If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, you can probably relate to this story. Something about funerals makes people say the stupidest things.
Most readers know my Dad passed away from lung cancer at 57 years old in 2019. Dad smoked from the time he was 13 until a few weeks after his diagnosis. He had tried quitting so, so many times. His one regret in life was ever picking up a cigarette.
We aren’t shy about the fact that Dad’s specific type of lung cancer was caused by his smoking. We’ve actually been pretty active in advocating for lung cancer screenings for those who do smoke and choose to continue to smoke.
At the funeral, a community member walked up to my mom and said, “It’s too bad he was a smoker, he should have known better.”
Yeah. I know.
We were all SO PISSED when mom told us that she said that. Dad’s smoking does not discredit anything. It doesn’t discredit his work ethic, it doesn’t discredit his faith, his role as a father, the years he dedicated to the community as a fireman and first responder, it’s as if his smoking addiction, because it took his life, voided any good deed he may have done in his 57 years.
But now get this.
I was talking to a co worker recently, she was in tears. She was so angry at people who chose to get unvaccinated. She was so fed up and felt personally victimized by people who chose not to get vaccinated. She had a hard time feeling any empathy for them because they brought this on themselves. They don’t deserve medical care if they refuse the vaccine.
I’ve heard many similar conversations over the past 9 months regarding people’s vaccination status. I’ve heard them from healthcare workers, I’ve read them in comment sections, and I myself have had similar thoughts at times too.
Then I remember my Dad. I remember that “he brought this on himself.” I remember how hurt I was to hear those words as if it negated the fact he was still my dad, he was still a husband and a beloved member of the community. What if the cancer doctors and nurses treated him poorly because of the choices he made?
Should I be rude to the septic 16 year old girl in the ER after her botched abortion?
Should I refuse to treat the drunk driver who was in a car accident?
Should I make fun of the man who took erectile dysfunction medication and shamefully makes his way to the ER after four hours?
Should I tell the patient of the family who is terminally extubating their unvaccinated loved one who is dying from COVID that they brought this on themselves?
Should I roll my eyes when a suicide attempt wasn’t completed and they are in the ICU following an overdose?
All of these scenarios represent real people. These are real humans with real qualities beyond making poor choices.
My dad was a real human with real qualities beyond making a poor choice.
I can’t carry that burden, I won’t carry that anger inside of me.
Is it hard? YES. Am I perfect at it? NO. Have I made snarky comments about people who are unvaccinated? YES.
I have to remind myself constantly, I have never regretted being exceptionally kind. I have never regretted offering empathy. I have never regretted giving the benefit of the doubt. I have never regretted loving unconditionally.
I have regretted being rude. I have regretted saying something snarky. I have regretted speaking poorly about someone. I have regretted carrying anger.
So while yes, it is frustrating. It is so beyond frustrating. I have been angry and I’ve been sad and judgemental but I’ve also been the daughter of someone who “brought this on themselves” and I’m the daughter of someone who “should have known better.”
As a disclaimer, I do want to say I am whole heartedly and enthusiastically vaccinated COVID ICU nurse.
I guess this whole blog post could be summed up in one phrase: Leave the judging to Jesus. And that’s all I have for today.