When Abby left Planned Parenthood, it wasn’t just her heart that God needed to work on. After eight years of supporting Abby in the abortion industry, it is safe to say I had bought into some of her arguments. There were plenty of situations and stories that Abby came home with that I could sympathize with. While Abby was struggling with her stance on abortion, I was going to work wondering if I would ever go back to being 100% pro-life.
When I worked as a Special Education teacher, there was a lot of talk about how some of the students would have been better off never being born. Most of the time it was never about feeling sorry for the person so much as feeling sorry for ourselves that we had to deal with them. I have to admit that I was pretty torn on the issue. On one hand, why would we want to force a human to live a less than normal life? Why should they have to suffer an entire lifetime of being severely disabled? Why should I have to deal with it? Why should tax payers have to pay for their needs? On the other hand, all of these kids were so happy, and most of their parents were happy to have them. Don’t get me wrong. I loved every one of my students, but sometimes it was hard to deal with their issues and watch them suffer. As harsh as all that sounds, these were my honest feelings. Either way, it didn’t take long for God to put that issue to bed for me after Abby left Planned Parenthood.
My work days started off with one of my favorite groups of students. These were my students with the most severe disabilities. There were about 10 kids in this class, but only 3-5 could go with me for PE. None of them could talk. If anything, they mostly made noises that we had to interpret. Some could walk, and some were in wheel chairs. They all wore adult diapers. I knew most of the kids in this group pretty well. When I showed up to their room, me and a couple assistants would take all the kids that could walk to the gym and see if we could get some physical activity out of them. Believe it or not, this was pretty fun. Those kids had some of the funniest quirks, and getting any kind of reaction out of them was a great triumph.
There was one student in this room that I never had much interaction with. He was between 18-20 years old and I can’t remember his diagnosis or what ailed him. What I knew about him is that he had a condition that caused is muscles to harden and contract. Every time I walked in he would be sleeping in a hospital bed. They only woke him up to change his diaper, eat, and work on physical therapy. I only saw him awake a couple times, and I can tell you that all movement was extremely painful for him. He would cry and moan in agony over the simplest movements. For us, holding a fork is a simple task, for him it was excruciating. The poor kid did not seem to have much quality of life. Or so it seemed.
About two weeks after abby left Planned Parenthood, this young man got sick and was unable to recover. One morning I walked into the classroom and was told that he had passed away. There was a great deal of emotion in the room. Some of these women had spent the majority of their day caring for him over several years. I don’t know what it was, but I didn’t understand why there wasn’t a sense of relief that the he wasn’t suffering anymore. My heart was still hard.
The next day, most of the teachers that worked with him went to his funeral. When they got back, everything they told me about the service would change my heart forever. As far as I knew, he was bed ridden his entire life. I assumed he was never able to communicate, never able to do anything on his own, and always in pain. For three years I walked by his bed taking for granted the impact his life had on other people. Shame on me.
As it turned out, it was standing room only at his funeral. Tons of people showed up to support his family and say goodbye to a young man that had touched their lives. The ladies told me about a slide show presented that included tons of pictures of him throughout his life. He was playing sports, riding a tricycle as a toddler, hugging his parents, laughing and smiling… not one picture was of him suffering. Every picture told the story of a very happy and brave little boy. I was blown away. I wanted to know more about him and his family. Why didn’t I bother to get to know him while he was alive? My preconceived notions about “quality of life” were absolutely shattered. It was right then that I knew God was trying to get my attention. And he had a firm grip on it.
In that moment, the purpose of my job became crystal clear. I was not there for a pay check. People with special do not exist to entertain us. They are not here as a burden to society. I was there to serve them. We are all meant to serve each other in some form. After hearing about the turn out at that boys funeral, I realized that all life is precious. All life has meaning. His life was not without love or purpose. He was loved by his family, friends, teachers, and caregivers. It is a shame that not everyone experiences this kind of unconditional love.
It would have been so easy to let him wither away and die. Some people would have called for him to be euthanized. Others would have scolded his parents for not aborting him. “How dare you force him to live a life of pain and suffering?!” “It is unfair to make his life a burden on others!!” “It would be more humane to end his life in the womb.” God gives us suffering as a gift. Suffering is a way for us to bond with others, be a wittiness to Christ, and an opportunity to grow closer to and glorify God. I believe this is 100% by design. Why do you think babies start out so vulnerable? We suffer through late night feeding, diaper changes, lack of social life, and everything else that humbles us in child raising. The amount of care a person needs throughout their life should have no baring on their value as a human being. No matter the stage of life, here is something very bonding about caring for another human being. (You know this to be true if you ever changed an adult diaper. Once that happens, your in it together forever.) Next time you see a person who seems to be suffering and you ask why God is allowing it, know that God has a plan for that person. It is never in vain.
How awesome is our God that he can use two tragic deaths to change the lives of two people? Our only hope is to repay those lives by letting God use us to tell those stories and change the lives of others.
“All life has inestimable value even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”
– A message to Catholics taking part in annual Day for Life in Britain and Ireland July 28, 2013