If I Stay

If I Stay Summary and Analysis of 8:12 P.M., 9:06 P.M., and 10:40 P.M.


Adam and Kim disappear down the hall and into an elevator. Mia realizes her out-of-body experience doesn’t allow her to float through walls. She can only do what she is capable of in real life, only she is invisible to everyone else. No one seems to notice when she opens doors or pushes elevator buttons. She can touch things but can’t feel them.

It’s dinner time, so Mia goes to find her family in the cafeteria, where they are eating. She overhears her family talking about the other driver, Mr. Dunlap. Mia’s family’s car swerved into his lane and didn’t have time to stop. Mia wonders how he lives with the knowledge that he has lived while Mia’s parents have died, leaving the kids parentless. She wonders whether she will decide to stay. Mia finds Kim and Adam near the ICU. They are discussing how to get into ICU to see Mia, realizing they aren’t sure how to sneak in. Mia is pleased to know that they are actually friends now. Adam gets an idea.

Mia comments on how she once told Kim she was considering quitting cello and learning drums. Kim insists that the cello is a part of Mia’s identity. Mia worries it is dorky. To prove cello isn’t dorky, Kim gives Mia a CD of Nirvana playing live with a cellist named Lori Goldston. That summer, Mia goes to a music camp on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Mia meets Peter and Simon, the other two cellists who challenge her to get better at her instrument. The days are grueling, and Mia has difficulty playing with other musicians. But in a week she understands how the cello’s low tones worked in concert with other instruments. Mia and Simon compete against each other at night, seeing who could play better and faster.

Brooke Vega, lead singer of Bikini, arrives at the hospital with other musicians and Portland hipsters. Brooke says she doesn’t have much time. Adam tells her she can leave in fifteen minutes. They discuss a plan for Brooke to “make a ruckus” upstairs, creating a diversion to distract nurses while Adam sneaks into ICU. Mia is off the ventilator, breathing on her own. Her machines make less noise, and so the nurses visit her bedside less often.

Mia overhears the nurses excitedly discussing Brooke. Other curious nurses and orderlies come out to the hall to hear the famous pop star sing a song. An older nurse demands to know what’s going on and then threatens to call security. Knowing there isn’t much time, Kim, Adam and the other punks rush the doors into ICU. Kim and Adam reach Mia’s bed just as two guards grab his shoulders and yank him away. Downstairs, Kim and Adam are being escorted out of the hospital when Willow arrives in her scrubs; Willow reprimands the guards and threatens the guards that she’ll call the director of community affairs. Willow offers to help Adam get in to see Mia.

Mia is happy that Willow is there to help, but then it hits her: if Willow has come to the Portland hospital where Mia is, it means that she likely left her hospital, where Teddy was. Mia considers how her grandparents are at the hospital in Portland as well, and concludes that Teddy must be dead.

Mia remembers when her mother gave birth to Teddy. It was three days before Christmas when the labor started, and Mia’s mother insisted they go shopping while they waited for the contractions to be close enough in frequency to warrant heading to the birthing center. Mia and her mother meet Mia’s father there. During the labors, Mia’s mother asks to hear the Melvins rather than Enya. As she screams along to the loud, guitar-heavy music, she tells Mia not to be scared, because women can handle the worst kind of pain. Henry arrives with Taco Bell and chats with Mia on the couches in the waiting area until the midwife calls Mia in to watch the birth. Teddy slides out face up, so the first thing he sees is Mia. Mia’s father is too nauseated to cut the cord, so Mia does it. Mia’s mother jokes that this means Teddy imprinted on Mia, the way goslings imprint on zoologists rather than their mother goose because the zoologist is the first creature they see.

Mia runs through the hospital, leaving Adam, Kim, and Willow in the lobby. She anxiously thinks about Teddy, his tight blond curls, which she used to nuzzle. She thinks about all the life that he won’t get to live. She returns to the ICU, where her body still lies. She wants to escape, but she cannot scream or move. She wants to slap her own lifeless face. Monitors start beeping and nurses race in, calling out a code blue. A blood vessel has popped open and is leaking into her stomach. As the nurses get to work on her, Mia considers what it would be like to stay alive. To be an orphan, living without her parents, without her brother. She isn’t sure she wants to wake up.

Mia remembers the one funeral she has attended. It was for Kerry Gifford, a local musician who died young. She went with her parents and Adam, and met Willow and Henry there. Even though Kerry had been an atheist, the funeral was generic and religious, ending with Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Afterward, the family went to a diner. Mia’s mother was outraged that Kerry’s estranged parents would have given their son such an inappropriate funeral for who he had been. The conversation ends with Mia’s mother discussing how she would like her own death and funeral to be: ideally, she would like to die at the same time as her husband, when they are ninety-two; Mia would play cello at their funeral. Mia reflects that part of her mother’s wish did come true. But Mia wonders if her mother’s funeral will also be her own. She finds this thought comforting, to go down as a family.


Mia becomes aware of the limitations of her out-of-body point of view. She does not have supernatural powers, but instead must open doors and push elevators buttons as she would while in her body. However, no one ever notices her presence. As a result of her limitations, Mia only knows what she overhears. This is how she learns the details of the accident, which her family discusses in the cafeteria.

Mia’s recollection of her summer music camp experience is significant because it reveals her characteristic uncertainty and resilience; although she began the summer camp doubting whether she should even play cello and believing herself a less-experienced cellist, by the end she competes with the top players.

Mia’s cello is symbolic of her individuality: she is inexplicably drawn to the instrument, even though most people around her play electric guitar and drums. She considers giving cello up, but ultimately learns to embrace the instrument and therefore herself.

Willow’s surprise appearance at the hospital is a mixed blessing: on one hand, Willow is able to secure Adam access to Mia’s bedside; on the other, Mia understands that, if Willow has left the first hospital she and Teddy were brought to, it must mean Teddy is dead.

The revelation inspires a frantic attempt to physically escape, but Mia is confined to her own thoughts. However, it is possible that her internal panic has manifested in her body; at the same moment that Mia has this fit of anguish, a blood vessel bursts in her stomach. With Teddy also gone, Mia is closer to deciding that she would prefer not to wake up from her coma. She finds comfort in the thought of dying with the rest of her family.