My grandmother suffered from dementia.
During the last year of her life, she couldn't leave her bed, didn't recognize any of us, wore a diaper, and had to be fed every meal she ate. Some people said her life was worthless and non-productive. A waste of resources, space, and energy to care for her.
Every Monday afternoon for two years I'd pack up my two little girls and their school books and drive an hour to visit her. Sometimes she'd be asleep. Sometimes she wouldn't acknowledge me, and she never remembered we'd been there. A whole afternoon and several gallons of gas "wasted."
But we visited, and spooned pudding, and ice cream, and scrambled eggs into her mouth. We kissed her and talked to her and held her hand. We sat by her bed, called the nurse when her diaper needed changing, and pretended we were having a good conversation. I'm sure she suffered in ways we'll never (mercifully) know because she couldn't tell us.
But her suffering wasn't purposeless, nor was her existence. While her life may not have been pain-free or productive from her perspective, it was accomplishing a lot from mine.
Every time I made the long drive to visit her, and care for her, and love her more than I loved myself, and my schedule, and my convenience, I was becoming a better person. More compassionate, more appreciative, more gentle, more unselfish, more humble. Dying to my flesh that sometimes wanted to be anywhere but walking through the doors of that nursing home taught me courage, loyalty, commitment, and love. It taught me that we don't abandon the ones who can no longer care for themselves. That family sticks together no matter what. That we serve each other even when it's not convenient or fun.
And those little girls whom I dragged along at the expense of their school lessons? They were learning the same lessons I was. Some day they'll be taking care of me, and I pray they will have learned the lessons well.
My granny's suffering wasn't wasted. It was invested.
For a wise, biblical response to Brittany Maynard's death, I encourage you to CLICK HERE to read John Piper's blog post, We Are Not Our Own: On God, Brittany Maynard, and Physician-Assisted Suicide.
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