End of Life

The Old Fool ponders end of life issues if for no other reason then that he is in the late octogenarian years, has witnessed the last breaths of his beloved spouse, experienced pneumonia, and had a recent 15 minutes of unconsciousness that the doctor said was more than a faint.  And I live with a son-in-law who is a hospice chaplain for the IU Health Goshen Home  Care and Hospice

Today, my son-in-law was asked by Gilberto Perez, a professor at Goshen College, to be a guest speaker in his class of 34 students on Human Development which has been exploring issues related to development from gestation and birth throughout life to the point of dying.

Eldon opened the class by asking the students to take out a piece of paper for a quiz.  The quiz was not for a grade but for their discussion. These are the questions he asked:

1.     How would you define the Hospice organization to someone who asked you?

2.     Have you ever known anyone who was under Hospice care?

3.    Have you ever talked with your family or friends about what your preferences are if you had a terminal illness?  Why or why not?

4.     What place do your faith and/or your perspective regarding use of global economic resources fit into your end of life choices?

5.     If you were told by a doctor that everything had been done for you medically and that most likely you were experiencing a terminal illness of six months or less, would you

a.     Ask the doctor to make every medical intervention possible, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy with all its side effects, to keep you alive with tubes, machines and on a ventilator to help you breathe as long as possible?  Or

b.     Ask the doctor to refer you to hospice where you could leave the hospital, be with your family or friends at home, with pain and suffering as little as possible and with the best quality of life possible for as long as possible?

Eldon shared case studies of 6 patients from ages 36 to 99 for whom he had provided spiritual care and how they approached end of life choices.  Most of the students had had little discussion about these issues for themselves.  Since the class included students from different cultures including Chinese, Latino, African as well as European, they also discussed how end of life choices are also affected by cultures and ethnic beliefs.

We do well to recognize that end of life is a consequence of birth, common to all humanity of every race, color, geographic area, and religion.

About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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4 Responses to End of Life

  1. Gordon Samra says:

    Eldon and I have been friends for over 8 years. We were chaplains together at Lutheran Hospital in 2004. We had dinner together last night. I can only imagine how the students reacted to his lecture. I would have liked to have been there.

    I will be checking in on this site from time to time. Thanks!

  2. Paul Landis says:

    Thanks, Martin.

    I served as a volunteer with Hospise of Lancaster County, (PA) for almost 10 years. The staff are some of the most loving and gracious people I ever worked with. Most of the patiemts have dealt with end of life issues and were peacefully putting meaning in each moment.

  3. Marilyn Slabach says:

    Good topic! When Mel was diagnosed with an inoperable malignant tumor early in 2005, we moved into uncharted territory. Our first response was lots of questions to learn best how to manage this. A practical response to us seemed to surprise the doctor. Mel was so quiet as we returned home and then said he was just thinking if there was anything else he wanted to do yet in his life. He couldn’t think of anything! It IS the way he lived his life! So we “partied” for 14 months, Mel did some experimental stuff with Chemo pills etc, spent lots of time at medical facilities and with family and friends. Of course, Hospice was important in the process, as was the support of many people. Confirmation again that God is the higher power always in charge, and we really do need each other. I must remind myself of that regularly.

  4. Miriam says:

    Death is important. Our navigation of life is profoundly affected by our take on death.

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