Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Life and Death Matters

Last week, Paul and I called our grandchildren’s other grandmother whom they lovingly call “Grandma Kansas.” We had seen her a month ago at our great-grandson’s first birthday party, and she didn’t look or sound good. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer about three years ago that had metastasized into her other breast and then into her lungs. Shortly after that visit, our granddaughter called to tell us that Grandma Kansas’ doctor told her that she had between three weeks and three months to live.

Then maddeningly, after allowing her to stew on his prognosis, he told her he had one more treatment he could try. I wondered why he would do that, when he had already had told her the wonders of American medicine, at least as he practiced it, could do no more for her. She had already told him and her family that she was tired of fighting. I surmise he was fighting his own battle with the helplessness he must have felt when he could not cure her or at least prolong her life. Or less benignly, he may have been practicing aggressive medicine to protect against a lawsuit.

As we spoke last evening, she told me about her plans for her funeral, that she wanted to be cremated, and to whom she would donate her few things. She spoke in such a matter of fact way that I wondered if she were resigned to her fate, or in serious denial. But since our only connection is through our shared grandchildren and not by blood or through mutual friendship, I felt I could only offer her the opportunity to share what she wanted to and leave it at that. I didn’t feel I had permission to ask more. I only wanted to offer her the comfort of knowing that she was in my thoughts and prayers.

My offering was precious little I know, but it was what I could do from four states away.
It is a universal human need to know that we make a difference, that our lives matter. That was the major message I attempted to convey last night. I hope I succeeded.

And many times, that’s enough.