Tuesday, December 21, 2004

What would you say?

There is an interesting post at Proverbial Wife with equally intriguing discussion regarding artificially sustained life.

As a minister's wife, the women in our congregation often seek me out for counsel regarding certain issues that they aren't comfortable talking about the male clergy. The situations and questions that I hear sometimes take me for a loop.

Having grown up in a sheltered church environment, I learned things very black and white. Right vs. wrong was defined neatly and for the most part that's how I saw the world. Until I became a minister's wife. Our church is filled with new converts, many who are older than I am and have had experiences that I couldn't even imagine. And the world quickly turned grey for me.

There were no clear cut answers. Each situation was unique. Many had me struggling to maintain my composure - try not to appear shocked, try not to cry as one person or another shared a heart-wrenching story that left me speechless. I truly found myself praying as they spoke, that God would give me the appropriate words to advise, counsel or console. And when I was at a total loss, words to convince these ladies to go to the pastor, a social worker, or even the authorities when their very lives are threatened.

The responsibility is overwhelming at times. You want to provide an answer, but mostly I can only gather the facts and provide a somewhat objective assessment of the situation and hope that alone will help them take the steps needed to better their lives.

When it comes to questions of medicine, life support and sickness and death overall, that is just the toughest. No situation is alike, and I can't answer these questions for anyone, all I can do is lend support, guide them to scripture and join them to prayer.

But here's another query, if you're up for some serious discussion so close to Christmas. And please don't read the portion in green if you can't deal with visions of sickness as the following is quite gross and a bit graphic. There's a woman who's body is deteriorating from an extreme case of diabetes. Her organs are failing her. The very bones in her body are infected and beginning to rot. Surgeries are not truly options because her blood sugars are so high, because of the infections in her body, that doctors see her as a high risk and are hesitant to perform surgery.

Her foot is turning black and is beginning to stink, and the doctors say they need to amputate. This, they say, will delay death - by a few months maybe?(truly this is how they put it) - but the pain will be great, recovery is not assured and tests show that the infection has already spread so far throughout the bone marrow in her body, that there is nothing they can do to stop it.

Now I believe in miracles. This is one of those stories that sound like the beginning of a testimony. At this point in the story you expect to hear the part that goes: "but when she went back to the doctor, he couldn't find anything wrong with her - she was healed."

So maybe I should tell you. She already had one of those. The same foot had become infected, the bones were soft and broken in several places a few years ago and suddenly and inexplicably when x-rayed and tested once more, were fine. She started walking again - all appeared resolved. Then a few months ago, she noticed a loss of circulation, discomfort and they found the infection in her bones.

Now she has people writing to her, calling her, telling her to get the amputation because if she doesn't she's committing suicide and will go to hell. Real compassionate huh? She doesn't want the amputation. She doesn't see the point. She sees the time that God granted her after the first infection to be a gift and she wants to leave her healing or death in God's hands.

So I'm interested in hearing what you would say. If one of your dear friends or family members called you and said, if I don't amputate, am I committing suicide? Am I sinning?

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