As the chaplain, I had been approached by their doctor to help him see that his wife was not going to improve and the end of her life was near. The most merciful thing now would be to remove the life support and make her as comfortable as possible while she quietly passed. Medicine and logic had done all they could do. This was now a matter of the heart. This was the most difficult decision that he likely has ever had to make.
I knocked gently and asked if I could come in and sit with him. I explained that I was the chaplain at the hospital and just wanted to offer support. We sat there in silence looking at his wife breathing steadily, aided by the machine. We would glance at one another from time to time, but I waited with him.
After some time, I said to him, “Tell me about your wife. What is she like? How did you meet?”
Perhaps relieved to find something to break the monotony of watching the mesmerizing rise and fall of her chest, he began to talk. He took me on a journey back through time. I could tell that he enjoyed telling me about her. I listened for almost 45 minutes. Then he grew quiet again.
With moist eyes he looked up at me and said, “I guess her journey has finally come to the end here. I probably should let her go. What do you think?”
I responded by nodding my head and affirming that the decision was difficult but necessary for her best interest. She was not going to get any better than this. With that he told me to let them know he was ready.
I stepped out of the room and spoke to the nurse, alerting her to his decision and that she should begin to get the paperwork in order and get the order from the doctor. A few minutes later she told me that the respiratory therapist would be here in about ten minutes to remove her from the ventilator and she would be ready with necessary pain medication.
I sat back down with the husband and gave him that news. He nodded and looked again at his wife. Then, before our eyes, her heart stopped beating. Still on the ventilator, she passed into eternity.
The husband and I looked at each other and hugged. God was so gracious. He came to the place where he was willing to let her go, but she died before she came off the breathing machine. So he was spared the possibility of feeling any responsibility. We shared in the grace of the moment.
© 2009, John C. Fitts, III. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted from Grace Drops, Volume 7 (2009).