Terrible, Thanks for Asking

A Good Death - Transcript

This is a transcript of a “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” episode entitled, “A Good Death.” The text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future for accuracy.

Listen to the episode here.


There’s a quote from Atul Gawande’s book “Being Mortal” where he says, “Endings matter, not just for the person but, perhaps even more, for the ones left behind.”

Endings matter. They matter in books, in podcasts, movies… in LIVES, which is what Atul Gawande was talking about. And I think we all want to die as well as possible. Right? Not alone in a hospital bed with our loved ones on FaceTime. Not painfully or scared or anxious, but safe and loved. 

This is the story of a good death. Ron David Deprez had a good death. And the ending mattered greatly not only to him, but to his daughter, Esmé.

When we talked to Esmé, she was 38 weeks pregnant and a few days out from a scheduled C-section. 

Nora: Right. I just... the minute that you said 38 weeks pregnant, I felt like that heaviness. It just, I was like, oh man. I can feel a head there. OK, so... is it falling out right now? I cannot tell.

Esmé made it through the entire interview without peeing once, so for that, we all send her a round of applause. 

Esmé lives in California, but she grew up in Maine. And like her dad, she is a proud Mainer. That is what people in Maine call themselves. Learn something new every day. And being a Mainer meant that they did a lot of outdoorsy things. Esmé and her dad went skiing, they went hiking, they wore LL Bean.

Ron is independent. He’s self-reliant. And it’s not like he sits around talking about death with his kids, but Esmé knows even when she’s little, what her dad would NOT want.

Esmé: The only thing I knew was that my dad was not interested in dying in a hospital or a nursing home or something like that in an institutional setting like that, hooked up to tubes. He had kind of always said, you know, “I'd rather go back in the woods with my Glock and end it there if I have a terminal illness.”

Ron was a public health epidemiologist who went to Harvard. He was athletic. He ran 18 marathons in his life — 18! Borderline too many. And he was also notoriously cheap.

Esmé: There was never an expiration date on food that he didn't ignore. He just didn't believe in expiration dates. We're still finding stuff in his house that is just like decades old and in the refrigerator or in the cabinets. At his house, he has, like, a stackable washer and dryer. And instead of buying the kit that you buy to put the washer on top of the dryer, he just duct taped it. So it's like not ideal. I think we're probably going to try to fix that. He saved a ton. Like, the amount of tools that he has is unbelievable. I don't even know what most of them are for. 

I love this. I love this kind of dad energy. Shoutout to every dad out there who believes that expiration dates are a suggestion or a scam… including my father-in-law Bill Kulhmeyer, who kept DECADE-old eggnog in the freezer because I mean... it was frozen. It was frozen in time. I just love that kind of stuff. 

So Ron was a lot of things: He was accomplished, intelligent, cheap, very structured and strict — especially when Esmé and her brother were growing up.

Esmé: My dad was an incredibly accomplished and fascinating and complicated and fun guy. Growing up, he was definitely a hard ass. It was really his way or the highway. I mean, it was like that for his whole— for my whole life, his whole life. But growing up, he was, like, very strict and I mean, I was afraid of him. I think, like, kind of in a good way. 

We were driving down the highway. I don't know how old I was, maybe, I don't know, 10 or so. And he got mad for some reason at my brother, and he took a CD of my brother's and threw it out the window. Because he was mad at my brother. And like that was so horrifying at the time. I was like, “You just threw a CD out the window, like, what are you doing?” Like, he must be really angry in order to have an urge to do that. And I just remember being like, so like, in awe and also scared of him in that moment. [laughs]

As Esmé grows up, her relationship with her dad changes. He’s not a scary, strict guy flinging CDs out of moving cars. He’s just a guy.

Esmé: He just was able to kind of probably let his guard down more and be like a fun... I mean, still my dad, but and still give me guidance and still kind of be an authority in my life, but also be a friend and be somebody I could talk to about, you know, hard things in a way I probably couldn't do when I was a kid and come to with, you know, emotional challenges in a way that I probably couldn't as a kid. 

After six years in New York City, going to grad school and working as a journalist, Esmé moved to California. Her dad would spend the winters there about six hours away from where Esmé and her husband lived. He loved skiing with Esmé just like they’d done growing up. He was just as active and athletic as he’d been when she was young. 

Esmé: I remember him telling me that he had fallen in the parking lot, and he had at that point had begun to have some balance issues. He had a couple of old injuries from sports back in college and high school. He was a big football player and a wrestler, and he had long ago messed up his knee, but still just… he had run 18 marathons and countless miles on it, despite the fact that it was an injured knee, essentially, that never got fixed. So the balance issues were concerning, for sure, but I didn't really know what to make of them 

Ron starts going to doctors to try and figure out what was causing his problems with balance. He even undergoes a knee surgery. 

Esmé: I remember him telling me, “I got this diagnosis of ALS, but it's bullshit. The doctors don't know what they're talking about.” Like, he really dismissed it and downplayed it. And so for a while I did, too, because I was like, OK, my dad is the health care expert. If he doesn't think that he has ALS, even though this is what the doctors said he could have, like, he doesn't have ALS, because I'm going to believe him over some doctors that I don't know. 

I remember going home one point and taking him to an appointment for a hearing test. You can test for whether you have, like, an internal balance issue. And I remember like hoping at that moment and I'm sure he was too, like hoping so much that, like, his balance was going to be attributed to this test, you know, like this test could reveal there was some kind of something wrong with his hearing or the balance issue was attributed to that, and it wouldn't be ALS. So he kind of kept pursuing all of these other reasons that could be the cause of his troubles. 

ALS was never an official diagnosis, but Ron goes to doctor after doctor looking for a different answer. Hoping to hear anything but ALS. He’s experiencing atrophy and weakness in his right arm, and in March of 2019, Ron gets a neck surgery to try and help that… and Esmé gives birth to her first daughter, named Fern.

Esmé: My husband and I didn't find out the gender of Fern until she came out. And I remember just really secretly hoping that it would be a girl and being really, really excited when it was, because I knew that my dad would just love whatever grandchild I gave him, of course, but would be especially ecstatic to learn that he had a granddaughter. And that's exactly what he was. He thought Fern was hilarious, which she is, he would call her a card, which is like... I don't know if that's a Maine word or just like an old timey word. But it's like a word to describe somebody who is silly, which describes my daughter.

Her dad came out to visit Esmé and Fern when Fern was just two months old, to spend time with this little card, this little Mainer. And it became clear to Esmé that her dad’s condition, whatever it was, was progressing. It was hard for him to hold Fern, to walk across the living room. Her big, athletic dad was starting to look weak and more frail… and afraid.

Esmé: He couldn't bend down to pick her up, but I wanted obviously him to be able to hold her. And so initially he could do that a lot better than in the end. And I grew kind of hesitant to place him in her arms because I was... I could kind of sense that he was worried about dropping her, but I still did it, of course, so I could so they could be together. I mean, the first year of my daughter's life coincided with the last year of my dad's life and she was like, waking up to the world and, you know, learning how to... become a human and learning how to walk, and he was like... declining and and slowly losing the ability to walk. And it was… yeah it was just, it was really... it was really awful. 

We’re gonna take a quick break.

We’re back. It’s March of 2020, and Ron’s condition has gotten worse. And he sends his daughter a text message. Not a “hey, how’s Fern?” text message or a “read this funny article” kind of text message. A really big, big, life-or-death kind of text message.

Esmé: So he had asked me in March to help him, essentially, qualify for Maine's Death with Dignity Act, and that was a really new law at the time. It had just gone into effect not even six months before. And it allows terminally ill people to obtain life-ending medications to end their lives and to help to hasten their deaths, essentially.

When she gets this text, when she opens her notifications and scrolls, Esmé, her husband and Fern are in New York City. It’s a work trip for Esmé. 

Esmé: I was not prepared for him to be ready to die at all. It wasn't a total shock, I guess, but it was not something that I was expecting or ready for. Because at that point, like my dad, yes, he was having a lot of physical challenges. But one thing that's like particularly maybe fucked up about ALS is that, like, your mind is completely intact. 

Esmé was already planning to take baby Fern with her up to Maine to see her dad, but with the reality of the coronavirus pandemic and the reality of her father’s health both starting to sink in, her husband joins Esmé and Fern on the trip to Maine.

The knowledge that her father is already thinking about the end of his life is rattling around in Esmé’s brain. She doesn’t know how long they’ll be there, just that it’s where she needs to be. Ron has been staying with his girlfriend in the Portland, Maine area for the past year as his health deteriorated. After Esmé and her family land, they stop by to say hello (from a distance) before they head up to Ron’s place in Deer Isle to quarantine.

Esmé: And I sent him a picture of Fern eating from a can of sardines, which we found in his house, which was probably expired. And I sent him a photo of it and I said, “This is Fern’s lunch.” And she and he responded with, like a funny emoji and said that she's a Mainer. And I was like, I don't know, I was just so happy about that because I'm a Mainer. And he was a Mainer. And my daughter was born in California, but she is also a Mainer by honorary status. And that's very important if you're from Maine. So that made me super happy. And I have screenshotted that text thread. I'm going to print it out and I'm going to frame it because I just love it. 

They quarantine for over three weeks before Esmé drives to the Portland area to visit her dad at his girlfriend’s house. 

Esmé: When I would talk to him on the phone, like he seemed oftentimes like just totally normal and totally his old self and didn't seem sick or ill at all. And so there was like, that disconnect that was really hard to grapple with in my mind. It wasn't until I could physically be with him that I could really recognize and appreciate like, the physical deterioration and the extent of the physical deterioration that was happening. 

To qualify for the kind of death he wants, Ron needs to be able to self-administer these drugs, and he has to be within six months of dying. While Esmé and her family are in Ron’s house, eating sardines and quarantining, Ron is making his initial request to qualify for Maine’s Death With Dignity Act. 

The Death With Dignity Act is a piece of public policy. There are rules. There are regulations. Ron is already on hospice care, but he runs into an issue.

Esmé: Because he had been, as I say, in denial for so long about his ALS diagnosis, my dad never pursued, like, an official diagnosis of ALS, because it wasn't news that he wanted to hear, basically. And ALS is this weird disease. Doctors conclude that you have it based on what's called a diagnosis of exclusion. So it's not like you can just take a blood test or like an X-ray or whatever and say you have ALS. You have to just rule everything else out, and then they kind of land on ALS as the diagnosis of last resort kind of thing. So my dad didn't want to pursue all those tests that would have been required to confirm that he had ALS, but in order to qualify for the law, he had to have an official diagnosis. 

Ron worked in health policy. He knows how things like this work. And it’s also deeply frustrating. He has a degenerative and unpredictable disease, he’s on hospice, and the clock is ticking. But lucky for Ron, his daughter is an investigative reporter.

Esmé: That's when I got involved. So at this point, we're in mid-April when I leave his house in Deer Isle. My husband and I and my daughter drive three hours south in a crazy snowstorm to go see him in the Portland area. And that's when I'm like, on the case. And I'm, you know, I took leave from work, and I've just dedicated myself full time to getting him qualified for this law, like doing everything else that needed to be done. And then also, helping care for him, and at that point, we knew that his time was limited, so just trying to spend as much time with him as we possibly can, because I know at that point that even if he doesn't qualify for this law, we’re going to have to find a way to hasten his death somehow. 

Esmé is walking her own thin line, between trying to advocate for her father and his needs and the reality of the system. 

Esmé: So I was pushing for more medical intervention in order to be able to prolong his life as long as I could. And that was what he had no interest in. And that was what I was worried about alienating him about. Like, every time I brought up something, like I researched some clinical trials for new ALS drugs, and I would get really excited. I’d be like, “Dad, I just talked to the chief of neurology at Mass General Hospital. Like, they have this clinical trial. I think you're going to qualify.” And he was just like, “No, I don't want anything to do with that.” And so that's what I was really worried about alienating him about and just kind of pushing him away further, because he just didn't want to go that path. But he did really want to find a way to, again, avoid this prolonged, awful death that ALS would have meant had he continued living with ALS. And so it was in this space that I found myself in this ridiculous position of trying to brainstorm essentially other ways to hasten his death. Like if he didn't qualify for this law, what else could we do to help him to hasten his death? And so I remember having a conversation with my husband and I was like, “Maybe we can carry him into the woods with his gun and just leave him. Maybe we can take his rowboat out to the ocean and push him overboard.” I contemplated like… could I smother him with a pillow in his sleep? Like, they were just ridiculously awful and absurd options, but I just, I wanted to help him, you know? I wanted to… he’d had enough at that point, and he wanted to find a way to go. And I didn't know whether he would qualify or not. I did kind of find myself cataloging these ways to off him, which were just ridiculous. 

Esmé is working on trying to get her dad qualified for this law. She’s also considering her options if he doesn’t qualify. What then? Aside from being left in the woods or pushed overboard, he could stop eating and drinking. If he has enough morphine from the hospice nurses, he could overdose. 

The problem of getting him qualified is constantly on their mind. And her dad’s condition continues to worsen, and the independence that he values so much... it’s slipping away from him. 

Esmé: He could talk on the phone and he could watch TV, but he had always hated watching TV. You know, he had by that point had stopped eating dinner at the dinner table with us. I mean, that was something he had always been super militant about growing up. Like, we must eat together, eating this glorious meal that he had just prepared because he was an awesome cook. And he just couldn't do that anymore. And so he sat with a plate in front of the television. And I know that just like... must have felt just so defeating him. At this point, he could barely walk. He definitely needed a lot of help to walk, and he could still use his arms, but it was clear that the left side was starting to go. And he had begun dropping his fork. He would like, you know, launch a tirade after doing that. 

Big Life Moments — and I initial capped those when typing this — feel like they should arrive with some kind of ceremony, some kind of fanfare. A wax-sealed envelope delivered by a bird of prey. A parting of the clouds and a booming voice from the heavens. But really, it’s just a call from the pharmacy that Esmé has been checking in with day after day. Because to end his life, Ron needs a prescription.

It’s April 17th, the day before Esmé’s birthday. And the prescription is ready. 

Esmé: I remember driving there by myself, and it was totally fucking surreal to, like, go pick up these drugs that were going to end my dad's life. And it was a mixture of like, this is crazy, what am I doing? And also like, immense relief that we had done it. And he could now end his life on his own terms. And like, this is what he wanted and we were able to make it happen. 

It was my birthday. It was a Saturday. And my husband and my daughter and I took my dad for a walk in his wheelchair. And again, like, he hated that wheelchair, so he never would go on a walk in his wheelchair with us. But I convinced him, I was like, “Dad it's my birthday, go on a walk with me in your wheelchair.” And so we took him and we were walking and just all of a sudden he just like out of the blue, he was just like, “OK, we're going to Deer Isle tomorrow.” And that meant that, like, that was where he wanted to die and that was what was happening.

It was just like a declarative statement. It wasn't a question. That was his way of saying that it was time. And so at that point, I'm like, “OK, shit like, all right, we're going to Deer Isle tomorrow. Like, that's big news.” And my brother was still in California at that point. I was like, “Réal, get on a plane right now. We're going to Deer Isle tomorrow. This is happening.”

It is happening. We’re gonna take a quick break, and when we come back, we’re bringing Ron home to Deer Isle… to die.

We’re back. Esmé’s dad has qualified for Maine’s Death With Dignity law. She has picked up the drugs that will assist her dad in his death, and he has decided that it’s time to go. To head to his home in Deer Isle. 

The drive from Portland, Maine to Deer Isle is about three hours long. And like the call from the pharmacy, this drive is big — their last drive together — and so, so ordinary. They stop at the one gas station where they always stop. Esmé takes a few surreptitious photos and then, they arrive at the Deer Isle Bridge that connects Deer Isle to the mainland.

Esmé: It’s like this big, imposing, beautiful green bridge that has two big towers and rises high over this span of the Atlantic Ocean called the Eggemoggin Reach. He would just take pictures of this bridge all the time, I don't know, he just loved it. He just found this bridge so captivating. And actually there's a picture of it that's hanging in my daughter's room of the bridge itself. So I remember us driving over that bridge, and I took a picture of him when we were driving over that bridge, and like his eyes are all welled up with tears. It just like, breaks me every time I look at it. 

The house on Deer Isle, the house that Ron loved and had dreamed of owning for a long time, this is where he wants to die. It’s on five acres of a peninsula. 

Esmé: And so if you look out the front windows, you can see the Atlantic Ocean. And then if you walk down the hill, and that's part of my dad's land, you have oceanfront land there. So it's in the middle of, you know, there's just pine trees all around. There's ferns all around. There's deer around. I mean, it's just super idyllic. And there’s like, the forest floor is just covered with this just amazing neon green moss and ferns everywhere. 

So we got there on a Sunday afternoon, and at that point, you know, walking was really difficult, and he had just sat in the car for three hours, so my husband actually, like, piggybacked him into the house, which was just like a... really beautiful act of love, I thought.

Nora: It is. I love these moments. I had to do that for my husband. And I, like, dropped one of his legs in the snow and he was like, “Come on!”

Esmé: Yeah. So there I am like, carrying Fern into the house, who's like 13 months. And then my husband's carrying my dad into the house. 

Esmé’s brother arrives at Deer Isle that night. Esmé sleeps in bed with her dad to help take care of him. She reads to him from a book of poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay, a poet from Maine who Ron loved. She flips the book open, and of every poem that it could have been, she’s opened to a poem called “The Suicide.”

"Curse thee, Life, I will live with thee no more!

Thou hast mocked me, starved me, beat my body sore!

And all for a pledge that was not pledged by me,

I have kissed thy crust and eaten sparingly

That I might eat again, and met thy sneers

With deprecations, and thy blows with tears,—

Aye, from thy glutted lash, glad, crawled away,

As if spent passion were a holiday!

And now I go. Nor threat, nor easy vow

Of tardy kindness can avail thee now

With me, whence fear and faith alike are flown;

Lonely I came, and I depart alone,

And know not where nor unto whom I go;

But that thou canst not follow me I know."

This death is NOT a suicide. But those words — the image of Ron departing alone, Esmé unable to follow — they fit this moment. That she opened the book to this poem is like a little wink from the universe.

Esmé: So I read that poem to him, and then eventually we fell asleep that night. And I remember waking up in the morning and my dad had installed this skylight right above his bed. And I opened my eyes, and he was already awake, and his eyes were trained up at the skylight. And he said, “Treat thoughts like clouds. Just watch them pass by.” 

Watch them pass by. Be as present as you can. And that’s what they do. In the morning, they start what could be the last day of Ron’s life. 

Esmé: My brother and my husband and my daughter and I kind of all sat around him in the living room, and we went through old photos. We'd gotten these like, big storage boxes from the basement. And we were reminiscing and asking him questions about them. And we found this photo of his father from the 1940s. My dad hadn't seen that photo in ages, and he just was so happy to see it. And then at one point, we came across these fading negatives of this negative, this naked woman. “Dad, what the hell are these?” So that was hilarious. And we all laughed. [laughs]

And then as the day kind of kept progressing like… one of the rules essentially of the medication is like, you have to take it on an empty stomach. And my dad kept wanting to eat, and he kept asking for snacks so I would keep asking and giving him snacks, like hard pretzels and a chocolate protein bar and some cheese with crackers and it was this really weird day where, like, we were cherishing every single moment because we knew we wouldn't have much time left with him. But it was also like, kind of maddening in a way, because we just didn't know what was going on. Like, we didn't know where his head was like. Like, is today actually going to be the day? Like, but you're eating. It was just like, it was just really... it was just a really weird place to be in. 

For dinner, Ron has his favorite meal: pasta with clams that the neighbors dug up that morning. 

Esmé: And we just sat around the table and like, we drank good wine and we laughed,  and there was just this really surreal but wonderful moment, and you know, I felt like finally, you know, he had been so anxious and so betrayed by his body and so downtrodden by having endured this condition for so long. And in that moment, like, it felt like we had our dad back, like we had... we were laughing and like the specter of death was like, definitely hanging over us, but... we could laugh and, like, live in the moment because he no longer feared the idea that he might die of this awful prolonged death. We could just enjoy that moment. And it was like, it was incredible. 

So that night was Monday night, and again I slept beside him in his bed, and we read poetry that night, and I remember massaging his calves and his quads and his feet. He said they felt very heavy at the time, like his limbs felt very heavy by that point, and he could barely move his legs at that point. So I massaged him, and he thanked me at one point for helping him, and I just was like, “Dad,” like, I don't even know if I said this, I really hope I did. But I was just the one that felt thankful, like he didn't need to thank me at that point. Like I was so thankful that he wanted me at his side at that time. 

Tuesday arrives. A home health aide comes to bathe Ron and get him ready. 

Esmé: He was like, intent on being freshly shaved every day, wearing real pants, like no sweat pants. And so he got washed up, and I remember the home health aide, just like casually commenting that I looked so much like my dad. It was so clear that I was his daughter. And that was such a… that just made me so happy to hear. 

They spend the day reading poetry, looking at pictures… just being together.

Esmé: And then at about 4:00 p.m. that day, my dad was just like, “all right.” I mean, I don't think he said it this bluntly, but it was just like, there's no more delaying the inevitable, like… this is the time. We're going to do it. 

The process starts with an anti-nausea medication, which Ron takes before going to sit on the porch… until it starts to rain.

Esmé: And so we took him back inside, and he wanted us to move a framed black and white photo of his mom to atop the wood stove, and so we moved it there, and he kind of talked about how he'd hoped he'd see her. And he told us that he'd miss not skiing with us again. And then the others stepped away at one point. And he... it was like a confession, almost like... he turned to me and he said he wouldn't be doing this if he felt like he had any other choice. And, you know, it felt like an apology. And I just told him I understood. 

Esmé and her brother mix the first drug, and their father gulps it down. Thirty minutes later, it’s time for the second drug, the sedative that will put him to sleep as the first drug eventually stops his heart. 

Esmé: He again, just like, gulped it down, and he closed his eyes within minutes, if not less, like it was pretty quick. And then for a while, it just looked like he was napping. And he snored and he was sitting in his chair. And it was kind of like he had napped in that chair one hundred times, you know, it just almost looked like he was just napping there again, but obviously he wasn't. And then it took about three hours for his heart to finally give out. My brother and my husband and I just sat around, you know, just bawling and just sitting there with the body and... just holding his hand and listening to music and crying. And at one point in all the final moments, my husband like, kind of like, screamed through tears, like “there is no better way to go than this,” or just something to that effect. And it was true. Like I mean, there is such thing as a good death. And it was what my dad had, like, he was at home in this place that he loved, in this piece of Maine he loved, in this house that he made into a home. He was surrounded by those of us he loved and those of us who loved him. We were playing music. We were taking shots of whiskey during this whole time, too. And it was on his own terms, like, he could decide the when and the how. I mean, my dad was a control freak, definitely. And ALS is such an awful disease and... he didn't want to die like that. He didn't want to let kind of ALS give him this awful death — awful, prolonged, painful death that he had no control over. And so, you know, as awful, as traumatic and profoundly sad as the idea of him dying is and was in the moment, my dad had arguably the best possible death you could have. And it was beautiful because it was on his own terms. 

We’ve talked about this topic one other time on this podcast — it’s episode 11, called “The Ending Matters.” I talked to the widower of Brittany Maynard, who died using death with dignity legislation in Oregon... I believe the same week that my husband Aaron died of brain cancer in a more awful and painful way. You can listen to that episode to get a little deeper into the politics and policy of the issue.

Ron Deprez got to decide how he wanted to die. In the same way that we all want to control our lives, he was given the chance to control his death. 

Esmé: But like for a lot of us, like we should be in control of our lives. And then when it becomes to our deaths, that is so less often the case. I mean, the control over our deaths get ceded to doctors who work within the medical care system that has all these tools to prolong our lives instead of let it end. And our families don't want us to go, and so they keep us on life support or just pushing for more intervention. And so it's just this contrast between thinking that we should have control of our lives but then depriving so many of us of that control over our deaths is really... fucked up.

Esmé and her family stayed in Deer Isle for six months after her dad died. In that time, Esmé and her husband decided to have another baby.

Esmé: I dreamt that he had died and was planning to take the drugs again soon, which was weird. But he had come back to life again for a little while. And I opened a box for some reason containing a new set of plates that he'd gotten us as a Christmas present, but he'd forgotten about it. So he was apparently giving them to us over July 4th weekend. And we did have these like really funny plates growing up. They were Edward Lear illustrations, and they were really whimsical, and they have funny sayings on them. And so these plates were kind of like a version of those plates that we had growing up. In that moment, after I opened up this Christmas gift that he had forgotten about, I got to tell him about the obituary that I had written for him. And right around the time his obituary came out, our local newspaper in Maine also did a story on him. So I got to tell him that he was in the Portland Press Herald, and they did this big story on him. And then most importantly, I got to tell him that I was pregnant with my second child. And immediately, he responded by saying, by knowing that like, my husband and I had purposely conceived around his birthday, and that his spirit had infused the pregnancy. So I'm usually not like one to read too much into my dreams, but it just was a really nice thing to have happen. And I do feel like it makes me feel on some like, you know, a strange level that he does know that he's got a second grandchild coming, on the way. 

When we spoke to Esmé, she was 38 weeks pregnant. She had a C-section scheduled for a few days later. So by the time you’re hearing this, she is a mother of two little girls.

Esmé: I got pregnant right in the heart of like, grieving my dad's death, and I didn't like, think it through in this way. I was so focused on my dad's death and just on death in general, and then to have this kind of forced distraction of focusing on new life has been really surprisingly wonderful to have and I’m really, really grateful for that. I've said to my husband, like, it's quite the cycle of life in our house here in the past year. My dad died, we created new life, and I've been trying to nurture it inside of me, And then here I am about to give birth again, so the cycle repeats itself.

We mentioned that Esmé is an investigative reporter. She is a beautiful writer. She wrote a piece called “Death With Dignity: How I Helped My Dad Die.” It’s on Bloomberg. We’ve linked it in our show notes, and we really suggest that you read it. It’s a really, really lovely piece of writing, and we thank Esmé for sharing her dad and her story with us. 

I’m Nora McInerny. This is “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” Our production team is Jeyca Maldonado-Medina, who helped a lot on this episode. Good job, Jeyca! Marcel Malekebu, MVP as always. Hannah Meacock Ross, our… everything, ya know? Just a... head of the household. If we were filing taxes together, she’d file as head of household. I’d file as a dependent. Emotionally. Emotionally dependent. Jordan Turgeon, I mean… what doesn’t Jordan do? WDJD, what doesn’t Jordan do? Let’s figure it out. I don’t know. Phyllis Fletcher… this is one of the last episodes she worked on. We still miss her. She left us. She left us. Did she leave us, or did she go toward something better? Hard to say. Our theme music is by Geoffrey Lamar Wilson. I suggest you look up his music, absolutely beautiful. So many beautifully talented people — and beautiful people — work on this podcast, and it is quite appreciated. Quite. Much appreciated. 

This podcast was recorded in my closet. Production help from my husband Matthew, who took the children out of the home — out! away! — so I could record. Also this episode made me miss my dad, so if you have a dead dad, um… I feel ya. Shoutout to all of the dead dads out there. All of the people with dead dads. 

Okay, I think that wraps it up for us. We’re a production of American Public Media. I think that’s it. Okay. All right! Bye guys. We’ll see ya soon.