Rebecca Hamilton is a former pro-abortion activist and leader. As the Oklahoma Director of NARAL, she helped establish the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma, and she continued her activism after being elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. After experiencing a profound conversion to Christ, voters returned her to office as a pro-life Democrat and she spent twelve years defending life and families in the Oklahoma Legislature. Rebecca left her political career in 2014, and along with the National Catholic Register, she writes at Patheos on her blog Public Catholic.
Life teaches that which we would never choose to learn any other way.
Yesterday, I took Mama to her daycare and then I did something kind of crazy. I drove to the one nursing home that takes dementia patients that we can afford and drove around it, crying.
I followed this by a trip to McDonald’s, which, for some reason is becoming my early-morning way of grieving. While I was eating my Egg McMuffin, I watched a young man slurp and gulp his food in a most indecorous fashion.
This was especially interesting to me because Mama’s eating habits have devolved to the point that my husband and I have decided we’re going to stop having her to the table when we eat supper. The noises and other things have become so gross that we can’t eat with her. So, we’ll sit down with her while she eats, then, eat our meal after she finishes.
This particular young man appeared had Down Syndrome. Several gray-haired men sat with him while he ate, talking to one another. They were clearly taking care of him.
Mama and the young man with Down Syndrome have something powerful in common. They are both the least of these. As such, they are also the targets of those who would use laws labeled as “compassionate” to snuff them out.
I took that drive around the nursing home because last weekend’s head-bashing fall pushed me to a kind of caregiver despair. I realized that we can’t keep Mama safe at home. It didn’t come clear to me at first. But later that day, I found myself asking What if she had gashed an artery instead of veins? She would have bled out before I found her.
I decided then that we had to put her in a nursing home. I despaired of our ability to keep her safe at home. I called the local Catholic nursing home, which I know is a really good place. But they are full-up. The waiting list stretches months ahead.
So, I found myself driving around this not-so-good nursing home and crying. I looked at other, nicer places, but the cost is out of sight. Three and four thousand dollars a month. And it goes up from there.
I made a list of ways we could make the not-so-good place work. I would, of course, be there every day. So would my kids and my husband. Hospice would be there on a regular basis, giving her baths, praying with her, checking her health. My parish would send people to visit. We could have folks checking on her several times a day.
Finally, yesterday afternoon, I asked the hospice social worker to make arrangements for me. I couldn’t face doing it myself.
Then, I got sick. I mean, I got physically ill. I thought I was going to throw up. I couldn’t think. Couldn’t cry. Couldn’t even pray. I played scales on the piano for hours, then played Tetris on my phone.
About 9 last night, I thought, “I can’t do this.”
I realized that I couldn’t — could not — put Mama in that particular nursing home. I went into the kitchen where my husband was doing something or other. I leaned against him, laid my head on his chest, and said, “I can’t put Mama there.” My husband is just as battered by all this as me. I’ve been worried about him. But, wonderful man that he is, he hugged me and said, “I would never ask you to put her there.”
I called my son and told him I’d decided I couldn’t do it. He told me he was glad to hear that, that he’d been struggling with it.
I’ve got to call the social worker today and tell her I’ve changed my mind. I can’t do it. I guess we’re in this thing for the foreseeable future.
This morning, I thought about the young man with Down Syndrome. He and my mama are both on the hit list of the so-called “death with dignity” folks. These people are no different from the Nazis with their death vans, driving around and gassing the disabled — useless eaters, they called them — with the exhaust. They are killers who try to dress up their desire to murder the innocent with the indirection of misleading language.
This is not about “death with dignity,” and it certainly it not about compassion. It is about killing people who are less than perfect because people who are less than perfect require the rest of us to suffer alongside them in their walk through life.
I get the most blood-curdling comments you can imagine on my blog at Patheos every time I write about these things. It’s as if the commenters are channeling Satan. I delete them, unwilling to let such trash onto my blog. But I find it disturbing, reading them.
They come from a particularly dark evil; the evil of murderous intent that is malicious, thought out, considered and meant. There is in this evil a kind of inability to see that we are all one human race, bound together, that I can not grok. I think these people are more delusional than mama in her most far out dementia hallucination.
Compassion is an oxymoron to minds such as these. It is a ruse, a word of sounding syllables without true meaning that they use to get what they want, which is another step down on the societal descent into the pit. This push for euthanasia has nothing to do with those who are targeted for death. It isn’t even about hating them or wanting to be rid of them. It is about the degradation and destruction of society; about you and me. It is another shuttering of the Light so that the darkness may reign unimpeded.
If we really want to be compassionate, we would invest more of ourselves in making it possible for people to keep their loved ones home and care for them with the true dignity of living out their end days with the people they love. I’ve written before about those wonderful programs, hospice and adult day care. They are true lifelines.
Now that I’m walking this walk home alongside Mama, I can tell you that there is need for more. The number one thing that caregivers need is a good night’s sleep. It’s really as simple and as elusive as that.
Sadly, the “solution” being pushed by our post-Christian society is to take the joke “I’d kill for a good night’s sleep,” literally. I would guess that there are at least dozens of ways we could provide this night of sleep to caregivers without killing anybody. But the culture of death will allow only one option for every problem: Kill somebody.
Women suffer from the grave sin of misogyny; men refuse to accept responsibility for their own babies: Let them kill their children with abortion. Dying people become helpless and dependent, they sometimes feel pain and lose their various capacities for reason or daily tasks of self-care: Put them down like a dog.
Family members have cautioned me to stop writing about Mama. They tell me that readers will turn on me if I have to put her in a nursing home, that people are cruel beyond my imagining. I don’t argue with them. But after 18 years in public office my understanding of human cruelty is such that I can imagine quite a lot. After all, these comments I get on Patheos are meant to be cruel. They just miss their mark. Instead of wounding me, they move me to pity for the ones who write them.
My feeling is that, except for the crazy means out there, my readers are wonderful people. I trust your goodness. In fact, instead of running scared from you, I want to ask you to pray for me and mine as we go through this. I will continue to share this journey with you, warts and all.
I write about Mama because this is a critical discussion that we must have at this time. Mama is long past awareness of the larger world, including what, or even that, I write. The insults of those in the blogosphere are incomprehensible to her. I have no fear of harming her by discussing this.
My hope is that an honest discussion of what caregiving means, without dressing it to make it prettier than it is, will open a discussion about what we can do to make caregiving possible for more families. We need to hold up caregivers and support their efforts. This should — and in a sane world, would — be a societal imperative. But we live in the culture of death.
The Baals of modern life are hungry, and those who channel Satan are eager to feed them our disabled, our elderly, our depressed. They will use any excuse to find more reasons to kill more people. Because — and despite the fact that many of them claim there is no god — annihilation in all its forms is the god they serve.
That leaves us, the children of the Light, to be the Light of world. If we don’t fight for life, both in how we live and in what we advocate, then this ravening hunger for annihilation will devour us all.