advanced directive, catechesis, Catholic, child rearing, cinema, culture, death, Drama, end of life issues, faith culture, Family, George Clooney, Hawaii, Healing, language, last words, living will, Love, ministry, movie, movie ministry, reconciliation, spoiling kids, The Descendants
The Descendants begins with the revelation that Matt King’s wife, Elizabeth, has been in a boating accident and is in a coma in the hospital. There’s also a big land sale that has to take place in Matt’s family and Matt is trying to balance both, plus the needs of his two daughters who are definitely having issues.
We then learn that Elizabeth will not come out of the coma and her Living Will declares that they must pull the plug. After picking up his oldest daughter, Alex, from boarding school, he tells her the news. Her angry reaction catches him off guard and she reveals that she’d discovered that Elizabeth was having an affair.
So, with all that loveliness, what can we learn from the Descendants?
“Give your children enough money to do something, but not enough to do nothing.” Matt’s philosophy is sound, but it does seem to have blown up in his face somewhat. Everyone accusing him of being stingy, but his kids attended very expensive schools, they had a pool and a very nice house, what do they really need beyond that? But really, shouldn’t that be the philosophy of most parents? So many parents seem to feel like they have to make sure their kids have more than they had – and in today’s society, that’s a lot of stuff. Anymore, one device is so many things that you can’t even give in just a little. So I pose this question to parents – how do you give your children enough to do something, but not enough to do nothing? Do you make deals with your kids? Do you give, but put lots of limits on the gifts? Do you give so that you have something to take away (this one was the strategy my parents usually employed)? Thoughts, please!
“Like an archipelago… all part of the same whole, but still separate and alone, and always drifting slowly apart.” In some ways, this probably describes any group of people. We can think of it as our families, which is want Matt is referring to, but it can also refer to our Church family, friends, support groups, etc. We start off as a unit, but slowly, over time conflicting interests and schedules take over and individuals sometimes drift apart. However, unlike an archipelago, we can change that – or at least try to. We can take the initiative to get back in contact with those who’ve fallen away from our group. We can only do so much as the others have to do their part as well. But, we have to take action and not just sit there as our own private island!
“Watch your language” In The Descendants, language is a big issue. There is a lot of cussing, foul and hateful speech, and a real emphasis on last words spoken. So yeah, if you’ve got sensitive ears, the language will be quite repulsive. However, it makes a point for us here. The first time language is referenced the younger daughter unleashes a hateful sentence toward her sister. When her Father asks her who taught her to talk like that, she points to her older sister. We do have to be careful who we are setting examples for! Most of what’s spoken is spoken in anger and frustration. Not that it excuses it. Some might say it’s the teens wanting to prove their adulthood. I have to say that I’m proud of Matt for calling them out on it. Matt has also been very careful to make sure that last words are spoken carefully. When the older daughter unleashes a string of “I’m sorry we weren’t enough” statements toward her comatose mother, Matt makes her stop even though he knows about the affair and probably would like to tear into her himself. Not only is he teaching them to watch themselves, he’s leading them by example. Are you conscious of your last words? You never know which ones they might be with anyone. Make them count!
Advanced Life Directives: This is a touchy subject. I’m going to tell you that you should have something in place. But maybe a Living Will isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s too hard to plan for every situation. There are too many nuances in healthcare, to many degrees of severity and too many types of complicating factors. Therefore, Living Wills are difficult for those of us who want to try to follow God’s will and not “give up” prematurely, but also don’t wish to be a burden on our families. A better way to do it would be to name a health care proxy who knows your ultimate wishes, but in the event that you are incapacitated, can help interpret your wishes to the medical professionals treating you. It may not be in your best interest for this to be a family member, but then again, it might. It just depends. You just have to try to figure out who can make the hard calls when they’re needed.
When may medical therapies, procedures, equipment and the like be withheld or withdrawn from a patient. From EWTN.com A. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, 2278. Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected. The key principle in this statement is that one does not will to cause death. When a person has an underlying terminal disease, or their heart, or some other organ, cannot work without mechanical assistance, or a therapy being proposed is dangerous, or has little chance of success, then not using that machine or that therapy results in the person dying from the disease or organ failure they already have. The omission allows nature to takes its course. It does not directly kill the person, even though it may contribute to the person dying earlier than if aggressive treatment had been done. You can read more about the Catholic Church’s stance on End of Life issues here.
Forgiveness: Toward the end, the wife of the man Elizabeth had the affair with comes to visit her. She says she forgives her. Now, we never know who started it, how long it had been going on, or what was said between Elizabeth and her affair partner. So, some of what she said, probably was uncalled for. But, she felt like she had to forgive her. And in doing so, gave Elizabeth a gift bigger than the flowers she came with. Can we all be that forgiving when faced with such betrayal?
So, all that said. The Descendants is overall a good movie. It’s NOT a sit down with the kids movie, and is rated “R” for a reason. The language is part. The affair and all that are not depicted. But there are references to porn and masturbation that round out the rationale for the rating. Hopefully this post will have you consider two things: First, being careful with your speech as any words might be the last you have to those you love and second, consider some sort of arrangements should you become incapacitated and pray that you never have to use it!