Saturday, March 31, 2012

Accepting God's Mercy

I love you, Lord, my strength,
My rock, my fortress, my savior.
My God is a rock where I take refuge;
My shield, my mighty help, my stronghold.

The Lord is worthy of all praise;
When I call I am saved from my foes.

-- Psalm 18

As I read the psalm this morning, I reflected back on the events of last Tuesday. Certainly as the day progressed I saw much stress and things of sorrow, but reading the psalm above, I saw Tuesday’s events in a new light. I saw that my many prayers for God’s mercy were answered then, although perhaps not as I would have wanted them answered, for as often as I also pray “Not my will, but Thy will be done,” I really am hoping that God will choose to do my will, answering my prayers in the way I desire. But I think I saw His will --- and His Mercy --- occur on Tuesday, even if not in the way as I wished. And for that I give gentle thanks and praise. Looking back, I can accept His blessings and mercy without regret, even if they were not as I would have wished.

For as often as I am aware that God works in small ways --- and gives us opportunities to do the same --- still, my mind wishes for things in big ways. I don’t wish for a convert to the Faith, I want the whole world to come to know and love Him. I don’t wish for one sinner to be saved, but for none to go to hell. I don’t wish for one healing, I wish to have all sufferers healed. And I don’t wish for one day of peace, I wish a lifetime --- no, an eternity --- of peace.

But Jesus showed us how to live by His example: He converted one sinner at a time. He healed one leper at a time. For one day, He gave all the bread and fish the people on the mount wanted. His blessings were not as grandiose as those I would wish. I wish for more than just one miracle --- except, of course, in the case where that miracle is for me. Throughout my life He HAS blessed me with many miracles; if he would grant me just one more, for peace for my friend’s dying mother, I think I would be content.

I need to constantly remind myself to be thankful for God’s blessing and mercy, each and every time I see it, and to indeed even look for it. For it is always there, if I can look beyond my sorrows and grandiose wishes, wishes of what I would do if I were God, and remind myself, often, that I am not Him.

Tuesday my friend was able to re-arrange her business day to drive the two-hour journey with me to spend some hours with her mother. Arriving there, we were surprised to see her mother up in a chair, relaxed, watching television, and happy to see us. Obviously uncomfortable due to her bed sores, she asked us to help her back into her bed, but the hospital staff were insistent she needed to spend more hours up from the constant lying in bed. She was not pleased with this response to her plea, but despite this she was not stressed --- unlike the many other days when she pleaded for this or that or just about ANYTHING to relieve her situation, and mostly she wished for things we could not supply, including, occasionally: “Take me home.” And Tuesday, she was not in the deep pains we so often saw in the past, when she gritted her teeth and tears rolled down her face, and for which we could also do so very little. No, for Tuesday at least, she expressed little anxiety or pain, and we ourselves felt little stress. We were happy for her status (and she even smiled once or twice at my lame attempts at humor). For that day, it was a miracle of Divine Mercy on all of us there.

A doctor came in to check on her status that afternoon and answered some of our questions. For me, at least, it was an education. She seemed relatively calm that day, he noted, and her breathing was so relaxed that it appeared that she largely didn’t need the ventilator which assisted her breathing. In another patient, these signs might indicate imminent release from the need for the vent, but this was not her case. Her lungs had hardened from her disease, and she could not inflate them strongly, nor persist in inflating them on her own for any length of time, and she would inevitably get weaker in her ability to breathe. It will bring death in weeks, or months, or even a year, but it is coming. Death will happen that way, if one of her other medical problems does not win the race to death first. And any of a number of her illnesses well might.

And now for a bit of medical education for you, my friends: As I understood the good doctor, the critical point, leading to the present situation, happened a couple of months ago. At a point when infections critically invaded the body of my friend’s mother, she coded in her hospital room, and alarms rang out that she had stopped breathing. A quick glance at her medical directives said that she wished to be resuscitated, one time, if she coded, and so a ventilator was quickly attached to help with her breathing --- a temporary measure until she healed and breathed on her own again. And now the temporary has become permanent. The doctor said if he were there he would have questioned putting her on the ventilator, but I don’t believe that for a moment. In a crisis situation, there was no time to question anything, nor second guess the directive --- the medical directive to resuscitate one time. That was the crucial point. You see, my friends, I, my friend and her mother, and likely you, are misled by television medical shows. We see someone have a heart attack; we see the paddles put on them; we see a “zap!” and then we see them go home and live happily ever after. That is not the total picture of reality, but it is the one perceived by most people: “If my heart stops, by all means, resuscitate me.” But that is not the only crisis which calls for resuscitation; it is called for if any critical organ stops functioning, the heart, the kidneys, the lungs. If you do not have a DNR --- Do Not Resuscitate --- medical directive in writing, in a crisis you will be resuscitated, including being put on a ventilator if necessary. And, as I’ve researched, in the very elderly who go on a ventilator, up to 40% never come off because their underlying medical problems overtake the body’s other defenses and they die. In some circumstances, they may go into comas or be brain-dead, still on the ventilator, and it will be shut off. But in some cases, while the underlying illness prevents coming off the ventilator, a person may live for a long time, otherwise stable and alert --- such as my friend’s mother is. This brings about a two-fold problem: If the underlying illnesses are progressing, you may qualify for hospice care, but no hospice will take someone on a ventilator, but demand it be turned off --- and it’s imminent death. And of the few places which would take someone in such a condition, in this state all are rated one-star ---- horrible places to send a loved one. And that is the condition of my friend’s mother, and my friend who must decide what to do.

If you or a loved one is very elderly, know the ramifications of not having a DNR directive. You never want to be put in a position of having to decide to turn off that ventilator, your oxygen, and your life. For many people, it is not a decision they can make.

Meanwhile, my friend continues to search for a facility which, in mercy, might accept her mother, and/or an agency which might provide personnel to augment her care in a sub-standard facility. Thus far, all responses are a “regretful” no, or counseling on how she should convince her mother to commit suicide by turning off the vent. And I continue to go visit, reading her mother stories, playing games with her, and praying by her side. And trying to accept that it is God’s mercy that she has even one day free from pain or anxiety.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him by your service, past and present, to his holy people. Our desire is that each of you show the same zeal to the end, fully assured of that for which you hope. --- Hebrews 6:9

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