Monday, April 7, 2008

This Business of Living

I've been thinking about this topic for some time now. There have been a handful of recent losses in some of the blogs I read (like Julieanne's) and my deepest sympathies to those families. Loss, even for someone who was in decline, still takes a toll on the person and their loved ones. The issues that arise are very real, and very difficult emotionally to navigate, even for the strongest people.

My husband's grandmother passed away some years ago. She would go to Mass every day -to say she was very Roman Catholic is an understatement. Her faith was a pillar of her life. For three to five years before she died, she had become completely senile. She didn't recognize her own children and grandchildren. It was not Alzheimer's, in fact, but a series of small strokes.

At her funeral, the priest said that we don't get to decide when someone goes.

At the time, I didn't find that comforting. In fact, I was deeply suspicious of what he said. I thought it was some sort of Catholic propaganda against euthanasia.

Now, some years later, I'm not so sure. In fact, I think it was an incredibly wise statement.

Death is not convenient. And - it takes some young and vibrant from us - just as easily as not taking someone who is long past being able to contribute as they once were. People who can no longer care for themselves. People who can't recognize their own children and grandchildren. People who are in tremendous daily pain. And death takes those that never had a chance to see their grandchildren, great grandchildren. People where everyone is left questioning why such a tragedy could happen - why they were taken so young.

My mother in law says that death is not the worst thing in the world. And, the older I get, the more I see enormous truth in that statement. Whether or not you believe in an afterlife - there is some suffering that no one deserves. That no one wants to see.

But sometimes we don't get a choice.

This sounds arrogant, as if any of us knows when someone has declined. When it would be better or easier for them to be out of pain.

And I don't mean to be insensitive, these are some of the most difficult questions a person or family can face. These are not cut and dry questions or answers. What works from one family and person may be something totally different than for another family.

And there are so many types of illnesses, conditions, situations - maybe one family decides to try chemo. Another chooses not to. One family tries to keep a loved one at home, another chooses an assisted living facility. And both choices are okay given the situation.

I knew all this before my grandfather in law started to decline, of course, but it's very different when you watch it happening first hand.

I just now understand what the priest meant - these things are not convenient or easy.


Freckle Face Girl said...

I am sorry to hear about your grandfather. Watching someone suffer and decline is so tough.

Aerin said...

Thank you FFG for your kind thoughts. It's not easy.

Actually, this is my husband's grandfather. One of my grandpas (Mom's dad) passed away when I was very young. My other grandfather (and chansons') is in his late 80s. He too has many problems (health, etc.)- but he lives over 26 hours away.

My husband's grandfather lives around an hour away, so we're much closer to the situation.