Debilitating illnesses are monsters -- terrifying, relentless thieves of physical strength, mental acuity, emotional stamina, and spiritual well being – as well as often draining the gifts and talents of the caregivers.
They are like a final exam for which we know we are not prepared – no matter how we cram for it. They test all we believe, know and hope.
Is it a right to skip out of such an exam?
Having the freedom to choose release from the grip of illness is an on-going debate in legislatures, in families, and amongst friends.
We can keep many people alive – often minimizing their pain but never restoring the attributes that made them the wonderful souls we loved – their wit, their wisdom, and winsomeness. I don’t believe anybody wants that for themselves or for the folks who care for them.
A long-time and dear friend Richard Israel has battled Parkinson’s disease for many years. He is asking legislators in the Maryland General Assembly to pass a bill – Death with Dignity.
"Richard E. Israel, 72, spent more than two decades behind the scenes in Annapolis guiding lawmakers. Now he plans to spend his final months alive lobbying them from afar, advocating for the right to die when he chooses, a final act of control over a disease that robbed him of it.
. . .
It's about having a choice for others, not just for me,’ Israel said, each word taking a full second to articulate. ‘Death is inevitable. The question is when and how.’”*
For those who face death on beds of increasing, inescapable incapacity, and their loved ones, what comfort can those who believe God is in charge of life and death offer? How do we welcome our own death, while being willing to live each moment that God allots us?
Knowing I might be so tested – seeing one I admire and love, so tested -- takes the debate from political, theological to personal.
Joni Eareckson Tada has said we must not end life, nor prevent death – black and white positions that may yield many gray areas.**
Gray areas are the very reason prayer to the God who hears and sees is our only hope. For Richard, for Maryland, for us all --
Almighty God our heavenly Father, send down upon those who hold office in this State (Maryland) the spirit of wisdom, charity, and justice; that with steadfast purpose they may faithfully serve in their offices to promote the well-being of all people; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. For Local Government, from the Book of Common Prayer
** On Assisted Suicide by J.E. Tada
Who is Dick Israel? -- A Friend and A Fine Man and Public Servant
from a former Blog:
Reviewing a Book Not Quite Finished -- Tim Keller’s Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering