I hope that you are now about
halfway through the book Being Mortal
. The book is a very easy read and this is where the book gets incredibly relevant to anyone dealing with a terminally ill loved-one (the first half lays a lot of foundation, but focuses largely on elderly care facilities). I’ve also read the book someone else mentioned, When Breath Becomes Air
, but that book really focuses on one’s own mortality versus supporting a loved one which is where you are at now; it’s a great book, but not what I would recommend for you at this moment.
I realized that the very powerful quote from Being Mortal
that I provided—one that’s incredibly relevant to you—has a very American point-of-reference…and I didn’t initially realize until later that you are in the UK. The quote had to do with American historical figures General George Armstrong Custer, and General Robert E. Lee who both lived in the 1800s. I think that if you quoted British historical figures from the 1800s to me, I might have no idea of the broader context of their lives; and similarly, while you may have heard of the names Custer and Lee, as a non-American you probably don’t have as full an appreciation for the context of the quote I provided.
Lee led Confederate forces in the American Civil War, and his surrender at Appomattox in 1865 ended the 4-year long conflict. Surrender was painful for Lee but he realized that further resistance was futile and would only hopelessly drag out the brutal, bloody fighting which had destroyed so many families and land. Some of Lee’s staff had suggested a continued guerrilla war from the woods and mountains, but Lee rejected the idea out-of-hand saying, “We must consider the effect on the country as a whole…If I took your advice, the men would be without rations and under no control of officers They would be compelled to rob and steal in order to live. The would become mere bands of marauders, and the enemy’s cavalry would pursue them and overrun many sections they may never have occasion to visit. We would bring on a state of affairs it would take the country years to recover from.”
Lee understood that enough was enough, and sought to restore a peaceful existence for the entire country, and honor & dignity to everyone. In fact, after the war Lee opposed the construction of public memorials to Confederate rebellion on the grounds that they would prevent healing the wounds inflicted during the war. (Again, you might not have the full appreciation for the context of this, but this was strikingly far-sighted.)
Custer was about
30 years younger than Lee, but he also fought in the American Civil War (for the Union forces). As a young officer, he quickly developed a “strong” reputation in battle as an aggressive fighter, and he advanced ranks rapidly. Largely coincidental to this story he was also present at the Appomattox Court House to witness the very honorable surrender of General Lee which ended the Civil War and put the nation on the path to healing. Shortly after the war ended, he continued his Army service as a career and was sent to the American West to lead troops in what became known as the American Indian Wars. Conflict escalated over time, and eleven years after the Civil War ended, Custer led the 7th Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana Territory against a very determined and agitated coalition of Native American tribes. He and ALL of his attachment were completely wiped out...not a man on the side of the US Army lived. The battle is popularly known in American history as “Custer’s Last Stand.” Today, the battle and Custer in particular is widely criticized in hindsight, largely because he should have recognized that he was grossly outmanned and should have pulled-back…the slaughter was not necessary, but is it largely assumed that he let “tunnel-vision” driven by his pride interfere with sound decision making.
So in that context, I'll repost the book's quote (saving the possible step of having to go back looking for it):
“Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And in a war that you cannot win, you don’t want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don’t want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who knows how to fight for territory that can be won and how to surrender it when it can’t, someone who understands that the damage is greatest if all you do is battle to the bitter end.”
Know, Kathy, that it is quite natural and quite common to express guilt and conflicting emotions—wanting the suffering to be over, yet selfishly not wanting the loved one to die and leave you. Being Mortal
talks (again, mostly in the 2nd half of the book) about
having "the conversation" which helps everyone
involved get in alignment—the doctor, the patient and the family—with the best path forward where every
case is different and unique. The conflicting confusion is no surprise to anyone looking in at situations where this doesn't take place...it is, again, quite natural, but it doesn't have to be that way. Let me know when you get to the 2nd half of the book.
Google: The Conversation Project
Post Edited (NKinney) : 4/15/2018 2:09:43 PM (GMT-6)