My cursor blinks rhythmically on the screen, waiting… I sit in front of it, compelled to write something about how I am feeling after watching the most disturbing and depressing movie I have perhaps ever seen. After watching it last night, I cried as I looked deeper into the issue of assisted suicide, or as it has been deceivingly called: Death with Dignity.
I thought about diving into the issue of suicide, whether “assisted” or not, of depression, loss, etc. I thought of how to weave my empathy for those suffering from debilitating mental illnesses, chronic pain, terminal illnesses or life-changing accidents, into the very divided issues of death, dying and our “right to choose.” And while I pour over the sadness and pain these people no doubtingly feel, there are also those who never get such a “chance:” children who would choose life but never will be able; children who have never known anything but death, destruction and disability, like 5-year old Omran from Syria.
So as my cursor blinks and my heart aches with my racing mind… how does one address such an issue? For certain, it is not one issue, but a multi-faceted topic that touches each human being on this Earth. We have all known death. Pain. Loss of some form. Known or experienced first hand mental illness. We have all been faced with choices that have altered our lives forever. And depending on how we have experienced these, coupled with our beliefs, we as a people have wide views on such hard topics. Some may argue that because of these different beliefs and experiences, are we all correct in our thinking? If you can make a fair argument for why this man should be allowed to take his life, are you right? If I can make a fair argument in opposition, am I not also right? We use words such as “choice,” “this is my body,” “my life.” As a fellow blogger put it: we live in the era of ME.
But I do not want to discuss choices or right and wrong. I think my position is probably clear that I am for life. I do not say pro-life because I am not limiting my statement to abortion. I am for all life. Every life is worth living. And so, in opposition to the movie (yet so appropriately titled), Me Before You, I would like to celebrate examples of lives that could have been seen as lost, but instead were turned into something extraordinary.
I first read the book about Joni Eareckson Tada before the age of 12, at the recommendation of my mother. An incredible athlete from a young age, Mrs. Tada became a quadriplegic after breaking her neck in a diving accident. Like the character in the film, she experienced the depression and helplessness of her new disability. Yet with beautiful dignity, she did not choose death. Instead, she became a famous artist using her tongue to create unbelievable artwork for the whole world to admire.
Another example and similar story is that of Marcus C. Thomas. He was a triathlete who also became a quadriplegic after a horrible accident. He learned to paint using only his tongue. Like Tada, he has given the world not only inspiration and perseverance, but also true beauty through his story and artwork.
A woman named Celestine Tate Harrington did not suffer a tragic accident, but instead, was born with a congenital joint condition that eventually left her without the use of her arms and legs. But she lived her life happily, and was known for her cheerful, bubbly personality. In addition to her contagious disposition, she was an accomplished street musician. More astonishingly than that, she gave birth to a little girl and fought for custody in the most remarkable way: After seeking public assistance for her child, she instead found herself before a judge and courtroom ready to deem her unfit because of her disability. To the complete surprise of them and the world, she dressed and undressed her baby girl in the courtroom using only her teeth! She won custody of her daughter, and a year later, moved her and her daughter to their own home. She supported them both by the money she earned playing music using only her mouth! She died at the age of 42 from complications of her condition.
Another remarkable story is that of Talia Joy Castellano. She battled childhood cancer bravely for over six years until her death at the age of 13. She used her living years to create YouTube makeup videos, showing the world both her struggle and beauty. She was also a Covergirl model with a YouTube channel that amassed a huge, supportive following.
There have been many other stories of children who battled and died of cancer who, instead of choosing death, used their lives to do amazing things for the world. Trevor Sims died of cancer at the age of 11, but not before using his illness and struggle to raise money and food donations for the Baton Rouge Food Bank.
These are just a few of the countless people who have lived their lives to the fullest. I have no doubt that they faced fear over their conditions, depression and maybe even wished they could end their suffering early. But they saw the beauty in their lives and embraced it, in turn, leaving our world that much brighter because of their struggle.
They saw the truth: Every life is worth living.