Sting’s lyrics fromÂ “If you Love Someone, Set them Free’Â plays in my head as I awakened this morning.Â I am being challenged to set my sister free.Â Yesterday THE Conversation took place.Â The doctors stated, “We can make her comfortable.”
The sister I know is already gone even though her body is lying in a hospital bed.Â Technically she is still here,Â thanks to a ventilator.
It is our selfishness that insists the doctorsÂ “do whatever is possible” to keep her here in this realm.Â On the other hand, I want to dance my big sister into the next dimension.
After all, she has released us.Â I know this because she has left several times over the past two days. But they have shocked her heart back into a shallow rhythm with the defibrillator.Â Some of the people who loved her are holding vigil around her hospital bed until they can release her.
While understandable, this ritual is not humane.Â In the time that we’ve had toÂ acknowledge her impending end, we have spoken every platitude to explain the mystery of our coming and going in life to ourselves.
Holding on much too tightly
Every time someone dies we wrestleÂ with our own mortality.Â It’s like, “Oh-oh that was close.”Â We know our life will end at some point but we cannot conceive of our end except perhaps existentially. We hope we will not suffer. But we do not see ourselves curled into that fetal position.
At the same time our rational mind questions whether the death of the loved one could have been avoided if the person had eaten better, taken their medicine, exercised more or drank less.Â Death makes us ask whether we are doing our part to prolong our lives?
The real truth comes from the lines of Luciano, the Rasta Man’s song that, ” Just like the wind, we come and go.”
My sister could see and accept her end.Â She chose not to follow her oncologist’sÂ treatment recommendations until it was too late.Â I know this because she began to mend fences with our brothers, her children and friends in preparation for leaving.
She gave me instructions regarding her children. She was not sentimental and she did not complain.Â I found that she laughed a lot and she said thank you often.Â Breaking tradition with what has been family custom, she asked to be cremated.
I know she would not want her children or husband to fret as they work through the guilt of giving her permission to leave. Unfortunately she did not have an Advance Health Care Directive,Â so someone must say, “Do not revive her when she leaves again.”
What can we learn from this?
Many of us are hesitant to focus on end of life questions. Yet, communicating ourÂ medical wishes is the best gift we can give our loved ones. In life we learn how not to force our will upon others but to, more accurately, make our wishes known in a socially acceptable way.Â Hereâ€™s the one time when letting our loved ones know our wishes will be met with little resistance.
Think aboutÂ what types of treatments you are opposed to?Â Try to find out what your options are relative to in home careÂ or a nursing home. What are my options in Palliative Care, Pain Management or Hospice Care?
Talk to your physician to understand your end of life options.
Identify the people you want to make decisions on your behalf.
Complete your Advance Health Care Directive Form. Provisions may vary from state to state
Notify the person you’ve designated to carry out your wishes?
Advise your doctor, family, and close friends about your end-of-life preferences.
Keep a copy of your signed advance health care directive accessible and let someone know where it is.
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Image: Dr. Joseph Valks