Notes On Anne and Bucky Fuller’s Deaths

Notes on Anne and Bucky Fuller’s deaths made by Allegra Fuller Snyder, written several years after their death, to a close friend (hence intimate language)

I would say that right to the end Mummy and Daddy’s relationship to one another continued to be very much the same. Daddy doing his own thing, doing a lot of traveling and moving around the world, and Mummy doing her own thing which meant mostly being at home and mostly in communication and involved with all of her family – of course me, and her grandchildren, but also whoever of her sisters and brothers, and in-laws, that she could be in communication with, and probably a handful of very old and dear friends that she kept in quite good touch with, always writing her wonderful letters in her beautiful handwriting. Bucky and Anne both seemed to enjoy this somewhat independent relationship.

It is true that she had a bout with cancer of the intestine about seven or eight years before she finally died. At the time that she had that operation, the doctors felt that they had quite successfully isolated and removed the cancer although they did predict that in the long run there might be a reoccurrence, but she never even had any chemotherapy treatment. She did develop, at that time, some kind of problem, that made her swallowing and digestion difficult and she remained uncomfortable with that throughout the rest of her life. Because of that she never did regain her full strength after that time but in no way was she an invalid in any sense of the word.

In April of 1983 it became clear, particularly to Jaime, who was living with Mummy and Daddy, that something again was rather amiss with Mummy’s whole system. He took her to her doctor here in Los Angeles. They diagnosed that there had been a reoccurrence of the cancer. Again she was operated on, and again she seemed to come through that operation with the hope of being able to comfortably survive for a period of time. The other problem with the swallowing and digestion continued. The doctors continued to be unable to identify what the problem was but this did continue to affect her forward progress, in fact it became aggravated. She was unable to digest things and she began to lose weight and get thinner and thinner.

I had been on a leave of absence from UCLA, teaching at NYU, in 1982-83. Fortunately NYU’s school year came to an end quite early. I was able to get back and be with Mummy first at the hospital and then to bring her home. The house that Mummy and Daddy were renting was within a block and a half of ours, in Pacific Palisades, but there were many nights when I stayed the night with Mummy because Daddy was still traveling and on the road and away through most of this period. He had been with her while she was in the hospital but as soon as the doctor said it was all right for her to go home I think he felt that he could go back to his regular itinerary.

In the middle of June I finally came to the realization that Mummy was basically starving to death, that she was really unable to get down any foods, even the very high protein liquid foods the doctors has recommended for her. She was beginning to hallucinate at night while she slept. So very reluctantly, we took her back to the hospital. In retrospect I feel very sad about that decision because what it meant was that she was then wired up for all kinds of intravenous feedings. They, also, started to feed her with pipes down her throat which was when they discovered that her esophagus was blocked. They discovered this because they perforated the esophagus in the process. It was the esophagus that had been causing all the problems, though no one had figured it out,—- and now became the final blow.

Daddy was with me and Jaime when we took Mummy back to the hospital. Again he felt comfortable that she was in good hands at that point. The doctors, when we first brought her back, felt that the situation was serious but not critical and that they could keep Mummy comfortable. So again Daddy left for some lecture engagements. At the very end of June, Daddy had a lecture right in the Los Angeles area, came back for that . It was at that time that they had perforated the esophagus and were unable to go in and correct the situation. The doctors talked with me. They had come to the conclusion that there was little more that could be done. Daddy saw her for one or two days after this situation had occurred. At that point she seemed quite comfortable, was quite coherent though a little bit on the shaky side which I could see embarrassed her. (You remember my mother had a wonderful sense of pride about herself.) We all went home to get a night’s sleep and when we came back we found her in a coma-like state although the doctors insisted that it was not a true coma (I’m not sure of their exact distinction) and she remained in that state for the last week of her life.

During the period after my mother went into the coma, my father was deeply distressed, and was by her bedside a great deal. I was there constantly. On the second or third day Jaime had taken Daddy home to get a night’s sleep. The doctors noted major changes in my mother’s vital signs during the night. I called Jaime to bring Daddy back as soon as possible. They came in. We were all in her room together for a while then Jaime went down for something to eat. I was sitting on one side of her bedside and Daddy was sitting on the other. He was holding her hand. By this time very disturbed and frustrated that there was no seeming communication between them. He suddenly looked up at me, across the bed, and said “I know she’s squeezing my hand, she’s squeezing my hand!!!!!” He stood up—- and it was then that he had a massive heart attack.

As he sort of moved himself towards the bathroom, a nurse rushed in, and I was ushered out of my mother’s room while the whole brigade of the heart emergency crew of the hospital arrived in her room. He died, but not at her bedside, and about an hour later. Jaime and I never saw him again to talk to. But after he had died, he had an exquisitely happy smile on his face. I think he felt that perhaps mother was sort of hanging on the edge because she was afraid to leave without his going too, and that he should ushered the way for them both to depart together. It was 36 hours later before she actually did die. She never did have any further communication with us. Who knows if she knew he had gone ahead.