DON'T BE IN A HURRY
TO PULL MY PLUG
With the anxiety and depression of the election complete, my
wife and I decided we needed some cheering up. So off we went last week to
meet with an attorney to update what remnants of our meager estate we
would like to leave to our impoverished children. During the course of the
meeting, he also suggested we sign a Medical Power of Attorney document,
which allows a designated person to make medical decisions for you, like
when to pull the plug. What fun!
When he mentioned it, my wife and I immediately looked at
each other with mutual distrust. We were both wondering whether we should
designate each other as the decision-maker, or maybe it would be better to
get an impartial party.
"Exactly at what point do you think it would be
appropriate to pull the plug on me?" I asked as we headed for the car
after the meeting.
"I don't know," she replied. "How are you
feeling right now?"
"I'm feeling just fine, thank you. Do you have an answer
She finally gave it some serious thought. "I guess it
would depend on my mood. If I was mad at you or something, it could make a
"I'd probably be in a coma," I explained. "You
couldn't be mad at me while I was in a coma."
She shrugged again. "Depends on how you got into
This wasn't going well. She talked some more about how I
always drool, so she might not be able to tell if I was in a coma or not,
and then I gave up. I chose to talk about her.
"I've decided that I'll never give up on you, " I
said. "Remember my mother?"
I was referring to an incident when my mother was 83 (she
died two years ago at 90) and I held the Medical Power of Attorney for
her, an enormous responsibility.
She couldn't walk anymore, and was confined to her bed. Her
voice was so weak that you had to lean close to hear her talk. Her memory,
which was always sharp, was fading. Things were looking bleak.
Not that I was about to pull the plug on my own mother. She
had carried me in her womb, changed my diapers, and nurtured me every day
of my life. I figured I owed her a little payback.
Good thing. She got an MRI and a neurologist suggested
there was a slim chance her problems stemmed from too much fluid on the
brain. A "shunt" could be inserted to regulate the fluid,
thereby possibly releasing the pressure.
At 83, there's nothing like a little brain surgery to perk
you up. Sure enough, three days after the surgery, her mind was sharp
again and she was getting stronger every day. Her voice was suddenly twice
as loud, and she took her first steps in weeks.
After a few more days, she was motoring down the hospital
hallway with a speed that was unthinkable months before. And the look of
joy on her face when she glanced back to see she had left me in her dust
"I hope you learned something from my mother's
story," I said to my wife after reminding her of every detail.
"Modern science can do amazing things. That's why I won't be in a
hurry to pull the plug on you. There's always hope."
"Thanks, but don't bother," she replied.
"Unlike you, I don't want to be kept alive by artificial means. But
I'm willing to agree that sneezing, coughing and any temperature under 103
degrees is not life-threatening. You're safe on those counts. "
That was comforting. Since I really didn't have much
choice, I took it. We both agreed to hold each other's Medical Power of
Attorney. And hope for the best.
We were silent for a few moments, reflecting on scenarios, until
she spoke up. "Just promise me you won't marry anyone else for awhile
after I'm gone."
Suddenly, death took a backseat. This was much more
important. We discussed it for quite some time. In the end, we reached an
If she died first, I would never be allowed to remarry. If I
died first, she could remarry, but she'd have to wait at least two weeks
after my demise before dating anyone new.
I'm not positive, but I think she was kidding.