Revisiting Sabbath Sloth

by Elouise


Today I couldn’t help noticing that three people viewed my June 2015 post on Sabbath Sloth. That made me happy! So I checked it out, admired the sinfully relaxed sloth, and was struck by several things.

  • I don’t have any trouble these days keeping and enjoying Sabbath rest. It was a struggle at first. Now it’s almost total delight.
  • My current health issues seem to be calling me into a Sabbath-like period of my life. Not quite the same as Sabbath rest, but a time of rest that isn’t simply slothful denial.
  • I can’t afford to ignore what’s happening with my health. If the situation develops the way the doctors say it will (getting progressively worse over time), how can I best respond?
  • More interesting yet—even appealing: What will I let go of, and what will I keep doing that will maximize this period of my life?

Then there’s another wrinkle in this scenario. This past Sunday I wasn’t able to attend worship at my church because of my heart. I stayed home, rested, and got online to look for churches that live stream their Sunday morning worship services.

I went to a site I thought might offer that. It did not. But at the top of the home page I noticed an announcement about a Lenten book study. The book, Being Mortal, was written by Atul Gawande, a medical doctor. He gives an account of the ways medicine, despite its many advances, has let people down when it comes to “the inescapable realities of aging and death.”

The book isn’t a downer. It’s an invitation to begin learning from people who already know how to have hard conversations with aging and dying people, their family and friends. A magic pill or yet another medical procedure won’t make things all better. Truth, compassion and the right kind of care can, however, ease the way without doing more harm or raising false hopes.

My own parents died in hospice care. I watched and sat with each of them. I also watched and accepted help from the women and men who cared for them and for us as family members. I don’t know what my dying will be like. I do know the kind of care I want and the kind I do not want.

I’ve begun reading Being Mortal. Dr. Gawande, coming near the end of his own career, begins with his ignorance about the process of dying and even death itself when he was a physician in training. He describes the way we deal with death now, compared with past practices and the practices of other cultures. He points to compassionate solutions that offer comfort and dignity without trying to keep the patient alive at any cost. Medical solutions often make matters worse, engender false hope and drain limited resources.

I’m relieved to be reading this book. These questions are already on my mind. I want to know how to think about my current health situation in light of the reality that I’ve been dying since I was born 72 years ago. It’s not new. It’s just more visible and persistent.

The book is lowering my anxiety and giving me confidence that the approach I’m taking is good for me and for my family. It’s compatible with my Christian faith and with the way I’ve helped my body get to this ripe age of 72. Not via medications, but via alternative approaches that do good for my body and spirit, even though they may not cure all symptoms.

Will I be healed? It depends on what you mean by that. I’ll still be 72 years old, within shouting distance of death, one way or the other. Yet there’s still good health for me in my body, mind and spirit if I’m willing to be proactive, not stuck in sloth-like denial.

What are your experiences with death and dying?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 February 2016
Photo credit: DAFraser, 20 November 2015
Longwood Gardens