218e20338dff447a7e1d57f3717b2ef0I sit and I listen to the nurses and the therapists, and they say to her time and time again, “don’t give up”.

She wants to please them, she doesn’t want to be a bother, she doesn’t want to be a “wimp”.  So she fights with the meager internal resources she has, a body that’s aged and weakened by surgery and complications, a mind that is tired and wants to just rest, a spirit that wishes to float away, not because she doesn’t love her family, but because 87 years have been good, and this, this is not good.

With every battle cry of “don’t give up” despite the incredible odds against her, she glues on a fake smile and she tries, for them.  This is not what she wants, this is not her battle, but she fights it.  In quiet moments she tells me her truth,  but then they come again with their rallying cries and she raises an exhausted arm in a symbol of solidarity and charging on…..and she suffers.  She is conflicted by a world that urges her to stay and a mind and body ready to go home.  She wants to lay in her bed and watch the world pass by, see the flowers of spring, watch the birds upon the sill and as her body slowly weakens, as naturally as possible without suffering, she wants to drift away.

1605031747-working-at-a-hospice-i-asked-a-woman-whats-it-2.pngShe’s not giving up, that’s what we fail to understand.  No part of her has given up, she has just switched focus.  Before her body betrayed her in years and frailty she fought against incredible odds and she never “gave up”.  She didn’t “give up” on being a working woman when she had 2 children, she shifted her focus to being a mom.  She didn’t “give up” on being a mom when her children grew up, she shifted her time and attentions to her community and her family and other things that brought her joy and fulfillment.  For years she “didn’t give up” on her husband as he fought through a devastating dementia which turned him into a different man, but eventually she saw his peace and she moved forward into her own life once more.  She never gave up, and she doesn’t now.  She simply knows that there is something else beyond this living waiting for her, and she is ready to go to it, naturally, in its time.

The choice of ceasing treatment or withdrawing medical support, the choice of engaging hospice, we need to stop viewing these as “giving up”.  We are harming those we love in adding the negative connotation that this phrase implies.  For all these years they have battled and persevered…they do not give up now.  They choose instead to see time in measure of enjoying the ones they love, in being free from pain, in being comfortable and comforted and letting life do, what it will always inevitably someday do….end.  Many will actually gain more time and happiness from these routes, studies have shown it again and again, but still we persist in our rallying cries to “not give up”, ourselves sacrificing amazing time, comfort and closeness to the perception that somehow if we try hard enough we can be immortal.It is a fight we will all eventually succumb to.

8bddf374507d74c0e14b5fdc87052a5bI only hope that in my final times I have the courage to shift focus…to hold on to joy and accept what is to come, and to live every day granted to me from then on with a single purpose of living in comfort and peace and love.
Trust me, I don’t ever give up.  I learned that from her