Knowing when it’s time
As I was doing my brisk mile walk this morning around the oval at the YMCA (11 laps equal one mile), I passed a man three times who was wearing a shirt emblazoned with this message on the back:
Groaning Is Acceptable
Falling Is Acceptable
Crawling Is Acceptable
Puking Is Acceptable
Crying Is Acceptable
QUITTING IS UNACCEPTABLE!
I understand the sentiment. I know what the machismo side of our culture teaches men: “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” “No pain, no gain.” “Suck it up.” “Go hard or go home.” “Play through pain.” “Man up!” Pro football players and boxers promulgate that message.
Several weeks ago at a middle school cross-country race, one boy, when he slouched past this spectator, was bleeding from both nostrils and mouth. The front of his uniform was red with blood. No coach, family member or medical professional intervened.
People with a terminal diagnosis sometimes have to decide whether to fight on or “let nature take its course.” When the patient is no longer competent, the next of kin discusses with the attending physician whether to begin (or continue) possibly futile interventions like ventilators, surgeries, blood transfusions, antibiotics or renal dialysis. Is it wrong to forgo treatments that prolong suffering and the inevitable?
Two thoughts come to mind here, one secular and one religious:
1. Shakespeare wrote, “The better part of valor is discretion.” Doesn’t common sense dictate that the boy runner should have been helped from the race and his injuries tended? This was not a life-or-death Greek marathon.
2. I quoted at my 94-year-old mother’s funeral the old gospel hymn: “The strife is o’er, the battle done; the victory of life is won; the song of triumph has begun: Alleluia!”
Sometimes saying “No more!” is the better part of valor.