Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Blog in my Head (and other things)

I do. I blog in my head...in the shower, at the stove, in the car, in bed, and yes, even at Mass. I think lots of profound, or funny, or interesting things...at least I think I do. I just seldom get them "on paper". I am not one of those writers with boxes filled with old journals. I don't have to write on a regular basis to be sane.  (Okay, maybe I do...I just don't get the urge to write all the time like other writers I read.) But, I have always been a thinker...a ponderer.

Way back in the single days, I was an elementary school teacher and summer vacation meant lots of time alone. My roommates worked "real" jobs and I spent a good portion of the summer doing nothing. I think I was just waiting for a fun vacation to happen. Anyway, I would greet my roommates just home from work with phrases like "You know, I was thinking today about feminism" or "about truth" or "about that article I told you about yesterday." And I can remember one roommate saying things like "You think WAY TOO MUCH. Relax!"

So, now that blogs exist, instead of thinking, I blog in my head. Maybe when life gets a little smoother I will actually write too!

[right here is where I would be putting pictures if I could get some recent ones of of my camera but since I dropped the camera--which didn't break the camera but seemed to break the cord that connects it to my computer--I can't get the recent ones off of it so instead I am putting an older one from way back in early August when we first arrived back home in Southern California]

Two Cousins Freezing At the Beach

And speaking of life being less than smooth...that is my other excuse. We are FINALLY moved in and still going through the process of organizing and tweaking and fixing little things that crop up (like how my "continuous hot water" gives up in the middle of my shower or how the lights in the kids room keep going off). This week promises another long list of time windows in which certain people are meant to show up and fix certain things.

And then there is the homeschooling part of life. I am not whining....because I am so excited about my new school room that I am frustrated waiting for it! So not whining...right? Anyway, we are putting built in bookcases/cabinets and desks in our "library" (a room off of our family room) and that won't be done till mid October. So my books/supplies etc. remain in boxes and closets. And I just can't get my mind around what needs to be done, let alone starting school. So we are still on summer vacation (don't tell anyone!).

All that being said, life is good. No wait....life is great! We are so blessed. We have a beautiful house, three healthy children and Jim has a job. As usual, we don't deserve our blessings but we will take them willingly, and pray that we can accept the crosses just as easily.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Fight or Die?

I ran across this article at one of my regular blog-stops, Building Cathedrals. It discussed the realities of aggressive medical interventions at the end of life, from a nurses point of view. She wanted to make the point that sometimes palliative care or hospice care is the best choice. Sometimes, of course, hospice may be the right answer; and sometimes, when people are so intent on fighting a disease, when they go into battle mode (an attitude toward illness that is always considered virtuous in our culture) then the patient can become the battlefield. Red, at Building Cathedrals makes the point that our culture fears death so much that we run the risk of relying too heavily on institutions and interventions. In this way the patient misses the chance to face death and accept it.

Death is not pretty, and doesn't look dignified. But, with faith, it can be beautiful. My father died in January of this year. I couldn't be there, but the rest of his children and my mom were there, and I witnessed his death through their eyes and ears. It was tough, but he faced it. He knew it was coming and accepted the consequences as well as one can when only semi-conscience. Months earlier he was under the care of hospice, but they had a hard time keeping up with him. Between running errands, painting the house and "hitting a few golf balls", he struggled to keep appointments with the hospice nurses. My initial fears when Dad left his regular doctor's care and went under hospice care was that he would give up. I worried he would stop fighting, and then stop living his life. And he did stop fighting, in fact he turned down experimental treatments because they required him to come off of his pain meds and he knew the medication was helping to keep him active.

He stopped fighting the cancer, and he chose to live the rest of his life as best he could, preparing for his death practically and spiritually. He wasn't in battle mode. He was in acceptance mode: though not without fear and uncertainty, he was joyful and he was Dad...taking care of things as he always did.

The article really made me think through those last days that my Dad had, my initial fears about what Laura Ingraham calls the "hospice shute", and the general fear of death and dying that we have as a culture. The nurse in the article seemed to want doctors to lean more towards palliative care and less towards aggressive treatments. I understand her concern, but I am not sure I want doctors being the ones to decide when it is time to stop fighting. It is not their responsibility to decide when to get out of battle mode. It is their job to be honest, and realistic with their patients; to not give false hope; to make sure basic needs are taken care of (such as food, hydration, pain relief); and then to proceed with the treatment, or lack of treatment that the patient desires. The patient then is limited only by his resources....which becomes the real difficult issue, doesn't it?

We have a hard time with the idea that a person might not get to have the most cutting edge, aggressive treatment because they simply can't afford to pay for it. We want everyone to be saved from cancer. While that is a generous sentiment, it ceases to be virtuous when we then expect government to pick up the bill. Government can only provide equal care to all by taking money from those who have it and redistributing it to those who don't have enough. This necessarily puts "health care professionals" in charge of who gets to keeping fighting and who must give up the battle.

We may have a culture that fears death too much, that doesn't allow people to die "with dignity" (whatever that means), but...at least until Obama care kicks in... it is our individual right to make that decision, mistake or not. I, frankly, prefer it that way.