I should really be asleep right now, or working on my 10-page paper due in a few days, but I can’t. I can’t stop thinking about Brittany and her family.
A couple weeks ago, talk was that she might postpone her death planned for November 1st since she was still feeling okay. But then she experienced her worst seizure yet after visiting the Grand Canyon. And she took her life on the 1st.
The world lost something beautiful that day.
In reading articles leading up to her death, I discovered that Brittany’s main motivation for wanting to pursue “death with dignity” was that she didn’t want to lose bodily autonomy as her faculties left through her life naturally coming to an end. Becoming powerless in her suffering, more so than the powerlessness of a child perhaps, was seen as a loss of her worth as a human being.
But I say that no matter what the quality of her life, losing her was losing something beautiful that day.
Many people are applauding her “brave” choice. But bravery isn’t about running away from suffering and dying now to avoid more pain later. Now, I can’t even imagine having a terminal illness, so I can’t speak from experience. No one close to me has died because of a terminal illness either. Regardless of that fact, though, what I do know if that suffering is sanctifying.
Sadly, America has forgotten this.
We’ve forgotten that getting scraped up makes us tougher, running the extra mile gives us more endurance, failing makes us learn how to succeed, and that refusing an extra dessert makes us the boss of our willpower. We’ve forgotten that even when someone’s life is no longer contributing to the economy, it still in infinitely valuable. We’ve forgotten the art of discipline. We’ve forgotten the beauty of the older people in our communities who move slower than they used to.
And because of that, America has lost something beautiful
When we applaud someone for taking her own life to escape suffering, we ignore the fact that trial by fire strengthens us. Maybe she would never have gotten better, but do you realize the sacrificial love Brittany’s family would have experienced caring for her in her last days being unable to care for herself? Do we know the graces she would have received through offering her suffering for someone? Do we know the power of her story if she had “taken up her cross” and let the grace of suffering set her heart on fire looking toward heaven?
Oh, how incredibly could her story of ended! But instead we lost something beautiful with so much potential.
I haven’t experienced anything as drastic as Brittany’s situation, but we’ve all suffered at some point. And I’ve seen people go through incredible amounts of pain. I’ve seen people’s lives forever changed in a single instance. And I’ve cried for them, wanting to do something to alleviate the pain. Watching people walk into abortion clinics and knowing they will never be the same hurts. Hearing their stories is hard. I still remember losing my little brother Robert before he was born, and will never forget that. In the movie For Greater Glory, the little boy who is now Blessed Jose Sanchez (I think that’s his name) was caught by the enemy and forced to stand next to a grave. Told to renounce God, he was threatened with death if he did not comply. Then the enemy brought out his parents to watch as the boy refused. And I just sobbed. Seeing Jose’s mom completely helpless as a mother as her son was brutally killed affected me. I’ve never cried harder that I can remember during a movie.
There’s so much evil in the world – so much sadness, anger, and then countless people who are unhappy with their lives. And now I’m sitting here tearing up on my bed after 1:30am like a crazy person. On any given day, I could give you twenty reasons to be in a stinky mood and mad at God. But what I’ve realized is that this is all a choice. We can choose to be upset with what life brings. Or we can face it and own it.
Brittany chose to run away from the cross she was given. I hope you don’t do that. And I’ve been trying harder to face my own life with a heck of a lot of prayer because we need that to get us through some moments. Thankfully we don’t have to do this thing called life on our own, because we’ve got family, friends, and of course Jesus to lean on.
Know that every second of suffering is not meaningless, but infinitely meaningful. Your life? It’s a precious one-time gift no one can ever replace. Whatever happens in your life, it might not be pretty, but there’s always a purpose. We can’t always see it, and oh my goodness would I help take away your pain if I could. I hate seeing people in pain and being helpless. I wish I could dry your tears and say it’s going to go away, but it might not. I can’t necessarily take away you pain.
But what I can do is offer you is hope.
I’m singing a different song than people who are raving about Brittany’s bravery. Suffering is not something to be feared, but rather an opportunity to be sanctified in. Whether it’s a terminal illness, misbehaving child, or person cutting you off on the road, work on handling these inconveniences with grace. Be the voice of reason that says “even if this isn’t comfortable, it’s something I can’t change, so I’m going to accept it and own it the best I can”. Pray about it. Ask for grace. Let your heart be transformed by the vulnerability suffering makes us experience. Let people love you in those times when you are broken and unable to function normally.
Don’t let us lose you, because you are something beautiful. You are unique and unrepeatable. And even if life isn’t perfect, it’s your life. It can never be lived again, so make the most of it. Have hope. And if you’re going through trial by fire in some sort of suffering right now, know this: you can either melt to pieces or be strengthened through this. It’s your choice.
Choose wisely, because your life might depend on it. And we don’t want to lose another something beautiful.
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