resisting guilt

I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:14-15

Letting someone die comfortably seems like a reasonable choice.

It makes sense to stop spending money on treatments that leave a loved one weaker, especially when the evidence says the end is near. Her advance directive says no heroic measures are to be taken. Chemo and dialysis seem heroic at this point. It’s all very rationale.

It’s also very emotional. This is not an abstract concept. This is my mom.

My sister and I have both struggled with this. If we aren’t giving her medicines that keep her alive, are we killing her? Can we do more? Should we?

We believe God is the keeper of our days. We also believe we are our mother’s keeper. This is the tension that envelops us.

The struggle is complicated by exhaustion. We tell her it’s ok to go and sometimes wish she would hurry. We wonder how our choices affect the estate. We feel guilty for thinking about it. We are grateful for each new day. We wish the whole thing was over.

There is no poetry in this. There is no drama, only conflict without resolution and weariness without rest.

How much pain reliever should we give her? Is that so she can rest, or so that we can? How can we take care of her if we don’t take care of ourselves?

As Christians, we know death is not to be feared. But should it be resisted? How long and at what cost?

Although the Psalmist says “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints,” we have clung to life so long. We have treasured it and honored it. In the face of its demise, we are without defense. We have no answers. Only a question: what does grace and courage look like?

I know that mom is comfortable and loved. I know she would rather be in my living room than in a hospital bed. I know my wife and I and my sister and her family have cared for her for years, a sacrifice of service and a labor of love. I know I am a good son, and a faithful one.

I just don’t know what to do and when to stop. Except this:

What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?
I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
LORD, truly I am thy servant: I am thy servant
and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.
I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and will call upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116, KJV

3 thoughts on “resisting guilt”

  1. Just read all five wonderfully expressed blogs regarding your mom. A choked voice and a damp eye blended with smiles and laughter as we read and remembered. Laughter/joy amidst tears of determination/commitment is the fitting response to Joan’s life of spiritual insight, blended with compassion, grounded in absolute seriousness about the things of God, but always sprinkled with witty humor.
    Your mom is unique, and 110% sweetheart. She has prayed for us for years. Her intercession will be missed. I trust that God has a replacement. We are so thankful for the memory of lunch on Englewood beach last February.

  2. I appreciate so much what you share each time you post. This is no easy task, to watch someone you love slip away.

    Be prepared for extreme fatigue to hit after the fact, when the tension is released and you are suddenly like a deflated balloon.

    Praying for you now and then.

  3. Wallie, Katie and sons,
    You continue to be in my prayers during this now long ordeal. Your faith is shinning through your wondering and questions. Thank you for that. It is a beacon in our time of rationalism and quick solutions and gives us all hope that our own questions and doubts maybe aren’t so ridiculous after all. Maybe this is what it means to be human. Please do take very good care of yourselves and each other in the midst of it!! We need you to do that. What a mystery we are living out. Love, Beth

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