You and I are not qualified to determine the value of anyone else’s life or death.
What that means is:
You don’t know whether anybody else is suffering so much that it would be a mercy for them to die.
You don’t know whether it would be wrong for someone to die and leave five kids behind.
You do not know which life requires superhuman intervention, and which life is at the end of its allotted time.
You don’t know!
I know you think you do. You think that you know because you work so very hard to imagine yourself in someone else’s place. You think you know how you’d feel if you were in the same place.
You can’t know!
It is not possible for you to know how you’d feel, what you’d think, what you’d want, what you’d do or what you wouldn’t do.
In the first place, you don’t know yourself or the workings of the universe well enough to accurately predict how you would react if you were faced with any situation outside your own previous experience. You could only guess. And since you couldn’t actually *know*, you’d have to base your guesses on the opinions of others, books, movies, discussions, a lifetime of your own imaginings combined with the reports of other people’s opinions, guesses, and a very few examples of other people’s experiences.
In the second place, if you were suddenly plunked down in someone else’s life, you couldn’t know what you’d do because you wouldn’t be yourself anymore, would you? Why, you wouldn’t even have the benefit of *their* life experiences.
We are flying completely blind when we presume to know what’s best for anyone but ourselves. And, frankly, if you’re honest, you have to admit that you have occasionally been very wrong about what was best for you.
Once you’ve gotten this far in your assessment of your qualifications to act as an omniscient judge for anyone else’s life, you’re going to come up against something that you may not have ever considered before: Are you able to accurately prophesy the future of everyone and everything in the universe?
Not even ascended masters and reincarnated gods/saviours have the foresight to infallibly prophesy the future, so why would you think you have that ability?
Even Christians, those who study the life of He Who was (alleged to be) the incarnation of the omnipotent and omniscient Creator, will tell you that Jesus couldn’t predict the future!
Look at any book of collected wisdom, any book of religion or philosophy, and it will tell you some variation of the following:
Lean not to your own understanding
There is a way which seems right to a man but…
To thine *own* self be true
Yep, that’s two from the Bible and one from Will Shakespeare. You can search high and low, every minute of your life, and you will not find anything spoken or written that suggests any individual human knows everything. We don’t. We can’t. Believe it or not, there’s too much to know, and we are one in our spirits – not in our brains nor in our minds. We cannot know anyone’s experience but our own.
We can make genuinely well-intentioned guesses. But those are mere stumbles in the hazy mirror of our own minds.
You do not KNOW that it’s *time* for grandpa to “go be with Jesus.”
You do not KNOW that baby’s life will not be “worth living.”
You do not KNOW that killing a million Iraqis, Germans, Jews or Romans will make the world a safer place for humans.
You do not KNOW that removing all humans from earth will make it a better place for earthworms.
And finally, the one that wrenches my heart, and possibly yours too. Not one of us can actually know when it’s time for any one of us to die. How much less can any one of us know when it’s time for someone, on whose love we depend, to move on to another plane of existence?
Over ten year ago I knew a man who had fought valiantly for years against the heart disease that caused him such limitation and suffering. He reached the point in his life where he decided that he wanted to lay down his battle armour, and go someplace where he didn’t have to struggle daily to be the husband, the father and the grandfather.
I remember telling his granddaughter, “But you mustn’t allow him to give up. You must explain to him.”
Dear God, was I ever so callous, so unfeeling, so ignorant? Yes, I was.
Fortunately, his wife, his daughter, and his three granddaughters loved him enough to respect his wishes. They contacted hospice and he suffered as little as pharmaceuticals make possible. They cared for him, at home, in ways that I had not imagined.
When his groin turned black because his kidneys had shut down, they fought on for his comfort, as he fought to let go of all that he had had here on this planet.
Thanks to the love, the care, the sacrifices of those five women, thanks to their respect for his wishes, he was able to leave the body that he had come to view as an insurmountable stumbling block to his continued life with them.
As we sat around the table after his funeral, toasting him with bottles of Guinness, (his favorite) everyone told a story about GrandDan. A memory would be shared – and we’d lift our bottles in his honor. When I went last, I told of studying up on the Rape of Nanking, because GrandDan had been there. I expressed my gratitude for him risking his young life to free the oppressed captives. I’d only known him a few years, but I knew his life had counted for a lot in this world.
One of GrandDan’s great grandsons was born profoundly disabled. At age six he weighed 13 pounds. When he died, not that many years later, nobody had any way of knowing if he considered his life to have been worth living or well lived. But his smile, below his bright red hair, could light up all the Christmas trees in the world. And when he didn’t like something, there was no way to pretend you didn’t know what Stephen wanted! I was around him enough to see that his life too had counted for a lot in the world.
We just don’t KNOW what’s right for anyone else. But, I promise you, that to deny any human the opportunity to stay or to go is not love. It’s not honoring their unique place in this world, even if we can’t see clearly what their place is. Stephen had the right to stay here as long as he wanted. GrandDan had the right to leave when he wanted to go.
For any of us to hold onto another human, or push another human away, when it goes against their wishes, is foul, irresponsible, disrespectful, and the ultimate in greed and selfishness.
If there’s a universal perfect time for any of us to be born, to live, or to die, we humans have no way of determining the precise timing. I am not condoning suicide or assisted suicide, that’s another topic for another day. But, when universe has provided a path for another human to come, to go, or to stay, not a single one of us, no matter our professional expertise or good intentions, has any right to interfere.
By clutching tightly, by holding on for (our own) dear life, we deny one of God’s creations their eternal right to LIVE, whether here on earth with us, or in the eternal paradise of their belief and choosing.
Not every creature is afraid to die. Not every creature is afraid to live. Ask. Just ask.
Then listen for the answer.