Growing Into Peace
by Karen Diersen, Covenant Companion
Although I should have expected it after four years of declining health, when my sister Mary passed away in May, I was shocked. In my mind I knew she had suffered a serious decline since her hospitalization in February, but when the doctor at the nursing home said she was eligible for hospice, my heart said, “No, No, No.” I couldn’t accept that she wouldn’t bounce back like she had so many times before.
After the doctor told me the likely outcome of her condition, I called a good and trusted friend and asked if I had done everything I could do and whether there wasn’t more that could be done. His advice was, “Karen, don’t try to control it.” That was hard advice to take, and I continued to try to look for ways to change things.
Although she could no longer stand up and walk and her hands and legs were twisted from Parkinson’s Disease, my brother and I asked that she receive physical and occupational therapy in an attempt to get her moving again. I was with her for some of her therapy sessions and came to realize that she was struggling. I tried to encourage her, but finally, in her last session, she turned to me and said, “I won’t do it.” At that point it became obvious that she was taking control of her own life. Two days later she passed away.
In reflecting on it all, I saw my tendency as the “big sister” to try to take control and save her, to protect her no matter what. She suffered quietly for the most part and never complained. But when she decided that she had had enough, she took over and told me she was done.
At the end of her funeral mass, Fr. Tony said, “She is safe now.” Those were the words I needed to hear. She is safe from the pain, the surgeries, the tubes and the IV’s, the hallucinations that plagued her for many years, the hospitalizations and therapy sessions. She was led to accept her situation, at a time when I could not. She did the right thing for herself, and I am at peace now with her decision and proud of the quietly strong woman that she was. I remember the words in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you… Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”