What would you do in the name of love?

Last night, I finished reading Jodi Picoult’s The Pact. If you are a Jodi Picoult fan and haven’t read this one, it’s worth it. If you haven’t read Jodi Piccoult before, I highly recommend her books.

The Pact is essentially about teen suicide and relationships. Now, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who is planning on reading it but by the end of the book you are confronted with the question of what you would or wouldn’t do for the one you love, especially if they are in pain, emotional or physical.

I have had some experience watching the one I love in pain. When my husband was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, he experienced significant ‘flares’ which kept him bedridden for days on end, his entire body wracked with pain and barely able to move. Seeing him like that was hard. Really hard.

Visiting my friend Trish in the hospice, unsure whether she was in physical pain or not, but certain she was in a whole world of emotional pain, was hard. Really, really hard.

When the ones we love are in pain, we are too. And being completely powerless to stop the pain of those we love, is simply one of the worst feelings in the world and one of the hardest things I have had to deal with to date.

I remember one morning, after a sleepless night of lying there listening to my husband groan in pain in his sleep every time he tried to move, that I got up feeling a level of despair I had never felt before. How could we go on indefinitely like this? How could he continue to endure this pain? How could I?

And I remember, to my shame, that I found myself wishing that he had been diagnosed with something terminal just so that there would be an end to his pain. I simply could not imagine being able to bear seeing him in this much pain for the next 30-40 years. It was a very low moment and not one I am proud of.

I didn’t want him to not be around, of course, but the intolerable pain levels he was living with were breaking my heart…..and I could do nothing to stop that pain. 

That complete despair didn’t last long and I soon found myself so, so grateful that it wasn’t something far worse than rheumatoid arthritis.

Now on the right medication, my husband is nearly back to normal life and for the most part, free of the debilitating flares that he suffered during the first two years after being diagnosed.

Yet, thanks to the book I just read,  the question lingers. What would I have done to stop his pain? What wouldn’t I have done, is probably the more accurate question. Although, I don’t know where the line is that I won’t cross. At what level of their pain do we draw that line and say, ‘no, I won’t do that for you, even if it will end your pain’?

I am pro-life and value life above all else.

But.

Pain is a powerful force. And just briefly, I understood the all-encompassing desire to escape it. Whatever it took. Whatever that looked like.

Five years ago, I would have staunchly said I disagree with voluntary euthanasia. Now, today, my answer would be that while I don’t think I quite ‘agree’ with it, I’m a lot closer to understanding the motives behind it.

At my friends bedside, I felt that pull and push of life. We all desperately did not want her to leave us, but the desire to see her free of pain and at peace was palpable in the room. Watching her in pain was just as painful as having to let her go. Her dying was like some sort of macabre universe trade system. Death ended her pain but caused those who loved her, the greatest pain they will ever know.

What would you do for the one you love? Is the desire to stop someone’s pain ever a justification for actions contrary to the accepted norm?

12 thoughts on “What would you do in the name of love?

    • Thanks! Glad it got you thinking. It’s one of those questions that I suspect we will never really know the answer to until we are in that situation. And maybe not even then.

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  1. I like Jodi Picoult too. “Salem Falls” was very good.

    Certainly I hope never to be in the position of having to make such difficult choices. To make someone live because I can’t deal with their departure doesn’t seem right, but ending it for someone doesn’t feel right either. What would I want if I were the one in pain? Don’t know. But I would never ask anyone to make a decision like that.

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    • I agree. I could never ask it of anyone I love – to carry that burden, would, I imagine, be far harder than sharing their burden of pain. I hope I am never in the situation to find out what I would or wouldn’t do.

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  2. Hmm. Do you have an awaiting-moderation setup? I just noticed that I left comments on 3 posts, but they aren’t there. So I’m leaving this comment to experiment and see if I made a mistake or not paying attention (which is also a mistake).

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    • No, I don’t. I have it set so if I have approved your first comment, all your next ones are automatically approved. BUT. Comments keep getting thrown in the spam box no matter who they are from and I have to go get them and manually approve them. Very annoying but how much can you really expect for a free blog set up? 🙂

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  3. I confront this all the time in the hospital setting . . . and I still don’t know the answer. I am with you though, while I don’t fully ‘agree’ with it, it is more that I don’t know where the line should be, therefore, I don’t place the line anywhere other than where nature has it and I suppose that is why voluntary euthanasia is still illegal because no one would be able to agree with where that line should be.

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    • Yes, you would see an awful lot of it in your line of work. I don’t think we know the answer until we are confronted with it, and even then, I’m not so sure. I just hope I never have to be faced with that decision – from either side of the hospital bed.

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  4. I’m a fan of hers, too, and I definitely liked “The Pact” as well. She always manages to get me out of my box and ponder a new viewpoint.

    Pain is a game changer -whether it’s yourself or someone you love -it will definitely force you to rethink your position on many aspects of life.

    The question begs an answer, but the only thing I know for certain is God’s timing is always better than mine.

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    • Yes, you are right, God’s timing is always better than ours. And I thank Him that we are no longer in that situation where that level of pain is our daily reality. I now have much more empathy for those who are, though, and would not be so quick to judge as I once was. Looking forward to that time when those promises of no more pain or sorrow are all of our realities!

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      • What makes me even more at a loss for an answer is the discrepancy of why I feel it is humane for a pet to be “put to sleep” (my timing) but I just can’t go there with people. Like you mentioned, I used to have hard and fast ideas about these difficult choices, but I’m much more able to recognize another viewpoint.
        Though this post was way back in your archives, I’m sure glad I ran across it. It’s a really great topic, Susannah!

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        • I think it is precisely because we value human life more than animals that the decision is easier with a pet. Still, it’s all so grey and fraught with difficulties, isn’t it?
          I’m glad you found the post…it’s still someone I think about regularly.

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