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Monday, September 25, 2006

"One foot up, one foot down...

...all the way to Londontown," as my former boss, Father Mike Scanlan, TOR, used to say. It falls to me and my wife to pick the day and hour of our good-bye to Naomi. We've done some serious reading, praying and thinking in light of magisterial sources and got good advice from solid Catholics with medical experience. It seems clear that the breathing ventilator alone, in Naomi's particular case, constitutes extraordinary means. If her lungs were the only issue, we'd have her on the vent for as many years as she needed it.

But it's far more complicated and problem-prone than just her lungs. She is on constant antibiotics to stave off infection from renal reflux; (she has fluid backing up from her bladder into her kidneys that will eventually cause a severe infection); she is being fed directly into her unbilicus; and her aorta is being artificially dilated by prostaglandin (PGE) so her lower body can receive its life-giving blood supply. The removal of any one of these measures spells the beginnning of the end.

I keep returning to the intangible existential sufferings no heart monitor can detect: We can't be there 24 hours a day to sing to her, stroke her hair, cradle her in our arms. This is part of the family aspect of the burden, our paltry visits hardly put a dent in her lonely predicament; in fact, they only add to our sorrow. Speaking of sorrow, I'm not the one who carried Naomi beneath my heart for nine months nor did I undergo a C-section to bring her to us....makes me love my wife all the more.

One of the com box readers mentioned the worship we give technology. It's true. Human lives that once were clear-cut candidates for natural death can now be extended indefinitely. But why would you choose that for someone you loved? -- with no reasonable hope for a positive outcome or restoration of health? I recall that Pope John Paul II opted to stay in his apartment rather than begin another round of aggressive hospital interventions.

Please pray that we're able, by God's grace, to do the not-at-all-possible. Which has to be done soon. Very soon.

John Paul the Great,

Abraham, our father in faith, ora pro nobis.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Sean Taylor said...

This Nova Scotian father of twin premies (3 months in hospital in '97) is very much with you in prayer.

May God bless and keep you all, and redeem these days; may God be praised for giving Naomi such loving parents; and may the peace of Christ be with you.

4:24 PM

 
Blogger Susan said...

Human lives that once were clear-cut candidates for natural death can now be extended indefinitely. But why would you choose that for someone you loved? -- with no reasonable hope for a positive outcome or restoration of health?

I wouldn't. I wouldn't choose it for myself either. I'm hoping that my family remembers that if they're ever faced with such a choice in my case.

But you don't really have the option to go on and on with this. Even if you were determined to keep these interventions up as long as possible, that isn't really very long. How long before something else goes wrong? How long before one or more of these extraordinary measures stops working? Not long, I'd guess. And Naomi is probably paying a high price for what's being done to her.

We really don't understand God's will, usually. We certainly don't understand it in this case. But we know, by faith, and because Jesus, the best of witnesses, told us, that ultimately the Father's will is love.

At a certain point in this medical nightmare, don't we begin to wonder when death became so fearsome, the Ultimate Enemy, to be staved off at all costs? Is that really the Christian view? That we should grieve like those who have no hope, just as though Christ had not conquered that Last Enemy? It was not so for our ancestors, you know. They were not so afraid as we seem to be sometimes. I'm guessing that Naomi isn't afraid. It's just us.

I'm touched that you called on Abraham. He left his home, knowing that it was no enduring city, and journeyed in faith towards a place he did not know. That's Naomi. That's us too.

Praying tonight for all of you.

4:25 PM

 
Blogger Patrick said...

Thanks, Sean. You, too. How I love NS.

Susan:

I appreciate your words of support, although, frankly, it's not certain how you're able to use the word "probably" to describe her internal experience, nor am I sure why you'd choose the phrase "what's being done to her."

"What's being done to her?" I'm thinking either you didn't read my last post or else you're typing quickly without thinking of the impact that guilt-inducing words like those might have. No need to explain or defend; I'm just thinking out loud.

Thanks you sincerely for your prayers. I invoked Abraham also because her understands being personally involved in God's plan regarding his own child's death.

6:16 PM

 
Blogger Susan said...

Patrick,

So sorry if anything I said hurt you!

You all tried your best for her. You and the doctors and everybody. It wasn't wrong to try, it was right to try.

7:17 PM

 
Anonymous Susannah Pearce said...

Dear Patrick,
My family has been praying for yours daily. Just a few thoughts that I hope only lift you up. My heart aches for you and Mariella - and for your little Naomi. Know that even her suffering is redemptive by virtue of her baptism, though she is not old enough to offer it up herself. Also, be assured that she does not suffer alone. Our Lord, in His Agony in the Garden, is weeping for your sorrow and hers right with each of you - at every moment of pain in heart or flesh. He is Compassion and will remain with her and you "even to the end of the age".
(I'm not familiar with the whole blogging thing, but wanted to send you our love).
Bless you,
Susannah

7:19 PM

 
Blogger RightGirl said...

Patrick & Family,

I found this site from Kathy at Relapsed, and this tragedy is heartbreaking. Please know that strangers from around the country are right there with you, holding your hand as you make this terrible and gutwrenching decision. God bless all of you.

Wendy

7:24 PM

 
Blogger rick mcginnis said...

Our prayers are with you and your family right now. I pray that Christ's love will help you through this.

8:01 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patrick,

I think of you and pray for you several times each day. But mostly I pray that you will be at peace with what you have to do. It might be a clear cut decision in some respects - looking at the medical issues.

But it is never clear cut when it involves the human heart, as your words about your wife reflect.

If the following isn't helpful, then ignore it. It is hard to know what to say.

I was struck by your invocation of Abraham and why. But remember that in a sense God didn't ask Abraham to sacrifice his son. God said to him in effect, "I will never ask this of your people." (In a time and place where it was all too common.) God's plan for Abraham and Isaac was not clear, but it was always based on God's love for them.

God is not asking you to participate in Naomi's death, as much as you are the responsible party legally and have to actually tell the doctors when treatment should stop. You might feel that this is happening and that is completely natural. But God is saying to you, in the love of your family, in the support of your church and in your heart, "I love you all and only ask that you remember this."

8:03 PM

 
Anonymous rachel's mom said...

I hesitate to comment, since anything I have to offer seems so stupid and inadequate. That said, I just wanted to say that I have two friends on the West Coast who had to make the same decision as yourself. In both cases (chromosomal disorders), the families chose to bring thier daughters home. Time for good-byes was very short for one family; the other now faces the challenges (and actual graces) of life with a severely handicapped 10 year old girl, who was not expected to live a day after she was discharged. It is a joy and a wonderful example for us all to see her at mass with her loving family.
Be assured of our humble prayers for God's will for you and Naomi.

8:50 PM

 
Blogger Mrs. Blessed said...

I found your blog through Relapsed Catholic. I am so sorry you are going through this. This past summer, we lost our 37 week-old unborn son to pre-eclampsia. As I was recovering in the hospital, I would pace the halls of the floor which I was on, which abutted the NICU. Through the fog of howling pain I was in, I prayed for the parents I knew were inside every time I passed by. What we went through was devastating, but I knew that it could have been worse. We never had to make any decisions regarding the oxygen deprivation our son experienced. I thank God for that daily.

I am so sorry for your family’s suffering.

9:18 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PD, I wish I were there with you. The Lord looks lovingly on you and your family, especially Naomi; be sure of His embrace. I will ask for Mass to be celebrated for Naomi tomorrow in Detroit. Be assured of our prayers. Love, Michael and Cheryl

9:19 PM

 
Anonymous justine said...

Patrick,
We're all praying for guidance and peace for you. On a funny note, when I told Kateri (the one who's been offering the intention for Naomi at family prayer) that your little girl was finally born, Kateri said, "Oh, I thought Naomi was a boy."

I assume God was able to figure it out anyway.

6:34 AM

 
Blogger Brother Lesser said...

Dear brother;

Know that no matter how much we love you, our love pales in comparison to the love our heavenly Father has for you and your family.

You have never left my mind nor my prayers this past week...all three of you...

9:54 AM

 
Blogger Linda said...

Dear Patrick and family,

Please know that my prayers are with you. On October 5th it will have been 16 years since our first child, Meagan, was born. She lived a mere 11 hours after being born. Different medical problem, but similar circumstances, and something I can still barely talk about. My heart breaks for you - do trust that God will guide you through this - He most certainly will.

God's grace be upon each of you - and Mary's care too.

11:01 AM

 
Blogger JennGM said...

We are holding you and your family in prayer in our little family. My heart just aches for you. What a blessing you are for Naomi, and what a blessing she is for you.

11:37 AM

 
Blogger Patrick said...

Dear all:

I'll be able to thank you better later on, but let me say how much I appreciate the words, the prayers and the heartfelt support. From strangers!

Some have asked about the suitability of identifying with Abraham. It's a good question. Abraham was asked to do something impossible and excruciating: kill his son Isaac. Now a huge difference3 is that Naomi's death has nothing to do with anyone killing anyone, we tend to see the Abraham-Isaac story only in retrospect, confidently (glibly?) remembering that, hey, the angel of the Lord came and he didn't have to go through with it.

But.

Abraham *didn't know that* when he sorrowfully hustled Isaac up Mount Moriah.

In the end, he trusted God more than he feared sacrificing his son, never imagining that he'd be spared it by an angel. And God worked it out mysteriously and beautifully for Abraham, for Isaac and -- because of Christ's acceptance of what Isaac was spared -- for all of us.

Although Abraham's behavior had the external appearance of being murderous, God mysteriously used his willingness to go through with an unimaginable trial to bestow indescribable blessings upon Israel and, through Jesus's once-for-all sacrifice, for all humanity.

Our little family has already begun to experience the Lord's blessings through his servant Naomi. For teh record, I know that Abraham's trial was a thousand times more difficult than ours. Which is why he's a good intercessor.

Enough homilies from me.

12:02 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

St. Therese of Lisieux, Little Flower, so powerful are you in obtaining every need of body and soul that our Holy Mother Church proclaims you "a prodigy of miracles...the greatest saint of modern times." We humbly ask you to carry out your promise of "spending heaven doing good upon earth," of "letting fall from heaven a shower of roses," -- please send one for little Naomi. We promise to be ever mindful of this great favour, and to never cease to lead others to Jesus through you. Amen.

5:48 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dearest Patrick, Mariella, Mariclare, Sophia and Naomi.
May God bless you all through this time of anguish and uphold you every moment of each day. We are praying for you and ask St. Therese, the little flower to bring your beautiful Rose (Naomi) a shower of roses from heaven.
The Regan Clan

4:40 AM

 

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