This sad message is being sent by Donald and Janet, children of Jim and Bernice.
Many of you have already received the news directly from our Mom, or indirectly from any of the numerous people who have multiplied the announcement in turn.
Our Dad passed away at about 6:00am Thursday morning, 9-Sep-2010.
He had given us explicit instructions that as soon as possible after his demise we were to access his email account and contact list, to send this unhappy note directly to all of you.
A combination of Internet connectivity technical difficulties, Dad's own rigorous security protocols, and our own preoccupation with the present state of affairs and helping Mom make arrangements has delayed our responsiveness to his email-broadcast request by more than a day, but as Dad himself would declare, "So be it."
We, along with Mom, our respective spouses Kitty and Kevin, and many of our children -- Donald's youngest, Jimmie and Nikki, and Janet's oldest, CJ and Scott, as well as young Jimmie's girlfriend Jessica (one of Dad's latest "favorite" granddaughters) -- were all 10 of us permitted by the Critical Care Unit at Chambersburg Hospital to stand vigil all night Wednesday until the end. Our brother Glenn, alas, was in transit from much farther away, and he could not get to south-central Pennsylvania until mid-morning. Mom and Dad's young pastor from the United Presbyterian Church, Rev. Evan Smith, also stayed with the family until the wee hours, and quietly assured us that he had received Dad's affirmation and administered whatever are the Presbyterians' pragmatic and modest equivalent of "last rites".
Meanwhile, the lot of us took turns at his bedside, spilling out into the corridor and waiting area in rotational shifts, standing aside as needed for the diligent RNs to check his vitals and administer his meds.
Dad had fainted at home Wednesday mid-day from lack of oxygen for pulmonary near-failure, and his heart had gone into arrhythmia for the same reason. The best the doctors could humanly and humanely do was to pharmacologically stabilize the heartbeat and deliver him pure O2 and morphine to keep him as comfortable as possible while respecting his directive to not prolong any misery by mechanical means, and to prohibit any form of resuscitation.
Not surprisingly, he had told the pulmonologist point-blank that he didn't expect to leave the hospital alive. The pulmonologist in turn told some of us that the chances of Dad making it through the night were negligible. We were blessed to be able to attend to him in time, and to stay with Mom through her vigilance, and to be permitted to include so many of the extended nuclear family. The hospital staff even brought snacks and refreshments for the Stewart/Black mob.
One of his last coherent proclamations before the morphine and oxygen deprivation stifled his acuity was to admonish us all to go get some rest so we could get up and go to work in the morning; there was nothing more to see there; and then to invoke his own mother's admonition, "This won't put shoes on the baby!" We assured him that thanks to his prudent and canny beneficence, all the babies had plenty of shoes, and we were resolute to hold on to him as long as he would hold onto us. He faded gently in and out of twilight awareness and fitful slumber until he exhaled his inevitable last labored breath just as the sky blushed with dawn's first light.
Dad's passing is sad, but as you know, neither unexpected nor tragic. He lived life to the fullest and was graced with the opportunity to neatly wrap up his affairs, plan his end days, and deftly execute his plan... with inimitable molecular precision.
We will all miss him.
Attached is the official announcement we composed Thursday afternoon for dissemination by the funeral home concerning his memorial service at the Presbyterian Church on Sunday afternoon (yes, that soon). We will also run it as a quarter-page in McConnellsburg's local Fulton County News and also in the Peninsula Daily News of Port Angeles, Washington, the town of his birth.
You are of course invited and encouraged to attend the memorial service, if you are able to travel all the way on such short notice. It will be held at 4:00pm Sunday, 12-Sep-2010, at the United Presbyterian Church, 116 South 2nd Street, McConnellsburg, PA 17233. The church's phone number is (717) 485-4400. Among many other arrangements being made, we interviewed some bagpipers today. We are going to blow the Presbyterian congregants of McConnellsburg Pennsylvania away. As literally as possible.
A final note: Please do not send flowers or other thoughtful gifts. Jim Stewart would be resolute about this. Call Bernice on the telephone, and/or send her a handwritten note by regular snail mail. If you want to call her, please wait until next week, as she is already quite deluged and charging around in reliable project management fashion. Please do not reply to this email; we are not well equipped to process more messages than he is still already receiving. And if you must give a gift, please select a worthy charitable cause and donate in Jim Stewart's name.
We are grateful to be blessed many times over, and we greatly appreciate the kind support you have added to our Dad's blessings throughout his life and particularly since he fell so ill.
~Donald and Janet
J. M. Stewart
B. C. Stewart
Ayr But An Ben
P. O. Box 472
480 Valley View Drive
McConnellsburg, PA 17233
And spectators gone away.
Ah, how vast and dark.