This morning I’m totally delighted to have my friend Liz who blogs at Thrift and Vice and who is mean and sarcastic and butiful–in other words, the ideal modern woman. Enjoy!
Death Comes To All. In case you didn’t know.
by Liz Hull
First, thank you to Anne Kennedy, who bravely has allowed me to write a post for her prestigious blog this week. I am nobody and generally write for nobody, so this is quite exciting! Second, let me premise this by telling you that I am a nurse practitioner who works in geriatrics. Death is all around me. I have “lost” 3 patients since Thursday. I cannot escape it. So please bear with me…
You are going to die. Ok, now you know so we can move forward. I’m sorry, did you not know that? It does seem to be an epidemic these days. It seems that our modern medical system and lifestyles would have us believe otherwise. I can’t tell you the number of studies I’ve read which come to conclusions such as “if you take/don’t take/don’t do/do XYZ, your risk of death is reduced by X percent.” Well, last I checked, the risk of death was approximately 100% for anyone currently alive no matter what precautionary measures are taken. Apparently we just can’t face that undeniable fact.
There are a myriad of ways which one may try to cheat death. The most deplorable being the ingestion of kale. Ack. Another is medication. I see patients in their 90’s on statins. Truly, if you live into your 90’s you should be served a daily steak, bloody, with a glass of cabernet. None of this kale business and certainly not a statin to make your shrinking muscles ache. God have mercy.
I am generally not against medicine. I prescribe medication daily. I treat infections. I give vaccines. I relieve pain. I hydrate. I cannot, however, prevent death. Halt it temporarily, perhaps, but not prevent it. It comes to us all.
Many people are genuinely surprised to hear this. Families see mom or dad in the home every 6 months and are shocked that they may have declined. They come in to celebrate 80th, 90th and 100th birthdays yet expect no change in their loved one as if time were not passing and the inevitable would never happen. I can never look at my elders without contemplating death (one or both of ours) so it is always baffling when I come to the realization that a family may have never considered that their 95 year old grandmother who hasn’t gotten out of bed in a year may, at any moment in fact, die. No wonder we can’t even consider our own demise. We can’t even come to grips with death when it is staring us in the face!
Life is precious. From the unborn to the last breath of my 95 year old grandmother, God created each and every life and granted us each our days, minutes, seconds. What is the cost then, of not recognizing that those days, minutes and seconds are indeed finite in number and generally not all pleasant? This past week the Economist posted an article entitled “How to have a better death”, the premise being that most people say they want to die peacefully at home but a full 2/3 or more die in the hospital or nursing home at great cost to our medical system. Having worked in hospice I can attest to the fact that the average hospice stay is about 2 days. 2 days to admit we are dying. Not much time to settle things then.
My question is why? Why do we wait? Why do we refuse to acknowledge the truth? I hate death as much as the next guy. It robs us of a person (or our own life) that we love. It wasn’t meant to be this way. Blame Eve (I do. Frequently.). Blame Adam (we know how useful HE was in the matter). Blame yourself or whomever but it happens regardless. Death happens. We’d rather mournfully go for a jog or choke down a bowl of kale (or worse yet, kale “chips”) in an attempt to become immortal than face it. And in the face of excessive exercise, pills upon pills and kale, I can only come up with one answer: FEAR. Fear of death. Fear of the unknown. Fear of pain. Fear of oblivion. Yet, there is one quick and sure answer to all of our fears: Jesus. HE did all the jogging for us. He won the race. He sat down at the right hand of the father. HE HAS CONQUERED DEATH.
Jesus is waiting at the banquet table for us. He isn’t holding a blood pressure cuff or a scale. He isn’t reading your My Fitness Pal diary or checking the size label of your trousers. He is simply waiting to give us, freely, the only antidote to the pain of death and suffering. Waiting for us to stop putting our faith in the “cures” of this life, to face reality and turn to the truth. Waiting for us to stop resisting, to open our eyes and to reach out for the gift freely given. Sadly, many don’t. And for me, that is the hardest pill to swallow.
Nursing homes are ripe for harvest. I see my patients going to church services of multiple denominations during the week (the most frequent being meetings of members of the jehovah’s witness sect. HELP!) and sometimes bible studies. They are seeking. They want to know and deserve to know the truth. Still, many of our elders are being allowed to wait for death without benefit of hearing it. Please, please, please, if you have a local nursing home, a bible and a mouth that works, consider heading over and sharing the gospel. Before it’s too late. Thank you.