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November 18, 2020


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My SIL and I read Being Mortal as her dad/my FIL was dying in 2015 and have recommended it to everyone since.

I don't think we need to assume he is secretly plotting. I do think it is fair to worry he may not *value* our elder years as much as we want him to.

It may ring a little bit like saying, "We have chosen {extended breastfeeding} for our family" and having everyone else freak out about how you are judging them just by making your own choice, but cases are different when one is a private party vs explicitly put in charge of, say, WIC. In the second case, I think people expecting support for their formula costs might have some very legitimate questions, even concerns. Concerns that may end up addressed, but still - valid concerns at the get-go.

I did not read Emanuel's article, but it seems to me that it could lead to the "safe, legal and rare" argument about ending life.

I haven't read the article you mention, but I am in agreement that end-of-life care should not mean "extend life at all costs." A coworker's mom recently passed; she's elderly and has been ill for a couple of years now. Plus COVID had her isolated in her care home. Coworker was adamant that she'd rather her mom have a good life, whatever was left, than a long life that was miserable. She had to fight the doctor on that, more than she should have had to. I've also seen elderly relatives sent to the ER multiple times, only to be sent home and have it happen a few months later, with the time in-between not the most pleasant in the world.

I've told you about my Catholic Social Teaching class at work. We had a whole session on this. The same conclusion was reached in that class.

I read Emanuel's article back in 2014 and Being Mortal the year it was released and both have significantly informed my response to Covid. Both are excellent looks at what it means to age and approach death without actively pursing it. Both of these texts have colored my frustration with the knee-jerk response to suddenly prioritize safety over living.

Last year, I spent the last couple weeks of my 84-year old grandmother's life with her. We were not close. She often mistook me for her daughter (my aunt) who has not spoken to her for 20 years for the very best of reasons.
I missed my own family, three states away. And yet. It was clear that it was the end of her life and she needed someone who was not a stranger to care for her. I can't imagine what her last few months would have looked like had we, or the nursing home we had to move her into for the last week, been trying to protect her from Covid.

With that experience fresh in our memories, and with lots of Emanuel and Gwande-inspired conversations under our belts, both my parents and in-laws expressed the very firm desire that we spend as much as time as possible with them, despite orders to lockdown. They know they don't have unlimited years left. They want to spend the ones they do, with their families.

As more and more data comes out (average age of Covid morbidity tracks with average age of national morbidity) I keep struggling with your posts. We are mortal. Why does this new cause of death incite drastic measures?

Yesterday, we found out that my son's godfather, who had drifted out of our lives, died suddenly of a double pulmonary embolism. Last summer, my godmother died of a heart attack. We are mortal.

Today I heard that 42% of Houston ISD students are failing. Distance learning is not serving kids. We are sacrificing almost half of our children to "protect" them and teacher who have a greater risk of dying on the drive to work than from a disease they most likely won't catch from their students.

Whether it is Covid that kills, or a car accident, death is still a great tragedy. We are not meant to be mortal.

We look to our next life, when the image of God is fully restored in each one of us and immortality is renewed. Until then, we live, and we love, and we commune with others, knowing that one day, any day, we will die.

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