Sometimes we must make the difficult decision of removing our loved one from life support, either in keeping with end-of-life wishes, or because his or her brain has ceased to function. Navah Harlow, a patient advocate in New York City, wrote the following prayer for children to say when they give the order to turn off the life support machines for their parents:
Our Father in heaven—
Today is the day that I have spoken for my beloved mother/father even as she/he spoke for me when I was a child without words, without understanding. He/she anticipated my needs and protected me from harm when I was yet unable to negotiate my life independently.
Today she/he is no longer capable of speech, of comprehension, of expressing his/her love for me as she/he has always done through words and through actions.
Today I have spoken as I promised I would. I have articulated his/her wishes as she/he has articulated them to me over these past few years. We both hoped that this day would never come. We both hoped that Your will would be done quietly, peacefully. But that was not meant to be. The inevitable outcome of his/her illness was postponed by hopes and dreams and medical technology. We know today that nothing can help. The life that was acceptable to him/her is no longer accessible. The process of dying is being prolonged.
Today I have spoken as I promised. I have fulfilled the mitzvah, the commandment, of honoring my father/mother.
He/she lived with integrity, has acted righteously and has spoken truthfully. Take him/her, then, upon Your sanctuary, let her/him repose upon Your holy mountain.
Adapted from Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin’s The Tapestry of Jewish Time: A Spiritual Guide to Holidays and Life-Cycle Events (Behrman House, $24.95, 800-221-2755). Cardin offers explanations and reflections on the Jewish holidays and life-cycle events, along with innovative rituals and reflections from Jews around the world.