Unit 9: “Letting Go” Reading Response

Get the discussion on this article started by posting your reading response here. Please remember that you will need to post your response and then read other students' responses and post  a reply.

 

handIn "Letting Go,"  Sara Thomas Monopoli and her family fight so hard against her incurable cancer, they aren't able to make conscious decisions about the end of her life. It's a terribly sad story, and all too common in modern medicine.  Many of these examples beg the question of how and if we (as a government, society, family, etc) should honor decisions about death, and the right to a dignified and peaceful goodbye. In your response, reflect on how you might react, should one of your own family members face this terrible battle.  What do you know after reading this piece that might change how you approach the situation?  How has advancing science and technology actually blinded us to the reality of these dire situations?

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33 thoughts on “Unit 9: “Letting Go” Reading Response

  1. Matthew Wetherington

    Wow, I am unsure how to start this one off. It is clearly not a fun read, and I don’t think humans as a whole want to think in terms of being terminally ill, or in how long we’re supposed to “last”. However, sometimes this is a persons reality and it must be talked about at some point. Overall, I will say I thought it was a fitting end to our reading responses out of this book. Now getting to the debate about terminally ill people, and whether they should be treated by hospice, or a hospital; ultimately I have to let my Christianity shine through and say neither. I am a firm advocate of two points, first, God can heal you, and secondly that this world is not where my hope is placed; if I can’t live here any longer why should I try to desperately cling to life using narcotics? Honestly, that is rather terrifying, and unnecessary in my opinion. So if it was a family member, I would remind them of these two points and lastly help them realize, regardless to age; health, vitality, monetary status, or anything else, everyone at some point will die, its inevitable. After reading this, I am sticking to my stance, I don’t see a reason to change it as my entire hope is placed in God. I do think advancing technology and science has blinded us from the painful reality that I just mentioned, everyone dies. I believe there are so many terminally ill and relatives of these people, that try so hard to keep their family members around, as they deem life unlivable without that person. Now I don’t want to come off cold, or insensitive. Losing a life partner, parent, or sibling sucks; but if they are physically or mentally falling apart, why are you trying to glue them back together? Let the person rest, until God comes back to get them.

    1. virginia blake

      I definitely agree not letting a person suffer. I think many people are left here for earthly selfish reasons. It is heart breaking to see people hooked up to all kinds of machines, lifeless etc. I see a lot of it working in the hospital. Visitors start to disappear and its just us and them. It truly is heartbreaking.

      I wish everyone could feel the way we do, let them go with God. Then again everyone’s reality is different.

  2. virginia blake

    When my son was born medically complex (trach, feeding tube, blind etc.) I developed two modes. Mommy mode which was my favorite that’s of course being the fighter, hero, and best mommy ever. Then there was this mode two where I could turn that off and almost turn into a nurse/doctor. I could give you report better than a second-year resident. I could hold my son done to be poked at. It sounds cruel but when it comes to life or death it was just stuff I had to do. As well as from his beginning I was open about death. I was not in denial. We were on borrowed time. I didn’t know how much but I prayed daily to God, “Let me have him until he is twelve — if you shall need him to be an angel before please let all of his days be joyful.” I literally prayed this all the time. So, fast forward to my son’s death. Two months shy of turning four he caught RSV. Nasty. I had kept him safe from this all the time I had from him. That year I wanted Bren to meet Santa. I never had before because of germs. But he was bigger now, and we had a solid six months with zero hospitalizations I thought it would be okay. So, we went. Bren wasn’t thrilled at all. We laughed hysterically how Bren had more fun waiting in line then he did meeting Santa. However, a few days later which was Christmas day I knew things were dwindling down. He was back on a ventilator, and requiring a lot of oxygen. I now say Santa killed Bren. We had been on no other outings but Santa. I had his trach covered with an artificial “nose” (it’s a plastic tube with a sponge in it but it goes over the trach) but he must have gotten RSV from one of the other hundred kids waiting outside. So, RSV landed him a three week visit in the hospital and the most horrible stay we ever had. For the first time I will say he was suffering, there was no more joy in his every day. He was stable enough to come home, so we thought. The first night went okay but the next day he slept most of the day but that can be normal after a hospital stay as he was worn out. However, he didn’t urinate that much after his nightly feed. He was still very much out of it on the second day. To the point where we couldn’t arouse him. I immediately put him in the bath tub with warm water. The water was his favorite place. Anyways, when I laid him in the tub, nothing. Dad was calling our emergency pediatrician. Right when dad walked back into the bathroom “he opened his bright blue precious eyes and looked at us” that was the last time Bren ever opened his eyes. I got him out of the tub and I wrapped him up in blankets and we got into the car immediately. Dad drove 90 the whole way. We were an hour away from the hospital but an ambulance would be to slow. When I look back on it I’m happy we did that drive. I got to hold him, cry, and tell him how much I love him. I knew Bren wasn’t coming back home.

    Fast forward roughly 8 hours. We withdrew care. At 4pm we unplugged the ventilator and removed the oxygen. He was given versed at his comfort drug. The doctor told us to prepare for this to go on for about 3 days. Bren was near death but his stats were not even close.

    Fast forward an hour. As the nurse put on Wiggles for him which was his favorite. I laid down next to him and snuggled as many of us were taking turns. I went to get up because my arm had fallen asleep and I look down and there his last breath was. I immediately grabbed him in my arms and cried hysterically. I told dad to get everyone out of the room. The nurse sat us down in a rocking chair and she said just love on him. I remember yelling, the doctor said it would take a few days. Like I thought i had more time.

    Mode 2. The doctor/nurse mode set in quickly. Why? I have no idea. I told the nurse it was time. I bathe him. Put lotion all over him and I even put in the body bag. I didn’t zip it up all the way. I left it half open and laid with him again. When the nurse was done with the paperwork we zipped it up. I wrapped him up in a blanket so nobody could see the bag. All seven-teen of us followed the nurse down to the basement of the hospital. To the morgue. I handed him to his nurse (a favorite nurse of ours) and I watched her go beyond the doors of “The Morgue.”

    That was it. He was gone. Mode 2 was over. I hated Santa and doubted myself for many months if I made the right decision. Deep down I knew I did. His joy was no longer there. His body was becoming contracted to the point where he had to sleep with a band on his legs. When I get really sad i remind myself the way he passed. Not one doctor could believe he passed the way he did. His stats was good. His oxygen was 89, blood pressure was good, heart rate was controlled with versed. He literally just left which reminds me “he was ready”

    All that was left now was a grieving mother

    Everyone reacts differently. Everyone’s reality is different. I was always on borrowed time and I always told myself when the time was up, “be strong, be mode 2, do the right thing by not holding him on earth for selfish reasons” and I’m glad I was able to follow through. He had the best care in life and right after death.

    I can very strongly and proudly say not only myself but our amazing team of nurses made sure that little boy had joy everyday he was here.

    1. Cassandra Lane

      Your post left me in tears. You are a strong woman. I like to think that if I was faced with such a choice with a loved one, that I would be able to think past myself and my need for them to be there and think about them and how they must be suffering. Thank you for sharing your story.

    2. Amanda Carr

      I was also like Cassandra and cried all the way through your post. I can tell through your writting that you have an amazing soul and have been through the hardest thing a person can go through. You were and are strong and courageous.
      I am speechless thinking about the grief and sorrow you have felt…….
      God bless you.

    3. Jessica Mathews

      So sorry to hear about your loss, thank you for sharing with everyone that was very courageous of you! I do not have any children of my own but, I could not imagine what you have been through your one strong woman!

  3. Amanda Carr

    Out of all the readings that were required this semester from Mary Roach’s book “The Best American Science and Nature Writing”, my favorite article was, “Letting Go” by Atul Gawande.
    There is a quote on page 154, “People die only once.” This statement hit home for me and made so much sense. We only die once, no one knows how to do it or what to expect. So, why not have those end days or years as comfortable as possible and make sure your loved ones know exactly what you, or what they want if it is that time in their life.
    This article was very personal for me because as much as I would like to pretend like I wasn’t at this faze in my life before, I have.
    In 2010 I went by myself to the ER because I kept getting horrible headaches. I had a CAT scan done and they told me that I had a brain tumor the size of a large plumb blocking my spinal fluid form going down my spine. All of the spinal fluid was trapped in and around my brain. The doctors told me that they needed to put in a, “brain drain” as soon as possible to relieve the pressure, and then I would need to have surgery to remove the tumor.
    I called my family and informed them on what was going on and that I needed to have emergency surgery. They said they would be there when I woke up. When my family arrived the doctors informed us on what the removal of the tumor would entail and some of the risks. We never talked about what I would have wanted to happen if something went wrong.
    This article was very powerful. It helped me grasp that if one of my loved ones or myself are in this situation again there will be some serious discussion had. They will not be easy discussions to have but in the end it will give everyone more peace.
    I think that the advancing science and then people not being informed correctly on how to deal with things at the end of ones life is hard. It’s hard because it is our natural instinct to want to stay alive; death is scary because it is the unknown. We have to keep communicating and figuring out what is best for people and their families during this time. We as humans need to be there for each other during one of the hardest times in all of our lives.

    1. Angelina Lund

      Im so sorry that you had to go through that scary situation and I am very happy that your family was there for you. I agree that ” end of life” discussions are not easy but also agree that they need to happen. Death is very scary for everyone involved. The families dont want to deal with the loss and being without that family member and the dying patient doesnt want their family to be hurting without them. This was a very good read and I could relate to it on so many ways.

    2. Angelica Kougl

      I agree with you that the statement “People die only once” is so strong and so true. It is scary to think that we might be so involved in looking into ways to extend our lives that we miss out on the time we do have with our families and loved ones. It is scary to think that we could waste those valuable, last moments of our lives trying to figure out how to stay alive rather than enjoying time with the ones we love. Because once we die, we will never get that chance again.

  4. Angelina Lund

    This writing really hit home for several different reasons. I was not able to put the book down during this reading and I caught myself crying a couple times. My oldest daughters dad and I split up when she was very young but I remained very close with the family. In 2011 her grandma on her dads side was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. It was a very sad and scary diagnosis. She lived life to the fullest after her diagnosis, watching her grandchildren grow up and spending as much time as possible with her family and friends. Even took a cruise with the entire family. She was such an amazing women and I looked up to her in so many different ways. Her arms and heart were always open to anyone. She helped me deal with losing my younger brother to suicide in 2012. The story about Sara Monopoli reminds me of what her family went through. She did all the chemo and radiation treatments. The radiation treatment burned her throat so she could not eat and could barely drink anything. She eventually was informed that the cancer had spread to her bones and brain and was put on ” Comfort Care.” I will never forget the day she told me this, she hugged me so tight. I have recently worked in the radiation oncology department at the hospital and seeing those patients going through this disease, really makes you sit back and think what would you do if you got diagnosed with cancer. I was talking with my dad whos brother died from colon cancer and we agreed that if we were diagnosed with a form of cancer that could not be removed with surgery, we would live life as much as we could but we would not go through radiation or chemo. I have seen it make so many people so sick for just a couple more months of life. When I first started reading this section, I thought these family members that prolong life that they know is meant to end, are selfish but then further in the reading it is also explained that the person dying, wants to live longer to put off the loss to the family, I have to think that if I was in the ICU hooked up to all kinds of machines, I would want the plug to be pulled. I feel that is no way for anyone to live. If I have a terminal illness and my last days are coming, I want to be home with family and loved ones not in a room surrounded by machines and beeping noises. Dying with a smile on my face and a comfort in my heart is the way I want to go.

  5. Angelica Kougl

    This article about terminal disease was very sad, to say the least, but despite that I think it was a good read. This article definitely got me thinking about what decisions I would make if any of my loved ones was diagnosed with an incurable disease, and what I would do if I was in that situation. Hearing other people’s stories or experiences with cancer or other terminal illnesses is hard to listen to. We sympathize with those who are ill, but I think we also subconsciously distance ourselves from the idea that a similar situation could also fall onto us or our loved ones. For a lot of us it is too scary to think about. If I’m being completely honest with myself, I think that if one of my family faced a battle similar to the stories in this article, I would react the same way. How could you not want your loved ones to stay alive and with you? How could you not hold onto that slim glimmer of hope that they might survive this terminal disease? I think it would be really hard to let go of that hope, no matter how slim there chances are. I don’t know if I could manage to clear up my mind of the overwhelming emotion enough to make the decision to stop looking for new treatments, and start cherishing the time they do have left with me. However, after reading this article I know that if I do not have those tough discussions about “What if this is the end?”, I could waste the short amount of time I did have with my family member and regret it later. This article showed just how hard it is for us to let go. Death is so mysterious and unknown to us, and all we want to do is avoid it keep ourselves and our loved ones alive as long as possible.

    1. Roger Vang

      We tend to be selfish when we are scared, especially when we cannot fathom the loss of someone close. It is instinctive to act the way many of the families in this article did. Like you said, “For a lot of us it is too scary to think about.” We are never fully prepared for death because death is not something we ever want to consider. And because of modern technology, we have hope that diseases can be cured or treated, giving us more time. But from this article, it is realized that our lives are short and can end unexpectedly. We will never have enough time to say goodbye to our loved ones.

      1. Kristopher Dunkle

        Well said. The reality is that we are still just as mortal as we’ve always been, and this perhaps-scary truth has to be accounted for if you want to give a proper farewell. Like the article showed, you only hurt yourself by trying to pretend otherwise.

  6. Emily J. Nerbonne

    “In the past few decades, medical science has rendered obsolete centuries of experience, tradition, and language about our mortality, and created a new difficulty for mankind: how to die.” Pg.# 133
    This essay really gripped my heart. Reading it made me cry a couple of times. All the struggles that many of those people have to go through, and the struggles that their family members have to go through, really brings the reality of being terminally ill. A person can hear about sickness or watch movies about sickness, but we sometimes don’t even know what people are going through.
    Nowadays, so much is put into prolonging life. People don’t want to die; they want to live as long as they can. The patient’s family want to have them as long as they can. Nobody wants to say goodbye. Nobody wants to finally face the facts that it’s ending and you have to say goodbye. Back in the middle ages, about the 1500’s, life expectancy was only about 35 years. With all the bad hygiene, lack of cleanliness, and lack of medical care, people didn’t live long. With all the advances and care that is given today, life expectancy has grown exponentially. The quote above depicts how over the years this has happened. People were so used to death, of it coming quickly. Now, we aren’t used to death; we aren’t as aware of the mortality of our lives. With all the medical advances, we hope there is some cure out there. Even though the cure is most likely a fantasy. We search for what doesn’t exist sometimes in hopes that we don’t have to admit defeat and say that we have to face the end.
    Even though we never want to face the end and face the reality of saying goodbye, there is a time that it needs to happen. Obviously if there is a chance that a cure can be found or a recovery can be made, you should go for that. Yet, when you know that there is not turning back and it will eventually lead to death, you need to come a decision about what is to happen. You shouldn’t prolong suffering and draw out their lives if they have nothing to live for anymore. I believe you should just make them comfortable in their last days. You should let the people enjoy their lives and really treasure their last days on earth. You shouldn’t make them go through more pain just because you would rather have them live a few extra days; you should enjoy them and spend quality time with each other.
    With talking about the near end decisions, I think their should be plan in place. There should be decisions already made. You don’t want to be stuck in a situation of you guessing about the patient’s wishes. You don’t want to be hurting them or hurting yourself. I know talking about it could be very awkward or very terrifying. Yet, it needs to be done. The “death” talk should happen way before things get out of hand and the patient is barely conscious of what is happening to them. Everybody should be aware of what is happening in the situation.
    While reading this, I kept on wondering what would happen in my family if we went through a situation like this. I know it would be a devastating thing to happen. All of my family members are really close, so news of one of us being terminally ill would be devastating for us. I know that there would be a great deal of crying. After a while though, I know that my family would pull together and make the decisions that would need to be made. It would be tough times, but my family would get through it. It’s hard to be level headed in these situations, but I have faith that my family would make the right decisions. We wouldn’t prolong suffering and make any family members live as long as we wanted. We would be mindful of their choices and their decisions. It would be hard to say goodbye and say that it was the end, but it would have to happen. If it was me on the hospital bed, I would just want to have time with my family. I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a bed, in a hospital away from my friends and family. I would want to live my last few days to the fullest. If it eventually turned into me being stuck on a ventilator, I would want them to let me go. I wouldn’t want to be stuck there and them stuck with me barely living.
    I think that all the advances in technology and science has aided greatly to discovering the cures for diseases and helping in the research so we know more about diseases. But at the same time, with all these advances, people think that there should be a cure out there for everything. There should be a way to fix everything, but there isn’t. Some research can pause diseases, but they can’t stop them. People don’t want to face the fact that there might not be cure. They want to assume that there is a way to cure and to stop. Yet, sometimes there isn’t. That blinds people from the reality of death. They don’t think they will have to face it, because there should be this mystic cure all. Yet there isn’t always a cure. People are blindsided by these visions of doctors who can do the impossible, but there are limitations to what doctors can do. We don’t realize how hard and awful situations are until we really face that nothing can be done.

  7. Cassandra Lane

    I like how this article was written. It was easy to read, but at the same time hard to read. I have lost many people close to me to cancer. It is an ugly beast. This writer effectively covers to battle or to just let go. It was sad and broke my heart to read about the pregnant woman finding out she had such an advanced cancer. I think that we absolutely should honor a person’s wishes when it comes to death and resuscitation. I’d want to say my goodbye’s and just be done suffering. I feel like our loved one’s suffer right along with us and even more so having to watch the pain and suffering when a loved one is sick. This is not something that I wish my family to have to endure. I want to fight, but I don’t want my final moments to be hooked up to multiple tubes clinging onto life by a thread. I don’t want my family to have to endure that. My husband has always been under the impression that hospice killed his father but for my grandfather, I saw it as totally different. Alleviating his pain at the end. After reading this article, I see hospice in a whole new light and would definitely utilize their services if I am able to should the need arise. When it is a loved one that is sick, we selfishly want more time with them. I get it, I would want more time with my loved one as well, but not if they are in such agonizing pain and suffering. If their quality of life is poor, one should advocate for them and speak with them about hospice and explain the benefits. I’d want my family to remember me in a positive way in my last moments, happy, having fun, enjoying the company of my friends and family.
    I think that advancing science and technology has blinded us because we have a false sense of hope. We are convinced that science and technology should save everyone’s lives and we hope that one day that will happen.

    1. Janelle Pascoe

      I agree with your opinion on the selfishness of people wanting their loved ones to live longer no matter what it takes. Then there is the thought of letting go at the right time when like you said the patient can live their last moments in happiness enjoying the company of their loved ones. I also agree that advancing science has given us false hope that can lead us to believe they can save everyones lives and essentially make them “last forever”.

    2. Thomas Vorderbruggen

      I agree with your closing statement–than science can give individuals a false sense of hope–because not only does it lead people to risk their lives more to underestimate illness, but it also makes the shock of the eventual death all the more catastrophic to friends and family

  8. Janelle Pascoe

    After reading this piece I felt a little heavy hearted thinking about my loved ones and what I would do when the time comes. The horrible truth is that everyone dies eventually and that you never know when that time is but until then all we can do is make the most out of the time we have. From this article I gathered that suffering is a fear greater than death and that no body wants to see their loved ones suffer. Families of terminal ill patients want to extend their lives as long as possible. Doctors often talk with the patient on their wishes before they have a group discussion. Patients often make the sacrifice of undergoing a procedure or medicine that they do not want solely for the purpose of seeing their family members at peace. With the technology we have today doctors can sustain ones life by hooking them up. The article brings up a point that I think is very important in discussing the “breaking point” of treatment and that is that death will always win eventually, there is no sense in prolonging a battle that will eventually be lost. When I come to a situation like this I am unsure what I will do, I know it will be the hardest thing I ever do in life. The best we can do is be strong to deal with the unknown when it happens.

    1. Tarean Allen

      It is defiantly not something anyone wants to think about unless they have no other options. I think it is sad that the terminally ill go through so much just to give hope to their family. I personally wouldn’t want them to suffer any more than needed. I would want them to be in an environment that is comfortable and familiar to them. I know that this is not always the case. Every person has their unique experiences and handles everything differently, but having a list of do’s and don’ts will help. The story about the daughter who asked her father at what point do you want me to stop treatments for you and he said that she could stop when he was no longer able to eat chocolate ice cream and watch football. Even a request this simple can make a big difference in the eyes of a loved one.

      1. Emily J. Nerbonne

        I totally agree with you on the fact that terminally ill go through a lot of treatment and pain so that they can appease they family and give hope that there someday might be a cure. It’s so sad that they suffer so much in hopes that their family will feel better. The focus sometimes shifts from the patient to the family. The family isn’t ready to let go, so the patient has to go through more pain than is really needed. They shouldn’t be put through more pain then they should have to go through. They need to be treated if they can be treated, but if there isn’t an known answer, I feel like you should just let them be. Let them live their final days with family, not suffering for the families’ sake. It’s a very slippery slope to talk about the wishes of the family and the wishes of the patient.

  9. Tarean Allen

    This reading assignment hit close to home for me. I was there when my grandmother died and witnessed disregard for her wishes because she was rendered unable to communicate for herself. She had told me and my mother her wishes, but I couldn’t do anything because I was only 13 at the time. My mother tired but her brothers took over. This happened again when my grandfather passed away. I was not in the country at the time, so I was helpless to the fix or change events. I know the importance of following an ill relative’s wishes and how personal emotions can affect how your loved ones can interpret and follow your instructions. I think it is important to have a living will and to entrust your written death wishes with a non-family member who will not be afraid to step in and say firmly, “No, she/he doesn’t want xyz.” A good example of this is in the movie You’re Not You, starring Hilary Swank. She knew her mother and husband would not honor her wishes, so she had her caregiver do it.
    Advances in science and medicine has advantages and disadvantages. It’s great that there are experimental treatments that can help or cure people of their otherwise fatal diseases, but at what point do you say enough is enough. There must be a line drawn before the families are out of funding for these treatments. You have a hard talk about planning for death. I believe it ultimately comes down to tactfully educating the patients and their family about their options. By making sure that they have all the facts about their ailments and the hospital and hospices options available to them

    1. Emily J. Nerbonne

      It’s a very slipper slope to differentiate between the families’ wishes and the patients wishes. It sounds awful that you couldn’t have followed you grandparent’s wishes. People are sometimes just so consumed with wanting their loved ones to get well, that they don’t notice the pain they are putting them through in the process. It is also really depressing to think about the pain the patients go through to try and appease their family members. They go through so much suffering just to allow them hope and happiness. It’s hard to come to terms with saying that there may not be a cure or a solution to a terminally ill disease. People want to have hope for the better; we don’t like to claim defeat. Yet, sometimes it is better to claim defeat. It allows you to enjoy the person before they move on.

  10. Kristopher Dunkle

    I don’t think this article was intended to be a tear-jerker, but it certainly choked me up a few times. The trouble isn’t so much in understanding that there’s a point where it’s just not worth prolonging the battle, but in being decisive about it. Advancing experimental procedures blur the line between a losing battle and a lost one, and who wants to be the one to “admit defeat,” regardless of how ultimately silly that notion is? That kind of thinking only makes it worse in the end, but there’s pressure from many angles, not least the social angle, to sustain it.

  11. Roger Vang

    It is much easier to read and hear about death, but when a loved one becomes terminally ill, the end is the last thing we want to talk about. We deem that we cannot live without that person, that there is no reason to wake up if we cannot share our stories with them anymore. We become selfish, persuading our ill loved one to try any treatment, not considering the suffering they will endure and not accepting death as a possibility. But as the patient, it would also be hard to let go of the hope of living and to accept death. I would not be able to stop looking for experimental treatments to cure me or give me another day to live. “Ninety-nine percent understand they’re dying, but one hundred percent hope they’re not,” says Nurse, Sarah Creed, about patients that enter hospice care (136). Even if people have accepted death, they do not wish it. Modern medicine has helped cure and eases many patients’ suffering with medication. It has also given us hope to live longer and strayed our thoughts away from the possibility of death. With all the medical advances, like cures for cancer and hepatitis, it is easy to not worry about death by disease. Unfortunately, we will, eventually, have to face reality and ask ourselves “Is it time to say goodbye?” We try to decide how to make the best of this short, finite time without regrets. We try to say our goodbyes with the least suffering for both the patient and his/her loved ones. The last few days should consist of letting your loved ones go away in peace.

    1. Michael Williams

      Great comment, I think it is so true that even those who know they are dying still don’t want it. While that may seem obvious, most terminally ill patients will try to seem brave for their family but nobody is ever truly ready for death. How could you be after all? I don’t believe it is possible for a living organism to truly accept that they will be dead and gone one day.

  12. Thomas Vorderbruggen

    Well, this was quite the bummer of a read this weekend, but the topic covered is, unfortunately, too real to ignore. As someone who, like almost all others, has had to deal with the slow passing of close friends and family, this piece struck a chord with me. It is not uncommon for a slightly older person to be diagnosed with a fatal illness; a slow one that unfortunately doesn’t have a known cure. There are a variety of treatments available, but only seek to postpone the seeming inevitable. How do you deal with that? A family friend of mine–a close friend of my mother’s–was diagnosed with such an illness. We watched as the quality of her health slowly deteriorated over time. It was pitiful. Yet she was still able to obtain a peaceful passing, and lived out her days as long as she could. I believe that when someone is in such a situation, they ought to enjoy and cherish the time they have left on earth. For those who are in pain, treatments such as hospice can help them live more comfortably. But there is a point when it is time for them to leave, and at that point, it is better to see them off with respect and love more than anything else.

  13. Michael Williams

    Nobody ever wants to think about death, ever. Most people, even when they are faced with their own impending death tend to go into denial and pretend everything is going to be okay. There is nothing wrong with that and it is perfectly natural because it is simply impossible for the human brain to grasp. We as living organisms have no concept of death. Even the earliest human civilizations had beliefs in an afterlife to try to help explain away the horror of no longer existing. That is why I think readings like this are so important. This reading was all about excepting your fate and coming to grips with it. I think people don’t spend nearly enough time thinking about the fact that we will all die one day. Never facing our life-ending problem doesn’t make it go away, it just makes it that much harder for the people we leave behind when we do go. It is very important to face the death issue while we still can, before the choice is taken from us.

    1. Sara Church

      I agree with you that this is an important article for people to read. So many people try to ignore this fact of life and are blind sided when the end of life draw closer.

  14. Sara Church

    This was a very well written article but reading it was very hard. I had to have a comedy special playing in the background, to try and lighten the mood. I do not have a lot of experience with end of life care. I was only able to see my grandmother once before she passed away in the ICU. But the when I did get to see her, she wasn’t my grandmother anymore. There were to many tubes and she never woke up. Seeing her like that, forced to stay alive when everyone new she was dead, was just horrible. Seeing my grandmother like that has lead me to the decision that I don’t want to go like that. If my mother or my dad start to go down this road, I will have this conversation with them. I know my mother has dropped hints that she does not want to end up like how my grandmother. Hospice care can help relieve a lot of the pain that end of life can bring and with it you are prepared. You are not fighting the inevitable. It helps bring peace.

  15. Hunter Young

    Wow. Just … so much. I thought this article was super enlightening in many ways. I think that a lot of the times when we hear about people with illness that can be fatal, we just kind of say something along the lines of, “That’s terrible,” or “I can only imagine,” and this reading dealt with this issue in a very real way. I think it’s a little fitting that our last reading response (from this book) is about death. But I was also expecting it soon enough because this is something we can’t avoid in our lives. There was a saying in the reading on page 154 that was, “People only die once.” This really hit me. Dealing with death in my life, it’s strange how in reality the death only happens once, where it might feel like every day you’re losing that person. But I thought that this was interesting to see because we definitely see YOLO (you only LIVE once) popularized and said. I think death is unavoidable, but people constantly try to avoid it. With terminally ill people, it’s something they think about more because we live life with no thought about if we’re going to die or not, but if you’re sick that might be the only thing you think about. I actually called my uncle after reading this (he has cancer for about a year back in 2005) and it was strange because they said his cancer was terminal (they just diagnosed it wrong) and then treatment made it go away. I asked him what it felt like to have the terminal illness and he said that he never really thought about him dying in the sense that he’d be gone, he thought more in the sense of what he would leave behind. He had just had my cousin and had just gotten married to my aunt so he had so much good happen before this bad. But he said he never let it get him down, because he knew that was he had was good, and that as long as he valued that and recognized what he had was good, he could die without regret.

  16. Jessica Mathews

    That was a tough reading, very sad at that! I think people need to look at death not necessarily as a bad thing but as a good thing, when someone’s time is ready then it is time to let go if they want to keep fighting they will. I believe people should endure their final days when they find out they are terminally ill. There are a few situations I can think of personally, one is a young boy I used to watch at the time he was three years old and diagnosed with Leukemia. As a three-year-old you do not understand what is going on, you are scared and you are in a rare environment, not to mention your mom is a total wreck (100% understandable). That little boy fought and fought and thankfully got into remission to find out a year later he got Leukemia again, as if his mother was not negative enough the first go around you can only imagine the second time, they fought and fought, they made him as comfortable as he could be they gave him the necessary medicines and he has lived he is now 7 years old and a happy kid! so in some cases fighting and pursuing with the medicines is the right option, if his mom would have said we cant do this anymore, or these month-long hospital stays are not worth it, he keeps getting sicker, he may have never lived! As my father gets older in age I every now and again think to myself what will I do if I have to make a life-threatening decision, too frequently I feel that people are being pulled off oxygen to early and not being able to finish their lives on their own. I once heard of a person who was in a coma for over a year and one day just snapped out of it, was back to life, with the learning curve of course, but was ready to live life again you never know what may happen!

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