Commentary

Old Stone Face

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That evening I stewed some more, trying to understand why John couldn’t see what I saw, why he refused my recommendations. I constructed an elaborate explanation: John had spent his life compulsively involved with his work; his responsibilities in professional societies, local and national; his activities on behalf of charitable causes; and he had neglected his wife for most of their married life. Now he’s walking around in a cloud of guilt and can’t face letting her go, I decided. Why else, if you loved someone, would you want to needlessly extend her suffering? I fell asleep with this question turning in my mind.

On Tuesday afternoon I met with the Millers’ son and daughter. They understood why I was recommending no-code status for their mother, and they agreed with me. But they also knew Dad would not change his mind. When I inquired into John’s relationship with Mary, they thought he had been an attentive husband and father considering the burdens of a successful professional life.

When I made rounds on Wednesday morning, the laboratory tests were looking better and Mary was out of her coma and alert. So I inquired of her directly what she would have wanted regarding her code status. She answered: Full code. Of course. Another month or week, or even a day on the patio with John reading is worth everything to me. Reading? Shakespeare. Shakespeare? Yes, just now, we’re reading “Romeo and Juliet.”

Looking up from Mr. Miller’s obituary I recall that the 3 weeks following Mary’s discharge were full of those warm sunny days and blue skies that make a person certain there is no place on earth he or she would rather be.

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