Stare At The Ceiling.

“Mrs. Longo? I have some papers for you to sign.”

I was thankful for a reason to leave the room.  It had been hours since I’d grown weary of the competition between the incessant and rhythmic whooshing of the ventilator and the erratic beeping of the blood pressure monitor.  The woman in the burgundy pantsuit and sensible shoes stood just outside the door, holding her clipboard close to her chest.

“We need your signature authorizing us to remove life support.  Do you understand your decision?”

“Yes. I shouldn’t even have to make this decision, though,” the bitterness in my voice seemed to catch her off guard.

My face flushed.  I looked at the ceiling, hoping the tears filling my eyes would just sink back into my head.

“I know, honey, it’s hard,” she said as she stood there.  Her eyes gave away that she wished she was anywhere else.  At least we had that in common.

“No, you don’t,” I huffed as anger forced down the sadness. “She had a Do Not Resuscitate.  It’s supposed to come with her every time she comes here.  Someone resuscitated her.  Now it’s on me. It’s always on me.”

I wiped a spilled tear on my sleeve.  I inspected the ceiling once more while the hospital social worker continued to just stand there, waiting for me.

“I don’t want her to know I did this,” I said, my tone hushed as if the woman whose life I was taking could hear me over the racket her machines were making.

The social worker nodded.  I hadn’t even really been talking to her, so her confirmation of collusion meant little to me.

“Where do I sign?” I motioned for the clipboard.

“Oh,” she fumbled to turn the page to face me and handed me a pen.  “Here, here, and,” she flipped to the next sheet, “initial here.”

Michelle F. Longo.
Michelle F. Longo.

I handed her back the clipboard.  She half-smiled that smile people give you when they don’t know what to say because you just effectively killed your own mother.

Once the clipboard left my hand, the floodgates opened and I could feel my body starting to shake. No amount of ceiling staring was going to stop this.  The woman extended her arm, aiming to place it around my shoulder.  I shuffled outside of her reach just in time.

Don’t you dare try to hug me.

I went back inside my mother’s room and sat in the bedside chair.  My gaze turned to the ceiling. 

Sadness to anger to guilt, round and round and round.

Whoosh.  Beep. Beep-beep.  Whoosh.

I love round numbers, so I’m very excited to participate in Yeah Write #100.  Click on the link to read the work of bloggers who write and writers who blog.

61 Responses to “Stare At The Ceiling.”

  1. No hugs. Just tears.

    I think my mid-life crisis might include a DNR tattooed to my chest.

    Tough to read, but wickedly well written.

    • I would actually recommend the tattoo. Part of me wanted to know what happened so I could raise hell over it, but really, what would be the point?

      Thanks for the compliment :)

    • Cindy says:

      Yes. My mom has grilled me about the terms of her DNR since her first heart attack back in the eighties. I’m going to suggest the tattoo to her.

  2. OMG! That was very, god I don’t even know what word to use. Both my parents have passed. So I know the feeling. I love this, stirs up feelings I like to keep buried.

  3. Oh no, I’m so sorry you had to make that decision. Even though you knew it’s what she wanted, I was totally feeling your pain. Excellent writing, as usual.

    • Thanks Stacie. I can’t even imagine how things would have gone if I didn’t know in advance what she wanted. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s a conversation everyone should have with those they could eventually leave behind.

  4. Marcy says:

    I’m so sorry. What a terrible thing for them to mess up. It’s never easy, but when mistakes make it even harder, it’s just so terrible.

  5. Oh, my word. I’m so sorry. So very sorry. You told this story beautifully.

  6. Bee says:

    I’m so sorry, Michelle, that you had to go through that, especially when she had a DNR. Still, you wrote the story beautifully.

  7. Omigoodness. I wasn’t expecting this. Not with all the birthday stuff. And yet. It is right, too. Because this is the end of life. The end of the cycle. I’m so sorry you had to go through this. You are an amazing daughter.

  8. Kristin says:

    I’m sorry, too. I know she is at peace. I hope you are too.

  9. christie says:

    This could appear in your memoir with no edits. It’s so good. I can feel the rage and injustice of all of it. A life time of it. That last line is perfect. Your memoir is going to be awesome.

  10. Vanessa D says:

    If your mom went to the trouble of preparing a DNR, she was proud of you.

  11. oh man. this was great. sadly, i relate. my grandmother, told me i was in charge of pulling the plug. she had a dnr and they ignored, even though i brought it. but i couldn’t pull the plug. i hemmed and hawed for a week, and i knew she would beat me if she could, until finally i did and she passed 3 hours later. so stressful. i hated every moment.
    so well written (as always)

    • thanks. I’m sorry you had a similar experience. I’m sure (or at least I hope) the hospital made a mistake in an effort to save a life as opposed to ignoring, but the fall out was the same.

  12. Oh Michelle. As much as the subject broke my heart into a million pieces I have to tell you that this is my favorite piece of yours. It is SO well written.

    I am sending you so many hugs and peace. I am so sorry.

  13. TriGirl says:

    Oh that is absolutely awful. I mean that they did not respect or know about her DNR. You were respecting her wishes but of course that doesn’t make it one bit easier; especially since she had explicitly not put you in that position. I can so feel your emotions come through in this post.

  14. You wrote the rage mixed with sadness so well. I have always thought that violating a DNR, either intentionally or by accident, is the worst kind of injustice. So sorry you had to go through that.

  15. How horrific. I don’t even have any words, except that I’m feeling your pain.

  16. Linda Roy says:

    Oh Michelle, heartbreaking. I’m so sorry. C’mere, I gotta hug you. xxx

  17. IASoupMama says:

    Oh, honey… How terribly unfair. I cannot express enough sympathy for you…

  18. Robbie K says:

    I don’t know what to say except that I am blown away by this. I am so sad and angry that you were put in this position. I’m sorry isn’t enough but it’s all I have.

  19. This is so hard, and you wrote it so beautifully. Sorry that you were put in that position you weren’t supposed to be in, but you did what you knew she wanted–just sorry you had to be the one to actively put her wishes in action. You really did a great job portraying the emotion and the situation with your words.

  20. So well done, Michelle. I love how your anger crystallizes in the sentence “Don’t you dare try to hug me.” Perfect choice in giving that its own paragraph and italics; it rings true and clear. Heartbreaking but a great read.

  21. Jade says:

    My mum (who was a nurse and is now a paramedic) is very vocal about her desire for a “do not resuscitate” and reminds us ALL THE TIME. I always fob her off. “Yeah, yeah, we don’t need to worry about that for years!” This really made me think twice – and I’m not just saying that. Thank you for the great emotional share once again.

    • Thank you – and yes, listen to your mother. You really don’t ever know (I know none of us like to think that way). It’s good that she told you what she wants. So many don’t want to have that conversation with their kids.

  22. Michelle, this piece is absolutely gut-wrenching. The decision is something no child should have to make, especially when parents took great care to avoid these situations. My heartfelt sympathy for what you had to go through, and the recovery that you share through your writing.

  23. Cindy says:

    Michelle – this line: “She half-smiled that smile people give you when they don’t know what to say because you just effectively killed your own mother.” So perfectly and simply true.

  24. Jenny Leigh says:

    I’m so sorry that you had to go through this. You’ve written such an emotional account of this experience. I can’t imagine how difficult it was, and how hard it must have been to write about it. I am one of those people who doesn’t know what to say, so I’ll just say thank you for sharing.

    • I think there is nothing you can say. I wouldn’t know what to say either. And really nothing she could have said would have been right, you know? I wasn’t going to hear it or accept it then.

      Thanks for your kind words.

  25. Kathleen says:

    Oh, Michelle. I can’t imagine having to make that choice. I’m so sorry.

    Great writing, as always. Hugs to you.

  26. Dana says:

    You already know how I feel about this post, but I just wanted to say publicly that I think this may be your best writing, ever. At least so far. <3

  27. Gina says:

    Such incredible writing but I just hate the subject matter. I’m sorry for that, what you were made to do and how it felt.

  28. tuhina tomar says:

    I am sorry for what you had to go through. You must be a very strong person to be able to write about it. I know I don’t know the background story. But you put it out so effectively, it impresses upon me the helplessness, the anger and the guilt, you would have felt. Very well written. :)

  29. This writing was so incredibly succinct and striking at the same time. My god, you make me feel feelings. I don’t know how long ago this was, but I still send you my love and Peach-strength hugs. xo

  30. You were right to be angry. You should never have had to feel like you were the one ending her life. MS did that. Infections and mortality did that. I want you to know that you have permission to be angry about it.

    • It was the perfectly complicated ending to a perfectly complicated relationship. Sometimes I step back from it and it’s like someone wrote this in a script, like it’s not real life. And yet, it remains my real life.

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