Family Life

November 19 2015 | by

DEAR FRIAR RICK: My mother has been in a nursing home for over two years now. I remember that the first months were hard for her settling in, but after a while she got used to the place, and for a while even enjoyed been there.

In the last few months, though, her health has declined steadily, and she is now in almost constant physical pain, with the awareness that death is fast approaching.

I know the Church condemns euthanasia, but I fail to see why a loving, merciful God would inflict such pain on his creatures. My mom has always been a loving, charitable, kind-hearted lady, and a faithful Catholic.


Your question touches me deeply as my sisters and I have had to face similar situations with the recent passing of our mother and the need to assist our frail father. It’s not easy! It is good that you have the sense to realize that your mother is beginning to fail. She and you must decide what will be your priority. In the past your goal was to assist her to live her life in an environment where she was safe and could thrive. Is that still your priority? It seems to me that from what you describe that perhaps your priority should be to keep your mother as comfortable as possible as she draws to the end of her life.

When it comes to end of life issues the Church’s teaching is quite brilliant. There is no reason for your mother to be in pain. Get her good comfort care. This means that the focus of healthcare professionals is not to restore her to full function, but rather to keep her out of pain as she moves closer to death. In the end this becomes palliative care. Palliative care is not euthanasia. We do not end people’s lives. But we do provide pain control even if it has a secondary effect of increasing the risk of a death that is imminent. God does not wish your mother to suffer, and has given us wonderful medicines and caring nurses and physicians to help you. Take advantage of all the resources available for her and be sure to spend time with her. Remember that even in the fog of a coma or of morphine, our loved ones can often still hear us. Keep telling your mom how much you love her. In the meantime, know that I am praying for her and for you right now.


DEAR FRIAR RICK: My wife and I are increasingly worried about our daughter’s family. She is married to a reliable, hard-working man, and they have three small children. My son-in-law, however, is very often away for work, and when he is in town, he often arrives home late, so, despite being very affectionate with his children, he rarely sees them. Often, when he is home, we see him working on the computer.

Our daughter is becoming increasingly concerned by this situation and complains about feeling lonely. We feel that their marriage is deteriorating.

We would like to talk to him about the situation, but we would not like to intrude on their relationship. But it’s hard for us too witness this marriage disintegrating while doing nothing about it.


It is indeed hard to watch as our loved ones suffer. Whether it is the suffering of illness, the complexity of family life or the challenges of making ends meet; it is awful to feel powerless. What you are describing is the reality that so many parents have shared with me over the years. You are not alone, and you are not entirely helpless.

What makes your daughter’s situation especially challenging is that your son-in-law may not realize what is happening in his family. But let me be very clear; it is not your place to intervene by speaking to your son-in-law. This is something your daughter must do. Otherwise you risk damaging their relationship or yours with them.

Part of what is happening in your daughter’s family is a result of sociological and technological changes which are affecting everyone. Families have changed where both parents often work outside the home. Technology has made it so that employees are always accessible, and in fact expected to answer emails and text messages from home. Work hours and the boundaries between work and home have become blurred. Finally, social media have changed the manner in which we spend our free time. It is not unusual to see family members sitting together in a living room, each one glued to their own mobile devices. These changes are not necessarily bad. However we need to learn how to manage them; rejecting what is harmful and embracing what brings life.

Your role might be to encourage your daughter to confide in her husband. The key here is not to complain. It sounds like her husband is working hard. He should be praised. The way forward is for them to evaluate together if the efforts they are making are producing the kind of marriage and family life which they seek.

Updated on October 06 2016