Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A question

Here's a question that I would really like an answer for...why, in America, when our most sick and dying are at the obvious stage of dying, the no-turning-back-this-is-the-end stage, do we allow them to be sequestered off into the Intensive Care Unit? If there is hope, or it is a recovery stage, then of course the dedicated nurses and doctors of ICU have a huge purpose. But if death is around the literal corner, why would we keep the ones most loved and loving away, relagating them to visitor hours? Why couldn't there be a sort of hospice like wing of the dying section that would let any and all be around, to touch and caress and talk to the one who is on the absolute new journey road? Is it that we as a culture deny the reality of the passage into death? That if we say ICU we can pretend that a miracle will happen (and they DO!, I know that, but they could happen without being in ICU) and thus ignore death's shadow? What other culture in the world separates the dying from those who most need to be with them? I find it bizarre. Again.

Which is why I and most I know opt for a little more suffering and a little less intervention when that time comes, if we get the choice. Take the gold dust filter off of death and be reminded that some of the things in life just aren't pretty. We urinate, we defecate, we pass gas, we throw up, we burp. Funny that all body expulsions are the subject of words we use to curse in...."He pissed me off" "What a load of shit" "That would make me puke (or any of the 87 words of college frat boys for vomiting)" I don't have an Aesopean moral point here...just some pondering after watching and being involved with the death of people I love over a lifetime of too much of it. Too bad I don't really like much about the profession; I would have been a great doctor or nurse if the sight of big needles didn't make me weak in the knees. But you know those guys, big and burly, who would urp at the suggestion of changing a baby's diaper until it was their own baby? I think hospitals should provide that in America...let us, with trained and proper help, change our *babies* diapers...after the first few, it becomes a chore of love. Really. Still a chore, still the smells, but with something that humbles you to your knees in gladness for the opportunity to help someone you love. Weird, but hey, love is nothing but weird, nu?

I could cite a lot of references here about how different cultures deal with dying and death. But I won't. If you're interested there are some very fascinating studies and papers on the issue. Really, I'm just out loud thinking about how strange some of the *civilized* world's mores work (or don't). The whole idea of keeping death in this sterile little box makes it impossible to know the high beauty that can be involved in staying close to the loved one who is dying. But maybe that is part of our make anything that is uncomfortable stop immediately culture. Yes, it's horribly painful to watch a loved one decline to a point of no return. But it also allows every emotion to evolve in a way that allows it to be dealt with if one chooses, rather than ignored in some anteseptic manner of denial.

And yes...it's been a beautiful day. Ever more appreciated because I am alive while someone I love is dying; I suck it in and breathe it in and out for both of us. There but for the grace of whoever we put in charge of turning left instead of right go I...oh...and you.


  1. thanks MJ....as usual your words leave nothing to be added....and i'm sending love, healing white light, and hugs in many directions this morning, including you...and will be praying for and thinking of GB with every breath i take today...

  2. MJ, so many times have I felt what you have eloquently related, here. There should be an hospice option for your dear one, but it must be authoprized by next of kin. Perhaps the positive takeaway here is that we all should get motivated and execute advanced directives regarding the ends of our lives. This spares our families from making poor decisions in times of stress and sorrow.

  3. Yes. For change, people must do something. Those in the position for change cannot respond to nothing. And correct. While one is in the most draining of sorrows, active protest is not foremost in the heart or head and by the time one recoups from the sorrow, it is easier to say...never mind. Which leaves it to those who have distance from the death of loved ones but the continued pain of what hospitals do - not intentionally, but as they exist in present form.

    La la. So we talk about it or we do something. What is your choice?