Please Be God


Maybe you've been through this, and so maybe you know. I did not know and I am not happy I learned.

You go to the doctors and you put life in their hands and you look at them and wait. And you want them to say this is what's wrong, and this is how we fix it.

And that is never, ever what they say.

They say maybe. They say we don't know. They say we have to do more tests.

Because it is not a broken bone, with one diagnostic and one course of action and one path to recovery and a time when healing is done.

It is something complex and inside. We can't begin to understand.

* * * * * *

At some point, I believe she was still recovering from the peritonitis but I cannot say for sure, my mother's bowel burst into her insides.

They opened her up and they did all they could do.

The procedure was dire, and her recovery was...

* * * * * *

We went to the hospital in New Hampshire so we could be there when they were done. David and I and Healy and Brian and Samantha and Wes and my father. They let us see her.

It was the scariest sight I have ever seen.

My mom, my beautiful strong loving mother, was tiny and frail and looked about 90 years old and. She was so uncomfortable and on so much medication that she would yank at her tubes and try to pull them out, so they had to strap her arms to the bed. She had a tube coming out of her nose, a tube coming out of her mouth, a tube coming out of her stomach, tubes coming out from her gown. The fluids they were giving her made her bloated, and because of that her hands, while strapped to the bed, were freakishly large and round and without signs of age. She had the appearance of something ghostly and garish and awful.

We walked into the room and tried to take the whole thing in.

She was conscious.

She had no idea what was going on, of course, but she was awake and when we entered she looked at us all, and we looked back and fought with everything we had not to appear visibly shaken.

Not to appear visibly shaken.

God! I wanted to scream! In horror!

To scream and heave sobs at the shocking, horrible sight.

No! No! No! This is not my mother! Where is my mommy?

But no. We stood beside her as bravely as we could and put on calm faces that said everything was going to be okay. We're here, Mom. The worst is over now.

She tried to speak but couldn’t because of the tube down her mouth and she couldn’t understand why. So much morphine.

We could see the confusion and pain in her eyes as she looked to us. She was pleading for us to help her. Pleading with her eyes and her strapped-down hands. And all I could do was stand there and feel sad and guilty and utterly useless. We were standing on the shore and she was in the water right in front of us and she was drowning and she could not understand why we were not rescuing her.

She couldn’t even make a sound. But tears started falling from her eyes.

* * * * * *

The doctor pulled us into some special family room, where I suppose too many families have heard too much bad news. And now it was my family. Somehow, it was happening to us. How could that be?

We sat there stunned and awed and without any idea what to do. We looked to the man in the white coat with all our hope, begging him to be something other than a human being.

Doctor, please be God. Please make it so that it’s all better right now. Do not tell us you don’t know. Have all the wisdom of modern medical science and wave your wand and save our mother. Save us all.

But he was not God.

He spoke plainly about the situation and said that our mother was in grave danger.

First he explained what had happened by drawing a picture on a piece of paper, labeling “bowel” and other body parts. We took in as much as we could. He was making sense and speaking simply and we were grateful to be told anything definitive.

But he went on to say that his hospital is small, and he is the only one experienced enough to tend to our mother if she should need emergency services. Thus, if something happened to her while he was in surgery...

She could not stay. She would have to be moved to a bigger facility. He would not take the risk.

You know, he was not God, but he was a very good man.

* * * * * *

We eventually left the hospital and went and played NTN.

It was Mother’s Day.


  1. I don't even know what to say. Except write more! (As if you aren't already feeling the pressure). I'm so so so hoping there's a happy ending here, but so afraid there's not.

  2. okay kids, THIS one was damn hard to get out there. thanks for giving me the space to do it.

  3. I read you often but don't comment because you always have so many commenters already. But I KNOW this was an incredibly hard one to write and I cried reading it. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Thank you so much for being brave enough to share your story with us. It just breaks my heart. It's as if you have been reading my mind since you are writing the things I was thinking/feeling as I watched my parents' battles with terminal illnesses.

  5. My mother passed away three years ago yesterday. The hospital scene was very similar to the oen you just described - - and I'm sitting here all alone in my office, fighting back tears, and praying to God that no one walks in until I can put my "calm face" back on.

    Great writing, k. Thank you for helping me through this week - - I have seen in your words that someone else felt the same things I did, and although it's hard, it is a strange sort of comfort knowing that - - knowing that I am really not alone in my feelings.

  6. Ericha2@comcast.net10:26 AM, April 28, 2006


    As hard as it was for you to write this, it was very hard for me to read.

    I lost my grandfather (who was more like a father to me) 2 years ago in much the same way. I never got to say goodbye because by the time I got back east he was delirious on drugs. I went in so he would know I was there but I will never know if he knew. He went into surgery and never regained conciousness.

    Thank you for writing this. I wish I could so eloquently express my feelings and memories about that horrible time in my life.

  7. Now that I've stopped crying enough to see straight, I want to say thank you so much for sharing this with us. So compelling and raw. It can't have been easy. While I know its likely not something ever very far from your thoughts, saying it, or writing it (and for us, reading it) crystalizes it in reality more. It puts you back *there*.

    I know there. Not the same there as yours, but I know *that* room. Reading this put me right back in it - so, selfishly, I'm going to share, because I won't be able to go about my day if I don't get it out now.

    I was younger than you, and it was my aunt, not my mother, but we were close, she was my mentor and *like* a mother to me - and it was devastating. I'm thankful every day, for her, that there was no suffering, and that all the suffering was ours. A blood vessel burst in her brain and she just went to sleep in the middle of a meeting one morning, and for her, that was all.

    But we had to stand in the room and watch them do the tests to determine she had no brain function. We got taken to *that* room, not even by a doctor because there was nothing they could do, but by a grief counsellor. Interesting title for what they do: explain to you that your aunt is brain dead, that her body is only being kept alive by machines, and you can keep her that way, or you can make the decision to turn them off. To Turn "her" off.

    And then they want to know if they can have her organs and tissues. And then there was us, having to explain that my aunt was morbidly obese, which was obvious, and that her organs and tissues wouldn't be viable for someone else.

    I'd never before that moment experienced a situation that felt so surreal, and yet all too real. The moment when "is this really happening?" crashes into "yes, it really fucking is!"

    I'm grateful for all of us that it was quick. Only about 7 hours in between when she was brought to the hospital and when we were standing in her room, watching the doctor switch off the respirator. But it felt like 7 years. I felt helpless enough, I have no idea how I would have handled her eyes silently pleading with me to make it all better; to have to wait months, years even, for the end.

    All I could do was just stand in the room and look down at her while her heart slowly arrested. My uncle & cousins left, but I wanted to wait it out, and stay with her until the end, only it's not fast like in the movies and on TV. 30 minutes passed before I just couldn't take it anymore. The doctor assured me he would be there until the end, and I went to join my family. I think that would have been a good time for us to give us a "grief counsellor", but only if the title were actually descriptive of what they do.

    It was almost 11 years ago, but reading your blog today made it feel like it just happened yesterday.

    Thank you again for putting this here for all of us to see. I'm so thankful that I have you in my life, and that for me, you're more than just an IIF. I admire and respect you, and I'm proud to know you. You're amazing! I love you -- and I'm grateful to have you as part of my "family".

  8. Wow. I have had the (?)luck to be both the patient strapped down to the stretcher and the doctor having to have that discussion about probabilities. And, if it helps, we wish we could be God sometimes too.

  9. I did not know and I am not happy I learned.

    Yeah. Exactly.

    I am glad you were able to write this down and put it out there, though I know you were right back in it as you wrote it. I don't know if there is such a thing as real "healing" from an experience like that, but if there is, being able to write about it and share it with others is probably part of it.

    Ugh. That sick feeling of deep, encompassing horror horror horror at a reality that should not be.

    That is the shadow side of life if there ever was one.

  10. I'm so sorry you had to go through this. You're bravery astounds me, and I was sobbing as I read it. Especially heartbreaking was your analogy of your mother drowning and not understanding why her family would not save her. Oh, here I go again with the tears. Thank you for sharing. I can't imagine how difficult it must be.

  11. my mum jus passed away went into hospital with what we thought was a tummy bug cutting a long story short 12 days later and lots of test had to have surgery for a tumor on her bowel Unfortulitly for her her bowel burst just before surgery She never woke up after surgery was on life support for a week Cancer didnt kill her Delay in operating and peritinitis infection from her bowel did kill her Greiving !


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