If you’ve seen the movie “Groundhog Day” then you can skip this paragraph and the next one and go straight to the analogy beginning in paragraph three. If you’ve never seen the movie, or it’s been a while, or you just wanna see how I spin it, then I would recommend continuing. To summarize (for those of you who are described by the second sentence), T.V. weatherman Phil Connors (aka Bill Murray) finds himself stuck in a time loop on Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where he has reluctantly (to say the least) gone to cover the Groundhog Day festivities. Each morning he awakens to the radio playing Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” and the pronouncement that it is February 2nd . . . Groundhog Day. While trying to escape from this twilight zone, he discovers there are actually no consequences for any actions he might take—because no matter what he does, he will always wake up on February 2nd to “I Got You Babe” blaring from the clock radio.
The one advantage to this otherwise terrible ordeal is that Phil remembers everything from his prior February 2nds. No one else seems to be aware of the repetitions except Phil who eventually figures out how to use his advance knowledge for good, saving a few townsfolk in the process and cementing a romantic relationship with lovely Rita who is not a meter maid but rather the news producer played by Andie MacDowell. In the end, Phil gets the girl and finally wakes up on February 3rd.
It’s a cute plot with an actual moral at the end but we all know that’s the magic of movies and not reality. Or is it? Believe it or not, there are people who must repeatedly address the same issues on an almost daily basis, and those issues are never pleasant. Take, for example, the daughter who learned her mother, who suffers from dementia, had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Being quite elderly and unable to make her own medical decisions due to her deteriorating mental condition, her family elected not to pursue treatment but to keep her comfortable and as pain-free as possible. The news was broken as gently as it could be and, although it was difficult to comprehend, there seemed to be a measure of understanding on the part of her mother. There were tears and hugs and reassurances and the day drew to a close. But the next morning her mother questioned why she felt so bad and what the doctors had said and what could they do so she could feel better. And again the diagnosis was shared and again there seemed to be comprehension . . . and tears . . . and hugs and reassurances. But the next day the questions came again . . . and the day after that and the day after that.
Eventually her daughter decided it was enough. In fact, it was too much, too hard to continually relive the pain of telling her mother that she was terminally ill. For her it was a constant reminder of the loss she was facing but for her mother it was always fresh and raw and devastating. So when the same questions continued to arise, rather than offer yet another explanation of her illness, her daughter chose to remind her that she was, after all, over 90. She wasn’t going to feel like she did years before. And with that her mother was satisfied and the daughter finally escaped her own torturous Groundhog Day.
It is difficult to share the journey toward death with someone you love, even more so when they are incapable of grasping that the journey is theirs and that the destination is in sight—and constantly having to pull out the map and review the route will take its toll on even the strongest person. There comes a time when the map should be folded (as best one can fold a map) and put away so the scenery can be enjoyed. Because you see, like the good citizens of Punxsutawney, being blissfully unaware of the future allows one to enjoy the present.