View from the Ridge
Moving on: Part II
The last time I wrote was back in February when we were moving my dad into a retirement home and had commented on the transition that “Ours have been surprisingly tranquil by comparison.” Well, Folks, here’s the rest of the story!
Ecc 3:1-2 Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses. He sets the time for birth and the time for death (GNB)
Dad had been in his new digs for two weeks, all was going well, he was eating better than the last few months when he was on his own, was meeting some new people, and my sister had found a new doctor that she and my dad both liked. The doctor saw some glaring errors in the medications he was taking, made those adjustments and increased his thyroid medication. Dad appeared to be doing well, was adjusting to all the new changes and Jeri and I decided that it was time to move on to Arizona for a few weeks before heading back to Oregon.
That lasted all of about ten days when my sister called and said that Dad had decided he was tired of living and was not eating. We had paid in advance for our RV spot and had a few days left, so when that ran out we headed back to California. When we arrived, Dad was still getting up during the day but not leaving the room, nor eating. Within a few days, he chose not to get out of bed and was only taking a few sips of water each day.
Exo 20:12 Honor your father and mother so that you'll live a long time in the land that GOD, your God, is giving you. (MSG)
So we were faced with a 92 year¬-old father who had some congestive heart disease, some pain in his lower legs due to poor circulation, and general overall weakness due to age. His doctor had told him that for a 16 year-old he was in pretty bad shape, but for being 92, he was in good condition. Dad asked him, with the changes in his medication, if he was going to get better and the doctor replied “Probably not”. So we think that precipitated Dad’s decision to just quit living. He was tired of it all, was tired of not being able to do the things he was able to do just 6 months ago and was not looking forward to things getting worse.
My sister and I were now faced with do we try and talk him out of this decision or do we honor his choice and make his final days as comfortable as we can. We decided that since he was as sharp and clear-minded as always, he was perfectly able to make that choice. Besides, we knew from past history when he made up his mind to do something, it was a waste of time to try and change it. He could be a pretty stubborn old coot.
The following three weeks were not fun – for him or us. And that is the purpose of this story: To warn any of you who might want to consider taking the same path to really, really research the process of starving oneself to death before making that decision because it will not be easy or painless. Hospice was involved and had the doctor’s clearance to administer morphine to control pain.
During this time I came to the conclusion that my dad was basically committing suicide. Scripture is cursorily silent on the issue, but is very clear on how we are to treasure and enjoy life to the fullest. God built into us a very strong survival mode that causes most of us to fight through injuries, debilitating illness, cancer, you name it, fighting to stay alive when death could relieve all of that and allow those who know Him to be in Heaven and at peace. And yet here was a man that had never given up on anything in his life deciding to take control of the situation and choosing to end it all on his terms. Or did he??
When Job was having his discourse with God he stated in Job 14:5 Mortals have a limited life span. You've already decided how long we'll live-- you set the boundary and no one can cross it.(MSG) Our time on this earth was determined before the foundations were laid and our arrival and departure dates were already set before time began. Because God is in control, nothing happens that surprises Him. Therefore, the only thing Dad controlled was the amount of suffering he endured leading up to the time of his death. I believe he could have chosen to eat, drink and be merry during those last three weeks and he would have still died on April 4th between 8 and 8:30 pm sitting in his recliner watching TV or reading his newspaper. The difference would have been three weeks less of pain from starvation and dehydration. And the family would not have had to endure watching him go through that ordeal. That is the part of free choice God gives us.
We cannot choose when we are going to die. But the choices we make during our lives affect the quality of our life. I have seen people that have smoked and drank their bodies into wrecks that should have died long before they did, but the quality of their lives was poor because of the numerous health issues caused by these vices. I have seen people who abstained from those vices, ate healthy, exercised religiously, taken vitamin and mineral supplements by the bucket, and still died young. But the quality of their life was good.
My dad never ran or jogged a mile as exercise in his life. He played golf into his late 70’s walking and carry his clubs, but after that the farthest he walked was to the mail box. He had a happy hour every day drinking one martini or a shot of whiskey or a beer. Just one or the other. He ate balanced and nutritious meals that he fixed himself for the 36 years since my mom died. He chose to live alone and he apparently enjoyed the quality of his life. The quality of his life was good for 90 of his 92 years until the ravages of age finally caught up with him.
I, on the other hand, have exercised, jogged, worked hard on the farm and played golf religiously, go to church, eat reasonably well, walk when I can, and yet have had to fight cancer twice in the last five years. Sooooooo, is having a drink each day ---- nope, can’t get past the taste.
Bottom line in all of this is that we need to make wise choices in everything we do because it not only affects us but also those around us, our family and friends. Most of the time it is not about us, but them.