I attended a funeral service yesterday for the grandfather of my wife's cousin's little boy. The man's Christian name was Joseph, and he was only 63. I didn't know him well and had seen him only three or four times, the last being on July 4. He was a quiet man who loved his family so much that he didn't want to burden them with medical expenses he believed they couldn't afford. So he grew sicker and sicker from kidney failure and tried to hide it and resisted his family's pleas for him to see a doctor after he couldn't hide it until he was discovered one day lying immobile and mute in bed, with froth oozing from his nose and mouth, and his body badly bloated from edema. He died a few hours later in the hospital.
Joseph should have seen a doctor before it came to this. But I can understand why he didn't. He thought he couldn't afford it. He thought his family couldn't afford it. I'd probably do the same if I were in his position. Perhaps I will be someday. It could happen to any of us, unless we're obscenely rich, and for reasons beyond our control.
I believe that no one in this country, certainly no citizen or legal resident, should have to worry about paying for the medical care they or their families need. Yet so many of us do. I believe that we should all be fully covered cradle to grave no matter what our circumstances. And I believe that if the best and brightest in this country were resolved to make it happen, it would. As it is, they aren't. Possibly in part because too many of the best and brightest are doing well enough financially that they can provide for themselves and their families and lack empathy for those who can't. And even many who aren't so blessed with talent or wealth fall for the conservative platform that cares more about making the rich richer and demonizing abortion and homosexuality than it does for taking reasonable measures to enhance the health and happiness of all Americans.
The Right say we not only can't afford guaranteed universal healthcare, but also that providing it would weaken this country by fostering a corrupting and, in Gagdad Bob's terms, "infantile" sense of "entitlement." But I say that we ARE entitled to decent healthcare. Each and every one of us. Whether we have a job that provides healthcare coverage, doesn't provide healthcare coverage, we're between jobs, have never had a job, or have a "pre-existing condition" that no insurer will cover adequately or at all. We shouldn't have to pay a dime extra out of our individual pockets for this. It should come from our collective taxes, even if we have to hike taxes substantially to finance it.
For without your health, what do you have? How is this not so basic to "the pursuit of happiness" that it should be our prime directive as a nation? How is suffering from untreated or undertreated diseases and disorders because one can't afford adequate treatment and the constant worry about paying for healthcare for oneself and one's family not far more corrosive to our social fabric than is reinforcing a moral sense of entitlement to universal healthcare?
I mentioned that I went to a funeral. I didn't know the man well, but I choked back tears when his mother and wife and sons wept over his body on display in its casket and, later, as the tractor pushed dirt into his grave. I choked back tears and then felt even more embarrassed than usual for doing it because I didn't know the man well and knew that the people who did would know that I didn't, and I was afraid they'd be wondering why I was reacting that way. Of course, they weren't paying any attention to me. They were too enveloped in their own personal grief to care about why I was struggling mightily to hide my own.
Yet, if they had asked me, I could have said that I was grieving for the family of this man who died because he was justifiably afraid that he couldn't afford decent healthcare, and for a nation that seems to think that the United States of America should let it be possible for people to be in this position while people like George Bush are set for life. I could tell them that I was grieving for my dearest friend who died recently without my being able to attend her funeral, for everyone I've ever lost, for all the people dear to me who have died or will die someday, and last, and probably least, for my own death that will come perhaps sooner or later than I expect.
One thing that consoled me in my grief was the little card distributed by one of the funeral assistants with the famous poem that begins "Do not stand by my grave and weep" printed on one side. I first read this poem in Ken Wilber's book Grace and Grit several years ago. I later discovered that it was very popular and used in many funeral services. I agree with it. We are NOT that corpse that lies slowly decaying in the coffin or dissolved in ashes in the urn, or the body that lives before it becomes a corpse or ashes. We are the unified totality of existence, some beautiful examples of which are to be found in the poem.
But I wonder why a Catholic Christian service would present such a seemingly heterodox if not heretical message.
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