I’m not a puker. I never or I should say hardly ever puke. I’ve gagged, choked, even retched, but I rarely puke. I used to tell people I’ve only puked once in my life and he still lives in my house. Suffice it to say I don’t puke often. But now I’m going to have to revise that story or maybe just stop telling it.

It has been a while now, but it’s still the hardest day of my life. The day I had to sign the do-not-resuscitate order for my mother. She was terminally ill and the doctor said two, maybe three days but not a week. She had been with me my whole life and we had decided a long time ago that she would stay with us at home until the end.

The nurse was explaining to me that if I didn’t sign, no nurse would come, no morphine would come. While she was talking I was having one of those out-of-body experiences where her voice sounded like it was coming from very far away. I told her I thought she was asking the wrong person. If mom thought it was the right thing to do, I would sign it, but maybe we should ask her.

The nurse and I both went into her bedroom, and the nurse explained to mom that she was going to die soon. Ma agreed with the nurse. I leaned over and asked her again, just to make sure. She said, “Sure, go ahead and sign it, it’s for the best.” The nurse read the order out loud to both of us. It said that when she started to die, no matter what the circumstances, nothing would be done to prevent it. I started to cry, signed it, and ran out of the room.

She had been dying for 75 years and talking about it for 25, still I felt as if I had sentenced her to death. I ran down the stairs. My stomach turned inside out and forced its way up my throat, emptying its contents into the bowl. I jerked again and again until all that remained in my mouth was the sour bile that digests your food and eats the enamel off your teeth. I no longer had any claim on my childhood. I cried hard, splashed some cold water on my face, went back up, and fed her some butter pecan ice cream with a spoon.

The next day she slipped into a light coma. I say light because she could no longer speak, but I knew she could still hear me. The only sound that came from her now was the occasional pptt sound of her pushing air out of her mouth; it sounded like a pot of oatmeal coming to a boil. I showed her the dress that she had told me years ago that she wanted to wear for her funeral. I wanted her to know I remembered everything she had ever told me. It was a long coral chiffon dress with a high beaded collar. She had a small smile on her face and one tear slipped from her eye. I bought her new underwear; she had never let me go anywhere in my life without new underwear and I thought I’d return the favor. I started to make a big pot of chicken soup; she always liked it and had taught me how to make it. My son had been sleeping on the floor next to her bed ever since we found out.

When the soup was ready, I went up to give her some and she was gone. She was still warm but gone. I woke my son and told him. We both sat on the bed and I held her hand. I could feel the warmth slipping away. She had died peacefully two days after I had signed the order. We never had to use it, so all that ever came of it was this occasional feeling like I’m going to puke.