Taking Responsibility For Death

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I was 19 years old when I had to help my dad, who was dying of pancreatic cancer make an end-of-life decision. Being Jewish, we don’t believe in cremation, we don’t do open caskets; we simply have a ceremony to celebrate the life of the dead. I remember the day my dad asked me mom and I to go over to his apartment. I remember sitting down on the couch and having the talk “what’s next? What are we going to do? What do you want to happen after he died?” I remember my dad asking me, a 19 year old young girl what I wanted! How was I to know what I wanted? How could I advise him of the RIGHT thing to do? What was the right thing to do? My reply to his question was “dad, you’re going to die, one day you’re not going to be able to communicate with us. Picture yourself lying in bed, getting ready to close your tired eyes, what do you think you’ll be the happiest with knowing; cremation or a burial?” He didn’t quite grasp the concept of what I was trying to say, and again he asked me the same question. I replied “I would like a place to visit so I know I have a place to go when I miss you. I can’t visit you if you’re in an urn. I would like a place to escape to.” Well, that was an easy decision. I was given what I wanted but also what he wanted.

Throughout life you come across different individuals who all want different things for you, but it’s never about what you want, it’s never about the things that will make you happy. As American’s we live in a country where there is supposed to be nothing but freedom, freedom to do what you want, freedom to live how you want, freedom to die how you choose. Being born as an American we are given that right to make our own decisions, but what happens when your decision affects the people around you? How can one decide how or when to end their own life?

As Americans I believe we not only have the responsibility but also the right to end our life the way we want to. We have the responsibility to think about death, we have the responsibility to gain knowledge, ask questions, seek legal and ethical advice, and to make sure that we are granted our requests when we die. As Americans it’s our responsibility to make sure that when we are lying on our death bed we are content with how we lived. If something traumatic were to happen, it’s our responsibility to make sure our loved ones understand what we want and don’t want.  It’s the patient’s responsibility to ask questions, to make requests, to know what we want. It’s the patient’s family’s responsibility to abide but these requests and to make the patient as comfortable as possible; whether you like their decisions or not.

Patients and their families should always ask questions; there are never enough questions to ask when it comes to death. It’s always okay to question a healthcare provider. In fact, I believe it’s even okay to go and get a second opinion. If I could go back to 19 and experience my dad’s death again, I would ask more questions, get second opinions, and seek medical advice in other areas. As a family member, as his daughter, it was and is my duty to make sure when he left this world it was in the most comfortable setting. Time went by too fast, my time with him was shortened, and I regret many things; I will never regret being his daughter and his caregiver. 

 

Letting Go

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There is always going to be that constant debate on “what should medicine do when it can’t save your life”, and the answer should be as clear as day. It appears that doctor’s act upon what is morally and ethically right by them but not what is right by the patient. What is the right thing to do? What is the wrong thing? These are constant questions that are asked on a daily basis and no one ever seems to have the answers to them.  Why can’t we find a common answer to death? Why can’t doctors realize that after trying so many times with different medicines that they should just allow life to take its course?

We as humans are so wrapped up on trying to fix things and we don’t realize that some things just can’t be fixed. Death is inevitable. It occurs every minute of every hour of everyday life. There really isn’t much we can do to stop death. You can help by reducing the pain, but you can’t control who is going to die or who isn’t.  if a patient has cancer and you’ve tried everything you could possibly think of to decrease the tumor or even try saving their life and it doesn’t work, it shouldn’t be so difficult for the doctor to be upfront and honest with the patient and just say “we have tried everything, at this point there is nothing else left to do but try reducing the pain and allowing time to take its course.” I would much rather hear the truth than be presented with a lie.

If the cancer has spread, tell me. If the medicine won’t work, then don’t use it. Medicine isn’t just about saving lives, it’s also about money. Researchers spend so much of their time trying to find cures, trying to find ways to stop cancer from progressing that the doctors push out this medicine onto other patients. All this is doing is making the family and patients spend unnecessary money in which they could be spending preparing for their loved one’s death. It’s unfair for the patients to have false hope when instead they could be spending their valuable time preparing for the inevitable. Dying is easy, but saying goodbye, fixing relationships that may have been broken, and preparing for their death that’s what is most important. 

The Last Song

In this prompt I will be referring to the movie “The Last Song”. The main characters in this movie are, Miley Cyrus who plays the role as Ronnie Miller and Greg Kinear who plays the role as Steve Miller, Ronnie’s father. Ronnie, who is a rebellious 18 year old girl is sent to live with her father in a southern beach town for the summer. After many years of dealing with her parents divorce and sharing their love for music, Ronnie learns to reconnect with her father. As the summer progresses, Ronnie learns of her fathers cancer. After which, Ronnie decides to spend the rest of the summer with her father to help take care of him; instead, of going home with her mother. Throughout the movie, Steve spends most of his nights playing the piano and working on the last song in which he hoped he would finish before he died. A once rebellious girl who didn’t want to go to college and have anything to do with music, picks up where she left off and helps her father in finishing the song. Throughout the end while listening to Ronnie play and finish the song, Steve is sitting out on the porch, facing the waves and slowly closes his eyes and lets go. As the music stops and she finishes the song, Ronnie finds her dad dead as he slipped away peacefully with all the things he loved around him.

Death is inevitable, and I truly believe that others know and think the same way. Death is always waiting right around the corner as life is begging you to take advantage of the people and things you have in your life. We see death everywhere whether it be on the news, T.V shows, personal experiences, and even in movies. There are many perceptions of death in the american culture. Some believe it to be beautiful, a process of life, and a way in which the world goes round. Others believe death to be a horrific event, something that shouldn’t exist, and something that happens because the healthcare system failed to save the life of their loved one.

In some cultures it is known for the women to be the caregivers to their loved ones or friends, women take on more stress, and women holds the hands and hearts of their loved ones forever; whereas, men hold their loved ones hands for a little while. In this film, Ronnie was the caretaker for her father. She took care of him, fed him, and kept him company on his last few weeks of life. I used this movie as an example because the experience that the movie played on death I believe is how the world views death to be. We forsee death as passing away quietly, with loved ones surrounding the sick or dying, and/ or dying in your sleep without feeling any pain. Just like this movie portrayed death is how I believe the american culture seems to perceive death as well.

I can relate to my own life experiences with death. I was the care taker for my father when he was sick, I helped get him to the hospital, I stayed by his bedside day after day. I missed a lot of school, work, and life experiences. I too thought that my dad was going to sleep away quietly in his sleep while being surrounded by his family as he took his final last breaths. My imagination would often take me to the day that he would die and I would be there, holding his hand, telling him the final last words that I wanted to say, and watching his peacefully leave this earth. However, I know that things don’t always work out to be the way in which you imagine it to be. It doesn’t always happen the way you perceive death to be. This film really portrayed death to be exactly what many individuals perceive death to be peaceful, quiet, and surrounded by their last unforgettable moments.