Revisiting Sabbath Sloth
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
My dear friend
I love that you say you are within shouting distance of death. In fact, I do love this whole thoughtful post, and nod almost continuously through it. I too am having to be clearer about my choices, what i do with limited time and energy, and how to maximize the energy that I have for what I enjoy.
As you say, we die in every moment, to the past, to disappointments and to failures; which really, are not failures at all, but options we tested that were not for us.
It is amusing that you ask what are our experiences of death and dying. I can tell you of only one time, just after my daughter was born, when I floated out of my body. The longer I did so, the more reluctant I was to return to my heavy shell. I had joy in the experience of moving towards light, and no fear. Just a sense of coming home.
I hope you will be able to share with us for many years yet.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Dear Fran, What a lovely experience you had after your daughter was born! I’m grateful you shared it–along with your personal observations about what’s going on for you these days. Thanks for that delicious phrase, “options we tested that were not for us.” It would make a great book, wouldn’t it?! 🙂 I know the feeling. I pray this is a wonderful day for you, filled with joy and light no matter what it brings.
Hugs across the ocean!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for your thoughts, Elouise. I know with Bruce starting dialysis we have been overwhelmed with wave after wave of gratitude “in the face of” possible dire outcomes. We are ever so much more grateful for little ordinary things, for each other, for our beloveds, for the GIFT of each day. Accepting your mortality is humbling, in a good way…and our faith informs this deepening humility. It generates gratitude for God’s promises. Without faith, humility could cause us to feel insignificant and/or fearful. The GIFT of faith enables us to plan with courage, as you say, for things we do want to continue choosing for, and things we want to let go of…to exercise the choices we DO have as we face our mortality…which II Cor 5:4 tells us will be “swallowed up by life”!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Dear Nancy, You’re so welcome. It’s wonderful to have your personal comments. The ordinary things, each other and loved ones, another day…all made precious as gifts. Not something we can count on having tomorrow. I appreciate your insight about humility minus faith possibly causing us “to feel insignificant and/or fearful.” I pray you and Bruce will find joy in choices you make for this day–a day like no other day!
Hugs to both of you,
I went back and had a quick look at your 1915 post about sloth etc. Now I don’t want you to take this the wrong way so I will pose a question. What is D’s attitude towards Sabbath? I know in my case that if I stop and sit down and rest (and I’m a week or two older than you) the ‘can’t stop for a moment’ person who lives in the same house will look at me and make me feel guilty. Whether you are just sitting and basking in God’s glory or smelling the roses, you should never feel guilty.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Your last sentence is spot on! I never feel guilty–perhaps because I’m the one in this house who feels compelled to be doing things. D has no problem at all–after a long day working at his computer or in the yard–sitting down and doing absolutely nothing but watching TV or reading a novel! As for Sabbath, he’s always good about non-work activities on Sunday afternoon, like going to see our son and his family, or driving out to Longwood Gardens, etc. For him, rest breaks any day of the week, including all day Sundays, are no-brainers. He takes them. I’ve wanted, and maybe even a few times tried to make him feel guilty because I’m still working away in the kitchen, and he’s watching TV or reading. This strategy doesn’t usually work, since he isn’t driven by guilt! Too bad… So there you have it. An indirect answer to your indirect question!