Section: Questions Category: Hashkafa
|Hashkafa - the burden of a mother's death|
|Submitted by anonymous Answered by Rabbi Tzvi Frank|
|Question: My mother had terminal cancer and was in the last stages. She hit her head in a fall and was in a coma. She had told me only a week earlier that she did not want to die in pain, and that we should not prolong her life with machines. I made the decision to remove life support I also made the decision to keep her on a morphine drip, and regularly up the dose of morphine in order to alleviate pain, but since she was in a coma, I did not know if she was really in pain or not. Now, years later, I am wracked with guilt feeling that I murdered my own mother. Did I commit a great sin? What can I do to make it right? They told me she was \\"brain dead\\", but, how does anyone know anyway? Should I have left her on life support, against her wishes? Should I have let her die more slowly or in pain by not having her on a morphine drip? And if I am a murderer, is there anything I can do now to get right with God, myself and the law? I am in a lot of emotional pain. Thank You.
|Answer: I feel for your pain and for your and your families loss.|
there is a huge difference between forbidding the removal of life
support to becoming a murderer! There are numerous complex halachic
issues involved and Jewish legal authorities have sparred over this
ruling back and forth for many years. You assumed you were doing the
right thing by not prolonging your mother's suffering. I wouldn't
classify your actions as murderous by any account. That said, it is
true that according to many preeminent authorities it is indeed
forbidden to remove a person from life support, as life in any form or
situation is so precious.
So. What happened, happened. Your intentions were admirable although influenced by a lack of Jewish education.
recommendation to you based on my conversation with Torah personalities
is as follows. The Talmud is quite clear that a person's actions can
directly affect a parent's standing after their death. A mitzvah
observed on this world by a child can elevate a father or mother's
position in their afterlife in a most positive way. It has even been
described as infusing them with "life" by your good deeds and mitzvoth
which you perform in their memory and for their merit. This is a
classic fundamental Jewish concept.
For your mother's merit I
would start learning the laws and the mitzvos of the Torah. I am unsure
of your current level of observance but you can always add something or
improve upon it if you already are observant. If you haven't been
observing the laws of Sabbath completely, start learning them and
slowly incorporate those mitzvos and laws into your Sabbath observance.
If you haven't been lighting Shabbos candles on Friday before sundown,
now would be an excellent time to study the laws and meaning behind
this practice and begin this special mitzvah that was performed by
generations of Jewish women before you! If prayer was never a big
thing perhaps joining a study group to learn the underlying concepts
and meaning of prayer can jumpstart a fresh relationship with God.
education, understanding and practice you will begin to truly
appreciate the beauty of our religion, give your life an extra
meaningful dimension and infuse your dear mother with life once more.
you would like me to refer a number of excellent local organizations or
educational material please reply to this email and I will do my utmost