September 25, 2009 – A Prayer for Those at the End of Life
Dear Family and Friends,
Please take a moment to pray with us.
I met with the men in my prayer group today. One of my friends asked for prayers for a colleague of his whose 20 year old son had committed suicide. It always seems like a waste when a young person dies. We lose the hope of their future, and all of the things they might have accomplished, the family they would have had, the contributions that would have been made. It’s the loss that continues on over time. I’m not how, but that lead into a discussion about end-of-life issues. Where this young man’s life ended too soon, it seemed that for the extremely aged, modern medicine has prolonged life without their being much quality retained in it. For many of the aged, their last days are spent in nursing homes that are understaffed, and the resident is lonely. I remember my father, who had been healthy, vital, and independent through 86 years. A lifetime of smoking caught up with him, and he suffered the effects of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Basically the air sacs in his lungs had become nonfunctional and his lungs could not perform their function of transferring oxygen to his blood. His life was prolonged by multiple medications that seemed to work in opposition to one another. It was a difficult balance to maintain. His inability to breathe easily forced him into a wheelchair so that he did not overtax the limited functioning of his lungs. He was tethered to a concentrator, a machine that pushed oxygen into his lungs at a specific number of liters per hour. He became homebound until the time came that my sisters and I could not physically provide him the care that he required. That forced the decision to be made about assisted living. He first moved into a hospice facility. Although it was a beautiful building, it seemed like it was a place where people were waiting to die. There was little interaction among residents, who mostly stayed in their rooms. After a month, Dad had to get out of there. He was transferred to a nursing home where he was able to interact with many of the residents of his floor and wing. He was even King of the “Senior” Prom, dressed up in a tux and wearing a crown. Still, it’s hard to know if his life should have been allowed to let “nature take its course” or to prolong life as long as the science of medicine could eke out more days, despite a decline in quality of life, independence, and freedom.
Thoughts of my mother, and memories of her, surfaced. My mother was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. While the person’s mind remains intact, he/she loses all muscular control. My mom was at a stage where she had lost the ability to use her fine-motor skills. She couldn’t feed herself. My dad became her caretaker, learning to fix her hair, apply her makeup, feed her and bathe her. She was 74 years old when she contracted pneumonia. As a family we chose not to use extraordinary measures to fight the pneumonia. In accord with her living will, she lost the battle with pneumonia. She may have survived that instance, yet it was hard to imagine preserving her life so that she could lose all of her motor abilities, and be placed on a ventilator.
A Prayer for Those at the End of Life
O Lord of the Universe,
We struggle with questions
Of life and death.
When is a life cut too short?
When is a life
Extended beyond natural limits?
How do we decide
When we have done too much
To sustain the ability of one
To continue breathing without the possibility
Of partaking in the wonders of Your creation?
Help all families
Whose loved ones
Have come to the crossroads,
To live a shorter time,
Seizing every last ounce of life
Out of the days given to us,
Or postponing death
Through the “miracle of modern medicine”.
Help families to learn to let go
Of their loved ones
Whose organs continue to function,
But whose life force has slipped away.
Thank You Father
For the gift of this earthly life,
And with its ending,
For the gift of eternal life with You.
In Jesus’ name.