Weeks ago I blogged about my sister Dorothy who was drawing close to death as she suffered from the disease lupus. She passed from this life on August 6, 2012, at the age of 80.
Systemic lupus erythematosus is an auto-immune disease for which there is no cure. The only treatment is to control the symptoms. In severe and advanced cases immune suppressing therapy is used to minimize damage to vital organs such as the heart, lungs and kidneys. Ultimately, the disease reaps its grim harvest of suffering and death.
Dorothy amazed me at the way in which she bore her suffering. Perhaps the most difficult thing for us, her siblings, was the depression which overwhelmed her at times. She had envisioned a relaxed retirement, but things did not work out that way. Shortly after her retirement the lupus attacks seemed to worsen. Pneumonia was a constant threat due to her suppressed immune system.
For the last months of her life Dorothy depended on oxygen to supplement her depleted respiratory capacity. Dorothy’s four adult children helped as much as they could. We all learned how to handle the portable oxygen unit Dorothy relied upon when we took her out hoping she could eat something and gain a bit of strength. Dorothy planned and celebrated her 80th birthday with us her siblings. Already we could see her strength fading.
Her body began consuming her own tissue as her ability to take nutrition decreased. She was reduced to less than 75 pounds—skin and bones as she put it.
What amazed me was the spiritual strength with which she faced death. Dorothy was always a strong woman. She planned her own funeral, down to the details of the hymns, the memorial card with the poem “Safely Home” which she chose in order to console all of us who were left behind. I am deeply touched by the lines:
Then you must not grieve so sorely,
For I love you dearly still:
Try to look beyond earth’s shadows,
Pray to trust our Father’s Will.
Farewell my dear sister. You can count on one thing. We will all follow you one of these days.
Photo Credit: Philippe Gillotte PhotoXpress