Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Worse Than Death

I am back after a short break, initially to work on the site and give myself a couple of days to handle my already-too-full plate.  During the break God took one of the loved ones on my plate home to be with him.  Although family members had helped, I had been the primary care-giver for my mother-in-law for 12 years.  She was in the hospital at the time of my announced break from posting and needed me even more than I realized.

My mother-in-law had been ill for several years.  She had diabetes, COPD, renal failure, and numerous other afflictions.  Seven years ago, we had made the decision to place her in an assisted living facility to help care for her.  It was a decision supported by all of her children and she understood the necessity.  The facility was a wonderful resource and contacted me for any decision about her care.  They handled medical appointments and stayed in touch with the doctors.  After a doctor's visit, they would contact the doctor and get needed instructions and updates.  Then they would translate the medical information into English so I could understand it.  (I'm still wondering why doctors cannot use any word that does not have a Latin base word when speaking to family members of patients.)

On Friday morning, the home-health care nurse called me and said that my mother-in-law was being transported to the emergency room because of an elevated heart rate.  My husband and his brother spent the entire day in the emergency room with her.  She was admitted into the hospital around 6 p.m.  My husband, brother-in-law and I took turns staying with her.  She was dismissed after a week in the hospital.  Weak and unable to stand on her own, she worried about being sent to a nursing home.  At one point she said, "If I have to go to a nursing home, I'm going to shoot myself."  I asked, "Really?  Who is going to supply the gun?"  She just laughed. 

My mother-in-law had been back at the assisted living facility about 5 hours when I started receiving calls from them.  She had tried to get out of bed without assistance and fallen.  Emergency medical personnel was called to help get her back in bed.  I phoned her and she promised, through tears, not to try again.  I received 5 phone calls from the assisted living facility during the night; one of them to inform me that they could not care for her and she would be sent to rehab the following day.  With her declining health, the possibility of returning to the facility was very low. 

Sure of her salvation, my mother-in-law did not fear death.  She feared being placed in a nursing home.  I dreaded the idea of telling her that she was being placed in rehab.  The phone calls of her declining pulse and breathing came about 4 a.m.  By 5:30 a.m. she had gone home to be with the Lord. 

Many people expressed their sympathy and sorrow.  We are sad that she is gone, but know that we will see her again.  My husband asked the preacher to repeat during her service something he often says at funerals.  "This is not good-bye.  It is so long, see you later."  We are blessed with the knowledge that we will see her again--not because she was a good person or because she earned heaven.  Not because of anything she did, but because of what Christ did.  He died on the cross for the remission of her sins.  When she accepted that gift, she received the assurance of salvation. 

I firmly believe that my mother-in-law attempted to get up without assistance because she was afraid they would send her to a nursing home if she asked for help.  I believe that after EMS placed her back in bed, she willed herself to die and avoid that possibility.  She feared the nursing home much more than death.  And with good reason.  She did not know what would happen to her in the nursing home.  But she was sure of what would happen to her in death.  Are you sure?

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