May 21, 2007

"If I had known she was going to die at 19, maybe I would have raised her differently."

"I always taught her to be good."


Jennifer said...


Jennifer said...

We've been debating the merits of protecting children from possible harm for days and it's really interesting to read such a bald portrayal of the flip side of that coin. Nice pick.

mythusmage said...

You can't predict what's going to happen, all you can do is hope for the best and take each day one at a time.

SteveR said...

Its hard to tell my daughters how it feels, why some simple decisions are so hard. Thanks for the post.

Tim said...

That is a very sad story.

But you cannot organize your life (or those of your children) as if it were going to be a short life - the opportunity cost is far too high.

Additionally, I'd guess the psychological weight of thinking you really were going (or your children would) die soon would be unproductively burdensome.

Better, all the way around, to plan for the long haul, and pray you make it, safely, as long as you can. Pain, loss, disappointment and death are inevitable in all of our lives - it is best to accept that fact and get on with living, as best we can.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

I have noticed a definite difference in the way Mothers and Fathers deal with children.

Fathers tend to get them to adulthood & then they are on their own, unless the stuff gets too deep.

Mothers tend to believe they are(and treat them) like children until the end.

My experience is with sons, not daughters, so maybe mothers and daughters would equate with fathers and sons?

Point being, My wife and I look at our sons differently. She would get up from her death bed to fetch a can of pop for any of the kids- I've been telling them since they were 5 to get it themselves.

Is our mother in the story lamenting being over protective? Is she wishing her daughter had 'sinned' a little more, or that, as her mother, she had allowed her daughter more room to grow on her own?

Meade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meade said...

""I always taught her to be good. Study hard. Be home by midnight.""

The default position of every decent parent and palliative in and of itself for the child who is going through the pains and agonies of adolescence..

In most cases, for parents, a child's adolescence feels like approximately ten years of having lost their child. In most cases, at the end of those ten years, their child comes back to them, often in spades.

But to then lose that young adult to death... Could there be a greater hell?

Richard Dolan said...

AER: Interesting take on this article.

Of the two women in this story, the mother is much the easier to understand. She is grieving for her child, who the doctor says looks like any child sleeping peacefully, rosy cheeks and all. The article says that it's been a 3-week ordeal; perhaps the child has been comatose like this for a week or more. That's still a short time to accept the inevitable, particularly with that "sleeping child" picture offering false hope. I wouldn't read much into the mothers comment about raising her daughter differently if she had known that the daughter wouldn't make it to 20. It's just another form of lamentation for a dead child who will never experience the fullness of life, coming as it does just before the time to pull the plug and "harvest the organs." What a ghastly phrase, but it's the only life-affirming thing the mother can latch on to. And she does, wanting to know who will get the heart. The imperatives of biology and medicine come together, and don't allow much time or room to go from "peacefully sleeping child who will never awaken" to cut-up corpse and all-around spare parts facility. Perhaps the doctors realize that a period of time between onset of coma, and declaration of brain death, is needed so that the numbness required to permit most parents to deal with all this can set in and make it possible for them to do the right thing.

The doctor's comment -- she just needed to be in the room, she said, and given her speciality, it must be a need that plays out regularly -- was more puzzling. The doctor seemed to be talking about meeting her own "needs" here, rather than those of the patient or her family. At that point, all the doctor could do was offer comfort to the mother as she worked through the last stage of letting go. But the article never gives us enough to understand the doctor's reactions or emotions. Instead, this story just paints a quick sketch of the scene, and allows us to fill in the mother's reactions. But the doctor, who is telling the story, leaves her own perspective shrouded. The drama playing out in that hospital room needs someone like Chekov, himself a doctor, to give it an imaginative retelling. If Dr. Israel is inclined to give it a try, I'd be interested in reading it.

vet66 said...

The real story is just beginning with the tragic death of the young woman.

Can you imagine the joy from the recipients of her organs and the lives she has changed with her passing?

The Doctor passes no judgment until later in the quiet of her room, alone. There scientific curiousity and objective observation turns to introspection and the inevitable, "Why and What if?"

In the distance one can hear the inevitable "whup whup whup" of the helicopters on final as they briefly land, collect the life-altering tissue, and return to the light of hope leaving behind a ray of light in a dark room.

Be an organ donor! The Lord works in mysterious ways his wonder to behold!

Or words to that effect...

Pogo said...

Having lost my 16-year-old niece in a stupid car wreck (was it 10 years ago already?), I find it still too hard to read these accounts. I just can't stomach it.

The mother's speculation is familiar and transient, so not one to dwell on. It doesn't mean much, just a form of pleading "why?"

Ann Althouse said...

Pogo, I lost my 22-year-old niece to a car accident, 17 years ago. Endlessly sad.

Pogo said...

Prior to that, I had read W. H. Auden's "Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone...", but it was only then that I felt it.

It had followed close on the heels of a few other tragedies, and seemed too much to bear at the time. Just inexorably sad. The last poem I ever wrote was about that; it stopped me forever.

I routinely skip these stories in the paper, except to read the name and send condolences to people I don't know.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I’d purposely dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt. I didn’t want to look like a doctor, and that is easier at night. None of the night nurses know me well, so I just look like anyone else.

What is the doctor trying to disguise?

Galvanized said...

One can carry this same sentiment with a look back on life in general. God has blessed me with many years so far, but I can honestly say that, if I could go back in time and repeat, I would definitely have let go and lived it up more...and I tell my daughter the same, within reason and weighing the possible consequences of each situation.

And how wonderful the mother thought of others to donate organs in her deepest grief. I would have had too hard a time of it. But such a lovely tribute to her daughter -- living memorials!

I will be thinking about this mother for a few days. This story is the perfect example for us aging adults to remember: "Do not despise growing old. Some are denied the privilege." That's my motto as I see the laugh lines making their appearances.