I just picked up a book titled Being Mortal, in which the author, a doctor, considers the experience of mortality. He explains that he was taught in medical school how to keep people alive, but not how to let them die, or even have that discussion, if there was no longer anything he could do to make them better.
He says “our ideas about how to deal with finitude” (his word, not mine) are inadequate, if not lacking totally. He talks about doctors having conversations about the risks of operations—which can include severe complications such as paralysis and death—with greater ease than they can discuss why not having the surgery is the preferable decision. Even when they agree.
Death is a tough one. No matter our belief system. So is getting older and frailer, and losing pieces of our dignity. One would think, I would think, there is no better, more meaningful time for these discussions to occur. We are unversed, uncomfortable, under-resourced. We are ignorant, and perhaps too arrogant, to peer into this growing body of beings and be with our ineptitude. But if we don’t, we do ourselves and others a severe disservice. We don’t open the doors for the opportunity to make a difference.
Life carries with it opposites and paradoxes. Beginnings and endings, judgements of good and bad, peals of laughter and streams of tears. Where do you stand on this issue? Is it too upsetting to consider? Is it worth the difficult look into yourself it might require? Does anybody matter enough to you to open the door and find out?
Reblogged this on Cancer Tested Courage & Faith and commented:
To answer your question, “Does anybody matter enough to you to open the door and find out? For me, Yes, and many times, yes. My late husband and I walked that road where the gift of life was as precious as our last walk together.
It is for me, too. After losing both my parents, I learned a great deal about myself and what I was willing to do (and experience) for those I loved. Your last sentence says it all: “My late husband and I walked that road where the gift of life was as precious as our last walk together.” Thank you for commenting on, and reblogging, this post. I take it as the highest form of compliment.
It seems too many doctors keep terminal patients alive in as many ways as possible because to let the patient die may speak of failure on the part of the doctor. I love life and am all for quality as opposed to quantity.
My elderly mother is in the process of transitioning from life to death and though I wish I could keep her here forever, I am letting her go because her quality of life is so poor. Meanwhile, I celebrate her life every moment I am with her.
You sound as though you have a healthy take on this life/death issue. I learned so much from my parents in their final months, maybe I was listening harder, but what lessons! Sending you lots of peace and clarity. Staying present to them changed my life.
It’s bittersweet to at last see someone bringing up this issue. I lot my family all too early and people don’t want to take on the consequences of that fallout. To some extent you don’t want to push it for to understand is to mean you’ve gone through it. But you’re right, we live in a world of opposites and that’s one we and especially doctors should probably stop dodging. Thanks for giving it light in such a gentle manner.
It is my pleasure and my pain to do so, Jan.