I hope this letter is premature and I'm just being morose. When we were in the doctor's office today, you admitted aloud the thoughts and questions you've been having about the state of your health. I've been thinking along the same lines. It's difficult to think these thoughts. It seems to be even harder to put them into words. But I think we'd both feel better if we quit putting on a brave stoic front, and speak the things we're thinking. So I write this letter, not knowing if I should give it to you, or keep silent.
I understand that you are experiencing confusing and conflicting emotions, and recurring thoughts about your health, and God, and how pro-active you should be about medical treatments. I'm here to listen when you're ready to talk.
When you almost died from appendicitis two years ago, in my philosophy class I was researching the topic of euthanasia in different countries, and the different ways people who have been told that they are dying to come to terms with the transition. That's why the Helen Kubler-Ross book is at my house.
Your situation is not the same, but related, because of all the advances in medicine during the last generation. I was having a difficult time developing my own personal philosophy from just reading the facts and figures, and feeling the emotions I experienced while researching. I did lots of reading on the subject, but you went to the hospital two days before the report was due so I never presented my topic to the class.
I never finalized my philosophy about euthanasia--just the facts. One can't experience life from facts. But in the year 2002, the year of your 80th birthday, facts do matter: reports, statistics, lab results, personal and environmental variables, and the price of gas at the corner station. Facts aren't everything.
About 2002 years ago, Jesus proved that love is the most important thing in life. Love is more important than any facts. God's love can fix anything.
One thing I have come to believe is that love is the most important thing in life. I love you so very much. I love God too.
I am grateful that you and Daddy instructed me, and prepared me for life, through the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. I still think it was rather demanding of the church to require you to vow, along with the other wedding words, that you raise your offspring in the Catholic Church. However, I have come to realize that most Catholic dictates are for a good reason.
I am equally grateful that you have, I think, come to accept my perspective of a Higher Power that's different from your perspective. You've always been the type to talk about God, whereas Daddy was, and I am, the type to keep that relationship more private, with fewer public words. I'm grateful that you don't question my relationship with God, especially since I don't attend mass anymore. God and I are fine, really. I just don't say it aloud very often.
These days for "religion," I enjoy watching Joel Osteen, from Lakewood Church in Houston, on cable television. Every weekend I catch his sermon at least once. I read a wide variety of "spiritual-type" works too. I appreciate the literary value and moral lessons in the writings of Eastern religions. That started when I was teaching ESL to the Vietnamese and Cambodian kids at Spence Middle School. Rather than relying on the strict rules of organized religion, I have sort of forged my own path that I travel every day.
In parochial school I was told that "keep holy the Lord's day" means get to the church building for mass on Sunday. Now, I interpret it as meaning every day is a day the Lord has made, and in some manner one should find a way to live it in a way that honors God. It's really all just a matter of linguistic terminology, but we know how political religious terminology can become.
In the 1960's when we'd come to Dallas and visit Aunt Bettie, I didn't understand why it was okay for her to just listen to a sermon on the radio on Sunday morning when we always went to mass on Sundays and Holy days. Maybe I even brought it up once, but it wasn't a topic for discussion. Since it was never an issue between the two of you, it wasn't anything I wanted to stir up a hornet's nest about. Or maybe I did, and told Aunt Bettie she would go to hell if she didn't go to church with us. Sometimes I don't remember everything exactly. Anyhow, the point that I was trying to make is that one's relationship with his/her Higher Power is a very private and personal matter.
I'm glad the priest at St. Thomas is coming over to your house to talk with you. I knew the Catholic Church inside out from 1960 to 1974. Then Daddy died. And in University of Houston history classes, textbooks stated factually that some Popes had children. Some Popes had lots of children. That wasn't the way they said things were suppose to be in catechism.
The way I viewed the world changed a lot between 1961 and 1974, and since. The world and the church have changed also. I'm not exactly in sync with the Roman Catholic Church these days, exactly the way you believe, and the way you choose to worship.
Since you had to promise the monsignor to rear me right, I'd feel almost sinful sharing some thoughts that make sense to me, but that I know would be considered pagan hogwash by the Catholic Church. So sometimes I don't speak up, even though I'm thinking or feeling something of a Godly spiritual nature.
I'd like to get past that situation somehow. I'd like to be able to share in your spiritual journey as much as possible. It's one for me too.
I will respect any coherent, informed decision you choose to make about your heart by-pass/mitral valve replacement/low pacemaker battery power-replacement situations, and the colonoscopy and adhesion removal situation, and the lump in your breast the doctor told you to have a surgeon remove.
It's not my body, so it's not my decision. I don't believe in capital punishment for the same reason. Nobody died and made me God. It's all in God's hands anyhow. But the continuing advancement of medical science puts a real spiritually, emotionally laden "ball" in your court, so to speak. I want to help you if I can, but I don't know what to do except to just "be there." I [u]will always be there in any way you need me.
When you've talked to the priest, and all the doctors, and you come to a decision about having surgery in the next four weeks, I will ask why you decide what you decide. If it's because God told you so, I'll accept that.
What I've really been thinking is, "OF COURSE SHE'LL GET ALL THE UP-TO-DATE MEDICAL CARE AND SURGERY THAT IS POSSIBLE! HOW COULD SHE NOT?"
That line has been screaming so loudly in my head, that I couldn't imagine any other option. There are always options.
Another thing I believe is that quality is more important than quantity. I understand your wishes regarding the DNR by "extraordinary measures." I don't feel like God is going to put me in that situation, but if He does I'll honor your wishes as you honored Jim's.
If there's anything I can do to make your quality of life better, tell me. When you've been in Baylor Hospital before, I've gone to the chapel and written in their guest book, "Thank you, God, for every new day I get to share with my mother."
I will accept your decisions about your medical situations without being codependent about it, if humanly possible. And I will be here for you always. I love you very much.