Sunday, October 19, 2014

2014.10.19 Flor y Canto—Assisted Dying

Recently a dear friend, with whom I have shared both affection and a medical bond, died. We would call each other “lung buddies,” because we both had lung disease. We did everything we were told to do, took our meds, and ran ourselves to panting on the treadmills, because exercise strengthens any organ. Her condition finally took her life. Just before she died she told me, in a passionate and lucid way, that she wanted to die and was ready. She wasn’t a lingering person in life, so in death she didn’t want to linger and drag along. Me either!

It got me thinking........ (OK, fuzzy thinking image, because this classic Thinker image is not really me:)

In our present culture and church we celebrate life, life, life—life abundant, the divine imperative to choose life (Deut 30), God’s gift of life in creation. And we worship a God who brings life out of death. Life seems the only option that accords with divine desire. (OK. St. Paul wanted to die to be closer to Christ, but that was a little whacko. And the blood of persecuted Christian martyrs is out of fashion, thank heavens.)

What if someone feels called, moved, motivated to choose death? What then? Some religious folks think God is against this, that it's a sin, called suicide. This idea gives people little choice but to blame God for their circumstances: Why doesn’t God take me?  That would be the thing a compassionate God would do, right?

Maybe God doesn’t take anyone, like a body snatcher. Maybe God doesn’t take as much control as we’d like. Maybe God defines life by its quality not its quantity, though "length of days" is a good in scripture. And too, what if death is God’s idea? What if the freedom many believe to be granted by a Creator God really is free? Didn’t Jesus choose death?

Freedom is the hardest darn gift ever given. Damn! Still, it is amazingly respectful; it makes me love this Godde more and more. 

Personally, I’d like to take advantage of this great gift. I’d like the chance to choose death without guilt or shame, and with hope, while I’m still in state of mind, heart and soul which is sane, healthy, alert, that is, not distorted by physical pain, mental illness, or being under the influence of addictive substance.

But it’s illegal.

We have assisted living. Why not assisted dying? I mean for real, and legal. Statistics show that in Oregon, where assisted death is legal, the option is not exercised frequently. The feared rash of “suicides” just didn’t happen. Hospice care assists death, but is it enough?

I know this is complex, but if we don’t have serious conversations about it in families, in our churches, and at the level of public discourse, death remains enemy. I know when I bring this up with my children they shrink. I understand, yet I wish I’d had the chance for such a conversation with my parents.

IN THE MEANTIME.............  Here is a lovely way to celebrate life even in death, and while still being realistic about the pains and limitations in our celebrated freedom of life: flor y canto, flower and song.

The Amerindian ancients looked to BEAUTY as a reflection of the divine. Their intuition survived in the Spanish phrase flor y canto and in the tradition of fiesta. Beauty signified the blessing of the divine and also was used to communicate back with the Sacred. They arrived at divine truth, not through linear abstractions, but in an aesthetic praxis. They trusted in the hidden power emanating from flor y canto. Social justice and ethical conduct proceeded from the practice. First things first.

The Eucharistic banquet is our flor y canto—a little stiff and pale in comparison, but we're anglos.

This is what we can learn from the U.S. Hispanic community. A people whose lives have often been marred by great suffering, currently in the immigration crisis, find God in a party—first. They don’t sit down to deliberate doctrine and form a plan, or write wordy blogs full of questions (see above); they form the Beautiful and live life in the subjunctive mode—as if.  It’s their spirituality, their theology. Mi casa, tu casa first—telling stories at table and getting to know each other comes first.

Maybe we have things backwards? Maybe we should throw a celebrative coffee hour before we hit the pews, right in the narthex?

Yet, maybe too, each people and culture has its own mystical ways to celebrate God EVERYWHERE EVERYONE ANYWAY.  But I wouldn’t mind a little flor y canto as I die.




4 comments:

Jane Struss said...

Brave and beautiful....and we DO need to be having this conversation in our congregations.

Susan Oleksiw said...

Yes, a hard conversation to have and yet it opens doors and hearts.

Marilyn said...

Hi Lyn,
Great, timely, courageous post!Condolences on the loss of your friend.

Yes,this is an important topic to discuss. People should discuss their final wishes with their family and doctors and put them into writing. But, unlike most of ALL my progressive friends, I just cannot get on the suicide train. I voted against the 2012 ballot question and would do so again.

As a Nurse, in my opinion, physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia or "death with dignity" or whatever you want to call it, is a failure of palliative and hospice care.It simply is NOT the role of physicians to knowingly write prescriptions that will kill people.

Dying people need support,comfort, compassion and good pain management. Yes, their suffering should be addressed on all levels- medically, emotionally and spiritually. And, when it is successfully, most people, in my experience, will choose to live another day.

Lyn G. Brakeman said...

Thanks, Marilyn. I do think Hospice has the right resources, and we still need to get on board with conversations. Lots of people remain ignorant (denial?) until they get in the middle of a situation they haven't addressed together.