The echoes stir around in my head asking all the questions that I can’t answer.
“What have I done?”
I try to convince myself I did the right thing. Why? Mercy, in any form, is the right thing. Debatable, but subject to opinion. And mine won’t matter if the wrong people find out what I’ve done.
I’ve killed before. Like the cop who was shot in the spine. His family was murdered and that bullet was the final revenge for the incarceration of a very powerful man. He had nothing to live for, he knew that so he asked me to cut off his life support.
The prostitute. Raped and beaten in a cheap motel for three days straight. She was mutilated beyond recognition. She didn’t want to live anymore, so I helped her.
But this… this was different. A child. A little boy. Cancer, malignant. Invaded his organs. It started in his brain. I see the pain on cancer patients faces. It’s something few people are brave enough to bare. But a child?
He never spoke. Never. The pain was too much, you see. He would only nod his head when I asked him any questions. The chemo therapy did nothing for him. Just made him feel worse. The cancer was unaffected. So, I stopped the treatment.
His parents begged me to save him when he was first brought in a few weeks ago. I did try my best to save him. I honestly did. After a while, they knew it was hopeless. Soon enough, they stopped asking me anything. They came everyday at the same time. Ten in the morning. It’s now five of ten. I’ve had to tell many people the same news. Now, in this time, in this situation, I find myself… empty. There are no words.
They we’re completely and utterly silent.
“I did everything I could to ease the pain.”
I came close to speaking the truth. He was still on the bed, sheet pulled over him. They didn’t look underneath. Just a few hours ago, he was very much alive. He even spoke to me for the first time… for the last time. This morning, I came in to follow the routine. Asking the same questions, but this time, I got a different answer. He uttered quietly only one word. “Please.” I didn’t know what he meant at first, until I noticed he was looking at the heart rate monitor. He was so weak all he could do was blink every time the machine beeped. I knew then.
“You want me to…,” he nodded his head slowly. He knew what he was asking me to do. I couldn’t let him suffer. I thought of my son. I remembered back many years ago, when he was the same age. I imagined what I would feel like as a father.
“It was very peaceful. He just feel asleep.”
They didn’t look at me, even though I saw the father wince at my words. The mothers eyes began to well up with tears. She didn’t allow herself to cry. They had already shed their tears.
Still nothing as if I wasn’t even in the room. I wanted to confess. But I didn’t know how.
“He spoke to me.”
They turned slowly and looked into my eyes, and I into theirs. I’ve never seen anything like that before. Sad, but… something else I can’t describe. Somewhere between curiosity, regarding his last words, and… relief.
The mother spoke, “Thank you, doctor.”
They didn’t want to know what he said. They turned back to look at their son. I looked at him too. I looked at all of the things he once was and I thought of all the things he could be. I imagined him running down the stairs Christmas morning, birthdays, little league games, report cards, playing catch with his father in the back yard, baking cookies with his mother. Yesterday he was alive, today he’s dead. Nothing could change that now.