“I love you, Nana,” I told my dying 93-year-old grandma this summer. For a brief but unforgettable moment, her Irish eyes sparkled and a huge smile shone on her face. Then, her eyes closed and her shoulders relaxed into her pillow—her body’s attempt to recuperate after exerting enormous energy to smile.
On Thanksgiving, my 83-year-old grandmother also gave us a scare as she struggled to eat or drink due to complications with a hiatal hernia. I wrapped my arms around her, “We love you, Grandma.” Despite her pain, she responded with warm laughter.
While watching two of the women who I most admire fight to breathe, eat and drink—I realized that President Obama and Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel are dead wrong about the value of life.
Dr. Emanuel is the brother of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and an advisor to President Obama. Last month, he penned a column in The Atlantic where he cackled: “...by 75, creativity, originality, and productivity are pretty much gone for the vast, vast majority of us.”
Last year, a woman asked President Obama whether his signature healthcare law would be taking into account an individual’s will to live: “Well, can we consider my mother’s spirit, her will to live, when she’s 105 for medical treatment?” Obama’s response echoes Dr. Emanuel’s end-of-life philosophy: “I don’t think that we can make judgments based on people’s spirit. …Maybe you’re better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.”
I may be young, but I’m not dumb. I personally cared for my Nana for nearly four years while she struggled with severe dementia. I saw first-hand that she bestowed unique joy and wisdom on the world when she was in her nineties.
Said differently, if she had passed away at age 75, my family, friends and I would never had had the opportunity to learn from her: to see the fortitude and joy with which she bore the burden of her aching back and varicose veins; to hear her pray with perfect faith; and to receive her ever-playful words of counsel: “Patience is a virtue—seldom found in a woman and never in a man.”
As a Millennial, my concern is that Obama and Dr. Emanuel seem to be telling American Millennials:
“Hey, kids! Mooch off your parents and grandparents forever! If you can’t find a job, don’t blame the cause, namely Obama’s redistributive policies. Instead, lounge around at home in flannel pajamas. Forget about the future. Squander away the present by surfing the Internet and watching Obama’s YouTube videos on immigration. Sip hot cocoa and sign up for ObamaCare in the comfort of your boxer shorts. Last but not least, pop your parents a painkiller when they hit 75 so you can pocket their inheritance after paying the death tax.”
In Japan, young people learn to respect their elders from a young age—a culture that greedy American political leaders like Dr. Emanuel and President Obama should learn from. A recent Associated Press story highlighted how 21-year-old Kaori Endo’s chief concern is “how I can support my parents.” She said her primary daily stressor is how she can move from temporary work in a bread factory to permanent employment. Not so she can upgrade from flannel to silk pajamas, but so she provide for her mother and father.
As you approach the season of hope, take time to treasure the older people in your life. Lead by example and teach a young person to respect the elderly, including those struggling with dementia. By passing your appreciation for life on to the next generation, you will prevent Dr. Emanuel from spreading his morbid practice of drooling over death.