Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Last Sunday my 91-year-old grandmother fell down and could not get up. She tried calling out for help but could not find her voice. I was the one who found her sprawled out on the floor at ten a.m. She reported that it had been dark outside when she fell. She spent the night terrified because none of us knew she had fallen, none of us knew she may have been hurt. Fortunately, she was not hurt, no stroke, no heart attack and no broken bones. Unfortunately, it was very traumatic emotionally and as she lay there, her body stiffening and cramping from remaining in the same position hour after hour, she did not know herself that she was, from a medical standpoint, fine.
It is now Friday morning and we have been in the hospital ever since we found her. She was so tired and so frightened those first few hours in the emergency room, that she reported that she thought she was dying. Of course, being a Christian myself, I was texting and calling friends and family as the paramedics worked in order to get the prayers flowing as quickly as possible. We did not yet know that she would be deemed “Okay.” We only knew that she was too terrified to talk and we were very concerned with what we were witnessing. When it was determined she was physically out of harm’s way, she was moved upstairs to a constant care room. There were three other women in the room, surgical patients, and a bed that remained empty. Grama spent only one night in that room, however, we were told that we were looking at an end-of-life situation. She was fading, her body was tired and her time was soon approaching. Not that day, but soon. Less than a month. Personally, I thought, less than a week.
There have been four of us here, sitting with her each day, taking turns staying with her each night. And the time had come to begin talking about palliative care. A term I had never heard before. It means, “relieving pain or alleviating a problem without dealing with the underlying cause.” Considering there was medically nothing wrong other than a bit of dehydration because she was eating and drinking the absolute minimum (basically nothing), the discussion made sense. And so we met with her doctor as well as a palliative care worker supplied by the hospital to discuss goals and decide on some major choices.
And this is where the concept of compassion comes in. To me compassion has always been black and white. However, I learned very quickly that compassion comes in different forms to different people. Of course, growing up in the era of Dr. Kevorkian I was vaguely, distantly familiar with the concept and controversies concerning the discussion of what is end-of-life compassion? how does it look? And I thought I knew my positions and expected that my family would hold the same ideas. Well, of course, I was wrong on all counts.
As many of my minions know, my father died on a Thursday, less than a year ago. That death, because it came without warning, was filled with agony and offered no opportunities for discussion, decisions, and choices, no thoughts of future remorse or possibly guilty feelings or blame. This is a different situation. We had to make choices we could live with. We had to decide what was “the right thing to do.” And, we had to find a way to agree with one another on those choices because ultimately, when the time comes that we do lose her — even if it is not in the next month — we will need one another to get through it.
So what is compassion anyway? Well, Dictionary.com defines compassion in this way:
a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering
I can totally agree with that, it is certainly the way we have been feeling in our hearts. And as for how we have been coping with the situation we have been doing as Romans 12:12 states. We have rejoiced in hope when she has taken steps forward in her recovery. We have been patient, kind and understanding during the hours of tribulation she has gone through; at times when she believed she was dying we have sat with her, held her, prayed with her, read hymns to her, and gently given her permission to do whatever she needs to do. We have spoken of Heaven and the wonder of getting to meet Jesus. We have reminded her that when she gets there she will be greeted with hugs from her mother, father, brother and a grandson. And, we have also let her know that we will be okay because we know that God is with us, keeping us safe just as he has her safely in his arms.
We have continued to encourage her to eat, to drink and we talk about the strides she is making each and every moment. We share our belief that she can make a full recovery. We have spoken of the day when she graduates from the rehabilitation center and can go to beautiful places to draw and paint. We are not committed to one result or the other. We want one outcome more than the other but he can now accept whichever path she chooses. And we can do so because we discussed the situation, our personal feelings on the matter and came to choices and decisions that ultimately fits our own personal beliefs.
Personally, for me, compassion meant, not killing a horse just because it was lame. I mean, look at Seabisquit. He was lame but his owners and trainers were compassionate and so they did not give up. And he did recover. In fact, a year later he went on to win the San Antonio Handicap. And then of course any minions following my Seeking Love Saturdays knows how I feel about euthanizing healthy animals.
My aunt felt that compassion meant giving people every chance to live; essentially “sparing their life”. And she was adamant, “No, morphine.” Whereas my mother said, “Oh, I hope I get Morphine, 3 or 4 days of just drifting sounds wonderful to me.” Ultimately, after speaking with the doctor and social worker we each came to better understand, through probing questions and honest answers, what was for us, as a family, best. And how we ultimately felt about different end-of-life choices that must be made by families every single day around the world.
So, what is compassion? Well, it’s different for everyone and you won’t know what compassion really means to you until you are faced with deciding what is best for you versus what is best for another human being.
And so I end with a desire that you experience patience in times of tribulation and that you have the opportunities to rejoice in hope and, because I am a Christian, it is my desire that you will choose prayer as a constant in your life. It brings such strength and comfort to individuals and when spoken en mass it can conquer even the most dire of straits a person might find oneself in..