Dying as Living

Musings:  It seems as if much has been written about end-of-life care and medical assistance in dying has been pitted again palliative care.  The concern seems to centre on whether or not people who have been classified as palliative are choosing to end their lives with medical assistance rather than letting life take its natural course.  Like most discussions, it seems as if both side of this argument have scientific facts to support their statements.

Those supporting the importance of palliative care may not so much be opposed to MAID (medical assistance in dying) as they are seeking more effort and money be offered to palliative care. There is no doubt that palliative care deserves more than it is now receiving. Yet I suppose that any and every medical department could claim the same.

Despite the fact that good palliative care costs much less than long term care (at least in hospitals), it still remains difficult to get appropriate funding.  As a result we have the apparent conflict between end-of-life care and MAID.

Personally, I have to say that MAID does not have to been in conflict with Palliative Care.  The idea that good palliative care can provide all that is need to the patient (and survivors) just isn’t the case.  There are times when not even good patient management does not relieve the patient from his or her suffering.  The patient cannot find comfort and may choose to ask for MAID.  At present the rules are very strict for these procedures that MAID is truly a last resort for the patient to find the comfort that is expected.

Today, as has been the case for a long time, we have and continue to find new ways to “continue” life.  Again and again, ways are sought to prolong life.  Some treatments come with a claim that without said treatment the prognosis for length of life would be much less.  However, these same treatments often don’t discuss the quality (or lack) of that life being extended.

The question as always is one of ethics and morality.  I was in agreement with a comment that once said that ethics involves what one should do (ethics) and what one would do (morals).  Until we begin to care about the end-of-life and belief that dying is every bit as important as living we will continue to struggle with these choices.

Living the Questions

Sunday Morning Musings:  Over the years I have lived the wonderful paradox that is life.  Today I will talk about the paradox of asking questions.  We likely all have at one time or another encountered the child who seems to be constantly asking questions and feeling harangued by these questions we finally have to say: “Stop asking so many questions!”  On the other hand, we often may have encouraged that same child by telling him or her that “asking questions is the best way to learn”.  It is easy to see why asking questions can become one of life’s paradoxes.

Some of life’s questions can often be answered with simple answers.  Child: Are there yet?  Adult: No! But other questions may not be that simple.  “What is the meaning of life?” “What does God look like?” (I know of a book entitled: Does God Have a Big Toe?).  It maybe that we have rarely, if ever, given any thought to these or other of life’s big questions. During life’s journey it is important that we do give some thought to these and what I would call other spiritual questions.

Too often, we are fed the answers as if there is only one correct one which can often do us more harm than good.  I often wonder how many adults carry around in their heads the same image of God that they were likely taught as a child.  We will often make reference to “the Big Guy up there” when referring to God.  When a ten year old drew me a picture of God, he drew an old man with a beard in a long robe surrounded by clouds.  How does that fit with the “panentheistic” God who is in all things? (Note I didn’t use the word “pantheistic” which means “God is all things”.  The same paradox arises with other spiritual questions.

I strongly believe that asking questions is a very important way of learning. Yet, I just as strongly believe that to assume that there is only one answer and that answer doesn’t change is not very helpful.  When science proves that the earth is much older than Biblical genealogies tell us, it is time to change our thinking and understanding of the Bible.  I don’t mean that we should totally ignore the stories and history recounted in the Bible, but we must be willing to adapt our way of thinking.

I have often said that to think that if we think we have all of the answers, then we haven’t asked all of the questions.  That doesn’t mean we should ever stop asking questions.  Rather, we need to keep asking; we need to keep learning.

Living with the questions is very important.  It helps us deal with one of the many paradoxes of life itself.

Why Do I Attend Worship

Recently in the news there have been a number of stories again about the closing of various churches across the land.  Often the reasons cited included the fact that congregation’s members die or move away making it impossible for those left to sustain their worship place.  It doesn’t help matters that the buildings are often old and costly to maintain.  Yet I also know of fairly new buildings (less than 50 years old) that were also being closed for similar reasons.

As much as I feel badly when I hear of a church closing its doors or being de-consecrated, I am also a realist.  At one time every little community had its own general store, bank, post office , etc. and often more than one church building (sometimes buildings of the same denomination that need to spread its wings or resolve a dispute).  At the same time as some churches are closing others seem to be thriving which leads them to build new edifices and lead one to wonder why.

I asked myself why it is that I go to church.  I used to think that it was because I was expected to do so; after all I was the worship leader.  I figured that I might just not attend worship after my retirement and join the “spiritual but not religious” group.  But then I realized that even though I didn’t consider myself religious, I still wanted to attend weekly worship (not that that is the only thing a real church does).  Despite the fact that I am very much a “lone wolf” kind of person, I still feel the importance of communal worship.  Granted, that doesn’t have to be Sunday morning as in the past, but there is a need to meet with others.  It doesn’t even matter that we don’t even share the same “theological” beliefs.  What draws me to worship is the yearning for fellowship.

I have often heard people say that they don’t go to worship because they don’t get anything out of it.  I would suggest participating in worship is more than just receiving.  It really has more to do with giving (and I don’t just mean when the offering plate is passed around.  Sometimes we don’t know the effect of our presence on others.  One man I knew used to watch his wife and young family walk to church each week for years. Then one day he told me that he didn’t know what overcame him but he just knew he just had to join them, which he did and as every week since.  He didn’t know why, or what it might mean to him, but he knew that it meant something special to his family and so he joined them. (He also did find something for him as well.)

Together they have celebrated new life in their midst.  They have also mourned together at the death of one of their church family.  I have seen similar scenarios played out again and again.  Faith is taught but seems to be also caught.  Most importantly, each of us must make it our own.  Adding to our desire to be part of a larger community is also the desire to connect with the idea that we must be open to being taught and that means being strong enough to ask questions about we have or haven’t been taught.

I also know and appreciate that some will remind me that worship doesn’t have to take place in a building.  I will not argue the point, but my only comment is that if we do not choose to make worship intentional, it misses so much.  I can take a walk in nature and feel the presence of the one I worship, but I then need to learn to share that encounter with others.