Earlier this month, the UK Daily Mail ran what is truly one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever read. It’s one woman’s first-hand account of how she helped her mother dehydrate to death. At the age of 88, paralysed, incontinent and unable to speak following a series of small strokes, her mother had had enough. She wasn’t dying. She was “humiliated by her helplessness” and wanted to die. So her daughter and the staff at the nursing home she was living in kept her “comfortable” while she starved and dehydrated for 13 days before finally dying.
I love this excerpt from a letter to his brother that Russian author Fedor Dostoevsky wrote when he was sentenced to 4 years of exile and hard labor in Siberia, where he suffered terribly:
“Brother, I’m not depressed and haven’t lost spirit. Life everywhere is life, life is in ourselves and not in the external. There will be people near me, and to be a human being among human beings, and remain one forever, no matter what misfortunes befall, not to become depressed, and not to falter – this is what life is, herein lies its task.”
Life is a gift, our task is to receive it, cherish it and live it – in good times and in bad, even through sickness and old age. Yes, that means you might have to suffer a little or a lot, but life is still life. Even in the midst of extreme suffering, even as our bodies deteriorate and we lose control of some of our basic bodily functions, we are still human beings. Our lives still have meaning. What’s more, if we let Him, God uses those times of trial to strengthen us with His strength, to educate us in the practical living-out of those valuable virtues: humility, patience, courage, and perseverance. and to remind us that we are His creatures and our ultimate freedom consists in uniting ourselves to Him and relying on Him for absolutely everything. There is beauty in human weakness. We’re just often too proud to see it.