Dying girl chooses heaven over hospital


#1

I’m curious to discuss this trending article with Happy Mutants. I was disturbed over the language choice (“Do you want to go to heaven or back to the hospital?”) but reading the complete article, I feel like that all involved understand that she will die, and how she will die if she is at home versus at the hospital. They seem religious but not freakishly so. I am sorry for the whole family that they are dealing with this illness.


#2

Quality over quantity? I’d rather die at home. Sounds to me like she’s making quite a mature decision (although I don’t know how informed it is from a 5 yo)

Isn’t this true of doctors - who tend to choose to die at home over prolonging life?

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/feb/08/how-doctors-choose-die


#3

Yes, I think the headline is intended to give impression that they are unfairly influencing the girl with tempting thoughts of going to heaven, but then in the full text, it’s clear she understands the terrible pain of her disease, that she will die soon, and the version of heaven she is being offered is a pretty age-appropriate way of explaining what we don’t really know but want to believe is true about what happens to us after we die. It doesn’t seem like there is some great alternative here. She’ll die soon either way - just with a lot of hospital “care” that will extend her pain or at home where she will be given palliative care and real comfort.


#4

I typically find use of the phrase ‘going to heaven’ insufferably saccharine; but aside from that matter of taste this situation seems to have been handled about as well as the bad options permitted.

In an ideal world(rather, the most ideal world where somebody is still dying of a ghastly disease), the decision-maker would be of full cognitive capacity, which they say take around two decades); but that wasn’t an option, neither choice was obviously superior from an external perspective; and it appears that the kid was being allowed to decide to the extent of their ability.

I certainly don’t see any better implementation.


#5

I wonder how children would be if we never mentioned anything about heaven or god until they are past the age of reason. Heck, I wonder how future adults would be if we didn’t mention any of these things until after the age of reason.


#6

Well, if your kid is a god, that might be a challenge.

I would be down for the challenge, provided I could add countries and money to the list!


#7

But when is that? Kids have to engage with death at some point. Relatives die. I don’t think it does favors to not take them to funerals or what have you (I can understand when they are too young to sit still, etc, but even then…), which I’ve had friends do - but what about when someone close to them dies? I think it’s kind of important to understand what you believe about death and why, what others believe as well, rather early on. Death is probably NEVER easy to deal with, but since we’re all heading that way anyhow, we need to talk about it and come to terms with it. It’s kind of sad how much we sort of hide away that aspect of life in this country. Our funerals are generally sort of boring and bland, and do little to help us deal with the deaths, and the family has little to no interactions with the body itself and many people don’t die at home, but in hospitals, away from what they feel comfortable with.

I dunno… we should do a lot more in terms of understanding and confronting death.


#8

The age of reason, i.e late childhood/pre-adolescence is usually around 7, give or take depending on the child and the child’s development.

Death is real. It’s not mythology. It’s in our faces. Heaven, god, all that stuff, requires a different part of the person to start thinking about and so I put that in the mythology category.

I think we tell kids “Grandma is in heaven now” for us, not for the kid to understand. Why can’t we equivocate and say, “I don’t know where she is now” ? Why do we have to have a pat answer for everything?


#9

I’m not arguing we do, but I think it’s perfectly okay to say that death is the end to a kid, even those prior to the age of reason. Atheist do have kids too, and presumably they don’t say “grandma is in heaven now”. It’s hard to be honest, but that’s the best policy with kids, because otherwise all the really learn is that they can’t trust you.

I don’t think we have to have pat answers - but that’s part of my point - that lying about death or hiding it is something of a pat answers, because we think kids can’t understand it. But I don’t think hiding things like death is the answer. And I don’t think death is in our faces the same way it is in other places. We have a wall between the processes of death and our “normal” lives now, in the US, at least, and I think that’s a problem. It probably hinders the grieving process a bit.


#10

I agree with you. Maybe I wasn’t clear… the things we can see and touch, we owe it to kids to get in there and talk about with them and hash it out. The things that cross that line into mythology are so subjective. It bears further conversation, too because I don’t have the answers. Well, not universal ones. (Are there any universals about this?)

Say I am a devout Christian, and I tell my kids about heaven, but my family are atheist and so what then? Or the opposite? It seems so murky.


#11

Agreed, it is murky. Until a certain age, kids are dependent on you to help shape their worldview. You are their line to the rest of reality. I think that’s important to remember. I know such divisions can cause serious cracks in families.

It’s all case by case, really.


#12

Yeah, it probably is case by case. Because if you are devoutly religious but withhold that talk from your kid, then they’ll think you’re a liar. If you are atheist and you keep ramming Santa Claus ideas down their throat, then you’re a liar. If you skirt it always saying you don’t know you don’t know you don’t know, then you’re as good as a liar. You can’t win this one, except by trying something and just helping them out with the really real stuff that comes up, like death, illness, changes in relationships, things that happen.


#13

Actually, basically, you can never get it right! So, do the best you can and leave it at that, I think!


#14

I know lots of adults who believe fairy tale things about Heaven and the afterlife that I am totally amazed by. I had a high school classmate whose wife died unexpectedly a little over a year ago, and ever since he has talked on his Facebook page about how she is in heaven with their cat. Wow. For realz? I mean, it just seems so juvenile if that is his understanding of what is going on. If he was six and saying that, I think it’d be fine. But to be 40 and saying that, it just seemed so limited. I mean, maybe she’s in heaven with the cat but…maybe you have a bigger vision of what that means now at 40 - it all just seemed so pat for a grown adult who had just lost the love of his life. He seemed so chill with it, and remarried so quickly, that it made me wonder if maybe things weren’t so great at the end of their marriage and it was a relief for him to be able to move on.

Then, another friend teaches often about how there is no death, only life, and basically that we can cheat death. I find, that, too, extremely weird and yet many many others in the class nod their heads in agreement. I seriously don’t get it.

I’m open to the idea of an afterlife, but I just feel that is so much here in this world we don’t understand that needs our attention, and that whatever is going on there, I’ll focus on that if and when I get there. I don’t see the value in devoting a lot of time to the issue.

I agree that we deal with death extremely poorly in our culture.

I have spoken frankly with my daughter about my beliefs about everything even when she was young. It might have been a simpler conversation, but I don’t make up easy answers just because it’s easier for me. But, I do know many who would explain to a child “Grandma’s up in heaven with Fluffy and Jesus,” and for their religious view I don’t think it’s a terrible way to explain it.


#15

I had this conversation recently with my son. I don’t want to contradict what my wife tells the kids, so I just explained briefly what she believes, why she believes it and how she express it and contrasted that with what I believe and some rationalisation for why I don’t think there’s an afterlife. I then explained that other people have other ideas and nobody really knows for sure. I think at that age (6) it’s best not to encourage a response, but it’s ok to introduce some basic concepts.


#16

I have a kid who suddenly realized at nine that they were eventually going to die. Basically, it was the first time they ever seriously thought through the concept of their mortality, and they were freaking out.

My explanations I tried to make as helpful and illustrative as possible, but I don’t doubt that many parents would find them horrific. I explained about the amazing utility of death, and the corruption of immortality on a cellular level. Starting with programmed cell death, that we would not even have limbs and organs if not for our bodies ability to selectively kill billions of cells at the right place and time. How the pattern of our perceived selves seems to maintain relative coherence, despite the eventual replacement of all of our cells. To the problems of damage, transcription errors, and how cancers are the cells that avoid death - thus threatening the entire organism. That life/death are the same process, and how nobody has ever experienced one without the other. And how organisms are programmed to continue their existence, and fear their own cessation. I asked a lot of questions, making it more participatory than a mere lecture, and went through lots of examples.


#17

You’re a hoopy frood, popobawa4u. I hope your spawn feels better about it now. If only my dad had been as perceptive and good with ideas. When my beloved and cherished grandfather died when I was 8, all my dad had to say was: “he’s with god now. God needed him to come home”

And of course that was such bullshit. In my dad’s view, god is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent. So this god

  • Doesn’t need anyone anywhere. It can make do with nothing.
  • If it loves everyone and is all-powerful, then hurting people is unnecessary.
  • It’s omniscient. It doesn’t make mistakes, therefore it wanted crush my puny little heart. Any further purposes could have been served without the pain, since it can do anything.

So, either this god is evil, powerless, or non-existent.

It would have been so much better if my folks had just talked with me about death than just saying “don’t worry about it. Whatever happens is supposed to happen, there’s nothing you can do to stop it, and god is inscrutable and hurts you for no reason because… Reasons.”

That was probably the first time I thought this god guy wasn’t as great as everyone seemed to think.


#18

And if you approach the subject too late in someone’s life (past about age 12), then you risk losing everything:


#19

Uh, can I have the talk, too? It sounds utterly fascinating and I might learn a thing or two!


#20

FTA:

The assignment asked students to say whether something was factual, a commonplace assertion or an opinion. The district said in a statement that it was intended to encourage critical thinking skills, not question any student's religious beliefs. However, Jordan said the teacher told students that God was a myth.

“I felt like this was really wrong and I didn’t feel like it was fair for my faith and my religion to have anything to do with what I’m learning about in school,” she told the Katy school board Monday during its monthly meeting.

Oh boy, that’s some bullshit there. Yes, it’s a mistake for the teacher to outright disparage commonly practiced religions within the classroom, since you end up wasting lots of time on being hated that’s better used for teaching. But, for fuck sake, critical thinking is questioning someone’s “fixed beliefs”. If you’re too afraid to examine what you believe, then you’re probably believing that stuff for no reason or stupid reasons and know it.

Also, god is not a fact. Definitely not. You can’t verify it, test it, or examine it in any detail. Therefore it’s even lower than an opinion in the rankings of assertions. If you’re going to call the existence of a god a fact, then you better bring your evidential A-game, because to not is to admit you have no case.