Faith

My journey in life has been based on my faith and hope in better tomorrows. I was brought up catholic in a Hispanic culture, in which we celebrate El Senor De Los Milagros in October. For us Peruvians October is a celebration of faith and reassurance that God exists and we will have our final judgement. My father told me the legend of how a small town was under slavery and they were banned to pray and practice their religion from the conquistadores. There was a man who heard the voice of God with the instructions to paint a mural on a wall. A devastating earthquake took out the town, hundreds died but the mural lived through. It is a symbol of the existence of a higher power, so we celebrate it in my traditions. 

However, in regards to death and dying faith is an important role to understand too. My faith and traditions come from what I was brought to understand and learn to pass on to my children and a way for me to live my life. I carry the patron saint in October make my prayers and release myself from anguish and sorrow. But everyday I know that my beliefs and prayers go to the sky in reassurance that my days are laid out to one day go to heaven. The first time I carried the saint I was in my early teens, and every October since then I wear my heels and purple I make my prayer in the hopes that my family will be safe for the year to follow. 

Faith does not have to come from a religious man who goes to church on Sunday, I believe it is merited by the good that is in your heart and the actions you carry out in living. You must be compassionate and honest, share the wealth that is granted to your privilege with those who have nothing, and always forgive those who have done you wrong.

The journey through the white light, long tunnel, or endless sea can  be the most liberating experience one has because in the end you are finally in the most peaceful existence of the world. Until then make sure you live your life whole kindheartedly so when you look back in the years past you close your eyes and patiently await your light.

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Grey

 

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I would gladly look into your eyes and get lost in them for fifty years if time would allow it.I would wish to feel sunrise on your smile and dream of your kisses at good night ; if anything, I pray for grey.
When you can close your eyes and imagine all the wonders of a new tomorrow, let it be with you that I turn to and make our world appear.Let our life throw us hardships and dilemmas, let it test our faith and strengthen us, no matter what though, give me the possibility of grey.Let the hair on our heads lighten in color, let our skin wrinkle and voices soften with the whispers of years that went away, but give me grey. Give me grey with the one I love. Let us grow old together and see the seasons change, our children grow, our last memory of the world we know..                                                                                                                                                             I just pray for grey to come our way.

-Andrea Hurtado Original poem

Throughout this semester we have encountered death through history, funeral traditions, EOL procedures, hospice and hospitals, and ultimately the very end. When I think of death, like most of us will, I dream about my day coming to an end at an older age, mostly I wish for death knowing true love. I have learned that being prepared to die should not be pushed off, because many circumstances may arise and I do not want the burden to fall on my loved ones to make a decision I did not want at all. So what have I learned in this class? I learned not to be afraid of the “d” word, dying. I have taken this course to consider my options and to share it with those who I surround myself with. I tell my family and friends about EOL options, about how I would never want to be kept on a respiratory or have feeding tubes, I share I would rather be let go then dragged on. I choose to live everyday in the hope of tomorrow, and I am reassured that my finals wishes are left behind. I believe this class sheds light on the opportunity to not be in fear of knowing what is known to all man kind, we all die one day. So until my day comes, I will always pray for grey.

 

I choose the sun

There is nothing better in life then free choice; well actually maybe not, maybe it is love. So as a woman in America I do believe it is essential for me as an individual to make my decision in regards to how I should die, so my choice is the sun. I choose to live my fullest life with radiance and shine, I do not want artificial equipment to keep me tied to the earth when I grow weak and in a state that the only enemy I have is time.

However, in the whole scale of America, we also have something that is ours, truly ours as a nation and that is our rich diversity. With so many different religions, languages, and beliefs we as Americans do have a responsibility to state what we want for our death and how we want it. Sometimes we as survivors or caregivers are in the between of what we wish to preserve for a little longer and what we know in a hearts to do. So why not just prepare for the worst and accept it, I will die one die what do I want those who will survive to do?  Yes, I understand it to be easier said than done, especially since we are a death denying culture. Let us think about it though, what about weddings? It is a time of celebration to a new beginning, is it not the same for a funeral as a final fair-well? Our responsibility is easy; we need to talk about it. For example, every since I started this class I have kept a journal with quotes and entries that reflect my life, my desires, and how I ultimately wish to go. It is a start, but a responsibility because if I do not take charge of my life today, it will become a challenge for my loved ones tomorrow.

Furthermore, the roles that patients and their families have in supervising their end of life choice should always be priority. I can respect the needs of a patient, the need to take medication, the knowledge of the severity and the chances of survival, but my declaration of what I want should be heard and accounted for. Where do we begin on such a grueling subject? Do we tell our children on their tenth birthday, “hey by the way Billy if I ever get really sick and die I want you to make sure that you and mom cremate my body not bury it”? See where we have our dilemma? The role falls directly on our raising and up brings, how we deal with the death of a pet and how we mourn for a grandparent for example.

Finally, our own knowledge about decision making by a healthcare provider can only be incorporated by asking. We should not be ashamed to ask and more so to listen about what our choices are. If we want to fight to stay alive longer then move forward, if we do not want tubes in our throats and machines keeping us alive, then respect it. We go to the doctor to know what we can do, not to be forced to survive a certain way. Simply put, not everyone who has a cold takes medicine some people are content with a warm up of tea and extra fluffy socks.

“To die would be an awfully big adventure”- Peter Pan, a boy who never wanted to grow up in fear of the unknown. We are not immortal but we can choose how to be respected in our death, all we have to do is walk the plank and leap into the endless sea.

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World Unknown

When my life comes to an end,

I ask for not too much time spent in tears, instead I pray you smile and rejoice to the life that I lived.

Let sunshine radiate through the room, let my body not be buried and in open view, instead I ask it be cremated and ready to cast out to the endless sea.

I invite all my loved ones and friends to spend a moment and share what words they left unsaid, if it may be joyous, sad, or cruel I invite them forward and be true.

To those I leave behind, do not spend a fortune on the possessions of the earth, for I look forward to the world unknown- my heaven where we will all reunite.

Letting Go- when the end is near

Is it not enough to want to live? Could you imagine knowing that each breath you take may be your last? Would you search an endless tunnel hoping for the light? After reading “Letting Go” by Atul Gawande it is clear that medicine can ultimately give you only hope for the light, but never the taste of tomorrow.

It is a reality that we as humans are fragile and a ticking time bomb and nothing we do will keep us on this earth forever. The cruel and sad truth is we are unwilling to accept this fact and we always strive for the option to “prolong life” when we know death is near. The article highlights a young Sarah, a healthy and active woman who was diagnosed with cancer before the birth of her child. She was a fighter and her family fought through the darkness hoping for the light every step of the way. We all do. As time passes us we fight for what we love, what we want to keep as long as possible. Sarah’s’ story is heard countless times by palliative- care specialist like Susan Block. So what do we learn about the medicine that we have determined will keep us alive? Honestly, I believe the hardest treatment is letting go.

So what should medicine do when it cannot save your life? As physicians they must do everything in their power to prolong our life, as a patient we need to hear the option for something else, and as a family we grief in the worry. Medicine only buys our time to stay a little longer, not with certainty to be here forever. Yes, we have options set up for survival or E.O.L documents created to make sure our last wishes are met. It is however in my opinion that medicine should not be an excuse to continue the fight for the sorrowful truth that we cannot be saved. It is heartbreaking to hear and if anyone has to be the one to make the choice to live or die it has to be harder.

My aunt was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago, and she knew she was going to die because it was a growing disease that could not be defeated. She has three children, and they were not wealthy but she was very wise and organized. I remember my mother worrying about a sister who was deteriorating in another country and scared to see her go. My mother could not bear the thought to bury her. But my aunt she lived her final days accepting the fact that tomorrow was not guaranteed. It was her children who needed the guidance so she laid out everything before they were forced to make a decision. She wanted to swim in the sea, she wanted to travel, and she forgave and said everything she wanted to say. Medicine couldn’t save her – but living to her fullest did.

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The Last Song

Son to Father

I have always been mesmerized by the world an author can create when writing a story. One that brings forward the process of death and how the individuals who will experience it in their life comes from Nicholas Spark’s “The Last Song”. In the movie we are introduced to a rebellious teenager and her younger brother who will spend their summer with their father. In the mist of romance and adventure, tragedy strikes with the devastating news that their father is dying of cancer. This movie portrays death in a relatively clear and helpful manner with no misleading agendas.  For example, you can pinpoint the moment when reality strikes and death is knocking at the door. The moment when the doctor comes to tell Ronnie that her father is dying and insists that, “we will make his as comfortable as possible.” Although fictional, this scene is truthful and direct because when the situation is turning to the worst those are the very words that a doctor will say. Another example occurs when Ronnie’s younger sibling is left out of conversation about her father’s approaching death. It has been socially expressed that children should not witness death or be a part of it. In the movie the younger brother is devastated and angry at Ronnie. He vents that she was too busy being in love and protecting turtles, while he was the one who spent time with their father. The film evokes sentimental intrigue by showing that even the youngest souls can be the most mature in understanding death. From the energetic home to the wondering hallways of a hospital, the transformation from one home to another this is what brings to light the sorrowful process of death. It is not until one day the father says “take me home,’ when you understand that an individual has the desire to be at peace with the familiar and comfort of their home to live out their last days.

The  media constructs our understanding of death by showing it -the good, the bad, and the ugly. I believe that this film highlighted the beauty of life. It gives us an opportunity to re-live the moments lost and creates more impressionable ones. Sometimes knowing your dying gives you the liberty to forgive and express anger and fear, it lets you say all the bottled up truths. The freedom granted to understand that death will come and what we make in our “last songs” is our own personal novel.