The feel of not to feel it,
When there is none to heal it
Nor numbed sense to steel it. – Keats
I have thought of this quote off and on since I first ran across it on an MS World forum. As I have dealt with loss of sensations and increased pain, as odd a pairing as I ever expect to run across, I have wondered if I would ever want to die. Thus far, no pain has induced me to consider it, but this article is a scary look at what kind of strength is required for people to follow their loved one’s requests. Words to paper, even with witnesses, will not allow for seemingly needed release without the strength of those who left behind.
“A Life-or-Death Situation”
After reading the article early in the week, two quotes from the article resonate with me still:
“He still wants to believe the mind is everything. But he has learned that no mind can fly free of a useless body’s incessant neediness.”
“Pain eats away at your soul.”
The article was one of the saddest I have read in a long time. In it, an ardent defender of the right to die, Margaret Pabst Battin (Peggy), deals with her husband after an accident. Despite his living will, writing of a farewell letter and even an “attempt” to let go, she has kept him alive saying it is not his time.
In the end, I cannot help but think she is a hypocrite. For somebody who advocates for so many to have the right to die, she seems to hold control of her husband’s fate despite his previously expressed desires. In fairness, how many of us have the strength to let our loved ones die? Maybe it is how the article is written, but she does not seem to believe in allowing him to choose to die. Maybe she will let him think he has that power, but only for a moment. Worse in my eyes, is the telling him after that she would have revived him. Is it not enough to have to live that way without a loved one taking away from him even the appearance of control over his fate? The control freak in me would hate the life I breath with the loss, one I already fear.
Clearly, he does not want Peggy to suffer. With that, I suspect she fools herself thinking he would voice his thoughts second-guessing her. These decisions are hard enough for all involved. I know I would never voice my second-guessing of J in the same situation…though I would still hope she would follow through with my wishes…With evidence, she had not done so once, twice or even more, still I would hope for a better outcome the next time, especially if she said she would let me go. In the end, I would hope she comes to recognize my will when she is ready enough to follow it as promised. To do otherwise would seem a cruelty. It is a hard enough burden to leave for those behind, the having to choose the hour of passage of a loved one. The second-guessing of acts done in love and grief would seem a harshness to me, unworthy of the love motivating the acts.
I will always remember the last words I heard my grandma say.
“Please don’t make me cry.”
further interview of author on NPR: http://www.npr.org/2013/07/25/205455599/for-bioethicist-with-ailing-spouse-end-of-life-issues-hit-home