The Pros and Cons of Murdering Your Mother

Submitted into Contest #94 in response to: End your story with someone finally conceding to another’s point of view.... view prompt



“The Pros and Cons of Murdering Your Mother:”

That is all I saw when Henry handed me the list for the first time. It was neatly done, each letter delicately carved onto the paper. He had the decency to look a little shy, passing it to me like a gawky teenager with a love letter. I was in the kitchen chopping broccoli, and imagined replacing the head with Henry’s own. I was silent but brought down the knife on a floret, effectively dispatching it. Suddenly looking alarmed, he backed away, rubbing his neck. 

Of course, that is not what he actually wrote. I realised this on second glance, when Henry dropped the paper on my lap and walked away. It actually read: “Arguments For and Against Terminating Life Support”. 


1. She would never want to be stuck in a bed, unable to do anything. She’s just suffering.” This is a fact. My mother was always moving, even when her feet dragged on the carpet and her limbs moved as if through tar, she would tuck a few escaped strands of hair behind her ear and mould her lips into a wide, pursed shape, which might remind one of a smile from certain angles. Maybe that explains why she always seemed to have a bajillion neurons firing at once, like some sort of book flipping a thousand pages a second in her head. A book I didn’t even know the cover of. Often, you could look into her dusky eyes and watch them flit, as if watching a tennis match. Maybe that’s why you could talk to her for hours and know that she would have heard the smallest portion of it, a shred of the tapestry you had woven. 

My mother had to wear many hats; she was the breadwinner, caretaker, cook, cleaner, prom dress tailor, exam night barista, post breakup ice cream buyer. When I grew older she was my resume editor, motivational speaker, wedding dress tailor, free childcare. Sometimes I wonder if I even know my mother without a hat on. I wonder if she can even remember herself before she wore one. Before a suitcase filled with half the closet, a scrawled note and a few bucks on the dinner table changed her life. Before she got up in the middle of the night to the screech of car tires and never sat down again. 

I don’t believe that she’s just passively lying down, though. As far as my memory holds true, my mother has never sat down for extended periods of time. Even at dinner tables, she would sit down, but like a jack-in-a-box. She was stationary, but at any moment, she could spring back up again. So when I look at her, I believe, I hope that those cerebral tennis players have dropped their racquets for weapons, that there’s a war breaking out under her closed lids. 

“2. It is too difficult on the entire family, especially you, to wait in hope” Selfish. That is what I told Henry the last time he mentioned this. That it is selfish to put our needs above hers. That I will wait as long as it takes, no matter the cost.

Because what if. What if she wakes up? What if I am sitting by her bed and her fingers twitch in my hand and I feel the heat of her breath. Breath from deep inside her, hefty and human; not from the whirring contraptions that reign over her face currently. I would see her eyes open, my own burnt amber pools reflected back at me, splashing out and mixing with hers so they convey what I cannot say on my own. What the boa constrictor around my throat chokes out. And she would smile and then comment on my appearance. “Your clothes are crumpled.” “Your skin looks dull.” “Are those wrinkles? You are too young to have so many wrinkles.” She would nitpick, but I would see her eyes alive, roiling and crashing, not the stagnant puddles they are now. 

What if. What ifs are a burden. Hope is a burden. A deadweight that holds you in limbo. The anchor as I drag myself from bed to hospital and hospital to bed. Henry’s burden, too. The weight of a hundred extra jobs, the weight of emotionally supporting somebody who doesn’t believe anything wrong has happened.

“3. She’s not in there”

brain death : the irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem. A person who is brain dead is dead, with no chance of revival.

My mother looks pale, drawn. She looks tiny, doll-size, and her bones are much more visible than I remember. They are sharp and push through her gray, papery skin as if they are on the verge of breaking free entirely. She’s not there. She doesn’t even look like she’s there. She looks like she could be a part of the wall, like she and the machines are one. 

I know when I look into her eyes I will not see a down-to-the-wire match, I will see the desperate last sets of an exhausted player.


1. We will lose her” 

Henry stays outside while the nurse turns off machines. I sit next to her bed, hear the steady hum that has been my companion dying down to silence. I imagined that I would be sobbing, but I cannot seem to muster up tears. I just feel a steady, clenching vice around my throat and chest. It feels like I am dying and I hope this is not what she feels. I hope she feels like a hug after the worst week, like a crisp wind in your hair, like hot chocolate on a rainy day. Like peace.

I do not know how long I sit there, but Henry joins me at some point and is currently feigning consciousness next to me. When the same nurse walks by for the third time, I squeeze my mother’s frozen hand one more time and stand up. Henry shoots up from his chair as if burned, eyes wide. He shoots me a questioning look, checking in, and I nod my head, tucking my hair behind both my ears and forcing a smile. My hand freezes in the gesture, and my eyes move to the bed, a real smile making its way onto my lips. Henry was right; she isn’t there, but she isn't gone.

May 21, 2021 11:58

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Daniel R. Hayes
16:03 Jun 19, 2021

Wow Natania, this was a very powerful story! I'm sure a lot of people will be able to relate to this. I think you did a very good job writing this and it really tugged at my heartstrings. A very powerful emotional story!! Great job!!!


07:08 Jun 21, 2021

Thank you for the kind words, they mean a lot! I am so glad it got through to readers.


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Beth Connor
19:37 Jun 18, 2021

Im am so glad I have sunglasses on right now, because I may or may not by bawling. This is so beautifully and tastefully written, and having lived through a similar choice, I am incredibly emotional right now. Well done.


07:07 Jun 21, 2021

Thank you so much! I'm so sorry you had to go through that; I may or may not be bawling too!


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Link Arneson
18:44 Jul 12, 2021

Catchy title, I thought it was going to be a very different story! Surprised me with how emotional it made me. Great job!


12:46 Jul 13, 2021

Thank you! It definitely is emotional. I wanted to try and play with readers' expectations with the title; I'm happy it worked!


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