Reading, “Letting Go” by Atul Gawande has only confirmed my thoughts on medicine at the end of life. Medicine at the end of life should be there in order to provide comfort and relieve pain. I do not believe in dragging out a life that is ready to end. However, it is very easy to see how this becomes the route for many, even for those who did not wish for it, such as Sara in this short story. Fear of dying is real for many, even worse for those who face it within their presence. One may think they are ready to confront death head on when it is their time, to only change their mind at that moment.
When medicine cannot save a life we tend to disregard this information. We tend to think medicine will always save a life. If it is not the current medication or treatment, it will be another. We grasp onto this thread of hope because we are all afraid of losing the ones we love or the unknown of what happens after death. After much reflection, I have come to realize it is usually the family members who will be left behind that push new treatments when others do not work. The family must be ready to confront the disease and death of their loved one as much as the patient. Allowing curative care to be stopped may be seen as admitting defeat, as if you are allowing your loved one to die. However, that is not the case. It is merely the acceptance of another type of care, in which the ending moments of life can be lived out as one had always hoped.
Before class discussion and reading this article, hospice scared me. Now, that I am more knowledgeable I find myself an advocate. For me, the answer to this question is simple. When medicine can no longer save my life I want it to make my death bearable. I want it to help maintain homeostasis for a small amount of time so I can say my goodbyes and part with the world on my terms. For terminally ill patients the disease controls their lives. Having a bit of the control back, given by the benefits of medicine to stop the suffering, would be an amazing gift at that point. The title of the article says it all. Being able to let go: the fear, the battle, and the pain, that is what medicine should help you do at the end of life.
In my Communication of Illness, Grief, and Loss class we were showed this video today as part of our curriculum. It is a spoken word by Dr. Ragan Fox. He speaks about the loss of his father, and the many years prior his death that they had not spoken. He realizes that his father’s un-approving view on his gay lifestyle was not worth the animosity. He is now only left with his father’s red suspenders to memorialize him by. This video is just one of the many examples that shows how short life really is. It reminds us to settle the disputes we have with those who are important in our life, for one day before we know it they may be gone.
Safe Haven– a Nicholas Sparks piece-centers on a young lady, Katie, falling in love with a widower, Alex, and his family. As she struggles with issues from her past, she meets a friend in the new town. In the end, we find out the friend really was the “spirit” of Alex’s wife. The whole time the wife’s spirit was there in order to help Katie through her struggles and encourage her to start a relationship with Alex and become part of the family she left behind. Throughout the movie we see how Alex’s kids, Josh and Lexie, cope with their mother’s death and how they slowly accept Katie into their lives. The audience is shown how the death of the mother, Jo, has impacted them and how they miss their mother. Each child coped differently and Josh took much longer to let Katie into his life then Lexie. They left her workspace in their house as she left in, and inside her desk she left specific letters for her children and for the woman whom would one day take her place. At the end of the movie, when Katie reads the letter meant for her, she is left with a family portrait from Jo. This is when she realizes who her friend was all along.
In this movie, we see how hard it can be for families to get over the deaths of their loved ones. By leaving Jo’s workspace, as it was when she was alive can be seen as a way of denying her death. In many cases family members keep things of those lost in order to keep a part of them with them. Each individual may do this for different reasons. It may be in order to remember key elements of their life or because it is too hard to come to terms that these materialistic things are no longer needed because of the loss.
We also see the portrayal of those who pass on stay with us and look over us. This can be seen as helpful because it allows the family to feel as though she is still with them and that not all of her is lost. The media can very easily shape our view on things as seen with this movie and death. After watching this movie it made me realize our view on death is more spiritual than biological. We like to think our loved ones are still with us after they pass; we like to think they will go to heaven and that they leave a legacy behind. By memorializing them we embrace their legacy. Memorializing them can come in many shapes and forms. Having Jo’s untouched workspace serves as her memorialization. Alex also kept the letters she wrote to give to their children at landmark times in their life as a way of assuring them that she is with them during big moments. This allows them to share these important times although she is no longer physically there with them.