And so the journey of dying continues…
I had mom’s care conference on last Tuesday. Her one working kidney is close to dialysis (which they don’t recommend, because of how hard it would be on someone as sick and frail as her), but they don’t know “how close”. Which is frustrating, because they (the Drs. and nurses) never give me any other clear options or suggestions.
They just say, “Her body would not respond well with dialysis” or “dialysis is very hard on some people, and it probably will especially be hard on her.”
And I think, Well, OK, then can you please tell me what I am supposed to do? As her daughter and legal guardian? Do I tell her, “Um, listen, mom….your kidney has failed and to stay alive, you will need dialysis. But, the Dr. doesn’t think you will do “well” going through it, so….we are just going to let you slowly die OK? But, don’t worry, we will give you medicine to keep you “comfortable”. So you won’t have any pain as you die, K?”
See, the thing is, my mom is a stubborn ass kind of gal. (sorry for the cynicism, I just am depressed, frustrated, angry etc….) Oh, and she is totally confused and not even sure where she is most of the time. So I can ask her what SHE wishes to be done with her own life. And, of COURSE I WILL do that, it’s just that her ability to fully comprehend or rationalize what’s going on is shaky at BEST. And being the stubborn rebel that she is, I am SURE that she will choose to go through with dialysis. Which is what I am 99.9% sure what will take place. Which, is anxiety producing, because we are going to get to watch her suffer even MORE than she has. Oh, AND I forgot to mention that she tried to “escape” the other week, so they want to her to move to the memory care floor. Which will be super fun, because with each new major change, dementia gets WORSE. CANT WAIT!
BUT, despite all that angst, cynicism, fear, sadness etc…. here’s the REAL DEAL….
Throughout this long 10–20 year agonizing journey, I have had several people (some seriously and some casually ) ask me, “Do you ever secretly wish that your mom would just die, so that her suffering can end?” Of course, they have asked me that question in varying ways, like, “Do you wish her suffering would just END?” or “Do you ever think she would be “better off” if she were to peacefully pass away?”
And each time I have been asked that question, I have had a deeply angered and resentful inward reaction. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand where they are coming from. Because if I’m honest, I have had lots of times where I have been tempted by those thoughts. But, see, those comments have come from those who are not caregivers and have NO clue of how deep my commitment, faith, and depth of compassion is for unconditionally loving my ill parent.
Instead I have thought and inwardly cried out, “NO! This LIFE, this frail woman and mother of mine is NOT indispensable! Her life and love is STILL worthy!”
Yet, the world constantly wishes to find easy way outs of our sufferings. As if suffering is to be avoided at all costs. Just look at the billions of dollars that go to abortion clinics (last year Planned Parenthood made 99 million on abortions in our country. All to avoid potential sufferings. We are a hedonistic culture. We want whatever is going to make us “happy” or “feel good”, not matter what.
And not to mention those who try to “medicate” themselves to perpetually numb their mental and physical sufferings. I know all to well those traps of illusions that seemingly help us escape and temporarily ease our sufferings. After all, my mom “self medicated” herself with pills and alcohol to escape her mental and physical sufferings for most of my life.That is mostly why we are where we are today.
The absolute BEAUTY of the Christian faith is that it helps us to find lasting and authentic meaning within our trials and sufferings. Our pain can have redemptive value. When we direct it, or “offer it up”, or redirect it for Good, if you will, to the ONE who guides us and holds us all. With that surrender, comes trust in something bigger than ourselves. We realize that we are NOT alone. We have our Lord who loves us as a Father, who willingly sacrificed it ALL for us, just so that we could be with him forever. We also have our whole community of believers, who support us, hold us, and take care of us. We can let go of that illusion that we need to fix it all…or be it all…to everybody or for everyone.
We can stand back and see more clearly that EVERYTHING is a beautiful gift in our lives. And, yes, as extraordinarily difficult as it is, this includes all of our trials and sufferings.
For it is through our sufferings, we are refined to be more like Him (if we allow it). We have the opportunity to grow in virtue; love, hope, charity (the big 3 theological virtues), kindness, courage, justice, fortitude, prudence, self-control, joy…to name a few. We gain a deeper compassion and understand for our loved ones who suffer, and for those who deeply hurt and suffer as we do. It takes LOTS of practice to become virtuous…so, trials and tribulations help us get that practice. I can often relate to what Mother Theresa once said,
“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much!”