Living Well, Dying Well

I have been absent, struggling with the sudden catastrophic illness of a dear aunt just as I prepare to travel to France with my sister, our first trip together as adults and my first crossing of the Atlantic.

Thanks to the mercy of hospice care, things are better now for my aunt and therefore, of course, for me. I am waking up, therefore, to all of the things I ordinarily would have been attending to in the wider world during the last several weeks. One of those is 9/11. Scrolling back through a week or two of posts at my favorite sites, I found many attempts to identify the core of what we should take away from that formative experience ten years later. A commenter at Assistant Village Idiot put it this way:

For about two hours, the bad guys seemed to have invented an unstoppable new strategic weapon, with who knew what dire long term consequences, but then it proved they were stoppable by unarmed frequent flyers. And there haven’t been any kamikaze hijackings since Flight 93.
Another commenter at the same site sent me to this link with an article written only days after the event, also identifying the heroism of the passengers of Flight 93 as the proper focus of 9/11 memorials:
Just 109 minutes after a new form of terrorism -- the most deadly yet invented -- came into use, it was rendered, if not obsolete, at least decidedly less effective. Deconstructed, unengineered, thwarted, and put into the dust bin of history. By Americans. In 109 minutes.
I have not been called on to save anyone's life this month. I have only been asked to find a way to intervene in the intolerable suffering of a 95-year-old woman who was being ground up in a shocking medical and legal system. I have resurfaced in the world of internet commentary that normally is such an important part of my daily life to find that Grim has written several indispensable posts about how we exert ourselves to act properly. Every day someone involved in my aunt's care has the power to propel either her or me (or both of us) into the depths of extravagant misery or onto the summits of consolation and peace. What happens to us can be important, but how we act is everything. "Inasmuch as you did it unto one of the least of these My brethren, you did it unto Me."

A doctor took my aunt's hand, looked into her eyes, and offered her a heartfelt apology for letting her down, before prescribing her the morphine she needed. That doctor turned our lives around in an instant by opening her eyes and doing her duty, when institutional inertia and burnt-out fatalism from family members entrusted with my aunt's well-being might have led the doctor to turn her back. Every moment is a choice.

Here is my aunt at the age of 26 in 1941. She came of age in the Depression. She is not a drug-seeking whiner. She is not simply looking for attention. She did not bring this suffering on herself by refusing surgery that probably would have killed her. She is now in the hands of people who can help her. My aunt may be with us for some months yet; her remaining time is a gift she can spend putting her affairs in order, rather than the sentence of torture that it was.


Ymar Sakar said...

I remember again that quote on life and death.

To be honest I do not think whether they live or die is the matter at hand. Life is not always better than death. It is not that simple. Living and being made to live are very different things. What matters is what the person chooses of their own free will. Whether or not it can be achieved or how difficult it is.

I want you to think about this… imagine if what matters most to you was taken away against your will. If that is indeed worth less than your life

-Mitsurugi, Meiya in ML Alternative

Texan99 said...

Thank you, Ymar. It's good to hear from you again.