Thomas A Mathews (1917) End of Life

Letter from Ilene Shelton to her family after Alton died.
Scanned, OCRed, and spelling
corrected by Ben Mathews.

September 14, 1988

Dear Family,

Finally I’m getting a few moments to write down the events of the past couple weeks . It has been very hectic, but filled with rewarding spiritual times and times being together with family

Lory left for Ricks on the 27th. For those who didn’t know dad decided last spring that when she got home from school she would take care of him and that is what happened. Lydia, Dennis and Dad were able to go to the Barker Reunion the week before on Thursday with Ann, Craig and LaVon going a day earlier, but returning on the same flight.

While they were in Utah” they were able to see my other three brothers and their families plus visit grandmother, LaRae and Stan, Paul and Aurella who were passing through and see Naomi and Lee in Salt Lake, At the Reunion in North Ogden there were about 148 people there. They took a car tour of the places my grandmother and grandfather Barker lived plus the normal activities. It was a great experience for those who were there. He are glad that Dad was able to go even though he wasn’t very well and in the wheelchair.

When he arrived home on Tuesday he didn’t feel good and Lydia and Dennis had a touch of it also. Lory left on Saturday and Lydia ended up staying home from work the next Tuesday and Wednesday. He had not been doing well and they finally took turns sleeping on the couch with him, got an antibiotic and oxygen . Thursday after Lydia went to work I came and then Craig since it was his day off. In the three hours I was there I typed 8 names into the computer. The rest of the time I spent taking care of him. He had been talking wildly for days etc. and the oxygen did help.

One of the nights before he had told Dennis he had a secret to tell him. Dennis told him if it were a secret he couldn’t, but dad told him anyway and dad told Dennis he loved him.

At the reunion dad asked for a blessing from his sons and it was very similar to all he had been given the past 8 months that the Lord accepted his desire to die, but if he chose to live there were still things he wished him to do. Each time dad chose to live. His patriarchal blessing told him he would 1ive as long as 1ife was agreeable to him, and 1ife sure hasn’t been. He hasn’t been well and he was limited to the point of not being able to do anything but exist.

Another thing he did when he was calling out on Thursday was say I love my daughter’s. He said that day that Naomi and LaRae were coming to see him. He talked about his parents going to do church work. He called out Dasil . We got so we didn’t listen to what he was saying since he seemed so much out of his head. Perhaps we wished we had done more.

Friday when I went there I couldn’t get him up to go to the potty chair. We had a bed and potty chair in the living room and he hadn’t been upstairs since March. If he walked at all it was with the walker and the few times he went anywhere, basically the doctor, it was in the wheelchair.

That morning seemed nonstop until he finally relaxed and went to sleep. He had been wanting a lot of ice and to drink. I had been reading the booklet the Black’s put together about spiritual experiences and it had been very interesting. I realized it seemed he had been asleep and quiet for some time over an hour. He called to me and wanted a drink which I went to get him and he spit it up and then everything seemed to come up. I got him to a sitting position and started to clean him up, put his oxygen back on and thought he was making noise with the oxygen. At that moment I was very afraid and prayed and was peaceful. Then he relaxed. I wasn’t sure if he was sleeping or dead, but I felt peaceful and decided it didn’t matter. If he was dead there was nothing I could do and if he was alive he needed the sleep. I tried for a pulse, but even at the hospital they had a hard time finding his veins . I put a mirror under his nose, so then I prayed Ann would come home since she was on her way and we could make the decision. I called Lydia and the doctor. firm came home and we did the same thing, but was his chest moving. He prayed again and felt peaceful. Ann went to call Craig and said something about his arm. I picked it up and there was blueness at the bottom of his fingertips. We then called the rescue squad. It seemed to take them a half an hour or longer to get there. They used the stethoscope and said he was dead. I’m sure I must have known all along but am glad he was able to stay home a little longer. It turned out to be even longer since they had to call the police which took another long time, and then homicide. In D.C. all deaths outside of hospitals are considered homicides until investigated. That took forever while they went over all his problems and medications and then had to call the doctor etc. Finally they were through with that and it took another long long time for the funeral home to come and then they had to take his body to a hospital to have him declared dead. The rescue squad in D.C, can’t do that. There are only 2 hospitals in D.C. who will do it without having the dead body admitted as an emergency room patient and having CPR done on it. Politics at its best.

So our daddy got to stay there with us while we called everyone and made decisions and Craig, Lydia and Dennis were able to get home and be there and we didn’t put a sheet over his face, but just had him laying on the bed. It reminded me of Grandmother Mathews talking about her days sitting up with the dead. It was a very loving experience. I was glad later after he was embalmed because it didn’t really look like our daddy. I looked over that after a while and decided he had a half smile on his face and looked so peaceful. He had finally been able to do what he wanted.

That night we turned the living room back into a living room and when Susan and Carl got here began to make decisions talking to our brothers on the phone. Susan asked if anyone wanted a blessing and I felt calm, but did wonder if I should have done anything else and knew if I had I needed to face it. Before the blessing I prayed that if there was something I should have done I would know. Carl said in the blessing “Have peace. Heavenly Father loves you.” We know that we did what we should have done. We tried to make the last months of his life happy as we could.

Dasil was able to come late Sunday night and stay until Wednesday. We appreciated his support and willingness to help us. They enter the mission home tomorrow and had things they had to do. We appreciated his sharing experiences with us about dad and helping to make the arrangements.

Lydia, Dennis and I went to the funeral home to make the arrangements on Saturday. When he had come home from the hospital the last time he told Lory-he wanted to plan his funeral so she got a paper and was writing things down until he said the subject of the funeral talk should be her grandmother so we changed the subject, but he had made some choices we were able to follow. We then went to the cemetery and made the arrangements there.

Monday was Labor Day. We had decided not to have our picnic. Then decided to have a dinner and then went back to a picnic. Ann , Craig, and LaVon went with Rick, Linda, Craig’s sister and, big LaVon, his mother to the Renaissance Fair. They stopped on the way home, Russ made it about half way through and all of us and Dasil . Later Susan was to play with the National Symphony for the concert at the capitol so some of us went there.

Tuesday was the first day of school. I forgot Tom had come in Saturday night. I can’t remember all in order, but he helped Dennis get things in order and they started to clean out things etc. We had to get flowers for the casket etc,

Wednesday Sharla had an appointment for a re-check for her scoliosis. Hopefully this in the end and she won’t have to near a brace. She is within a year of quitting her growth, and the change that Kaiser saw could have just been in the measuring since it was £ degrees. Dr. Mason at Children’s Hospital told her he hoped he wouldn’t see her again. I asked her if she was scared and she laughed and said she hadn’t even thought about it between grandpa and school .

Wednesday was the viewing at Gasch’s funeral home where mother was. We only had one time from 7–9. Lots of people came and it was nice. Dad didn’t quite look like himself, but he did look peaceful. Gary got there late that night since he had to go to the first day of school. He had prayed that we could make people feel good for making the effort to come and we all felt we had.

Thursday was the funeral. Russ picked up Paul late Wednesday night and he had tried to come to the viewing, but there had been a spill over on the beltway so traffic was blocked. He decided he better start early so they appeared early at my door and we talked and ate breakfast . He were there at 8:30 and had made arrangements for Ruth to come. Carl and Susan went and got her with an attendant and they came for her in a van after the funeral.

He took some pictures with all of us except Lorin who didn’t come. We found out the usual thing now is to take flowers to the cemetery so we made them go get them and we started just a few moments late.

Bishop Cabrera conducted. He was afraid so the next funeral on Monday of Sister Prince was easier for him. Since Lorin was to give the opening prayer we asked Mike Keller who as usual did an excellent job with the programs. Gary talked about his earlier days and then I spoke about life lately. Susan played the prelude and Ann and Lydia played between talks . Dennis read something that Dasil had written about Dad and then quoted the last entry in his journal which was the day mother was buried when he talked about how lonely he would be and the period of waiting he would have to endure. Dennis shared a few of his own thoughts and President. Larsen gave the final talk. Sharla led the closing hymn I need thee every hour and did fine. Tom closed the meeting. Then we went to he cemetery and Paul gave the dedicatory prayer.

He came back to the church for dinner and then hurried home to make some decisions before Tom had to leave at 6:30. He have decided to have a Thomas Alton Mathews collection of books that will be in different peoples homes and can be exchanged. Tom, and Gary took some home and Ryan chose a few for us to take home. What it did was enable all the books to get into the shelves. Dennis will decide whether he wants to buy the house at which point they wi11 either sell the house or he will buy it. The wi11 had mother as the executor and we need that changed to Dennis, but everything else was to be equal shares. Dennis right now is floating all the bills and there was a 1000 bill almost to the doctor that hadn’t been paid, but getting all the insurance taking care of is a pain. Ann had been doing that for months anyway. Some like the doctor make you pay first and then get reimbursed later.

Gary stayed until Sunday morning and went to Baltimore on Friday and Saturday we went to the temple to finish up the last 6 male names of the family file and then went and did the sealings. There were 9 of us. Terry and Craig had to work, but Paul and Russ came, and Gary, Susan, Carl, Ann and I, Dennis and Ryan. We did 44 child to parents and 14 couples. It was a nice close to the funeral week,

We are grateful for the life of our dad and am glad he had this extra time with us.

love, Mom

P.S. He were able to go to the temple on Tuesday with Dasil and
Tom also.