By Their Fruits

Two Christian men with (apparently) very different views about the world. One writes this:

I spend thirty seconds thinking about Terry and her suffering and her circumstance, and then each time my heart and mind slip into thinking about my own little girl, and I can?t see the screen in front of me for the tears. Shannon, my third child, at age seven, like Terry cannot feed herself. Like Terry she wears diapers, and must be bathed. Like Terry she doesn?t pay attention, and can?t follow directions. Like Terry she cannot speak. Unlike Terry, she is under the care of a man who has covenanted to care for her, and whose heart loves her, and so she lives. It is good and proper that my heart should ache that Shannon should live in a world where the world thinks people like her should not continue to live. But it is likewise good and proper that she should live in a home where she is the very joy of our lives.

Another writes this:

God hasn’t brought me down the path of certainty about these things. He’s brought me down the path of uncertainty.

Once upon a time, I was an associate minister at a large church. We had friends, good friends, I’ll call Hal and Betty. Hal and Betty had two boys. They got pregnant with a third child. He was born without most of his brain.

I don’t remember a lot of the details here. I know it was terrible and lasted for months. I remember the weeks and months at the hospital. I remember Hal and Betty’s agony about what was the right thing to do for this child they loved. I could feel it tearing away at their marriage and their relationship with their children. Over time, the choices became more terrible, the stress more awful. The child was able to come home, but required constant vigilance and care. Death was certain, but no one knew when. On one occasion, the child stopped breathing at home, and the caretaking parent allowed death to occur. The other parent rushed home and revived the child with extreme measures. They lived through this, and many other things. Eventually, in God’s mercy, the child died.

Now you tell me which man “gets it”.

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9 Responses to By Their Fruits

  1. Matthew says:

    I know I’m going to get pounded for this, but I feel obligated to point out that the primary legal issue in the Terri Schiavo case is who has power of attorney over you once you’re mentally incapacitated: your parents or your spouse. A secondary legal issue is whether a person is allowed to choose (via a living will) the level of care that they want if they are incapacitated.

    I think most Americans agree on the answers to these two questions, and I don’t see anything particularly sinful in their answers: Your spouse should have power of attorney, and you should be able to choose the level of medical care you want to receive.

    While poignant, neither of the cases you mention speak directly to these questions, because they deal with incapacitated children.

  2. Robert says:

    I am not concerned with the legal framework Terry Schiavo was killed under. I am concerned with the spiritual and moral framework we use to evaluate these situations.

    There is a clear difference between the two stories. One man views his severely disabled daughter as a blessing from God and one of the joys of his life. The other man despairs over how awful it was on his friends to have to deal with their son.

    Both cases are tragedies. But one man sees a burden, the other sees a blessing.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t it just possible that both stories are saying something important?

  4. Robert says:

    Oh, both things are _important_ all right. That doesn’t mean they are both _good_.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I understand the distinction, but I’ll be clearer: looking after an invalided person for a long time can take a toll on the caregivers, no matter how much love is involved. Your moral conclusion from the two anecdotes denies the possibility that a caregiver can be both loving and exhausted.

  6. Ellen says:

    I work with a man who is only a little higher than Shannon. At 18 he wears diapers, must be bathed, can lift food to his mouth, but that is all. He has a small vocabulary (labelling only – think listening to “paannntttsss” all day). He can follow very simple directions (pick up the paper).

    He is also delightful and I enjoy working with him (will probably sign up for another year, diapering a man and all…)

    I have also had some work contact with children born without most of their brain. They breathe and their hearts beat.

    These are very different situations and to paint them with the same brush is a very broad brush. Neither one of these families is wrong.

  7. Robert says:

    Children are a blessing from the Lord. Even the ones who won’t live for more than a brief time, or ones born without most of their brains. We should recognize this and not treat _anyone_ as a burden to be borne.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Anybody who has been in a situation in any way like either of the ones posted above recognized the *FALSE* dichotomy that a situation must either be a blessing or a burder – sometimes it is both.

    As far as which man “gets it” – it depends on what you think they should “get”.

    If you think the thing to “get” is a compassion and empathy for a family in a difficult situation, the second man wins.

    If you think that an attitude of “thank God I am not like him…” and “see what I’m doing”…well, you pick

    If *either* of these people were to say that they know there are two sides to the coin and that all situations are not alike – what is right for one might not be right for another…well, they would both be right.

    Of course, what these two situations forget is that Terri was an adult and the court found that Terri had made an adult decision (to not live with tubes). Either of the two children you wrote about would not have been able to make that choice.

    The way that Terri’s “choice” was described, it was for a selfish reason (I don’t want to live like that). But there are other reasons for making the same decision. For an adult, putting the needs of your family above your desire to extend your own life – that is a decision made in love.

    For many who are not afraid to face what comes after life on this earth, the welfare of our families becomes more important than keeping this fleshly heart beating. My “end of life documents” are broad as far as when to treat or not treat for that reason.

  9. Maryellen says:

    many years ago, when children born with downs syndrom were called “mongoloides” and put away in institutions, Dale Evens (yes, Roy Roger’s wife) wrote a book called Angel Unaware about her own mentally ill child. We never know, we might never know why such things happen, how they fit into the divine plan, but woe to us as we discuss these issues…quality of life, burden of caring for those, right to die, what is human life anyway…As the world gets darker, may the light of Jesus grow brighter! Isaiah 60!

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