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January 7, 2007

Have you ever been confronted by a situation that takes you back to a place you never wanted to go to again? Right now, someone who I know from another church is in the hospital, on life-support following a massive stroke. For all intents and purposes, from my understanding, she is dead aside from the machines keeping her alive. Her children have decided to keep her on the machines and keep her alive artificially. Since I do not know her children, I cannot speculate as to precisely why they have made this decision. Are there unresolved issues that exist that they wish they could make amends for? Are they keeping her alive on the slim chance that, just maybe, she will regain consciousness and will have some meaningful quality of life?

Although I cannot speculate, I can confirm one thing – this is a decision I would wish on no one. In that moment, when faced with the decision between life and death, we invariably choose life, even if there is but the faintest glimmer of hope. I can speak with authority in regards to this because I myself have been faced with this choice. When I was 20, my mother, who was 63, suffered a severe stroke, knocking her into a comatose state. Upon her hospitalization, the doctors advised me that, if they hyperventilated her through placing her on a ventilator, there was perhaps the slimmest hope of stemming some of the swelling that was occurring. This swelling, in connection with the loss of oxygen to the brain, contributed to the death of brain tissue. The only hope for any meaningful recovery was to stop the swelling as soon as possible. I immediately agreed, asking the doctors to give my mom every chance possible.

After two weeks, there was no noticeable improvement in her cognitive state. Although the swelling had been stopped and the oxygen flow had been somewhat restored to various areas of her brain, she had not regained consciousness. The time had come for me to make the decision: leave her on the ventilator, possibly sentencing her to spending the rest of her days, such as they were, unconscious and tethered to a machine that would keep her organs alive while her brain slowly died, or instruct the doctors to “pull the plug,” effectively killing her by removing her main source of oxygen. Left in my hands, this was a decision I knew I could not make on my own. Thankfully, God was fully aware of this and took the choice from my hands. The very morning I was to meet with the doctors and let them know my choice, my mom regained consciousness. I had 5 more months with her until God finally called her home just before my 21st birthday.

To have to make a decision such as this is to hold the very power of life and death in your hands. A wrong decision in that moment is not something correctable by any means. There is no “undo” function on life. This is why I could not discuss, in any logical fashion, the Terry Schiavo case with anyone. I have invested too much emotionally into this topic. The feelings of inadequacy, fear and anxiety bubble to the surface whenever I consider this topic. Anger wells, too, when a complete disregard for human life is shown. It is impossible to speculate how you will react in these moments until you are faced with as daunting a decision as this.

As for the woman I mentioned at the beginning – God alone knows the best course of action. All I can do…no, the very best thing I can do in this moment is to pray. Yes, for physical healing – a very miracle at this point, but also for healing for her family. That they will know that she is assured of eternal life because she gave her heart to Jesus just a few, all too short, weeks ago. That they will know that they too can experience this eternal life, and have a hope of reuniting with their loved one beyond the Crystal Sea. That they will know that God’s grace is greater than any disagreement or falling-out they may have ever had. That they will find the strength they need from the only true source of Strength – God.

If my thoughts on this seem incomplete, it’s because they are…This is a difficult subject for me to broach, but at the same time, I needed to process how I felt. Thank you for listening….

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