Have the Courtesy to Just Fade Away

Elderyby Brad Nelson7/28/16
I will not mention specifc facility or business names in this essay. And there’s no reason to call 911. The people in question are physically well cared for. That is, after all, the goal of the nanny state, at least regarding seniors.

Annie’s latest article is timely. I just spent 5-1/2 hours in the ER the other night. My mother’s heart was racing while doing some exercises. Long story short, all they found was a spot of pneumonia which they’re treating with antibiotics (which is always a good news/bad news situation…she was very sick recently because of antibiotics).

My mother is entering end-of-life issues. But first one must travel through pain-in-the-ass issues. That comes first and can extend for years. I’ve been with her to the ER at least four times in the last two years. Her latest fall a month or two ago broke her hip. She’s had partial hip replacement surgery which went well. Now she just has to decide whether to actually work to get better or to continue to drive the rest of us crazy. Fortunately, she’s been using her walker with some gust of late. There is some hope she’s turned the corner attitudinally. There is some hope she could even return home.

In her latest adventure in the medical care system, she’s gone from the ER to the hospital (for a week or so) to a rehabilitation facility (where she spent a month) and now to a group home where she receives round-the-clock care…along with five other ladies (the maximum allowed for this type of group home). She will be here for probably at least two months. We’ll determine what is next by how well she progresses here.

It’s a nice home with competent help. The food is good. The day-to-day details taken care of competently…quite unlike her one-month stay in a rehabilitation “lodge.” This other place (which she moved to right out of the hospital after surgery) was supposedly one of the top-rated places in the state but it was a joke from start to finish. But, as always, they did provide the minimal necessary physical service (bath, bathroom, food). They would surely pass any and all state inspection. But the atmosphere was definitely one where the smiles were forced and the patients were just bodies to be registered so that they could be reimbursed by Medicare.

This following anecdote regarding this place is typical and not the only one (the eye-raising stories of minor incompetence abound). But it will give you an idea of how even the “best” medical facilities are dicey. One morning my older brother came in to visit mother. He’s an ex-fireman who has some paramedic training so he knows his way around. She was asleep when he got to her room. He noticed that her breathing was shallow and erratic and her lips were slightly blue…surely a sign of not getting enough oxygen. She was in some danger of expiring right there. Did any of the staff take action? Hell no. My brother is no shrinking violet and was proactive and brought this to their attention and some tests were ordered…which later, of course, we found out were never done.

Do not just sit back and trust any of these people. You have to be proactive. Now she’s in what is called a “group home.” And my older brother knows the people who own and run it and they are very fine people indeed. No complaints. And yet the day I (along with my brother and a friend) brought my mother to this facility, it was a depressing experience all around. Yes, everything is clean. They do a good job of that. But it was spiritually dead. The ladies there, who I’ve spoken to now on and off in a friendly matter, just sit around and watch TV, mainly the TV Land channel.

And, good golly, I told them that I would be glad to join them sometime because nothing beats sitting around watching a Gunsmoke marathon with a few Bonanzas and Death Valley Days throw in. You pop the popcorn and I’m pretty sure we could kill five hours before you know it. I could easily do a month there. I wonder if the ladies would mind a little Sinatra?

A couple of the ladies at this facility don’t talk much or at all. One lady can talk but she is 105 and seems to choose not to. A couple others are much more garrulous.

I’ve tried to visit at least every other day. My mother has been there for a couple weeks now. I’ve never seen anyone else visit the other five resident. One of the ladies says she has no family at all. The impression I get — and mind you, this is just a subjective impression — is that none of them is ever likely to receive a visitor. Surely someone is paying for them to be there, and it isn’t cheap. But I think the main part of the transaction (on all sides) is for these ladies to have the decency to do as they are told and to acquiesce to the quiet and efficient assembly line of elderly care.

Upon subsequent visits, I kept thinking of the movie Awakenings starring Robert De Niro. Upon each visit the ladies seemed a bit more comfortable with my presence. In fact, there is this Asian lady who had never ever said a thing. I didn’t even realize she could talk. But the other day she said a few kind words to me and even smiled.

I’m no ray of sunshine. This is not about me. I think the presence of anyone there would have been a ray of sunshine. I get the distinct feeling that there is a dark and dull routine that all involved have accepted as normal. And me visiting every other day (often bringing treats) is a break in that routine. And I don’t wish to slander, but there is the slight possibility of a Nurse Ratched factor going on. Easy for me to say, I don’t have to change anyone’s diapers. And the elderly can revert to children and (as with my mother) you often have to talk to them like children and treat them like children.

Still, there is a vibe there I’m not comfortable with. The one lady there without a family has been “adopted” by my mother who thinks God put her there to bring a ray of sunshine. Now, before you jump to the warm-fuzzies, she says this more as a way to comfort herself. Still, who knows? One of the ladies brightens up every time I visit and goes out of her way to tell me how she loves the cherry tomatoes that I bring. I guess it helps to sort of adopt an Aunt Bee. God knows, I wasn’t born with one.

There is now an unwritten rule for the elderly in our society. They are, like children, to be seen and not heard. The entire Medicare/Medicaid industry has certainly had an unintended consequence for those who voted for this “free stuff.” I believe it has helped to shuffle them off to the periphery. No, care of aging parents is not for the feint-hearted. Not all can do it. But surely the point of Medicare/Medicaid — or a large part of the point — is to shuffle off the aged and disabled to the state so that we are unburdened by them.

And part of the deal is that they remain in the dark rooms in the dark corners and are to be neither seen nor heard if at all possible. But they are certainly physically cared for. That’s something. But for me, it wouldn’t be enough.


Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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51 Responses to Have the Courtesy to Just Fade Away

  1. Tom Riehl Tom Riehl says:

    Brad, your recitation of the downside of elder care reminded me of my parents’ segue into the gray zone. They both succumbed to Alzheimers, the devil incarnate. There is no substitute for family, but few are equipped to deliver such care.

    Thanks for sharing this tale of challenge.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    Elizabeth and I are looking into independent senior housing because our house has become too much for us to handle with our increasingly limited mobility. This will require sacrificing most of our books, but at leas tit should be manageable — until one of us dies, since I’m not sure either of us can manage completely alone. But at least we don’t yet need the sort of care many old people do. (It would especially help if we can ever cure my ulcerated calves.)

    Grandpa Lane lost his memory to an infection of some sort, and I can remember him at his wife’s funeral wake. He was wondering where she was — his long-term memory was all right. I decided I would never go back there again while he was alive, to see him like that.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Having seen what I have seen, Timothy, I would recommend modifying your house where necessary in order for you to stay in it. Wheelchair ramps. Sit-down showers. Whatever the hell it takes. There are options for in-home visits (paid or volunteer…I’m not sure) to do some tasks that become beyond your ability to do.

      If you can afford “independent senior housing” and that suits you, then by all means do so. But be aware of what you’re getting into. For many people group living (of some type…even if the “senior houses” are all just next to each other) is a way to continue and even increase social contact. I have an aunt and uncle (the uncle is disabled by a stroke) we are preparing to move into some type of “retirement cottage” where there is full-time or part-time assisted living. They are very very gregarious people and that will likely suit them better, especially because they cannot travel as they used to.

      For me, I will play the part of the Eskimo and wander away into the blizzard before entering any such facility of my own accord.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Independent senior housing tends to refer to residences that have been designed for those with physical difficulties, and doesn’t come with much in the way of personal assistance. It thus can be more affordable, though they also have waiting lines. Elizabeth finds herself with increasing difficulties managing any stairways, and a quad-level house is full of them. She already avoids more than half of the building. And I don’t like those stairs either. If necessary, we may just move to a regular apartment; as long as we don’t need to navigate stairs, it should still be manageable.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Okie doke. I see what you mean. I don’t know your exact situation or how attached you are to where you are living now. But the option exists to install one of those stair elevator lift thingies. I have no idea what they cost though.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            We’d need 3, and that doesn’t even mention the front steps (not to mention the back steps if we wanted to use them). It’s not that we want to move; it’s that we can no longer stay.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Have you thought of using anti-gravs? They had them in Star Trek. They can’t be too long until they hit the market.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    The Long Goodbye, has become an ever growing part of human existence. Miracle drugs, wonder operations and such have extended the human lifespan. But this comes with a great cost.

    • Glenn Fairman says:

      When my leukemia finally kicks in gear, I will be hard pressed to fight it. I say that now with a certain naïve defiance, but I hope that I can maintain that resolve in light of what I believe.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        It is natural to fight, but sometimes great sacrifice comes with it. I suppose like most here, I have seen success and failure in the fight against cancer.

        I guess one of the main determinants as to whether or not the fight might be worth waging is the situation as regards one’s dependents. If there are young children and a harried mother, I can well understand fighting.

        To avoid causing pain to others is not a bad reason for trying to carry on. But the pain is inevitable at one time or another.

  4. Fred Burr says:

    This essay makes me glad that my wife and I purchased a good long term care policy back in the early 1990’s (policies like ours are no longer available, at any price). But still, I’d rather go out like a light bulb than linger in some long, drawn-out assisted living care environment.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Thanks, Fred.

      I’m fairly certain that long-term-care policies are expensive. Kudos to you for working hard in your life and being successful enough to afford one. (We don’t “soak the rich” here or chastise them for “exploiting the poor” merely for having done well…or simply having planned ahead like the ant instead of acting like the irresponsible grasshopper).

      I’m more of the grasshopper in regards to all this. I don’t have a long-term-care policy other than croaking fast as my father had the courtesy to do back in 2003. He lived vibrantly and went in a day at the age of 72. He’s not the kind of man who would have appreciated the decrepitness of old age. But then who does appreciate that?

      My mother has some savings and can afford at least second-class care for a few years if need be. The main threshold of these types of things are “Can they go to the bathroom by themselves?” If they can, then most can stay in their own homes with perhaps varying degrees of assistance. If you can’t use the john, you’re a candidate for full-time care (or, in the case of Alzheimer’s patience, if you’re just too far gone to do anything).

      Tom brought up the point that there is no substitute for family, but few are equipped to deliver such care. He’s right although I would amend that to say “Few are willing to deliver such care.” It used to be standard to take care of your parents. After all, 99.99% of aging parents were not thrown into the street prior to modern institutional methods. People took care of them. The issue here is really one of women’s liberation. When they burned their bra they were also burning their role as the #1 caregiver for the elderly. Personal fulfillment (of both sexes) trumps caregiving. That’s just the way it is now. We could do it (and some do) but most shuffle off parents to a facility so that they can continue their own fulfillment lives unabated.

      And the aging ladies I met at the group home where my mother is (at least temporarily) staying seemed to have been shuffled off. The entire idea of human contact seems to be more of a monkey wrench in the system, a disruption of day-to-day functions. My sister-in-law was told yesterday to call before visiting. I had been told before that visiting hours were whenever you wanted to come. But it has been obvious to me from day one that my visits (any visits) were an inconvenience.

      That’s why I had this vision of the movie “Awakenings.” These ladies have probably been doing very little other than sitting in a dark room watching the TV Land channel while a dutiful and competent Nurse Ratched cared for their bodies. Mission accomplished. They are being cared for. And a couple are obviously so far gone that there isn’t much you can do for them. But the others still seem to have a latent sparkle, not yet extinguished by playing their part by fading away in the dark.

      Imagine if those narcissistic idiots playing Pokemon Go did something useful with their time like visiting a nursing home bringing flowers, treats, or just spending time with someone.

      • Anniel says:

        Brad,

        I’ve been thinking a lot about your article on this. I have watched our middle son and his wife, who run one of these type of facilities, and know the problems they have encountered. I also know they try to do their best for their clients. Dementia is a real challenge, and some people are antisocial, they just want to be left with their TV sets. At the moment they have one woman who wanders off to find her crying baby, who is “right outside”, and the woman who is a mean snake to everyone. No one can have a moments peace when she is around. For awhile her alcoholic son showed up in the middle of the night to see her.

        Some things you have to put a stop to, for the sake of everyone. But what your sister-in-law was told is just wrong.

        Bear’s father moved to an assisted living facility after he had two small strokes. Bear took our son, David, down to see grandpa. They were able to stay in his cottage and eat in the dining room with him.

        One day the Director of the facility told them to be sure and come to a special program they were putting on for George, an end-stage comatose dementia patient, that night. It seems that George’s son had told her that the only thing his dad really loved was women belly-dancers. That evening they wheeled George out and cranked him up to a reclining position. He sat up on his own when the belly-dancer put on her show. Bear and David said he was probably still smiling when he died the next day.

        Just recently a good friend with dementia was in a terrible place in Anchorage, so they found a new place for her in Wasilla. She was better off, but had always had a cat and was lonely. Some other friends took her a stuffed cat. Her daughter was “so embarrassed” by her mother carrying that “stupid Cat” around.

        The good people at her church arranged to take her to meetings every Sunday and she always took the cat with her. In a Sunday School class on love, she put her hand up, and when called on, held up her cat and said, “I love my cat. He doesn’t poop or pee in my bed so my sheets don’t stink.” Her daughter was mortified, but the teacher smiled and congratulated her on the love she feels, and someone else whispered to the daughter, “Grow up and be glad for her.”

        If they are run with love maybe I could stand it, but I’d rather be in my own home.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I remember visiting my grandmother’s 100th birthday party (as did many of her surviving family — she had outlived all her children) at her nursing home. They did well by her, but I think she was also ready to die before she finally did. Whether they could have done anything about that, I don’t know.

          One place Elizabeth has looked at locally, Masonic Homes, has a lot of people from her church, which would probably help her adjust. But it has a waiting list and is likely to be expensive, so we shall see.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Annie, it’s nice to have your background on this. I don’t suppose running one of these group homes is a cup of tea. And the place is clean, the food is good, and the details (prescriptions, etc.) are very carefully looked after. If I have a beef it’s not with this place where my mother is temporarily at. It’s this disposable society we’re living in. They’re disposable pre-birth and disposable once they get old.

          I realize that talk is cheap. Who has the time to brighten these lives? And surely some lives are set, stable, and you don’t want to mess with someone who has a good routine going. But the liberal in me refuses to die, the one who watch De Niro in “Awakenings” and even the goofy “Cocoon” from which I often quote Wilford Brimley as the battle cry of the forever-juvenile Progressive generation: “I’ll never grow old, I’ll never die, and I’ll always eat oatmeal.”

          St. Paul was right when he wrote to put away childish things. I didn’t understand what he meant until I was a little older. He wasn’t saying to dispense with the wonder and fresh-eyes of youth, including the ability to respond to life spontaneously and to once in a while have an extra hop in your step. He was saying that to retain the dependent mindset of a yute in which you never grow up and move from the cocoon to the butterfly was not what humans were made for (and many, of course, remain caterpillars and just eat, eat, eat….mooch, mooch, mooch, and strip the branches of our society clean).

          That said, growing old doesn’t have to mean we are forgotten or that we have to learn to live in the dark.

          Love the belly-dancer story. And the cat story. May we all be a half hour in heaven before the devil knows we are dead.

  5. Bill says:

    My sis and I went through something similar with my mom. After she retired, she just gave up living and just existed. She’d get sick, go to the ER, then wind up in a rehab facility for a few months. She’d always fight them when it came time for a bath or therapy. I’d go see her every chance I got, and sneak her in treats that made her smile. I’d also stop and say hello to other residents. At first, they’d just kind of give me a strange look. after a couple visits, they’d say hello back. I still remember the look on one lady’s face when I followed up her hello with some conversation. She came alive. It warmed my heart. Her family didn’t come to visit very often I gathered. Eventually, there were 3 other ladies sitting with her when I’d come in, and I’d stop and chat with them for a bit before heading back to see mom, and on the way out after. They ate it up. They were nice ladies, but I could never get mom to get interested in meeting them. She just gave up. It took her 3 more years to die, one piece at a time.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Wow. Our stories sound very similar, Bill. Thanks for taking the time to write that. The more I talk to other people, the less of a martyr I feel like because the stories are often so very similar. It’s eerie.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        My sister, who was a nurse herself (when we asked her advice about my problems in January 2012, she advised Elizabeth to get me to the ER immediately, which we did; had I not gone to the hospital at some point around then, I would probably have died within a few months), took care of my mother precisely because she didn’t want her stuck in a nursing home, no matter how good. Now she has the family curse (deterioration of the cerebellum), and one can hope she doesn’t end up there.

  6. Glenn Fairman says:

    A female on my running team spent the last few months caring for a father who had been a peripheral character throughout her entire life. By every measure of earthly justice, she should have turned her back on him–just as her sisters did. Every day before work she would arrive at the nursing home and prepare his oatmeal because the staff did not do it right, and every evening she would sit with him so that he would not die alone. During his final days, I sincerely do not know whether the old man had that epiphany that Hollywood loves to sugarcoat death with — that “Come to Jesus” moment where a selfish and bastardly life is transformed with a quivering lip and a palsied grasp of the hand. For many who pass out of being, the strings do not crescendo as the camera pans away and the screen fades to black.

    But for Soccorro, despite all the cold heartache she had received from this blank cipher throughout the half century of their shattered glass relationship, she had determined in her soul that she would expend herself and redeem in a small but courageous way what no one else would. What can we learn from such an action?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      We can learn plenty, Glenn. Great and moving thoughts, as usual.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I haven’t had quite the binary relationship with my mother as you describe your runner having with her parents. But it crosses my mind that this is the time that we are paying for every little misadventure and misbehavior. I don’t believe in Karma. I don’t think that’s the way it works. But at least poetically, it seems to work that way. (So, kids, be sure to misbehave at least a little bit or you’ll be doing this parental care stuff for free, as it were.)

      Here’s some observations I have. And they’re not meant to be mean spirited:

      + If you’re going to heaven anyway, why not go gentle into that goodnight? Good god, from the stories I’ve heard from so many who have aging parents, you’d think the parents were certain they were going to firey hell and were doing all they could to scratch one more second out of life — as well as making others around them pay for this indignity.

      + Is there a law that has been passed that requires health care workers not to speak good English?

      + Death is a release, most often for the care givers who, by the end of the process, have most likely had every tear and tender feeling wrung out of them.

      Perhaps that the lesson I get from Glenn’s “shattered glass” scenario is that the water in the glass just sort of runs out and you put the glass down and stop cutting yourself on the sharp edges. It’s difficult not to disengage from some of the craziness. And rather than this be a recipe for the hardening of the heart, I think it can be (in the case of parents) a way to make that final separation that perhaps many of us should have undertaken decades ago. And then whatever we have left is the beginning of something new, however short-lived and anguished. But a parent with memory issues and one who is a bear to be with when they are not feeling well is the death of something. I have seen that in others as well. Many siblings simply avoid it altogether — and then overdo it with the grieving at the funeral as if ex post facto guilt balances the ledgers.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        + If you’re going to heaven anyway, why not go gentle into that goodnight? Good god, from the stories I’ve heard from so many who have aging parents, you’d think the parents were certain they were going to firey hell and were doing all they could to scratch one more second out of life

        This is something I have not understood about many Christians since I was a child. If one believes in the Word, i.e. one is saved, what reason is there to fear death? I understand that it could be difficult to be separated from loved ones, but as the Good Book says,

        Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. James 4:4.

        Lest anyone think I am talking through my hat, I will relate a short story.

        One morning in Sunday school, when I was eleven or twelve, our teacher got on to this subject. He posed a question something like, “If you knew at this moment you were saved, who here would be willing to die and join Jesus in heaven? Raise your hand.”

        I was the only one who in class whose hand went up.

        Now it should be made clear that I was very close to my parents so I wasn’t trying to get away from anyone. But the logic of the question seemed pretty straightforward to me.

        As to those left behind, I can understand sorrow, but true Christians must have solace in the thought that their loved one is now with God.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          This comes up on occasion; I remember reading of a Civil War encounter with a chaplain trying to duck the incoming and a cynical officer wondering why. During one of the catechism classes at Ursuline, the nun gave a hypothetical pair of death scenes, for someone who was religious and someone who wasn’t. Of course, the Catholic have concepts such as purgatory to make one reluctant to die any sooner than needed. And in theory you can never be certain which way you’ll go. (Such certainty is for Calvinists.)

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            I wonder what Hobbe-ists believe about that.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            I remember reading of a Civil War encounter with a chaplain trying to duck the incoming and a cynical officer wondering why.

            Being ready for death and tempting it, are two different things. Every Christian is not necessarily called upon to be a martyr, but should be ready.

            And in theory you can never be certain which way you’ll go. (Such certainty is for Calvinists.)

            The question was not “If you thought…”, it was “If you knew…”. Now whether anyone “knows” is another question. Fear is a natural human trait, but one of the points of Christianity is its power to help mankind overcome fear.

            I believe the New Testament is pretty clear that if one believes in Christ as Savior and Son of God, then one will be saved. Of course, the devil is in the details, and there are many arguments as to what belief in Christ really is and how it manifests itself.

            To my mind, if one truly believes in Christ, and does not waver i.e. doubt, then one’s life will be changed through this belief.

            Of course, nobody can exactly know what is going on in one’s mind except oneself and God.

            So, if the scriptures are true, a firm belief in Christ will open the gates of Heaven. (It follows that belief in Christ will also have resulted in one’s trying to live a Christian life.)

            To live under constant fear is contrary to everything the New Testament espouses. One will have one’s crosses to bear, but the reward is sure. And this is not Calvanism.

            And while considering the above thoughts the question of doubters came to mind. I am not sure whether of not Christians who have doubts are still Christians while the doubts exist. They may possibly move in and out of salvation.

            “Remember those early days when, newly enlightened, you met the test of great suffering and held firm. Some of you were publicly exposed to abuse and tormented, while others stood loyally by those who were so treated. For indeed you shared the sufferings of those who were in prison., and you cheerfully accepted the seizure of your possessions, knowing that you had a better, more lasting possession. Do not, therefore, throw away your confidence, for it carries a great reward, You need endurance in order to do God’s will and win what he has promised. For, in the words of scripture,

            very soon he who is to come, will come;
            he will not delay;and by faith my righteous servant shall find life;
            but if anyone shrinks back, I take no pleasure in him.

            But we are not among those who shrink back and are lost; we have the faith to preserve our life.” Hebrews 10:32-39

            A good description of much of what it takes to be a Christian.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Having some doubts is obviously acceptable; note that “doubting Thomas” refers back to one of the evangelists, St. Thomas the Twin (and the Doubter). Note that Tom Paine, in The Age of Reason, said that he was as willing to be persuaded, and on the same basis, as Thomas.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

                One wonders if Paine would have believed even had he had the same experience as Thomas.

            • Glenn Fairman says:

              As for doubt, one should draw a distinction between a persistent doubt that manifests itself as chronic unbelief and the doubt that befalls even the greatest saints. The NT would have doubt assuaged by abiding in Christ, but as long as we are amphibious beings occupying two competing realms with the Holy Spirit prompting us in one direction and the adversary whispering indecencies into our ears, we will falter at times. Time and our yielding to God will tip our soul towards the instincts of Heaven, but even C.S. Lewis entertained grave reservations concerning not the existence but the overall character of God when his wife was taken by cancer. We can make an idol out of everything: even our own beloved. And so, sometimes what we conceive of as good and wholesome in actuality becomes a stone of stumbling in the Christian heart — a cancer that must be remedied by any means necessary if we are to become that work of glory we were created to be. The burden of this glory can prove onerous for some of us in ways that this world will never reveal. But looked back on, we shall see that what we thought of as our greatest miseries were in fact our richest blessings.

              As for Calvinism, it is academic whether the “TULIP” doctrine prompted the horrors of Geneva in the political realm or whether the constant niggling question of personal election gave any comfort to its adherents. One would always wonder if one had made the cut, despite every effort to tame that doubt.

              Islam produces an exponentially aggravated quality of soterial anxiety in its believers, since one is never assured of where they might stand minute to minute, In fact, given the capricious nature of Allah, so played upon in fundamentalist circles, one might choose to forego the weighing of good and bad deeds and prefer the more tried and true path of jihad that assures one of that Heavenly Bordello. It is interesting that among many suicide bombers, Israeli investigators have found a thick lead shielding of the genital area so that one’s penis would be in working order for the 72.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                As for doubt, one should draw a distinction between a persistent doubt that manifests itself as chronic unbelief and the doubt that befalls even the greatest saints.

                I agree. But I was wondering about what happens in that moment of doubt that “befalls even the greatest saints.” Is one still saved or is one temporarily outside the Church, so to speak?

              • Rosalys says:

                “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.” – Mark 9:24

                God is far more forgiving than even many of us Christians give Him credit for.

                One is still saved. There is no fading in and out of salvation, as one fades in and out of of consciousness. God doesn’t do anything half-assed; if He saves you, He saves you!

            • Glenn Fairman says:

              That sounds like a Catholic question, and if so, I am not qualified to answer it doctrinally. But there is a good way to determine if God is inside communing with you……..you can still see the dirt.

              Some cry out for a miracle and because of the hardness of their hearts will never believe. Call it a materialist predisposition or what you will, yet, those who search for the Hidden God will find Him.

              “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” CSL

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                That sounds like a Catholic question, and if so, I am not qualified to answer it doctrinally.

                No Catholics there. I was brought in the South in a very conservative protestant denomination.

                The teacher was probably closer to a radical Hussite.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I believe the Moravian church is basically the successor to the Hussites. I gather there’s a large group in North Carolina.

                Incidentally, George Patton once said he was the reincarnation of (among others) “blind King John of Bohemia”, who came up with the forebear of the armored division. The biographer reporting this was a bit skeptical, since the king best known that way (killed at Crécy) had no such accomplishment. However, the Hussite military leader Jan Zizka did come up with his battle wagons, usually formed into a Wagenburg, and he eventually went blind.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Interesting story, Mr. Kung. A little squirt like you connecting the logical dots and shifting your hand upstairs into the affirmative is what I would have expected of you. You sure you’re not related to Annie’s feisty little daughter of ER fame?

          I’m not criticizing those who don’t want to leave this earth. But it makes me wonder if Christianity is real or, as Marx said, it’s simply the opiate of the masses. Does one *believe* by living it or does one believe by Trumping it (that is, back-filling with rationalizations for a belief that is taken on out of convenience).

          My thought on this is that the Christian is to understand that this world is a part of eternity. Who knows for sure the exact purpose. But the point is to strengthen that thread of an umbilical cord that we have to the Creator Almighty. That is, if the Creator Almighty is real then such transitions as death, although meaningful, are somewhat arbitrary and not part of the whole story. In fact, a good Christian should die to himself many times over before meeting (in True Blood vampire verbiage) the true death.

          One could say suicide is the logical path for atheists. They can’t possibly envision transforming themselves because they believe they have no immaterial part of themselves. They are just a bunch of jiggling atoms. And if the combination they have isn’t working for them, there is no logical way to die to yourself so they often seek the true death (or psychoanalysis…same thing but more expensive). How many of you out there have killed off parts of yourself because they were anchored in something destructive or simply incomplete? I know I have.

          And this site, of sorts, just died to itself. We are moving on past the garbage everyone else is doing.

        • Bell Phillips says:

          I’ve asked myself this question a few times without ever really finding a good answer to it.

          But I will note that Jesus was not real excited about the prospect of His date with the cross. Now, He did have a lot of other bad stuff to look forward to besides simply dying, but I’ve got to think that was a big part of what He was dreading.

          My personal supposition it that being dead is as good (or bad) as the advertisement, but the process is maybe not so pleasant.

  7. Glenn Fairman says:

    It is at the crossroads of Death that not only our theological, but our existential religious convictions are put to the test. For some, having long rested in the comfort of superficial platitudes not wholly wrestled with, our impending death or the death of a loved one (or a tolerated one) can be an obscure footnote or a terrible trial by fire.

    When the icy blast of reality seizes us with its grim necessity, we discover, in truth, how much of our belief was centered in the head and not in the heart. This is why the evils of death and suffering are so integral to the Christian life and why temporal happiness is by no means the goal of a believer, but a stumbling block. Our fragile mortality reveals in a concrete manner what no book can teach — that we are pilgrims: strangers in a strange land.

    To the mature Christian, in contrast with the natural man, the deaths of believers and the unsaved are measured not by degree, but by kind. The Christian knows that the believer, following his temporal life, will behold the face of God and receive the glorious welcome: “Well Done…….” Conversely, that same believer knows the curse that awaits those who could not be bothered to turn from adoring the shadow of self and face into the light. The Unbeliever will view death on the continuum either from stoic resolve to indifference to utter horror, depending on the cast of his mind. The hedonist will certainly lament the end of pleasure, and every man will mourn his transient idol(s) that he pursued in the darkness of his own understanding–to the exclusion of what he was created for.

    Attending the funeral of a transformed Christian brings forth a bittersweet sadness that is tempered with the glory of hope. We mourn as we do a beloved friend whose journey takes him from our arms, with the knowledge that we shall not behold them again on this bank of the river. But implicit in that hope is that as he has forded death into life, so shall we…..and the reunion shall accompany unspeakable joy.

    One who would wish to view the healthiest of attitudes regarding death should look no further than the Apostle Paul. Having long died to self, he counted his happiness in Christ and ceased to worry about the terrors of eternity. In truth, he was already partaking of its glory and was only awaiting God’s finishing touch.

  8. Glenn Fairman says:

    To fully understand the Cathedral of Faith, one must first enter in. The mind awakened in due time realizes that what appeared alien and formidable from the outside answered every significant question and quenched every longing. To push past the stronghold of self by opening what can only be unlocked from within will forever be man’s greatest decision, for in truth the shadows give an elementary comfort that deadens as surely as any narcotic. And like the self-imposed prisoner in Plato’s Cave, the projections of shadows on the rock wall by a fire wrought with our own hands will suffice as long as the fear of abandoning self-control is dominant within us. It is only by the prompting of heavenly hands that we stand up, repent of our darkness, and step up and out into the Light.

  9. Glenn Fairman says:

    One that has placed his soul earnestly in the care of God, and I am confident that this state of being can be known, does not lose his salvation if at the time of his translation he was in a period of questioning. He said that He would bring us through all this, and if faith is the hanging of one’s body on the promises of God, then I will take him at his word and leave the details (and that damnable anxiety) at the foot of the Cross. One can obey and adore and still maintain reservations during the fallow periods of our lives. He who knows all, and who suffered the undulations of our flesh, knows how to save —And is not this honesty we bring before him a quality of this wonderful faith?

    • Timothy Lane says:

      “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” I see what you mean.

      • Glenn Fairman says:

        Yes, if the second Personality of the Trinity can question at the pinnacle of His mission’s darkest moment, shall we not receive such grace? That was a great one, Tim.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        It is a beautiful allusion, but I think loss of faith in God, i.e. disbelief, is fundamentally different than discouragement.

        It is one thing to think that your father has let you down. It is altogether different to think that you have no father.

        To take Glenn’s comment a step further, I there is a big difference between doubting there is a God and sometimes doubting his plan. A believer may, at times, confuse the two.

        • Glenn Fairman says:

          C.S. Lewis had undergone a kind of madness at the death of Joy Davidman Lewis, his wife of 3 years. One thinks of Lewis as one of the greatest Christian apologists of the 20th century, but this excerpt from “A Grief Observed” offers us a glimpse into a Christian’s despair:

          “… Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels — welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?

          I tried to put some of these thoughts to C. this afternoon. He reminded me that the same thing seems to have happened to Christ: ‘Why hast thou forsaken me?’ I know. Does that make it easier to understand?

          Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’

          Our elders submitted and said, ‘Thy will be done.’ How often had bitter resentment been stifled through sheer terror and an act of love — yes, in every sense, an act — put on to hide the operation?

          Of course it’s easy enough to say that God seems absent at our greatest need because He is absent — non-existent. But then why does He seem so present when, to put it frankly, we don’t ask for Him?
          “Oh, God, God, why did you take such trouble to force this creature out of its shell, if it’s now doomed to crawl back — to be sucked back — into it?”

  10. Anniel says:

    One thing to consider here. When my mother was dying she just wouldn’t let go, fighting for every breath. The care facility kept someone with her for several days, 24/7, while she fought. Finally the nurse with her said, “Ruth, I just have to step into the restroom, I’ll be right back.” When she got back, mom was dead. The nurse told my brother that some people don’t want to die alone but others won’t let go until they ARE alone. Mom was one of those.

    • Bell Phillips says:

      It’s amazing, but people battling terminal illness really seem to have some control over the moment that they go.

      I have a personal story that I’ll not share here, but I’ll use a public figure as an example instead. I just don’t think it was coincidence that Charles Schultz died on the day the last Peanuts strip ran.

      Jefferson and Adams are probably also examples.

    • Rosalys says:

      The care facility (nursing home?) where your mother died, who tried their best to see to it that your mother did not die alone, would seem to have been one of the better ones.

  11. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    It’s okay to act your age. But from my perspective, dealing what I’m dealing with, I’d say there’s even more wisdom in the idea of being young at heart.

    Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you
    If you’re young at heart.
    For it’s hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind
    If you’re young at heart.

    You can go to extremes with impossible schemes.
    You can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams.
    And life gets more exciting with each passing day.
    And love is either in your heart, or on it’s way.

    Don’t you know that it’s worth every treasure on earth
    To be young at heart.
    For as rich as you are, it’s much better by far
    To be young at heart.

    And if you should survive to 105,
    Look at all you’ll derive out of being alive!
    And here is the best part, you have a head start
    If you are among the very young at heart.

    As long as you don’t make an idol of a youth cult, I agree with those words, although 105 might be stretching it a bit. I’m sure there are a lot of “impossible schemes” at that age.

  12. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Reason #597 that women are a pain in the ass. A neighbor lady just called me to tell me that she received a visit from another neighbor lady (who she does not like, and the feeling is likely mutual). This second neighbor lady (who has been like a daughter to my mother since her medical problems) apparently was carrying a message from my mother to this first neighbor lady (the one who called me) that she would like it if this first neighbor lady would come visit my mother.

    This first neighbor lady, quite against my preference, told me how she wanted nothing to do with the second neighbor lady because the second neighbor lady has always “snubbed” her. (Not hard to see why, if you ask me.) And while this first neighbor lady proceeded to tell me that she didn’t want to start a lot of drama, that was the only material content of her phone call: drama and grievance.

    I should have been a diplomat because in complete diplomatic mode I said, “I’m sure the second neighbor lady was just dutifully conveying instructions from my mother that she would like to see you. And if you don’t want to inadvertently run into this second neighbor lady then visit my mother in the afternoon.”

    And all the while all this talk of “Oh, I really care for you mother and want to come visit her, and didn’t mean to air a lot of dirty laundry and drama but…”

    Jesus H. Christ. Women. I mean, holy crap. I know men regularly and gratuitously make the world a worse place. But I believe women just love their drama and can’t see past their own emotions (particularly grievance) most of the time.

  13. Lucia says:

    Best reasons to remain a bachelor, Brad.

    I maintain that if my beloved husband passed away first, I wouldn’t remarry. It would be such a hassle to break in another spouse after it took 42 years to get this one softened up the way I like him.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Best reasons to remain a bachelor, Brad.

      Hahahah. No doubt, Lucia. I really do love women. But I hate feminism. For me, the ideal woman is one who compliments a man and doesn’t compete with him by trying to be a man as well. A woman should be nurturing, feminine, and full of grace. She compliments that often vulgar and hard edge of men, while men provide the strength of decisiveness, reason, and courage.

      That a woman can do most things a man can do (intellectually) is a given. I have no problem with that. What I have a problem with is the retched feminism I think is a plague on our society.

      I visited my mother tonight and spent some quality time with her and a couple of the other ladies. The one Asian lady (who sits in her chair and usually says nothing) continues to enact the main plot of “Awakenings” as she actually said even more words to me this time, including that I was a nice person. Nice to hear, but she just needs attention. I don’t believe the regular Nurse Ratched has time for anything more than the physical needs.

      But there was a new girl in there today who apparently takes over on Sundays. She was extremely sweet and sociable. My mother (who hates everything…by the way, I saw some young chick wearing a “I hate everyone” t-shirt today…I should get one of those for my mother) even said she liked her. And she has voiced some issues about the regular help (Nurse Ratched). This new lady who I hadn’t seen before was cheerful and just a nice person. Splendid lady. All the difference in the world.

      One of the ladies (with short-term memory loss) was talking about her early life in New England. Her father was a non-denominational preacher (non-denominational, she said, because he didn’t want to miss converting anybody). Apparently he beat his wife a lot and her daughter thought that perhaps he would be surprised when he showed up in hell, not heaven. But she said it all with such a sweet smile and demeanor absent any guile or sarcasm.

      Another lady there is 104. Her daughter came in (a quite strikingly good-looking woman). She’s 82 and acts and looks more like about 72. She brought some treats and shared some with the rest of us. She’s the first visitor I’ve met who had come for one of the other ladies. She told me about a card game she tries to spread around that older people (especially those in care facilities) find entertaining. It’s called May I? (also called Continental Rummy). I’ll have to try that sometimes. Anyone ever played that?

  14. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    It’s okay not to like me. Really. I don’t like it when you don’t but that’s the way life is. And sometimes we do things that make us unlikable to certain people.

    I was visiting the inmates yesterday (my brother’s word for the six ladies living in the group home my mother is currently residing in). I took my mother out for a short drive and some coffee at Starbucks. She enjoyed that and we had a nice conversation. Yesterday she was more lucid for some reason. God only knows the ways of the elderly. Normal rules don’t seem to apply to them.

    I took her back to Stalag 86 and she wanted me to come in and say hi to some of the ladies. A couple of them I do sincerely like, including Anna but particularly Diane. Shimmie (sp?) is a Japanese lady who I’ve seen do nothing but sit in a wheelchair. But we had a short conversation today. She was born in Japan. I couldn’t understand much of what she was saying, but I understood her smile.

    I then went to the other side of the room and said hi to Diane. She has a bubbling personality. And it’s not I who cheers her up but probably the other way around. But in the midst of this, Alice (who is 104) was right off to my Left. She doesn’t say much and is very hard of hearing. And because no good dead goes unpunished, I tried to include her in our conversation by making some harmless small-talk. She did engage in some talk. She snarled at me “I don’t like you.” The woman rarely has anything but a gentle scowl on her face. But I wasn’t expecting that.

    Luckily I have a filter or I would have told the old bag that she was no joy to be around either. But I held my tongue and we all (except Alice) had a momentary good laugh at my expense. Hardy har har.

    It’s hard not to take it personally, especially when one’s intentions are good. But that just shows you the pitfalls of charity. You get shit on a lot. And it’s (wait for it) not about you.

    I’ll go back to Stalag 86 and have a quick chat with Ann and Diane and Shimmie when I can and when they are willing and precisely because I know they have so little outside human contact. I will keep bringing tomatoes. I won’t force myself on anyone, and never have. But this old hag can just go to H-E-double toothpicks. No wonder her apparently wealthy daughter (I met her) has her in this home and not at home. Have pity on the children of the elderly as well. And the givers of tomatoes. Any may everyone’s charity be fortified, for no wonder we so often turn to the government to do this kind of work.

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