When I was in California a few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to meet up with my cousin, who lives near Hollywood. He is six years older than me, and both of us are the babies of our families. We spent a good bit of time reminiscing about our childhood and about our grandparents, with whom he spent much time with as a child.
My grandfather was a Tri-State athlete back in the day, and earned many medals in multiple track and field events including shotput, discus, and pole-vaulting. He was very strong, and very muscular, and I can remember him “high jumping” the railings in our split level home well into his seventies.
My grandmother developed Multiple Sclerosis in her 30’s, and had a rare form of it that doctors told her would allow her to live a long life, which she did. For most of my life, however, she was completely crippled, essentially paralyzed from the neck down. My cousin could remember when she could walk without assistance, but my earliest recollection of her walking was with a walker, and mostly I remember her being bound to a wheelchair.
Because of his strength and physique, my grandfather was able to pick her thin but dead-weight body up well into his eighties. He would get her up every day, get her ready, and take her out for a drive. Every single day.
Because she spent most of her time sitting, she developed bed sores and eventually had to have surgery to address them. During her stay in the hospital, she received breathing treatments so that she didn’t develop pneumonia, again because she spent her time laying/sitting, but not really moving. During one of these breathing treatments, she passed out. The nurse, who was very young, said, “oh she must have fallen asleep.” I argued with her, saying that it seemed she’d had a stroke or something, and insisted she get help, which she did. It was difficult to revive her, and the nurses and doctors didn’t believe she had a stroke, but from that point on, she could no longer even talk to us.
She lived for about another two years, in the most agonizing, slow death I’ve ever seen. While my grandfather did his best to care for her, she was eventually put into a nursing home to receive “more care”, though spent most of her time in bed. He spent every day with her, right at her side. I visited every Sunday, and tried my best to keep her updated on my life. All I wanted was to hear her voice, but could only see her eyes looking back at mine, wondering what the thoughts in her head were saying.
I told her about my job, beginning my career as an engineer, our wedding plans, and my cold feet about marriage. I desperately wanted to know what she thought, and tried to read her eyes, but couldn’t.
My prayers for her actually changed to praying God would have mercy on her and take her home. She knew Jesus as her Savior, and there was peace in her journey, but it went on for an agonizing period of time with a horrible quality of life. I got to where, although I would never do it, I understood why people wanted assisted suicides. Watching her die like this, and being able to do nothing to help was one of the most excruciating pains I’ve felt.
My uncle made her a wheelchairs bed so she could attend my wedding. Here she is. (Gramps is right behind Grandma. My cousin, Ed, is in white on left rear, along with rest of the family on mom’s side)
All of this brings to mind the question of whether it’s better to have quality of life verses quantity. I felt as if her quality of life was horrible, yet God chose to leave her here for a very long time. On the other hand, I felt my dad, who died of cancer when he was only 47, wasn’t here long enough.
It seems we don’t have a choice in the matter, but if given the choice, is it better to have quality of life or quantity? Does your decision change if you have security in knowing where you’ll spend eternity? If you have fulfilling relationships? If you have accomplished all you wanted in life or have more to do? I’m interested to hear your thoughts….
Be blessed today, my friends!
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