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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Living with Dignity

Apart from war, cancer may be the world's scariest word. Put brain in front of cancer and things get really scary. Listening to the doctorand making hard decisions isn't an easy task. I ought to know, in October was diagnosed with one of the rarest and hardest to treat types of cancerous brain tumors. But that's not the only reason I can relate to Brittney Maynard,(CLICK HERE FOR HER STORY). She 'a the  29 year old with brain cancer, who ended her life with the help of doctors this weekno doubt did what she thought was right. The question is was she? Perhaps, it doesn't even matter. But what if it does?
We live in a world that tells us theris no right and wrong. No absolutes. Question the choices of someone and you suddenly become a hater. We make human sacrifices to the only thing still sacred in America. Choices.
People of faith know there are absolutes. Some things are simply wrongThose choices are between whoever makes them and God until it involves others.  
Maynard's story breaks my heart. I can sympathize. I see the dilemma. I watched my grandfather's cancer waste away my hero until all that remained was a blind 69 pound skeleton. Horror wouldn't describe it.  In a mere six months from his diagnosis, he transformed from a rock to dust. I prayed for his healing. Before it was over, I begged God to take him. He finally did, three days after Christmas of 1991. Six years later, the same brain cancer that plagued Maynard, took the life of my dear friend Monte Vaught at the age of 26. He lived couragouesly for 22 months after the initial discovery of his tumor. The doctors said he only had 18 months but Monte was a fighter. From the moment we found out it was terminal everyone knew he was going to defy the odds. He was anything but a quitter. Both were  beautiful lives not defined by the way they passed. Decades have sinced past and the tears are still flowing . Even now, Sorrow, that old familiar pain, istabbing my heart and it brought along a friend to help. Uncertainty of my own prognosis came with Sorrow. There's so much we just don't know. Tonight, a special couple to me, has lost a second father in four months to this dreaded disease. I don't have to imagine what they have been through because I've been there. Most of us have been. Sooner or later, all of us are going to be. I'd bet the farm, my friends, who are strong Christians, can tell you stories of grace and strength they wouldn't have missed out on just to avoid this tragedy. Little victories Maynard and her family forfeited in the name of Compassion and Choices. Maynard wanted to escape this horror. Asking Life to yield the right of way to Death is how far political correctness has caused us to stoop. She wanted to "die with dignity". Believers should know you can't. Even Christ's death was not dignified.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Isaiah 53:3

There's nothing dignified about dying. We are all dying. Some are just dying faster than others. We all have the same promise, this moment not the next.  Death is a messy affair no matter how you slice it. We die because sin entered into this world through our own selfishness according to the bible. Suffering is part of life. Believers should expect itCLICK HERE FOR WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT SUFFERING. For the past three years, periodically, I have experienced physical pain in a capacity that invokes suicidal thoughts. Doctors have said with the conditions I have that's normal. My wife lost an uncle and aunt to suicide. Those scars don't heal any easier knowing they were in pain. While I'd never judge those who feel they are at the end of their ropes, I can tell you suicide doesn't honor God.  I'd never judge MaynardHer actions are another story. 

Maynard has been branded a hero and a champion. When did heroes start looking for ways to avoid suffering? When did champions look for ways to circumvent obstacles ?
It's one thing to reach a point of unbearable pain and lose it. It's quite another to premeditate on your own demise and solicit others to help you. I fail to find the heroism in surrendering. She brought the entire nation into her situation perhaps changing the heading of our nation's moral compass.  We have long enjoyed the right to life. Now all of a sudden, we need the right die. She became the poster child for patient rights. In her eagerness to avoid all the suffering that might have came, Maynard sacrificed who knows how many good moments. What we can never know is if this decision watruly less painful than the one she would have experienced. We are left with assuming her exit was easier while advocating we euthanize humans like animals. To date , no one has confirmed a painless transition to the otherside via drugs. Some studies have challenged it while it maybe quicker and quieter. The whole lit makes it easier for the family is up for debate too. Ask anyone from the families I mentioned. Maynard allowed the cancer to rob her of some of her life. She gave the disease control. Her chosen manner of death has now dwarfed her life and that's sad. She wanted to give death dignity but the only cachet she gave death was victory.
Though death is never a dignitary, you can live with dignity. Even with cancer.
 Blogger Kathy Raff said this in her post appropriately titled "Living with Cancer and Jesus" "Cancer (or other undesirable circumstance) can make you:
Bitter, angry, sad, frightened, unsure of your future, withdraw from family and friends, depressed, lonely, abandoned, feel like your spirit and soul have been crushed, feel less than, question God’s love for you."..."Cancer can make your mind go places it shouldn’t ought to go.  In 2008 I was diagnosed with kidney cancer.  I remember one particular night that was very trying while I was waiting for the biopsy report.  We did not know if I had cancer yet.   My mind was reeling in several directions at the same time with fearful doubts and thoughts.  These thoughts do not come from God, but from Satan.  He will do anything to capitalize on the tinyest negative thought in our minds.  It was a psycological torture." But she found strength in these words“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27 
You can be bold. You can endureif for no other reason, to say to the world life is precious. It's a gift from God. I saw my grandfather hold on until Christmas with purpose. He fixed his eyes on it like it were a prize. He was determined not to allow death to darken our celebration of when Life itself came to Earth. I watched Monte boldly battle the disease. We attacked it with humor. Shortly after his surgery, I pinned a jewel to his bandage pretending it was a turban. I called him "Ahab the Arab". We were Ray Stevens Fans. While speaking to his mother and gaining her blessing to include his story here, I am certain his disease and death were not victorious over Monte, his family, or his friends. We choose to remember that mischievous grin. My pastor, Kevin Childs, wasn't defeated by this disease . While battling lung cancer he would stroll through the congregation as if he had both eyes on Jesus and one foot in heaven already. He liked to say " he was invincible until God was through with him". This week, I saw the slipping hands of those leaving and staying grasping together in hope of a life free from death. There's something to hold on to. I've seen that picture before. It's bittersweet but we have hope. We know we will meet again . It'll be like Johnson's baby shampoo. "no more tears". Each of those lives, not their deaths, have prepared me for my personal journey in my faith and in my fight with cancer. No matter what uncertainty awaits, I will remember this skin is the wrapping paper God chose to present me with the precious gift of life inIt's my body, it's His temple. I cannot bring myself to destroy where He and I live and meet together. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. Romans 14:8 
Victory in Jesus.