Monday, October 27, 2008

And at the End, All the Comforts of the Carlyle

Even those of us who aren't socialites can learn a lot from this story from the New York Times. Spending your last days in a place where you feel alive and comfortable makes an enormous difference for the person dying and for their family. As a funeral director, I have heard many many times what a difference it made for a person to die in peace and dignity either at home or in an inpatient hospice facility. While $17,000.00 for a month at the Carlyle may seem expensive, spending your last days in a hospital would be more expensive and a lot less meaningful.

October 22, 2008
And at the End, All the Comforts of the Carlyle
Marie-Dennett McDill loved the Carlyle Hotel. She stayed there whenever she was in New York, and adored the regular entertainers like Bobby Short and Eartha Kitt at the Café Carlyle, and the pianist Loston Harris in the lively Bemelmans Bar. She loved the uniformed elevator men and bellmen and the family of longtime staff. She loved that Central Park was only a short block away.
So when Mrs. McDill, who grew up in society in Washington and was enjoying an outdoors life in South Woodstock, Vt., learned she had terminal cancer this summer, her family immediately booked her a suite on the eighth floor for an open-ended stay, but one they sadly knew would not be open-ended enough.
“The family came to me and said, ‘We want to check her in till the very end,’ ” said Alexandra E. Tscherne, director of residences at the Carlyle. “It was a unique request, one I’ve never had previously. They wanted her set up in one of her favorite places, and they didn’t know how long it would last.”
It lasted 10 weeks. Mrs. McDill died in her sleep in the Carlyle last Wednesday.
Mrs. McDill was youthful and full of energy at 71 and spent her days outdoors gardening and painting, so it was shocking to her three children when she learned at the beginning of August that she had a fast-spreading cancer.
“It wasn’t a fight for life anymore, but a matter of time,” said her son Thomas Gardner.
The family hired 24-hour hospice care, but Mrs. McDill, at least until the very end, was in sufficient mental and physical shape to enjoy her final stay at the Carlyle. The hotel, at Madison Avenue and 76th Street, is one of New York’s most luxurious, with a long list of celebrities, presidents and royalty who have stayed or lived there.
Even as she was dying, she would take walks in Central Park in the daytime, and in the evening sit in a back booth in Bemelmans Bar, looking at the whimsical illustrations of New York City on the wall by the artist Ludwig Bemelmans, best known for the Madeline children’s books, and listening to Mr. Harris play. She loved Cole Porter, and she would pass requests to the waiter.
The family hired Mr. Harris to play Mrs. McDill’s favorite songs at her memorial service at St. Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue on Saturday. It was a sophisticated, poignant and kick-up-your-heels affair, almost like something out of a Cole Porter song. Mr. Harris played “Just One of Those Things” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”
Month-to-month suites at the Carlyle are always expensive, but less so during the summer months, when they cost about $17,000 a month.
The family hired two attendants from Brooklyn to care for Mrs. McDill: Rose Marie Moore and her sister Shirley Innis. In the evenings, Ms. Moore would sing spirituals for Mrs. McDill.
“She would put her head back and close her eyes and ask me to sing ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.’ She’d say, ‘Give me the long version, Rose,’ ” said Ms. Moore, who took the subway from East New York to stay in the Carlyle with Mrs. McDill.

Ms. Moore sang “Swing Low” again at the memorial service on Saturday, and family members recalled Mrs. McDill as hardly the demure society type, but more like a Katharine Hepburn character.
After the memorial service, some of her friends said they were rethinking their own send-offs.
“People came up to me and said, ‘We’re changing our plans for our funeral — we want it to be fun,” Thomas Gardner said. “The only sad thing was that Mom wanted to keep living.”
-from the New York times. for the full article, visit


X. Piry said...

I find this story quite life affirming. If, at the end of my life, I find myself in this situation, I hope I have good friends who are rich enough to do something like this for me.

Good on you, Mrs Mc Dill

Robby Cress said...

Hi Pat, I'm awarding you "the Stylish blogger" award. If you care to participate you can read the rules (yes rules) that go along with the award:

Of course, there is no obligation. You are stylish regardless.

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