My mother died last week.

Two seeks shy of her eighty-fifth birthday, her failing heart slowed to a trembling twenty-five beats per minute. Her care-givers became alarmed. “Elsie, do you know where you are? Elsie, what day is this? Elsie, what’s my name? Elsie? Elsie!” They called an ambulance.

On the ride to the hospital, her heart went silent. The paramedics zapped her. A few more miles down the road, her heart stopped again. And once again, they shocked her back to life.

So Mom, robbed of her peaceful, mercifully muzzy exit from this life, spent four days in the hospital receiving the “gift” of a pacemaker, which will keep her heart bravely pumping while she dies, by inches, of kidney failure. Her doctor gives her three to six months before her kidneys give out completely.

Oh, yes; she’s alive. But she can’t go back to her apartment now; she shares a room in a nursing home with two other women in much the same state as she: mostly cognizant, thoroughly miserable, and afraid.

On top of that, it seems my mother was rudely yanked back into this life only to be at the mercy of the 21st century American health care system. A system rife with absentee physicians, overworked office staff, and so many layers of responsibility that it’s impossible to know whom to call when for what condition. And whether that person will deign to call you back if you do figure it out. Mom’s orders have been lost, her meds have been screwed up, her doctor has gone AWOL. Her care since her miraculous rescue can be accurately summed up with the old WW II army term—” FUBAR.”

But, hey. She’s alive. In pain, afraid, and not receiving a tenth of the attention she needs. But she’s alive.

Everyone knows that I am hardly mankind’s foremost cheerleader lately. We’ve screwed up so badly that I honestly don’t know why the Almighty doesn’t just rear back a huge celestial hand and squash us like the poisonous insect we are. Every day, in millions of ways, our science merely proves what ignorant control freaks we are. That we have poured a disproportionately immense amount of resources into our ability to physically control our world, and not nearly enough study and effort into learning the intangibles. We’re not interested in why things happen, we just want to know how to change them.

Doesn’t anybody get the inkling that there’s a reason why bodies shut down as they do? Why has modern science “advanced” only to the point where it feels ethically bound to interfere in the dying process, whether it should or not? And why does our system keep a heart beating only to warehouse the body somewhere and allow it to die of neglect?

And why does my mother have to suffer through all this arrogant ignorance?

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