Letter from Gertrude to Aunt Helen May Young about her mother's death



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Mansfield, Mass
Wed. PM

Dear Aunt Nell

I will try to write you a few particulars. Ma had a bad cold and about the time she got over it, pa had a grippe cold. In two or three days she had what they supposed was one. This was the Tuesday before Christmas. When I got home Friday night they were both coughing terribly but hadn't staid in bed at all. Ma looked awfully sick and her cough was very loose and she was raising a lot but I supposed everything was all right. She said she had the doctor on Wed. and he said she didn't need drugging but nursing. Pa asked him if he should get a nurse and he said no that Pa could look out for her.

As I say she looked very sick Friday night but Sat. she looked better and Sunday morn. I remarked to her how well she looked. It was really remarkable the way she had improved. Sunday noon she ate a big dinner and seemed to feel all right. In the evening she complained of feeling chilly and pa said "Come over by the radiator". She hadn't been there very long when she said she had pleurisy pains in her left side, way down by her hip and that her breath was short. I could see that it was short but she thought it was because of the pain that she didn't dare take a long breath. I asked her if it had been short before and she said a little ever since she had her cold. It seems that she was awfully bad in the night and pa got up and made flax seed poultices and she had a chill and he gave her some whiskey. I didn't know about all this until morning.

We called the doctor in the morning. He felt her pulse, took her temperature and tested her lungs in front but not in back. If I had been up in the room I should have asked him why he didn't test the back but I thought pa was enough up there. Aunt Mame was here so I staid down with her. She had been raising pinkish stuff but neither one of them told the doctor that. He said she had no temperature and her pulse was normal and still said all she needed was nursing.

He told us what to do for the pain but it was worse than it was with the flaxseed. Soon it went up in her chest and over her shoulder and I put on a mustard plaster which she said took the pain all away. Of course I couldn't leave that on very long and it didn't go on many hours before the pain was back.

Tuesday I thought she was worse and I said we must call another doctor. He couldn't come until about 7:30 PM and I went up to see if he tested her lungs in the back and he did. He said she had a temperature of 101 and both lungs were affected. All the time she was breathing harder and groaning every minute. He said everything looked favorable but that she was very sick. He thought the crisis would come Friday or Sunday. We got a trained nurse Wed. night and I thought the crisis came then at first. Her temperature went up to 103 and then dropped straight down to 99 which wasn't quite normal. They called it a false crisis. The next day it went up to 101 and then went to subnormal.

Of course, all this time I never closed my eyes and was almost crazy. It almost killed me to hear her breathe. I could hear her downstairs with all the doors closed. It seemed to me there was no hope from the very beginning but I knew I am likely to be a little pessimistic and exaggerate some. Friday morning about 4 a.m., she had an awful spell. I thought it would kill me, Aunt Nell, and I thought she was dying. Her pulse went back on her but the nurse gave her some whiskey and kept her alive. When the doctor came Friday a.m., he still thought everything was all right but I knew she never would live through another night. I had always read that 4 o'clock was the hardest time for a sick person and I just dreaded what was before me. I had to speak to her two or three times Friday morn. before she would make any attempt to answer and her eyes were closed all the time. About 3 o'clock in the afternoon, she had another spell and just collapsed but the nurse gave her some more whiskey and then the doctor came and said right away it was about all over. This was Dr. Latham and he called Dr. Allen who came right up and said there was no hope. They kept her alive on whiskey until 11:40 P.M. when she just stopped breathing. It seemed so wicked that she should suffer so terribly but I am thankful that I was at home and saw her two days when she was fairly well. She was consious up to Friday noon. She looks just lovely, almost as though there were a smile on her lips and very natural. Saturday we got somebody to come in and help out on the housework. We cabled Harold Friday night but the office was closed in Havana so he didn't get it until nine o'clock Saturday morn. He was too late to get the ferry and came over to Key West by aeroplane. He got there Tuesday A.M. and a terrible trip it must have been for him. The funeral is Thursday at one o'clock. We expected H. Tuesday but we thought we would better allow two days extra for delay.

We had two snow storms while she was sick and now another one has started. I wonder what kind of a day we shall have tomorrow. I don't know yet what we shall do. I feel that I should stay at home and keep house for pa. Of course he can't live here alone and I think he would be not only lonely but homesick also to leave the house right now. I am sure if he did leave, he would feel happier with you than anyone else. So far he hasn't consented to my staying home. Poor pa, it is a terrible blow to him for they had always been such lovers and were truly made for each other. He doesn't feel well either and is simply crushed. I hope your cold is a lot better by now.

We haven't had the heart to open the package yet that you sent but we thank you just the same. We ordered some flowers for you and had "sister" put on. Pa says thank you for your invitation but he can't decide on anything yet.

Lots of Love, Gertrude