Prayopavesha

My mother’s a real piece of work, let me tell you. All her life she’s been more self-focused than not, chasing after whatever pleases her – often at the expense of others who might depend on her, or should be depending on her, namely her children.

In large part because of her wanton lifestyle choices, she’s now finding herself middle-aged and not in the best health. In fact, her own mother is now in her 70s, is a widow, and among other things has survived cancer more than a couple times – which has meant the amputation of more than one body part and subsequent reconstructive surgeries – and aside from a bit of gout here and there, is in better physical health than she is.

Among my birth mother’s many health ailments, is the condition of her heart. By the time I knew much about the situation, she already had a fair amount of cardiac gadgetry installed, including a pace maker/defibrillator. Her Potassium levels are consistently an issue, which further strains her heart. Also her kidneys are crap. This also connects to her heart troubles. She’s had battles with heart attacks and strokes and TIAs.

It’s not a good situation, overall. Most of it’s her own fault, and as it happens, she’s a strong candidate for a heart transplant. I feel mixed about that actually. I don’t want her to die, per se, although we’re not terribly close and haven’t been since before I could drive. But I know that many people need life-saving organ transplants – many people who WANT to live and care enough to take care of any organ they may receive. The same cannot be said about my mother. I find it very selfish, not to mention wasteful.

Not long ago she had an “episode” that landed her in the ER of her local hospital. Her cardiologist was present and interrogated her as to why she’d not taken care of getting on the transplant list. A few weeks later, my sister contacted me saying our mother’d finally submitted the papers and had an appointment (today!) to go be assessed. My sister requested that I come along for as much of the assessment as I am able. Although I hadn’t really planned to, I did want to keep informed about the day’s goings on. When I hadn’t heard anything from anyone, I texted my sister. The response that I received this morning from my sister was that my mother’s appointment had been cancelled/rescheduled. Given the urgency of it all, as expressed by my mother’s cardiologist, and factoring in how much she’s dragged her feet all along, I’m certain that this is her doing.

I recall from having worked in oncology that sometimes a person simply does not want to continue living. Considering the results of my mother’s life choices for many years now, I can’t say I’d blame her for thinking along those lines.

In my religion, suicide is frowned upon – I think more for cultural reasons than anything. I’m sure somewhere within all of Hinduism’s scriptures there’s something that mentions the negative karmic results of suiciding. I do know also, however, that there is at least one form of “suicide” which is acceptable to Hindus. It’s called Prayopavesha, and simply put, it’s starving one’s body to death. The rules associated with Prayopavesha are clear. You have to give your community notice and follow a number of other guidelines. This form of suicide is actually quite structured and systematic.

When I consider my mother’s behavior, I feel as though she’s likely a bit scared. It’s understandable, and fear makes people do ridiculous things often. Is it possible my mother is trying to orchestrate her own version of Prayopavesha? My first inclination is that she’s simply not intelligent enough to manage that kind of feat. However, as her POA I’m already aware of her DNR order, and I know that all preimptive anxiety aside, she’s rather okay with “leaving.”

Maybe my mother is so scared of the surgery involved and so very “done” with life, as it has played out for her, that she has decided to cease any major life-prolonging activities. She’s not saying much either way, and instead has chosen to run the few people who are caring for her in circles. I’m mostly not included within that group, but my heart goes out to those who are.

Either way, it’s neither very responsible nor very nice. Actual Prayopravesha would by far be more preferred.

Om Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

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3 responses to “Prayopavesha

  1. Not knowing your mother or the circumstances of her life path too well, I can’t speak to that very much. But I will say, I think that it is odd that any society requires a potential “suicider” to let them know beforehand of their plans. One would think that upon informing others about the plan, that plan would be thwarted. Unless this is a culture which strongly respects one’s wishes and allows one to carry them out.

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  2. I would agree …although I think prayopavesha is an interesting loop hole, and isnt technically considered suicide.

    I think because starving is a gradual and mostly nonaggressive means of accomplishing death, it’s more accepted. Also, the “notice” that’s required is so allow others the chance to say good-bye, which is something that’s denied others in an instance of “traditional” suicide.

    Also, within the context of prayopavesha the so-called plans aren’t thwarted because the basis of praypavesha isn’t escapism or fear or lashing out at others. It’s meant to be an act of compassion or something, of responsibility.

    I’m just not sure if an ignorant person is capable or likely to exert that kind of control needed to knowingly deny life-saving measures, at least for reasons that arent selfish.

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  3. I am so sorry to read this, I know we have had conversation about your mother, and I understand your feelings about this, as I have the same toward my dad. Selfish acts by selfish people are hard to deal with. I wish I had words that could make sense of all of this for you, just know I am thinking about you and wishing we lived closer so we could have some wine and chat on a daily basis:) Sending lots of hugs to you!!!!

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