I Did Not Kill My Grandmother

2010/11/liberty_death.jpg Photo ©Copyright/Courtesty of ldJackson

Last Sunday, as I sat by my grandmother’s bedside only an hour before she died, it was difficult watching her labored gasps and listening to her moans as she went through the death process. To me, she looked as if she were suffering terribly, though the nursing home attendants assured me otherwise (how do they know?). Not knowing how long this “birthing canal” would last, the mercy instinct arose in my heart, wishing I could “help” along the process and put her out of her misery. As you can imagine, this led to quite a conversation in my head…

Grandmother last spring with the Ferwerda family

But let me back up for a sec. My grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Browall, age 97.5, often expressed a desire to “go home,” having lost her husband, two of three sons, and most of her friends in death. But then she’d smile and say to me from her reclining position on her bed, “My work is not finished here yet or the Lord would take me. But all I can really do now is pray for people.”

My grandmother had a profound influence on my life in many ways, and I feel that she is almost as responsible for shaping me as my own mother. She lived across the street while I was growing up, and I spent many days in her ever-cheerful company while my parents were at work and older siblings were involved in activities. She always made me feel truly valued and welcomed in her home, and trusted me with responsibilities that parents often don’t have the patience for. She taught me things like how to sew, iron, bake, and more than that she had a significant impact on me spiritually because she was the only member of our family who read her Bible every day (and lived it). Though I didn’t realize it at the time, her faithful example became a profound legacy for me in my own spiritual journey as an adult.

There were other ways she shaped me through her love and care for others. Grandmother often took me to the local nursing home—incidentally the same one she lived out the last five years of her life—to visit with and read to the residents. I found it to be a full circle event that many wonderful women from our community would do the same for her.

So that brings us back to her death and how I wished her process did not have to take so long. It got me thinking once again about that ever controversial subject…

Courtesy of Monografias

Mercy killing. I honestly can’t say where I stand on this topic for those who are suffering so terribly that they seek out the Jack Kevorkians to put them out of their misery. What if it were me—would I want a choice? What if one of my suffering, terminal relatives wanted to go that route? I go through the imaginary conversation with the opponents.

“You would be playing God.”

“That may be true, but aren’t we also playing God by keeping all these people alive on prescription drugs? What if “their time” was long ago but we played God and kept them alive in twenty extra years of misery?

“You would be guilty of murder.”

“So then, why did you put your suffering pet to sleep and call it merciful, but a suffering terminal patient, you call it murder?”

“Thou shalt not kill.”

“Love trumps Law. Jesus defended His disciples’ picking of grain on the Sabbath because He always put the needs and well-being of people (and animals) above the Law. I am not speaking for Jesus, but what if it was more loving to put people out of their misery than to let them suffer? What would Jesus do then (usually He healed them)? Death is temporary anyhow.”

In the case of doctor assisted suicide: “Suicide an unforgiveable sin.”

“Where does the Bible say that again?”

My point here is not to dogmatically say one way is right or wrong, but to respectfully share with you my honest thoughts as I have watched beloved relatives struggle through the death process. Until you go through it with people you love, you may not understand my heart.

And just for the record, I did not kill my grandmother.

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Posted in categories: Edgy Thots | Snapshots from Julie's Life

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  • Whew. I had no idea this happened last weekend. (((hugs))) Your grandma sounds like an amazing woman. Wish I could have met her…I'm glad you posted a picture. :)

    As for mercy killing, as usual you raise valid questions and make valid points; I don't know where I stand on the issue either (I've thought about the drugs & pet angle too). I witnessed my father-in-law's death and no one had prepared me for the fact that it would take hours from the time he began laboring in his breathing until he finally passed. I wonder if the option to mercifully end things sooner were available if we would have chosen it…

    • jferwerd

      Yeah, I've seen it take weeks in that state before someone dies. Darcy's grandma was that way. I had no idea people could fight so long. She was comatose for like 3 weeks!

  • Damian Masters

    Hi Julie, first of all if you had selected to help your grandmother along, it would be on your mind for the rest of your life. Might even drive you a little mad. Secound, Man has been given the chance to know God through Christ. And to become son's and Daughters with Christ. A dog is a brute beast with out those chances. The brute beast is here to serve man. The love of God is not emotional it is love in the most purest form. We will know this at the resurection. Sorry you lost such a dear person in your life. Your descirption of her sounds so wonderful. May god be with you. Damian.

    • Your thoughts about what we'll know at the resurrection are interesting. Do you think we'll still have emotions in the Kingdom in our glorified bodies? Your comment just got me to thinking about how so many people think emotion is a dirty word, yet, there are countless times when people are moved by their emotions through video, art, music, etc, and their emotions compel them to act on injustice.

      • let me rephrase that ending: I meant emotions are often catalysts for people to act on injustice. Surely it's the Spirit who actually compels us.

        • Damian Masters

          Emotional responces generally come from the heart. the scriptures tell us that the heart is decietful above all things. That is because we are all carnal. We are constantly growing in grace through the indwelling of the holy spirit. The changed heart and mind Christ promised takes a life time. In the first resurection those who are choosen will be spirit. So they will be just like Christ as brothers and sisters with full rights as sons and daughters of God our Father.

    • jferwerd

      Hey Damian, I know in my heart that I never would help anyone along, but I still honestly explore these thoughts. I guess where it leads me is being graceful for others who may choose something like this because I am beginning to understand how hard it is. Also, my husband and I have talked about something similar, and that is not reviving one of us should something happen. Anyhow, it is deeply personal to each, and I don't think I have a right to judge anyone for these types of decisions because until you walk in someone's shoes, you have no idea what kind of suffering they are enduring. Thanks for your input! And I can't wait to know love in it's purest form!

  • Gerry

    Julie, your post brought back vivid memories of sitting at my husband's bedside ten year's ago today. Honestly, I don't know what I would do. I don't think any of us do until we are knee deep in the situation. We can talk justice and preach right and wrong easily until we see the look in the eyes of one we love so much. God, in His extraordinary mercy, took that decision out of my hands, by taking my husband to be with Him. I am so sorry for the loss of your Grandmother but I am grateful that she helped mold you into the woman you are today and that you could be there with her at the end.

    • jferwerd

      Gerry, I always think of you this time of year. I know that time doesn't heal some wounds. Thankfully, God adds people into our lives to fill in the gaps left behind by those we've lost, by separation or death. You have been one of those people for me.

  • Sandy

    Thank you for sharing this Julie. You are a brave soul. I have often had similar thoughts. I can remember being an outspoken "zealous" even opponent of assisted suicide when it first hit the public awareness. Now having lived through the painful and slow deaths of several close family members as well as walking the journey of Parkinson's with my Mom, I can tell you that the feeling is much less passionate. I survive by knowing that God is sovereign and that no matter what I can rely on Him.

    • jferwerd

      Sparkle, I know we have been walking a similar journey in the recent past. My heart goes out to you as you are still in the trenches. Much love to you!!

  • Part 1
    Well I have a few things to add here. First of all if it wasn’t for the medical Technology today I for one would not be writing this today. I suffered my fist Massive Heart Attack at age 48 received one stent in the Left side Artery, the Second one came 18 months later, this one attacked the right Side artery and required 3 more stents to open. They had to shock me 6 times while in the Cath. Lab.

    That being said I come to my second point, after watching my wife care for her sick Mother and at the end had to make the choice to make the end easy for her by putting her on a morphine drip. The statement she made to me was very telling as her thoughts. At some point we have to Love them enough to Love them back to God.

    • jferwerd

      Wow, Brian, that is very touching on both sides. Thanks for sharing that with us! You gave kind of both ends of the spectrum. Of course, my thoughts of desiring relief are only for those who cannot be restored, such as the very elderly with little or no quality who are just ready to go. My mom suffered a lot in her battle with cancer, but you know, she was never ready to die until the end. and then she submitted peacefully. In her case, every day was a gift.

  • Part 2

    Many times we desire these medical treatments for our very selfish reasons. One of my friends share with me that in the case of his father he took some major efforts to keep his Dad with him, today looking back at the choice he made after seeing his father suffer for 4 years he would have made a much different choice.

    So the real question for us is are we willing to Love them enough to Love them back to God, or are we just being selfish wanting them to stay here with us?

    God Bless you All

  • Ron Benson

    Courageous questions, Julie. Intriguing comments.

    We want it all black and white, clear-cut, easy. It's not. It's tough. Rock hard legalism is often the result of lazy thinking.

    Re: Emotions. Like many of God's best gifts, emotions can lead to trouble. But maturity is not turning them off or mistrusting them, but celebrating them in freedom and wisdom.

  • brandimr

    Julie…I am sorry to hear this news although we all know she's in a much better place than we are…just so hard to lose loved ones. Thinking of you during this time.

    • jferwerd

      Thanks so much Brandi! Hope you are having a great week! Mine has been really survival mode but will be better after my test tomorrow. :D

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