Jackie's Death

Research by Steven L. Brawley

November 1993

  • Jackie shows no apparent sign of illness as of November, when she has a CAT scan after falling off a horse while riding in Virginia.

December 1993

  • Jackie seemed healthy until early December, when she was in Virginia and noticed a swelling in her right groin. A doctor there diagnosed a swollen lymph node, and suspecting an infection, prescribed antibiotics. The swelling diminished but did not completely disappear.
  • While on a boat in the Caribbean over the Christmas holidays, Jackie developed a cough, swollen lymph nodes in her neck and pain in her abdomen.
  • After consulting by telephone with a doctor in New York City, she flies back to Manhattan. The doctor finds enlarged lymph nodes in her neck and in her armpit. A computerized type of X-ray, a CAT scan, showed that there were swollen lymph nodes in her chest and in an area deep in the abdomen, the retroperitoneal area.
  • A biopsy of one of the neck nodes shows that she had non-Hodgkins lymphoma. A pathologist noted that the cells were anaplastic -- that is, they were undeveloped, what doctors call "embryonic" or "primitive," indicating that the disease was highly malignant.
  • Jackie is offered a chance to seek a second opinion elsewhere, but declines to do so. The pathology slides of her lymph nodes are sent to experts at a hospital in another city, and a doctor from that hospital come as a consultant to New York City.

January 1994

  • In early January, she begins receiving the first of four standard courses of chemotherapy for the lymphoma. The therapy includes steroid drugs, and the initial treatment led to an apparent remission. She loses her hair and begins to don a wig. She works as often as she can at her job as an editor with Doubleday.

February 1994

  • Jackie signs a living will that clearly expressed her wish not to receive aggressive medical treatment if she developed a grave illness and such measures would be futile.
  • In February the intensely private Jackie announces she has been given the diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

March 1994

  • Bt mid-March, she becomes weaker, became confused and has pains in her legs. A neurological examination indicated that the cerebellum portion of her brain had now been affected.
  • Another type of scan, an M.R.I., showed that the lymphoma had disappeared from her neck, chest and abdomen but that it had spread to the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.
  • After the cancer was found in her brain, Jackie receives radiation therapy there and to her lower spinal cord for about a month. The treatment relieves her weakness, but she continues to experience pain in her neck, for which she is given pain medications. During this time she receives her care at home and as a hospital out-patient.

April 1994 

  • On April 14, she is was admitted to New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center after she developes a perforated ulcer in her stomach, a complication of the steroid therapy. Surgeons sewed up the hole in the stomach that day. 
  • But the cancer in her spinal cord and brain continues to worsen. Although a tube was placed in her brain to deliver an anti-cancer drug, a sophisticated but now standard form of therapy for this condition, the lymphoma in her brain does not respond to any therapy. During this period, she loses weight, her speech slows, she is less alert and has difficulty walking.

May 15, 1994

  • Jackie is photographed walking in Central Park on Sunday - unable to walk very far and needing to be supported by her companion, Maurice Tempelsman.

May 16, 1994

  • On Monday, she develops shaking chills and becomes disoriented. Maurice and a nurse take her to New York Hospital, where she is admitted. Doctors diagnose pneumonia and give her antibiotics by injection. The drug and radiation therapy have weakened her immune system, leaving her vulnerable to infection.  

May 17, 1994

  • She rallies initially, but on Tuesday her condition takes a turn for the worse.

May 18, 1994

  • On Wednesday, doctors find that the lymphoma had recurred in her liver, where it had been present earlier. They tell her that the cancer was no longer treatable.
  • Jackie returns to her apartment on Wednesday. Aggressive therapy, including antibiotic treatment of pneumonia that she had developed earlier in the week, are halted in keeping with the wishes Jackie has expressed in a living will.

May 19, 1994

  • Close family and friends gather at her 1040 Fifth Avenue to say their final goodbyes. Caroline, John, and Maurice are with her when she passes away at the age of 64 in her bedroom at 10:15 pm.

May 20, 1994

  • John Jr. descends from the 15th floor apartment where he and Caroline had been raised, stood on the sidewalk where hundreds of reporters, cameramen and well-wishers are gathered and issues a brief statement. "Last night, at around 10:15, my mother passed on," John said. "She was surrounded by her friends and family and her books and the people and the things that she loved. And she did it in her own way, and we all feel lucky for that, and now she's in God's hands." 

May 21, 1994

  • She is embalmed in her own master bathroom under the direction of the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel.
  • Jackie is placed in the same model casket that was used for JFK. The casket was manufactured by the Marsellus Casket Company of Syracuse (NY), which had acquired the reputation of being the finest manufacturer of hardwood caskets in America. The "Seven Ten" design (which was the company's third most expensive) was chosen for the burial of JFK and several other American presidents (Ford, Nixon, and probably also for Hoover) as well, and therefore became something like an unofficial "presidential casket" in the US. Although the model 710 is a plain and unpretentious looking design of timeless simplicity, representing the understatement style of the Eastern elite, it is nevertheless an expensive luxury casket made from solid 1-1/4" and 2-1/2" planks of African mahogany. The casket has heavily rounded corners and all wooden swing bar handles with bronze tips and lugs.
  • Her funeral shroud is unknown, but likely an outfit chosen from her vast wardrobe.

May 22, 1994

  • Jackie's family, friends and close associates pay their respects at an informal wake in her living room - featuring her closed coffin draped with an antique cloth.

May 23, 1994

  • Jackie's funeral is held at New York's St. Ignatius Loyola, the Roman Catholic church where Jackie was baptized as an infant and confirmed as a 12-year-old.
  • At about 12:45 p.m. her body is transported on a chartered 737 Boeing jet from New York City to Washington, where a motorcade of motorcycles, buses and limousines escorts Jackie through the black iron gates of Arlington National Cemetery. There, in front of a private gathering of fewer than 100 people that included the President and Mrs. Clinton, Jackie, in a mahogany casket covered with ferns and a cross of white lilies-of-the-valley, is laid to rest between her husband Jack and her stillborn daughter. Her son Patrick, who died two days after his birth in 1963, lies on the former President's other side. "God gave her very great gifts and imposed upon her great burdens," said the President during the 11-minute ceremony. "She bore them all with dignity and grace and uncommon common sense."  



Copyright Steven L. Brawley, 2002-2015. All Rights Reserved.