Am I Living While I’m Alive?

terminal-care-book-coverRecently I watched a film entitled “How To Die In Oregon” about legalized “physician-assisted suicide.”  However the phrase “physician-assisted suicide” is misleading in that the physician is not at the bedside injecting something to end one’s life.  The physician prescribes Nembutal or Seconal which taken in large quantity quickly and painlessly puts the person into a coma and then death.  What was evident in the film is that those choosing this option do so because it’s clear their end is near and they simply cannot take any more pain.  What I found myself thinking (to my shock) while watching was how similar this approach is to that taken by the early Christian martyrs who embraced certain death rather than deny their faith in Jesus Christ!  The core issue which is common to both situations is forgoing the steps to prolong life.

I have a parishioner in our Church who has an End-of-Life document in his folder which states: icu-tubes-patient-smaller”If my condition is terminal or I am in a persistent vegetative state or other condition of permanent unconsciousness, and could result in death within a reasonably short time, I direct that nutrition and hydration not be provided through any medically indicated means, including medically or surgically implanted tubes.”  I deal with ethical issues all of the time and find that the problem that people have is when a general theory needs to be applied to a specific situation.  In such times it helps to refrain from engaging in emotional slogans which tend to be both general and absolutistFor the person dealing with their end of life the issues are no longer general nor abstract but specific in relation to their painfulness.

CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGEThe lesson of this film was the reminder to me that I must live my life as fully as possible because the body which carries my spirit around one day will give out!  We needn’t wait until physical death in order to know peacefulness!  Forgive people their offenses and let go of stewing in feeling hurt so that our days can be peace-filled.  Learn to focus on what is good in the day and stop making ourselves miserable by continuing to chant about how terrible the traffic is, how miserable our boss makes us feel, how pissed off we are that so-and-so did not answer our email/phone call/ letter! Above all we need to learn to be grateful!  If we wake up tomorrow then we have one more day to try and become a better person!  The End will come soon enough!  For today learn to live!  The question for each of us to ask ourselves is, “Am I living while I’m alive?”

I’d be interested to know what you think about this!

Kahuna-pule Kimo

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4 Responses to Am I Living While I’m Alive?

  1. ilerlily says:

    I was a Hospice Nurse, and prior to that an Oncology (cancer) nurse. Obviously, this subject is close to my heart because it was something I dealt with everyday. The choice to end one’s days without food or water follows a natural course–the human organism simply reaches a natural stage in which it is simply no longer able to take nutrition in, and without the possibility for IMPROVEMENT, then improvement is possible only through the direct intervention of God. Therein is the difference between your parishioner’s choice for end of life and the choice of “physician assisted suicide.” Just to be clear, a death is less painful for a terminally ill patient when the food and hydration are withheld when it is no longer possible for the patient to physically eat or drink. There are many reasons for this, scientifically, but it is important to remember that this is part of the natural process of the Creator– a final fast, so to speak.

    I believe I have seen the intervention of God during those final days for many of my patients as He makes the transition from the earthy form to the eternal. It is meaningful, loving, and tragically beautiful to witness the peace, the serenity that settles on the face. At times, I have witnessed as He shoves Death away from the immediate future. I have had many patients that rallied from their chosen state of no food or water (and without any changes in the medical treatment, and without any identifiable reason), return to a state of actively living for weeks, months, and in several cases–YEARS. Medicine cannot explain how this happens, or why, and medicine cannot explain there always was a reason to keep on living for just a little while longer. There was always a reason for God’s gift…for one lady, it was as simple as being able to see the face of a stranger’s baby. She cherished that, and it gave her joy…so we cannot know or judge the tools God uses to bless the human heart.

    Physician assisted suicide takes God out of the equation, whereas the end of life choices leave the outcome up to God. Holding a hand at the bedside of the dying person, one can feel when the transition from anxiety to peace has occurred, both for the patient and the family. Don’t deprive yourself of that final beauty and Grace…

    Take the advice Kahuna-pule Kimo offers us here, and live while you are alive.

  2. Lanny Cook says:

    I have seen death many times. It can come sudden with out pain or prolonged with great suffering. The most tragic is the taking of ones own life. The suffering it inflicts is on the one that knew the victim will last forever. In one case, it was my Uncle. One that I loved dearly.
    Reading this article brought back the tragic event. It also had me see my Uncle’s suffering through the 32 years of his life. I light a candle for his soul and pray that he is in God’s light now.

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