I feel as if I have a song to sing.
And trust me, I cannot sing. Not a note.
But here I am front and center stage. A cappella.
So many verses to this song of mine.
And for now I am getting to the last of those hospital days.
The last verse of this particular song.
But I have a feeling my (SON)g will never end. Why would I ever want it to?
I could see that they had done most all they could. I wondered what they waited for, to be painfully honest about it. How long could the stanza be drawn out…when would we get to that final verse?
As the hospital days started to grow in number and the tests and procedures were running dry, there was talk then of what is called a “step down” phase. A decision would have to be made as to what facility to admit my son for further care and possibly rehabilitation.
A social worker came in to see me early one morning…forms in hand and vague explanation of what to expect next. Because really, did anyone know?
She handed me a list of care facilities that could meet our needs and I had to choose one. As I read over the dozen or so choices I immediately saw that a facility was operated by Scott and White in Killeen. Close as to not make him transfer too far. Close to his family. I felt it was such a good option to hand the baton from one great hospital to their specific step down program.
I circled it and the decision was put in motion.
But only for a few hours.
It was that same morning that I saw the familiar half moon circle of our medical team standing outside our door. Heads down. Nodding. And that social worker was in the midst of them then. I had never seen her there before. She was part of the team now.
The look on her face was as if she made a mistake. You know the look. That sad recognition that you may have just missed something. Maybe jumped ahead too soon.
They didn’t come into our room that morning like they always did. They walked away. A few looked my way. Nodded. Smiled.
And dare I say they looked sad?
I can say that I braced myself but I did that every day. Every single day.
Later, one of the doctors on our team came into our room. All alone. He was one of the team that said so very little. I don’t even remember him saying a word while he rounded with the others, really.
He came in with his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his white lab coat, face all austere and serious. Highly professional.
He sat down on the couch, stretched out his legs some, and crossed his ankles. He was wearing cowboy boots. With sharply pointed toes.
There comes a time when hard decisions have to be made…
Yes. Here it was. The truth.
You’d think this is where I checked out. Where all the words became likened to that out of sight teacher in a Charlie Brown television special.
But that didn’t happen.
I heard each and every one of them. Clear as a bell. At least I’m not tone deaf. I can’t sing, but I can follow the notes pretty well.
The doctor looked over at me. Looked into my face just then. There was one thing I always noticed about this particular doctor. One side of his lab coat collar was always turned up. Every time I saw him it was that way.
I wanted to reach over and fix it.
And I saw that this conversation was a little hard for him.
Somehow I wanted to help him with that, too.
So the only thing I could do was smile a little. Pay close attention.
This has come down to quality of life here.
Pause, awkward pause. Stupid smile on my face.
I’ve seen this kind of thing before. So many times before. The family wants so desperately to keep the loved one alive that they will do anything to make that happen. Things then become a game of this infection or that. This issue or that. Back and forth from care facility to hospital. Surgeries, procedures, and then more surgeries and procedures. And then in a care facility for the rest of the patient’s living days.
We don’t believe your son can be rehabilitated.
You need to consider a DNR.
You need to consider taking him off of life support.
Yes. I know.
I’m pretty sure I said that out loud.
Because he looked relieved then.
I also said that I had known for some time now. Yes, I knew. And in that knowing I decided that I would allow Michael to make this decision.
Yes. Let’s take him off of those machines and allow Michael to do this breathing on his own.
Stop the machines and all the procedures and all the noise. Let’s stop all this horrible noise. The constant screeching rhythm of beeps and the blaring chorus of those machines. The cacophony of it all. Please stop it all.
Let my son decide his own life.
I asked how it would be done. Here? In this room? How long do you think this will take or that will take.
He answered so thoroughly and patiently.
He also said that he believed I made a courageous decision.
Yes. Thank you.
He told me that a series of people would come to help me throughout the morning. Standing, he nodded. Paused a second and I’m not too sure why. Maybe he wanted to shake my hand or do something more to comfort me. But he turned and left then.
As he walked out the door I wondered if that team of doctors drew straws. Did he get the short end of this. Maybe he was the one on the team that was always chosen to deliver the news. Even still, if he did this a thousand times before, I doubt it was easy to be in those pointed toe cowboy boots just then.
I remember one phone call I received from Michael about a year before all of this. He was at a pretty low place in his life. Things had happened and he was so sad. To top off so many hardships in a row, his most beloved dog went missing a few days before this call. And now, he was on the side of the road standing in the rain with his phone in his hand, calling me to tell me he found him. His dog laid dead at his feet.
My son was crying.
Mom, I swear I am the perfect example of a country-western song right now. All down on my luck. This has happened and that has happened…and now my dog died.
Son. Oh, Son.
It’s time for you to sing this song. I am stepping down.
The stage is yours and this song of yours gets to end the way you decide.
Down to the very last word. The very last note.
Of this very last verse of your life.