deathCarolyn died at about 10pm on Nov 1st, 2007. She had gone into Memorial Hospital in Springfield for heart valve repair surgery on Oct 31. The surgery appeared to go well. About six hours after the completion of the surgery she briefly responded to the staff's tests for responsiveness but then almost immediately there was a precipitous drop in blood pressure. They determined she was having some kind of internal bleeding.
It was later determined that her liver was bleeding and the surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Christy, admitted that he must have somehow nicked or pierced the liver when he was doing the procedure. While the heart valve repair itself was never an issue, the post-op bleeding quickly led to a number of problems culminating in death from multiple organ failure.
We understand that circumstances can lead to anyone making a mistake in one's work and don't feel vindictive towards Dr. Christy, but that certainly doesn't ease our pain. We try to take comfort in the fact that it was a swift, merciful end and that she never really regained conciousness to experience any suffering.
preparationsOur mother had prepared very well for death. She had traveled to Austin, Texas to her niece Sarah Samson's wedding on Oct 21st and had seen a large number of people from that side of the family as well as Dennis, Nellie, and their 22 month old child Daniel. She had been energetic, if occasionally somewhat short of breath, but was happy, engaged, alert, cheerful and seemed completely normal.
After returning to Springfield from the wedding she made a point of visiting her granddaughter Jessica Wiley in Champaign to meet her great grandchild Rachel and she had taken along some things she had made for Rachel.
Then her son Keith arrived from Florida several days before the surgery to spend some quality time with her. So she had obviously planned a lot of closure for everyone in the event that the surgery didn't go well.
Furthermore, she had had her condo completely recarpeted in recent weeks. She'd always had a very bright yellow carpet in her bedroom but she replaced this with the same neutral gray used in the rest of the house. She also had the recurring crack in the drywall in the sunroom repaired again, this time at much greater expense to finally try to get it done right. It was as if she was already thinking about the resale of the condo.
On exactly the day of her surgery a package arrived at Dennis' home with Christmas gifts for his son, Daniel. Carolyn had seen Daniel in Austin and was aware he was very into Thomas the Train. The package contained a Thomas shirt and several other items of clothing. She'd planned ahead enough that if she wasn't around for Christmas, Daniel would still have something from her.
In her desk she left three envelopes, one for Dennis, one for Keith, and one for both. She provided a short written history of her life, a two page document entitled "Things I Have Liked Especially" (page 1 and page 2), instructions for the funeral including the name of the funeral parlor to use, the main bullet points for her obituary, and even several 5x7" candidate photos to use for the obituary. She'd also left a recent summary of her finances, directions to find a copy of the will, and information as to who had keys to her house, power of attorney, living will, etc. She had annotated all the cards in her desktop rolodex, identifying who they were and indicating if she was still in touch with them. Incredibly organized!
memorialThe memorial for her was held at Boardman-Smith Funeral Chapel on Nov 4, 2007. Dennis provided some brief anecdotes that were favorites of hers, and Keith delivered the eulogy.
In attendance were at least ten people who had worked with her over a decade ago at the Republican office of the State Senate, which I thought was extremely impressive, since usually one is rather quickly forgotten as work goes on. One state senator she'd frequently worked with attended. Mr. and Mrs. John Dickison arrived from out of state, as did nieces Mary and Sarah and brother Ron and his wife Susan. Numerous others, family, friends, members of her many associations, as well was Dennis' wife Nellie and their young son Daniel.
One of the most memorable moments of the memorial was when Keith had just finished comparing Carolyn's enthusiasm for life with that of 22 month old grandson Daniel, and at that moment Daniel somehow escaped from the relative who'd been watching him and walked into the middle of the funeral parlor, turning and waving to everyone and saying "hiiiiiiiiii" in the cutest little voice. You couldn't have scripted a better moment.
the futureLet's all remember and draw inspiration from Carolyn for her loving, accepting nature, her inquisitive intelligence, her wide interests and involvements, her love for reading, and her general zest for living. She was the best mom anyone could ever ask for, and we'll miss her dearly.
Dennis and Keith
linksEulogy by Keith
"Things I Have Liked Especially" document
original "liked especially" scan page 1
original "liked especially" scan page 2
main obituary bullet points she left