Womb to Tomb // Dignity of the Elderly and Dying

Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent

Psalms 71:9

Lord Jesus, thank you so much for the wisdom that the elderly generation have to offer us. We pray that you would protect all life and revive the respect for it that is deserved specifically within the elderly. Though we do not understand, we thank you for the suffering that you allow us and our loved ones to go through. We pray that you would constantly remind us of your presence in the midst of it. Amen. 

I would rather stand with God and be judged by the world than stand with the world and be judged by God. All is gift. Life is a gift. Every breath is a gift. This is a concept that the church has always taught and believed, but the people of this world have not. From slaves to World War II to abortion, it’s really all from the same source of evil. The same lie that says, “Your life is your own. You need to be in control. Death is the answer. It will be the best thing for you and for everyone else.” Specifically, I’m going to focus in on the respect of natural death regarding the elderly or really anyone who is under incredible suffering who may consider physician assisted suicide. First, why would someone consider this type of death over a natural death? The answer seems to be to avoid suffering. Again, why? Because, suffering doesn’t feel good. It feels quite horrible and like there’s no way that a God who loves us could inflict that upon us? I get it. I’ve been there crying in the chapel shaking my fist at God asking how He could possibly expect me to continue following Him if it involved so much suffering. I’ve been fighting with this for the past few months. My conclusion: The suffering doesn’t need to go away.

It’s our perspective that must shift. Our culture is quite obsessed with making decisions based off of how we feel in the moment while disregarding all of the truths within our situation. Let’s go back to the previous question. How could a God that loves us inflict suffering upon us? Suffering that looks like forgetting all of our children’s names and who they are, or being that forgotten child. Simply: He doesn’t. Our God created this world to be good. He created us to be good. He also created us to have free will to allow us to truly love, because true love is a choice; and we chose sin.

Therefore, in order to have true love instead of robotic, forced love, evil entered into this world, which brings with it suffering. God does not inflict this suffering upon us. He allows it, because he wants us to have free will, but He is crying with us! His heart breaks with ours in our suffering and in our pain. But, our God is so good, that he brings goodness out of this tragic suffering. My grandmother had alzheimers for the last 8 years of her life. She did everything to fight it. She took notes of everything so that she would remember, however, the disease was relentless and much too persistent for sticky notes. She spent that last 7 years of her life in a nursing home. The first years were the most painful. She knew she was losing her memory, and she was angry about it. The visits were torturing as we reminded her time and time again of who we were and where we were at in life. Her depression spiraled and all of her family and friends grieved the loss of the woman they knew to be their wife, sister, mother, grandmother, and friend. The last 3 years of her life or so were spent confused, but, at least she was too confused to understand, encompassed in her own world.

Looking back on all of this, with the black clouds lifted, I can see God’s hand over the whole thing. I can see the ways that he used my grandmother’s condition to show us that we needed Him. Constantly, different members of our family would pray with her, because the prayers were the last things that she remembered, uniting all of us and giving us an opportunity to receive more grace. Our families got together more often as we would bump into each other visiting my grandmother in the nursing home. The visits, although sad, were always peaceful, because they were full of raw, authentic love.

The good for my grandmother was that, in her illness, she became more childlike. "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." – Matthew 18:3 As she became childlike, she was more prepared to meet her heavenly Father. She was humbled in being totally dependent upon others to care for her every need while literally all she could do was pray. She grew to be detached from needing to know, from needing relationships, from needing anything but God. Had my grandmother or her family chosen to keep her or us from that suffering, we would all be less of ourselves. We would all lack more in holiness and love and most of all, trust. Even though it’s hard to see in the midst of suffering, our God knows what He is doing. 

To Jesus through Mary-Alyssa Schmoeller