Changing the way we look at things
Witnessing a slow and merciless death made the risk of hell look like a better alternative
I would like to respond to a letter by Angela MacDougall (“Clergy must focus on human life,” Cape Breton Post, May 11).
I have no doubt that MacDougall’s religious beliefs are deeply held and that she is sincere in every word of her letter.
However, I would like to express other views. There is an expression: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” This animated piece of dust we call our bodies is only a wrapping for an eternal soul. It was for our souls that Jesus went to the cross.
In your letter, you wrote about a man who had already decided to end his life with assisted suicide and described his decision as being evil. How can you possibly know this? This poor soul must have reached peace with God as he knew Him. If he made his decision freely, then how dare we object if our background would lead us to choose otherwise?
There are millions of people who do not believe in God, but, doesn’t our faith teach us that there are no people in whom God does not believe? We stand on slippery ground when we pass judgement on the lives of brothers and sisters about whom we know so very little. We did not walk the exact path of any other human being. We cannot know the myriad physical, spiritual, emotional and social factors that must have lead to such a decision. Only God knows us perfectly and therefore only God can make sound final judgement regarding any person.
In situations where we cannot do anything to affect the course of another’s actions, doesn’t it make good sense to let go and let God? Isn’t that exactly what Pope Francis did for the man you cited? Francis told the man to go with God. I can think of a no more loving send-off than that. A well-placed blessing can sometimes result in unexpected rewards. Isn’t that the reason we pray?
I once shared the same feelings and beliefs toward assisted death as you now express. In 1990, my older sister, Edith, also shared those views when she first developed ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Our family and friends were forced to look differently at some beliefs we held and, over the next seven years, they changed as a result. Sue Rodrigues had been petitioning our federal government for the right to assisted suicide for a number of years and our whole family thought and believed that it was an evil goal she sought.
A few months before Edith died, she told us that Sue was not misguided in seeking relief from a slow and inevitable death. It took seven years and unimagined financial and emotional tolls on her three young children, her husband and every one of us who loved this lady.
Edith never smoked, never drank, always exercised and watched what she ate. My sister was Christ-centered all her life, but as the death neared, she became impatient with even those who loved her most. Edith loved marriage and each of her three young children. She did not want to leave them but realized that this choice was not hers to make.
On Aug. 27, 1997, my sister drew her last breath at the age of 52. ALS had finally defeated and taken my sister from all of us. We had been praying that God would take her as she slept but in the last moments of her life, my much-loved sister choked on her own vomit; totally unable to move so that she could draw even one more breath.
We had all witnessed a slow and merciless descent into a situation that, to us, made the risk of hell look like a better alternative. The only difference to us was that ALS was temporal and Hell was eternal.
Finally, you are only partly correct in stating that the clergy must focus on saving human life. Rather, it is the sacred duty of every single Christian, whether Cleric religious or laity to cause change in every environment they enter by simply showing people the love God has for each of them and thereby encouraging them to use the talents and abilities God gave them to make this world and their lives better for all.
“In the last moments of her life, my much-loved sister choked on her own vomit.”