Pulling the Plug
Please, don't pull the plug on me yet. I'm trying as hard as I can. Really! The light is so strong, but your voice is stronger. I'm making my way there. Please don't give up.
A sigh of regret. "I'm very sorry to give you this news, ma'am, but it is not likely that she will wake up any time soon. The only reason she is alive is because she is hooked up to life support."
A sob. "Are—are you sure there's no chance?"
An uncomfortable shuffle. "There is a very, very slim chance she will wake. If that event were to occur, she would most likely be in severe pain."
A hand on a shaking shoulder. "Doctor, my daughter is a fighter. My wife and I – well, we want to wait."
Yes! Please wait! I am literally swimming against this current of darkness, but I will be there. Just please, hang on!
"Sir, with all do respect, your daughter is in pain. She may not be a normal child if she were ever to wake up. Prolonging this…"
A sharp movement. "No! I refuse to give up on Anne. She's—" a tremor in the voice, "she's all we've got left."
A heart-shattering sob. "Our son. Carl, where is Daniel?"
A lip bitten unsurely. "Daniel… I called him, Jean."
Daniel! Daniel will fight for me. He would never allow them to shut down that contraption. I am taking two steps forward and one step back. My pace is slow, but I will return. I promise!
An impatient tapping noise on a clipboard. "Sir, the longer you are indecisive, the more this will cost. I know that sounds callous, but I do know of your wife told me of your financial situation. If you were to hold out longer, your debt will increase in tremendous proportions."
"Don't you think I know that?! Get out of this room, Doctor, before I do something I will regret." A quick shuffle, a door clicking shut.
"Jean… I don't know what to do."
"Neither do I, Carl, neither do I." A whimper. "I shouldn't have let her use the car. The roads were so slick and I knew the dangers of the road. I shouldn't have allowed her to go. I shouldn't…"
"We didn't know, Jean. We didn't know."
I'm sorry. I'm so sorry! I'm sorry that I persuaded you to let me take the car. I knew that roads would be slick. I'm sorry! It's not your fault. Please don't blame yourselves. It's all mine. My own stupid mistake.
I'm sorry. So sorry…
What is this? I'm almost there! No! What is this? Aghh!...
A distinct groan. A series of unsteady gasps of air. "Carl! Carl, did you hear that? Anne made a sound!"
"Yes, I heard! Anne, can you hear me?"
Yes, I can hear you! Agh! This hurts… so much… What… is this?
A rustle. A crash as the door opens. A startled gasp. "Nurse, please sedate Anne immediately. She is trying to breathe on her own."
A myriad of movement. Then, silence. A moment of relief. "Sir, ma'am, your daughter is in immense pain. I can tell she's trying to regain consciousness, but to do so wouldn't help her."
A flurry of footsteps at the door. "Dad! Mom! I came as fast as I can. Where's—Anne! What happened to her?"
Daniel, you're here! The pain is gone. Oh, but I'm so much farther than I was before. Please help me, Daniel. I want to go back. The light is so comfortable… but I want to go back!
More conversation, mostly inaudible. Again, silence. "So there's really no hope?"
A regretful exhale of breath. "There is always hope. You shouldn't expect too much, however."
A pregnant silence.
"She's in pain, Carl."
A pause. "Dad, she's hurting."
"I can see that, son."
"… Maybe we should just…" a painful swallow, "let her go."
A long hush. "You're right. It's just… hard. She's my little girl. She always called herself Daddy's girl…"
A rustle of movement. A mass of arms gripping torsos.
No! Dad, no!
"It's time to let her go."
No! Dad, please, no! Wait! I can get back! Don't go yet!
A screech of stool legs, pulled against a hospital bed. "Sweetie, I don't know if you can hear me…"
I can hear you, just don't!—
"I'm so sorry I wasn't there for you. I'm so sorry that you and I always got into fights about the way you dressed and acted. I'm sorry that I would purposefully try to embarrass you in front of your friends by acting the complete opposite of a 'cool mom'." A watery chuckle. "I love you, sweetie. I'll… see you later. Remember? Never goodbye, always 'see you later'."
Mom, what I wouldn't give for you to embarrass me again. Please don't let go…
"Anne-Anne? It's Danny. Hey." A pause. "I'm not very good at these." A nod of encouragement. "Remember when I told you that your goldfish Rex died by overeating? I lied. I accidentally stabbed him with a pencil I was trying to poke him with. I remember how devastated you were after you realized he was dead. We even set up a grave for him in the backyard, remember? You always hated it when people flushed their goldfish down in the bowl. You thought the sewer was a terrible place for a fish to be in after death. I never told you about the earthworms in our backyard, did I? I never thought I'd be saying goodbye to you. We always planned it for me to die first, you remember? You would be taking care of the kids and the grand kids and you said you would die soon after me to keep me company. I'm sorry I couldn't fulfill our oath. I love you, Anne-Anne. I'll see you on the flip side."
Daniel, I really don't mind the goldfish. Rex was great, but I'd rather have you instead. Don't let me go. Keep me here. I want to fulfill our oath!
"Anne? You don't know how hard this is for me, Anne… We were inseparable, you and I. You were more boyish than your brother at seven years old than he was at twelve. We always watched Monday Night Football together. You would know so much about action movies and recount them like you wrote them yourself. You proclaimed yourself 'Daddy's Little Girl'. Wait for me in Heaven, yeah? Then we can watch Monday Night Football again – together. Dad and Anne. I love you, Anne. Your brother, mother, and I can't wait to see you again. Save us the best seats up there, okay?"
Daddy… Daddy, I don't want to die. I'm not ready. I want to watch Monday Night Football again. Daddy, please don't go…
"We're done, Doctor." A flurry of movement. A forehead on a shoulder, holding back tears.
"I'm sorry for your loss, sirs and ma'am."
"Please… just relieve her of her pain."
"Yes, sir." A multitude of beeps.
'Bye, Daddy. 'Bye, Mom. 'Bye, Danny. I'm going to the light now. When you get here, you can embarrass me all you want, Mom. And we'll look for our goldfish, Danny! And Daddy… we can watch Monday Night Footba—
A screen is turned off.
"Time of death, 4:22 AM…"
Author's Note: Completely inspired by the episode of Grey's Anatomy, in which Dr. O'Malley's father is taken off life support.
Made me choke up a bit while writing it… Most definitely unedited, but I can't grasp the raw emotion quite as clearly, so I'm leaving it as is.