Legislative Update

Finding dignity in death

By Tom Venzor  

God, the Father of all creation, in the beginning of time, looked upon creation and saw that it was good. This reflection upon the goodness of creation applied—and continues to apply—to the pinnacle of His creation, man and woman, who He made in His image and likeness. Yet, throughout history, men and women have sought to deny this goodness. In our own day, rather than seeing the goodness of human life, especially in those facing death, we have done the opposite: we look on life and perceive it to be undesirable and, as such, to be discarded, thrown away. This is evident with the evil of assisted suicide. But this is not God’s desire for a culture of life.

In striving for a culture of life, the fundamental question arises: how can we build a culture and a political order that values human life and prevents assisted suicide?

In their “Respect Life” materials, the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities at the United States Conference for Catholic Bishops provides some helpful advice to the question just posed. Recalling an old Irish proverb—“It is in the shelter of each other that the people live”—the Pro-Life Secretariat offers ten tips for accompanying those who confront suffering and death.

1. Invite God In. Suffering and death are sacred moments. As Christ reveals, God desires to intimately enter into these moments with us, through our invitation of Him into our lives.

2. Listen. Each of us desires to be heard. Listening requires attention to the needs of the one who suffers—and not what we presume they want.

3. Inform Yourself. With our God-given intellect, we can learn about the fundamental moral principles related to healthcare decision-making and how they apply to end-of-life situations. As well, He has given us a Church full of experts who care deeply that these principles are properly applied. By doing so, we honor the laws God has given us to honor each other.

4. Be Steadfast in Compassion. Having compassion literally means to “suffer with.” Our ability to enter into suffering of others is a divine gift—it is precisely what Christ, Who took on our sinfulness, did for us. Suffering with another provides authentic friendship which fulfills our desire for community.

5. Help Them Achieve Closure. Life is full of the unresolved. These can easily consume our mind, and especially so at the end of life. We want to leave loved ones with financial security. We want to heal old wounds from broken relationships. We want our soul to be right with God.

6. Provide Opportunities for Resolution. As we help others achieve closure, we help them with resolution. Resolution nourishes a sense of peace.

7. Reminisce. Through the gift of memory, we reach back in time and make it present. Memory often elicits the highlights of life and help see the many gifts God has provided along the way, presenting to us the beauty of a life well lived.

8. Provide a Peaceful Presence. Our modern world is experiencing an ever-increasing amount of loneliness. The causes of loneliness are various (e.g., dominating effect of technology, breakdown of the family, etc.). But God has made us for community—and it is in community—with one another and God—that we experience liberation.

9. Show Tenderness. The desire for human affection runs deep in our heart. Whether that affection is shown through the tenderness of a loving touch or story, our hearts are made whole when we our basic human longings are fulfilled.

10. Bear Their Transition Patiently. The final moments of life are precious, yet difficult. Giving attention to the final moments of life and praying for the right words or devotion can offer great comfort to one who is preparing for their moment to see Christ the King.

Notably, while all these acts of reverence for the suffering and dying are beautiful, they are also actions that can be lived in their own special ways on any given day. By adopting these attitudes toward human life, we radically transform a culture that is mired in death—that tosses aside the gift of life all too easily—and bring about the culture of life that God intends for His creation.

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