‘What You Won’t Do For Love’
by Keleigh Crigler Hadley
UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. UNTHINKABLE CHOICE. **********************************************************
EDEN PRICE, an unlucky-in-love nurse finds herself in the midst of a heated love triangle. Globe-trotting missionary, Gabe Clark ignites her soul. Who doesn't want a man with a connection to God? Hard-working, Nemo Gates speaks to her heart. His past has caused a rift between him and God and Eden wants to help him heal.
She ultimately chooses the man that makes her passions come alive but did she make the right choice? Eden's marriage is blissful and the newlyweds are happy, when her husband stuns her with a desperate plea; to prove her love for him in the most unthinkable way - to kill him, or in PC terms, help him die with dignity. What would you do for the love of your life?
I was inspired to write, What You Won’t Do For Love because of two real life women who wrestled with assisted suicide because of their terminal conditions - Kara Tippetts and Brittany Maynard. To be very, very honest. I believed one way about euthanasia before writing the book, but did a 180 degree change after writing it. I felt compelled to tell the story from the perspective of loved ones that have to wrestle with the guilt – from either watching a loved one die or helping a loved one die. Euthanasia also hits close to home with me, in that California has groups working to get assisted suicide legalized, like it is in five other U.S. States. As a Black woman, I worry that vulnerable and marginalized people will fall victim to a “legal” means to kill.
'What You Won't Do For Love'
“A hard head makes a soft behind.” That was the second to the last thing, Edward Price said to his only child, Eden. “So make wise choices using your heart, soul and mind.” The last thing he said, as his lungs rattled and he struggled to breathe was, “Take care of people, especially your mother.”
Back then, those were two difficult tasks to place on Eden’s fifteen year old shoulders, and eighteen years later, she was still struggling to comply.
Now, Eden stood, dressed in her favorite green scrubs in front of the vending machine, next to the triage station at New Mercies Hospital and contemplated her father’s dying advice.
She tapped her chipped fingernails against the glass. She had achieved part of her father’s dying wish – she had become a nurse and lived to help people.
But she seemed to fail in the second part, since she was behind in her payments to the run-down convalescent home her mother was living in.
As for the second to the last thing…
Should she get the Kit Kat or the Mars Bar? Tough choice. They both would give her a softer, bigger, behind which she didn’t need. God had already given bountifully in that area. It’s the reason Eden wore a medium scrub top and a large scrub bottom. Her blessing and her curse. Eden sighed, blew a stray strand of curly auburn hair out of her face and slid a dollar into the machine. She keyed in E6 – the granola bar.
But before the proper choice could fall, the emergency room doors glided open with a hiss and a young woman stumbled in with a semi-conscious older woman.
“Help me!” Before the young woman collapsed onto the yellow tile floor, she locked eyes with Eden and conveyed such a look of unknowable fear, Eden’s palms began to sweat.
Eden’s body became a cauldron of tension. Her heart revved into overdrive, adrenaline flowed and her hunger forgotten as she scrambled to get a gurney.
“The Pit is hopping tonight!” Another nurse exclaimed in response to the unusual number of critical cases, they had seen that night.
“Can you tell me your name?” Eden helped the young lady onto the stretcher as the rest of the team assembled. Working swiftly and at life-saving speed, they placed both women on separate gurneys.
As nurses checked her heart rate, blood oxygen, and breathe sounds, Eden tried to get some information from her.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen.” The young woman ran her fingers through her greasy and stringy brown hair. Her words spilled lazily out of her mouth. “Today’s my birthday. See?” The woman tried to point to a button in the middle of her shirt, but her aim was off and her finger landed on her chin. The button read, ‘Keep Calm, It’s Michelle’s 21st Birthday.’ “This isn’t right,” she slurred. “It’s my birthday!” She squinted her eyes as the bright overhead lights swung into place and the medical team began to poke, pull, prod and place things.
Eden leaned closer and was almost knocked over by the pungent smell of alcohol. It was so strong it made her eyes water.
Eden turned to look over at the older woman, still unconscious on the gurney and saw another nurse scrunch her nose at the smell coming from her. In the pit of Eden’s stomach she knew death was close.
“Michelle, is that your name? Can you tell me what happened to your friend?”
The young lady wobbled her head back and forth. “Not my friend. That’s my mama.” Michelle stretched her hand out. “Mama!” she wailed.
Eden exchanged a glance with her best friend, Kym Chan, a Physician’s Assistant. Kym held up a blood alcohol meter that read .092, several points higher than the legal limit. Eden glanced over at the mother, whose skin has a light blue tinge, on the other gurney. Her alcohol level was .291. Her body was drowning in alcohol.
“Alright, what happened to your mother? What have you been drinking?”
“Her name is Grace,” Michelle’s red eyes began to water as her face contorted into pain, “and she’s amazing!” Then, her face morphed again and Michelle smiled and blinked slowly. “That’s the line she always gave cute guys.”
“What do we have here?” An attendee walked in as she applied gloves to her hands.
A resident piped up, “The patient presented with blue tinged skin, hypothermia, and traces of vomit around her mouth. It looks like a case of severe alcohol poisoning. The older woman’s blood sugar levels are non-existent, and she’s non-responsive to pain stimuli.”
Michelle suddenly began to strain against the nurses attempting to start an I.V. She moaned again, and this time it was low, guttural and laced with regret. Eden knew she was going to hear that wail in her sleep tonight.
Later that evening, Eden walked into Michelle’s and Grace’s room to update her chart. The daughter was sitting by her mother’s bed with her head lying against her chest. They had hydrated Michelle and the effects of the liquor in her system had begun to wear off. She looked more like the girl-next-door rather than a girl-gone-wild. Her mother had also been cleaned up. Now that her blond hair had been pulled out of her face, Eden could see how much to two looked alike. More like sisters.
“Glad to see you looking better, Michelle. How do you feel?”
Michelle didn’t respond. She held her mother’s hand and tears rolled down her face. Eden read her mother’s chart and her heart sank. She had been praying for a better outcome.
“They said she’s brain dead,” Michelle whispered. “But she just looks like she’s asleep. Like she’ll wake up any moment and kiss my forehead.”
“I’m so sorry about your mother. I know this isn’t easy.”
“Do you?” Michelle turned to Eden and her eyes lingered on the gold cross around Eden’s neck. “They want me to donate her organs, even her liver, to some strangers.”
Eden remained quiet. She placed her hand on Michelle back.
“What would you do?” Michelle asked.
Eden had been asked that before by other patients facing this brutal decision. It was literally the worst choice one could face.
Should you end the life of a loved one or hold out for a miracle? Logic backed by medical science said, End it.” Faith, backed by hope said, “Pray on it.”
Eden took a deep breath and silently prayed that she would never have to make that decision.
“I’m sorry, I can’t say, “Eden paused, “is there someone else, another close relative-“
Michelle shook her head. “I have no one.”
Eden could relate. Although, in three days, that would change. The glint from the ring on her finger assured her of that.
Her cell phone vibrated in her smock pocket, but Eden didn’t bother checking it. “Has your mother ever mentioned what she would want you to do?”
Michelle bit her lip and her eyes filled with tears. She nodded yes and Eden knew the answer. She sighed and continued to pat the young woman’s back.
“Today is my birthday. I turn 21 today at nine-thirteen p.m. I know because, mom always kisses me on my forehead at that exact time.” Michelle closed her eyes and Eden watched as a mix of emotions washed over her face; pain, fear, anxiety, regret. “I was going to get twenty-one kisses tonight.”
Eden looked at the digital clock on the wall. It was ten minutes after nine.
“We’re not supposed to be here,” Michelle continued. Her voice sounded hollow and far away. Eden called it, the echo of pain voice. She’d heard it many times now. “My mom had this awesome day planned for us. That was how she was, you know, a planner. I used to hate that about her.” She smiled lopsidedly at the memory. Grace probably had the same lopsided smile. “It got on my nerves, you know? But, still she was my best friend. People always say that, but my mom really was my only, and best friend.”
Eden picked up a box of tissues from the little, beige, hospital-issued, desk and poured Michelle a glass of water.
“She gave up the wild life and parties when she got pregnant with me at seventeen.” Michelle wiped a few tears away with the tissue. “Never went to college. Never drank or got high, and never went to clubs. Because she was going to wait-“, Michelle’s voice cracked, “until her daughter’s 21st birthday to do it all with her.”
Eden’s cellphone vibrated again. She hoped it wasn’t her fiancé. Whoever it was would have to wait. She turned her phone off. Eden pulled a chair over to Michelle and began to pat her hand.
“Do you think, it would be alright to play a song in here?” Michelle asked.
“Of course, as long as you keep it low.”
“Can you hand me my cell phone, it’s the white one, in that plastic bag.” Eden stood up and rummaged through the bag.
Michelle took the phone and she began to scroll through her selections. “We weren’t really religious, you know. Mom said, we were good people, and that was enough, but she loved to listen to old spirituals.” Michelle’s eyes lit up when she found the right song. “She said, these songs spoke to her deeply. They touched her in the depths of her soul.” Michelle paused and clutched the phone like a life saver. “Maybe, hearing one will…” she looked at Eden, her blue eyes reflecting the longing and desperation in her heart.
Eden nodded and motioned for her to play it.
The twang of a guitar filled the room as the familiar melody roused recognition in Eden.
Oh Lord my God
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds
Thy hands have made,
They listened in complete silence for a moment. Another nurse walked by and stopped to listen with her head bowed.
…And when I think of God
His son not sparing
Sent Him to die
I scarce can take it in
“What am I going do?” Michelle’s voice cracked and she shrunk in her chair. “They want me to sign these papers, but I can’t. Today is my birthday.” She sounded like a wounded little girl, instead of a newly grown woman. “I can’t.” She covered her face with her hands and rocked back and forth, chanting, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.”
The clock read nine-thirteen and Eden swallowed back a lump of sadness in her throat, squeezed Michelle’s shoulder and began to rub and pat her back in the comforting way her own mom used to. This is why she became a nurse. To help people. Her dad saw her gifts for nurturing, empathy, and encouragement when she was young and he knew she would put them to good use one day.
Michelle cried a little longer and then lifted her tear stained face to Eden. “You know, this is all my fault. My mom gave me a choice. We could go to Vegas and gamble and party and guzzle watered down mixed drinks, or spend all our money on expensive, exotic, liquor in fancy bottles with names I can barely pronounce and drink ourselves into oblivion.” She shook her head. “I actually said that. And now look. Now I have to choose what happens to my best friend.”
Her shoulders shook and Michelle grabbed Eden in a tight hug. With her mouth close to Eden’s ear, she whispered, “Please tell me, what you would do?”