12 February 1998

by Mark Bourne

Jo is fading fast. She's declared she will pass away this weekend, and if it weren't for her heretofore demonstrated resolve I'd find it hard to believe that she would be able to hold on that long.

When Elizabeth and I visited yesterday evening, Jo was barely aware of our presence. We fed her soup and juice, which she appeared to enjoy. When she spoke, it was in barely coherent sentences. She was probably aware of our identities, though her morphine dose is so high that it would be unrealistic for us to expect more. She tried to tell us something about "stories," one "story" in particular, though nothing more was clear.

Her doctors and the hospital staff have ceased medical treatment beyond keeping Jo comfortable. Months ago Jo's signed declaration stated that no "extreme measures" were to be taken to keep her alive, and the hospital is following her wishes. Besides, the myeloma has advanced so much in the past several weeks that there can be no stopping it. Jo will live as long as her body and will allow her to. Now we wait.

Elizabeth is spending today with her. Tonight is the leave-taking ceremony at the hospital. Plenty of friends--and Jo's sister, Penny--will be in attendance. I'm "officiating," and I plan to inject as much celebration of Jo as possible within the context of the event. I will speak about Jo's capacity as a teacher -- to youth in her past and to many of us adults during the past 18 months.

If you or someone you know would like to do something as a gesture of appreciation, letters and cards should go to the staff of Good Samaritan Hospital here in Portland, particular the 5th Floor Skilled Nursing Wing and the Cancer Center, thanking them for taking such good care of Jo. Jo has become an "institution" at Good Sam, and they've become Jo's friends and supporters as well as caregivers, and many of them will be hit as hard as the rest of us when the inevitable comes.

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