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The only picture I have of Angela

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It can be difficult to honor a loved one’s wishes

By Miriam
Posted on

I wish I had the conversation with my other relative.

We were all there in the hospital because if two weeks had elapsed and she was still comatose, she had requested that my father ‘pull the plug’.
 My aunt died from a tragic accident when I was in high school, and shortly after I wrote the below story.  Best way for me to share my story and what ‘not having the conversation’ did to my family.

A circle.  Light blue rim.  Twelve numbers.  Three hands, playing an eternal game of chase.  Walls.  Light blue in color.  An ocean trim around the top, the type you buy at Wal-Mart, curling at the edges.  Furniture, nothing in particular, some chairs here and there, a few magazines carelessly strewn around.  A green rug, left over from the 60s, distinct paths worn leading to chairs, or else a trace of where one once rested.  An arrangement of daffodils rested on a corner table, faded with time.

The door opened.  A rush of air filled the room, unmistakably the scent of a hospital.  An older man in his fifties plopped down in a chair.  My father.  His head resting in his hands, shoulders relaxed, eyes cast down, focused on an invisible spot on the rug.  Silently I got up, opened the door, and went into the hallway.

My mother and two sisters were there waiting for me.  They looked almost foreign in their smock, gloves and a face mask.  The nurse came out and handed me the same.  She then led us down a long tiled corridor. A faint beeping grew louder as we approached the glass doors.

There she was.  A woman whose whole body would shake with laughter.  A laughter that would start in her enormous chest and come booming out.  A woman who use to offer my sisters and me anything that we wanted.  A woman who I told when I was little and resting in her lap was the most comfortable pillow in the world.   A woman I used to write letters to for years to keep her informed about how I was ‘growing up’.  Now she lay motionless on a hospital bed, tubes ran down her throat, across her face, needles in her skin, functioning solely on the power of the machines surrounding the bed.

She had done this to herself.  She had respiratory problems from all of the years of smoking cigarettes.  Her doctors put her on oxygen, a plastic tube across her face, a tank to be wheeled around with her everywhere.  The addiction killed her.  She couldn’t help herself.  She lit up.  The flame was immediately attracted to her oxygen, and traveled into her lungs.  Once the paramedics arrived, it was too late to truly save her without damage – but they did anyway.

My mother entered the room first.  She went directly to the side of the bed and grabbed the woman’s hand and started talking like nothing had changed.  She ignored the tubes, the needles, the blank stare, the smell, the machines and commented on how beautiful Angela looked.  My two sisters got close to the bed, and alternated holding her other hand.   I preferred to stay in the corner, not believing the sight in front of me.

Angela had been this way, tubes, needles, blank stares, and machines the only things keeping her living for two weeks now.  We were all there in the hospital because if two weeks had elapsed and she was still comatose, she has requested that my father ‘pull the plug’.

I quickly left the room, not able to stand the sight in front of me.  I went back to the room with the clock.  My father was still there.  You know how it is difficult to see your parents in pain; it was even harder to see my father like this.  He never showed weakness.  I stared at the clock again, finding it so ironic that they had a clock there. Did they think that one who was waiting for something could find comfort in watching the hands chase each other?  The clock always knows when someone is watching, making the hands move painfully slow.

“She is asking me to kill her,” He mumbled.  I tried explaining to him that he wasn’t killing her, he was honoring her wishes.  I was interrupted by a man dressed in all black except for a white collar knocking on the door.  The priest entered.  My father immediately stood up and shook his hand.  I left the room.  I knew what they were going to talk about.  My father wanted to know if it was morally right to ‘kill’ his sister under these circumstances and if God would forgive him.

I wanted to find some happy part of the hospital.  I felt where I standing was shrouded in death.  I went for a walk.  I didn’t get far.  Soon after my sister came to fetch me.

My sister led me to the glass doors.  My mother was in the room, holding Angela’s hand.  The doctor came in.  The priest said a few words and left.  The doors slid open as the doctor entered the room.  He then went in and placed a bag of liquid that he carried in on the hanger next to the bed.  He then hooked it up to one of the tubes in her arm.  My mother still stayed there talking to Angela, telling her that everyone was there with her.

It took hours.  The morphine slowly seeped into her body.  The doctor came in every once in a while to increase the flow.  Everyone just stood at the door and watched.  Everyone stood there listening to the rhythmic beeping of Angela’s heart on the monitor.  Everyone stood there waiting for Angela to die.

I couldn’t handle it.  I felt like I was going to throw up, pass out, scream.   I left the room and went back to stare at that stupid clock.

Angela died that day.  My father told me afterwards if the priest had not told him that it was alright, he wouldn’t have done it.  My mother said that Angela’s grip on her hand tightened as the doctor came in with the morphine.  My sisters just stood there watching.  I hid with the clock.

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