When we were at the hospital with Ian, on the evening of the 2nd day, the doctors told us that he was not going to recover. They explained the physical process to us, and the fact that if he did not pass away over night, we would have to consider removing life support. We were told that he had no brain function, no purposeful movement (except for two toes on one foot) and that breathing was the last bodily function to stop working.
He was breathing a little over the respirator, sometimes. If we did not choose to remove life support soon, and he continued breathing over the respirator, the alternative was to remove the feeding tube. We were told that it can take up to two weeks to basically starve to death.
What choice is there when all three choices are horrible? We had just been told that our son would die.
This is the setting for the most painful thing that was said to us. The chaplain came to the room to check on us, and asked if there was anything she could do for us. I tearfully told her that I would like to get his foot and hand prints. I told her that if she could find an ink pad and some paper that we would appreciate it. What was said next echoed in my mind for days: "Oh, that's in the 'death kit' I'll go ahead and bring one up."
The death kit? It is actually a lovely handmade paper keepsake box with dried flowers and leaves. It has a dark green satin ribbon to tie the top closed. Inside is a place for a photo and the paper and ink pad. I use it for my mementos of Ian, but I still hear "death kit" every time I look at it.
The death kit sat on the counter of the nurses station for several hours, until one kind nurse moved it after hearing what was said to us. It was that same nurse who was present when he passed away - she was supposed to be off, but traded with someone so she could be with us.
After Ian passed, the room emptied and William and I were alone with our son. The nurse came in and was so gentle as she took his prints for us - she did not treat him like a "body", she treated him as though he were asleep and she didn't want to wake him. We cried as she handed the paper to us, instinctively realizing that it was all we had left.
This is my most treasured item of Ian.
text of the card next to the photo:
Grow, little flower
reach for the light,
your sweet little spirit
forever will bloom.
Glow, little star,
tucked into the heavens,
cradled with care
in the curve of the moon.
Blow, little leaf,
to a beautiful someplace
safe in the sheltering
arms of a breeze-
Know, little one,
that you’ll always be with us…
forever held close
in our love’s memories.