A Brain-Dead Body by Jessica Granger

This small segment of my story is for you, the no one, the nobody, the man, the brother, the father, I was unable to save today. You came in nameless, without a history, or a life. If only I had the chance to speak to you before consciousness slipped away from us as the blood, unseen, flowed into your precious brain space.

I could have introduced myself to you, told you my name. We could have bonded over language. You would have felt safer, maybe, in knowing I am Cuban. We could’ve written down your history before it got lost in a lack of translation as you fell unresponsive and began to die.

But I’ll never get that chance.

To know your name, to know where you came from, to know why you were here in the United States struggling alongside me but invisible to the untrained eye. Afraid to identify yourself without papers to save you.

I worked as fast as I could to help you, help us, to save one more of our people, but I was unsuccessful.

Maybe you were feeling unwell this morning as you got ready for work, but you didn’t say, probably didn’t want to burden anyone with the headache that was plaguing you. You started your day with the thought of work on your mind, went to work as your body began to prepare itself, and slumped over suddenly from the tiny, silent explosion in your brain.

The CAT scan only showed a large amount of blood on the brain, but no source. Where could it be coming from, everyone asked. Why was this happening to someone in his late-40s? No one knew. Your skin was clear of blood, your coloring was good, the golden hue shining in the operating room lights as they rushed you in. The black hairs you didn’t comb this morning were swaying in the breeze as your stretcher rounded the corner, but the second I approached and pushed your right eyelid up I knew we were in trouble. The deep brown of your iris was gone and in its place was a large black pupil, it swallowing the person you once were. Then the second pupil expanded in the left eye and we were running out of time. This was your brain’s way of showing what you could not tell us in words.

I waited until they were able to relieve the pressure on your brain by surgically removing the bone, but the angiogram of your arteries proved the swelling was too much to compete with and the images showed your body was no longer supplying life-giving blood to your brain. People started throwing around phrases like “possible brain-dead diagnosis” or “undocumented John Doe isn’t going to make it” and I knew our time was up before it even began.

It hurt me to walk away from you in that moment. I wondered what you were like before your mind failed, what kind of fate you had suffered, what your plans were for the future. You made me want to do something I hardly ever did anymore; you made me want to pray.

So I did.

Padre nuestro, 

que estás en el cielo.

Santificado sea tu nombre.

Venga tu reino.

Hágase tu voluntad en la tierra como en el cielo.

Danos hoy nuestro pan de cada día.

Perdona nuestras ofensas,

como también nosotros perdonamos a los que nos ofenden.

No nos dejes caer en tentación y líbranos del mal.


I prayed that you’d find a blissful peace in death that you couldn’t find in life. For Santa Muerte to come and carry you in her arms to the land of your ancestors. To lay you beneath the soil from which you were first born until your body dissolves into ash in the matorral and sends you back to me on a breeze as the bus arrives in Ohio with next year’s crop workers.


Jessica Granger is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Texas El Paso. She is an Army veteran, divemaster, interventional radiographer, and mother to a band of misfits. Her work can be found in The Molotov Cocktail, Ruminate Magazine, and TheNewVerse.News. She resides in Columbus, Ohio.

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