My father's choice to deny medical care challenges my own hold on life.
Do our parents have the right to die if they want? My father had two heart attacks last year and refused any invasive medical care. He does not want to prolong his life in any way, but go as the "Lord has planned" for him.
So, go he will-probably sooner rather than later. While I respect his decision and believe strongly that he has every right to decide how and when he will die, I am left with sadness and aching in my heart that is incredibly painful, for family is everything.
This experience is opening up old wounds of abandonment and fear. Is he being selfish? Or am I selfish for wanting him to want to live?
While he was really sick last year, he sent me an article from the Atlantic Daily called "Why I Want To Die At Age 75." This article, written by Ezekiel Emanuel, was a witty and poignant look at our culture and our inability to let go of life. Our fixation with acting young and staying young.
Mr. Emanuel made many very good points in favor of why he will refuse any and all health care procedures after the age of 75. I support his right and I support the right of any individual to make their own decisions about their body.
I will always err in favor of personal choice and a right to choose. I totally 100% support my father's right to choose to refuse any and all medical care just like Mr. Emanuel.
The choice to deny medical care challenges my hold on life and more importantly, the value of my father in my life and my opinion of the value he has placed on his life.
Atul Gawande discusses in his book, Being Mortal, the importance of having honest and open discussions with patients and their families about their wishes and the right to choose how and when and where to die.
He addresses our culture's strong hold we have on prolonging life. He attests that for many people the desire to prolong life is in fact causing suffering for our elderly. I agree.
But see now this is my father we are talking about, and that, well, is just a very bitter pill to swallow. I get it. Our attempts to avoid pain and suffering have been the corner stone of much of our suffering. Our solutions have now become our problems.
While I respect his decision and believe strongly that he has every right to decide how and when he will die, I am left with a sadness and aching in my heart that is incredibly painful. This experience is opening up old wounds of abandonment and fear. It is profound kind of loss.
I think, end the end (literally) there is no room for my opinion in his decision. However, I would also need room to communicate my pain to him and ask that he hold me in that space while he goes forward making the hard decisions he is making.
No matter how great the pain, I am focused on moving through my loss and the possible end of my father's life with the same grace and love that has always been present in our relationship.
My father is once again pushing me to think and to grow and to accept his wishes and his limitations and to allow him his journey while at the same time setting a clear intention to allow my own journey to mingle with his.