If I Stay

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If I Stay 10:40 PM Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mia runs through the hospital, distraught after realizing Teddy has died. She then goes back to the ICU, enraged and upset. Her physical body goes into code blue (an emergency situation of cardiac or respiratory arrest), and doctors rush in to figure out what is going wrong. An ultrasound reveals that Mia’s abdomen is filled with fluid, and she is quickly intubated and rushed to surgery. Mia realizes that there is a connection between her physical body and the Mia that is able to wander the hospital unseen. Still in shock by the events of the day, she wonders if it would be easier to pass away with her family than it would be to stay alive.
Teddy’s death becomes a major factor in Mia’s decision as to whether to stay or to join her family in death. Should she stay, she will now have to live her life completely without any members of her immediate family. Her emergency surgery makes her realize that should she choose to leave and die, her emotional choices will translate into true bodily harm in order to make her decision a reality.
Themes
Sacrifice and Choice Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Relationships  Theme Icon
Life and Death  Theme Icon
Mia recalls other people in her life who have died, such as her Great-Aunt Glo, who requested to have her ashes scattered in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and her friend Peter Hellman from camp, who died of lymphoma. A friend of the family from the punk music scene, Kerry Gifford, died of a freak brain aneurysm while operating the soundboard for a band in Portland. Since Kerry was young and well-liked, Mia’s town was distraught by his sudden death.
By recalling how she felt about the deaths of other people she has known, Mia implicitly wonders how she will be remembered by her friends and family if she decides to die along with her parents and Teddy.
Themes
Sacrifice and Choice Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Relationships  Theme Icon
Life and Death  Theme Icon
When Kerry dies, Mia, her family, Adam, Willow, and Henry drive several hours to Kerry’s hometown to attend his funeral. Although he was known for being a committed atheist, Kerry’s family arranges a funeral that is very religious. This outrages Mia’s Mom, who wishes Kerry’s family had celebrated his life in the way he lived it. Mom is particularly angry that the family ended the funeral service with a rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Dad reasons that it was his family’s way of coping with their son’s death, and that funerals are a lot like dying—at the end of the day, despite all of your planning, it is out of your control. On the drive home, Mia’s family, Willow, and Henry all discuss the songs they would like to have played at their funerals. Mia chooses Mozart’s “Requiem.” Mia’s Mom says she would want Mia to play the cello at her and Mia’s Dad’s funeral, as if certain they would die together.
This scene of Mia’s family members deciding what songs they would like during their funerals—while all driving together in a car—is poignant foreshadowing for the tragedy that will unfold years later. While her mother may have been serious when she said she wanted to die along with her husband, she surely did not want her children to die along with them, as noted by her wish that Mia would play the cello at her funeral. If Mia decides to keep living, it will be up to her to carry on the memory of her family, but if she chooses to die, there will be some comfort in having left the world of the living along with those she loved the most.
Themes
Sacrifice and Choice Theme Icon
Music and Harmony  Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Relationships  Theme Icon
Life and Death  Theme Icon
Mia muses that to some extent, her Dad was wrong—in Mia’s scenario, she does seem to be able to control whether she lives or dies. And her Mom was right—she and Dad did die at the same time. However, Mia is not sure if she will live to play at their funeral. She takes a kind of comfort in the idea that she and her whole family could die the same way, together.
While she knows that her mother would want her to keep living, Mia is tempted by the concept of dying in the same way as the rest of her family. In a way, this would allow her to exert agency over the tragedy. Mia recognizes that her ability to decide whether to live or to die is an incredibly precious choice—and yet as readers we are also encouraged to use Mia’s fantastical situation to examine our own choices that we make every day. All of our lives are precarious, and every choice we make affects them..
Themes
Sacrifice and Choice Theme Icon
Music and Harmony  Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Relationships  Theme Icon
Life and Death  Theme Icon
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