A young Oregon woman with a brain tumor recently made the choice to die. But a Colorado woman facing a terminal disease is choosing to live. Here’s what we can learn from their stories.
When we argue about sanctity of life issues such as abortion or euthanasia, we risk becoming too theoretical. Talking in terms of percentages or trends is fine to do, and it’s important that we know that there have been 56 million legal abortions since Roe v. Wade and that the number of those euthanized in Holland has risen 151 percent in just seven years.
We sometimes need facts and statistics like these to make the case for life. But, despite our best intentions, sometimes we forget to talk as if these stats reflect actual people, who are made in the image of God. They do, and we should tell their stories.
My guess is that by now you’ve heard the story of Brittany Maynard, a “vibrant” 29-year-old with terminal brain cancer who moved from California to Oregon in order to take advantage of that state’s Death with Dignity law.
Oregon allows physician-assisted suicide; California doesn’t. Brittany chose November 1 as the day she would end her own life, with the help of a doctor. And I’m sad to say she carried through with her plans—despite the enormous outpouring of love and prayers from people across the country who urged her to change her mind.
One of those people was Kara Tippetts, a 38-year-old married mother of four who knows well the fear and pain of a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. Her approach to illness has been to rest on the grace of God and to find power in living faithfully moment by moment, squeezing the goodness out of each day, and exhibiting, no matter what the prognosis, “mundane faithfulness,” which is the name of her blog.
“We thought my pastor-husband and I would help the broken,” Kara said in a World magazine article, “but Jesus planned for us to be the broken. We opened our hands to our strength and grasped the weakness handed to us. From the despair, beauty was born. We were invited to dine at the table of those who came with us and salt our every meal with our own tears.”
Kara tells a story of mundane faithfulness in her new book, “The Hardest Peace.” She’s gained a national following in recent weeks thanks to best-selling author Ann Voscamp, who gave her a platform to share her story.
Kara has used her voice to reach out to Brittany Maynard, asking her to reconsider, gently telling her that there’s more to life than good physical health and the avoidance of suffering. “Suffering is not the absence of goodness,” Kara says in an open letter to Brittany, “it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known. … That last kiss, that last warm touch, that last breath, matters—but it was never intended for us to decide when that last breath is breathed.”
Kara has been learning that lesson on her own journey. Go to her blog and you’ll see that Kara is not throwing around a lot of cheap Christian clichés. She looks suffering and death full in the face, and in it sees glimpses of God’s love. Here’s an entry from October 18th:
“How do you love when you are at the bottom of yourself? The last gulp of a drink you feel tentative to swallow? How do you swallow that last gulp of life and fight to live it well? I’m struggling today,” she writes, “and I knew it would be a hard one. Chemo brings a low that I struggle with words to describe.”
And then on October 20: “…The hand held, the time spent reading together, the little loves that when faced with death have become the giant important moments in my life. The time praying together, laughing together, cooking together and crying together. They add up to a life well lived. [They] are simply the best of life.”
As Kara told me in our interview, which will air this weekend on BreakPoint this Week, she’s felt called by God to weigh in on Brittany’s story when it made national media attention. Her letter has already made a difference in the lives of many, and she shared some of those stories with me in our interview. We’ll link to it at BreakPoint.org.
Friends, let’s pray for Kara and for all those facing terminal illness—as well as for their families. And let’s also pray for our culture, that we learn that life is always a gift, without exception.
LifeNews Note: John Stonestreet writes for BreakPoint.org