The Wheelchair Kept Squeaking

Oct 29, 2016

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Dear World,

When do you know it’s time to just stop and let life happen?

She came in sick with the Coronavirus. Her husband was also sick with the virus in just the room next door. We thought that she was going to be okay because she looked better than him. He needed the oxygen mask and she didn't. So, we were all pretty hopeful about her recovery.

She was so cute, this Asian lady. She reminded me of my mom.

But then she stopped talking. She stopped moving one side of her body. She was still breathing, but barely. One day she’s talking to me, and then, the next day she was suddenly deteriorating, slipping away.

I couldn't understand it. I was so used to people being so sick. She was on all the medication she needed to be on; blood thinners and all. She was supposed to be okay.

We found out she had multiple strokes in her head from the Coronavirus, basically because it's a complication from the virus itself. She was throwing a bunch of clots in her head, a huge clot in her heart, and it spread all over her legs. She was dying right before our eyes.

The doctor advised us to bring in their family. I had the idea that her husband should be in this talk, you know, because it was gonna be a big talk about the reality of what’s going on. So, even though he couldn't breathe, we put him in a wheelchair, and brought him in her room where their five kids gathered. You could feel it in the air – the weight and tension of waiting for unwanted news that nobody ever wants to hear.

We tried so hard to put them next to each other. He was in the wheelchair, and all he wanted to do was just hold her hand. So, I kept moving the wheelchair to bring him closer to her. It was the most awkward thing to witness. Everybody's just watching the wheelchair move in an attempt to get it right, to get them close enough to touch. But the wheelchair kept squeaking. Silence then sqqqquuueeeaaakkkkkk.

I have to laugh about it now, but it was the saddest and sweetest thing I’ve ever seen.

Everybody’s staring at them and I’m trying to get their hands together. I had to make it happen. After the awkwardness, it just became sad, you know. Their hands touched, but I don’t think she fully understood who was holding her hand.

I remember a moment like this with my family. We call it the talk. When the doctor tells you someone you love is dying, and begins asking questions like how the family would like to proceed. When my mother died seven years ago, she was 57, I was one of those kids in that room. I can feel the agony, especially with this family. I remembered myself in them. Hoping for a miracle.

That’s why I connected so deeply with this family. The five kids. The cold room. She was 57. The awkwardness, the tension. In this case, if it wasn’t the clots throughout her entire body, she was going to die from the Coronavirus. So, do you prolong it, or do you kind of just let life take its course? When do you know when it’s time to kind of just stop and let life happen?

I suppose when we let life happen, we gotta let the wheelchair keep squeaking, too.

The Wheelchair Kept Squeaking
Chariz Montminy