Wednesday, July 29, 2009

life more abundant

as i laid in bed last night thinking about the proposed national health care plan and after looking myself over the actual literal wording of the bill, which reads very much like the fine print in any insurance plan almost purposely written so the layman can't understand much or will tire of reading it, i thought many of my readers have no context for my concern with the way people die. i know that i have readers of this blog from all different backgrounds, beliefs (both politically and religiously), and contexts of relationships with me. though i am really trying to become a more transparent and vulnerable person, i have not normally allowed people a window to look into the most personal places of my heart. here is an attempt to put my concerns about a national health care plan that legalizes euthanasia in context and share a little about my personal life journey.

i used to have a count of how many people i knew and how many people close to me had died. i have lost count in recent years, not because of a slow down in cases, but because i just got tired of counting. i would like to share a couple instances that may relate to euthanasia and my concern for the government being involved in end of life plans and a national health care system that decides the value of a person getting treatment in terms of dollars and cents.

the first story i want to share a bit with you happened when i was only 14 years old. i was at a new year's eve church youth group party when a family friend came and picked me up from the church to take me home telling me that my two teenage boy cousins had been in a car accident. i prayed the whole way home for them, knowing it was serious enough for him to come get me but not knowing any details. when i got home, but parents were not there but up at the hospital. my 12 year old brother and sister were there, and my 12 year old brother had decided he wanted to be the one to tell me that my 16 year old cousin was already dead. i was of course completely rocked in a way i don't want to get into detail about right now, but i was also told that my 14 year old cousin was on life support up at the hospital.

i spent the next 3 days up at the hospital almost 24/7 without sleeping, praying for my cousin to be healed and to come out of his coma. there was a roller coaster of emotions - doctors saying we should just pull the plug because he was brain dead, then tests coming back saying he was in fact not brain dead, bad reports on his vitals, increasingly good progress of improvement on his vitals, until at one point after so much improvement he decided to go be with his brother and Jesus and his life here on earth ended while still hooked up to machines. i can never quite explain how much this experience of losing my two close cousins affected me... i am still finding ways i never realized now 16 years later.

nine years later in the same month of january, i sat in my grandpa's room holding his hand and talking to him while he was in and out of a coma while he fought a terminal cancer with an inoperable tumor. i was 9 months pregnant and had spent most of my pregnancy over at his house with him both praying for healing and being with this man i admired and loved. before my first baby was born and before he passed away into the next life, i had him lay hands on my belly and bless my first born son. it still pains me that he died only 3 weeks before asher was born and was so close to being able to meet him and hold him. one of the biggest honors i have ever had, however, was to be with him the moment he died. you see, i was so impacted by his life, not just his life before finding out he had pancreatic cancer, but even by how he lived his life with this terrible disease and how he held his heart before the Lord so humbly and so full of faith up unto the moment he died. while he wasn't seeing the miracle in his own life, he would pray for and encourage others he knew struggling with different issues in their lives that we must choose to believe God at all costs. he was a man of God up unto the very point of death and led a life very worth living.

two and a half years later i sat in a hospital room, with my 2nd baby strapped to me in a sling, surrounded by my family as my other grandpa died from congestive heart failure. he battled it and the effects of it for the entire year proceeding his death, which happened to be my entire second pregnancy. he was in and out of the hospital receiving treatments that may or may not work, may or may not lengthen his life or improve his condition, but he received them and we were there with him every step of the way loving him and praying for his healing and health. once again, even though there was no way of me being in the hospital around the clock with two little boys, i was honored to be in the room the very moment my pop slipped into eternity with Jesus. it is the strangest thing to describe, but i remember the very song that was playing when he died... i had never heard it before that day but it spoke of heaven and the angels singing praises to God. it was an amazingly peaceful moment, though my heart ached that my pop would not see my kids grow up. my pop was an amazing man - a heart fully devoted to his family and he had so many times given to me in times of need, had spent many hours of prayer before the Father for me and my family, and had made countless sacrifices so that i could grow up in a family that he never had - one who knew and loved the Lord.

i hear the rhetoric from politicians and political commentators about death with dignity or quality of life. i would like to share that from my experience that part of life is how you die. life doesn't end the moment you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, whether you have supernatural healing in this life or not. quality of life does not end the moment you slip into a coma. dying from chosing, by your own choice or by a physician's, to not walk through the dark valleys of struggle is not dying with dignity. walking through life with your eyes fixed on Jesus no matter the circumstances around you and chosing to cling to hope regardless of what may be the present trouble - that is death with dignity. life is worth living and the way you die says a lot about the way you choose to live.

did any of the three stories i shared have someone who didn't deserve the chance to live the entirety of their life to the very end of their days? national health care, especially one with such broad openness to euthanasia says some lives are more worth living than others. that simply is not true. should a 35 year old get the treatment and not the 75 year old because we have a health care system that forces doctors to choose who they will treat? should someone in a government office be able to decide whether the plug is pulled on life support because they think it costs too much money and they deem the life not worth living? is not the last season of life as valuable as the first? it is easy to be allured by the idea of free health care, but the reality is that nothing is ever free. we will pay for it in one way or another and hopefully will not give over the choice of the viability of a life to the government in the meantime. some may think i am paranoid and extremist. that is fine. it does not bother me if you think so.

i have personal life experiences that affect how i view these questions and issues. i have friends walking through life and death struggles right now with diseases that modern medicine declares no hope for. just as i have been blessed to be with loved ones when they died, i have also been blessed to personally know and see some who were given no hope by modern medicine still alive today completely disease free because they were miraculously healed by God. i believe we do have hope. i believe in a God who both heals the sick and raises the dead, but also has redeemed even death when He laid down His life for us. death where is your sting? grave where is your victory? He came to bring us life, and life more abundant. every life is worth living from the very first moment until the last.



Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences Charis; I admire your passion and your openness about this. I'm so glad to get to know you better.

sothisislife said...

I love your stories. I have found, like you, that life is not experienced in just the life moments, like watching a new baby come into the world, or better yet, being the one to deliver that baby, but also, real life is in saying "see you later", to those we love. Our lives do not lose value based on age, though I think those who have more age, have a lot more to give. I have always thought, that in America we actually have it harder in some ways because most of us have not be exposed or been able to experience life....coming into this world and leaving are both amazing parts of living life.
I found it hard when I mis-carried my first pregnancy to actually grieve. I hadn't lost anyone really close, yet, and didn't know how to grieve and trust God in it. I didn't know how to be sad, and then let go. But I am so grateful to have been able to know God in that time and to know God's plans for us are good for those of us who are called by Him and love Him. It made me treasure life all the more. I'm so glad when we leave this world, it's not the end. Thanks again for sharing and being real with us all. I'm learning a lot and enjoying your writings. You are a woman of God.

charis said...

thank you for your comments. kinda strange to try to put it into print online for any eyes to read and judge... also to try to take big experiences and condense them to make them short enough to read. anyways, i really appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment too.

Jim said...

Trying this out...

jimtracy said...


Angela Meijer said...

Thank you for writing this.

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