I came across another of Rev. Jacob’s posts on Huffington Post revolving around end-of-life issues. She focuses on an article written a month ago which I already wrote about here. She uses the story to elicit from her readers the question of how we would want our own death to look like, assuming we don’t suddenly drop dead. She poses the following questions for us to contemplate:
What would you do were you in Dudley Clendinen’s situation? I am not asking you to judge what he has decided is right for him. I am asking you to consider what you would want were you to find yourself in Dudley’s situation. Would you want to die the way he describes his mother, cousin and his aunts did, “… all of whom would have died of natural causes years earlier if not for medical technology, well-meaning systems and loving, caring hands”? Or would you prefer what Dudley has decided? Or something else?
Also, thinking about the prospect of only having several months to live (although death could occur for any of us at any time — whether it be while walking down the street, eating a meal or sleeping), I wonder how many of us could do what Dudley is doing while he is dying — living one day at a time? For those of us who have not done a 12-step program, are we able to live today and focus only on this day? Can we appreciate what we have before us right now? “Consider the birds in the fields” (Matt 6:26) “Behold the lilies of the field” (Matt 6:28) — Can we just “be still, and know” (Ps 46:10) — Can we see the “goodness of the Lord in the land of the living?” (Ps 27:13)
What do you think that God expects of us as we live this life — and await our time to die? And, then, as Ecclesiastes reminds us, there is a time for everything … “A time to be born and a time to die …” (Eccl 3:1-2) We know that we will one day die. And, what do you think that God expects of us as we are dying?
From the standpoint of the questions she poses, I am left with one thought. There are times we, the healthy, look on the ill or the elderly and say, “I don’t want to end up this way. I would rather no aggressive interventions to prolong my life.” Yet, I would venture that for many of us, as we age, we will think somewhat differently when faced with the closeness of our own mortality. This is not to suggest a lack of belief in G-d or an afterlife, a subject unto themselves. It is rather to say that a part of what makes us who we are will never want to disappear. Our self is afraid of not existing. That is why contemplating death is a difficult spiritual practice. I think many are too quick to say I would rather not live if… On the flip side, for those who are suffering, realize that my critique is not about any of the trauma and challenge of chronic or life limiting illnesses. I am merely saying that it is easy for the young and healthy to prefer death over a partial life when it is a hypothetical decision as opposed to something that is current in his/her life.