Siobhán was roused from her black torrent of grief by a gentle knock on the door of their private room. She stifled a heaving sob and squeezed her eyes shut as she heard Ben waken and rise to open it, for she knew who it was and why he was calling. It was Kian's doctor, and he was bearing the papers to sign should they finally decide to give up their son, and switch off his machines.
"Mr. O'Reilly," she heard the doctor greet Ben, his voice gentle and subdued. She heard footsteps crossing the room, and felt Ben's arms slide around her and gently help her to sit up. He stood behind her with his strong hands braced on her shoulders, and she felt his tears patter onto her hair in time with her own.
"Mrs. O'Reilly," the doctor greeted her, his soft brown eyes heavy and dark with sympathy and pain. He was a tall man who usually appeared confident and proud; but today, he stood with his shoulders hunched forward, his face drawn and pale. Siobhán gazed silently at him through her haze of tears, dreading the words she knew were inevitably following. She clasped one of Ben's hands tightly in her own, and used her other hand to draw Kian's to her.
"Ben, Siobhán," the doctor began, his hands shaking slightly as he breathed deeply to steady his own emotions.
"Kian has been in this coma for four months now. His condition is stable, while on life support, but unfavourable. It is unlikely that he will regain consciousness. And as you are aware, we had to- we had to remove a section of his brain to relieve pressure. However, the damage was already extensive, and so, even if he does awake, he will be permanently paraplegic." The doctor took a deep, steadying breath before continuing. "He will not be the boy you knew before the accident." Siobhán felt Ben squeeze her hand fiercely, and she shut her eyes again as they prepared themselves for the penultimate question. The one decision no parent ever wants to face.
"I'm so sorry, both of you," the doctor proceeded, his voice shaking slightly as he delivered the words. "I have the papers here.. for you to sign. To turn off your son's life support."
Siobhán's world crashed down around her as she sat clutching her husband and son. She couldn't imagine a life without Kian; he was her life, her soul, her happiness. And now he was gone. It didn't even matter if they kept him on his life support; the chances of him awakening were slim to none. She knew even if he did awake, he wouldn't be her ray of sunshine; he would be confined to a life of nothing, paralysed and with no memory of her or Ben.
Sobbing freely now, she turned her face up towards Ben. Their eyes met, and she knew he knew what she was thinking. Nodding, he reached a trembling hand out to the doctor, who handed him a black clipboard holding a single document. Siobhán watched numbly as as Ben scrawled his usually flawless signature across the bottom of the document, before passing the clipboard and pen to her with a choked breath. She took them from him silently, and watched as if in a trance as her hand swept her signature next to her husbands, while her tears dotted the page with endless splashes of grief.
The doctor took the pen and clipboard back from her, his own breathing slightly ragged with supressed emotion.
"I'm sorry, but it's standard protocol to ask; I can be the one to switch the machine off, or either of you can-"
"I'll do it." Ben's voice was loud and sudden, and the doctor looked both surprised and relieved. He nodded silently and stepped back, allowing Ben and Siobhán time to say their final farewells. But there were no words to be said. They stood together, holding one another as they built up the strenghth to let their boy go. Still clutching each other's hands, they walked on opposite sides of the bed. Siobhán slowly lowered herself to lie on the hospital bed, cradling her son's tiny frame. Ben sat on the opposite side, and reached a hand up to rest atop the life support machine. He leant his head down and placed a kiss upon Kian's pale forehead.
Closing her eyes, Siobhán brought Kian's hand to her lips and placed her other hand on her son's slowly rising and falling chest. All was still for a moment, as the small family lay connected for the final time. The silence was finally broken by an almost inaudible click, and Siobhán felt her son's chest rise and fall one last time. The steady beeping of the heart monitor slowed to an unending wail, as Kian's tiny heart gave it's final beat.
Siobhán buried her face in her son's golden hair as Ben lay down on his other side, and they quietly allowed their unending grief to overtake them as Kian's innocent spirit left his broken body, and flew into the endless unknown.