A Time for Everything
J. D. Pendry
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,… -Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 NIV
Ecclesiastes 3 is thought provoking. I call it Bible poetry, which may not be proper, but not being a trained Biblical scholar, they let me get away with it. Did you know the verses made a hit rock and roll song, Turn, Turn, Turn recorded by the Byrds in 1966? I was always curious about how many of 1966’s flower power hippies knew the origin of the lyrics. There are many commentaries written about this passage by theologians and Bible scholars. Study them sometime and, like me, you may wonder what happens when we impose our will on outcomes. I’m not well equipped to get into deep philosophical conversations about topics such as this, but I’m sure that Paul, my resident website Chaplain and one of my spiritual mentors, will grab me by the stacking swivel and jerk me back into line if I stray. I have some thoughts I need to try to descramble relevant to this Bible passage and current events. Listen in and maybe you can straighten me out.
In about two months, I expect to be a first time Grandpa. A few days ago, some three-dimensional sonograms of Olivia Grace turned up in my email. I remember the days when parents selected boy and girl names for inbound babies, then relied on soothsaying to guess the child’s sex. Now, we can observe a completely formed human with two months still left on the construction schedule. People abort babies at this late stage, and sometimes even later, calling it a freedom of choice. They somehow justify it in their minds because the child is not yet physically born. There is a time to be born. Can you and I decide when that time is? I believe Olivia is already born; we just haven’t welcomed her into our physical world. She is a defenseless, totally dependent human.
Are you familiar with the Terry Schiavo case? You can study it at the link provided. For fifteen years, Terry, who suffers from brain damage has been kept alive with a feeding tube. All of her body functions work. There are no machines used to keep her alive. She’s a living, breathing, responsive human (watch the videos at the website) who is simply not able to feed herself so it’s done with a feeding tube connected to her at mealtimes. Terry’s husband, who on a side light has fathered children with another woman during these years, wants to unplug the feeding tube and let Terry die. The true, but unpleasant way to put it is to starve her to death and it looks as though the legal system is going to help him. When Olivia arrives, she’ll not be capable of feeding herself. Would it be OK to let her starve?
Do you have an experience with living wills? My Father had one. To summarize it for you the will specified that he was to be “unplugged” if his body was not capable of functioning on its own and machines were keeping him alive. It also specified that if his body was functioning he was to receive nourishment by whatever means to keep him alive. Dad had a severe stroke several months before he died. We fed him through a tube during those last months. He wasn’t very responsive like Terry is and it wasn’t pleasant to see a man you knew as physically and mentally strong in such a state, but when was not our decision to make. Dad stayed with us until it was time to die.
Have you watched Clint Eastwood’s movie, Million Dollar Baby? It’s entertaining, but I wasn’t happy with the ending. I actually left the movie a little depressed. I expected Clint to be in character, go after the dirty boxer, and make everything right. Instead, Clint’s character decided it was time for his injured boxer to die so he performed a Jack Kevorkian on her and left us thinking it was the right thing to do. Euthanasia is legal in some countries. Some want it to be legal here.
Once again, I’ve arrived at a point in an essay when I’m not sure that I’ve cleared anything up for you or me. Maybe I’ve just caused you more confusion. There is a time to be born and a time to die and unless in physical defense of ourselves or at war, should we make a conscious choice to impose our will on either?
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J.D. Pendry is author of The Three Meter Zone, Random House/Ballantine.
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