Hello Card  -  Volume 22  -  Stuart Card Number 0  -  Thu, Dec 5, 1991 12:06 AM

My friend Jackie died. My packet is terribly late, and my friend Jackie is dead. She had been dying of cancer for some time, had had one bright, brief period of remission two years ago, and then a recurrance. Her body had been poked and prodded, needled cut, pilled, choked, chemo-therapied and radiated in every which direction, almost beyond belief and endurance.

A few weeks ago we got a call saying that her doctor had told her that there was nothing more he could do short of making her last few days or weeks (he wasn't sure how long she had) as comfortable as possible. Kathy and I immediately drove out to see her. Jackie, surprisingly to me, was in good spirits, at peace with herself. She said she felt as if a giant hand had hold of hers and so she didn't feel afraid.

(Jackie had always seemed to have special powers of perception. She was able to see people's auras, for example. Apparantly, to Jackie, each of us has an aura of a different color. Jackie once saw a man with a black aura. He died of a car accident a few days later. I didn't have the heart to ask Jackie what color her aura was in those last days).

And so we said our last good byes to her. A week or so later, we got the call from her husband telling us that Jackie's doctor thought that she wouldn't last the day. So we drove out again. It turned out Jackie lasted three more days before finally expiring.

On her last day of life, I stood in her room (she died at home), watching her as she lay sedated. She was wigless now; with her bald head she looked sleek and beautiful. Her arms were thin as a swan's neck. She breathed heavily as if she was carrying something up a flight of stairs. Tubes came from her nose and her arms. One of the tubes connected Jackie to her morphine pump. She was on so much morphine for her pain that even the nurse who sat with her some nights but who normally worked with burn patients was surprised. Thinking of Jackie swimming in her sea of Morphine, I was reminded of those creatures in Dune who swim in a thick, ether-like soup that makes them oracular, though helpless in every other way.

We were told that the last sense to leave a person is the sense of hearing (Emily Dickinson knew what she was talking about when she wrote her great poem, "I heard a fly buzz when I died"). And so I stood by her bed, stroked her head and told her again that I loved her. Early the next morning, Jackie passed away. She was my wife's best friend, and a good friend of mine. And so this packet is late, much later than my normal sloth would allow, due to all the travelling we've done lately. My apologies.