Sunday, September 17, 2017

The privilege of getting old

I have never prayed for someone to die before but today that is exactly what I am doing. I am praying for my grandma to die.

It will make me terribly sad when she does, but I am praying that God will take her from this life to the next. That her mind would again be sharp and in tact. That she would be reunited with those she loved and has been separated from. 

I visited her today and sobbed alone in my car after. I wish I could say I was strong enough to hold back my tears until I got to my car, but I wasnt. 

I cried right in front of her while she stared back at me. I asked her if she knew why I was crying. She didn't answer. She actually didn't talk at all during my entire two-hour visit. 

Even though she didn't say anything while I was crying, we were looking into each other's eyes and I felt like she understood. I felt like she knew I was sad to see her life come to this. And I felt like she was sad too.

As I looked around the cafeteria, in between spoon-feeding my grandma bites of watermelon, I felt so much sadness. Not just for my grandma, but for everyone there. I felt so torn about my philosophy that "getting old is a gift" and the sign of a full life. 

I do believe it to be true: My brother died at age six and my step-dad died at age 55, after fighting like hell to beat cancer. Neither one were blessed to "get old."

But as I sat there today with the last grandparent I have left, I am overwhelmed with the sadness that comes with watching others get old. It may be a privilege, but It is also really, really hard. 

My Grandma can't feed herself. She can't go to the bathroom herself. She can't get in and out of bed or chairs herself. She can't even walk. On days when she is "alert," she is confused and angry. Just a shell of the person she once was. 

The person who came to every single one of my tennis matches. The person who taught me what it means to be a card shark. The person who could dish my sarcasm right back to me. The person who showed me what it means to live a life devoted to God and doing good for others. 

That person was not there today. 

The cafeteria was filled with many people in similar situations. Many people who have had the privilege of getting old but now have a dimished quality of life. 

I do not handle the circle of life very well. With animals or with humans. I am both fascinated by and terrified of death. But one thing my Grandma has taught me is that for the person who is dying, there is nothing to fear. I do believe in eternity and in heaven and in God. 

So when I prayed today for my grandma to die, it is because I know she has so much more life to live. It is because I know that in the God that she has been worshipping her whole life, will be welcoming her with a fresh mind and a fresh body. 

My fear of death is not for the person who is dying, but for the pain I know I will experience when they are gone. 

It has been a blessing to have my grandma in my life for 34 years. She has been privileged to live a full life. But her life stopped being a privilege to her when she fell victim to dementia. And that is why I am praying today for her to die.