Letting Go, Not to Resuscitate


“He’s not  breathing,” my husband’s voice shattered the peace in the room at eight o’clock that Saturday morning.

“What?” I replied sharply, as if what was happening was his fault because he was the one to notice it first.

“Yes, he is,” I demanded with tenacity.

I jumped up from my seat in the corner of the room and dashed for my son, Jonathan’s bedside. My mother rose in her seat by his head and looked into the oxygen tent. I quickly unzipped and lifted the tent flap laying my hand on his chest gently to feel.

“Get the nurse,” I snapped.

I glanced at Mom’s face briefly. There were tears in her eyes, but a calmness in her face. She was already letting go.

No! I screamed inside. Not now, not yet. I’m not ready!


My husband had left the room quietly and returned with the nurse on duty. She was young, pretty, and slim, with a gentle face. She wore a stethoscope around her neck with a clip-on bear. She used it briefly to check Jonathan’s heartbeat. She felt for a pulse, observed his breathing–or rather lack of it–checked the machines. They confirmed it. I saw it in her eyes before she spoke.

Of course, the nurse couldn’t pronounce death. And she wasn’t supposed to tell us, but, she turned to me and asked, “You did sign the ‘not to resuscitate’ order, are you okay?”

She laid a hand on my arm and looked into my face checking for maternal regret, second guesses. I think that young girl would have gone to bat for me if I’d demanded they rescind it and do something. Even though I’d already been through that counseling session and signed the order with full knowledge.

I looked into her kind, gentle eyes, and I looked back at my quiet, finally restful little boy. His face completely calm, no laboring to draw his next breath, no pain in his visage. Six months was long enough to ask a small child to hang on for Mommy’s sake. I’d told him so the night before.

“I love you baby,” I said, tears flowing, “but if Jesus comes for you, you don’t have to stay here for Mommy’s sake anymore.”

They’d taken him into surgery that night to unblock his lungs. It had been a complication from the brain tumor that had invaded his tiny head. When they brought him back into the room, I thought, he’s breathing easier. Maybe we still have time.

But it was a new day, and one more proved too much more. Somewhere in the long night his little body gave in. And now, he was gone. I knew I couldn’t go back on my word to him. I couldn’t go back on the hardest decision I’d ever made, for his sake.

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