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Pope Hill’s death, March, 2003


SATURDAY, 3/22/03: Playing FreeCell after overdosing on stamps all day, the phone rings at 1AM with Dr. Bashey's assistant telling me that Pope died, and I emphasize that the body mustn't be autopsied since it's been willed to Cornell Medical Center. Dead at last, without withdrawing the artificial airway I'd wanted taken out about a week earlier, but at least he's now at rest. Then about 1:45AM a call from a woman connected with the hospital inquiring about organ donations, but I assure her he wanted his WHOLE body to be sent to Cornell for medical students, so she had to be content. At 2:15 I phone the "mortuary" number for "after-hours deaths" that I got from Cornell last week, and the guy says he's with a funeral home, but his name is Anthony Volgare and I should call him when I get to Methodist Hospital about 9AM this morning to clear out his belongings. Get to bed at 2:50AM, not easily getting to sleep, waking early, peeing at 6:20AM, again at 7:22, and up at 7:52 after only 5:02 hours sleep, if that, have breakfast and leave at 8:30 for the subway, LONG wait for the F, reading New Yorker, ask three places to get to Admission Office and a too-busy Wanda who checks his records and says he died on the morning of 3/22, that the death certificate has to be mailed to DOUG, but that I'll need that ORIGINAL to close his Burial Account, which has to be checked for the person who GETS it when it's needed, though the joint account is now entirely mine. I take notes in the New Yorker as I read, transcribed here. I ask to SEE him, and though usually that's requested from the start and is set up in the ward, under a sheet before body is moved to morgue, Pope is IN the morgue, which doesn't have a regular attendant on weekends, though Wanda assures me his body doesn't have to wait for Monday to be taken to Cornell. She calls a few numbers (between the dozens of calls coming in for her) and three Nurse Managers come to take me down to the basement, where we go through basement-like halls to a tall Security cop in the Morgue who says it's VERY unusual to see him like this, but the foremost Nurse Manager takes control and says it's OK, and I go in to see about six white-plasticked bodies on gurneys, one with a single blotchy foot sticking out into the air, and dozens of red smaller bags on the shelves, which even the Nurse Managers don't know, though they suggest they may be body-parts in the freezing temperature of the Morgue. He finds Pope's body (which, mainly, I'd wanted to PROVE was in fact dead and not another's in some horrible hospital all-too-frequent screw-up) and doesn't want to "uncover the body," and I assure him I don't want to see the BODY, only the HEAD, and she unwraps the tape around the plastic bundle at the top of the corpse and stands aside to reveal a hideously WHITE face wrapped in a white plastic cowl, looking like a rabbit's head with white teeth prominent in the lower part of the head (would THOSE be his dentures? Didn't he have upper teeth MISSING?), but it's definitely him, and I'd almost wished I hadn't asked to see. This is at 9:50AM, and I call Spartacus at 10:10, who says he'll come "in 45 minutes" with the ORIGINAL (which he wants to say is ALSO a copy, but I cut him off) of Pope's Affidavit to Cornell, and I check with Security at 10:36AM to find there are NO clothes on the entry-list and NO properties in the Cashier's Office at 10:50, so everything left must be at Cobble Hill. Wait in the hall, and Spartacus comes in about 11AM, gives over the form, and we go to Purity Diner for his breakfast (he hadn't shaved or showered yet, had just wakened a few minutes before I phoned him) and my lunch, and then realize I hadn't signed the third part of the Affidavit! Back to Admissions at 11:55 to wait for Wanda till about 12:10, sign form, and we both sort of sluff off the fact that the form wants a Notary's stamp! Leave, hoping all will go well with the body, get home at 1:12 after a long wait for the B75 bus and a long chat with his black-couple neighbors in front of 10 Clinton, and leave word with Doug on his cell phone and Carolyn (neither of whom call back as yet at 9AM Sunday), and long talk with Rita about Marta's lawyer.

SUNDAY, 3/23/03: Now at 8:50AM catch up with this, ready to leave word with Harriett about Pope's death and my coming to Cobble Hill to get the rest of his stuff, relieved that I can FINALLY dispose of the rest of his THINGS HERE!

MONDAY, 3/24/03: Get to the bank to transfer our joint account balance to my account, closing the joint account, and Ms. Viggiano says she has to put in a request to "undormant" Pope's Burial Account and see how it might be paid if there's no body to handle. Phone Harriett, who says I should come in at 2PM, but when I say I have a 3PM appointment (with Carolyn Anderson), she says come at 1:30, but when I get there at 1:35, the switchboard operator is at lunch until 2! Wait until about 1:45 and someone takes me to the basement, where two cardboard boxes contain only clothes and Dennis's old telephone (which I take) and assorted things, among which is a billfold-like cloth case which contains a list of telephone numbers, which enables me to call Connie (number not in service), Joan Lamelle (at Cobble Hill who will call me if she's coming on April 27, changed from April 13 by Spartacus, which turned out to be good since HE had to call the people who OKed April 13, and Carolyn can still make it and Vicki can NOW make it), Felix Babbin (with whom I leave word on 3/26 after his 3/24 phone-mailbox was "full"), Paula (who's in New Mexico and asks me to give Arnold her regards), Falcon (in California, who thanks me for telling her), Anne Fortuno (with whom I left word about 4/27, maybe even TWICE!), Olus Pitts (on Orange, who would put up a notice in his building, and Arnold called him to change the memorial date, but he didn't return his call yet), Mary Stevenson (who Paula said she would call, but I called later, I think, to say that the memorial will be on 4/27), Rene Cafiero (who will call if she can make it, but she doesn't think she'll be able to), Harriett (who I call at noon on Wednesday to fill in on EVERYTHING), Bambi Cranmore (whose New Mexico number is disconnected, with no new number listed, and Doug doesn't know more about her), Sandy (who I called and seemed out of it, though he said he may call me back), and Darby and Tucker Bryant (who Doug said was some relative, and he and Darby will be driving up on Sunday the 27th). Also at the same time hassling phone calls about Helen's will!

TUESDAY, 3/25/03: Continue making phone calls. Mentioning to SOMEONE "My worst fear is some day maybe getting a phone call from Cornell saying they don't want the body."

WEDNESDAY, 3/26/03: 9:30AM get a phone call from Cornell saying they don't want the body! His body is unsuitable (says a SECOND woman who calls, saying there was a mistaken transposition of my phone number or they could have gotten to me sooner) for two main reasons: 1) his amputation, and 2) gangrene! She said this was all spelled out in "the red book," and I said I'd read what Pope had on file from 1999 and it didn't say anything about that, and she said she was preparing to send ME the information I'd asked for "as soon as they prepare the packaging." Anthony Volgare says there are two alternatives: 1) cremation at my expense of $695 and ashes shipped where I'd like, which will take signing many papers which they'd like to fax to me, and 2) shipping the body to Bellevue and "burying it in a common grave in potter's field with 35 other bodies." When I pause in amazed silence, they say I can call back at 1-800-334-4254, and I say he'll probably get a call from Doug Loiseaux. I call Doug and he takes care of it instantly, calling me back to say his brother Mark will forge his signature on the faxed forms because he, Doug, has to take his wife to the hospital for back surgery today, and that Tim O'Brien at the 800-number is very nice to talk with. Now I have the chance to thank DOUG for all he's doing for Pope. When Bill Peterson calls, he says HIS cremation account is to a cremation service on Staten Island, so that doesn't sound the same as Pope's burial account, about which I've heard nothing by now, 12:15PM Wednesday, though Mildred insists that I should take care of it and pocket the money rather than telling Doug about it and having him pocket the rest of it. Was thinking the same thing myself. Also had the hassle of calling Essex, Elec's replacement phone bill, for the SECOND month running, when Jose tells me he WILL handle, along with the hundreds of others that their faulty system had messed up for the past few months. WHEW!!!

THURSDAY, 3/27/03: 9:20AM: Occurred to me that I hadn't told John Vinton about Pope's death, and so I phoned him: he told me of his success with learning Chinese, was interested in coming to Pope's memorial unless he happens to be going to San Francisco at that time, and doesn't know if the scanner can handle double-column text easily, but is willing to look at my index if I need it done. Lots of phone calls OUT but no one's calling me BACK on them much at all, not even the bank who's mentioned on Pope's Burial Account.

FRIDAY, 3/28/03: 9:15AM: Finally get through to Elizabeth Gottlieb, a friend of Pope's (who wants to get out of Cobble Hill) who'd been talked to at Cobble Hill yesterday by JOAN MILLMAN, and she's amused that I have Joan's apartment, since she and Joan were neighbors in a building on Pineapple and Elizabeth lived across the street from me on Hicks, next to the run-down empty building that's since been reconstructed. She knows LOTS of people at Cobble Hill that might attend, including the Casey that Harriett mentioned, and Someone Else and SHAD, who liked and visited Pope. Attendance list for 4/27 is now up to 9 and still growing.