According to a Roman myth, Care was amusing herself one day by molding earth in various shapes. Finding a particular shape that she wanted to have life, she beseeched Jupiter to grant it a soul. Jupiter obliged but objected when Care wanted the new creature to be named after her. Saturn, the god of time, intervened, ruling that upon death, the creature would return to earth, its soul to Jupiter, but all the time it was alive it was to be entrusted to Care.
Our name is Care. We realize our identity when we care for others. The inability or reluctance to care shows a human being to be less than humane. Caring for others is so fundamental to human nature as to coincide with it. There are many forms of care.
Therefore, we can express our essential humanity in many caring ways. When we prefix the word “health,” we refer to the most evident, appealing, and urgent of all forms of care. The first obstacle in the path of health care is inconvenience. This was not a problem with Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Jean Vanier, Tom Dooley, Jérôme Lejeune, Mother Alfonsa, and many other heroes of health care. But in a society overshadowed by the Culture of Death, inconvenience is an obstacle that many people find difficulty in overcoming.
If one category of human life –the unborn –can be deemed worthless, so can other categories, such as the severely disabled, the elderly, and the terminally ill. Wesley J. Smith, in his book, Culture of Death, offers some shocking examples of this reluctance to be health-givers. In one instance, a daughter asks her mother’s doctor why he is refusing to prescribe antibiotics for the 92-year-old woman. The doctor defends his position by stating that “an infection will kill her sooner or later. So it might as well be this infection.” In another example, a doctor remarks, “If anyone so much as whispers cortisone [a palliative agent] or ‘uncertain diagnosis,’ I’ll hit him (136).
” We find an extraordinary and most edifying example of health care between a man, better known to the world for his basketball exploits, and his wife of 63 years. During the last dozen years of their marriage, Bob Cousy’s wife, Missie, was slowly succumbing to the ravages of dementia. Each morning, Cousy would lay out Missie’s pills, the newspaper, a fiber bar, and a banana. Then he would gently awaken his “bride” and lead her to the kitchen where she would read the newspaper. It would take two or three hours for her to get through the pages since she would underline each sentence in every story. She would ask her husband the same question over and over. She sometimes hallucinated, became disoriented, and struggled to retain her balance. But she always recognized her husband and bristled at any suggestion that she was suffering from dementia. Cousy did all the household chores while graciously letting her think that she did them herself.
When she passed away in 2013, the former basketball great was inconsolable. “I can’t put the pills out in the morning. And I can’t care for her anymore,” he said. Nonetheless, each night, when he goes to bed, he tells his wife that he loves her. He never felt defeated by the challenge of caring for his ailing spouse on a full-time basis. “It drew us closer together,” he said. “It was never a chore, because I knew she would have done the same for me.” Bob Cousy’s rightful name is Care, not “The Houdini of the Hardwood.”
Love does not look at inconvenience, nor does it shrink in the presence of suffering. A person who is sick calls forth in us a special feeling of solicitude. Our attitude toward others is truly humane when we see them, as we should see ourselves, as mortal, fragile, and dependent. Therefore, I and my neighbor are always in need of reciprocal care.
DONALD DEMARCO’s latest book is Why I Am Pro-Life and Not Politically Correct. He is a senior fellow of Human Life International, professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University (Waterloo, Ontario), adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College (Cromwell, CT), and regular columnist for St. Austin Review.