Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Confronting a will to die with a right to be loved

"I feel like I'm the only person in the country who does not have a way or an option to kill myself."

So said Dan Crews, a 27-year-old man in Antioch, IL, who became a quadriplegic at age 3 as a result of a car accident.

I read about Dan this afternoon. In articles here and here, his quest to die is described in a tone that seeks to elicit sympathy from the reader. But while sympathy for Dan's condition and situation is one thing, sympathy for him to die is another.

Even Dan's own mother is quoted in the Journal Sentinel article as saying, "I would rather the decision be his, and if he wants to (die), yes, I'll back him to the hilt; if he wants to stay, I'll back him to the hilt."

One can't help but think of John Paul II's words in the background of Dan's account of a life with, "No education prospects. No job prospects. I have no love prospects. All I want is to no longer live like this." In his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, John Paul II wrote, "Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it" (#10).

And here is a tragic story that highlights the truth of John Paul's words. A young man with no friends, with a father away with his new wife, with a mother whose view of love is not willing the good of the other but of "whatever you want," with a television set to pass the time and a dwindling bank account to measure life's worth.

Even if he doesn't yet perceive it, Dan's life has immeasurable worth. He is not what he does, but who he is. And who he is, is a gift from God -- created by eternal Love. How can he come to see his life as a gift? To think of Dan's opportunities to offer his suffering for others, his time to write his own reflections, his possibility of interceding for the intentions of the world, his ability to be a witness to the dignity of all human life!

But how is Dan to know that his life is a gift if he does not encounter authentic love? So, here's the opportunity for the rest of us. Dan's address is publicly listed in the phone book. So we can send him an encouraging note, a Christmas card, a word of inspiration, a promise of prayer.

And perhaps Dan's life will be touched and transformed by the power of love. Maybe over time Dan will no longer mean what he was quoted as saying in one article, "Unless someone breaks into my house and kills me or there's a drive-by shooting where I live, I can't win this fight." Maybe this Advent and Christmas Dan can receive the gift of knowing that his life is a gift, not a moment of defeat.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this. A pastor from a local church said he would go to their home.