Sad news

He wakes up a littleSunny on his last morningAftermath

Sunny’s last morning, a set on Flickr.

Sunny was uncomfortable enough to be saying “do something” yesterday morning, so I made him an appointment at the vet. It turned out that his constipation was caused by a massive tumor in his colon, and we decided to put him down.

These are pictures from after I made the appointment. I don’t have one from his last decision about where to lie down in the examining room at the vets — he was famous for figuring out how to be as in the way as possible, and this talent didn’t desert him at the end. He had a whole room to pick from, including a comfortable blanket in the middle of the room, and he lay down in front of the door to make it hard for the vet to get in and out of the room.

I told him how much everybody was going to miss him, and he ate lots of treats and barked at the vet when she took his paw to put in the solution. And then it was over.

Beer for the dying

At the beginning of Victoria’s
memorial service,
George, her husband, gave a welcome speech.
The first memory he told us about was of the last few
weeks or months of her life, when every morning she would wake up
and they would share a beer. Even on her last day, he wet her lips
with some beer, and he thought he could see a smile.

This reminded me of the story my uncle told after my Grandmother’s
funeral. He
had visited her the weekend before she died. He’d
asked her if there was anything he could get her or do for her to
make her more comfortable, and she asked him to bring her a beer.
I didn’t think of her as a beer-drinker at all — she drank wine
with dinner, and sometimes a brandy before bed. But apparently
one of the things that shuts down when you’re dying is your
ability to swallow, and beer was what she believed would go down
the easiest.

This makes me sad that I
didn’t work harder to bring Bonnie (who was a beer drinker) beer
when she was dying. I just assumed that it would conflict with
all the other drugs she was taking, and be a problem for all the
tubes. At the period when I was spending a lot of my visiting time giving
her sponges to wet her mouth with, I did bring some coffee, and it
turned out to be a mistake — the diuretic effect of even less than an
ounce of decaf coffee was too much for the tubes she was on.

This is only two anecdotes, but until recently I didn’t really
hear that many anecdotes about the care of the dying, so the
fact that there are two suggests that there might be lots more.
So maybe the institutions and people who deal with the dying all
the time should try to figure out how they could provide the benefits of
beer to all their patients.

Victoria Bolles, RIP

[Victoria from obituary]

Victoria from her obituary at the
local paper.

I mentioned a few
days ago
that I had two Memorial Services I wanted to go
to yesterday afternoon. The one I actually went to was for
Victoria Bolles, a friend from the West Gallery

[Victoria from facebook]

Victoria from her Facebook Page

I didn’t know Victoria that well until I started sending anyone
who wanted to read them long emails about Bonnie’s condition. She
was an enthusiastic member of the West Gallery Quire — I may have
first noticed her when she turned out to know how to pronounce
Welsh. She and her husband George were the first people who
started bringing food to share at the breaks, which is now an
established custom. There was a Shape Note Singing that would
normally have been small, but robust, but for some reason the day
I showed up there was only me, Bonnie, Victoria and George for
quite a while at the
beginning. This meant that I had to sing the lead without any
assistance, and they were all quite helpful about finding songs
that were suitable for that.

When I set up the bonnienews mailing list, Victoria subscribed
even though I don’t think she knew Bonnie any better than she knew
me. At one point she sent me a very supportive email:

I wish I could say how my heart goes out to you as you keep your
steadfast watch by Bonnie’s side. You are wise and strong, and Bonnie
could not be more blessed. I’m not sure what to do about visiting
Bonnie, as she does not know George or me well and might find our
presence unsettling. But I have a card I picked out for her recently,
so I’ll send that, and keep sending cards as I find them.

And I’ll think of her, and hold her in my heart, and be grateful for
the time I’ve known her, and send her love. I guess that’s the best
anyone who’s not close can do. Love is all we have.

That mail was sent on March 12, 2008, and the correspondence it
led to ended up with Victoria organizing a group of shape note
singers to go to Bonnie in the hospice and sing in her room for
over an hour. Unfortunately this didn’t happen until early May,
which was about two weeks before she died. A week or two earlier
she would have been able to show more signs of appreciation.

After that, there was a correspondence about what kind of
support she could give me with all the work I would have to do
about arranging the funeral. She was so sympathetic I complained
about all the phone calls that were involved, and she offered to
just do some for me. This is what I told her I appreciated most
when I saw her after she got sick, and what I told George I
remembered most fondly about her at the Memorial Service
yesterday. Everybody who wants to be sympathetic says, “Let me
know if there’s anything I can do,” but Victoria did enough
sympathetic listening to actually come up with a good plan for
something she could do that was helpful. Here’s how some of that
email went:

Victoria: Peace and strength to you,

Laura Thanks. So far, the strength has mainly been
necessary for yelling at Pioneer Investments customer support people, who don’t seem to know
anything about what they’re supposed to do with a Power of Attorney,
and they change their story if you yell at them hard enough. But I
will need strength to deal with undertakers, funerals, and real estate
agents in the future.

Victoria: I will be happy to do anything to help you deal with “undertakers,
funerals and real estate agents” when the time comes. Because I will
not have been subjected to the constant stress you’ve been handling it
might be a bit easier for me to take one some of that stuff. It’s up
to you; just remember that if you ask me, I’ll say yes. The one thing
you need to bear in mind is that I don’t drive, so anything that
requires getting someplace by car can become a problem. But a lot of
what you mention can be done via phone.

I had a close friend of Bonnie’s who was a member of the church
Bonnie wanted her funeral at helping me with those arrangements,
and undertakers turn out to be pretty good at not making
unreasonable demands on the recently bereaved. But Victoria did a
lot of research for me into how to go about donating Bonnie’s car
to WGBH, she ordered the floral arrangement for the funeral, and
found a name of a real estate agent.

I was glad to hear the remembrances of people who’d known her
in other contexts at the funeral. I’m sorry I didn’t get to hear
her Cemetery Tours of the Wyoming Cemetery in Malden where her
ashes are buried, or know more about the writing group she was a
founding member of. The biggest laugh of the afternoon (no, big
laughs aren’t what most people who give remembrances at Memorial
Services go for) was from someone she’d worked with at the
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. He said, “I was
Victoria’s boss — what a silly idea.” I was sitting where I
could see George, and he was laughing even harder than a lot of
other people.

People complained when I arranged Bonnie’s funeral that there
were seven hymns. They hadn’t been to a Sacred Harp Memorial Lesson,
which is what Victoria had. From the Interment of Ashes at 11:30 AM
until 4 PM, we were singing at least half the time, and we must
have sung 40 or so hymns. I headed this posting “RIP”, but the
Sacred Harp, “And I’ll sing ‘Hallelujah’, when I arrive at home,”
with which we ended the service,
seems more appropriate to how I imagine Victoria arriving in Heaven.

Marty Sasaki, RIP

[marty from post to his high school facebook page]

Marty from post to his high school facebook page

Marty’s death apparently happened about six months ago.
He stopped posting to his blog
on August 13. His recorder teacher, who told me about it, had
seen him at her student recital (which may have been the one on
September 12) two days before he died.

[marty from fellow photographer's page]

Marty from fellow photographer’s tripod page

We shared a cubicle in 1981-2, when we were both programmers in
the Radiology Department of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Although it was at that point one of the better jobs I’ve ever had
in my life, we both found some of the political aspects of it
frustrating. We would occasionally both get into his car and go
to a hill in Brookline and fly kites.

[One of Marty's kites]

One of Marty’s kites

He was at that point not long out of MIT, and in much better
touch with the cutting edge of programming than I was, so I
learned a lot from him. He was the first person I ever saw using
emacs, and it was his copy of The TEXbook that
introduced me to Donald Knuth and TEX.

When he left that job for another job in the Harvard Medical
Area, he was the first person I ever kept in touch with by email
and a “talk” program that ran on the Vax.

We eventually fell out of touch, but then when I was just
starting to be the Administrator of the Boston Recorder
, I got an email from him (in my capacity as
administrator; we’d neither of us particularly identified as
recorder players when we knew each other). He was thinking about
picking up the recorder again, and wondered if what the BRS was
doing would help. He must have decided that it wouldn’t, because
I don’t think he ever came to one of our meetings, but he did get
involved in other recorder-related activities in the Boston area,
and I occasionally saw him there.

The most recent real conversation we had was when he came as
part of the group that spelled the Cantabile Band at the Walk for
Hunger last year. He was looking quite a bit thinner than when
I’d most recently seen him, and seeming more mobile. We talked
about how much more energy blogging takes than you would expect,
and about the process of winding up the affairs of a dead person.
He was talking to me instead of playing because he’d gotten
frustrated by the playing — most of the other players in the
group were a lot more experienced than he was. But I had a bit
the same sense of returning peace that I remembered from flying
kites on the hill in Brookline.

He will be remembered at a recital on Saturday.
I won’t be able to go, because there’s a memorial service for
another friend at the same time. Having conflicting memorial
services makes me feel old, but that’s another post.

The Spare Room

is about aspects of taking care of a dying person
that I mostly didn’t do with Bonnie.

The main character (Helen) lives near Melbourne, and has a
close friend (Nicola)
with cancer
who lives in Sidney but has found a “clinic” in Melbourne that she
believes will cure her cancer. So she moves in with Helen for the
three weeks the treatment will take.

During those three weeks, Helen has to do a lot of physical
nursing, deal with Nicola’s denying that she is dying, and deal
with Nicola’s refusal to realize that this clinic treatment
she’s getting isn’t going to do any good and she has to go to
real doctors for real treatments.

The writing is good, and the discussion of the issues of how to
deal with a dying person is perceptive. But in the most amazing
paragraph, Helen describes how Nicola organizes her own home care after
Helen finally convinces her that she can’t do it all:

I didn’t know yet how many times I would fly to Sydney to
play my small part in the remains of her care, or how often,
when I buzzed at Iris’s apartment, the door would be opened by
Harriet from Yass, her round, weather-beaten face sweating and
wild with fatigue, or by Marion the Buddhist, white, composed,
and stoic after a five-day stint without relief. I had not
prepared myself to sleep on the floor beside Clare from Byron,
when Iris, half out of her mind, pulled on a backpack and
fled north, on foot, along the coast of New South Wales.

I coule not imagine the urge to start drinking that would
seize me every time I entered the high, airy rooms of the
apartment and found Nicola enthroned on the sofa where, propped
against its hard padded arm, she woke and slept and laughed and
coughed, commanding the stewing of Chinese herbs, planning brown
rice fasts and drastic alkaline diets, turning her face up each
morning to the sun that streamed in through the uncovered
windows. Nor could I foresee that one day, with her swollen
legs resting on a stack of cushions, she would announce
brightly, “I’ve suddenly realized why I feel so terrible — I
must be anemic.” Or how dull my life at home would seem between
my visits to Sydney, how I would write to her on a postcard: “I
miss you. I’m bored. I’d rather be scrubbing shit off Iris’s
bathroom tiles.” For this too would be required of me: like
otherw who served her, whom I came to love in the intimacy of
our labor. I would have to help carry her to the lavatory,
where I learned to wash her arse as gently as I had washed my
sister’s and my mother’s, and as someday someone will have to
wash mine.

I might have guessed that she would resist the hospice until
the contents of her lungs began to bubble up into her nose and
throat, until everyone around her was deranged with exhaustion,
fury, nad despair. She relented only when Marion said to her,
“Don’t regret the things you haven’t done. That’s the past.
Let it go. Rejoice: you’re our teacher now.”

None of Bonnie’s illness worked out much like that — Bonnie
went into the hospital as soon as it was clear that she couldn’t
take care of herself, and by the time she might have been
denying what was happening, she’d had the stroke that left her
unable to talk. But I do recognize both the urge to drink and
the love and closeness with the other people caring for

This is a short book. At the beginning I wondered if the
one-column review
in the New York Times had told me everything I was
interested in knowing about this book. But it really does get
even more interesting at the end.

Woes of an Executrix: taxes

I swore I’d get the First and Final Accounting of Bonnie’s
estate done by today, so I’ve chained myself to the desk and I’m
working on it.

This means I don’t have time to write anything new today, but
it also means I’ve been reading a lot of the stuff I wrote when
I was trying to figure out the taxes and such.

Here’s my
description of trying to deal with the IRS on the phone:

I finally decided I had to do something about the taxes, so I called
the IRS. They played me the Blue Danube Waltz for 45 minutes or so
and then someone came on and told me what number form I needed to send
in so that she could talk to me about Bonnie’s taxes. She wanted to
tell me a fax number, but I told her that faxing was a pain so I
needed snail mail or email. So they played the Blue Danube Waltz for
a while longer, and then she gave me an address. I should have looked
at the form while she did that, because it turns out to be a Power of
Attorney form, and it isn’t at all clear that it applies to an

Did you do anything like this? Do you have any way of finding out
what an executrix needs to do to get tax information? I can go
downtown with the shoebox and see if they’ll help me if I talk to them
in person. I can send in form 2848 with none of the boxes checked and
a note that they should have another box if this is the right form,
but that seems like a pretty forlorn hope.

The upshot was that my tax preparer friend and I went down to
the IRS office in downtown Boston with my executrix appointment
and spoke to a very nice man who gave us printouts of everything
they had in their computers. It turned out that Bonnie hadn’t
filed any tax returns since 1996, and they’d only caught her for
2001. They subsequently caught her for 2006, so the estate ended
up paying a lot of taxes and penalties, but possibly not much more
than she would have paid in taxes if she’d paid the normal

This is not the way those of us who file our taxes every year
believe the system is supposed to work. Nor is it the way the
nice man in the IRS office believed it was supposed to
work, but he didn’t sound real surprised that it had in fact
worked that way.

End is in sight

Of the executrix gig.

I just printed off the statement of income, expenses and
deductions that the lawyer for Bonnie’s
estate needs to file the estate taxes. Yesterday I sent what I
believe to be the final check to the IRS to cover the tax mess she
was in.

If you ever have to do this, you should be more organized about
keeping records than I was. I put everything relevent in a box,
but it ended up being a lot of stuff to sort through to find the
numbers I needed. I had a good spreadsheet about the instruments,
and about the amounts of money that went between my checking
account and hers while I had power of attorney, and between my
account and the estate’s account after I was appointed executrix.
(A lawyer isn’t going to say directly that you should do this, but
I figured out from what he did say the day after she died that I should back date a check
to before she died and put it in my account so that I’d be able to
pay bills in the weeks between her death and my appointment as
executrix. So most of the funeral expenses came out of my
checking account, but it was mostly money that had been in
Bonnie’s checking account.)

But all the stuff about donations and sales of things other
than instruments should have been in the spreadsheet and were
instead in the box.

I think I have to produce an accounting of some sort before I
can pay any money to the legatees, but I’m hoping it won’t make me
feel as helpless as the tax statement did. I’m not sure why,
because I do my own taxes fairly easily, but it reminded me of when
I first went to school and had to do workbooks. I was young for
my grade, and clumsy at writing but facile at talking, so it
always seemed that there was nothing like room enough to really
answer the questions, so you had to not only figure out the
answer, which was easy, but figure out how to fit it into the
space they gave me, which usually seemed impossible.

So even after finding the cool new LaTeX class, I had to take
lots of deep breaths and assure myself that this really isn’t
anything I couldn’t do, and if I really couldn’t find the numbers,
I could just make up something plausible, and finally it’s in the mail.

The marginpar command in the tufte-handout class
is in fact a good feature for something like this. I had a list
of items like:

  • 4 boxes of books to Haverhill Library sale
  • 25 bags of clothes to Big Brother Big Sister

and I put marginal notes in explaining how many pounds in a box or
a bag.

Cleaning out the house of a deceased person

I’ve been thinking about this experience because of writing up
the summary for the IRS of what we sold and donated. There are
other good stories to tell, but here’s the email I sent to the
list of Bonnie’s friends about a month after she died:

Subject: [Bonnienews] deadlines

I have been officially appointed executrix of Bonnie’s estate, with
the power to sell things, and specifically real estate.

I am going to be signing an agreement with a realtor, who will be
hiring some men with a shovel and a truck to clean the place out,
starting Monday, July 7, three weeks from today.

If there’s anything in Bonnie’s house that you want to save from the
shovels, you must remove it before then.

As far as I know, I have already removed all the instruments. There
is a rumor of there being a set of handbells, and I think it’s
possible there are some small things like recorders and viol bows that
I haven’t found yet. I found a drawer full of double reeds, so if
there are more of those, it isn’t clear I need them. If you’re
helping clean out and find anything like a musical instrument or part
thereof, give it to me.

An antique dealer has looked at the house; he is buying a desk, and
giving us some assistance with getting two large items to an auction

There are a few items of possible antiquarian interest that I’d like
the dealer to see before I give them away. There’s a mantle clock,
some dolls that look older than Bonnie, a statue of a horse, the
family silver…

We have made major progress in finding and boxing the music. Some
music has been removed; there is still a corner full of boxes; there
are probably a few boxes not in that corner that we haven’t yet looked
at, but we’re on track to have found most of the music. We will need
to move it somewhere for further sorting. I have several volunteers
to help with this; if you also want to help with it, let me know.

The other obvious thing that would be a pity if it goes into the trash
is the collection of scholarly books. (Old English, Middle English,
Old Icelandic, Mediaeval History…) There are people who are
interested in sorting this and finding a destination for it; we may
still need help with transporting it to that destination.

Anything else that would be of use to you, you are welcome to. If you
have a way to take it somewhere and sell it, please do so. If you
make hundreds or thousands of dollars, it would be good if you would
deduct a commission (possibly a large one) and return the rest to the
estate, but if you make only 10’s of dollars, please keep it, and if
you like, donate some of it to a charity of which Bonnie would have

There is some fairly nice old furniture; there’s a small refrigerator
that works, there’s an upright freezer that works, several fans that
work, there are quite a lot of mystery novels and other books; there
are CD’s, DVD’s and video tapes; gardening equipment and supplies…

If you have young friends who are starting their first apartment and
don’t have all the stuff they need, you might consider seeing if they
want to spend a couple of hours helping out in exchange for everything
they want to snarf.

The clothes and the kitchen stuff can be put in bags and boxes and
donated. If you feel like helping with the bagging and boxing, the
assistance would be appreciated. Anything not in bags and boxes by
the deadline will be trashed.

Please note that I am asking for assistance, not advice. If I had a
year, I could take care of all of this, and everything useful would
get to someone who could use it and everything saleable would get put
up for sale. I don’t have a year; I have three weeks. So the things
that are important to me or to Bonnie’s friends who have time to help
will get taken care of, and the other things won’t.

All my life I’ve heard stories that start, “X had such a wonderful
collection of Y, but it disappeared when he died…” I now have more
sympathy with the executors who get blamed for the disappearance.
Some of them may not have tried as hard as I have to get the friends
and family to take care of the things they care about. But likely
they all tried a bit, and if the people telling the stories had said,
“Would you like me to come pack up the collection of Y and put it in a
safe place until you have time to deal with it?”, the collection would not
have been lost. So if you’re thinking of telling those stories about
the terrible executrix of Bonnie’s estate, think about asking to help
now, instead of telling the story later.

I will generally be there on Wednesday and Thursday, and other times
by appointment. Once you’ve seen the lay of the land, I can tell you
where the spare key is and you can go any time that’s convenient to
you, but the first time you go, you should have a guide (me or one of
the other people who’s been helping regularly) to where the sorted
piles are.

In the end, we didn’t end up hiring the men with the shovels —
the real estate agent found enough things wrong with the house
that she decided it should go to someone who wanted to do enough
work that some extra shoveling wouldn’t bother them. So we
actually had until the sale of the house in mid-September to clear
things out.

Pauline Bonaparte

I read Pauline
Bonaparte, Venus of Empire
by Flora Fraser last week.

It’s the kind of biography where you’re surprised at how much
material there is, but a little sorry that more of it didn’t get
edited out.

But the picture that emerges of the Bonaparte family life is
really pretty interesting. Especially how much better the
siblings got along after Napoleon was sent to Saint Helena than
when he was Emperor and could give them money and jobs.

I was also interested in the details of living with 19th
century medical care. Of course, Pauline was troubled for most
of her adult life by illnesses that could have been fixed by
antibiotics or a hysterectomy.

On the other hand, she was lucid almost to the minute she died, which I don’t
think very many people accomplish with high tech medicine.
She might have opted for modern painkillers over lucidity if she’d had
the choice, but she presumably did have some choice, and she
went with revising her will in detail:

…in the night of June 8, the doctors reported that the end
was at hand and she should be given the last rites. But
Pauline, ill though she was, said, “I’ll tell you when I am
ready. I still have some hours to live.” Not until eleven the
following morning did she agree to receive the priest who had
been hovering outside. And even at the moment of communion,
when the priest wished to speak a few words, Pauline, on easy
terms with the Church to the last, stopped him, and spoke
herself. It was a discourse, wrote Sylvie d’Hautmesnil, who was
present, most touching in its piety.

From her bed, dressed “as ever” with elegance, Pauline
dictated the terms of her will. It was a lengthy document, for
thre were many family members of whom to make mention.

“I die in the middle of cruel and horrible sufferings,” she
declared, and indeed her bedchamber woman wrote that Pauline had
not been free from pain for over eighty days, her liver, lungs,
and stomach all causing her torment.

Having signed the will, Pauline handed the pen to Sylvie to
place back on her éscritoire, and the notary
exited, leaving the princess to say a punctilious good-bye to
the members of the household. To Sylvie, Pauline gave cool
instructions about the toilette and the parure in which
her embalmed corpse was to be attired. Apparently she called
for a mirror to inspect her appearance. More certainly Pauline
Borghese’s last act before she died was to hand her keys…to
the prince. Her affairs were in order, and she died at one in
the afternoon on June 9, 1825. The cause of her death…was
given as a scierro–or tumor–on the stomach.

It’s also interesting to read about the life of a Princess
whose every whim gets catered to. There’s one story about her
staying at a house on a journey. She had informed them in
advance that she would need a milk bath, and they had laid in a
large supply of milk. But it turned out that she needed a milk
shower after her milk bath, and they didn’t have a shower. So
she ordered them to cut a hole in the ceiling and have the
servants pour the milk over her through the hole. The whole
house smelled of sour milk for weeks afterwards.

Timeline of Bonnie’s death

One of the things I mean to do at some point during this year
of blogging every day is write a series of posts about what it was
like when a close friend suddenly became ill and died, and I ended
up with her health care proxy, power of attorney, and being the
executrix of her will. I felt unprepared for all these roles, and
maybe writing about how I did them will help someone else who has
to do it.

I’ve mentioned this in a couple of posts, but not started
organizing it in any way. So I thought the first step might be to
write about the timeline in which things happened.

October, 2007
Bonnie mentions that she’s sleeping about 14 hours a
day. I didn’t think anything about this until much later, but
if anyone else ever tells me something like that, I’ll remember
that it was the first sign that something was really wrong with
November 11, 2007
Bonnie tells me that she’s having trouble breathing, as in
getting out of breath when she walks across a room. I urge her
to go to the doctor and have it checked out.
December 2, 2007
Bonnie arrives at rehearsal at my place, and sits on the top
of the front steps for a while to recover before going up the
flight of stairs to my apartment. If she had been a child, I
would have called an ambulance for her right then, but she not
only rehearsed, but went on to another meeting after the
December 3, 2007
Bonnie has appointment with doctor, who suspects pulmonary
hypertension and schedules tests for a couple of weeks
December 4, 2007
Bonnie fails to make a rehearsal (very unusual), and at
about midnight calls to say that she fainted in the bathroom,
has called the ambulance, and can I take care of her cats the
next day. She ends the conversation by saying, “If you don’t
hear from me, assume the worst.”
December 5, 2007
What I actually did this day is probably a full post, but
Bonnie called me very early in the morning saying that she was
at the Salem Hospital, had been diagnosed with blood clots in
the lungs, and could I get the cats taken care of and bring her
some stuff from her house.
December 28, 2007
Bonnie released from hospital, with a prescription for a
blood thinner and appointments with oncologists.
January 5, 2008
I had total hip replacement surgery on January 4, and Bonnie
visited me in the hospital on January 5. This is the last time
I saw her when she wasn’t in a hospital. I was getting a blood
transfusion, so I was probably actually in worse shape than she
was, although that’s debatable. She had stopped at my place and
dealt with the stairs, and then dealt with however many hospital
corriders there were to get to my room, so she looked pretty
January 7, 2008
This date is approximate; I was in the hospital and not on
email, so I don’t have a good record. But it was certainly
within a day or two. Bonnie was bleeding from the GI tract, so
she took the cats to the vet to be boarded and checked herself
into the Lahey Clinic hospital in Burlington.
Some time between the above and January 23
Bonnie was in the hospital without email, and I hadn’t yet
set up the list for regular updates to her friends, so that’s
why this date is so vague. They decided to treat the blood
clots by installing a filter in a major blood vessel so that
clots that formed in the lower half of her body wouldn’t reach
the heart, lungs, and brain. Almost immediately, the filter
clogged up, so the lower half of her body swelled up and it was
impossible to move her. Essentially she never left her bed
after this.
February 9, 2008
Several really upset phone calls from Bonnie. The medical
thing that happened apparently was that the cancer had eaten a
hole in her intestine and stuff was leaking out into the
abdominal cavity and causing infection. So they weren’t letting
her eat or drink, and she was pretty scared about the dying
thing. It is about this time that she rewrites her will and her
health care proxy and power of attorney, naming me, with Phyllis
as an alternate.
February 15, 2008
They tell Bonnie that she’s about to die, if she doesn’t
have risky surgery to fix her leaky intestine. She asks for the
surgery. This is the last time I talk to her on the phone. She
goes in for the surgery at about 3 PM, and at 10:30 the doctor
calls me to tell me that she came through the surgery, and that
they’ve removed some intestine and fixed the leaks, but that
there’s still a lot of cancer in there.
February 19, 2008
The lawyer and I agree that I should take power of
attorney. Bonnie is under heavy sedation and expected to
continue to be unconscious for at least a couple of weeks.
March 5, 2008
Bonnie seems conscious and may be trying to talk, but is
March 12, 2008
Phyllis and her husband and I meet with Bonnie’s doctor, who
tells us that she has a small number of months to live, and will
never be able to live independantly again. She is clearly able
ot understand what people say to her, but not to talk, or to
move her left side. The oncologists do not consider her a
candidate for further chemotherapy, but if the motion problems
are due to cancer in the brain, they might be able to do
April 1, 2008
Bonnie bleeding from GI tract, needs transfusions. The
doctors want to know whether they should do an endoscopy or just
stop the blood thinning medication and hope that works.
April 4, 2008
Discussion of hospice care with palliative care doctor and
social worker. Several friends visit and play recorder
ensembles; Bonnie clearly enjoys this. The cats are delivered
to their new permanent home.
April 11, 2008
The Cantabile band meets at Bonnie’s room in the Lahey
Clinic and plays for over an hour. Bonnie is clearly enjoying
it, and asks (by gesture) for more several times. This may be
the last time she is really able to react to a group.
April 15, 2008
Bonnie moves to hospice. We have a conversation with the
hospice social worker about what she expects. She is quite
alert, and writing very clearly.
April 19, 2008
Bonnie is no longer strong enough to write legibly.
May 3, 2008
Group of shape note singers come sing for Bonnie. You can
imagine that she’s enjoying it, but she isn’t really responding
May 9, 2008
The hospice nurse and I agree to discontinue the tube
May 18, 2008
Bonnie dies.
May 24, 2008

I’ll write another timeline about the executrix and POA stuff.
And of course lots of the above could be expanded. But usually
these posts take me less than an hour, and that was over two hours.