Life with Dignity: a Personal Plea against Assisted Suicide

Saint Augustine wrote, “it is never licit [right] to kill another: even if he should wish it, indeed if he request it because, hanging between life and death, he begs for help in freeing the soul struggling against the bonds of the body and longing to be released; nor is it licit even when a sick person is no longer able to live”.  (Ep. 204, 5: CSEL 57, 320)

For centuries, good and brilliant people have been advocating respect for human life.  I am not so very good, and certainly not brilliant, but the issue of assisted suicide, the so-called “right to die with dignity”, is very important to me. Physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients is the law in some states, like Oregon, Washington, and California. Other states have sought to pass similar legislation, including my own state of New Hampshire. When attempts fail, advocates continue to push and I’m sure that more proposed bills will be coming to a state or country near you – perhaps your own.  Here, I don’t offer pages of arguments against these laws.  Instead, I offer a heartfelt plea against “Death with Dignity” in the hope of saving countless innocent lives.

Christina Chase, disability rights, pro-life

My Life

Do you know what it’s like to be weaker than an infant, laboring daily to breathe, ravaged by an incurable disease, completely and utterly dependent on others for every basic need of survival? I do.  Although I am not terminally ill, but rather chronically ill, I know that one chest cold can turn into pneumonia and kill me… probably an agonizing death over days… or weeks.  Living all of my life with a progressive motorneuron disease, I have slowly weakened over time, becoming more crippled up and deformed, losing strength, losing simple abilities, losing energy, losing privacy. My family and paid home health aides feed me, brush my teeth, clean me of waste, bathe me, dress and undress me, transfer me to and from my wheelchair… and more. My parents have made tremendous sacrifices in order to help me survive each day. They are sacrificing their time, energy, strength — their own personal lives — for my life. And there have been times when I have wondered… is my life worth all of this? … all of this work, sacrifice and heartache? Continue reading

4 Life Lessons of Football

This reflection is about football.  That subject may seem like a departure for me, especially if you’ve read my blog before, but it’s really not.  Football happens to be one of my favorite topics of conversation.  But, don’t worry – even if you don’t like the game or understand the jargon, keep reading, there’s more.  Because this post is about the life lessons that one can learn from watching football.  You may scroll to read the detailed text or watch the video version below.

First: Life is a team sport.

Football, quarterback

Football is obviously a team sport, no matter how much some players may think that the game is all about them.  Now, although the quarterback gets most of the spotlight, hype, criticism, and glory, he knows that he is completely dependent upon his 10 teammates on the field – not to mention coaches, coordinators, trainers, and, obviously, the defense and special teams, who are both responsible for ball position on the field as well as score on the board.  No matter how well your quarterback may throw the ball, if he and the receiver aren’t communicating, or if the receiver drops the ball, then it’s all for naught.  Of most importance to the QB are the offensive line and other blockers, without whom the quarterback would just be scrambling around, trying not to become a permanent dent on the turf.

Teamwork is also essential in real life.  I know this personally and extremely, because I’m completely dependent upon other people for my every physical need.  I know that I can’t survive without others.  But, do you know that?  No one is totally independent or self-sufficient.  Yes, we interact with others, in some way, to get the basic resources of food, clothing, and shelter – but we also need each other for direction, encouragement, and, most of all, love.  We cannot be fully human, fully alive, without love.

Let’s us remember that we’re all in this together and love one another.

Second: It’s important to do your job.

Football, athlete, prayer, praying

“Do your job” is the famous mantra of Coach Belichick.  When a defensive player isn’t doing his job, it’s rather obvious, because a receiver goes uncovered and the other team makes a big play.  Even a perfect season can be ruined by one person not doing his job.  It’s about being where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there and fulfilling your role in the team.  In football, as in real life, we have particular roles to play.  Each person has God given gifts, talents, strengths, and a mission to fulfill.  We can’t do all things in all situations.  But, what we can do, what we’re called upon to do, we must do with diligence and excellence.

Now, your particular job is highly unlikely to have direct influence on changing the world.  But, it is your job to influence your family, your circle of friends, your workplace, or your community, for the better.  You may be just some rookie, backup corner named Malcolm Butler, say – but, if you do the grunt work of your job, preparing, training, and practicing, then when you are called to step up… well, you may just secure the championship for your team with one small act.

In my life, I’m able to do many things (have a blog, make videos, volunteer for my parish, write stories, essays, and poetry) because I live at home with my parents.  However, if I lost my whole family, God forbid, then I would end up in a nursing home.  In that situation, it would be my job to merely be patient, forgiving, and cheerful.  There’s nothing “mere” about that – it would probably be the hardest job in the world!  But, doing it well would benefit everyone around me, my fellow residents, and the staff members taking care of me.  I would still be able to fulfill my job of inspiring others.  And doing my job would help them to do theirs.

Third: A selfless act is a beautiful thing.

Football

There’s nothing prettier in all of football than when a highly talented wide receiver uses his abilities and strength, not to score a touchdown, but to block the defenders so that one of his teammates can go in and get the score.  Sometimes, what we are called on to do is to help another get success.  Good parents are examples of this.  My parents, with the sacrifices that they make in order to take care of me every day… well, they are wonderfully amazing examples of the beauty and power of self giving.

Fourth – going for it on fourth down: Every moment of life is precious.

Football

Life is beautiful – I believe this strongly and am grateful for every moment of my life, even through the difficult times, the weakness, the suffering.  I will try my best to live my life excellently, right through my life’s natural end and into eternity.

Want a football example for the importance of treating every moment of life as precious?  Okay.  The New England Patriots were down by 25 points in the third quarter of Super Bowl LI.  Most people thought that the game was over and, perhaps, another team may have thought that way, too.  But, not New England.  Coach had always drilled into them the importance of using and playing every second of the game, right until the end, no matter how bitter that end might be.  Doing your job is what matters, being there for your teammates and giving your all for the team – that’s more important than any statistics.  With this understanding, the Patriots were able to soldier on with their very best, employing every second wisely – and ended up victorious to the amazement of the world.

So, there you have it!  Enjoy the season – not just the football season, but also every season that comes your way.  And go Pats!

© 2017 Christina Chase


 Photo by Riley McCullough on Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Photo by Geoff Scott on Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Shively on Unsplash

 

Joy of Heaven

When I was going through my cancer scare, a friend of mine asked me to pray for her friend who had just been told that his leukemia was terminal.  And I didn’t know what to pray.  The thought of my own dying was, I think, still to close to the matter.  If I were, indeed, terminal, I thought, for what would I pray?  For what would I want others to pray?

After heading out of church one Sunday with a sudden, bright knowledge that I was healed, I began to understand what was important about last rites and what was needed in all of our prayers for the dying.  It isn’t enough to tidy things up before one dies and then leave everything to God’s mercy.  The part about leaving everything in God’s merciful hands is certainly sufficient, but the beautiful healing in that is not only the rightness of it and the sense of peace that it can bring – but also the joy.

Sky, clouds, Revelation

Joyful Hope

What will it be like to be dead?  Does this question seem dark and morbid to you, raising up fear?  It does a little to me, but, perhaps that is instinctive, since it goes against nature to want to experience being dead.  However, as people of faith, it is not a scary question to ask.  For, we do not believe that death is the end of our lives.  Our bodies will no longer be able to hold onto life, will die and decay back into the earth – but the life that is let go continues.  Our souls, which had animated our bodies, are of spirit and therefore they are immortal and cannot die.  So… what happens after our lungs stop breathing, our hearts stop beating, and our brains stop firing signals?  What will life be like then? Continue reading

Good News

As I was heading out of church, I knew.

I am healed.

Stained-glass window, Holy Spirit, churchIt didn’t come like a bolt out of the blue or a disembodied voice, or like some televangelist with his palm on my forehead saying the words.  I just knew.  After Mass and some friendly conversations, somewhere between my mental genuflection before the Tabernacle and crossing the threshold out into the world, my worries and prayers concerning whether or not I have cancer had an answer – I am healed.

And I was filled with a light, clear brightness like a many colored stained-glass window radiant with sunlight.  I don’t want to say that this was merely a pleasant feeling, for it was more of a deep-down knowledge.  Later, as I prayed the Glorious Mysteries of the Holy Rosary at home, I again experienced the awareness and was brought to tears of joy.

Even when I thought about how healing has different meanings, that this knowledge of mine might not mean that my uterine fibroids are benign, I still had a sense of peace.  I knew that I was healed and that meant something.  Maybe it meant that I was healed of my fears and my wariness of hope.  Maybe it meant that I would have a peaceful, joyful, and impactful transition into the next life.  I didn’t know for certain.  I just knew that I was healed. Continue reading

Two Poems of Wonder

This week, I’m sharing two little poems of mine (and I don’t claim to be a poet.)  The first is from a recent excursion with my parents to Rhododendron Sate Park, here in New Hampshire.  The second was written a few days later.  To all poets (official and unofficial) out there: Please share your observations, suggestions, and advice for improvement – thank you!

(Photos taken by my father.)


In the Rhododendron Forest

Rhododendron State Park, New Hampshire, forest

Embrace me in your beauty, Lord!

As I am sheltered, here,

within the blossoming bower,

let me know your love.

Thick leaves arching overhead,

on wild wood from tangled roots

in forest golden-brown;

white petals glimpsed through latticed-light

above, or fallen whole upon the ground.

Resting here in the quiet,

I wait for you, my Lord

and you do not disappoint…

I see you in the peace and hear you in the joy,

I linger in the loveliness within and all around.

 

When I’m come through this long and winding

wonder-passage of shade and green,

out into the brightness of the other side,

Embrace me in your beauty, Lord!

Your heaven’s delight of endless awe

surpassing earth’s imagining,

beyond the twigs and moss of time,

beyond

the loveliness I leave behind

that’s yours, O Lord… not mine.

Rhododendrons, flowers

© 2017 Christina Chase


My Life Is

wheelchair, forest, New Hampshire

 

My life is small,

tiny,

a grain of sand,

gritty and glittering;

a drop of dew,

globular weight and wonder,

cool and wet upon the green palm of time,

until…

it slips

from its leafy mooring,

form shattered,

essence absorbed

into the wider deep…

seen no more… but known.

 

My life is a wonder-passage,

a winged seed in flight,

a caterpillar taking up

the promised glory

bite

by little

bite.

© 2017 Christina Chase


Photo Credits: 

Embracing Beauty, © 2017 Dan Chase, All Rights Reserved

Rhododendrons, © 2017 Dan Chase, All Rights Reserved

Into the Woods, © 2017 Dan Chase, All Rights Reserved

The Cancer Question and Being Wary of Hope

August 9th is nearing.  And that’s when I’m supposed to find out whether or not I have cancer.

flowers, forests, rotting log, rhododendron

Decay and Flowers, Such Is Life

Statistically, I probably don’t, since the kind of cancer that we’re talking about is rare.  Of women that have uterine fibroids (leiomyomas) only about 1 in 1000 become cancerous (lieomyosarcoma).  Even so, I am rather a rare individual, already living with a debilitating motor neuron disease that only affects about 1 in 6000.  That and ultrasound imaging that shows rapid growth of the outer fibroids but not the inner one leave me with no feeling of assurance.

On my optimistic days (which far outnumber the pessimistic ones) I have confidence in the mercy of God and the reality of miracles.  Whether it started as cancer or not, I believe that God can cure it.  On those days when I feel like I probably do have cancer, it’s simply an acknowledgment that we all have to die of something… God works in mysterious ways and enables all suffering to work for the good in His Masterpiece, the big picture.

I am too small to see the big picture.  Right now, God knows what is happening inside of my body and what is best for me and the people I love.  I don’t.

Having said all of that, I can see something inside of me, a truth about my particular personality, that is making this waiting period a little more difficult. Continue reading

The Unknown

ice, Frost, winter, mystery

How are you with the unknown?  Me… Not so good.  I mean, I love wonder and awe, and am willing to sublimely surrender to the unknowable, to Mystery… But, when it comes to the knowable – I want to know.

This, as promised, is an update on my current medical issue.  My last post asked the question, “What is it?”  Are the uterine fibroids now rapidly growing in my body cancerous?  I went to a GYN oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital two days ago and he said that there is no way to tell for sure.  So, I still don’t know.

Scans, MRIs, biopsies – none are definitive in diagnosis and, in his opinion, none are worth the effort for me.  As he explained, this particular kind of cancer would be very rare, so it is unlikely that the fibroids are malignant.  Because I have been taking a shot called Lupron for the last two months, there was an upsurge in estrogen levels in my body and, so, this could have caused the fibroids to grow more rapidly.  By continuing with the Lupron shots (I received my third one in that doctor’s office, as my gynecologist told me to bring it with me) the reasonable hope is that the fibroids will stop growing and maybe even shrink by about 25 percent.

That’s good news.  But… Continue reading

What’s Wrong with Her?

While in a mall or some kind of store, I have often seen, out of the corner of my eye, a young child staring at me in my wheelchair.  Sometimes, I can hear the little voice innocently ask the question to Mom or Dad, “What’s wrong with her?”

Out of the mouths of babes….  Usually, the parent responds with an embarrassed kind of hushed whisper, encouraging the child not to say things like that.  But, why not?  There is certainly nothing wrong with a child who is filled with wonder and curiosity – in fact, witnessing such innocent perplexity, sometimes amazement, and the pure desire to know is exquisitely beautiful to me.  There is no masterpiece created by any artist in the world that is more inspiring and powerful than that little boy, that little girl, with the intently looking eyes and the head cocked, pondering.  A child, I may add, that trusts the guarding adult to know and to teach well.

Of course, the adult usually doesn’t know what to say.  Sometimes, there will be a simple, patient response and I carry on as if I never heard.  It’s when the parent is embarrassed and shushing that I try be there for the child.  If I am near enough and I don’t have to turn in order to have the child in my sight, I have sometimes given answer myself. “I can’t walk because my legs are too weak, they’re not strong enough.  My body is just made this way,” I say gently, with a little smirk, sharing the weirdness of it with the child, and then a smile to show that is not such a terrible thing. Continue reading

Beauty Hunger

I have always been drawn to beauty, as bees are called to nectar and deserts thirst for rain.  When I was an atheist, I found delight in the beauty of the natural world – which I would never have called God’s Creation, but only Earth or universe.  As a believing Christian, I now experience the beauty of the created world in a more personal and exquisitely intimate way, with true joy, as profound gift and Mystery.

life of pix,, tulips

 

Our Creator does not create with rigid rationing, but, rather, with generosity and full exuberance: 1000 seeds to bear one fruit tree, 1 million spermatozoa to bear one human being, 1 billion rocky planets to bear one earth…

Continue reading

Preparing to Die in 5 Easy Steps

Last week, I wrote about my reasons for wanting to prepare for death in a way that honors life, because death is an essential part of life as we know it.  This week, I present my personal preparation in five easy steps.  (I’m being a bit facetious with the word “easy”, needless to say.)

Things to Do before Dying

1.) Be Reconciled.

To some, this may mean a paying off of debts.  But, to whom do we owe more than to the One who has given us everything?  All that I have and all that I am is impossible without God.  My very life is a divine gift.  Have I been grateful?  Having been created in love, have I been as loving as I was created to be?  Do I take the time to be mindful of God’s presence, and of God’s presents, seeing how I deserve nothing and, yet, how God mercifully forgives and blesses?

Continue reading