After several hours in surgery, Mia’s body is returned to the ICU in stable condition. Willow convinces the nurses to let Mia’s grandparents visit her. While Gran is as chatty as ever and tells Mia all of the family news, Gramps looks exhausted from the day’s events. Gran reports that she saw a crossbill on her walk, a bird that is unusual in their part of Oregon. Gran believes that the bird is a reincarnation of her sister Glo, returned to show support for Mia.
Gran’s pleasant demeanor, especially given the events of the day, may be due to the fact that she is optimistic about life after death. By pointing out that she believes her reincarnated sister Glo actually “visited” in order to support Mia, she is implicitly noting that Mia’s parents and Teddy may often return to her as reincarnations or angels.
As Mia listens to Gran drone on, she thinks about how nice it would be to fall asleep to the sound of her voice. Death, she thinks, might be like one, long, satisfying nap. She pulls herself back to the present in a panic, worried that if she meditates on the thought of sleep as death, then she may actually die, according to the ambiguous rules of this out-of-body experience. Mia wonders if all dying people have these kinds of choices, and if her parents perhaps had a choice, too. She hopes that all of the angels Gran believes in were too busy comforting Teddy as he slipped away to worry about Mia, which is why she is left alone with the choice to stay or to go. Mia wishes someone else could decide for her—a “death proxy” who could choose whether she should remain alive or move on to join her family in death.
Despite being surrounded by her loved ones, Mia feels entirely alone in her decision as to whether she join her family in death or keep living. Though Gran speaks of angels, no outside entity of any sort has come directly to Mia to speak with her, which makes her doubt their existence. On the other hand, she has no idea how to characterize the state of mind or being she is currently in, as she is separated from her physical body. With so many pros and cons to living and dying, she almost wishes she didn’t have a choice in the matter at all, like her parents and Teddy. It’s easier when something is just lost—not sacrificed.
Eventually Gran and Willow leave the ICU, leaving Mia with Gramps, who cries over Mia’s body. He speaks to her body, telling her that while he wants her to stay more than anything, he will understand if she chooses to go. He is the first person to tell Mia that he understands the tragedy she has been through that day—he understands staying will come with its own challenges, and that to some extent, leaving is the easier option.
In a family of extroverts, Mia and Gramps have always had a special connection based on their quiet, thoughtful dispositions. Mia is touched by the fact that he will understand if she leaves. In a way, telling Mia this makes her decision harder—by leaving the world of the living, she will also be leaving someone who understands her very well.
In a flashback, Mia recalls that prior to Teddy’s birth, Dad’s band was fairly popular in college towns across the Northwest, and, oddly, Japan. However, once Mom announces she is pregnant for a second time, Dad begins to make changes to his life, such as finally learning how to drive a car (rather than bicycling everywhere) and exchanging his punk-rock wardrobe with a vintage buttoned-up style from the 1950s. He goes back to school and earns his license to teach English.
Mia’s father’s choices in the wake of Teddy’s birth show his commitment to his family, rather than to the pursuits of his youth. Even though he has a profound love of music, his love for his family always came first. This is another difficult choice, a reminder to Mia that she’s not alone in having to make sacrifices.
When Teddy is a few months old, Dad announces he is leaving the band, even though Mom says she’s okay with him continuing to play shows. Henry becomes livid with Dad, and doesn’t speak to him for months. Henry only apologizes for his behavior years later, when he has a daughter of his own, and can finally understand why Dad had to prioritize his family at all costs.
Henry’s apology to Mia’s Dad shows that, with some things in life, you have to experience an event for yourself to truly understand what another person is going through. Henry can only understand Dad’s decision once he himself knows what it is like to want to care for a family.
Meanwhile, Gramps is upset at Dad’s transformation into a more parental figure for reasons Mia can’t figure out. Gramps finally explains that he misses the music Dad used to write, as he finds his lyrics to be like poetry. Mia didn’t know her father wrote the lyrics to the songs he played, since he was not the singer of the band. She returns to his band’s albums to listen more closely to the lyrics, and enjoys one song, “Waiting for Vengeance,” in particular. Mia absentmindedly sings it to baby Teddy, which delights her father. Mia asks her father if he is sad that he’s not in the band anymore, and he replies that he doesn’t feel like he gave anything up. Though everyone around him wanted to bargain, he felt as if it was an either-or choice to quit the band and be a better father. “Sometimes,” he tells Mia, “you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you.”
Mia recalls “Waiting for Vengeance” due to its themes on the nature of making choices. While Mom, Dad, and Teddy were not able to decide as to how they would die, Dad was able to exert agency in his life when he quit the band in order to better provide for Mia, Mom, and Teddy. Now Mia now has a similar kind of agency in a decision, but a much more consequential one. While Dad didn’t feel that leaving the band was that difficult of a sacrifice, Mia must decide if continuing to live her life is worth the pain that the loss of her family will always cause.