In November of 2015 my mother was admitted to the hospital for an infection that had turned sepsis. Like many systematic infections it began to settle in her lungs and brought on pneumonia. My sister and I took turns sitting vigil by her side speaking with doctors and helping direct her care. It was a quiet morning when both my sister and I sat bedside next to my mother when the doctor came to speak with us. My sister and I are both goal-driven, results oriented people so when the doctor arrived my sister asked, “what is the next step?”
The doctor paused for just a heartbeat, took a deep breath and said, “there are no next steps. We’ve done all we can to fight the infection it is now between her and the medicine.” My sister and I did not know what to do when there was nothing left to do. How do you move forward? How do we plan? How can we fix it? The doctor continued, “how do you feel about your mother being ventilated if necessary? Or her stance on life support?”
Why was he asking me this question? I’m not old enough to make this decision. I’m not qualified. This is a decision for an adult – for somebody older. I’m just a child.
There are so many decisions in life that feel like the moment you become an adult — getting married, buying a house, deciding to put a pet to sleep, having a child, buying a car, quitting a job, getting a promotion — but none of those moments feel more adult-like then deciding on your own parent’s health.
I don’t feel any different than I did at 36 or even 26. I still love a good book and a good meal. I am still suspicious of people who stifle a sneeze or a laugh (some things are meant to be released). I still love a good cookie or piece of cake. I still love going to the movie theater and smelling a rain storm. I still love learning about new technology and meeting new people from strange places. I’m the same person and yet, I’m not.
Life experience is just that – experience — and you can’t escape it. It softens your edges, it smoothes the rough bits, it makes you realize how small you are in relation to the grandeur of the world.
And perhaps that feeling of being a child is the most beautiful part of life. It is that small part of innocence and wonder that we must protect and cherish for as long as possible, because that is the part that makes life worth living — even when life feels impossible.