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“Abrahamic Sacrifice” by Annaliese Lemmon

For Xavier I don't want to study Abraham sacrificing his son again.

I stand by the altar of the hospital bed of my ten-year-old son, the victim of a sudden cardiac arrest. By the time the paramedics restored his pulse, his brain had not received oxygen for twenty minutes. The resulting brain injury is severe. He is in a vegetative state - a step up from coma since his eyes open. But they don't follow the doctor's instrument, nor do they focus on my face.

He is not restrained because he does not try to grab at the tubes and cords attached to him. Not because he knows the importance of these irritating monitors, but because he lacks the ability. He cannot communicate in either blinks or squeezes. He can only cry in discomfort, like a newborn, sending his heart racing so fast the monitor alarms. His brain is too damaged to calm itself, so I sing, cool his fevered face, and massage his tense legs.

He only has one life support remaining - a tube surgically inserted into his stomach. He cannot swallow, so this is how he gets his food and medicines. Removing life support means starving him, a process that will take one to two weeks, though he would receive morphine to subdue the pain.

I had always thought that if I ever had to decide whether or not withdraw care of someone in a vegetative state, that God would tell me what to do. But no angel has come down to stay or strengthen my hand. All I feel is a whisper that either choice is correct. That life is precious, even to my son trapped in his body like the ram caught in the thicket. Yet, death is part of His plan, and we are not obligated to prolong life at all costs. The choice is up to me and my husband.

Sometimes, agency sucks.

This piece was published in 2024 as part of the 13th Annual Mormon Lit Blitz by the Mormon Lit Lab. Sign up for our newsletter for future updates.

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