What Price For Life?
Life comes at a price. I have been contemplating that for the past few months as I realize every day with aches and pains and weariness the price I pay to still be here. When I expand my view of the price of life I see that there is a fee paid for our entrance into the world, and I see that it’s possible to know when the price is too steep, the suffering too high, to continue to endure it.
In the last month one of my first cousins experienced the joy of childbirth and the anticipation and awareness of strength that comes along with it. Simultaneously, the grandmother that we share decided that she had paid all she was willing to pay to keep walking this earth with us. It has been the perfect circle.
Grandma became unable to keep pneumonia away and wasn’t able to eat and drink enough to sustain life. She opted not to get a feeding tube. She came home for hospice care, only receiving comfort measures. In the course of two weeks her only daughter stayed with her night and day and her sons came and tended her and the house, finding many chores that just “had to be done.” Two of her sweet daughters-in-law took turns sleeping at the house as well. Her grandchildren came and went. Her great-grandchildren played with her bird, fed the fish in the koi pond, played with her kaleidoscopes. Grace played a private viola concert at the foot of Grandma’s bed and blessed us all with a slow waltz, echoing what Grandma was doing in her dance with death. Breathe, two, three. Cough, two, three. Breathe, two, three. Cough, two, three.
I had many moments with her in those last days. As profound as those moments were, the moments I had with my aunts were also rich. We told stories and laughed and held space for Grandma, and for each other. I have never experienced dying in that way. Grandma was able to have some pain medication so she was not suffering. She loved hearing the commotion in her tiny house – her legacy laughing and playing games. She told funny stories that many would consider wildly inappropriate for a death bed, but those stories are the roots that grew us all. We ushered her from this world with love and we knew that she loved us. There was nothing left undone.
In that same time period my cousin was past forty weeks pregnant with her baby and I was thinking back to my own three pregnancies and births. My boys were both born past their forty week due dates, and both were over nine pounds. Gracie was a preemie; her birth had a complicated bill for me. Women pay a large sum to bring life into the world. We sacrifice with our bodies and our time and our life force. We experience the feeling of life growing in us and then the enormity of that life moving through our bodies and out into the world.
Sometimes the bill is simple, like with Grandma. She knew her account was empty and it was her time to go. Sometimes we think we are paying a bill for a washing machine but instead we find we have bought a dishwasher, as is my experience with cancer treatment. I’m learning to wash clothes in the dishwasher and how to manage paying the bill in installments because I find the price is still worth the value of this precious human life.