she had been slightly feverish, or perhaps just hot from her labored breathing.
"She's told us she doesn't want to go to bed," said Nurse Sarah, "She wants to sit up in her chair."
"Yes," said Bucky, "She has a harder time breathing lying down. That scares her sometimes."
"We're here, Yo," said Pete as they sat down with her. Yo's wheel chair was near the end of her bed, facing the head. Bucky reached over the bed and got out the desk lawn chair for Pete. He sat in the chair, on Yo's left. Bucky sat on the foot of Yo's bed.
"Oh, thank you both for coming," Yo said. She was holding a plastic basin in her lap. Yo coughed, almost retching.
"I've been feeling like I might spit up," said Yo. Her voice was thick with congestion. "I think the morphine's made me nauseated." Nurse Sarah gave Yo a small sip of ginger ale from a cup with lots of ice and a little soda.
"She told me it calms her stomach," said Nurse Sarah. She left Pete and Bucky with Yo, telling them on her way out to give Yo plenty of small sips of her ginger ale. "Her mouth's getting dry, it's working so hard."
The boys sat with Yo for a while, Pete holding her hand and stroking her arm. Bucky gave Yo a sip of ginger ale. They took turns rinsing out the cool washcloth the nurses had draped over Yo's forehead. Yo was shifting her oxygen tube from her mouth, to her nose and back again every few minutes, taking some more sips of ginger ale. She continued to clutch her basin on her lap, and had several rough croupy coughs.
"Is my oxygen on four or three?" she asked.
Bucky leaned over the bed, and checked the machines. "One is on three, the other on four," he told Yo.
"Put them both up to four, please, honey," said Yo, and Bucky adjusted one machine up.
"Ask if I can have the rest of the last dose of morphine," said Yo. Bucky went out to the nurse's station, and made Yo's request to Nurse Sarah.
"No, I'm really sorry," she said. "We didn't give her the full allowable dose—she told us only half—but there's also a time restriction. No matter how much she had, I can't administer again until ten thirty." This was at about a quarter to ten.
"But she can have a dose of Adavan. I asked her earlier if she wouldn't prefer that, and she said no. But maybe now she'd take some."
Bucky went back to Yo's room and told her what Nurse Sarah had said. Yo just shook her head no. They sat a while longer. Pete and Bucky took turns holding Yo's hands, and stroking her arms. Nurse Sarah came in, and asked Yo if she wanted a nebuliser treatment. Yo said yes, and the nurse set up the nebuliser. Yo breathed her "smoke" for a while, and Bucky and Pete helped her keep the mask and her oxygen tube adjusted when she had to cough a bit, and once when Yo had a little unproductive retching.
"How are you doing, Yo?" said Pete, and Yo nodded her head fitfully. The nebuliser was done, and they took off the mask and set it back on the machine. Bucky wiped Yo's mouth with a tissue. Then she asked if she could have the Adavan, and Bucky went to find Nurse Sarah. Yo's voice was weak, a whisper, and she had begun to hunch her shoulders in her chair.
"Good," said Nurse Sarah. "That should help her." Bucky went back to the room, and told Yo the nurse was coming. Nurse Sarah was there within the minute, and gave Yo her new medicine just a little before ten o'clock.
"At ten thirty," said Nurse Sarah, "I can give you a little more morphine. You can have up to twenty grains."
Yo murmered, "Maybe ten."
The Adavan did help, and Yo was beginning to relax a little; it seemed her breathing was slightly deeper for a while. But she was drifting, her eyes closed, and head resting back on the lambswool pad draped over the back of her chair. Between ten o'clock and ten thirty they sat, and refreshed Yo's cloth from time to time. Bucky and Pete exchanged questioning looks, but neither of them knew what the night would bring. Two of the night aides stopped in to see how Yo was doing. There were a few soft murmurs of admiration for Yo, but the room and hall were quiet. Yo tried to shift her oxygen tube, but now Pete and Bucky had to do it; Yo's hands were shaking, and she couldn't get it adjusted. Bucky wiped her mouth another time or two. Yo's breathing then became more labored; she wasn't coughing any more, and Pete took the basin of her lap, setting it aside. He stroked her arm.
"We love you, Yo," he said softly. Yo's head was resting back, and she didn't respond. At about a quarter or twenty past ten, Yo groaned a few times, murmuring "Oh God," and "Oh Lord God." That happened three or four times,
At ten thirty, Nurse Sarah came in, and bent down to ask Yo if she wanted more morphine. Yo didn't speak; she nodded yes. She took her morphine, and Nurse Sarah left. This time, the medicine didn't seem to help. Yo began to hunch her shoulders higher, and though Pete and Bucky both stroked her arms and hands, and smoothed her hair, Yo didn't relax as would have been expected. Her shoulders hunched higher, and her arms shook a little bit.
Bucky and Pete were looking back and forth from Yo to each other. They both knew very well that Yo had said many times there were to be no heroic measures, and though they had come not knowing how Yo was feeling, they both felt this was a crisis, to be passed or not.
Yo wasn't in great distress; she wasn't calling out or crying, she didn't thrash or spasm. But her kept her shoulders hunched, and her head began to loll forward. Pete stood up behind her chair for a few minutes, massaging her shoulders and trying to hold her head back. by the forehead, so that she could breathe as much as possible.
By a quarter to eleven, Bucky was kneeling in front of Yo's chair, his two palms on her cheeks, propping her head up as well as possible. Yo's tongue was pushing forward at her lower lip, and was turning very slightly blue. Pete sat beside her, holding her forehead. Yo's eyes were beginning to glaze, and roll up. Pete and Bucky knew Yo was dying; they hoped it would not be painful. Bucky began to tell Yo to call her Father. "Call your father, Yo. Call your Father." He was remembering that, a long time ago, Yo had told him the story of Nana's dying.
Yo's mother-in-law was dying of cancer, her poor old body riddled with it, almost every organ half eaten away. Yo had nursed Nana at home, at Bellview, for months while Nana slowly succumbed to the cancers.
"At the end," Yo had told Bucky, "She was turning blue, and gasping for breath. It went on for hours, almost a day. She just couldn't die. I was so tired, I was crying. 'Please, Nana.' I was saying, 'Please just go. You can go.' It was awful. And then I don't know what made me think of it, but I started to pray, and I called to my father, to Grandpa Duke.
"I guess I was just so tired, and so distressed, I didn't know who else I could call on." Of course Yo's father, whose nickname was Duke, had been dead for years by then.
"I just prayed, and called out to your Grandpa Duke, 'Please Daddy, come and get Nana. Please Daddy help Nana.'
"And he came. I don't know how I knew it, but he came, and Nana died."
So now Bucky was telling his mother to call Grandpa Duke, to call her Daddy. "Call your father Yo, call your father."
Nurse Sarah came to the door of Yo's room. Bucky looked up, and shook his head. She came in, and felt Yo's wrist for a pulse. "Her heart is still beating, but very slowly, and it's a weak pulse." Bucky, with the heels of his hands on Yo's throat, had been feeling her pulse recede. Nurse Sarah went out.
Pete continued to hold Yo's shoulder back, to try and prop her up, and Bucky knelt and held her head. Yo's breathing slowed. At about ten of eleven, perhaps it was five of, she made two faint gasping sounds deep in her throat. By then, she was hardly breathing at all, and Bucky could feel no pulse in her throat. Pete and Bucky continued to hold her up as best they could, but by now Yo was very limp. Her tongue pressed on her lower teeth, and Yo's eyes were rolled halfway up.
Nurse Sarah came in again, and listened to Yo's chest with her stethoscope.
"I think I can hear a heartbeat, but just barely," she said. "It might only be one every few seconds." At eleven o'clock, Yo seemed not to be breathing. Then, at a minute or two past eleven, she made one little gasping sound that startled Bucky and Pete. Then she was heavily flaccid. Bucky let go of her cheeks with one hand; he raised one of Yo's hands off her lap a few inches; it fell loosely back to her lap when he let it go. Bucky and Pete gently smoothed dwon Yo's eyelids as best they could. Bucky stood up, and Pete held up Yo's head a little. Nurse Sarah came in the room, and just shook her head. Yo was dead.
There was a bit of bustle as Pete and Bucky, Nurse Sarah and an aide lifted Yo's body onto her bed. Bucky asked Nurse Sarah to please listen for a heartbeat. The nurse looked at him a bit askance, and he said, "Just to reassure, me, please." She listened with her stethoscope, and said she could hear nothing.
"Thank you," said Bucky.
"I'll go tell the head nurse," said Nurse Sarah. Pete and Bucky stood quietly by the bed for a minute.
"I guess we better start calling everyone to tell them Yo's passed away," said Bucky.
"Definitely Sister Sarah," said Pete. "And Terrie and Loie. Should we call Father? It's kind of late." Of course, Terrie and Loie would be anxious to know what had been happening. So they began the sad duty of notifying the family, and when they called Sarah, she dropped a bombshell.
"Oh, god, why didn't you call me?" she said. "I would have started out, I could have been there…"
"Well," said Bucky, "I thought of that, but there wasn't time. I mean, we've only been here an hour and a half. She waited 'til the last minute."
"No no," said Sister Sarah, "You're right. I'd still be hours away. This way I can come for the viewing. All right, you know about Yo's instructions for her viewing at Bellview, and cremation, and that she's not to be enbalmed, and she wants a memorial service at All Saints?"
"Uh, nope," said Bucky, "This is all news to me. Can she not be enbalmed?"
"Oh god, you boys," said Sarah, "Yes, Yo told me a few weeks ago that she is not to be enbalmed, she wants a plain pine box. It's supposed to be set up at home, in Glyndon, for two days for viewing. Then she's supposed to be cremated, and wants a memorial service."
"Well, OK," said Bucky. "We're going to stay and see her taken out. I'll talk to the funeral home guy when he gets here. But listen, how long can we wait for this viewing if she's not enbalmed?"
"I don't know," said Sarah. "You have to find out. Just be sure to tell them to not do anything yet."
Armed with this new plan, but not sure exactly what to do next, Pete and Bucky walked out to the nurse's station, and found that of course the nurses knew how to proceed.
"We've called her doctor," said Head Nurse Charlotte, "And he'll sign the release."
"We need to call Eckhardt's funeral home," said Bucky as he and Pete leaned wearily on the new counter curving around the renovated nurse's station.
"Oh yes," said Nurse Sarah through the door, "That's in her records, we'll do that. You don't have to stay, you know, to see that." She meant the removing of Yo's body.
"We'll stay," said Bucky. "We have to stay to talk to the funeral home. How long will that take them to get here?"
"They should be here in half an hour or fortyfive minutes," said Nurse Sarah. "They're very prompt."
"Let's go outside for a while then," Bucky said to Pete. "Hey, we'll have a last traditional ginger ale." They began to walk around the nurse's station, headed for the staff lounge and the outdoor staff sitting area. Pete shook his head in puzzlement at Bucky as they walked.
"I get a can of ginger ale every time Yo and I are doing some work on her checkbook or her computer," said Bucky. "They have Schweppe's ginger ale here in the soda machine. It's a tradition."