Spoiler: The topic for the month at our Waialua Writers meeting was "Make Us Cry."
The barren, cheerless room was like a glacier, icy white and stark. The examining table was freezing cold. The doctor slid a blanket between the motionless body in front of him and the shiny, soulless surface. The IV drip attached to the inert form continued its relentless drops; each one looked like a tear. The young man, who had been standing by the door, turned away in despair.
“This medicine has her in a deep sleep; she’ll stay this way until the final dose. Then she just won’t wake up.”
The young man took a deep breath and tried to compose himself. He faced the scene and murmured, “There just wasn’t enough insurance. I knew she should have had more, and I could have paid for it, I don’t know why I didn’t. But I thought there would be enough, I guess…I never, I never…I spent the money on who knows what…” He broke off midsentence, crying again. The doctor put a hand on his shoulder.
“She had a good life, didn’t she? She lived a long time, saw you grow up. Times are different now, this is an easier way out. She doesn’t have to suffer, for years maybe…”
The young man interrupted, “But there were treatment options. I could have paid for them myself…” He looked suddenly hopeful. “Can’t we just keep giving her the pain pills?” He pulled out his wallet, frantically tried to count the crumpled bills with his shaking hands. The doctor stopped him.
“I discussed this with your father, remember? It’s too expensive to keep her on pain pills, you know that. The insurance your family had for her doesn’t pay for that or for more treatments. This is the most economical way out and covered by your insurance, not even a copay. Like I said, times are different now.”
Through his tears, the young man remembered his happy childhood – the great vacations, the lavish birthday parties, the storybook Christmases, with the base of the Christmas tree always overflowing with beautifully-wrapped presents. She had always been there, part of it all. He could not separate these thoughts from the still form on the table. The i.v. machine continued its work, inexorable and unfeeling. The doctor looked at his watch.
“We’re going to have to finish this up. Did you want to leave her here afterwards, or…”
The boy panicked.
“I want to take her home. I mean, now. Unhook her. I don’t want to do this. I can’t do this. If you take the needle out, will she wake up soon? Can I take her home?”
The doctor shook his head; he had witnessed this scene with many patients and their families. The remorse, the guilt, the moments fraught with panic and denial at the end.
“You know this is best. Here,” and he removed the chain with her name on it from around her neck, “you’ll want to keep this.”
He gave the chain to the boy, who held it unseeingly in his hand. The doctor walked over behind the table, retrieved a syringe and a vial of iridescent pink liquid. Quickly, he filled the syringe and then turned and inserted it into the i.v.
“Are you ready?” Wordless now, the boy stared helplessly at the motionless form.
The doctor looked at his watch again, then depressed the plunger so that the medicine traveled quickly down through the rubber tubing. The boy watched, horrified, as it reached the patient; her breathing stopped immediately. Her soft brown eyes
closed. The boy threw himself on her, crying uncontrollably.
"Mom, oh Mom, I’ll miss you so much!”