Thursday, April 17, 2014

Let me die with dignity

I recently made the 4+ hour drive to East Texas to see my two surviving siblings. One healthy, one 27 years in a nursing facility.

Our family was a big one. My parents married young, at least my mom was young...16, my dad a 27 year old divorced, WWII veteran with a child he would never see again. That was March 1945 and in July 1947 I showed up. Then came twins in 1949, a girl in 1950, a boy in 1952 and twins again in 1954. Seven in all, my parents , had their hands full.  

The first to go in our family was my mom in 1981... an aneurysm, followed in 1989 by my father...Then in 1990 one of the older twins, cancer. In 2005 my oldest brother and one of the younger twins...cancer. In 2009 the other younger twin...cancer. So now only 3 of the original 9 left but something happened in 1987; the other older twin had an aneurysm but she didn't die. She went to a nursing home where she remains today.

She has the use of one arm and hand and she can move her head. She used to talk some but not so much anymore. Now she spends her time lying on a bed with the television on and eating crackers, drinking juice and breathing. She isn't on life support but my one healthy sister is. Not the kind used in hospitals with oxygen and feeding tubes but the kind that is so tenuous that the slightest tug could break the connection. 

You won't hear her complain but in a quiet moment, from the corner of my eye, I saw the despair she feels. She has cared for our invalid sister for 27 years. By some miracle of fate she married a man who really loves her and has stood by her all these years. I am her...sister and I have not been there for her, for either of them but he was and is. 

Their children are out of the nest, they have comfortable retirement and they would like to move to West Texas to be near his brothers. They can't go or at least they won't go until "something happens" to our sister.

Our sister's organs are failing, she has frequent infections and illness, she never leaves her bed, she is not dead but she is not living. I can't say what I want to say but if I could this is what I would say:

Why is it wrong to help "something happen" when lives are on hold to keep someone breathing with no hope of living? Why do we not have  system where useless life is disposable? What possible purpose does this person serve except to provide payment to a nursing facility? Can we not see the inhumanity to humans that we do not extend to our beloved pets? A sick and unhealthy dog  or an old and feeble cat can can go to rest and suffer no more. A horse with a broken and irreparable leg is quickly put out of misery. How can we not do the same for those we claim to love so much?

I do know the answer...religion...gods...holy books.

Imagine a world....with no religion to get in the way of humanity.

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