Saturday, February 13, 2010

I Prefer Life

It has been a most emotional week for me as I struggle with planning and decision making for aging parents.  There have been many smaller decisions to be made, but the over-riding one was where my step-father could go from the hospital.  My mother could not continue to assist him at home (especially when in truth, he was caring for her) and he is unable to walk at all now due to cancer which has metastasized to the bone.  In addition, he has become quite confused and disoriented in the hospital.  My goal became to move him to a nursing home near to me so I can monitor his care.  I had no idea this would be so difficult.  After two weeks of working with a discharge planner, contacting homes myself, visiting homes, investigating funding, pleading his case etc., I am no where nearer to finding a suitable placement than when I started.  I have been calm and organized and I have been hysterical and out of control. I have been confident and assured and I have been depressed and desperate. I have experienced a roller-coaster-of-emotions from great sadness at what his life has become to gratitude for the opportunity to catch a glimpse of his inner person yet again.  Finally when I give up and say to the discharge planner at the hospital, "I don't know what else to do."  She says, "I could try to find a place near here."  I agree for her to try and within hours, I have a call from a nursing home that will accept him and funding is not a problem.  I agree to the transfer.  The home is about an hour away, I have not even seen a picture of it and I am going on the kind voice of the admissions clerk over the phone.

When I arrive at the nursing home the next day, I am struck by how this is the best possible choice.  The facility is small and homey.  The staff is competent and caring.  The other patients are well cared for.  It didn't meet my criteria of being close to my home, but it did meet the important criteria for emotional and physical care.  I am convinced it is a place that God chose.  I certainly know I didn't have any part in it.

I spend some time alone with my step-father after he is admitted. He doesn't say much and most of what he does say is pretty far out and not at all grounded in his present reality.  Out of the blue though, he says to me, "You know through all this, I've been thinking a lot about life and death."  Stunned by this personal confession, I ask "And what have you thought about it?"  "I prefer life," he says.

I've thought a lot myself about life and death, about control and giving it up to God, about decisions and choices.  Here's what I've decided.  I believe God has the better plan but that the best way for me to discern that is to: pray, plan, explore possibilities, be open and flexible and rely on all the resources I know.  In the end though, sometimes I have to give up my control and place the power somewhere else. Then, God can move ahead with the plan he undoubtedly had all along.  Maybe I needed to be frustrated with the homes near me before I could accept the home farther away and see the possibilities there.  Maybe I needed to come to the end of my own resources first before I could rely on others.  Maybe I needed to give up the details of the planning and spend some quiet time listening to the thoughts of an 84 year old.  Despite all the frustrations, tears, anger and sadness of the past two weeks though, I too prefer life.

God said, "See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared."  Exodus 23:20

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