Thursday, April 19, 2012

Echoes of mercy

Echoes of mercy by Damian Gadal
Echoes of mercy, a photo by Damian Gadal on Flickr.
He spake well who said that graves are the footprints of angels. 
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I'm not one who's big on causes.  I've seen too many of them get hijacked and corrupted.

That being said, events in my life, and in the lives of those that have meant much to me, have weighed heavily upon me.

As we get older, death becomes a bigger part of life.  That's a natural circumstance of aging.  Some folks sit each morning reading obituaries with their coffee and feel blessed for another day of living.

Ignored are the stories behind the obituaries.  The anguish and suffering that we force upon those we love.

This isn't something we'd normally do, but in the final stages of a person's life we do.  Why is that?  It's cultural, and selfish, and I believe we need to think about this as a society, and make some difficult decisions and change.

My uncle passed away this past year.  Just before Christmas.  It was difficult, to say the least, for the family.

He had a heart attack in July, but survived, and was recovering nicely.  But it turns out that a much more serious health issue had caused the heart problem.  Terminal cancer, but by the time the doctors realized this, it was too late.

There was really nothing that could be done.  My uncle decided he wanted to be home with his family for his remaining days.

Those days turned into weeks, lasting from just before Thanksgiving until the middle of December.  He basically starved to death.

The good part of it was that he got to spend some time with his family, and had some time to say goodbye.

He was a good and gracious man, who gave to me my love of music.  He played boogie-woogie piano which I just could never get enough of when I was a kid, and still can't.

He raised three daughters, and was a wonderful grandfather.

But the end was hard for the family.

He couldn't eat, and there was no Thanksgiving dinner as the smell of food in the house was too much for him.

My cousin shared precious moments of the last days with him, siting on the porch in the afternoon sun listening to the birds, and enjoying the quite as the breeze wrestled the leaves of the trees.

They'd sit quietly, and he'd comment "nice day" every once in a while.

Make no mistake he was suffering, and would ask "why is it taking so long?"... to die.

He passed in his sleep, and his suffering finally ended after weeks of being ravaged by cancer.

Looking back, it might have been better to have died from the heart attack.

His family didn't want him to suffer, but that was the only option they had.

A year or so prior to this, another person very dear to me was also suffering from the ravages of cancer.  In his case, he'd gone through very aggressive surgery, chemo and radiation treatments to no avail.  He was dying and the drugs weren't helping him with the pain.  He suffered greatly.

In the end, as his wife was talking with a hospice worker in the living room, he shot himself in the bedroom. They didn't connect the muffled sound from the other room at first.  Needless to say, it was a shock when they found him dead.  In his mind, that must have been his only option.

Another person that was also close to me also shot himself after suffering from a long illness.  He was was alone when he died, and wasn't found right away.

All of these people were good men.  Served their country, and communities.  They loved their families, and were loved.

I miss them.

All of this gets me to my point.  We can do better for those we love.

It's time we start to talk about Death With Dignity and do right by those we love.  We need to make a cultural shift.

Angels descending, bring from above,
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.  
~ Fanny J. Crosby

Post a Comment