Monday, March 4, 2013

Dying Young vs. Living Old...

Let me paint a picture for those of you who don’t know, or never got the privilege of meeting my grandma during her prime.  For starters – when grandchildren began entering the world…she didn’t like the idea of being called grandma or even worse, grannie!  Grandma’s were old, wore Easy Spirits, and had blue hair.  That was the total, complete opposite of her!  She was vivacious, wore stylish clothes and prissy shoes, her hair and makeup was perfect – always, and she loved a good drink!  This one-of-a-kind-drop-dead-gorgeous woman was my Bobbie!  She and I were exceptionally close and I simply adored her!  During my college years, I’d often go to her house on my break between classes and eat lunch and watch her soap, The Young & The Restless, with her!  We’d go out to eat and shopping together.  We talked about everything under the sun.  There were multiple times that we’d sit on her front porch to drink a glass of wine…and before we knew it, we were laughing like little school girls, and the whole bottle was gone!  …She even called me once from the bar, sniggling into the phone because she’d had one drink too many and needed a ride home!  I mean, come on…how many can raise their hand and say that their grandma is that cool?!  At Christmas, we’d drive all over town looking at the lights and we’d pick which house we wanted to live in!  …She was an honorary bridesmaid in my wedding!  The list of memories could go on and on…  She was one of my very best friends! 

A few years ago, noticeable changes in her behavior were becoming apparent; she was forgetful, she needed help doing daily tasks, she would sometimes hear someone or see something…that wasn’t really there, she would occasionally bump into furniture and even fell down a couple of times because her balance was becoming unsteady…  The word dementia and Alzheimer’s started to get thrown around in conversation…  I remember thinking, no…NO way…not Bobbie…  I was probably one of her biggest defenders.  I mean, everybody forgets this and that, or someone’s name…every once in a while.  Everyone is clumsy at times and wakes up wondering where that huge, hideous bruise came from!  Bobbie wasn’t losing her mind; I thought…everyone else is…  Or, at least, that is what I hoped…
It wasn’t long before Bobbie was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia.  …This type of dementia is basically a mix between Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.  “Lewy bodies” are microscopic clumps of normal proteins that – for unknown reasons – become abnormally grouped together inside brain cells, causing permanent damage.  We were told that she would progressively get worse, as there are seven stages to the disease – each one causing more decline in her mental abilities, as well as behavior and movements.  The news was devastating…

December 3, 2011 - My Wedding Day!

Fast-forward to now…  

For a little over a year, Bobbie has been living at the nursing home…  Let me just go on the record by saying that I think the nursing home is, hands down, one of the most depressing places on earth.  I give major props to the men and women who are strong enough and choose to work in these environments.  I couldn’t do it – or, at least…I don’t think I could…  I don’t cope with death well – I know this…  And, this may sound blunt and insensitive, however, I most certainly don’t mean it that way…but, let’s face it – people go to the nursing home to die…  I can think of maybe just a handful of times that I’ve been to visit her when there wasn’t a floral arrangement of some kind sitting on the table in the entrance foyer…  It’s the first thing I notice when I walk through those doors…and my heart sinks every single time. 
I have never met someone who actually wants to live out their last days in a nursing home facility – and I highly doubt that I ever will.  It represents that damned one-way street, in the heart of a busy downtown, that no one really wants to travel, but has no other choice…  No one dreams of being confined to sitting in a wheel chair or lying in a bed (much like one you’d see in a hospital) all day long.  No one wants to depend on someone else to bathe, dress, feed, and wipe their bottom for them because they are no longer able.  No one wants to lose their independence, modesty, and dignity…in such a way.  No one wants to sit day-in and day-out not even knowing which day it is, let alone which month or year.  No one wants to get to the point where they’re doing everything they can do to communicate, only to have the words come out in a jumbled mess.  NO ONE WANTS THAT… 
But, we don’t always get what we want, do we???  Just like driving on one-way streets – you have no choice.  Bobbie had no choice.  Her family had no choice.  The same for Jordan…he had no choice.  …We have no choice in how or when our story ends… 
This makes me wonder…  Which is worse – dying young or living old?     
I’ve asked God “why?” so many times…  I’ve been taught that everyone is put on this earth to serve a purpose – and I do believe that wholeheartedly.  But, I struggle to understand the logic behind how some people are only granted a few years (if that) to live out their purpose, while others are left to live well beyond what we consider desirable years…  What purpose is there behind a young child dying?  What purpose is there behind someone living to the point of being bedridden?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  …Why does God allow these things to happen?  Why, why, why???
Do I have an answer for this?  No.  I wish I did…  All I know is what I’ve been told many times – “He allows bad things to happen for reasons only he knows.” 
I once was talking with a friend and I remember saying, “When I get to Heaven, I sure do have a lot of questions to ask God.”  I will never forget her response…  She said, “Judith, when you’re standing at the pearly gates of Heaven, starring at God, himself, your questions really won’t matter anymore!” 
So, when I really think about it…would knowing God’s reasons now make it any easier to understand?  Probably not…  We walk by faith, not sight, and someday everything is going to make sense – we just have to believe and find hope in that. 
The only pro I can come up with for dying young is solely based on vanity.  Those who die young don’t ever have to endure the agonies that come along with growing old…  However, as I weigh the pros and cons of dying young versus living old, I keep thinking of this quote:
"Do not regret growing older.  It's a privilege denied to many." - Unknown
Sharing A Laugh. - Grandparent's Day - September 9, 2012
Cupcakes On My Birthday.
Christmas Day. - 2012
Watching dementia steal my Bobbie away has been an extremely sad process to endure – not just for me, but for my entire family.  I am constantly reminded that it is (and has been) hard for Bobbie, too.  Watching her struggle to get her thoughts out in words that make sense is difficult enough…but, watching her get frustrated and emotional because her mind is still “well” enough to know that what she is saying doesn’t make sense…is heart wrenching.
…This is where understanding, compassion, and patience – that can only come from God – comes into play.  Maybe, that is the lesson to be learned…  Maybe, that is the purpose???  Although, I still can’t convince myself 100% that her suffering is perhaps for a greater good…but, I do wonder…    
All that I do know…is that little by little her mind slips away into the unknown…but I know that at the core of her being – she is still and always will be – my Bobbie! 

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