Dignity means different things to different people. Since sliding down this slope of illness, I’ve discovered some interesting things – one being that dignity is an important element of our souls, the friendships that we may have, the home we live in, the ability to do what we want – when we want.
…and I guarantee that dignity means different things to me than it does to you!
Simply put, as a woman myself, I believe most women want to look pretty and attractive. This means our hair is combed nicely, our nails are perhaps painted an attractive color without icky cuticles, we’re wearing clothing without holes, and we simply look pretty! Ah yes, a spray of Channel No. 5 is a perfect addition to my concept of dignity!
Dignity to one of my closest friends means having the ability to smile and not be embarrassed because she’s missing her front teeth. We had a quiet, sad conversation one afternoon about this. I had no idea that she was suffering so much because of her dental problems. This ISN’T JUST A PROBLEM – this is a complete loss of dignity to her. When we finished talking, I laid down in bed and thought long and hard about this elusive thing called DIGNITY.
Each of us have our own priorities in life, and have desires that mean a great deal to us. It can be as simple as having a quiet bed in the corner of a room without being stared at. Mother Teresa caught on to that concept quickly, didn’t she? In fact, I think she was one of the inventors of dignity!
Years ago I remember having an episode similar to an epileptic seizure, and as the ambulance driver and helper dragged me into the emergency room – hyped up on their own adrenaline of the moment, they neglected to size up the situation in a humanitarian, dignified manner.
They plopped me right in the middle of the hallway, stripped my dirty, thread-bare back-tied gown off in front of everyone and began to work. Thankfully a young nurse came over, whispered something quietly to them and helped them roll my gurney and my embarrassed naked body into a room with drapes around the area. Bless her heart. She saw and understood “Dignity.”
I hope those ambitious ambulance workers learned just a little something that evening – it will help them and the patients they’re paid to help. The situation didn’t warrant the embarrassment that occurred, but I chalked it up to “a learning situation.” Lucky for them I was so ill, there was no physical backlash!
Whatever the case, it made me realize that dignity comes in all sorts of forms. Including, even, how we may treat a “hobo” or homeless person on the street sitting out back of the local 7-Eleven…not knowing if they’re going to make it out of that back alley alive or for that matter, make it through the night alive.
Death and Dignity do go hand in hand. Prolonged illness that leads to death often makes the patient feel more conscious of things we may not have thought of before. The fact that we can’t do simple things anymore is embarrassing…even to discuss with someone else who is close to us.
Imagine not being able to change a lightbulb, walk down the stairs at home without assistance, remember to take the right pills at the right time each day? …and just a year ago, you were a working scientist…
Side-affects of medicines can leave us having to deal with ugly, seeping scales on our skin, make it a chore to walk straight, take our eyesight away, and so many other weird things that can happen to us mentally, physically, or emotionally.
I know one fellow who admitted to me that he cries daily. And, the saddest part: He cries after he goes out to his garage while sitting in his car in the garage (oh, by the way…he can’t drive again – they took his driver’s license away.) He doesn’t feel comfortable allowing his family to be a part of his sorrow and loss of dignity.
Dignity is a fragile thing. And, different for everyone of us. We owe it to ourselves to try to understand what it is for ourselves and others as we go down the pathway to the end of our lives.
I’m trying to learn how to understand this complex and fragile part of my life. It’s an interesting subject and a wee bit karmic…
Get to know your feelings, and appreciate the importance of them to you!
And, by the way, I would recommend that you respect those around you, no matter what their condition is – sick or well – stomping on dignity or playing any part of hurting another human being isn’t going to help you, them, or the world at large! (You knew that already, didn’t you!).
Death and Dignity go hand in hand in a billion ways. Dignity permeates the entire issue of death.
Ultimately, if we as a society, do not insist that dignity accompanies the process of death, we have lost track of HUMANITY