We’ve all been living a kind of half life recently in my family. For the last few days, we’ve been waiting for a member of the family to die. What the nurses thought would be minutes or hours has turned into days.
There is no hope of a cure.
This isn’t life, and it wasn’t one before that.
Life is more than being alive. It is about being independent and about giving back. It is about being generous with your time and your talents. It is about having enough to keep yourself going and more to help others with.
Whether you are old and on your death bed, or you are in the prime of your life, the same rules apply.
I think about the story I read in “All Creatures Great and Small” about the vet who went to put down a farm dog. He’d gotten very sick and was suffering. He’d reached the end of his usefulness. The vet gave him the medicine, and after a day, he wasn’t dead. He was recovered. He needed some time to sleep deeply, and then he pulled through and was his old self again. He was back on the farm, working, in a matter of days.
I think about the person I knew in high school who was miserable and tried to kill himself. He didn’t succeed. He ended up damaging himself just enough that he had to be put into a nursing home. He never was able to take care of himself again. He required constant care. His bad situation got worse.
I think about a lady I know who is pregnant. Her belly is so big it looks like she is carrying a one year old. She should have given birth weeks ago. She’s tried everything to get the process started.
I think about the story I read in “Spiritual Midwifery” about a lady who was having a hard time giving birth. The midwives asked her if there was anything she was worried about, anything that might be preventing the baby from coming. The mother was worried about the father being a good provider. After they had a talk about it, she relaxed and opened up and the baby came. It needed to know it had a safe place to come to.
Why am I talking about birth while I am talking about death? Because they are the same in many ways. They are a transition, and they can’t be hurried. Well, you can give medicine to speed up contractions, and you can do a C-section. But generally, those happen once the labor process has already started, and that you have to wait for.
We’ve all put our lives on pause recently, some of us more than others. It has been a sort of negative holiday. Clothes aren’t being washed. Dishes aren’t being done, cooking happens in spurts. Meals are on the go. Naps take precedence over actual sleeping. Trips away from the house are short, and the phone is always on.
With a baby not coming, with a family member not dying, it is all a huge wait. It is delaying the inevitable. Waiting until the time is right just makes it harder on everybody else.
Maybe it isn’t about her, but about us. Maybe we aren’t ready for it. You never are, really. It is going to be a big mess to undo all of this once she dies. But her delaying it isn’t going to make it easier. If she somehow makes it out of the hospital, she can’t live on her own. She’s proven that in the past few months. There is only so much money to pay for caregivers. There is only so much time that can be taken away from work before they start to think about firing you.
It is selfish of her to hang on.
This sounds very mean and heartless.
In the past few days I’ve really been angry with her for not accepting that she is dying, for not accepting “what is”. Meanwhile, I’ve not been accepting “what is” – because “what is” is what is happening right now. This in between state, this flux, this not going on to the next step, is what is.
Do I want her to die for her sake, or for ours? Maybe a little of both.