The source of this sobering topic centers around a current life situation where my husband & I have a dear loved one who is very close to death. Even though we know that death is inevitable for everyone, experiencing & feeling its presence has thrust us both into reflection.
When entering the hospital room to visit, a quiet sadness lurks. Machines that monitor & assess the body's ability to keep going are everywhere. I can't help but stare as the numbers increase & decrease. What they all mean, I'm not always sure but I do know there is a baseline & when it spikes or dips, that's not good.
As I quietly observe, it seems clear that the body I see, fighting through dis-ease, no longer houses the compassionate, kind, loving & energetic spirit that I so enjoyed listening to, seeing smile, holding his warm hand, & sharing a hug.
There are so many interpretations around why we die, what happens at the moment of death & what happens afterwards. Over the course of my life, I've certainly embraced a variety of beliefs around these very questions. As a baptist I was taught one thing, as a Jehovah's Witness I was taught another & I've certainly entertained my own thoughts distanced from any religious doctrine, not really drawing any conclusions (because I don't think any of of really know), just reflecting on what seems to make sense based on observation & experience.
I suppose after witnessing my dad die seven years ago, it seems that at some point, the spirit or energy force that resides in the physical body simply leaves when it is clear that the body is no longer fully capable of housing it. And, what we often see in the final days is only a physical shell; no personality, just a shell. The person we knew, loved & interacted with is no longer there. There are a variety of religious beliefs about this too!
There seems to be a distinct difference between being alive and living. It's so hard for us to discuss these things; everyone just gets quiet instead of openly & honestly sharing our feelings. I suppose it's the belief that if we do so, we have to admit that the same thing is going to happen to us & we just aren't ready to accept that reality quite yet.
I've not been in a position where I've really had to make any final decisions about a loved one's care. When my dad was terminally ill, it was my mom who made the final decisions. For us kids, it was a trying time, as we didn't always agree with her decisions about his care. With families in general, these seem to be times where there is a lot of conflict, which is actually pretty sad.
My dad had his mental faculties up until two weeks before he died & I thought he should have a say about what he wanted to do or not do with his body. As a result, there were lots of heated arguments between my mom & me, & my siblings during this time.
Being more aware, more at peace with who I am & a lot more comfortable & secure with my beliefs about life & the art of living, I know now that it wasn't my place to chime in. That was my dad, it was her husband & whether I agreed or not, it was my role to lovingly support, not judge. At the time, though, our egos were stomping & having tantrums all over the place; it was not pretty & very unfortunate.
I am a strong advocate for personal responsibility & each person having a say about his or her life. That includes how it is lived & not lived, what kind of care he or she wants in those last days & how he or she dies - if they want to be resuscitated, kept on machines or if they want things to take their natural course.
That is why it is very important for us to either have what we want in writing or engage in very honest & gentle conversations with our loved ones so if &/or when the time comes, the decision is clear, in case we cannot speak for ourselves.
Of course, there are cultural pressures to make certain decisions. There is also pressure from family members to make certain decisions, much of which is also based on cultural pressures. We've certainly heard of folks who have gone through the legal requirements to make their wishes known only to have family members totally disregard them & in the end do what they wanted. That seems sad to me.
Choice in life is one of the few things all of us always have, & it seems reasonable to expect that we have choice in death as well. However, for a variety of reasons, the living want to hold on & make choices that simply prolong the situation & ultimately, cause more suffering to the one who is dying & their loved ones. Another's death is not about us, it never has been & it never will be.
Being alive is not the same as living. Don't we each have the right to determine our quality of living? And, when we can't speak for ourselves, perhaps those of us looking on, entrusted with their care can ask, what would he or she want, instead of what do I want.
Point to Ponder: What is the difference
between being alive, living, & death?
Aspiring Sage, Creative Maven, Fancier of Books, Guardian of Student Experiences, Inner Explorer, Lover of Living & Learning, Partisan of Play, Princess of Joy, Purveyor of Possibility, Vibrational Recalibrator.