Sunday evening I called into the ICU to get an update on my mom’s condition. Her nurse said she was still the same. I asked her to set up Blue Jeans (a video conference app) so I can see and talk to her. This time, the nurse put the camera really close to my mom’s face. To my dismay, her face and neck were like balloons. I checked yesterday’s screenshot she was not swollen that much. I showed the video to my sister and both our hearts sank. We decided immediately, it was time to pull the plug. Since it was already late and the doctors weren’t around, we decided to wait until the next day.
I didn’t talk much with my mom because I wanted to give my sister some time to talk to her. I lay down in bed, but could not sleep. I could not get her image out of my mind. I tried to read, but it was not helping. I finally went to sleep around three in the morning. I woke up around seven and felt tired. I sat down at my laptop and revised the obituary I had written, with my wife’s help in translating to Vietnamese. Around 9 am, I called in to let the nurse know that we were ready to come in to take the tubes out. She immediately got a hold of the doctor to talk to me. That wouldn’t happen if I didn’t tell her I wanted to pull the plug.
We made an arrangement to come into the ICU at noon. When we arrived at the front desk, a chaplain came down to bring us up. She took us to the waiting area and went in to get my mom’s nurse. When they came back, the nurse told us that she would take the tubes out first before we could come to see our mom. I asked her if we can see her first before she removed the tube. For our safety, she claimed that she didn’t want us in the room because the coronavirus would come out of my mom’s mouth. If that was the case, we could stand outside and watch or take a quick look outside the room before she removed the tubes. The nurse was instructed not to let us in until the tubes were off.
The medical team really wanted to pull the plug and they took every measure to make that happen. They didn’t want to take the risk of us backing out after we see our mother. I was sad and disappointed that they still treated us that way even though we were the ones that made the request to remove the tubes. I could have told her that I would not authorize to pull the plug unless we get a chance to see our mom first. We could just walk out right at that moment and let my mom continued on the ventilator, but I was too distress and too hurt to put up a fight. I didn’t want my mom to continued to suffer. My sister was in tears trying to plead with them. I told her let them take out the tubes.
When we came in, our mom was all swollen up. I held her hand and water seeped out of her skin. I apologized to her that I had kept her suffering. I asked her to forgive me and to please let go if the pain was too much to bare. I let her know that she will always be in my heart. I thanked her for all the sacrifices she had made throughout her life to raise me. I appreciated all the love and joy she had given me. I reassured her that I have become a man now and I will be able to take care of myself. She didn’t need to worry about me anymore. Tears rolled down her cheek.
My sister also talked to her and more tears came out of her closing eyes. We both stunned. Despite all the distortions and deteriorations caused by the machines, she was still beautiful. Her skin was still shiny and soft. Her hair was still smooth and silky. The wrinkles on her face showed the passing of time. She had lived a long, hard-knock life.
Five minutes later, the machine beeped continuously. The chaplain came in to informed us her heart had stopped. She passed away at 12:46 pm on December 28, 2020. Although I was able to get the last words in, I told her that our conversations will continue. I will always be her son even in our next life. Get some rest now, mommy. You deserve it.