The Sting of Death is Humiliation.
While it should be often said that the sting of death is sin (I Corinthians 15:56), that sting hurts in various places in the human heart. Sometimes a big part of the sting of death is the feeling of humiliation. It should not be this way, of course, but while I am so very thankful for those healthcare professionals upon whom we depend so heavily in times of illness, there are a relatively few people in the healthcare industry that have yet to prioritize the good of the patient as the number one concern. Again, the majority of those who are caring for a loved one at the hospital are kind, compassionate and truly seeking the optimal good of the sick person, but not all are. Even those who are fully compassionate are often hampered by regulations of the insurance industry or of the hospital or rehab institution.
Like the primary care doctor, who after we’d made several visits to her clinic, could not recall that my father was a patient of hers when she made hospital rounds, and had not had the time, I assume, to check the records. Or the ER doctor we’d never met, who spent a good little while in the hallway of the ER attempting to talk us into stopping any aggressive treatment long before any Christian could conscientiously comply. I felt sorry for nurses who could not bring very necessary medicines to our father when he was at rehab, because they were not stocked in the pharmacy there. We had those medicines from home, right there in the drawer beside his bed, but the staff was bound, by regulation, to forbid us to administer them, even though we’d been administering them for many years. (Yes. Of course we did.) And there were therapists, who because of patient overload and restrictions by health insurance companies, were forced to be more driven by the clock than by the needs of patients.
Then in the final moments of life, it became obvious that the nursing staff had only two protocol choices: a ventilator OR medication to slow and eventually stop the heart. When we opted for neither of those, the nurse whose job it was to come in at the end of life and facilitate the peaceful passage even stated that, in her 14 years at doing “this”, she’d never seen a family who didn’t choose one or the other.
Of course, it was not very long until our prayers were answered that night and all suffering ceased forever. I will say that I do not believe the “final-moments-nurse” had seen a family singing “Be With Me Lord” as the heart line on the monitor went flat. But that flat line was so much more than a monitor alerting us. It was the coming of angels and the eternal relief of a redeemed soul. I believe she finally saw that it was so much more, as she looked at us in total wonder when we started that sweet chorus.
Now, perhaps this is too much information on too difficult a topic. There are times, though, in life when I’m so affected by the words and actions of those around me who are not in the Lord, that I need to remember and reflect. Here are lessons that I learned as some (a very small percentage in the grand scheme) medical “experts” looked at me as if I had no clue about life or death or ethics or even common sense. Somehow, they made it appear humiliating to fight for the life of an aged man. It seemed when he died, on the face of it, humiliating that we had fought so hard for the life we loved and, in the end, lost that battle. But what the experts did not know, is that we won! We were able to walk away from that scenario, knowing that we had done our best every step of the way. We had maintained the standards of ethical integrity all along the journey and then, when the end came, we put His hand in the hand of Jesus without regret. We could pillow our heads and know that the real Expert was in charge now and that we could freely talk to the One who was lovingly overseeing the care of the perfectly mended one; the one we will miss for a short time and the one we will see again where there are no more tough decisions.
- Sometimes it’s the people who are less clinically qualified who are the best caregivers. Those Physician”s Assistants have sometimes compensated for any letters they may lack on the ends of their names by exhibiting care and compassion.
- Those who study the Bible are far more qualified to define and assess ethics about medicine as it relates to life and death than are people of the world, even though the clinically qualified often do not recognize their deficiencies in these areas. Many doctors and nurses are both well-read in scripture and qualified by their secular educations. This situation is optimal.
- Medical professionals, apparently, rarely see families who are intimately involved in the decision-making processes of the aged. They surely seemed surprised that we would chart any sort of course on our own. I’m wondering if this typical relative lack of involvement speaks poorly of our nation’s care for its elderly, in general.
- It is extremely comforting to know you’ve prayed Romans 8:28 hundreds of times and what is happening in moments of crisis is a part of the “all things” of that passage.
- The sanctity of life can be compromised most easily in the pre-born season of life and in hospital rooms of the aged. Sometimes, those who are vocal for life at one end of the spectrum are careless with it on the other end.
- A clear conscience, molded by the Word and protected by His wisdom (James 1:5), is a very valuable commodity for His people at the moment of a loved one’s passage.
- The doctors are needed and most are compassionate. But the Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.