Remember that old song by John Lennon? I read that he coined the term, “instant karma”. It’s supposed to reference actions taken by a person that cause harm to another that later come back to bite them in the ass. Lennon wrote a great song about it.
Well… what I’m about to describe may not really be “instant karma” per se. I don’t know exactly what I’d call it. You can tell me what you think it is. Here goes…
Last night, for some reason, I randomly decided to check out the Facebook page of one of my first cousins once removed. Her dad is my first cousin, since his mother and my father were siblings. As I was reading my young relative’s social media page, I noticed a post about another cousin… my relative’s aunt, and also my first cousin. I’ll call her Nell, although that’s not her name.
Nell is the eldest of 22 grandchildren on my dad’s side of the family. She’s nineteen years older than I am. For a number of reasons, I don’t feel very close to her. I never have. It’s partly because she’s a lot older than I am and because of that, I never got to know her as well as my older sisters did; but it’s also because we’re very different in terms of how we view the world. Nell is a conservative Republican and very religious. I… am not.
Although I am Facebook friends with Nell’s siblings, none of them follow me, probably because I’m not religious or conservative and I swear a lot. I used to be friends with Nell, but I’m not anymore, for a few reasons. The main one is that I never got the sense that she liked me very much. Nell sings, writes songs, and plays guitar, and I always got the feeling that maybe she resented me for also being a singer. I cuss a lot, drink a lot, and don’t go to church, and it seemed like she disapproved of that. Nell and I don’t agree on a lot of things, particularly regarding politics and religion. It seemed like she’d be “nice” to me in person, but there was always an undercurrent of disapproval. After awhile, that behavior became hurtful to me, so I disassociated with her on Facebook, and I haven’t been “home” to Virginia since 2014, so it’s been awhile since I last spoke to her.
Nell’s niece, who is still one of my Facebook friends, posted that Nell had been undergoing chemotherapy. She recently got her last treatment. I don’t know exactly what kind of cancer she had, but I suspect that it might have been leukemia or something along those lines. There were comments about her platelet counts, and in the pictures, I noticed she had what looked like a port-a-cath in her chest. In some of the pictures, Nell looked a bit wan… pale, tired, and weak.
Suddenly, I remembered a Facebook incident involving her a few years ago. At that time, Nell was in her early 60s, and apparently healthy. On January 30, 2016, I posted this graphic that came from Bernie Sanders’ Facebook page. This was just as the 2016 election year was cranking up.
We were having a good discussion on my Facebook page about drug prices and health insurance, when Nell came along and left the following comment…
So success is defined by having cheap drugs? Those 35 million Americans that take these drugs don’t realize they are dying quicker by taking them than by doing without. We’re enslaved by Big Pharma whether the price is small or great. BTW, I’m a Republican. I am 62 and don’t take any medicine.
I was a bit taken aback by the comment for a couple of reasons. First off, Nell very rarely commented on my Facebook page. I doubt she even followed it much because my views and use of colorful language probably really offended her. She once got upset with me for writing “damn”. And secondly, I honestly didn’t feel like this was a controversial topic. I mean, sure, Americans use a lot of drugs, sometimes for preventable conditions. But plenty of people use drugs for conditions that are beyond their control or because they’ve been in accidents.
I had no idea why my cousin posted her comments about being “enslaved” by Big Pharma. I don’t really see what that has to do with the fact that necessary drugs are way overpriced. A lot of people have to take medications, not because they’re looking for a magic pill instead of eating right and exercising, but because they have medical problems beyond their control. And those drugs are very expensive and, for some people, unaffordable. This is a huge problem and it needs to be addressed.
Many people can’t afford medications even if they are fortunate enough to be insured. And in 2020, our feckless president is still trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, even in the midst of a global pandemic! Nell was, and probably still is, an enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump and anyone else who runs on the Republican ticket. I know her brother is, since just the other day, he shared a 2016 era piece that is complimentary of Trump as a person.
The conversation continued, with many of my friends posting “WTF” comments. The people who were commenting weren’t all liberals, either. At least one vociferous poster is very conservative politically, but needed expensive medications when she was pregnant. Fortunately, she qualified for Tricare, so they were fully covered. Another friend suffers from multiple sclerosis and needs to take expensive, life preserving drugs for the rest of her life. She worries what will happen when her husband leaves the Army this year, even though her husband is a very high ranking officer and a lawyer.
Awhile later, Nell came back and posted this…
Don’t mind me, I’m just Jenny’s off the grid organic farmer cousin. I don’t mean to be insensitive to those who really need medicine but there are drug companies and doctors who push all sorts of medicine unnecessarily. For the most part if folks would just take responsibility for their diet 3/4ths of the medicine now prescribed would not be necessary. But Medicine is big business. I live on the edge with no health care and use a lot of essential oils. I would rather pay a penalty than pump $6K a year or more into the healthcare insurance business. Call me crazy.
My response to her was this…
“As a matter of fact, I do think it’s crazy not to have health insurance. Essential oils don’t do dick for people who have been in catastrophic accidents or are born with congenital diseases. And if you do end up having to go to the hospital and you rack up a huge bill that you can’t pay, then everyone else has to pay for what you can’t. That’s one of the main reasons why healthcare costs so much. Yes, it’s true that Big Pharma is big business, but the fact is, many people need to take drugs through no fault or responsibility of their own.”
As I have mentioned many times, this topic is kind of in my wheelhouse, since if I had not become an Overeducated Housewife, I probably would be dealing with people caught up by this issue on a daily basis. After all, I trained to be a public health social worker. I remember how, back in 2016, I rarely posted about politics and didn’t really care about conservatives vs. liberals. My, how things have changed.
Well… as I was looking at pictures of Nell with her port-a-cath, I couldn’t help but wonder if she ever got health insurance. I wondered how she was paying for the medicine she clearly needed. And I wondered if her essential oils were much help to her when she was diagnosed. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t wish cancer on anyone at all… certainly not my cousin, whom I do love, even if I don’t always like her. But I do hope she wised up before she vitally needed medical treatment. Too bad the oils and the proper diet didn’t ward off cancer.
After I reminisced about my cousin’s political screed on my page, which upset a lot of my friends, I remembered her comments about the late Brittany Maynard. Remember her? Back in the fall of 2014, she was in the news because she was 29 years old, newly married, and had a brain tumor that was killing her. Rather than let the tumor take her faculties and force her to be a burden to her family, Brittany decided to commit suicide. My cousin had something to say about that, too. First, she posted a link from a popular Christian blogger named Ann Voskamp, who had posted a rebuttal to Brittany’s decision to end her life that was written by Kara Tippetts. Tippetts also had cancer and has since passed away from her illness.
Tippetts, who had stage four breast cancer, was a dedicated Christian and she asserted that by committing suicide, Maynard was robbing her friends and family the opportunity to work through Christ. She wrote:
“Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known. In your choosing your own death, you are robbing those that love you with the such tenderness, the opportunity of meeting you in your last moments and extending you love in your last breaths.”
I remember that Nell wrote that she felt “blessed” that she had been able to help take care of her mother during her mother’s last days. Like Brittany Maynard, Nell’s mom, who was my aunt, had an inoperable brain tumor. She received the diagnosis just after Thanksgiving 1993. I remember it because that was the last time I spoke to my aunt. She was an alum of Longwood University (although it was called the State Teacher’s College when she graduated and Longwood College when I graduated). I remember we sat and talked about the school and how much it meant to us. A few weeks later, I heard about her diagnosis. About a year after that, she was gone. I mailed my application to the Peace Corps on my way to Georgia to attend her funeral.
I didn’t know much about how that last year went for my aunt. At the time, I was 22 years old and freshly graduated from college, trying to launch into adulthood. In 2014, when Nell wrote about Brittany Maynard’s brain tumor and how wrong it was for Brittany to make the call as to when she’d be exiting her life, she insinuated that the last year was pretty bad. But Nell wrote that she had felt fortunate that she could “serve” her mother, and therefore, serve Christ. It didn’t seem to matter that perhaps her mother’s dignity was diminished or that maybe she was in great pain. Not that my aunt had expressed a desire to have a physician assisted suicide… I really don’t know. My aunt had family and friends who were willing and able to help her. I suspect Brittany did, too. But not everyone is that fortunate, and not everyone believes in God. Moreover, when a person gets to the point at which they can no longer take care of themselves physically or make their own decisions, they can and do become very burdensome to others. Not everyone has people in their lives who are willing to responsibly and compassionately take on those burdens.
I don’t remember posting my thoughts on Nell’s Facebook page. I knew it wouldn’t be received well. I had seen Nell engage in arguments with more liberal family members in person, in particular my late aunt who was once a nurse for Planned Parenthood. My aunt, like most everyone else in my family, was very conservative. However, she was pro-choice because she’d worked for Planned Parenthood and seen girls and women who needed access to abortions. She had developed empathy for their situations. She was a very opinionated and outspoken lady, too, so the discussion she had with Nell about abortion was a very lively one. I didn’t want the same to happen between Nell and me on social media.
Anyway… I don’t talk to Nell much nowadays. In fact, there are quite a few family members I quit talking to, mainly over politics and religion. I can’t bear the cognitive dissonance. I am truly sorry about Nell’s bout with cancer, although it does appear that she’s recovered for the time being. She’s lucky that she had the means to get good and effective treatment and has so many friends and family members willing to care for her and pray for her well-being. I don’t know that we’ll ever be close… I still remember the way she treated me the last time I saw our grandmother alive. She basically guarded her, as if I was a threat. In retrospect, maybe I should have reminded Nell that Granny was my relative too, and I had a right to visit with her.
Nell also has a habit of taking pictures and sending them out, even if they aren’t very flattering. She’s one of the main reasons I don’t feel very welcome around my family anymore and why I may not go back to the family homestead. But I do wish her well, and I hope she develops some perspective and empathy for people who don’t think and feel the same way she does.