This Monday, Janet weighed in at 87 lbs – and that may be her last “official” weight because she is too weak to even stand up for a moment on the scale.
As the week went on, she became more and more disoriented and confused – symptoms that we have been treating with the occasional 1 mg Lorazepam sublingual tablet and many, many hugs and kisses.
She is still eating a bit, but it is mainly for the flavor – not the nutrition – and we have to feed her as she can’t find her mouth on her own. She seems to be particularly enjoying anything cooked by Frannie. The last two nights she fixed macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti with a veggie sauce. Janet enjoyed them both immensely and, thankfully, there has been no choking.
Saturday, Janet was mumbling about insurance, wills, organ donations, and a whole laundry list of other things that kept running through her head as things she needed to handle. She was worried about Frannie and me, and even whether Rocky and Lawtay (our two dogs) would be okay. Finally, I told her:
I don’t know if she heard me, or understood what I said, but she seemed less agitated afterwards. Then, a few minutes later, she asked me to hold her hand for five minutes – which I did.
I have called our son and told him he needs to be thinking about heading back to Texas – and the sooner the better.
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The title of this post encapsulates the common meaning of “respite” as it is understood today. And if you can remember when the last part of the title was used as a marketing slogan for a popular soft drink, I hate to break it to you, but you are really old…
However, the word didn’t have that always meaning. In the 13th Century the word is derived from the Latin root respectus which meant “to turn around to look at” or “to regard” something. That is the sense I want to talk about now.
Oh, I had originally planned to discuss respite as a process for getting a break from the load of having to care for a loved one, but that didn’t work out. The nursing homes in the area that would normally provide in-patient hospice services have apparently confused a virus with a 99%+ survival rate with the bubonic plague, and are not taking any admissions. They have said that they are either afraid of giving Janet Covid-19 or are afraid of Janet bringing Covid-19 into their facility. Given that neither excuse stands up to any sort of logical scrutiny, I am at a loss for identifying the real reason, but it smells like lawyers.
So back to the original meaning…
I have written many times about the dangers of living life in the “rear-view mirror” and those warnings are still valid, but as is so often the case with coins, there is another side. Respite, in the old sense of the word, can also be a way to step back from your present troubles and objectively remember the past, for both the good and the bad that it contained.
For the good memories, these moments of “respite” can be an opportunity to relive the happy times without needing to invalidate them by saying, “Yeah that was good, but look what was coming.” Likewise, for the bad memories, your new perspective can lead you to the conclusion that some of the bad times weren’t really that bad after all, for they led to some good outcomes that, at the time, you couldn’t see. Moreover, if you see the opportunity to learn as a positive, you may find yourself in the position of watching all your “bad times” evaporate or slide to the other side of the ledger.
Recently, I read about a university in the US that performed a study demonstrating a relationship between a subject’s ability to perceive interconnections between different occurrences or events, and their ability to believe in a “supreme being.” Interestingly, an identical study was performed at a university in the Middle East with identical results.
That is what the data shows.
The researchers’ conclusion was (predictably) that people with this ability were “making up” God to explain the connections that they saw, but which didn’t really exist. Although a comparison to the mathematician John Nash in the movie A Beautiful Mind was never explicitly made, the implication was there – or perhaps that’s just my “beautiful mind” connecting more dots that aren’t really there.
But starting with a different set of presumptions, a different, equally valid conclusion is also possible. Perhaps the “dots” and the connections linking them really do exist, and people of faith (through the eyes of faith) are able to see those connections.
In the context of our current discussion, people of faith can see connections between events – even painful events – which lead to hope. On other hand, people without the ability to connect the dots see only random events – which leads to the kind of despair that we see around us everyday.
But what if the universe is just random? Well, that is a possibility, but then we would have to ask ourselves why the universe doesn’t act randomly. In fact there is a whole area of mathematics (called chaos theory) that is dedicated to the study of things that at first appeared to be random – but aren’t really. For example, I work with computers and something that you might think should be rather easy is actually very difficult: How do you calculate a sequence of numbers that are truly random (i.e. there are no patterns in the sequence of numbers)?
Spoiler: You can’t – this is why the biggest lottery in the U.S., PowerBall, uses physical balls in a television studio in Florida. It’s still not random, but its chaotic behavior means that it’s also not predictable, which is good enough for a lottery.
So if the universe really isn’t random – how are we to explain the order that we see everywhere we look? Well, perhaps the answer lies in what people of faith have known for untold millennia: everything has a cause, and The Cause is someone who is knowable.
In Christ, Amen ☩
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A prayer for when you don’t understand what is happening…
“Blessed are You, Lord God, King of the Universe. It is right that I should at all times and in all circumstances bless You for the order with which You created the cosmos. But today I want to bless you especially for bringing order to my life, even when I don’t see the patterns. Give me the grace to experience true respite. Amen.”