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All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means; electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author and publisher. This is a work of fiction. The events and characters portrayed are imaginary. Any resemblance to real-life people or locations are entirely coincidental.


Copyright © 1992 Edward (E.T.) T. Milligan

R&E Publishers, Saratoga, CA

Library of Congress Catalog Number: 91-050694

ISBN: 0-88247-898-2


All rights reserved


Excerpt from the book.

The Everlasting Hope and Courage of a True Child of God
Respiratory Intensive Care Unit, Medical College of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia: January 14, 1990

It was 5:00 p.m. when I glanced across the room to Doctor Helene Goldsman, chief nurse for the Respiratory ICU.  She paused for a brief moment, and then regretfully gave a nod that precipitated the removal of life support systems from my wife’s body.  As her staff proceeded, I glanced over at my wife’s dear sister and aunt Sarah, who had been sitting patiently in the corner of the small room for the past six hours, clinging to the last big of hope that she would pull through this period of critical illness.  I could not have waited for that period and I didn’t try.  I had said my final goodbye several hours before in the words that we had exchanged each night before going to bed.  “Good night, honey, sleep tight.” It had taken every bit of my composure to complete those words as I stood over her bed.

Those had been my words to her comatose body minutes after I discussed her dismal prognosis with the doctor.  I understood that life supporting measures would remain in place but the hope for her survival was grim.  Throughout the day, I remained in the waiting room and received intermittent reports that her condition was worsening.  Telemetry showed only wide complex beats.  They’d become increasingly rare as the day progressed on.

Despite the dire situation, her sister Rose and Aunt Sarah were refusing to believe what I had accepted to be inevitable earlier that morning.  I could see Rose sitting in the corner just shaking her head and uttering silently, No! No! But her pleas and everyone’s desperately prayers were going unanswered. Linda Marie Milligan was succumbing to death from the viral pneumonia that had developed from her unanticipated liver failure.  She was drawing closer to death by the minute.

“I’m afraid she’s lost all blood pressure.  This respirator is pumping air but she’s not breathing on her own at all,” 

Doctor Goldsman told me.  I could see the disappointment in her eyes as she knew she could not continue to provide us words of hope that she had over the past few days.

“I’m going to take her pulse,” she said, breathing deeply. “But if there’s no pulse, then that’s it,” she added.  My loving wife, whom I had share ten years of an incredible and wonderful life together was slipping away from me.

There were several other procedures taking place that indicated she would no longer survive.  There was no spontaneous respiratory rate.  There was no response to deep pain.  Her pupils had become dilated and nonreactive.  There were no heart beats nor breath sounds to be heart.

Dr. Goldsman carefully felt her wrist and waited for a pulse.  She desperately repeated the procedure three times, listening intently for some hope of a faint pulse, which would indicate she was still clinging to life.  There was none.  As she looked over to us, she nodded, crestfallen. We knew what that look meant.  Linda Marie Milligan was dead.


Sister Rose and Aunt Sarah immediately reacted with a frantic outpouring of tears and disappointment.  I, myself, stood in shock and disbelief as the respirator and intravenous cords filled that had supported her organ functions were being unhooked from her body.  I began to feel a weakening sensation in my legs and a dizziness in my head. At this point, I didn’t know what would be more painful for me—realizing that my wife was dead or enduring the painful outburst of her two loved ones who had spent the last week clinging to their hope and faith in her recovery.  I didn’t want to see either.


Rose and Sarah sat quietly, staring and refusing to believe that a young woman who had been so full of life and love had perished.  I just knew I couldn’t take this sight.  I had to get out of the room as soon as possible. 


An eight-year battle with a debilitating liver disorder had tragically come to an end.  The greatest shock to the two relatives and me was that death had occurred within the face of what we thought would certainly be life.  Just three months before, I had telephoned them in Louisiana with a great expectation of an upcoming liver transplant.  They had barely time to react to that new before I had to tell them that Linda had suffered an unexpected and catastrophic liver failure.  Somehow, we had kept the faith that the events of the past week were all just a bad dream and that she would be okay.


Several days before, Sarah, who received a kidney transplant just a few months earlier, had flown into town with the faith that she could bring joy to her niece. She arrived with the enthusiasm of a knight of the rescue.  She had sat in a similar bed in Houston, Texas clinging to life in much the same way.  She had more hope and courage than the rest of us combined.  She was certain that if a 54-year old woman could pull through, dear Linda, only 31 years old certainly would, no matter how imminent death appeared.  Her optimism was not be rewarded.  Yet, even with the pronouncement of death, she sat and still waited.

We couldn’t believe that one who lived with so much determination and courage would lose this battle.  As I saw the looks of dejection on the faces of the members of the hospital staff, I knew that they knew it was all over.  I became more and more bewildered by the moment.  For it was just two months prior, I had been out playing tennis with Linda.  The former high school tennis star had been hitting the ball harder and more accurate than she ever had during the many times we played in our ten-year marriage.  We had also been playing racquetball together in late November.

After a brief hesitation, Dr. Goldsman looked towards me and uttered, “I’m so sorry, she’s gone!”

She impressed me greatly with her composure. For a brief instant, my thoughts shifted to admiration for the professional handling of this traumatic situation.  It was indicative of the type of strength I had struggled to maintain during the week.  I guess I didn’t expect her to cry or show an emotion at this point.  It was expected that her role as the head nurse was to maintain her composure.  I knew she had probably been faced with this situation many times before.

 “We’ll give you a few minutes then we’ll begin to clean her up,” she added, referring to the blood that was now slowly flowing from Linda’s mouth onto her gown.  It was a sight that I had never seen before and I could only look at for a brief moment.  Even during the most severe periods of illness in the last eight hours of this ordeal, I had never seen her look so helpless.  I felt my entire heart drop form within me.  I had never seen death staring me in the face.  In my wildest nightmares, I would have never thought to see such a complete metamorphosis in my beloved wife.  

As I continued to stare in disbelief, I inquired about the foamy blood gushing from her mouth.  The attending nurse explained to me that she had been continually given blood products over the last few days to sustain her as they hoped for a miracle.  But there was no longer blood pressure and the blood products were flowing out.  Liquids had been running right through her, through a long tube and into a waste vial at the foot of her bed.  It needed no explanation. I knew that without blood pressure, a body was gone past the point of return.

There are never the right words to say to family members at a time like this.  I appreciated Doctor Goldsman’s decision not to prolong the agony any longer.  The six hour wait form the time I had said my final goodbye at approximately 9 a.m. until now, has been the longest, most agonizing period of my life.  I sat in a waiting room watching football games with several other people.  They were also clinging to hope for me and Linda that I knew were past the point of being fulfilled.  When you live with someone for ten years, you become so connected that you know inside yourself when they are gone.  I just sat and waited for the inevitable.  If there was no way to make a change in these events then I felt relieved that it would soon be over.  I knew that fate had rendered its decision to take her to heaven.  I had nothing left to cling to at that moment.  But there was inside of me, a lingering anger that a chance for her to receive a life-saving organ transplant that been thwarted.  I had learned from physicians that if she had received a successful liver transplant, there would be challenges ahead, such as the risk of infections or the risk of rejection in the short or long term.  But through the past three months, I had not envision a scenario like this.  Now I wish I had and I would’ve been better prepared psychologically.

Within minutes after leaving the ICU, I found myself standing in the long hallway which led from the waiting room to the four adjoining intensive care units.  I was surrounded by Linda’s sisters, several members of the clergy and a few military friends, including my direct supervisor, who had traveled up from the military base Fort Lee to comfort me.  But with all those people around me, it felt like I was standing alone.  I wasn’t ready for being consoled.  I wasn’t ready for hugs of sympathy.  I was in a state of shock.

In the next few hours, I completed the normal administrative procedures required of surviving next of kin.  I proceeded to sign the form granting the hospital staff permission to order an autopsy.  I questioned Dr. Goldsman about its purpose.  She revealed to me that it would be necessary to conduct research to try and discover more about Linda’s liver disease and other associated problems that had developed causing her unexpected liver failure.

I responded “Well, if it can help save someone’s life or promote the further advancement of organ donation, then you have my permission.” 

Doctor Goldsman thanked me with a subtle head nod and I could see in her expression how painful it was for her to approach me at that particular time.  Yet, it was a time-sensitive decision while the body could still be preserved for medical research.

I then proceeded to the hospital chapel for a prayer and then to an administrative room to begin arranging for a funeral home to take possession of Linda’s body after the autopsy. At that point, I had become a walking machine was program to complete certain actions without resistance and without falling apart emotionally with the reality of the sequence.

A member of the chaplain staff took away my Tyrell (Linda’s 7 year old nephew) to another to begin the process of explaining to him about his aunt’s death.  It was important that he was made to understand what had happened so he could start the grieving process. Tyrell was the son of one of Linda’s sister who had ran away and left him the care of their mother.  When their mother Daisy passed away, Linda had decided to take Tyrell as his guardian and adopt him.

It was a devastating sight as I entered the small room ad watch Tyrell crying profusely in the arms of a hospital chaplain assistant.  I knew they had explained to him what had happened.  Yet, it was shocking to know that even a seven-year-old body had become well aware of the tragic loss of a loved one.  I wasn’t sure though if he understood what death really meant.  He share the same shocking look on his face that I had several hours before.  As I stood back and stared at him, I felt slightly relieved that I been spared that responsibility.

It wasn’t until near dusk that the Linda’s two sisters, my military supervisor, Major William Gilliken, and I walked out of the hospital to the parking garage.  Major Gilliken decided to leave his car at the garage and ride back in our car to our government quarters at the base, which was about forty minutes away.  He would have his wife pick him up at the quarters and they would return to MCV Hospital to pick up his car later.  He wanted to make sure we could get back to the quarters safely.  I insisted on driving, feeling that the task requiring a focus of safety would be the temporary distraction that I needed.  It was the first time in a while that I felt some sense of balance within myself. Having to focus on the interstate highway brought my emotions back to a temporary state of equilibrium.

Major Gilliken, though he agreed to let me drive, wasn’t totally convince of any of our emotional stability.  He sat in the front passenger seat, cautious of my actions and studying my expression as I drove. He had been with me on the ICU ward throughout the day.  As we exited the interstate for the final ten minute drive to the base, he made an effort at congenial conversation in attempt to ease the mental tension, just as he has for several hours with me in the ICU waiting room before Linda’s death.  I never appreciated the friendship and compassion he was showing more than I did at this moment, as he knew the entrance into the front door of the quarters would be different that I ever had before, knowing that I knew Linda would never be entering that door again. The best attributes of a warm, gentle and caring man were becoming evident.  I had only known him for less than three months since I had been assigned to his section.  Yet, he had become more than a superior, but through our many conversations on a myriad of topics, he had become a close friend.  He knew he would not relieve me of the trauma of what I had just faced, but he tried to distract my troubled thought in order to ensure a safe drive the rest of the way to the base, through the main installation gate and up to the quarters. 

I appreciated his effort to make conversation but I had no interest. But out of respect to him as my supervisor, I exchanged a few words in response.  Rose and Sarah were not as pleasant as I was and understandability voiced their desire for continued quiet.

Little Tyrell sat in the third row of the mini-van and was also quiet.  He had a puzzled expression which made me surmised that he was more confused than anything. Although I felt he was aware that his aunt and guardian mother for the past four years had died, he didn’t quite know how to react.  He just knew there was a deep sadness being displayed by everyone in the vehicle around him.  He knew our behavior had suddenly become quite different than that of the playful manner we had shared with him the last few days as he tried to hide our anxiety and worry from him.  As I glanced back through the rear view mirror, I could see his eyes straining to withhold tears.  I took another quick glance but as I turned onto the last road leading up to the front gate of the base, I decided not to look back at him again, realizing his confused heart would cause me to break into tears.

Then, as I made a left turn off of the highway and onto the short stretch of road leading up to the front gate, I began to encounter painful flashbacks of the last ten days, including the memory of A Avenue, which was the route I had rushed her to the base hospital emergency room, the night the liver failure process had started with a pouring of blood from her mouth like water from a spigot.  Then, right after she was airlifted from the base hospital helipad to MCV, I had taken that same road at about three a.m. to exit the base for my drive to MCV.  The thoughts distracted me so much, that I nearly drifted off into the opposite lane, which triggered Major Gilliken to utter my first name and rapidly followed with “Are you okay?”

“I’m sorry, sir. I’m fine,” I responded in a military tone.

He then offered, “You can pull over inside the gate, and I’ll drive the rest of the way.”

I responded with, “No sir, I’m really okay.  I can drive the rest of the way.”

What I didn’t realized at that moment, that about thirty minutes later, after we’d arrived at the quarters and Major Gilliken had taken a few moments to talk with us before he departed, the worse moments of the entire death experience were about to unfold.  




by E.T.Milligan |  ETMBooks

Blue Smoke

When Penelope Lane is kidnapped by assassins, no one knows if she’s dead or alive. Blake Cutter must risk his career and ultimately his life to find her… the woman who holds the key to justice for his late wife’s murder.               

Blake Cutter has fought his way through the criminal world to confront one of America’s most notorious mob bosses. But his pursuit of justice for his murdered wife must wait as he tries to foil an international terror plot that threatens to destroy the sanctity of the Sabbath Day, in the heart of Miami. 

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