MILLERSVILLE, Md. — When Jerome Ndayishimiye entered the overheated room at the nursing home where his 58-year-old mother lay under a tightly tucked blanket, he quickly closed the curtains around her bed and turned on her boom box so that a melodic Rwandan song enveloped them. He stroked her forehead and her eyes fluttered open and closed again.
“At this point, I do not know whether to say hello or goodbye,” Mr. Ndayishimiye said Saturday, choosing instead to ask her softly, in their native language, how she was feeling. She stirred again but did not answer; Rachel Nyirahabiyambere, a legal immigrant from Rwanda, has been in a persistent vegetative state since having a major stroke in April.