End of Life – Death of an Elderly Relative and the Long Road Leading There

AddingOil:

Death.

It puts everything in perspective. We only have a finite time on this earth. Even for those who believe in Christianity, Islam,  Buddhism, or another religion where the immortal soul continues into an afterlife, coming face to face with death stops us in our tracks.

Although we may have near death experiences throughout our lives – hopefully few and far between – we most likely will face it the form of an elderly relative’s passing.

My grandmother was a staunch and lifelong Catholic and received her last rites before she died.

This is what happened to me, when my grandmother passed away this past spring at the incredible age of 104. She lived through two wars and was a refugee each time as a result. The second time, she moved to the U.S. and started life anew, a stranger in a strange land.

In contrast to China, Americans and many other Westerners put the elderly into nursing homes paid by the government once the effort of care by family members becomes too great. In Asia, the elderly usually rely on their adult children for comfort and economic means of support. It shows the emphasis placed on youth and vigor to affect the future, as opposed to age and experience to reflect on the past. It’s hard to say if this is right or wrong. It’s just the value system in place here.

My grandmother had been in assisted living apartments and then full fledged nursing homes with medical staff for almost a decade before she died. The family would visit her from time to time, but since she didn’t speak English, she could only communicate with my parents. As my parents aged and had their own work, health, and other personal issues, visits became more infrequent. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren visited even less frequently, as they had their own lives and couldn’t communicate beyond an awkward smile. Her mental decline became even more extreme than her physical decline.

When the end came, it started with a call from the nursing home telling us that my grandmother had problems eating. We visited and discovered she would get food stuck in her windpipe. My mother said this is a common occurrence leading to death, as it quickly leads to pneumonia in the elderly.

A few days later, we visited again. We knew that it was the end, and my grandmother knew it also. A staunch and lifelong Catholic, she wanted her last rites of the Catholic faith.

When the priest came, I saw on my grandmother’s face the look of fear mixed with hope. Fear of death. Hope of salvation. And perhaps, I imagine, a bit of relief from the burden of living in the constant drudgery of a nursing home, away from family and friends and her own culture.

I pray to God that her soul is at rest.

JiaYou:

死亡是生命的终止。无论你是信奉什么宗教,对于死亡都是无法避免的。死亡对于我而言是一个很遥远的词,但是在我的人生中又怎么会知道自己的死亡日期呢?当看到老公的外婆去世时,我有太多的感触无法用语言来形容。

我老公的外婆去世时104岁,这个年龄在我们村里来说还没有人可以活到这个岁数。外婆在美国的养老院呆了差不多10年,每次去看望外婆我都觉得自己很不惭愧,她被关在这个小小的空间里,除了睡觉的房间就是吃饭娱乐的房间了。后来的几个月由于怕摔倒,在椅子上给她加了一条安全带,她要站起来就会有报警,就跟我们坐飞机一样,绑好安全带,不可以乱动。但是我不懂她的家乡话,老公也不懂,所以我们基本都没有办法沟通。医院也没有人会说她的家乡话,所以平日里外婆没有人可以跟她聊天。公公和婆婆经常会用家乡话沟通,所以每次去养老院都是婆婆跟外婆沟通,我们就是做陪衬的,外婆讲什么我们都是微笑回应。

每次去看她我都觉得外婆很可怜,但是我公公和婆婆有很多的无奈,他们以前既要上班又要照顾2个小孩还要照顾老公的外婆。正是应正了中国的一句老话:家家有本难念的经。作为第一代美国的移民家庭,他们一定经历了很多。退休后由于年岁已高,也无法单独照顾外婆,自己的生活都照顾不过来。

外婆去世的前几天,养老院通知我们老太太最近食欲不佳,让我们过去看看她。当我们走进外婆养老院的房间时,平日里活泼的老太太不见了,见到的是一个白发苍苍,消瘦如柴的躺在床上的一个人,双手紧握着向上帝祷告,嘴唇不受控制的颤抖着。也许她是在上帝面前祷告,请上帝赦免她的罪;也许她是在向上帝祷告为她预留空间;也许她是在期待与爱人相聚。当我婆婆与她沟通后,到养老院前台填写不需要救治的单子时,我很惊讶,内心却是非常沉重的。在国内,我有看到一些老人去世时,让家人想尽一切办法去拯救他们。而外婆却完全相反。外婆在大雪纷飞那天,悄无声息地走了。留给我们的是无限地深思。当我们的人生结束时,我们应该要留下一点什么呢?

 

 

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