It’s been 56 months since I placed an agonizing call to Iowa Hospice about my dad.
With that call, he, and all of us, his family, entered the last leg of a journey whose outcome had been set two years earlier.
In the time since a spinal stroke, Dad had become a great-grandfather, had seen Mom sell the house they had lived in for 42 years, had given his most prized possessions – his HAM radio gear – to his only grandson-in-law, and had spent roughly 20,000 hours in a hospital bed or wheel chair.
His deteriorating medical condition meant that he could either move to a facility that would aggressively treat the infections invading his body, or he could stop taking the antibiotics that were rapidly becoming ineffective at holding those infections at bay.
There are certain decisions that you simply cannot make for someone else.
Deciding between quality of life and quantity of life is one of those decisions. In Dad’s case, it was a choice between a few fairly decent months, and a few more months, all of them largely indecent. He opted for shorter and better.
Your Powerful Ally
When you’re facing this situation, either for yourself or with a loved one, you have one powerful ally.
Your ally is not your friends or your family. Your ally is not the healthcare staff. It is not an endless amount of Internet research or the latest drug trials.
Your ally is Trust in yourself. Trust is a belief – a state of mind – that says you have confidence, in yourself and in the person who is faced with this terrible and difficult decision. Trust that you can be yourself.
Trust that if it is your life, you are making the right decision for you. Trust that if someone else is making the decision for his life, that you will find the resources and support you need to accept his decision and to do everything in your power to honor the relationship the two of you have.
Quality vs. Quantity
We Americans tend to believe that more is better in all things, from bank balances to meal portions, to size of our homes and number of cars in the garage. So it stands to reason that some people will automatically go for quantity.
Those who are more thoughtful might choose quantity for practical or romantic reasons – living long enough to see a child wed or a great-grandchild born, a birthday or anniversary milestone reached.
Fear can also be a powerful factor. The fear of dying or of being dead. For the one left behind, the fear of being alone or of having to care for or watch a dying loved one journey through the dying process.
Others prefer quality. A few months of living in the current manner is preferable to a treatment with high risks or debilitating side effects. This is particularly true when the quality of life is already so low that there’s little left to be sacrificed.
Develop Trust Now
Of course, you don’t have to wait until you’re facing a true life and death decision to consider whether you have trust in your relationships with your closest loved ones. If your closest relationships lack sufficient trust, start today to build or restore trust so that there’s no question that should the situation arise, you could make the best decision for yourself, and could be comfortable with the decision your closest loved ones might make for themselves.
Life Is Honest, Open and True: Knowing when to say it’s been a good enough run and it’s time to start thinking about going is a personal choice. When you have trust in yourself and trust in your loved ones, it is possible to make the choice based on your own preference.
Thanks to my reader who wrote and suggested this story idea to me. If you have an idea you’d like me to address, please tweet me @lifeishotblog or in the comment box below.