There is an excellent book on christian ethics and issues of death and medical treatment by the name of this post. We read portions of it in my ethics class this year, and had some fascinating and difficult discussions about the issues it raised.
This afternoon I got to live some of those issues. Although I'm done with my internship at Saint Diverse, their priest is away, and an elderly parishioner was hospitalized, so I was asked to go make the hospital visit.
This dear soul is 96, and had been housebound with severe arthritis for the past few years. she suffered what appeared to be a stroke, and is now in renal failure. The family is debating whether they should try dialysis. She is allergic to most pain medications, is in great pain and is not recognizing people. Her husband of 68 years is with her in the hospital, looking sad and lost. We prayed and read the psalms and talked stories. He quetly said, "I'm not optimistic. And I don't know what will happen if things get worse."
I sat and listened as he told me of their life together as husband and wife, as faithful Christians who did so much for Saint Diverse over the years, as just plain good people.
The books tell a story about decision making at the end of life, and about how we as Christians are to approach these sacred moments. But it is in the stories that we learn how they are truly lived. And in those moments, there are no words for me to say. I can only listen and silently pray.