Sunday, February 13, 2005

Miracles DO Happen

From today's homily:

The stories of Adam and Eve eating fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and Jesus' temptation in the desert both direct us that our object at the beginning of Lent is to focus on God, not sin and not ourselves, not even our repentance. St. Paul tells us that, through Jesus, God delivers on his promises. As Adam and Eve delivered the fall of all mankind, Jesus faced the same temptations to distrust God and, as the Second Adam, delivered the path to redemption for all mankind.

If you want to have a good Lent, where you embrace the cross with Christ on Good Friday, you must be able to satisfy your hunger by your trust of God's word.

The story of Sarah Scantlin's regained ability to speak (cap tip: CRM) and her returning memories highlight why my father believed one of the things he did.

My father died five and a half years ago from brain cancer. The time from his diagnosis to his passing was six weeks, or about 98 weeks less than the optimistic side of the predicted range of how much remaining time he had. His decline was so rapid that none of our family's members had the opportunity to have The Conversation, where we verify what his wishes were for the end. Actually, we didn't need it. Dad was consistently adamant that all measures should be taken to keep someone alive. He and I talked about it many times, when I was growing up, during late night philosophical conversations that often lasted to 1 or 2 AM. His reasons sometimes included the fact that we are created in God's image, with the accordant dignity, and so concluding life is a precious gift worth fighting to save. He recognized that someone could legitimately refuse medical treatment, but it was a choice that he could never make.

However, he came back time and again to one particular argument during our conversations. There are some who are purportedly pro-life who nonetheless are seduced by the siren song of forcing someone, perhaps including themselves, to die in the name of "quality of life." My father's retort would have simply been, "But it's a sin." And it wasn't just about violating "Thou shall not kill."

Because he had talked to each of us earlier and often, we were clear and steadfast that despite his accelerating condition we would continue to do what was necessary to keep him alive as long as possible. Even after he slipped into a pre-coma, we continued to have him treated with radiation, against the doctors' objections. And we had a feeding tube installed, against the doctors' vehement objections. (They strongly urged we withhold food and water.) They did not just leave it there, of course. They brought pressure to bear against the family. A couple of my favorite tactics included cornering my mother when she was the only one in the room and threatening that if she couldn't make the "tough" decisions than the doctor would, or when the nursing staff was gossiping about our family in the public area of the floor as the "religious freaks." Temptation, pure and simple. For the record, they did back down a bit when we contacted the hospital chaplain to be our advocate. The thing is, my dad used to say,
You have to give God a chance. You have to work with Him. Miracles do happen.

Miracles do happen. For him, acting otherwise would have been the same as taking another bite of the fruit.

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