I have talked here about my friend whose husband is in excruciating pain. Pain medicines only give momentary relief. The pain is unremitting. Diagnosis has been difficult and we now know it is from a back fracture and a pinched nerve in the back. The question becomes what to do?
As we grow older the answers to medical issues becomes more complex. Can the person withstand the surgery? Will it solve the problem? If not what now? We tend to forget that not everything can be fixed to our satisfaction.
Life’s problems cannot always be solved the way we want. This is a hard thing to learn. My husband has always said “every problem has a solution but it may not be the one we know or want”. I am sure that we all know people who live with chronic health problems or who are disabled. Sometimes we don’t even see it. How often do we disregard the person who seems “less than” for whatever reason. We walk by and think “Oh too bad” and just keep going.
The same thing can be said about the treatment of those of us with emotional issues. Most people don’t understand and either don’t want to do the work to get it or just keep going.
Admittedly, it is easier to understand something that we have experienced ourselves. That’s why support groups with fellow travelers help. But all of us have been at fault. I can get the emotional issues but do not understand the breadth of some physical problems even with my medical training. I have a friend who has cared for her son with cerebral palsy since his birth some 50 odd years ago. She has ignored her own wants to support him and enrich his life. He has a brilliant mind but has to use a computer to communicate. Do any of us really understand the life of either her or her son? I don’t think so.
We need to strive for the kind of compassion and love that is shown in the life of Christ. We need to take time to listen and do our best to be a companion on the way not just a voyeur. If everyone could do this so many lives would be enriched.
Strive to live with compassion and love!
After posting the blog yesterday I have been thinking about death. None of wants to die. It is the unknown and we don’t like the unknown. So far as I know no one (except Jesus–if you are Christian) has ever come back from the dead and no one has told us what is there. Most Christians believe in a heaven although I don’t know if anyone has ever defined it. Some religions think of the afterlife as becoming part of God/cosmos/whatever. Some believe that we are reincarnated and come back as other people. Some of my friends want to come back as one of my husband’s dogs—he spoils them terribly. The point is none of us really knows the answer.
I have seen things worse than death. Some medical problems are so awful that death would be preferable. I think that is obvious since some states allow euthanasia. I am not going to get into the moral issues with that. I just want us to realize that sometimes death is a friend. And really, even though I fear illness I am not sure that I fear death. After all either there is something or there is nothing.
As a nurse I have been with people when they died and I never saw anything except a peaceful death. It’s getting to that point that we fight against it and do our best to ignore and avoid it but when death comes most people are peaceful.
In our culture we try to push death away. We go to the funeral home and look at a body that has been preserved and people say “doesn’t sh/he look wonderful?” I am glad that many people opt for cremation and my best friend’s daughter asked for her ashes to be planted with a young tree. She wanted to be at the root of new life.
I know this has seemed like a morbid subject and I hope you can see beyond that. I am including one of my favorite poems by black poet and preacher James Weldon Johnson. If you have never read his poetry (and sermons in verse) you are missing out.
Go Down, Death
(A Funeral Sermon)
Weep not, weep not,
She is not dead;
She’s resting in the bosom of Jesus.
Heart-broken husband--weep no more;
Grief-stricken son--weep no more;
Left-lonesome daughter --weep no more;
She only just gone home.
Day before yesterday morning,
God was looking down from his great, high heaven,
Looking down on all his children,
And his eye fell on Sister Caroline,
Tossing on her bed of pain.
And God’s big heart was touched with pity,
With the everlasting pity.
And God sat back on his throne,
And he commanded that tall, bright angel standing at his right hand:
Call me Death!
And that tall, bright angel cried in a voice
That broke like a clap of thunder:
Call Death!--Call Death!
And the echo sounded down the streets of heaven
Till it reached away back to that shadowy place,
Where Death waits with his pale, white horses.
And Death heard the summons,
And he leaped on his fastest horse,
Pale as a sheet in the moonlight.
Up the golden street Death galloped,
And the hooves of his horses struck fire from the gold,
But they didn’t make no sound.
Up Death rode to the Great White Throne,
And waited for God’s command.
And God said: Go down, Death, go down,
Go down to Savannah, Georgia,
Down in Yamacraw,
And find Sister Caroline.
She’s borne the burden and heat of the day,
She’s labored long in my vineyard,
And she’s tired--
Go down, Death, and bring her to me.
And Death didn’t say a word,
But he loosed the reins on his pale, white horse,
And he clamped the spurs to his bloodless sides,
And out and down he rode,
Through heaven’s pearly gates,
Past suns and moons and stars;
on Death rode,
Leaving the lightning’s flash behind;
Straight down he came.
While we were watching round her bed,
She turned her eyes and looked away,
She saw what we couldn’t see;
She saw Old Death. She saw Old Death
Coming like a falling star.
But Death didn’t frighten Sister Caroline;
He looked to her like a welcome friend.
And she whispered to us: I’m going home,
And she smiled and closed her eyes.
And Death took her up like a baby,
And she lay in his icy arms,
But she didn’t feel no chill.
And death began to ride again--
Up beyond the evening star,
Into the glittering light of glory,
On to the Great White Throne.
And there he laid Sister Caroline
On the loving breast of Jesus.
And Jesus took his own hand and wiped away her tears,
And he smoothed the furrows from her face,
And the angels sang a little song,
And Jesus rocked her in his arms,
And kept a-saying: Take your rest,
Take your rest.
Weep not--weep not,
She is not dead;
She’s resting in the bosom of Jesus.
From God’s Trombones by James Weldon Johnson. Copyright © 1927 The Viking Press, Inc., renewed 1955 by Grace Nail Johnson.
I want this read at my funeral.
Sometimes things don’t go the way you planned. Today has been that way. My foot is still swollen but not bad. I planned to stay off it but it didn’t happen that way. Instead I spent part of the day with a friend who’s trying to get her husband admitted to the hospital. The medical system is really broken. Trying to get something done is almost impossible.
It is hard that when illnesses hits you and you have to fight to get help. We are aware that this is true for mental illness but now it seems it is also true for other ills.
Life can be frustrating. Sometimes we just have to take a deep breath and keep going.
Accessing medicine in the USA has become a nightmare. The questions arises “who is in charge?” There are regulations set out by the government. The insurance companies decide what is allowed. Some people have no access because of cost. Instead of getting better the whole system has turned into a monster.
Doctors offices are busy and usually understaffed. Trying to get a question answered is practically impossible. Individuals are lucky if they see the same physician each visit. I have recently gotten in the car and driven to an office to get a response. This is not unusual. People who have little medical knowledge are lost in a maze that has no way out. There is little communication between doctors and patients can be prescribed medications that can’t be taken with other meds they are on. If they are lucky it is caught by the pharmacy.
Doctors are so specialized that they can’t see the whole patient even if they wanted to. Many of them are having to work under a hospital system with requirements that have nothing to do with patient care. The doctor may not be able to order a test the patient needs due to constraints of cost and insurance strictures.
Today we have the most sophisticated medical information and treatment that the world has ever seen but something has to be done about the systems that control patient care. The complexity is mind boggling and impossible to understand.
We have been brought to this place where so many illnesses can be cured but frustrated by the systems that have a stranglehold on care.
I love my dogs. I grew up with dogs and so have had them in my home for 77 years. I don’t think that I would know how to live without them. If anyone gets to heaven it is dogs first.
For years we had Dachshunds but several years ago when we had lost one dog my son arrived at the door with at Basset a friend of his couldn’t keep. We are such suckers. If a dog comes into the house it almost never goes out. When our second dachshund crossed the rainbow bridge we adopted a second basset as companion for the first.
These two are so funny. We laugh at their antics daily. They are good dogs with some quirky habits. If we leave them at home the towels are pulled from the bathroom racks when we come back. Sometimes the towels appear in the bedroom. Never damaged…just moved. There are so many toys under the piano in a bin that it is overflowing. I put them back and very quickly, with much rummaging, specific ones are retrieved and distributed around the house.
If one dog is outside and sees something to share (bark at) he/she comes in to alert the other dog to come and join in.
I could go on but you get the idea. Dogs are a gift. They are being used in so many ways to help us humans with our problems and disabilities. Their ability to hone skills that we thought were impossible seems endless. Service dogs are used to sniff out diseases, help persons with PTSD, anxiety and depression, autism and many other things.
We need to thank God for the gift of dogs and other pets who enrich our lives.
The past few weeks have tested my ability to not lose my temper. It seems that everything that I have tackled has been complicated to deal with. Nothing has been easy. None of this has been life threatening but just plain aggravating. The world is getting so complicated that there is no easy.
I mentioned before about dealing with medical issues and that process has become so complicated that I am not sure that there is anyone who understands how it works. Doctor’s offices have now contracted out to someone filing the necessary paperwork to deal with issues that need preapproval or precertification. One more step to confuse things and send them out into the universe to disappear. I really feel sorry for the average person trying to parse the system.
Also today we took my granddog to the vet and he has lymphoma. That is a terrible diagnosis in humans and worse in dogs. Bottom line he may live a month at the most and will be sent to the rainbow bridge if he is in pain. For any of you who have pets and love them like we do this is losing a member of the family. I really think our pets keep us sane. It is so wonderful to come home to a house where someone is so glad that you are there. My dogs are my “blankies.” My favorite writer says blankies are an icon for God.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Dogs have all of those!
Yesterday I read and article that came out of NPR. It said that researchers in California found anxiety cells in mice. The quote from the article says: The finding, reported Wednesday in the journal Neuron,could eventually lead to better treatments for anxiety disorders, which affect nearly 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.
This is wonderful news for you young people who are fighting with this. I hope that your generation will have an answer about help for anxiety and depression which are linked. It also shows that any of us that have these disorders in any way are only 1 out of five! Did any of us ever realize that it is that prevalent?
We are not alone. And for all we know the odds may be even higher since so much mental health issues are unreported. This is not good news for humanity. Has anxiety been this large and issue forever? Are we just beginning recognize it or is it increasing?
While the neuroscientists continue to learn the psychologists and others need to discover why this is happening. It is one thing to know that it is there it is another to find out how to prevent it.
There is hope one the horizon. Research is moving forward just as it is on other problems such as cancer. Maybe someday the only thing we will have to fight is other humans….unless we can learn to live together and love each other.